I truly don't mean this diary to be inflammatory. I intend it to be reflective. Just as when something goes wrong, it may deserve discussion, so should there be discussion when something goes right.
I may be wrong in this, but in my memory four people have at various times held "the franchise" in Obama-related photo diaries during my time on this site: Al Rodgers, Muzikal203, and blackwaterdog in the past, it is now looks like this is the time for ThisIsMyTime. Al posted diaries called Hope and Requium this week; Muzikal is presumably mired in first-year-associate work, and BWD has of course gone elsewhere.
Did you notice something about this week's photodiaries? Did you hear the loud sound of no controversy?
The photodiaries have become an increasing point of intrasite conflict during the Obama Administration, so I was interested that, this week, the dog did not bark. So far as I noticed, everyone (me included) thought these diaries were entirely welcome.
I can think of a few reasons for this. Two are obvious; one might be less so, and it is what occasions this diary.
First, of course, the events of the past week have been shocking and most of us have craved unity and healing, which President Obama has offered wonderfully.
Second, people hereabouts were thrilled to see Al -- who clearly has some healing powers of his own -- come back to us this week. His last diary before the above pair was in for Veterans Day in 2009. He has certainly been missed -- but I think that staying around or not is purely up to him. It was an act of class and grace to come back here this past week and I'm sure many besides myself appreciate it.
I am an occasional critic of President Obama, while continuing to believe that in some ways he is our greatest President since FDR. (He's certainly the first ever to have a truly modern sensibility, being multicultural and a "sensitive guy.") When I criticize him, it's because I disagree on the issues (FISA/habeas, some economic issues) or because I want to help set up a powerful wave at his back, keeping his spine straight, to counter the waves coming at him from opponents who want to crumple him. Reasonable people can (and do!) disagree on particular approaches, but ideally people can generally come to agree that he is trying (as are we) to accomplish great things in a difficult political environment, and there's no clear recipe book for doing so. This isn't following a simple recipe in grade school chemistry; it's more like developing cold fusion.
So, anyway, while I eventually decided to leave blackwaterdog's diaries alone, I had and have some sympathy for those who wouldn't. Like those defending the diaries, the vast majority of them are fundamentally good people who have come to think that the battles we fight here on DKos, where someone is always wrong on the internet, are so consequential that they must be fought with hammers and tongs, until fur and feathers and tooth enamel fly. Hell, I even fought with Muzikal at times (and not at others) over a milder version of the conflicts of 2009-2010.
So I write from the perspective of someone fairly sensitive to what some see as the problems with diaries. And my reaction to Al's diaries was, to crib from Rep. Giffords's doctors, 101% positive. Why? Well, click those links in the diary intro and stare at them for a while.
Did you notice that the pictures speak for themselves?
I did not, reading the diaries, feel like I was being induced to feel only a certain way or that any dissenting views I might have were illegitimate. It was just seeing, and taking solace in the photos to the extent I chose. I felt entirely uncoerced and able to enjoy (no matter any disagreements) the visual reminder that this man is President (rather than any conceivable current Republican) and that this woman is First Lady. I felt no need to "but, but, but!" There was nothing to fight back against.
My youngest daughter, not yet a citizen, has taken to singing the American national anthem simply for the pleasure of it (or maybe just as a break from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.) She has found beauty in that clumsily worded poem that I had not recognized for many years. I don't think that the words matter all that much to her, but I think that the music -- the auditory equivalent of the images in picture diaries -- spoke to her.
The pictures in the photo diaries usually speak to me as well. The titles -- well, the last two were President Obama, Thank You For Your Leadership! and How Dare He Sign The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in Kailua, Hawaii, and even when I agreed with the premise, they struck me as an invitation to rumble. They implied, to me, that to enjoy the diaries was to take a particular position with respect to a wide variety of controversies regarding the President and his Administration -- and, being a Democrat, the first thing that did was make me want to think of how I disagreed and what conclusions I did not want to be taken an endorsing.
"Don't tell other people how to write their diaries" is a good rule of thumb here, but the photodiaries have led to enough virtual bloodshed in the last year or two that I think it's valid to offer a suggestion simply so that people can register their agreement or disagreement.
I think that the photodiaries are best when they are, as Al's were, presented without obvious intent to make any sort of point, so that they can serve as our own "moment of silence (and contemplation)," our own chance to come together not in rancor over our disagreements, but in good fellowship over what binds us.
I urge whoever takes up the franchise, now or next: don't use the photos of the Administration to make a political point or wrangle people to a political view. Let's just look at them together and be happy that things are better than they could be. Let's let the images speak for themselves -- and, feeling no push towards any conclusion or position, set aside our arguments there. It will take both sides to make this work, but I suggest it as a good "new year's resolution" for us as a site.
I thank Al Rodgers, again, for showing us how it's done. He makes it look easy, and it's not.