Elaine here on what may be my last poll as Rebecca returns Monday from her vacation. I would really love to be able to do a post this weekend but The Third Estate Sunday Review takes a lot of time and energy and I've already committed to helping them (gladly committed).
Barring a time miracle, this will be the last post. I want to again thank everyone who e-mailed and offered support throughout. As a Common Ills community member since November (third day, would have been sooner but C.I. didn't breathe a word of the site until the first e-mails started coming in), I knew that members were smart, funny and interested in the world they live in. After a while you know that, for instance, Lloyd's going to highlight Ruth Conniff at The Progressive or that Cedric loves Colorado Indymedia or that Erika's going to say something profound and make you laugh or that . . .
Grace Lee Boggs was someone I knew of but I had no idea she did a column every other week until Liang spotlighted her for Women's History Month. You learn things about members and you learn about the world so I didn't think, when C.I. started forwarding the e-mails, that I was in for any surprises; however, I was wrong. As committed and passionate as I knew the community to be, I still didn't realize the depth of that committment or the depth of the passion.
So I really want everyone to know that I appreciated the support.
I want to thank a number of people but let me, for Mike, first note Democracy Now!
Top City Official Blasts FEMA: "This Is A National Disgrace" (Democracy Now!)
The head of New Orleans' emergency operations blasted the federal government and FEMA for its slow response. The official Terry Ebbert said "This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace." Ebbert went on to say "FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." Ebbert said "It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane."
Put the above with the item below.
Bush Officials Criticized For Staying On Vacation (Democracy Now!)
Criticism is also mounting over the Bush administration's handling of the crisis. President Bush didn't return from his vacation until Wednesday and several other top officials remain on summer breaks. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had been vacationing in New York City but returned to Washington on Thursday. Meanwhile Vice President Dick Cheney has been in Wyoming and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has been in Maine.
Who's working here? Where are the adults in the administration? There's a reason it's a Bully Boy administration as opposed to a Bully Man one. Operation Enduring Falsehood continues and Bully Boy can't be bothered with what's actually going down here. Nor can his administration because they take their cues from the top.
Let me now return to thank yous. These are in no particular order. Gina and Krista were not just supportive in the gina & krista round-robin, they were also supportive in e-mails and on the phone. When, after a week, I confessed that I thought my lack of experience was hurting Rebecca's site, they listened, at length, and gave me the push to keep going. Thank you.
Cedric gave me a piece of advice early on that he got from Kat: If due to time or any other reason (including having nothing to say), you're not wanting to blog, don't do it. I thought it was good avice. I ignored it the night I attended a vigil in my area for Cindy Sheehan. The next day was a haze. Cedric didn't say, "I told you so." He didn't even bring up the advice when, a few days after, I mentioned it to him. But it was good advice and the only other time (last night) when I was too tired to do much, I heeded it by adding in Kat's advice of "It is what it is." Cedric was a great sounding board and always there to ask how I was holding up. Thank you.
Kat, the groovy Kat. If there's an experience that can't be related through a song, it hasn't had enough publicity to reach Kat yet. She helped me soar on the few times I really reached a level I was proud of and she helped me accept that "It is what it is" on those times when I felt I'd really stunk up Rebecca's site. Kat, if I can speak for the community and not just myself, we are not worthy. Thank you.
Betty never let me forget that life comes first. Which is strange coming from Betty who invests more time in an entry than anyone else I've spoken to. Each entry goes through mulitple drafts and Betty's never satisfied with the end results (I think they're glorious entries). One night when I was having the worst time pulling together what I wanted to say, Betty called and asked, "Can I run something by you?" Her issue struck me as relatively minor, though she would swear today that it wasn't, and I think she was checking up on me. After we discussed her entry, she immediately asked what I was working on and talked me through a problem I was having with a paragraph. She did this while dealing with two kids fighting and rocking a third. Betty, you amaze me. Thank you.
Jess, Ty, Jim, Dona and Ava of The Third Estate Sunday Review seemed to spend the first two weeks of my blogging on suicide watch. "Is she okay?" I imagined them asking as they drew straws to figure out who had to call me that day. Each of them brought a gift with their advice. If I were to boil it down to one piece from each one, it would read like the following: Dona gave me the gift of "no set length." A short entry can be as powerful as a long one. Say what you need to say. Ty gave me the gift of "say it from inside yourself and it'll come out true to you." Ty stressed that the only great wrong was writing about something you only half-cared about.
Jim gave me the gift of "speak frankly." Jim truly believes that people should either like what you say or not like it. He feels there are more than enough timid voices making passive statements. Jess gave me the gift of expressing righteous anger. He repeatedly stressed that a committment to peace didn't mean I had to sound like a Zen master and that came in very handy. Ava's gift (one she shares with C.I.) is getting you to talk out the issue and figure out what you really think. A phrase, a key word, would end up being the guide I needed when I found myself lost. Thank you.
