On My Recent Absence

This morning was my first post in nearly 3 weeks. It’s seemed like an eternity to me. Writing is something I do, not because I’m particularly good, or because I have anything new or different to say but because it’s some thing I like. I write because it makes me feel connected to the community, despite my 200+ day a year travel/show schedule.

Being either out of town, or on a 14-hour show call for over half the year is one of the most disconnecting things that a person can experience. Not only are you away from your loved ones, your home, your community, but you are thrust into an alternate reality that is an organism unto itself, isolated from the outside world.

Time takes on new meaning in this environment. With just enough time to shower, get your work done, and sleep, the outside world seems to disappear. This effect is something that I have fought for the past 10 years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

Still, I cherish my time at home as an opportunity to reconnect with “reality” as it were, to re-establish a sense of self, and to focus some attention on the policy and process of politics, a love of mine since a very young age.

This doesn’t make for a simple life. In fact, the sheer amount of time that I spend reading, thinking and writing, can only be described as obsessive for a person who has little or no interest in making politics a vocation. This is a hobby that requires a great deal of time for any level of competence and much dedication to make an impact. I claim neither competence nor impact, merely a continual quest for these characteristics.

My 3 week absence was as much about a heavy work schedule as it was about a re-examination of both my obsession and the role I want my writing to play in my life and the community at large. Blogging is inherently egotistical exercise. The idea that I have any impact on the minds of people in the community is laughable to me. Until about a month ago, I never really thought anything I had to say was even considered by anything more than a small group of like-minded individuals.

In the past month I have received an outpouring of support, venom and unsettling silence from true and would-be allies. Some of this reaction good and bad, I brought on myself for allowing emotion to overwhelm me. Still, that’s as close to a retraction or apology that you’ll ever read from me on this or any other past issue.

This reaction, particularly the silence, has caused me to re-evaluate the notion of a local, liberal “blogger community”. In that evaluation I have come to the conclusion that, at best, there exists a loose confederation of individuals whose self-interest far outweighs any notion of community. It is an unfortunate reality of politics in a larger political community that values social order over substance. Those seeking upward mobility in the clique often have to publicly step back from unpopular opinions to achieve their desires. I understand this reality and hold no grudge against those who would, for whatever reason, shy away from conflict in the face of the outlandish threats, or supposed dire consequences. For my part, I value the friendships I have made as well as the enemies and the generally indifferent parties that make up my life, however I have no desire to bow to the prevailing social order regardless of pressure, threats, long shrieking phone calls, or other schoolyard bullying. The social order is part of the problem, not the solution.

So, the question for me over the past three weeks has been, what to do about this? The answer came to me with the reports that the Commercial Appeal is auctioning off of column inches to business interests disguised as news. In the three+ years that I have lived here, our daily newspaper’s record of reporting local political news has gone from slim to virtually none. This presents us with a difficult question. How can a city, with less representation in the city council per person than in the state house, a retreating 4th estate, and a political class whose dedication to government transparency is transitory at best ever manage positive change?

The answer is ownership. Owning our successes and failures as a community, a state and a nation. Owning the consequences of our actions. Owning the circumstances that we empower through both action and inaction and working both as individuals and groups of people to retake a government that belongs to all of us but has been largely abandoned. That is the ultimate answer that we as a people have, at once, sought to attain and shied away from. Ownership is the only answer that can lead to a continued future of opportunity, equality, and the freedoms that have defined the American experience for over 200 years.

Really, it’s simple, requires little research, and even less time. Subscribe to your neighborhood newsletter AND READ IT. Talk to your neighbors about something other than getting your power tools back. Reconnect with the people in your local community in a way that doesn’t involve a traffic accident. Through even this small level of involvement you may find something that will motivate you to contribute further to your community or the greater discussion. It is in the absence of community dialogue that government stops representing the people and starts representing themselves. Dialogue is the most basic form of ownership, and the foundation for change. Most importantly, dialogue takes power away from those who would seek to concentrate it for personal gain, as has been the case here in the Bluff City since the days of Boss Crump.

For my part, it is my intention to make local issues a greater focus for this blog. With a largely rookie City Council coming in next year, there exists a great opportunity to have a more direct dialogue with our representatives. There is also the distinct possibility that the Mayor will use his political savvy to exploit some of these “greener” elements. This will require a lot of oversight, oversight that the local fish wrap seems unwilling to provide. I pledge to take a more direct role in both attending and reporting on the events that transpire at the Memphis City Council and other entities in the Memphis political sphere.

Finally, I would like to hear from you, the readers of this blog. What local issues are you most concerned about? What is going on in your neighborhood that needs to be addressed? I want to start a dialogue with you and maybe even play a role in bringing the issues that affect your everyday life to the attention of the greater community at large. I can be contacted by posting a comment or clicking on my profile to get my email address. I look forward to this goal/role that I have placed on myself, but most importantly the opportunity to have even a passing affect on the future of our community.

Thanks for reading, but more importantly, thanks for sticking with me.

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