Thursday, September 18, 2008

At Least I Have The Quilt

I'm quite a bit late with this news. So late that it hardly qualifies as news anymore.

Jim Bacon is gone. No, he's not dead, (well, I haven't actually checked today, but I don't think so anyway), he's just leaving the e-zine that he began over six years ago. He leaves us with the idea that Bacon's Rebellion will continue. I for one certainly hope so. [LINK]

You see, Bacon's Rebellion had a rather large role to play in my life over the past few years. Not a starring role, mind you. Rather more like a very good character actor. The one whose name you can never quite remember, but whose on screen presence you can never forget.

I'm Not Emeril is now three years old. Quite ancient for a blog. Most tend to whither away within a year or so. This is not Virginia's oldest blog, but with Jim's departure, I may well be Virginia's oldest blogger. At 52 I'm not a geezer, but I'm not as young as most bloggers either.

I began this adventure in September of 2005, after being an avid reader of both Commonwealth Conservative, (Chad Dotson's site, since closed), and Bacon's Rebellion. The common thread between the two was Will Vehrs. I came to "know" Will through his writing on both blogs.

Like most people in Virginia I thought Will was treated way too harshly for his comments on Commonwealth Conservative's weekly caption contest. (If you are unaware of this episode in Virginia's blogging history, I'm sorry. Most of the archival accounts of the story are now gone. A very one-sided account can be found in the Martinsville Bulletin's archive files. Just search for his name.) Suffice it to say Will's excellent sense of humor and irony ruffled some self-important hackles and, being a state employee, he was severely punished for exercising his 1st Amendment rights*. It didn't help that some of the hackles ruffled belonged to two of Martinsville's most self-absorbed roosters, Ward Armstrong and Roscoe Reynolds. Each of whom had the Governor's ear.

At that time I was still very much a baby blogger. I'm Not Emeril was about 8 months old, and I had only been reading Virginia blogs for about a year. I knew no Virginia bloggers personally, certainly not Will, but like most others in the Virginia blog community I thought he was treated shabbily by the Commonwealth.

It was truly a blog community at that time. Sure, Virginia bloggers were partisan, very much so, but they were civil. I had discovered friends, on both sides of the political spectrum, via the gateway that was Bacon's Rebellion and Commonwealth Conservative. Some of those friends suggested that an upcoming blog conference at UVA be re-directed to address the issues raised by Will's experience. Many suggested that the conference even be moved from Charlottesville to Martinsville as a means of underscoring the issue. I agreed. I offered to do whatever I could to help facilitate that move.

When the organizer(s) of the UVA conference decided it was not worth the effort, someone, (Ben Tribbett, I think), suggested that Virginia's blogs should unite in Martinsville anyway, at a separate conference if need be. I think he even suggested that I chair it.

I did. Blogs United was held here in Martinsville during a beautiful August weekend in 2006.

It was not easy. Sure, parts of the planning and arrangements were simple. Made even more so by the wonderful support team that fell into place. Barnie Day, (another Bacon's Rebellion contributor), graciously agreed to host the affair. His bank even kicked in the lion's share of sponsorship funds. Anne Boothe and Mary Rives Brown were put into contact with me by Will Vehrs. These two beautiful ladies proved to be the rocks upon which I stood to keep my head barely above water. (How's that for a metaphor mix?) They remain dear friends to this day.

Back to the story now. As I was saying, Virginia's bloggers were somehow different back then. Democrats and Republicans alike joined together to make Blogs United a very grand affair. We enjoyed each others company. We held spirited debates, fueled largely by spirits. We kidded and joked with each other. We were friends. Just friends. Politics came second.

Sure, there were a couple of moments. One table refused to stand for the Lt. Governor. One progressive blogger refused to attend, saying, "It's our job to defeat them, not to make conversation with them", or something very much like that. On the whole, however, it was great.

I still have that kind of friendship with a couple of Democrat bloggers. Vivian Paige. Brian Patton. If they had continued to blog I think I would still maintain connection to Paul Anderson and a few others. Reasonable people all. I once even enjoyed a fine cigar and the company of Josh Chernila.

No. Now it's all too personal. It's too easy to call names from behind the false anonymity provided by a keyboard and computer monitor.

It's not only on their side, but my side as well. We have come to place politics above civility. Winning above ethics. It's our job to defeat them, not to make conversation with them. Or something like that.

Sadly, I now believe Vivian was correct when she predicted during the 2007 Blogs United that it would be our last. Our last united as bloggers, regardless of party affiliation, that is.

Now we see cruel and demeaning references to a Down's Syndrome child, (a child I know once described a Down's Syndrome child as being "just too nice to be normal"). We see John McCain being described as senile. We see our president compared to a chimp. We see nasty remarks about Nancy Pelosi's face-lifts. We see Hillary's ankles. Or her temper. And Obama's wife. We see anti-Semitic fliers distributed during a primary campaign. We see normal, everyday Virginians falsely linked to a despicable pedophilia group. By bloggers.

We see these things every day. Things which exceed Will Vehrs' simple, funny caption remarks by unknown bounds. Yet no one says anything.

I guess I just did.

Goodnight Chad. Goodnight Will. Goodnight Jim Bacon.

Jim tells us, via comment below, that he's not gone completely. He's simply giving up the extraordinary grind involved in producing a bi-weekly electronic magazine. He's still very much alive on the blog side of Bacon's Rebellion.

*The good news is, Will was eventually completely exonerated. He is once again a happy, productive state employee. A happy, productive state employee who no longer blogs. Or comments on caption contests.

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