Sunday, May 2, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Tone It Down Edition

I'm usually very proud of my diaries and comments. Often my subject matter contains opinions which I’m quite passionate about. But pride, being a vice instead of virtue, can sometimes catch up with me.

This past week, with relation to both last weeks' edition and the week in reporting a local State Senate race, they did. Now I'm presented with a rare opportunity. Instead of blogging about how right I think I am, I now find it prudent to write about just how wrong I might be and how self-righteously foolish it made me sound.

In other words, I'm going to take this guy's advice:

In this week's edition of Soundpolitic Sundays, join me in one more cup coffee as I take a step back from last weeks' boiling points...

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project and DailyKos)

I can boil what I do on the blogs to three major topics. I find they can end up complimenting each other rather well, but in some instances if I don't keep myself in check, they can serve as examples of what nonsense can result when the lines are blurred.

First, I continue what really got me going back in 2008, when my Congressional district, NY-21, experienced a wide-open Democratic primary for the first time in fifty years. It was back then that I openly declared support for one candidate while rounding up recent news. I was rather proud of how I was able to get more information out there than a brief newscast or newspaper article could fit in. I was also rather proud of some of the analytical points I made.

But what I am not proud of are some of the battles I waged in the comments sections of my diaries back then. I took my advocacy of a single candidate to levels that deepened the divide in the political discourse and debate of Democrats. That is, above the fold I held myself out as an unbiased reporter mixed with an advocating citizen-journalist. Yet in the comments below, I would come off as a shill, a loudmouth, a partisan of a single stripe.

So this year, when I decided to keep up this work by covering a New York State Senate primary, I resolved to myself that I wouldn't do that again. And that I would let another candidate actually use and abuse my advocacy on the blogs. See, by passionately advocating for one side of a mutli-tiered debate, it's very easy to let those passions get a hold of you and cloud your vision to the whole truth.

This week, I failed miserably in that respect. While my reporting is still, I feel, honest and accurate, in commenting on the story I revealed an incredible weakness. And I have the community of The Albany Project to thank for this. They snapped me out of my conspiracy theories pretty quickly. Without getting too specific, taking a step back and tempering my passionate viewpoints allowed me to see how foolish I was making myself look instead of making auto-assumptions about how right I was and how wrong anybody was to disagree with me.

So this week, I have a big "sorry" and "thank you" to say to the community of The Albany Project. By helping me realize my head was in the sand in the first place, I was able to notify myself to start digging out. I can now resolve to tone things down when it comes to coverage of political campaigns and developments with what I hope is a clean slate.

Why? Because while feeling right certainly does feel good, feeling like you have a right a wrong of your own doing is much stronger. You feel like you've learned something, and swallowing your pride as opposed to spewing it out grants my ego a more lasting and limiting impression.

This connects me with another things I do here on the blogs. When I heard about the formation of the Coffee Party two months ago, I jumped at the chance to both participate in this new movement and get the news of it's doings out there. It's the second subject I blog about, though it's been a while since I had to step down as an early organizer and even attend meetings thanks to sustained unemployment.

The theme of this movement is what draws me to it, and it's why my proud and prejudiced political coverage began to contrast with it so strongly. With the Coffee Party spreading a message of inclusiveness and civil discourse, my political reporting ended up looking all the more close-minded and confrontational. Perhaps it's been my absence from the Coffee Party meetings still taking place that has caused this flaw to appear.

Here's the main point. Politics is often seen as one big, never-ending conflict. Sides are chosen, then choices are justified, then the other side is demonized, then all hell tends to break lose. You could say this is exactly the process that the radical Tea Party movement is presently making an example of. Let me assure you: the Coffee Party is it's polar opposite in both ideology and approach. The members of the Coffee Party seek to break this radicalizing chain, the same chain that turns of so many of our fellow citizens to anything remotely related to politics...

...the same chain I followed when my reporting turned to bias and conspiracy theories. So I'll add to my resolution. Because now I have haven't only let TAP and DailyKos readers down with this massive contradiction, I've let down the Coffee Party. To bring them back up, I must keep their message of civil discourse and a more harmonious tone alive. It's time for less mischief and more meditation.

That's the third thing I do here, and you're in the middle of one right now. This Sunday column was my return to blogging after a year of depression from sustained unemployement. A theme developed as the column took a life of it's own. Holding myself to posting here on a weekly basis gave me a deadline to prepare for, a responsibility to hold myself to.

That said, most of what's here I try to make as fun as possible. I started the series as a spur-of-the-moment, box-of-chocolates deal where I didn't know what I was getting into and where, each week, you never know what you're gonna get. Hence, a tradition to post irreverent YouTube videos.

How often do you find yourself feeling like Forrest Gump? Because this week, I found myself wishing I was a little more like him. The Gump never proudly pontificated his political views, even when he was surrounded by the most pivotal of historic events. Through either his lack of intellect or his possession of a deeper wisdom, he took things as they came and didn't make too much of a big deal about much of anything. And true to form, he never really knew what life would hand out to it, and because of his balanced neutrality, he was able to take everything in stride no matter where his legs took him.

That's what I'd like to craft here each week, with a healthy dose of the same humor found in the film. Alas, I've now had two weeks that really are no laughing matter. And they are the result of me being an anti-Gump. Instead of recognizing the limits of my mind, I placed my own opinions above all others for such a foolish reason as to feel smart. Instead of playing the strong and silent type, I spouted off at the mouth and proved myself more a fool than a sage. And instead of taking things in stride, I latched on to my expectations and lashed out when they were not met.

This was a recipe for shrimp disaster.

So finally, I can resolve to return this column to its original purpose. Not as some misplaced confessional for just one blogger by focusing on my own trials and tribulations, but as a place for other bloggers to have something completely unexpected thrown at them for purposes of both entertainment and information.

I just had to get this out of the way first. Because to continue to move forward, as people and as a country, we must first admit where and when we were wrong. And then, we must act like we mean to do something about it to right those wrongs. Finally, we must resolve to not make the same mistakes by outlining a process for future progress. To skip these steps and just move on like nothing happens leaves no lessons learns, apologies left unsaid, and stone left unturned.

I hope this weeks' column has done that. I hope you will join me next week as Soundpolitic Sunday's gets back to the business of taking things down a notch. Until then, thanks for reading, keep up the good work, and may all beings be free from suffering.

No comments: