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Party in the Comments

Last week at a restaurant I saw some graffiti in the bathroom. It read:

If one does not love too much, then one does not love enough.

Underneath someone else had scrawled Shut Up.

Thank you, I thought.

Tonight I came home to find several e-mails waiting for me. I think it must mean something (I don’t know what) that I rarely get e-mails from people disagreeing with something I’ve written, or being just plain rude. It probably just means that I write more about personal and not political issues.

Interestingly enough, I wrote a much longer draft of yesterday’s post, a draft that dealt more with the Reagan/AIDS issue that is currently raging through blogdom. Between sentences I was surfing, reading other bloggers’ opinions, other editorials, other message boards. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I’ve never seen such a heated debate (that’s the polite word). Seems like Reagan’s death has pulled scabs off old wounds, wounds that never healed quite right.

It’s easy to stay within my little blog-buddy circle and think that most bloggers have similar political beliefs as I do. But that’s such a fallacy. Just a little Googling of Reagan and AIDS will prove otherwise. After reading so many articulate opinions on either side of the debate, I got a little overwhelmed, and confused. And in the end I think it’s fair to say that I was a coward, and I deleted most of my post and quoted someone else.

Obviously some of the people who e-mailed me tonight disagreed with Michael Bronski, the man I quoted. Some people thought it was rude (or undemocratic, even) for me not to have comments enabled on my site, where they could tell me what they thought of my indirect opinions. A couple of people called me names. One person questioned the veracity of my relationship with Alfredo, the guy in Nicaragua who was killed. Which was strange, as that had nothing to do with my point (which was that Reagan broke the law and was not, in my book, a hero). But it still stung.

Here’s the thing about comments: I used to have them. And I used to love them. I checked them constantly, and I gauged the worth of that day’s writing by the response I got. Or the lack of response. Then I started to have technical problems with the comments, and I went through a few weeks of trying various applications with mixed results. But I think the final straw came when I posted this rather long, very heartfelt story that I had poured much of my energy and emotional self into. And later I checked the comments where someone had written “Oh my God! I USED TO LIVE IN MINNESOTA TOO!!!”

That was it. That was when I realized that I had comments for all the wrong reasons.

It was painful, for awhile, to live without them, to not have them to check in on, to not have them as validation for my efforts. But eventually I came to appreciate the simplicity of my site. And I appreciated that having to respond by e-mail made the conversations I had with others more interesting and insightful. It may be more honest to say that I’m probably just a control freak, and I don’t want inane comments tainting my precious site. Sorry, folks, this is a Cheerocracy.

Maybe it is undemocratic of me to express my opinion without letting others comment. But frankly this whole issue illustrates why I am drawn more and more to books, where the author has the space and the time to create a little world, or an extended argument, books that allow for depth of detail and insight rare in the Land of Short Attention Spans. Books that deal with ambiguity. With the author’s own weaknesses or questionable motives. I’m just so tired of everyone on the Internet always being so RIGHT. Myself included. I hate writing short posts, which is where I almost always falter on my soapbox, or soak in my own pretentious sentimentality. I write short posts so that people won’t think I’ve quit blogging. So they’ll keep reading. Which is fucked up. Yesterday’s post didn’t do justice to the thoughts and feelings I really have about Reagan and AIDS. After all, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the “Sociological Effects of AIDS on Gay Men”, back in 1993 (when I was a tad precocious. Unlike today). So a few sentences won’t work. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not particularly well-suited to the Internet, as much as I love its freedom.

Here I am, back on the soapbox. Time to climb down and get some sleep. Nite, Johnboy.

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