As we race toward our 20th anniversary on May 26, we’ve got all sorts of fun activities and retrospectives planned, including the Koscars, which asks Community members to nominate their favorite Community writing. But some years ago, I’m told, there was once a wonderful series called This Is My Best, which encouraged Community members to share their own writing that they were most proud of. One part self-promotion, one part self-confidence, all parts awesome, This is My Best encouraged writers to press pause on their role as their own worst critics and take some time to toot their own horns.
As someone who’s spent most of my years on Staff immersed in Community Content, from my Picks of the Week series to creating the Community Contributors Team, to my work to showcase each week’s rescued stories, I effing loved this concept when I first heard about it.
So now, as Daily Kos completes its second decade and rockets into its third, we’re bringing This Is My Best back.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writing is hard. And like many writers, you might despise your own work. Dark as that is, such self-loathing is remarkably common among writers. But for this endeavor to work, we’ll need you to check that nonsense at the door today, and trade it in for some self-admiration (and self-promotion)!
You in? Great! Here’s how it works:
This is the first of several This Is My Best collections we’ll be rolling out over the weeks leading up to our big 20th anniversary on May 26, featuring self-selected favorites written by Daily Kos Staff, Community Contributors, and even Kos himself. In the comments, sound off with your own This Is My Best submissions. We’ll be watching and taking note—and using your favorites to create new collections.
Be sure to include a link to your chosen best story and a sentence or two about why you think it’s great. Keep in mind that your “best” story doesn't need to be your most recommended or the one that got the most comments.
The members of my beloved Community Contributors Team are up first with their personal faves. It’s a great, diverse collection, and I hope you’ll give these stories some renewed attention.
ALDOUS J PENNYFARTHING
What Greta Thunberg knows that you might not: It’s easy to take a bite out of climate change (2020)
It's difficult for me to decide which is my "best" story, because I've written thousands now and I hate looking back, lest I turn into a pillar of salt. But I'm particularly fond of this one because it focused on a topic I'm both familiar with and passionate about: veganism and its environmental benefits, particularly when it comes to climate change. It was also my first Community Contributors story, and I enjoyed working on that story with the Daily Kos editing team. I think Jessica and I worked together well to craft a very strong essay.
Self-assembling ant rafts teach us how to deal with climate chaos (2016)
This was eye-opening and difficult because I’m attached to why I wrote something as much as how I handled it. I’m not totally pleased with anything I’ve written, but one of my earlier pieces now seems to me cleverly insightful—at the time of writing (2016), I just thought it an interesting POV. That’s a side note, not my reason for selection.
This is my favorite because the message is (sadly) perennial, but I used a unique frame for the presentation and it's inspirational rather than defeatist. That frame also carries my message that we have much to learn from other beings humans choose to label “lesser.”
Donald Trump did what the Chicago Seven were wrongly accused of doing: He incited a riot (2022)
I was able to weave in my personal experiences during a week that changed my life: the Aug. 25-29, 1968, protests during the Democratic convention in Chicago, then use those experiences to help draw the contrast between what happened back then with what Donald Trump did in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Frederick Douglass and the ‘rank undergrowth of treason’ (2019)
This piece, which I have republished several times, combines several things that I love to do when writing, including historical research, a historically iconic person, and subject matter that remains fresh and pertinent to this day.
Michigan woman: My church won’t take this pandemic seriously, even though my husband has long COVID (2021)
My pick for my best piece is an example of why I started opening my big mouth in the first place: to help people who feel they don't have a voice get one.
For those Americans who put us through this hell, nothing will be forgiven—or forgotten (2020)
In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election (when it finally became clear that Biden had won), I sat down and wrote this in a state of total exhaustion. I would call it my best not because it's the best written, but because I think it evokes a sense of the strange mix of emotions that I (and I believe, many others) felt at that time: relief, certainly, but also a palpable sense of sadness and betrayal at the wanton cruelty and ignorance so many millions of my fellow citizens had embraced over the prior four years.
If I'd ever harbored illusions about the character of such people—what they would or would not tolerate simply for the sake of human decency—those illusions were now disabused. And nearly everything they have done since then seems to bear this out.
DENISE OLIVER VELEZ
Tuskegee Airman, actor, and activist: A Father’s Day tribute to my dad (2019)
It isn't the best, it wasn't the most popular—it was, however, very important to me. It was a story I wrote here about my dad, whose politics and fighting spirit shaped me. Daily Kos gave me the opportunity to share him with other folks.
I went to a Trump rally (2016)
I was first given the opportunity to contribute for Daily Kos by doing reviews of Breaking Bad and other pop culture events with arguable political connection. One belief I've long held is that political movements that dismiss the larger media culture do it at their own peril, because one can see deeper meaning and trends within it.
In Breaking Bad, as well some of the other critically acclaimed television programs of the early 21st century like The Sopranos and Mad Men, they were largely predicated on white male antiheroes full of resentments about how their lives had not become what they imagined.
Both Donald Trump and the MAGA movement are arguably an expression of that cultural resentment, and play into the same power fantasy of how life can be made great again if only we’d do things in the worst possible ways. Those resentments and the fantasy is something I saw up close and first person when I went to a Trump rally.
Eight years later, I still believe in Obama’s America (2016)
This one is my favorite post because it's positive—so often we have to spend time criticizing terrible things done by people we disagree with. Beyond (hopefully) helping push our country’s politics in the right direction, my overarching goal is to encourage stronger bonds among Americans across all kinds of identity-based group lines, and greater empathy for those not like oneself—no one in my lifetime has done more to accomplish that goal than Barack Obama, so writing about his inspiring efforts is something that inspires me.
The Gullah-Geechee have owned land since the 1800s. One terrible law allows their land to be stolen (2020)
I like this story because it told an interesting story, made people think, called attention to a hidden plight, and offered a way to help. That is everything a story is supposed to do.
This is a chance to showcase it again, since heirs’ property is still an issue, almost two years later.
SQUIRE FOR YOU
Rich teeth, poor teeth: Addressing the clearest indicator of economic class in America (2018)
It's got my favorite compliment I ever got while running for office in it: "I know you're like me because you have fucked up teeth, too." There's so much connection in there for someone who grew up a dumb farm kid, it brought tears to my eyes.
See how it works? Now it’s your turn! I’ll see you in the comments for your “best” stories!
I’ve logged all of your submissions—28 so far!!—as of this Update’s writing. I’ll be out tomorrow, but know that I’ll be back Monday to collect the new ones—it will be too late to rec your submission but if I reply with gratitude, you’ve been logged!
Keep ‘em coming!