Dallas gets a special mention because I had a huge link problem one day. Half the entry was one link. There were supposed to be three links in that half but the whole thing ran together as one link. Stressing, I went to the e-mails and saw Dallas' e-mail. We'd spoken during all night sessions for The Third Estate Sunday Review and I knew he was the "link king." He responded immediately to my SOS and talked me through the problem. Thank you.
Which brings me to Mike and, as Dorothy said to the Scarecrow, "I think I'll miss you most of all." (Or something like that.) I am positive, 100% positive, that Rebecca asked Mike to check in regularly. Mike would deny that. (Rebecca denies it.) In the midst of a draining day when I didn't see how I'd have anything in me worth saying by the evening, my assistant would either tell me Mike was on the phone or, if I had been in a session, that he had called. The first thing out of his mouth, after "Hello", would always be the funniest story that would make me laugh and energize me. Mike has many gifts that he shared but the gift of laughter is what I'll remember most. Thank you.
So who does that leave?
C.I. What can you say about someone you've know for years and years and years and years and . . . We've been friends forever. We're still friends despite the fact that C.I. had to hold my hand via the phone to get me through the earliest entries. I do not mean, "Let me read this to you and give me feedback." I mean, "Stay on the line because I'm about to start writing." Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin used to do that while writing poetry during the day. I don't think I reached either Sexton or Kumin proportions; however, what I did reach (and the fact that I continued) owes a huge debt to C.I. staying on the phone.
A number of us have suggested, at various times, to C.I. the need to take a break. Substituting for Rebecca, I understood why a break from The Common Ills has been impossible thus far. I had only one thing I planned to write about, CODEPINK's Stop The Next War Now and I only got to that this week. Why? Because there are things that members feel are important. As someone who's often disappointed in my party's leadership (or lack of it), I understood when e-mails were forwarded to me that would ask me to address something.
I've read all the e-mails forwarded and I think everyone of you has what it takes to run a site. But I do understand shyness and people worrying about not using the correct grammer, etc.
What I got most clearly, however, was that there are issues that matter to you and you need to have them validated. Where I could, I did. Where I couldn't, I plead time constraints.
Near the end there were usually a little over fifty e-mails a day. I addressed what I could. I understand now how, with multiple daily entries, C.I. still can't address every issue raised.
(And why, despite the fact that water rights is one of C.I.'s big issues, there's still not been time to go into that at The Common Ills to any real degree.)
I told you earlier that C.I. didn't tell anyone about the site going up until people started e-mailing. There's a post on the second day that C.I. rates as the worst. It's the one about the e-mails that have just come in. I didn't think it was embarrassing (and am unaware of anyone saying to C.I. "You should be embarrased by that") but when you all started e-mailing, I grasped how much that meant. I wasn't flying blind the way C.I. was (as noted in the thank yous, I had plenty of people with experience that I could ask advice from). Even so, when I had e-mails forwarded on the second day, it did mean something to me.
The point of the previous four paragraphs is that you are the voice of The Common Ills. It's your interests and feedback that shape the community. I'd read C.I. writing about that (I think C.I. uses "input" in place of "feedback") repeatedly and think, "Right because they suggest articles to be linked to . . ." But it is a great deal more than that. When C.I.'s said to me that water rights will be the issue of an entry the next day and I've gone over there to read that only to find no mention at all of it, I didn't get how much you determined what was covered. (That's not to imply that the community doesn't care about water rights.) Time and again, your e-mails noting something that you don't feel is being addressed results in it being addressed at The Common Ills.
Whether it's the passing of John H. Johnson or, this week, the coverage from Mexico in the New York Times, you're determing where the community heads. That's why C.I. still reads every members e-mail (even if Ava or Jess has additional time and respond to those e-mails). "Couldn't you just get a summary of the e-mails?" is a question Jim, myself and others have asked at various times. No.
There are e-mails where a person may discuss for the bulk of an e-mail one topic and then, almost in a sotto voice, add something important in closing. You have to know the members to know if the closing is going to be where the big issue for them is. Krista and Gina are suggesting a cap on membership and I favor the idea only because the volume of the e-mails have already reached the point where they're really too much for one person.
But I do understand why they have to be read and how much members are shaping the community. I had an e-mail early on from Sherry about an issue that was quite important to her and she expressed the importance clearly. It became a topic here as a result. Mike's on a campaign to convince me to start my own site. To be honest with you, I'm not sure that I want that kind of responsibility. "Want that kind of responsibility." I could handle it, I'm not sure I want it.
