Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why write? Or: how the blog trumps the pillow.

I just read how President Obama released his "long-form" birth certificate, concerned that carnival barker Donald Trump was threatening to turn a pathetic side-show into a three-ring circus. I have a lot to say about this - about Trump and the birthers, and about Obama and the White House response. I am convinced that my analysis is solid, insightful, and even touches on some elements I don't see covered in the mainstream press. But who cares?

My first instinct was to write a Facebook update about it. Then I realized my response would be too long, so I thought I'd blog about it. But I immediately realized that A) I have far more facebook friends than there are people who read this blog - what I write in either venue will have no impact, and B) I don't even expect it to have impact. It's just a way of venting. It seems magical to be able to share our opinions and musings with tens and hundreds of people instead of the three or four with whom we might have chatted over coffee in the olden days before Web 2.0.   But ultimately, for so many of us, blogging about current events is more therapeutic than discursive. It is the third millennium equivalent of screaming into a pillow. Or beating on one.

Birthers make me angry for lots of reasons!

The President of the United States often does things differently than I would like!

These things matter to me for some reason!

I've never tried to market this blog to a wide audience. I've never posted to it as frequently as I've often intended. I have often written about Big Issues, like war and human rights, and maybe someone - an acquaintance or not - read what I wrote and found it helpful or challenging, and that's about all I ever hoped for. Mostly, I think I have a particular vantage point regarding Bolivia, and I write about that, and it's worthwhile reading to a few people who know me and are interested in my life here, and a few others who have discovered the blog and are interested in Bolivia.

I shouldn't think too hard about all this.  Now I'm starting to wonder why this post is any more relevant or justifiable than one about Donald "The Toup'" Trump and Barak "The Hawaiian" Obama would have been.

I often dream about being a writer. Just saying so reminds me of the cowboy chronicler character in Clint Eastwood's The Unforgiven. A running joke throughout the movie is that whenever he's introduced as a writer, the crusty frontiersmen he meets ask, unimpressed, if he means "letters and such." So I guess I'm a writer already. But you know what I mean. I wonder if writing is my vocation. A less noble-sounding, but equally honest way of saying this is that I would like to get published - to become - dare I say it? - a professional writer.   I'm making some humble and stuttering attempts at realizing that dream.

One thing every successful writer says to wannabe writers is to write out of a compulsion, a passion - that you should basically write for the sake of writing, but that the worst thing you can do is write with dreams of "success." But what is the sake of writing? Being read, right? If you write for yourself, I think that's called a journal. Otherwise, one writes to communicate something to others. Presumably lots of others. The process by which this communication is achieved is, I believe, the very same process by which a writer becomes successful: said writing is published, and a lot of people (buy and) read said publication.

With a blog, no-one needs to buy it. But the writer's work can be instantly published and read by lots of people. Having a hugely popular blog is also a form of success for a writer. And the same famous authors who advise newbies to write for the sake of writing would also say that we write because we have something to say. You should embrace that fact, they say, and assert your voice. Everyone has a story to tell. Tell yours boldly and tell it well.

But I question whether my opinions about Barry and the Birthers (wouldn't that be a good name for a doo-wop band? I'm picturing a suave black lead singer and three white back-up singers in horrible wigs) are part of the story I'm meant to tell. There are already far too many established, professional writers weighing in, with various degrees of insight, on all this buffoonery. Not many people may want to read about Bolivia. But not many people are writing about it, either. So, for now, as regards today's headlines, I think I'll put a gaudy orange pillowcase on my pillow, and punch it, and leave it at that.

But did you see where Obama's putting a military general in charge of the CIA, and a political hack in charge of the military? Don't get me started...

UPDATE: I hadn't read Obama's full remarks when I wrote this. Appears the carnival barker and sideshow analogies are a matter of some consensus!  Also, that last line about the security team shuffle was half a joke. I realize the CIA has its roots in the Army, and the Defense post is political and represents civilian leadership of the armed forces. For the record, though, click for my nominees for spy chief and war secretary.


Anonymous said...

What you should comment about is why Obama did not give proof of his birth when asked about in 2008....and I am talking about the one he just gave to the public...its the law to prove he was born in the US...You should question that not Donald Trump...

Anonymous said...

Hey I dont have any problem with your views on this issue, but I think your focus on Bolivia is the strength and point of this blog - I really think it is good - and you might get more subscribers in the long run if you stick to a clear topic.