I ran into DK several years ago, and would visit from time to time. First, it was to see what was going on in the more progressive world of the political world. I mean, you must admit, if you want to know a little unvarnished truth, with an added dose of table-bangin' debate...this is a place that more than provides it for you.
As I continued to visit, however, I began looking for some more "authoritative" background information for my professional writing. (That's what I do for my life's work these days, you see.) I found it, in spades, from some of the most widely recognized authoritative sources on the planet. I mean, when someone like Senator Obama shows up, and does a diary on why he's running to be our President, you kind of slide your chair a bit further away from the monitor, right?
Then, I began to notice something else. Follow me just below the
squiggledoodlethingey fold, and I'll tell you about it, and why the world "overwhelmed" really doesn't cover it for me these days.
My initial decision to "lurk" here was based upon what is, for me, a real determination. I don't belong here. Yes, I am a writer. This place is filled with nothing but writers. So, by that definition (as I understand it, anyway) I could be considered to be a member of the subset. I saw writers (henceforth to be known as "diarists") writing diaries on either a regular or irregular basis across the site. I also saw them, and their work (but mostly their work) decimated by other members of this community. Giving for every possible benefit of doubt, it was not the subject matter nearly so much as the quality of the writing itself which fell under the blazing guns of other members here. I'm an educator, so clearing the journalistic hurdles of ethics, quality, accuracy and factual nature of the writing presented was no particular difficulty for me, personally.
When, however, the critiques got personal, I backed away. I wondered why this happened. If the purpose of DK was to provide and present excellent writing, why would a community jump down the throat, personally, of the writer? That didn't make sense to me, and it did seem to be not only unnecessary and self-aggrandizing, but simply wrong. (Remember, this evaluation comes from the "lurker" times for me.)
I've never had too much difficulty when others have held a different point of view on any particular issue, so long as the requirements for presenting those differences met the standards of journalistic endeavor I stated above. If you wish to disagree with my position, don't come unarmed! And, play nice.
Then, for reasons I cannot truly explain, one day I pressed the "Sign Up" button, and was suddenly, and forever changed. I became a "Kossack"--at least to the degree that I had an identity here. Mine was a free account, because of my personal financial circumstances. But, the reality before me was that I would NEVER actually BE a Kossack until this community said I was a Kossack. That would take a long time, and a body of acceptable writing which would pass the muster of this community.
My first writings did not. I very quickly considered never posting another diary here, lest the few remaining layers of dermis were to be filed off by the argumentative "tongue" of some REAL Kossack. I thought this was a place much like the village commons, where citizens could come together and actually discuss things. But I soon learned that this community, like any other, has spectrum--a very large spectrum. Was it, I mused, a necessity to identify my particular spot on that spectrum in order to at least be heard, or paid attention to? Or would the quality of my writing speak for me? That was what I desired, anyway. But, from the beginning efforts at least, the response to my writing diaries was (I thought) roundly rejected. I felt as if I had unwittingly subjected my writing, my talent, and my passion to a swirling cauldron of ever-changing qualifications, attacks, and rejections. Who needs that?
But, why? Why was this so? My first thought was to the writing itself. It must be so far below the minimum acceptable standard that I was consistently missing even the lowest acceptable mark. So, as all good writers do, I began doing some research into the matter.
I began looking at the recent diaries, and the diarists who wrote them. I looked at the recommended diaries, and the diarists who wrote them. I looked at the Community Spotlight diaries, and the diarists who wrote them.
I will admit to at least a perfunctory level of outrage. My writing was not so terribly below these writers, I fumed. It wasn't. I noticed what seemed to be writing "cliques" around this place, where certain diarists tended to herd together, almost in a protective instinct. They tended to support each others' diaries, simply because the diarist wrote them. But, they called themselves "Groups". What an efficient terminology, I thought to myself.
I happened upon a diary written by a diarist who mentioned a previous "meetup" with another diarist. We exist in pixels, we're not really, you know, people! In fact, the vast and overwhelming majority of diarists on this site go far out of their way to establish and maintain anonymity here. Pseudonyms, Pen names, desk names...the anonymity of writing itself. How, but much more importantly why would any diarist ever purposely go out of their way to expose themselves to their own humanity by meeting another diarist? It didn't make sense to me. Failing any other possible explanation, I determined that these two diarists must somehow be co-habiters of the same "Group". AHA! They WERE! So it must be that these two diarists, these two REAL Kossacks were meeting to pat one another on the back, share the message to a fellow choir member...or something. But, that inquiry led to me places I had never before stepped here.
Recipes? REALLY? Pets? Are you kidding me? The weather??
The list began growing, and the investigation of these so-called "Groups" got kind of insanely crazy for me. Hidden, deep in the depths of the site pages which required ultra-uber-crazy investigative skills (such as looking at the front page, for instance...shhhh!) were groups so far away from "Electing more and better Democrats!" as to make one's head purely spin, a la Linda Blair!
These groups were not inhabited by anonymous political hacks, pundits, and provocateurs. From all I could determine, they seemed to be populated with (gasp) PEOPLE! These people actually seemed to share OTHER passions than the hot and raging political discourse of the day! I was stunned! Shocked. Overwhelmed.
