Blogging and Politics-Facing Me

Well, now. When I accepted the invitation to guest blog here at Crazy Like a Fox, I thought it would be easy to come up with a non-political topic (Fox didn’t forbid me to discuss politics, but I said in advance that I’d do something different and she thought that was a good idea). Now, after a long period of staring at the keyboard, I have to confess …

I got nothing’.

Well, almost nothing’. I’ve got a little something’ that’s not quite political and that doesn’t amount to much and which will probably seem trivial and trite when I trot it out (say that three times, real fast). But it’s something’, anyway. So I’ll go with it:

I’ve got it easy.

Political bloggers have their material brought up by room service every weekday morning. All we have to do is click on Google News or go over to Technorati to see what the top searches are, and we’re set. A good political blogger can just pick a random news story and use it as a launch platform to tell the rest of you (those who don’t nod off) why we are right, why “they” are wrong and why you are stupid if you don’t agree.

It’s like falling off a log, really.

The rest of you have to work at it.

It’s assumed (with some reason for so assuming) that everyone cares about what the terrorists are doing and whether marijuana is legalized and how big your tax bill is going to be next April. And if you don’t care about any of these things, a reasonably skilled political blogger can convince you that they are of the utmost importance in 200 words, give or take, after which he has you on the hook.

But try getting someone interested in your kid’s day at school or what happened to you at work last week or whether the guy you’re dating is about to pop the question. That’s work.

Awhile back, I started participating in “Battle of the Blogs” over at BlogExplosion (I’m not going to put in referral links and such — this is a guest post and I don’t want to track mud in the house — you can find it if you want to, I’m sure). I came into that milieu not with an especially bad attitude toward MommyBloggers and PhotoBloggers and game reviewers and amateur movie critics, but with a sort of dismissive attitude toward all of the foregoing.

You guys were amateurs and dilettantes, you see, and I was the real thing. You had no doubt just unpacked your brother’s old Packard Bell 486, complete with modem, from a box in the garage, and decided, for no good reason, that the world wanted to hear about your boring lives. I didn’t hate you. I just thought you were wallpaper.

Here’s the part where I say that you all just impressed me so much and you’re really on my level and I was wrong about you — and after that comes the part where you stick your chin out and ask me who the hell I am to think that you would care one way or another what an ass like me thinks of you. Which, of course, you’d be absolutely right to ask, if that’s what I was leading up to. But it’s not. Gimme a little slack here, folks. I’m not finished.

My memory’s a bit fuzzy, but I seem to recall that I lost my first 12“battles.” And I deserved to lose every one of them, as you can no doubt tell by the previous description of my attitude.

I really, really, really hate to lose. I hate to lose so much that sometimes I actually take a lesson from my losses. The lesson I took from those first 12 losses was that maybe I was missing something. So, I did something unprecedented: I climbed down off my high horse (keeping the reins firmly in hand in case I wanted to jump back on) and, um, read the blogs that were whipping me like a red-headed stepchild.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your posteriors and tell you that I underwent an instant spiritual enlightenment. As a matter of fact, I didn’t like some of the blogs which had whupped up on mine at all. Some of them I still don’t like. I figure that’s okay — science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon once said that 95% of science fiction is crap … but that hey, 95% of everything is crap, so it’s no big deal.

What I discovered, over time, is that I’ve been a two-dimensional blogger (and before that, for many years a two-dimensional polemicist in non-blog formats), and that most of you are three-dimensional bloggers. Here’s what I mean:

Most political bloggers write for two audiences: Those who agree with them (and can be expected to leave effusive comments on posts) and those who disagree with them (and can be expected to leave abusive comments on posts). It’s mostly impersonal. We’re just doing battle and trying to see who can build the biggest pyramid of (metaphorical) skulls from the other side’s army.

The rest of you write for … well, everybody.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are petty little pissing matches in the non-political blogosphere. Mean things are said, feelings run high, friendships are made and broken and drama often reigns.

But still, you’re not writing to convince one “side” of the error of their ways and boost the other side’s confidence in their own superiority. You’re writing to … share. To share your life, hopes, dreams, and troubles with others, establish a personal connection with your readers, and at the end of the day to maybe leave them feeling a little less alone and a little better about themselves (and to leave yourself feeling that way, too).

No, I didn’t discover that all of you non-political bloggers are on my level. I discovered that I should aspire to climb up to your level, as a writer and as a human being.

I don’t know that I’m there yet (I’m a politics junkie, and that pyramid of skulls must be built), but I’m trying. Once I started trying, I discovered two other things:

– Far from trying to beat me down and keep me in my place, most non-political bloggers I’ve had the pleasure to interact with have been quite welcoming. There are competitions of sorts, but not the kind that resemble the old Aztec basketball games where the losing team got sacrificed to Quetzlcoatl. More like the three-legged races at the school picnic, where everyone gets a prize from the grab bag and maybe some potato salad. I even get flirtatious comments from attractive females on my blog now (N.B. — all females are attractive; some are just attractive in different ways than others).

– Once I loosened up and started writing for people instead of at them, I stared winning some of those “battles.” I’m actually sitting on a 60% or so win/loss record now … but it matters to me a lot less than it did 600 “battles” ago.

Thanks to all of you for showing an old dog some new tricks … and not kicking him around as much as he probably deserved!