People are looking for voices that address issues that matter and not in a "Hey, here's a groovy Republican saying a great message so let's be good lefties and give it up!" I know from the e-mails I've received how upset that makes you. You have voices, from the left, that speak to you and are looking for additional ones. So when a blogger steers you to a neocon or worse (if there is worse), you feel disappointed and let down.
You're also very tired of, and C.I. had told me about this in May but I saw with the e-mails how true it was, "brave voices" that would be brave if this was March, 2002 perhaps but, considering the mood of the country, are only currently slightly to the left of Joe Lieberman.
There was a time when, for instance, sexism is something you would put up with because the voices you knew of were limited to a small number. Now someone makes repeated rude jokes (or, to be C.I., "jokes") about women and you realize there's a whole world out there of other voices. You no longer have to put up with comments about Michelle Malkin's making sense or any other nonsense. (Yes, that's a reference to "Booger." As someone who got the full break down via West and other members contacted -- I can risk the ire of C.I., we've been friends for years -- about West by the "Booger," I've written that site off. As I think has the entire community. What's gone up here by Rebecca and at the other community sites was a limited version because until Gina and Krista posed the question of "Did anyone else here from the Booger?" there was no idea that the Booger was actually slamming West to strangers in e-mails and attempting to find out personal details about West. Possibly Booger would do better work if he weren't trying so hard to work a personal vendetta.)
The tide has turned, as the Rolling Stones would sing (for Kat), and weak, timid voices saying, "Come on guys, here's how we can please the right!" just don't cut it anymore. (And as C.I. noted in May, didn't we already try that in 2004? Water ourselves down with the hopes of stripping off voters? Didn't we see how that worked out?) The left didn't vanish or suddenly go extinct. It did lose public voices and public outlets.
A message of "We're like them except for one or two key issues" is not a message of hope. Americans are concerned with the increasingly lowered standard of living wage. Americans are concerned with the quagmire that's taken too many lives. Presenting fine tuning instead of honest alterntives isn't a message of hope. It's not a message that will inspire. Out flanking doesn't build up a base but it can decrease one.
As Wally wrote, "If you think about it, at some point, Cokie Roberts must have made some people think she had to something to say." Now she's a dinasaur and those who feel the need to push, for instance, the Bull Moose, will find themselves in the same stomping grounds as Cokie.
David Brock has a transformation, an awakening. The Bull Moose just appears to be someone who had a few peeves with his own party and now wants to dub himself an independent so exactly why some on the left and on the "left" want to rush to kneel before him is beyond me.
I've never been able to figure out if those types were psuedo left or just plain stupid.
People can change and I'll be the first to applaud anyone who truly changes, like David Brock. But the gushing over the Bull Moose and the eagerness to listen to his constant water-down advice is troubling. (Yes, Wally, Sherry, Rhonda, Zach, Rachel, Liang, Keesha and Brad, I'm specifically speaking of the person you asked questions about. As I said in the replies to your e-mails, I have no idea why someone feels the need to get in bed with the Bull Moose but let's hope they use condoms.)
When the same person urges that we treat James Dobson with respect (hours after C.I. does the "Focus on the Fool" post), I undertand why so many of you have turned against that voice. Let's do a little check list for a minute. The person brags over Simon Rosenberg and, when called on that, expresses surprise that Simon Rosenberg supported (and supports, at least at that point) the war on Iraq, the person's in bed with the Bull Moose, trashes Victoria Hooper (because she's from "Hollywood" and, probably, because she's a woman), and also wants people to stop making jokes about James Dobson you're left with a voice that has little to say to the left about the times we live in.
Which brings us to the final thank you, Rebecca. Our warrior woman of the left. Kicking ass and taking names. Rebecca, as she herself has noted here, went through a very dark period after a personal tragedy. Instead of allowing it to break her, she found strength (and, judging by the phone calls, she's found even more strength while on vacation).
Whether taking on "centrists" like the whiner Ed ("How dare you write that my hair looks like my mommy cuts it with a bowl!") or The New Republican, Rebecca's not afraid to call it like it is.
She was the assistant Selena Kyle some years ago, now she is our Catwoman. (The Michelle Pfeiffer version.) The wrong community member running a site was dubbed the "catfighter" (no offense to C.I.), the catfighter is Rebecca.
What? A dog fight is something noble but a catfight is something to run from? Forget the stereotypes (and sexism) involved in the labels, a cat (be it a house cat or a panther) fights deadly and so does Rebecca.
Two female bloggers e-mailed me during Rebecca's absence and noted how much they missed her (I did too). That's because, if you're a woman, you appreciate her take no shit attitude. She's not ego stroking the half-comptent male with any hopes that she can make him "better."
If he's a nit wit (yes, Centrist Ed, you'd be near the top of that list), she has no use in making him feel that it's okay that everything he pushes goes against what we believe in.