Wow. These were some very lucky people, indeed. Not only did they share their passion for the things of the body politic, but they shared, it seemed, their very humanity. This was a very humbling moment for me as a writer, and as a person. But, I assure you, the moment was at least as earth-shattering as I have attempted to illustrate here. I had, for all of my life, contended that all politics is local. But I had ALSO contended that all politics is PERSONAL. Here it was, being lived out in front of my very eyes, by KOSSACKS no less! Go figger. Whodathunkit?
I missed the Pograms of the Fall, when (from what I could gather) many, many members of this site were banned by Kos, for reasons that he (and not I) understood. I read the manual, again and again. I saw veiled or tangential references to "Pie Fights", and even a few acknowledgments of "The GREAT Pie Fight!" My inquiring mind wished to know. So, more research ensued. I quickly anticipated horrific battlefield reporting from the great holocaust of DK. What I found was entirely disheartening, then hilariously funny to me. Are you KIDDING me? THIS is what that is all about? Seriously?
But you see, I learned that sometimes passions overlap here, and especially among Kossacks. It made sense from a political viewpoint. Only the most passionate of people ever really extend themselves to become activists, or to foment activism--about anything. Thus, the nexus became stronger for me. This site was populated with political persons of passion.
That's where, it seemed, more negative comments came from than any other point: a decided lack of passion in the diaries. You tell us what you think, but you do not show us how important what you say actually is to you. Therefore, your writing, while it may be technically sublime, is hollow to us.
You talk about a heavy lift! That's one whale of an expectation. So, I continued reading diaries, and diarists, but with a new awareness and understanding. What became apparent to me was that I actually had permission to share my passion, as well as my viewpoints. I usually only do that in my private journals, where nobody can touch or harm me, my passions, or my person. Yet, here it seemed to be a basic requirement to play in the same (sometimes overly acidic) pools of DK.
At one point, when I was just beginning to believe that maybe I might possibly have something to say that mattered, there was all this talk of a "Subscription Drive". The rules were changing, again. This time, however, I would be excluded from the team, and driven from the field. For economic reasons. I had been scraping and saving, doing without (by my personal choice, mind you) to submit the $4 USD required to be a subscriber to DK because it was invigorating my writing, and my life. Now, that would no longer be possible. I found this amazing diary that said that you could, if you wished, ask for help in receiving a subscription. This would not, however, be a monthly subscription. This would be a lifetime subscription. That meant that, if you could somehow come up with the scratch to pay the impossible amount of $100 USD one time, you would be a subscribed member to DK for your entire life, with no other payment required. Presuming that DK would be around far after my lifetime, (which I was already in arrears in ending, according to my docs, at least!), that meant I would never have to worry about having this resource, this political writing site, and (I finally pronounced it to myself) this community taken away from me for purely economic reasons.
I couldn't do it. That was, at the time, more than 18% of my monthly income. So, more on a whim than anything else, I put my name on the list. Or, at least tried to. Actually, there were a couple of lists floating around that were involved with this Subscription Drive. On one, Kossacks could "adopt" other Kossacks, paying their subscriptions. On the other, the result was the same, but the adoptee could pay back, over time, the subscription provided. I was more than willing, at that time, to do that. Yes, it might take 150 years, but I'm nothing if not an optimist, a "hope" addict!
I felt no particular acceptance here, by the way. But, nor did I feel any particular fumigation attempts to remove me from being here, either. Irrelevance is sometimes okay in life. Being the worst possible member of the team is important, when just being on the team matters most. So what was the big deal? Why did this suddenly matter so very much to me?
I had learned that this was a rather large, yet intimate community of politically active, passionate people! This was a community (by definition) that I had purposely retired from a few decades ago. Yet, either my tanks got filled again, and I was once again ready to insert at least my opinions into the mix, or this was a community whom I had sorely missed over those decades. As it turned out, both were true, but only the latter truth mattered to me. Day by day, I watched the lists of the subscription Santas doing their amazing work, yet...it began to look as if, yet once again, Santa couldn't find my house this year, either. I was really shaken. It was true. I wasn't, and most likely would never BE a real Kossack, after all. And, who could argue otherwise? This is a really intimidating group of people, from across the globe, who really have important stuff to say, on a daily basis. I mean, people here actually TRACK polling numbers and election results. They don't merely work on political campaigns...they RUN them. Members here are office holders in the United States freakin' Senate! A President writes here! Who am I, and what in the world EVER made m....
Then, I got this strange email. It said that I had been gifted a lifetime subscription to The Daily Kos by someone named "Anonymous". That day WAS my Christmas! And, my Easter, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day...everything! I will admit that I cried for hours, in humble gratitude to someone I most likely would never know, but who had made such an astounding impact on the person-hood of my existence. I was literally speechless, and wordless. I was overwhelmed.
Someone thought I should be a REAL Kossack. After the shock began to wear down a tad, the fear and trepidation began to mount my skeleton like a rising tide. I've lived a life of performance under pressure, sometimes the most possible extreme pressure. I love pressure. Give me the impossible, and get out of my way and stand amazed! I mean, every day of my life itself is a victory against the impossible, the insurmountable. But, this? Writing that truly matters? In a community that, while officially recognizing my right to exist here, but has no less requirement for me and my work than any other member, much less any other Kossack? Could I do THAT?
