Monday, December 30, 2019

R.I.P. Skippy. Happy Blogroll Amnesty Day.

There was a time, now very far away, when most political bloggers kind of sort of knew each other.  Some knew each other better than others, crossing over into "meat world," and others only knew each other online.  Many of us stopped blogging somewhere along the way, only to pick it up again later, but there were others who kept on going.

When Steve Gilliard died we were all still blogging and word spread like wildfire.  Since then, we've lost so many -- Doghouse Riley, "Jon Swift" (Al Wiesel), Bob Rixon, and just this month we lost Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House.  But perhaps no loss cuts deeper than finding out only now that last summer, unbeknownst to me, we suffered the unfathomable loss of the whimsically named "skippy the bush kangaroo," who equally unbeknownst to me, was author/actor/comedy writer Gil Christner.  Joe Gandelman wrote about him after his passing.

Skippy was one of those "big name bloggers" who always had room for us smaller folk.  He didn't care if you were famous, or if people would recognize you at Netroots Nation, or if you hung around with Markos the Huge.  Skippy was one of the founders, along with Al Wiesel, of "Blogroll Amnesty Day."

Because the families of Jon Swift (I will use his blog name from here on out) and Skippy did not see fit to allow their blogs to remain up (though both can be somewhat seen through the Wayback Machine via the links in this paragraph), you won't get the chance to really see how these two guys were the ones who formed a true community of progressive bloggers who DIDN'T pull up the ladder behind them.

Blogroll Amnesty Day started as a giant "Fuck you" to one of those ladder-pullers, Atrios, who for seventeen years has managed to build and sustain a huge following with one- and two-sentence posts.   In 2007, Atrios decided that he would purge his blogroll of all but the blogs he deemed "important", and gave himself amnesty to do so.  Amnesty against what, I don't know, unless it's amnesty for becoming exactly what progressives were fighting against.  At the time, Jon Swift wrote:

This past weekend Atrios, the proprietor of Eschaton, declared a Blogroll Amnesty Day, saying, "one of the big complaints by new bloggers is that it's impossible to get onto blogrolls because established bloggers tend not to add them." I thought that adding new lesser-known blogs to his blogroll would be a wonderful idea. Although for some inexplicable reason that I am at pains to discover, Atrios has never seen fit to link to me, I, nevertheless added Eschaton to my own blogroll and introduced myself to Atrios with a sincerely sycophantic email, since he is after all a blogging pioneer who deserves our respect.

But the more I learned about this Amnesty Day, the more I realized that it was a very strange amnesty indeed. The amnesty he granted turned out to be amnesty for himself. He wanted to assuage himself of the guilt he might feel at kicking blogs off his blogroll instead of granting amnesty to others to swarm across the border into his domain. "Everyone feels a wee bit guilty about removing blogs from their blogroll, so they're hesitant to add new ones to an ever-expanding list," he explained. So Atrios deleted his entire blogroll and disappointingly repopulated it for the most part with the usual suspects. Then others in the liberal blogosphere followed his example, including Jesus' General and PZ Myers at Pharyngula, who already takes a very Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest approach to blogrolling. Then Markos at Daily Kos joined this ruthless bloodletting. "It sucks and it feels bad," he said, daubing the tears from his eyes as he typed. So the end result of Atrios' Amnesty Day was to make some blogrolls smaller and even more exclusive than they already were.

Thus began the teaming of Jon Swift and Skippy to appropriate Blogroll Amnesty Day for mere mortals and make it an annual celebration of newer and smaller-readership blogs, combined with an exhortation to "Look up!  Link down!"

Since Jon Swift left this mortal coil, blogger Batocchio at Vagabond Scholar has been carrying the torch for these two most generous men; both professional writers who got paid for their work, but toiled away in the trenches with the rest of us under their pseudonyms, encouraging us and asserting that what we were doing had value.

Without further ado, here is this year's entry, renamed now to the Jon Swift Roundup.  I hope you'll click through and read these self-selected posts by some of the long-timers as well as those who picked up sociopolitical blogging long after it was left for dead by many.