Centrist Ed was shocked, shocked!, by the way she ran her site. To quote Demi Moore in The Butcher's Wife, "You should get out more." Your ideal of 'the little lady' is your concept, not her's. She won't wear the Scarlet Letter for you. She won't play your sin-eater or tell you it's okay that you want to privatize social security or whatever other public good you're trying to put on the chopping block.
And she'll speak straight from the heart and in a way that her readers can relate. None of that, "I'm sure ___ means well; however, . . ." She'll call you on your bluff, she'll call you on your ego.
Judging by the reactions of so many men, she should change the title of this site to "Rebecca Winters Can't Say That! . . . Can She?" Of course she can. And does.
I thank her for being the brave voice she is. (And I thanked her for that even on evenings and nights when I cursed her for leaving me in charge while she was on vacation.)
I like Lizz Winstead. But when Lizz had a problem with a comment I posted (a pro-peace comment) and attacked, on air, another poster because she wrongly thought they had posted it,
Rebecca started this site. People asked what I thought about, about the reason behind Rebecca's site? I thought it was perfectly in keeping with Rebecca.
My comments were the ones attacked and, to me, it was something to shrug off. To Rebecca, it was the final straw because you don't do that to her friends. A few years ago, you could. But where others would face despair and cower, Rebecca came out of it roaring.
She's spoken of her abortion here. As much as her ex-in-laws will allow her too at any rate. Which I think is crap, if you want my opinion. I'll give my take and they can be mad at me because I truly don't give a damn. Rebecca and her then husband wanted children. She got pregnant. A few months into the pregnancy, tests revealed that the child would be born with a birth defect that would mean the child would be in severe pain the brief time the child would be alive. Rebecca worked really hard to nail that post and saw it as the most important thing she'd ever write, just to explain one more reason why choice is not the business of the government or anyone looking in from outside.
When she finally thought she had nailed it, she sent it to her ex-husband who had no problem with the post and told her she was very brave to share what she was sharing. Then her ex-in-laws (mother-in-law and father-in-law) read the post and told her there was no way it was going up as is. They began "editing" it and gutting everything to the point that if she'd posted it, you would know she had an abortion, that the decision was difficult for her to reach for some reason that was no longer included in the post and a few lines about how important it was to save reproductive rights.
Though her ex-in-laws may not realize it, they put her in a situation she had struggled to emerge from: a sense of powerlessness. She wrote very frankly about the debate she had with herself over her options and explained why she made the choice she felt she had to based on all the medical evidence and not wanting to bring a child into the world when the child's life would be brief and would be filled with multiple operations.
Having set all that down in the frankest language, that very difficult decision that she would still make today, she now once again found herself forced into a decision -- whether she hurts her ex-in-laws or shoves down the story. This came at a time when a number of issues were already perculating (like the attack on West).
That's the reason she went on the vacation. The drama the ex-in-laws created over the post brought the whole sense of being pushed against a wall back to her. In one of the first lines they gutted, Rebecca had written that she had a decision to make, not a choice and that until you're in that position you may not grasp that. Once again, she was put into a situation where she had no choice, only a decision.
Rebecca was as frank about that as she could be here and a number of you have written asking if she's okay. She is okay and she sounds ready to take on the world. I missed her and I know you did as well. But on Monday, when she returns, you'll see that she's recharged and ready to take on the world once again.
Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm is what many of us used to call her when I first met her. That was partly due to her name and a great deal more to do with her outlook and disposition. If you'd ask me then how she'd handle difficulties, my prediction would have been way off. Some people have inner strength all along and some people gain it. Rebecca falls into the latter camp and I think when we read her, we grasp that and respond to it. She's proven herself not to be a victim. She's also proven herself not to be a survivor. She's a thriver who picks up a layer of strength each time others might go under.
There's nothing in this post that will surprise her because I've made similar comments to her for many months. But the people who get Rebecca, really get her, pick up on that and respond to it.
(Ask Mike.) I think it shines through in her posts where she doesn't try to pretty things up but never loses hope in the fact that we can fight anything if we fight it together. I've known Rebecca since high school and I'm truly amazed and surprised by her strength.
There are any number of ways I could say goodbye to everyone who's stayed with the site during Rebecca's vacation but I wanted to go out saying my thanks to those who helped and encouraged and to take a moment to honor Rebecca because I don't think she gets a fourth of the credit she deserves for what she does.
(My other best friend, C.I., is also very strong. But C.I. asked that I focus on the community, which I've tried to do. Tip for everyone, if you're planning on singing C.I.'s praises, keep it under wraps and don't post that it's coming up ahead of time or you will be asked not to do so.)
Rebecca's a very special voice and a needed one. We've all missed you Rebecca! We're glad you're coming back.
"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center)
In the struggle rewards are few. In the fact, I know of only two, loving friends and living dreams. These rewards are not so few it seems.