Steve Gilliard changed my life. Well, more accurately, he changed my wife's life which means, it changed mine.
But not in the way you might think.
And she never read a word he wrote.
How does one write about one of the best and brightest in our field when most of the best and the brightest have already shown you why they're the best and the brightest?
I can't. But like many diarists and commenters throughout Left Blogistan, I feel some inner need to express my thoughts about Steve.
Steve's was the first blog I read. I can't remember how I found him. All I remember is thinking "this man is reading my mind" when I first stumbled across him. His outrage, his voice, it was as if he was speaking for so many of us who felt literally disenfranchised by the outrages of the worst presidency ever (first term even) and the total media silence surrounding the ongoing, imploding saga that was not only Iraq but every other disaster that's befallen us since then.
That's not how Steve changed my life. Effected it to be sure. Introduced me to our answer, in part, to the right wing noise machine. And as a graduate of the USMC Command & Staff College, much of what Steve wrote on the strategic issues surrounding Iraq and the military component of campaigns and broader political policies were, well, right on the mark. And he was the only notable blogger who provided that kind of analysis and commentary. Many of you might be surprised to learn that much of what he said was, in part, taught to us at Command & Staff.
Then Katrina. About three weeks after the levees broke and the first crumble in the dike of legacy media silence regarding this presidency's incompetency began to appear, my wife was wondering about animal rescue efforts in New Orleans and debated whether or not to go down to help. There had been nothing on the internet easily found about volunteering. All the major, national, institutional groups were not only silent early on about volunteers but many actively discouraged participation.
Suddenly, Steve ran a piece that referenced a bare-bones site with basic contact information about the grass-roots groups that had sprung up in the last week in New Orleans. With that information, in two days, my wife was down there working with one of the grassroots rescue groups, Muttshack.
She stayed more than 2 months. I managed to get down there for a 2 week stint and about 3 weeks after I returned, my wife called to tell me about the dire lack of volunteers. The workload hadn't changed, people there were still doing shelter work and attempting to rescue animals, but as the holidays approached, there were less volunteers in the pipeline. I told her perhaps I could do something.
So, for the first and only time, I emailed Steve, telling him about how his first post had made such a difference and could he perhaps post a reminder that volunteers were still needed. I never heard back from him, I didn't have to because within 6 hours, he had a post up on the blog.
My wife has been back to New Orleans several times to help facilitate reunion work, removal and storage of supplies and is now involved nationally so that should something like this happen again, we'll be better prepared.
That is how Steve changed our lives. One blog post. One follow-up. Just a drop in the bucket in terms of his copious and high quality output over the years. Not political per se, not Mac vs PC advertising critiques, not the intricacies of the NYC political scene, just plain ole' dogs and cats.
Because of Steve, he was the nudge we needed, we were able to see first hand and very early on the unmitigated disaster that occurred on the Bush watch. As my wife has been back, she's seen the impact of incompetency and corruption at all levels of government and asked the obvious question "where did all the billions go?". It has fed her outrage that something like this could happen in our country and for the first time in her life, has made her ashamed of her government. That's a long road for her, centrist that she is, to have traveled politically to my screaming lefty ways.
But she's also seen the happy faces of pet owners reunited with their animals. Or both of us placing rescued cats and dogs in "forever homes". Or the look on one woman's face as we temporarily housed her cats while she rebuilt her life in Atlanta, then helped her get them loaded up and drive away. Or the compliments my wife recieved when down there from residents who had lost everything and marveled at people who came down not only to help them but to rescue animals.
Or everytime we look in our living room and see this:
Everytime we think of those things or see this once bedraggled daffy cat of ours, we'll think of Steve.
Nothing poetic here, nothing "big issue" as it relates to the early days of blogs and our blowback against the legacy media bastards or the right wing that has hijacked our country. Nothing that Steve will most desevedly be remembered for. Just two people and a lot of rescued critters.
And a different future.