Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reading the Pop Bottles

First of all, I would like to thank Spotty for inviting me to write here on the Cucking Stool. Before I get into the normal cycle of posting, I have a few things that I would like to get out of the way in terms of a reintroduction:

I'm not sure I have the stomach for political blogging anymore. When I was at Minvolved, the political idealism of my college years was fueled by a hefty dose of good ol' fashioned snark. Having just left the military after OEF I was a bit angry with the way things were going and my immediate response to politics was to address issues with a bit of dismissiveness, a dash of humor, and a pinch of holier-than-thouism.

Since that time, I have focused on going back to school, delaying school so my wife can get an advanced degree, entering the business world until her school is finished, and trying to be a productive member of society by not defaulting on my mortgage or getting thrown in the pokey. The bottom line here is that my leisure time has transformed from snark about President Bush into genuine moments with my family and profession. I no longer have a switch that I feel comfortable turning on and off between the two ways of viewing the world. It's funny how quickly repetition and entertainment can switch places when you take a moment or two to step outside of yourself...if that makes any sense at all.

Cutting to the chase, I honestly haven't paid a lick of attention to politics in the past year. I don't subscribe to any newspapers or magazines nor do I plan on getting politically involved in the upcoming election. I'm not even going to vote. During the moments where I do happen to come across any remnants from the political world (usually in the form of reading material on business trips), I find the words and stories lacking in any context and connection to the world I have found by my own experience and intuition. The Cucking Stool is one of the very few places where I do not get the sense of being politically disjointed, and this, along with knowing Spotty, is the only reason why I have any interest in blogging about these sorts of things again.

There have been many moments which have brought me around to this point. Without putting you through the agony of having to read through a list of trifling complaints and concerns, the most poignant transformational moment in the development of my apathy cocoon was when my wife asked me who I was supporting in the Democratic primary. I honestly didn't have an answer to this question. Barack or Hillary...I couldn't differentiate between the two on the basis of actual substance. I had a few outbursts of righteous indignation concerning what I believed to be some heavy racial undertones from the Clinton camp, but I couldn't comprehend, let alone explain, any differences between the 2 candidates anymore than I could tell my wife why I preferred Coke to Pepsi. It's a sad day when you realize that your political idealism has been effectively reduced to nothing more than brand loyalty. (The disjointed nature of it all really hit home when I caught a brief CNN clip of Hillary talking about the importance of multiple consumer choices in the mass media.)

Upon further reflection, I found that this sort of marketing-based processing extended well beyond my feelings towards members of the Democratic party. I've said many times that I'd never vote for a Republican in a million years but I've never really thought through exactly why that was or what it would take to change that point of view.

I know what you are thinking at this point. "But Mr. Sponge, there are real issues and real philosophical differences at play here." I have an answer for this: of course there are fundamental differences between this, that, and the other candidate and/or party. I am especially worried that our judicial branch has been irreparably damaged by an influx of right wing judges who hide their radicalism behind the cloak of originalism or strict constructionism. The problem here is that issues like SCOTUS jurisprudence are as far removed from the way in which the vast majority of our public interacts with the political process as is the proper ratio of phosphoric acid is from the reason why I think Coke is so much more tasty than Pepsi...or why Barack Obama's Change You Can Believe In is a whole lot better than John McCain's Leadership You Can Trust.

The truly sad thing here is that the ideological underpinnings of what it means to be a Democrat or Republican or conservative or liberal (yes, these terms have been co-opted too) keep getting pushed further and further back into their own identities, and finding them is an increasingly troublesome task that is akin to reading the nutritional information on the back of a bottle of pop.

Soooooo...where does this leave me in regards to political blogging? Starting with the negative, I am not interested in the brand-based slog of Franken v. Coleman or McCain v. Obama. I'm not interested in commenting on daily links from hard news sources where people actually work on their stories; I'm neither the peanut gallery nor a heckler, and as much as I think that most of the modern media's wounds are self-inflicted, I don't want to piggyback for free on work that I did not create and upon which the livelihood of what few journalists we have left depends. I'm not interested in blog-gazing "across the isle" by finding the most ridiculous post from the most ridiculous local righty blogger and taking pot-shots at it (for old time's sake, this is Mitch Berg in case you are wondering). I'm really not interested in giving a post-drink live-blog from a pre-election MDE/Publius love fest. I'll leave that sort of thing to Mary Lahammer and the good folks at MPR or the Strib's Blog House...if that silly thing still exists.

More seriously, this approach is neither cynicism nor a sleight against anyone else who holds a different political philosophy than mine. My current political stance has less to do with burnout than with wanting to try something new that is outside the scope of electoral politics. If electoral politics are what interests each his own; I claim no special knowledge or superiority over your point of view.

Moving onward and upward, I'd like to write about policy and how it relates to political philosophy. I want to address questions like 'What can the War on Drugs teach us about the War on Terror?' , 'What are the real-world implications of having 2 political parties whose presidential candidates support faith based initiatives?' , and 'What responsibilities do bloggers have to the crumbling newspaper industry?' I want to focus on the breakdown of our modern media apparatus and how its descent has mirrored the downward trajectory of marketing-based politics.

The reason why I'm putting this out as a first post is because I'm going to ask y'all for a little bit of patience before I can find the right voice for this sort of subject matter. I don't want it to be boring or (gasp) not amusing. Like any other online character, it may take a few posts to get this damn thing going (if it goes at all...I'm not sure if it will) and I just wanted to let you all know where I'm starting from, what my goals are, and what you can generally expect when you see a Mr. Sponge post here at the Cucking Stool. It took a while for Clever Peasantry to turn into Minvolved, and an equally long time for cp to morph into Mr. Sponge, and it may take a while for whatever happens here to develop into a character that is worthwhile and real. It's one thing to register one of these experiments under a new blog; it's quite another to start from scratch with a built-in readership. Hopefully, I will be more interesting than the nutritional label on the back of your beverage of choice.

Thanks again to Spotty for letting me post here.

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