I have been here long time. According to my profile, I joined on Dec.19, 2003 after first encountering the site while volunteering for Howard Dean in NH the day after Thanksgiving several weeks before. During that time I have written over 5,000 stories, well over 60,000 comments. I have never been a staff member even an official but unpaid frontpager, although I have in the long past had a number of my stories posted to the front page. There was a point when I was one of the most frequent posters here, and before the front pagers could get recommendations on their posts I was for a number of years the person whose stories had the greatest number of recommends. At each of the first three gatherings (originally called Yearly Kos, then Netroots Nation) in Las Vegas, Chicago, and then Austin, I led one or panel discussions and was a participant in others. I led a panel again in 2012 in Providence. In short, I have long been an active and I hope largely respected member of this community although in recent years my participation has fallen off, in part because of health and in part because of the demands of my (still continuing) employment as a full-time teacher of adolescents.
I have watched with increasing dismay the dispute between management of Daily Kos and the Guild. I cannot say that I know Will, having met him only once. But I have known Markos for years, have reviewed one of his books. I consider myself friends with several long-time front-pagers, especially Meteor Blades, Mark Sumner aka Devilstower, and Denise Oliver Velez, aka Deoliver47, perhaps because we are are roughly age contemporaries, and thus have something of a shared experience of what America has been through during our life-times. I will turn 77 on May 23, having lived through McCarthyism, the Civil Rights era, the advanced under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Vietnam and Watergate, to say nothing of more recent events from Carter to the present (and remember Carter left office more than 4 decades ago). That is the context in which I write this post, immediately after reading this powerful post by Denise.
Who am I? As noted, I am soon to be 77. I am a white male of middle class background who has spent almost all of the past 3 decades as a classroom teacher, almost always in schools with very diverse student bodies, sometimes in communities of very little economic and political power. I can be described as a continual seeker of meaning. This can be seen in my religious peregrinations — raised in a middle class Reform Jewish family who has traveled through the Episcopal Church, the Orthodox Church of America, all three major branches of Judaism, and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), having taught comparative religion, and picked up a masters in religious studies from a Catholic seminary, although I have never been a Catholic. I have lived through disputes on religion here, and once addressed that in a posting I titled A statement for Pastor Dan, which went up in 2005. I have tried as I have aged to understand what motivations different from mine, whether they are religious or ideological, drive/influence people’s reaction to issues in the public square. As a long time teacher of government I cannot avoid such controversies, because often my adolescent students seek help in understanding them and working through their own beliefs and reactions.
Politically I am clearly liberal/progressive, but I stray from any strict orthodoxy. For example, despite having lived through the Vietnam era I believe in universal national service but despite having volunteered for the Marines during that era (when I opposed the war) I do not believe it has to be military. In my childhood into my young adulthood I saw many abuses in some unions — the corruption in the Teamsters starting with Dave Beck and including the association with the mob under the first Hoffa, the racial discrimination in some construction unions, and violence by construction workers in NYC against anti-war protestors and construction workers in Pennsylvania against a non-union construction site in King of Prussia (where ironically I later worked in an office), and yet I served as the lead union representative for over 100 teachers in the school at which I taught for almost half my teaching career.
During my now approaching two decades on this site I have been through many disputes, some of which became vitriolic almost beyond belief. Besides issues over religion versus non-religion, long-timers cannot help but remember the nasty disputes during primary battles for the Democratic nomination for President, especially in the 2008 cycle. Too often the disputes descent into personal attacks that are not relevant to the underlying issues, but thereby may only display frustration that one is so far unable to persuade opponents on the merits. That is destructive of the common purpose that I perceive in this site, which is to move the nation in a more liberal political direction, to try to heal divisions that have the potential of poisoning the political dialog irrevocably.
I have to acknowledge that I am human. At times my own rhetoric has been over the line of acceptable discourse. I grew up with a mother who was a brilliant lawyer and had an incredibly sharp tongue and quick mind and growing up I learned too well to act similarly. It has been a process now of almost 7 decades to unlearn what I learned as a child.
I will never hold elected or appointed political office, although I have been offered opportunities to do both. Thus I do not have to moderate what I believe to protect my future political aspirations. I am as unlikely to have such as political position as I am to at my advanced age be a major league baseball player. But the freedom that gives me does NOT justify my making personal attacks on those I disagree with politically, whether or not we are allies on any other issue. Nor does it mean I cannot agree with Paul of Tarsus to hold fast that which is good, that I cannot refuse to affirm something positive offered by someone who perhaps on every other issue I strongly disagree, even if I think the person’s motives for offering something with which I agree is less than honest. Here I AM guided by my religious orientation, because George Fox taught the early Quakers that we should walk gladly across the earth ANSWERING that of God in each person we encounter. If it suits you, replace “that of God” with “that which is good.”
There are consequences to all the choices we make, including those possible choices we choose to ignore. Perhaps what this should teach us all is some humility — none of us has perfect knowledge and few have exceedingly accurate foreknowledge. If we are honest, we are far less accurate and precise than we are inclined to publicly admit, and for those in public life there is often a fear that admitting having been wrong and/or changing one’s mind will be perceived as weakness, so they distort their behavior going forward by either ignoring the change or refusing to make it.
Daily Kos — my writing here has opened up opportunities for me, to write elsewhere, including blogging for the New York Times and Education Week / Teacher in the past, when I still taught in public schools. It has given me access to elected and appointed policy makers at local, state, and national levels. Of greater importance, it has connected me with people whom I value, in some cases with their thinking and expressing as shared both here and privately even though we have never met in person, in other cases friendships and kindnesses, such as the couple who used to have a yarn shop in the piedmont of Virginia who after reading about my wife’s battle with blood cancer invited us to come out and let her take a wide range of yarns and implements to continue her own knitting during her recuperation, or the woman who discovered that her daughter was marrying a former student of mine and invited me to the wedding (although I could not attend). Students and their families have read my writing here, sometimes engaging with me, sometimes choosing to offer their own posts. My wife has written here (Leaves on the Current). The quilt ladies arranged for my wife to get a wonderful quilt when she was recovering from her cancer. While I have rarely posted here in the past few years, I still read, occasionally comment, and still consider this my major online home.
I am hoping the disputes between management and the Guild can be resolved without further vitriol. Like much I see in our broader politics, I worry that it will not be., As one who has taught economics at the AP level (and to gifted middle schoolers for the Center for Talented Youth run by Johns Hopkins) I think I understand the economic pressures that are leading to the current issues.
I do not plan to abandon the site. I will when I can contribute both financially and in taking time to write and comment to help keep it viable.
I would hope that others will consider how their own contributions can help keep Daily Kos viable and vibrant, a place that has meant so much to me and I hope to those who read these words.