Rest well, skippy.  The world is a darker place without you.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

This is how it happens. This is how it has ALWAYS happened.

The Wifely Person writes about the signal that the current occupant of the White House sends by inviting "Pastor" Robert Jeffress to, of all things, the White House Hanukkah party:

This is the new and improved version of anti-Semitism we've all be waiting for. Feckless hails Jeffress as a tremendous faith leader, and invites him to attend a party with the people he damns to hell, including that hot tamale Ivanka and her husband, Jared. What kind of father does that to a child, even Ivanka? Especially when her children would be mischling. This is a father who doesn't give a brass farthing for his kids. ME, ME, ME, it's all about ME! 
All this on the same day Feckless Leader signed that ridiculous order that made Jews a nationality, and creates Jews as a distinct nation, NOT American.
If you've ever wondered how both the guys in the black hats can be Jewish AND people like me, who eat pork (though frankly, I think that's over thanks to the new Trumpian USDA relaxing of regulations) and scallops and almost never see a synagogue and celebrates the Solstice can be Jewish, I recommend you click through to the above to see exactly WHY Trump's declaration that Jews are now a nationality is so terrifying.

Because you can eat bacon, you can attend a Buddhist temple, you can take your non-Jewish spouse's name (as I did just to get out of the end of the alphabet), you can put a Christmas tree in your house, you can do all the yoga you want, read all the Robert Thurman you want, you can deny it forever, but when the brownshirts come, all they're going to care about is the origins of your blood.  The only exceptions are going to be those who very ostentatiously become baptized in an evangelical church -- and even THOSE are going to be suspect -- and those who are willing to rat out the Jews in their neighborhoods and social circles, and even THOSE are just buying themselves time.

How do I know this?  Because this is how it works.  This is how it happens.  This is how it has ALWAYS happened.

I don't like this paranoia I'm feeling these days.  My mother had it at a far more benevolent time and I used to say she was crazy.  Six months after her own husband died in 2000, she moved to NC (as I did to the same city fourteen years later), into a house that's no more than about three miles from mine.  You use the same road to get to her first house here as to get to mine.  Our house numbers are similar, transposed by a single digit.  But my mother was who she was, and with her social phobia was unable or unwilling to make friends.  She chalked it up to "They don't like Jews here."

Now I'll grant you that 18 years ago, there were fewer transplants here.  But I still believe that my mother's isolation was her own doing rather than due to some kind of rampant anti-Semitism in Durham, which was even then a liberal bastion.  She was, after all, kind of a buzzkill.  But I used to laugh at her paranoia, quoting her that scene from "Annie Hall" where Woody Allen is ranting at Tony Roberts about how the waitress was an anti-Semite because he heard her say "Jew eat?" ("Did you eat?").

Mom was being overly dramatic back then, but I have more sympathy for her worldview, now that we know, or at least have extrapolated, more about her family and how her parents and some siblings came here, were homesick, and then went back just in time for Hitler's army to take over Poland. We've theorized that our grandmother had survivors guilt, and in the days before good therapy, took out her grief on her husband AND her children, who then took it out on THEIR children. This is how the Holocaust reverberates through the generations and why seeing the lead-up happening again HERE IN THE U.S. is so terrifying.

I don't intend to spend the rest of my life, however it ends, being terrified.  I'm going to live my life, doing what I can to beat this back.  But  I would hope that anyone who's taken the time to read this will help fight back against this.  We already know that this administration has set up internment camps for people coming in through our southern border, separating families, and if not actively killing them (yet), is neglecting them to death.  Latino soldiers who have fought for this country are being deported, as are people who have lived here for decades as good, productive, law-abiding residents.  Today it's the Latinos.  The signs that the Jews are next are all there.  And let's not forget the pink triangles that were the gay equivalent of the yellow stars and how people who were gay were rounded up because Hitler saw them as an indicator of "decadence."

So even if you or people in your social circle or family  find themselves  believing that the Jews have all the money, or we're weird or smell like pastrami or any other garden-variety form of Jewish stereotyping, consider that when one group, or two groups, or three groups are targeted, NO ONE IS SAFE.