We've moved more than halfway around the calendar since my last missive. We spent a summer here where one could stand in the middle of a corn field (where the corn is supposed to be "as high as an elephant's eye") and see the road through the wispy tassels that were not worth removing this year. Now we're scraping frost off the cars in the morning. Bit of a chill of the heart and mind along with the weather, I think. The content of this space is a bit more de profundis than usual this month.
You just have to keep going, don't you? (skip if you can't handle rants)
Yeah, I do. I can't resist a good hornet's nest. Last time you heard me rant about attitudes in both the public sphere and our little corner of electronica. This time it's also public and remains close to home and directly related to the previous topic. You guys know that nothing gets my self-righteous juices flowing quite like a total lack of propriety. I try to STFU most of the time but then some people put a 20 ounce steak of flaming fuckwittery in front of me and dare me to dig in.
Anyway, here I was, hot on the heels of a righteous outburst involving US Congressnut Akin, Republican from the state of Misery. This was the guy who had Republicans of practically all stripes tripping over each other to disown him after suggesting that there was such a thing as "legitimate rape". They all got hung up on that bit because, though easier to explain as poor phrasing of a position, it was more convenient to latch on to than the scientific foot-in-mouth whopper that followed in the same breath, suggesting that rape is no more likely to cause conception than sharing a soda and random wind gusts. Or, uh, God. Political discourse is frightening when your politicians talk semantics because they dare not come out and argue that bearing children conceived from rape is not God's plan for women. Then my local wingnut candidate Richard Mourdock came out and told us flat out that it is God's plan. With a straight face, of course. Today being Election Day in the United States, these two men intend to become 4% of a very important legislative body for the next six years. This space is really not for me to tell you how to vote but I do suggest that you think hard about how many middle-aged white men you want shoving their Jesus up your daughters' skirts.
At any rate, in the midst of this series of incidents in which the body politic shat itself and lost the toilet paper once more, I unwisely entered a catbox discussion in which "she was asking for it" as a legal defence was brought up--mistakenly actually since the case in question was not precisely about that. However, at the conclusion of the tangential argument, I find a noder of impeccable progressive credentials and experience seriously suggesting that the defence in the infamous Italian court case that inspired "Denim Day" had merit. I think I still have a bruise on my jaw from when it dropped to the floor about half a second later. Perhaps I should know better than to introduce an example with rape in an argument with men but usually they just get defensive about it, not outright stupid. Especially not here.
Last time in concluding my tirade I stated that "this is not who we are [, that] this is not who we want to be." Now I have doubts about even that. At this point I've been here forever. I understand that none of us are getting younger. I understand that many of us may no longer be the young radicals that we were in our teens or twenties. I understand that, collectively, we may no longer be a bastion of left-ish geek politics. On the other hand many of us are now really old enough to know better and to put some moderation of expression into the mix with our radical opinions (this does not include me--I'm paid to stick my neck out and get shot at). And we still have a majority of techies, rationalists, and social progressives. Yet, witnessing another manifestation of frightfully benighted attitudes rearing their head not on Fox News but on Everything2, well, you know, I have to ask, who the fuck are we? Are we what we want to be? Am I trapped in an ideal vision of an enlightened past?
Permission to bitch
Times like this are when I really miss grundoon. The line above was how our conversations often started during the last year or two when we became closer than we'd ever been. We sort of took turns at signing on in a tiswas and finding some reassurance that we could put off going off our rocker for another day. It was about everything. More often than not it was about E2 people (yes, you!), sometimes it was more personal (Kevin should be thankful for my amazingly selective memory that may have spared him many blackmail stories I might otherwise remember), and sometimes about the world in general. While I've had some pretty remarkable "right-hand people" working with me here, nobody was quite the rock that Christine was for me as a manager and a person until the very end. Permission to bitch granted, in perpetuity.
