I know I’ve been a little remiss in not talking about how Constitution Day went. It went fine. Casey kind of scared the shit out of me when about the second thing he said to me was, “Don’t worry. We have security on notice and I have a couple of big guys who can handle things sitting in the audience.” And then I was very nervous about speaking and I felt like my voice shook the whole time. And everyone was very sweet.
But here’s why I haven’t written about Constitution Day. I have spent much of my blogging career writing about how wrong Terry Frank is, about what an idiot she is, how stupid what she says is, and on and on. I don’t have to tell you if you’ve been reading along. And I fully expected, going over there, that I would come home and be all “Oh my god, Terry Frank said this…” and “Terry Frank said that…” and we would all be mildly shocked and horrified and have a good laugh.
This is an asshole attitude to have.
I felt excused in my asshole behavior because Frank’s got a radio show and a tv show and is friends with politicians and I’m “just a blogger.”
But, if there’s one thing my departed drinking buddy and his soon-t0-be departed friend have insisted week after week after week is that “I’m just a blogger” is an asshole excuse.
And here’s the thing.
I really liked Frank. Not in the “Oh, gosh, I hope I can call her on the phone and talk about boys” way, but I was and still am struck by how much I liked her. She was calm and self-assured and gave a great talk that was well-researched and thoughtful and she was graceful and thoughtful herself.
Every question she answered, even when she disagreed with a person, I think that person felt listened to, considered, and engaged with.
I don’t say this mildly–it was really, really impressive.
And I felt like the proper response was to just be really impressed and to take some notes on how to steal those tactics for myself.
Did we disagree on stuff? Yes, on most stuff. But there were only a few times when I felt like “Okay, what you think about things and what I think about things are so different that there just is no common ground.” Mostly, when we disagreed, I felt like “Okay, we disagree, but we’re in the same ballpark. I see where you are and how you got there and I can see that you see where I am and how I got here and while we might not have a way to make some happy compromise on this issue, these are issues on which the world is big enough for us to work out our own ideas.”
And, frankly, I felt like coming back here and talking about how it went, in detail, with an audience I know mostly agrees with me, would have been opening up Frank for ridicule.
Because that’s the dynamic that I’ve set up here.
And I really felt like that would be cruel and really gross and contrary to the spirit of the day. It would have broken frith after the fact.
I don’t know. One thing that’s weird about writing very intimately in a very public way is that people come to feel like they know you. And really, most of the time, this is so awesome. I have made great and dear friends from blogging. But sometimes there’s this dynamic of “I know you, so you owe me.” And usually the things that people ask of you seem harmless enough, usually, they are harmless enough.
But sometimes it escalates into this realm that’s really, really distressing, where people want something from you and you feel like it shouldn’t be too much to ask to give it, but then they keep asking for more and more or you can’t figure out what, exactly, would satisfy them.
And eventually, you have to be like “Fuck it, I do what I do. If you don’t like it, suck my butt.”
Shoot, I am way off track here.
But what I’m trying to say is that the nature of the beast sets up these dynamics where, in order for you to continue to do what you do, you have to harden your heart to people.
I have been doing this five years tomorrow. And I am tired of that dynamic.
I don’t know if I’m tired of it forever or just for now or what. But I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of reading something, writing something snarky and biting about it, having Kleinheider pick it up, and then his commenters going off about what an idiot I am.
I’m tired of the whole dynamic of “I will protect myself from things that scare me by ridiculing them.”
I’m not saying that ridicule isn’t an important tool.
It’s often my only tool.
I’d like to be a better writer than that.
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I was actually planning on attending but then life interfered. Sounds like it went well.
I’ve never met Frank and probably never will, but the primary reason I’m willing to visit, read and link to your blog is your open mindedness. You are often refreshing for that reason alone.
Sounds like it was an interesting event.
_I_ really like your blog, don’t think you’re an idiot, and think your writing is very good. I hardly ever post anywhere because I feel like a whisper in a crowded Superbowl Stadium. But it is so good to read posts by a blogger you’ve come to know, with whose position you can relate, and who helps you think out issues. Writing is hard work, and I just want to tell you I appreciate it.
AND on the other hand, you don’t owe me a thing. I’ve never paid you, posted extensively, or given you a plug anywhere. If you want to walk away from your blog, you absolutely should. And more power to you.
In all fairness though, most of us here readers don’t form our opinion of Terry Frank based solely on what you say about her. We go and read things there from time to time, even if it just the stuff you ridicule her for.
She’s responsible for what she puts on her blog just as much as she is for her behavior at the debate. It just sounds like her blog persona is somewhat different from her ‘in public where everyone can see me’ persona is.
That’s a great point, W. Even if you personally know the people you’re dealing with in cyberspace, there’s a certain removal that affects how you approach what you write. Being in physical proximity to another human being– especially when both you and that person are under the spotlight– tends to encourage patience, civility, and generosity that isn’t always called for in the internet world.
Unless one is a certain state representative, of course.
The students liked both of you. And you might be surprised to find that they thought you made more sense to Terry because they thought she was too scholarly and above their head. They said you were down to earth and funny, just as you are on your blog.\\
I truly enjoyed the event. Sorry for the security comment. We were just concerned that an audience member might be an ass as has happened so much lately.
One thing I’ve noticed in three years of visiting your’s and Terry’s sites is that each of you often see the same problems in America, you just see different solutions. I admire both of you for your sense of citizenship and the time that you put in to it. And remember that Terry has much more in terms of financial resources to devout to her cause than you do, thus the tv show and radio show.
You are a brilliant writer with nothing to be ashamed of.