It was during a split second of unfeigned awareness – over a medium-sized cup of lychee berry frozen yogurt that I was sharing with my mom – that I decided to start writing. We’d been talking politics when a knowing smile lit her face. “If you really feel that strongly about these things, why don’t you blog about them?”
I launched a website temporarily called “Legislative Wordplay” a few days after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig began threading its way through the Gulf of Mexico, just before it left a blanket of crude oil on the doorstep of the Gulf Coast; seven months before a deep, rich red seeped into the bluest congress in recent memory; an era bereft of Arab Spring mentalities or Todd Akin abortion gaffes.
And now, here I sit, zipping up my final bags, nearly able to smell the greasy air of the university dining hall. I scroll up and down these web pages. I sift through a chronology of my last two and a half years. This is what I spent my time doing in high school. This is who I was – who I am.
On the whole, I count myself lucky. I am among those who get to do what they love to do. Indeed, the algorithms of geometry and precalculus may have been lost on me, but in their place I threaded the delicate strands of hobby until they evolved into a robust and finely-tuned passion.
This, I think, is where I grew.
I grew between the clicks of a spacebar eroded by time, within the rhythmic cacophony of just-too-ripe metaphors that spilled out onto Word documents. I learned in my craving to discover why some pieces were met with universal approval, while others encountered a discomfited audience brimming with chagrin. And, accordingly, I stretched my intellectual limbs in a struggle to walk the compelling line between sensitivity and contentiousness.
I remember the first truly negative response I received to a piece I had written. My piece had lamented what I had deemed the “suppressed” voice of youth. It was, in retrospect, a hasty and inflammatory few paragraphs that achieved little beyond airing my own frustrations – perhaps with a teacher, perhaps with a parent; I don’t remember. I do remember the commenter’s response: inherently negative and viciously critical. I felt shaken and became defensive by impulse.
I feel blessed and grateful for the limitless words of praise and encouragement that came both before and after such comments. But the fundamental lesson I’ve learned from maintaining this website spills out from precisely those dissenting responses. It boils down to that painful and entirely energizing question of what it means to react, and think, and live critically. Criticism is – like the feeling that overwhelms you after stretching your hamstring just before a long run – the best kind of burning sensation.
I have derived a constructive and straightforward lesson from the time I spent composing pieces for this blog. It is a similar lesson to that which I have taken from the circuitous nature of the Israelis and the Palestinians; from the heretical wit of Christopher Hitchens; from a Congress who swiftly and imprudently approved a war that has since been burned (violently) into the collective American psyche. That lesson is two-fold.
First: Criticism isn’t defined wholly by disapproval or condemnation. It is also part of the powerful and invaluable process of attaining clarity.
And second: When we are forced – either by our own innate compulsions or external influences – to clarify our intent, or spell out the means by which we attain our ends, or defend our bland or disputable viewpoints, we are accordingly forced to become aware. We become our own advocates when we are keenly challenged and engaged. And if it’s as easy as that, then why not challenge ourselves?
This article isn’t characteristic of this blog. Just as this website was never (I should hope) a diary to spew vitriol, it was also rarely a medium to unload my own arbitrary anecdotes. But as a perceptive friend of mine reminded me last week, “at the end, we always think about the beginning.”
Tonight I had the chance to video-chat with my grandparents who live a thousand miles away from me. We were talking about my experiences at camp this summer, and about what the next few weeks (the start of college) may hold in store. And the question arose: what comes next for Truth Be Told Politics?
The answer is a peculiar one: I don’t know. There exists, in this thrilling and hurried passage, a wealth of unknown. Will I be writing about politics? Or will another fascination catch my attention? Will I even be writing on this blog? Writing is my criticism; and criticism yields clarity. And God knows that we need clarity.
Whether I’ll keep writing here is uncertain. You have left me with much to think about. So I, in turn, will leave you with this: For clicking on your TBT bookmark even when there was little of interest in the news; for reading through those pieces of mine that seemed rant-esque; for allocating precious moments during your busiest days to compose a comment or e-mail me a response; for sharing my writing with your own friends and relatives; one hundred and thirty-five posts later, I cannot thank you enough.