One week ago, I wrote one of the most depressing posts of my blogging career. Having seen what I wrote, a friend told me, “you can’t post that. It’s so… depressing.” Taking her advice, I revised the post and published something slightly less forlorn under the title “How Does Obama Do It?” Yes, what I posted last Wednesday was the cheery version :)
In that post I basically expressed my campaign and Hillary fatigue. I’d been giving 110 percent for several months, burning the candle at both ends and from the middle, and my body gave out. I was mightily sick, having contracted the notorious Hillary virus and had no shortage of anger at feeling like I’ve been making the same set of arguments for weeks: Obama is the nominee; Hillary is a kamikaze candidate; Obama is the nominee; Hillary is insane; Obama is the nominee; OMG the right wing was right about The Clintons, etc. etc. etc.
My plan was to take a break from writing about the campaign while I restored some balance to my physical and mental lives. I wasn’t sure how much time I would need: a week, a month, more?
After about a week during which I increased my intelligence by a factor of two by watching no cable news, ate well, slept better, conversed with friends (thanks for the weekend, Boston.) and tried pretty effectively to avoid the noise of the blow by blow campaign machinery, I am back.
I read every single comment on that post, and I owe every member of this community a heartfelt thank you. You all lifted me up beyond my wildest expectations and contributed to the healing process.
In August of 2006, Jill invited me to be a part of this then-new blog that would contribute thoughtfully, humorously and bitingly to the political conversation from a black perspective. We have grown beyond any of my own expectations thanks to new writers dnA and rikyrah, an exploding community of commenters (and lurkers!), the incredibly inspirational Afrosphere movement and the timing of events well beyond our control. We have something special here at Jack & Jill Politics, and I feel extraordinarily proud and privileged to be a part of it. Thank you.
As I thought about how I’d return to battle — have no doubt, this is battle — I decided I would lay out some principles of operation for myself. These don’t necessarily extend to the other writers here, but are my own rough guidelines made public now to help keep me straight while I have a moment to reflect.
Here’s what, on the best day, I hope we accomplish:
Provide thoughtful, honest and hopefully original commentary on the racial themes emerging in this presidential campaign and broader political environment.
I can never underestimate the value of explaining that which I think is obvious. It’s become clear that conversations of race in this country are woefully handicapped by a colossal gap in the lived experiences of various Americans. I can’t tell you how many times non-whites write expressing their gratitude for seeing things from a black perspective. There is literally a lag of several months before most white bloggers and the press realize some of the things we and fellow black bloggers have been throwing down. Many of you describe JJP as a beacon of light, and I hope we remain that.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the best thing a political blogger can do is unplug from the media noise machine and incessant polling and get out in the street. While my canvassing for Obama in VA, TX and PA was to help him, I got much more out of it than he did. I am reminded of the diversity of the country and the depth of its challenges and the small, basic needs of its people every time I head out.
Prevent Hillary Clinton from stealing the nomination or destroying the nominee.
I struggled over the past few days with what to do with my feelings toward Senator Clinton. She has fallen so low in my esteem that I considered not ever uttering her name much less writing about her. She’s practically dead to me. But my silence would not really help my cause. I will continue to attack her ideas and her tactics when I feel they do harm to the people and causes I hold dear. The greatest revelation to me has been watching my own understanding of The Clintons evolve. It’s been ugly, but it’s been necessary, and I’m glad that I see the truth of their ugliness, late though I am.
Address the distractions thoughtfully without becoming or amplifying them.
One thing I worry about is getting caught up in a media narrative or agenda that is not of my choosing nor in the interest of what I believe to be best for this country. These questions that dominate the news like “Why can’t Obama close the deal?” rest on the most false of premises. As with Hillary, ignoring them is an option, but I think the better response is to address these noisemakers as the distractions they are and flip the script as best as possible, highlighting the absurdity of it all.
The latest example is the chickenhead relay of people saying “Obama’s relationship with Wright proves he can’t be trusted to negotiate with foreign leaders.” Uh huh, so what do Clinton and McCain’s judgment to launch foolishly into an unnecessary, illegal, immoral and provocative war say about their judgment. If his pastor judgment is so offensive, how offensive is Hillary’s choice to allow the continued use of cluster bombs in civilian areas? Please.
Remember that, for the most part, the media organizations manipulating this election do not have the people’s best interest at heart.
I wouldn’t be much of a blogger if I didn’t bitch about “mainstream media” on the regular, but there is substance to the critique. We’ve all watched as the real story got subjugated by Miley Cirus or Britney or William Ayers. The ABC debate was a more obvious flash point for many, but we’ve been living in a vast wasteland of journalism for quite some time. This is not new, but it is getting worse. As I scream at my television (why does Dan Abrams exist?), it’s worth remembering that the institution responsible for mediating our political discourse is woefully under qualified for and structurally unable to rise to the task.
This is the same media that thinks when the stock market goes up, the economy is doing better. This is the same media that is closing down foreign bureaus at a time when nations are more interconnected than they have ever been. This is the same media that pushed this country, yes pushed us headlong into a war without batting an eye. They helped murder people. The institutions are corrupted and their incentives are for their own market expansion and survival, not a healthy democratic society. When they get it right, accolades are due, but when they get it wrong, well I cannot be surprised. I can just call them on it and try to provide an alternative.
Raise critical issues
As a part of not getting caught up in bullshit narratives, I want to be a part of highlighting legitimate issues. This country is long overdue for a discussion of a realistic energy policy (hint: a summer gas tax reprieve is stupid). We are long overdue for an honest accounting for the mounting chronic disease whose origin is no mystery. We don’t need crazy ass drugs. We need to restructure our lives so we don’t sit on our asses all day shoving poison into our faces because Monsanto and Cargill benefit. We are long overdue for a discussion about our rather insane drug and imprisonment policies.
I’m not foolish enough to think myself an expert or possessing of enough time to write meaningfully on all of these and more issues, but the world of ideas is vast, and we live in the world of embedded media and hyperlinks. The knowledge is out there, and I’d like to be a part of bringing it to you. You can look forward to fewer links that feed the beast of CNN and more to alternative media and fellow bloggers holding it down for journalistic integrity.
You should stay tuned for some of the upgrades we have planned here at JJP, but suffice it to say that “blogging” or “writing” is the tip of the iceberg. The Clinton Attacks Obama Wiki scratches the surface of the type of activism we can be a part of. Yall saw the impact bloggers could have in a case like Jena. That’s what’s up. Even if we’re just bitchin about what some network did, we should try to accompany those words with a call to action. Whether fundraising, calling advertisers, organizing meetups and protests (Denver!) or building tools of collective knowledge, we don’t just have to sit here and complain about what’s wrong with the world. We can use these tools to help create the world we want to see. Sound familiar?
There’s more to say, but that’s enough for now. Thank you all again for being an incredible community. Every time I come here, it feels like coming home. We’ll be doing a more formal request for your ideas on the future of JJP, but feel free to comment here or write us any time.
Fired up! And once again, ready to go.
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats