One of the things I’ve learned in a little over a year of blogging is how short the life expectancy of a post really is. Once it moves far enough down the page that people have to scroll to find it, it is truly an archive. So, when I woke up this morning to find a rather lengthy and incisive comment on my post, “can’t wait,” I decided to give it the spotlight so I could respond, because it really got me to thinking. Since I allow anonymous comments on my blog, I don’t know who wrote it, but here is what they had to say:
Your blog entry makes good sense and an honest point. However, I have a few objections. It seems you are trying to make your dent just as many people do and that is through talking and blogging. I don’t know anything about you or things you have done but it seems if you truly believe in the point you are making then you would be on the streets rather than blogging about those who just do things like blogging. You also seem resigned to the fact that you must just keep on waiting for the world to change rather than changing the world. It seems that as creative as you are in making your point, you are simply pointing out observations and taking part in the same do-nothing stance that you comment on. You do not even point to reasons why our culture is responding to the war in the way they are. I disagree with the statement about more people waiting for an Xbox than protesting the war. You might just be making a point in this statement but it is absurd to state that more people waited for the Xbox360 one cold December night in 2006 than have taken the streets across our nation in protest of the war since it began four years ago. I don’t buy that but at the same time realize that even though people DID take the streets, it hasn’t been enough. The way our world connects with each other and expresses mass opinion has changed. This war has not affected enough of our own people and their lifestyles as war used to. The Vietnam war killed nineteen times the amount of soldiers that our time in Iraq has. I believe that if the Iraq death toll of our own servicemen and women was to reach near 58,000 as the toll of Vietnam reached, our nation would have a much stronger uprising. If put in perspective and compared, I don’t think that the level of reaction to this war now is much to critique. The truth is there have been protests and many voices heard in opposition to the war. 70% of the nation is in opposition. The nation voted as a mandate on the war in November, kicking out many Republican because of their stance. The problem is, when the President ignores his colleagues, his generals, our elected representatives, and the voters themselves, it is hard to do much else; especially when the impact of this war on United States citizens is minimal compared to the impact previous wars have had. Sometimes when our voices become hoarse, all we CAN do is just keep on waiting, waiting for the world to change……or in this case the ’08 election…..
I’m printing the comment because I learned something from it and because I want to respond to it.
The first thing I learned (again) is ranting doesn’t create conversation. What I was hoping for in that post was some resonance with my frustration and some sharing of ideas and feelings about how we can help ourselves get off the runway, as it were. The fact that the post engendered fewer comments than most lets me know I missed my mark. in some ways, it seems my writing was the blogging equivalent of putting my fist through the wall. Hyperbole doesn’t elicit much in the way of response., other than to point out my frustration.
The second thing I learned is we, as Americans, are having a very self-focused discussion when it comes to the war in Iraq. We are upset by our troops being killed and wounded; we are worried about our oil and gas prices; the commenter said we are waiting and “it is hard to do much else; especially when the impact of this war on United States citizens is minimal compared to the impact previous wars have had.” We have not spent much time looking at how what we are doing affects the world, much less the people of Iraq.
The third thing I realized is I was writing out of a greater sense of futility than I realized at the time. The commenter said I seemed resigned to not being able to change the world. Not resigned. I feel frustrated, angry, perhaps even hopeless at times, but I am not resigned. Though I’m willing to accept the criticism that joining the host of ranting bloggers is just a step above doing nothing, I write because writing is what I have to offer. My stance may be ineffectual or less than influential, but I’m working hard to figure what to do to be a part of effective and meaningful change.
In response, I do think we as Americans are more enamored of Xbox, Tickle Me Elmo, and our SUVs than we are of significant social change because the kind of change that would alter the world is costly. From the earliest days of our republic, we talked about our inalienable rights being “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” setting us on a course to set individualism above the common good. We have a hard time thinking inclusively, whether on a relational or national level. Though I was mistaken to say more people stood in line at the toy store last Christmas than took to the streets to protest the war, I also think we’ve lost sight of ourselves when we see ourselves as “consumers” rather than contributors.
There’s another element to add here: we are also a frightened people. We are living paradoxes, embodying comfort and fear side by side. What the two share in common is they lead us to isolate and insulate ourselves, as well as teaching us to resist change. We like being comfortable. I know I do. We also don’t like being afraid. To conquer the fear means to walk through the valley of the shadow, and so I write to push myself into disquietude, and hoping to find others looking to become more uncomfortable with where we now stand.
I know what the polls say. I get regular email notices from MoveOn.org and Open Democracy. I subscribe to The Nation and Harpers. I also hunt down Keith Olbermann’s “Special Comments.” There are a growing number of voices speaking up and shouting out across our country, for which I’m grateful. And we have yet to engage most folks beyond how many soldiers have died. How can we figure out a way to converse about our nation’s role in the world as a perpetrator of violence so that we do more than polarize ourselves? How do we begin to talk about leadership and government in more than shades of red and blue? How do we begin to think about engaging the world in a way other than one that requires us to wear body armor?
Thanks to whoever wrote the comment because you helped me realize I’m really waiting for me to change. I would have done better to ask questions than rant and pontificate; you’re right. At least I can say it started a conversation, even if a small one. Beyond the frustration and futility, what I want to feel least in all of this is alone. I can best do that by not allowing myself to be self-focused, to speak out, and to listen as we talk together about what to do and how to do it. That’s what I’m waiting for.
Thank you, Milton, for posting that reply and your ensuing reply. I noticed the lack of response to your Waiting entry; I agree with your own observations about it. What really struck me was this line:
“I also think we’ve lost sight of ourselves when we see ourselves as “consumers” rather than contributors.”
because I think this is how we often think about church. As an Episcopalian, I was raised to believe that we participate in worship, not merely attend church. It seems the liturgical churches are becoming more and more passive church-goers rather than makers of liturgy.
I think this passive, consumer-driven mentality is endemic to our society. I believe making a joyful noise, even a noise of righteous indignation, will help to get the people moving – in the pews and in the streets.
Milton, keep making your joyful noise!
Thanks for reading with such intentionality and being willing to have a conversation. I’m grateful for your joyful noise as well.
I appreciate your point, Milton! I understand that you were laying out a frustrated rant and I get it. You made a valid point. I did not mean to belittle your blog or attack you. I was trying to expand on your point, make one of my own, and put things in perspective. I appreciate how you have filtered through my response. You are right: The average American has grown comfortably isolated and oblivious to the world around us whether it be on the micro scale (Ipods and Xbox’s) or the macro (realizing other countries exist). I think it is very positive that you are trying to find exactly where your place is in making a difference. I wish all of Americans would be taking part in that process. As a student of sociology and international studies, I wish more people were as aware as you are about the consequences of international conflict or isolation. In my own personal bloggings and conversations I try to not only focus on the American death toll in Iraq as a criticism of our current policy but on the quality of life, future, and impact the war has had on the people of Iraq. It would be more fitting in America if our news media would report on the 2,000 Iraqi’s that die every week. In my latest blog (http://blog.myspace.com/bhherron), mostly a tribute to MLK, I focus on the ignorant ideas of forcing “freedom” and “democracy” down their throats and how I believe that the security of our nation has been compromised by our presence in the Middle East. I encourage you to read and comment on it. Thank you for having this conversation, even if it is just that. Maybe one more person will be inclined to have their own conversation and just possibly……do something.
Son of your buddy Keith
Previously known as “Anonymous”