The fled, growing in number
It was recently the subject of much commentary that ToasterLeavings removed his stuff and left the site. The management would like to state that it has no idea why and is not entertaining wild speculations as to his motives and reasons. I have nothing to say except that, though I often failed to "get" his style of genius, I figure so many others "got it" that it was just me, and he was a pretty swell chap and a fine editor while he was on staff.
A few notes on the subject of the fled. Our attitude towards the fled is ambivalent. The way I see it, which I suppose is as much of an "official" position as there is, is that, whatever your social standing in the community as such, you're not a noder in good standing if you've pulled your writeups. Since we're about posting our writings for the glory of ourselves and the site, removing one's content will have that effect.
This, however, does not make the departed unpersons. Everyone has some history here. They may approve or disapprove of our actions here, or even cite them as their reason for departing. Some of us may perceive and lament a lack of commitment or loyalty. Bottom line, we may approve or disapprove of everyone else's part in history but we cannot deny or vacate it. And though we cannot (and sometimes should not) forget, we can forgive and move on.
Peace is only for the dead and the dying...
Sometimes news of the fled filters back to us because there are many connections between those still here and those who have left, for whichever reason. You can leave the site but not the cult. So a couple of months ago we were brought that news that the one of the fled known to us old-timers as disgruntledwren left this world, hopefully for a better one.
I don't make it a habit of tracking or announcing deaths, marriages, and baptisms since, especially for the former, we often have unreliable reports from sources outside the community. But this came to mind: There was another death earlier this year which I'm not going to name. I'm bringing it up for the contrast in reactions. Both of these people had some personal issues with other noders. The nameless noder's death may have brought relief to people who had serious personal issues. I said relief, not gratification, because the living parties to this noder's personal issues were more dignified about it than they had any reason to be.
I wish I could say the same about Wren. You know, for quite a while we spent so much time together here and on IM, often working on her writeups, that I probably have as much to say about Wren the noder as anyone on the site. (We had not spoken since she left the site, just so no one gets the idea that I'm pretending to be close to her or her family or speaking for anyone but myself.) I'm sure she had plenty to say about me, too. Yet some snickering weasel's best reaction to the news was something in the line of "huh huh, uh huh, I could tell you stories about her, Beavis." This, I say, is also who we do not want to be. Show some fucking dignity and compassion.
A moment of silence would have given this person the time to think twice about it. Wren was nineteen when she joined. She was a soul in search of direction and purpose. She was an insanely talented writer and many of us, even those of us who could "tell stories", were very disappointed when she pulled her work. She had character in spades and a temperament to match. Wren was an E2 original and, as much as she drove me nuts on a regular basis, I'd take one of her over ten of some people here anyday.
At any rate, I saw Wren's family suggest that memorial donations to the Sarcoma Foundation of America or her own favourite charity, Heifer International, may be appropriate. And if you were around while she was, spare a minute to reflect on the transience of people but the lasting effect of their special gifts. For those who were not around to know Wren, perhaps one day her work will be published and you'll see what I mean.
So who are we? Who do we want to be?
I'd like to close this on a positive note but I don't have that answer. Mostly I think I'd settle for people not being utter dicks to each other. For now, though, instead of that argument, and in line with the new ownership's efforts, I'd rather think about what we want to be.
What we have always done best is opinion. We have missed out on so many opportunities to be "everything" over time that we are pretty much left with opinion. We could have been part Wikipedia, Uncyclopedia, Urban Dictionary, Knol, the lot. Hell, even reddit and such would have been within our reach had the ownership provided us with any vision at the time. We pre-date all those things and a million more. We had the ideas and the talent but not the direction.
Let's try and see if we can work on this, everyone: Concentrate on making E2 something that will make people visit because they want to know what E2 has to say about this or the other subject. We still do some things very well: op-eds and popular culture, original short fiction, critiques and personal accounts. Let's build on those and take it from there. It's important that we find our voice as a site.
#include (prayer for the departed);