I know, it's been a while since I've posted here. Sometimes it is easier to read than to write. Reallly, though, I am struggling with what I want this blog to be: Outlet for my political views? Resource for sharing art? Professional musings of an academic? A public version of a personal diary? Maybe.
I guess I am finding it difficult to keep my focus on the purpose of this sort of project. After spending much of the month of July "off the grid" and almost entirely away from electronic communication in McCarthy, Alaska, I return to a more mediated homeplace intimately aware of the different mindset all this connectivity allows. Hell, psychologists are even studying the effect of so much electronic communication -- I know because somebody linked this NYT piece about it to my Facebook page. Ain't irony cool?
I think I also liked the self-imposed news vacuum while I was away. Sure, I came back to Judge Walker's 136 page rebuke of the Prop H8ers. But even that moment of celebration was followed all too quickly by the 9th Circuit's decision to keep a stay on same sex marriage in California until the legal appeals process has a chance to work itself out, no doubt years from now.
Mostly, it is the latest furor over the Islamic Cultural Center at 51 Park Place that has me shaking my head these days. To me it is such a no-brainer; this is what freedom of religion is for. I would actually support a mosque at Ground Zero if one were seriously being proposed, but that is not what this non-issue is about. It's really about pundits and political operatives taking advantage of a hot button issue. It doesn't help when President Obama wades into the fray (exacerbating it) with a confusing for-the-First-Amendment-but-cautious-about-the-wisdom-of-the-location stance. It also doesn't help that Sen. Harry Reid decides it is better for his campaign to agree with his Tea Party opponent that it is a bad idea. These folks (Reid and Obama and even the Anti-Defamation League in NYC) trouble me more on this issue than the screaming heads on the Right, so ready to whip their base into a lather with the usual tactics of xenophobia and fear and scapegoats.
And then this: today I perused a blog that I generally like, Christopher di Spirito's From the Left. His queer and progressive news blog is a constant source of information and useful discussion. Sure, he's a bit more critical of the Obama Administration than I think I am, but it's not like they haven't given him a reason. Still, it is today's post that hit me like a gut punch, where Chris criticizes Obama's Afghanistan policy by reporting on the Taliban's stoning of an adulterous couple. He writes:
I don’t understand President Obama’s arrogant thinking that a surge of U.S. combat troops will somehow reverse the tide of radical Islam in Afghanistan? This is a deeply theocratic nation, mired in the 9th century, with absolutely no interest in joining the greater community of modern nations.
I share his doubts about the effectiveness of our military actions in Afghanistan, despite General Petraeus's recent junket to support the idea that there is a way to "win" there. But it is the totalizing sweep of Chris's anti-Islamic analysis, replete with the following header image for the post that so bothers me:
Really? Chris too? Even the Left is now joining in the Al Qaeda and Christian Right meme that this has always been about the West vs. Islam. Even if we get the hell out of Afghanistan, how is that meme going to help us negotiate the volatile global politics of the 21st Century? Do we "win" if we're only stuck in a 1950s mindset while "they" (all of 'em!) are trapped in the 9th Century? A bevy of polls over the last few years shows that Chris is hardly in the minority in the US in being suspicious of Muslims. Nor is he alone in equating Islam with anti-American ideology, despite considerable evidence of Muslim support of the US and firm criticism of terrorism. But then, as most queer folk are painfully aware, there is a huge disconnect between popular opinion and what is right, between polls and justice.
I considered writing a comment expressing my concern on his blog, and I still might. But I think the issue for me is bigger than just a comment. I considered dropping his blog from my reader. But what does that really accomplish? Better to hide from the Internet as a whole, I suppose. And besides, I still find From the Left to be a pretty good blog, perhaps all the moreso because I sometimes disagree with it.
In the end, I think I share Chris's frustration (rage?), but I am cautious about where to direct it. Does that caution make me, like Obama, "spineless"? Maybe. If, in our frustration with Obama's (liberals'? Democrats'?) spinelessness, we turn to sweeping generalizations and graphics more frequently found on the vitriolic Right, aren't we compromising our message and ideals? Is it really gaining a spine just to start sounding like your opposition, to start using their tactics?
Which is why I find myself reconsidering what a blog is for or if I should even be blogging in the first place. It was a conservative blog, after all, that fanned the flames of the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy. It is blogs that fuel the Birthers and the Oath Takers and a host of radical groups from across the political spectrum. And it is in blogs where self-proclaimed (professional?) Leftists rehearse rhetoric that can compete with (i.e. out shout?) the screaming "dittoheads" on the Right. But to give up on blogging in general is, well, like dissing all of Islam because of the behaviors of the Taliban. Or, if you prefer, it is like ignoring the inevitable; it's like trying to "take your country back" by selectively deciding what the founding patriarchs wanted it to be.
So I take this all into consideration as I consider what is to become of Bungy Notes. I don't want (or plan) to give up blogging just yet. I want to do my best to exemplify the discourse and practice I want this electronically interconnected world to be. I don't want to whine or just bash on other people's sites. I want it to be a place for art, politics, and the personal. And yes, I want it to be an open place for disagreement, by all means. I share much with Chris, from sexual orientation to political leanings, but for all of that similarity we are still very different people. Let us celebrate that difference, and let us look for such diversity in others even when they seem to be part of a group, particularly a reviled group.
(Anticipate a redesign of the site with maybe a little more clarification of my focus here. Or maybe it will just have a different color scheme.)