One year ago today, I posted my very first blog entry at Under the News. It was a comment on the then-simmering controversy over whether it was offensive to call Hurricane Katrina's evacuees "refugees" -- or whether it was just another example of our tendency to over-correct language to suit political ends. My opinion jibed with media critic Jeff Jarvis' observation:
"The cardinal sin today is to offend (and) the clearest badge of victimhood is to be offended."
In the past year of blogging, I have doubtlessly offended and been offended -- and learned that the blogosphere is no place for sissies. It's a free-wheeling Tower of Babel, part Mad Max, part Dante's Inferno, and part Burning Man. It is a place where much is genuine yet little is accepted as absolutely true. The perverse food chain in this digital taxonomy affords the tiniest organism a certain parity with the meat-eaters. I have often imagined the blogosphere to be a simulacrum of our Earth, in which every human motivation is represented -- from the meek inspiration to speak one true word to an obsession with eviscerating anyone who disagrees. From a millisecond of existentialism to millennial intellectual cleansing. Lambs and lions.
A few weeks after I began blogging, Hurricane Rita hit my town. I rode out the storm at my newspaper and thousands of people dropped in every day to see the eye of a storm through our eyes. Many stayed on to this day, new neighbors who haven't moved away.
In this simulated world, I've seen neighbors talking over back-fences, town meetings, shifting international alliances, cultural narcissism, charity without borders, espionage and sabotage, all-out explosive war -- albeit usually minus the actual explosives. It's inadvisable to expect the blogosphere to be somehow more utopian than the real world, and in many ways, it is more frightening.
Some of the posts closest to my heart engaged nobody. Others with less passion inspired vehement and vitriolic discussions. The fun part was never knowing which would trigger something marvelous. And another thing I noticed: Some guy named Anonymous is always a smart-ass.
I've made many new "friends" and met only one of them. I join (and am joined) in blogo-conversation by some every single day. A few come and go with the casual comfort of real-life friends, and a few have fallen away completely during this past year. They have shared something important to all our futures: Ideas. They have all challenged me, and in some way they have each left their mark in my mind. We haven't always agreed, but nor have we been disagreeable ... most of the time. Face it, the blogosphere is where curmudgeons go when they die.
A new year begins today. I hope to make new acquaintances, as well as keep up my conversations with my correspondent-friends from the past year: SingingSkies, ChanceLucky, DemocracyLover, Ranando, Mike Landfair, Genie, ThatCleaningLady, LilFeathers2000, Jill, Sparkle, GoHuskers, LoveRita, Trench, Melanie Mattson, BooksellerChick, Robert Gray, Frank Wilson, Jason, Laura James, Bookworm, Michael Gillespie ... and, of course, Anonymous.