In the meantime, I began some few messages with other Kossacks who commented on my writing. I figured it was time to at least do the unthinkable, and dip a toe into the (sometimes overly acidic) pool that IS the GOS. This is entirely against my nature, as any entry into H2O requires the entirety of my body. No toe-dipping for moi.
I met some pretty amazing folks. Some rather overwhelming folks, actually. A lady who cares for her disabled veteran husband (I'm a vet, too) daily, yet works tirelessly for others who find themselves at a strange and strangely scary crossroad in their life that needs some guidance to make an interminably difficult process just a little easier. Come to find out, she's in a Group. I met a lady who cannot let the need of another go unaddressed, nor the sadness of life go unaddressed. According to most on this site, she is absolutely the real deal, and one of the most beloved members of DK. She actually "spoke" with me in a few messages. I discovered a group of people from the leadership of a few members who vow never to allow a lost hero to be ignored, nor their family unattended to. I learned of Pooties, and Woozles, and feather-butts. I learned that some groups shared interests, while others shared concerns.
I even got to be a small part of the solution a couple of times here. That really felt awesome for me, because being a problem 24/7 can kinda wear down on ya. I actually MET another Kossack! And, I was able to just let them know that the entire community of DK was coming to help them in a most difficult and trying time. Well, that was just awesome.
I notice that whenever a Kossack is ill or even beginning their transition from this existence to the next, this community responds. With love, and genuine care. No, not all. But, it's personal, you see. But, it can be truly overwhelming, too. I spend a lot of my day (okay, almost all of my day) being a patient. To see the kind of caring compassion this community so selflessly gives to another human being, simply because they ARE, is for me a very life-saving reality, especially where hope comes into the picture.
I always look at the notice. One of our own needs us. I always look to see who responds, who responds first, and how long it takes before that most urgently private moment becomes "so 29 seconds ago" for this site, and these people. I read of a beloved member who has written diaries of her entire life's adventure here who is "in trouble", and suddenly there are hundreds of links, comments, and genuine, heartfelt love funneling to that person that it makes me tremble with pride, fear, and the utmost humility. How does a person become such a person? Here, OR in life? What an aspiration! What acknowledgement of simply BEING! What love, compassion and genuine care. It is overwhelming to me. I don't "know" (in the GOS sense) this person, and that sometimes makes me angry. I feel not slighted but somehow lessened. So, I run to their diaries, so that I might at least understand the nature of the nurture. I am overwhelmed. Yes, I do feel unworthy, because I feel as though I am looking into the soul of someone I have not met, nor been given permission to know on such an intimate level.
Today, I read of one of the members of this community who has some really drastic, important, life-centric financial needs. My word! I don't know if I could be so revealing to anyone, much less an entire world-wide community of "strangers". And, to those members of the community: how do you know it's not just another scam?
First of all, being a member of such a community that makes it possible for a member to be so honest and trusting speaks to that member. But it also speaks much more to that community. And, I want so much to help. Not because there is some scoreboard in play. I just want to be a worthy member of such a community. While I know I cannot financially be a part of the solution for this beloved member, and while I hate that reality perhaps more than any other, isn't there SOMETHING I can do? I mean, just something?
Secondly, there are many members who know this person personally, from the reality of physical contact who speak of the content of this person's character, and direct any questioners to the diaries this member has written since becoming, like me, a new Kossack for the resolution of any possible questions as to their legitimacy. And, even if it were a complete scam (which this case is definitely not!), it just wouldn't matter to this community. That's not what this community is about. We (Yes, I finally said it!) couldn't care less. The fact of the matter is that this community agrees with my life-long philosophy that the gift is in the giving. Period.
Altruistic? Absolutely not, and especially when you realize that what some of these folks give extends so very far beyond their ability to give, much less to give in such sacrificial measure. I have witnessed it, up close and personal. I can, therefore speak to it. I do.
I want to have a community like this. I want to come to know these people, and their passion so much moreso than their political bent. Knowing such people as these raises my standing on the planet, because I choose to associate myself, my name and my life with them because they are people I would so love to be friends and colleagues with.
And, every time I do, or I am, I am the one who is better for it. Not them. It is this community that does what so many say cannot be done, even as these folks are busy doing it. Impossible? Ha! Get out of my way, I'm too busy doing it to listen to you telling me it cannot be done!
A whole, entire, world-wide community of such people. Yes, I may not be a member of significant status. But I am a member of THIS community. I could want for nothing better, or greater in my lifetime. And, as is so often the case,
I am overwhelmed.
Mon May 07, 2012 at 10:07 PM PT: Sunday, May 6th, 2012
This diary arrives on the Rec List, thanks to the support, encouragement and caring comments of this community. Thank you for realizing that this diary is living proof that we CAN find common ground, from which we can work together to become the change we seek.
Monday, May 7th, 2012.
This diary is recognized as my first High Impact Post.
I just typed it. All of you wrote it. Congratulations on making a difference! :)