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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Hazardous Pastimes of Unsung Heroes

I was recently asked the question, "Why 'hazardous pastimes?'" I don't know if that is a question I've ever properly answered on this blog. It's certainly not an answer I could give in one post, but this'll be a start.

Our culture values heroes. That's easy enough to see. Just look at popular fiction. Whether it's movies, or books, or stories, heroism is a frequent theme. I'd guess (this is not a real, proven statistic) that, between heroism and romance, you could probably account for 90 – 95% of the fiction American's enjoy, and much of it is a mix between the two. I'm not criticizing that, nor am I immune to it, but I do consider it worthy of thought.

What makes a hero?

Most people think of a hero as someone who is strong and athletic. The avenger of wrongs. The justice-seeker. The good man who wreaks violent havoc on the forces of evil. You know the type. We have our Rambos, and our Batmans, our Lone Rangers and our Buffy the Vampire Slayers. And many, many others. We also have every-day heroes: police officers, soldiers, and the private citizens who are willing to stand up in the face of danger, like those who brought down the bad guys on Flight 93.

There's absolutely nothing wrong (imo) with idolizing and rewarding these people with our respect and our gratitude. However, this is not what I talk about when I think of hazardous pastimes and the heroes who brave them. I think about the unsung heroes, those whose quiet and subtle acts of heroism fall below the radar of our glamour-seeking society. These heroes live and work through life every day. They're good, but imperfect people. And they, too, deserve our respect, our admiration, our gratitude and, more importantly, our assistance.

Some hazards are very real, very vivid. Those kinds of hazards are what we tend to think about, as a society. Especially when it comes to politics. How many fellow bloggers have you known who at least joke about "the black helicopters?" How many bloggers keep their identities secret, because they don't want to face retribution for the political opinions they express on their blogs? How many people genuinely fear to stand up against the two-party standard, because the personal risk is simply too great?

Yet, as troubling as these very real hazards are, these are not the dangers I think about when I call politics a hazardous pastime.

At times like these, when I look back on my first foray into the political blogosphere, I feel shame. I was very passionate, but that is not shameful. My passion is a strength that has seen me through some pretty rough times, and some times that didn't feel as rough as I'm told they ought to have felt. That is a strength. However, when I first entered the blogosphere I was uninformed, ignorant. That is a weakness that I'm not comfortable with, and it is a matter of not a small amount of personal shame.

The lives of the unborn. Sanctity of marriage. The freedom to be publicly religious. The freedom to own a gun, and to use it if necessary. These are things I hold dear. These are things I have a passion for. However, this passion was misplaced and misused. In short, I was an ignorant, little twit spouting off Republican talking points as if they were truth. And that, to me, is a very shameful thing indeed. I didn't know better, and I feel I should have.

Luckily for me, my first foray into the political blogosphere was onto Watchblog, a blog frequented by knowledgeable (and some less knowledgeable) people who actually cared about politics, and more importantly people who wanted to share their knowledge...with me. Some exceptional people on that site devoted a significant amount of time and energy in teaching me aspects of history, politics, and even the art of blogging that I had never before considered. I consider these people to be heroes of the quiet, subtle sort...most especially because those who were frequently most helpful were also those with whom I was debating against. To them, it wasn't just about being right, or being convincing, or whatever...it was about sharing knowledge, even sharing the knowledge that would better prepare their opponent to debate with them. And that is something I admire.

Still, that doesn't explain why I see politics as a hazardous pastime. I consider politics a hazardous pastime for two particular reasons:

1) If you debate politics in the right way (at least, right imo), you're taking a very big risk. I'm not talking about the risk of being shot down, or the risk of being ridiculed, though they do exist. I'm talking about taking the risk of being proven wrong. If you are debating politics in a manner that I can respect, then you're open to the exchange of information and ideas that may *gasp* change your mind or, at least, your opinion.

2) If you debate politics, and gain knowledge from that, you run the risk of your informed passion being ignited to the point that you can't not do something about it.

I've experienced both.

Ah, Watchblog , for me it was like wanting to sink my toes in wet sand, and ending up in the middle of the ocean without a life-preserver...let alone a boat. I'd never debated politics before. At least, not with anyone who disagreed with me. And, I'd never experienced blogging before. I didn't even know what it was. I found Watchblog by linking political opinion articles on My Yahoo page. Boy, was I in over my head fast! But, I'm teachable, and there were some excellent teachers there. Not only did they teach me how to blog, but they taught me about the realities of politics. And, it was a rather painful experience. My ideallic, over-simplified notions of right and wrong in the political arena were shattered...completely.

Let me tell you, it's a scary experience, but I learned.

Many people influenced me on Watchblog, many people taught me, and many people still stand out in my memory two years later. However, two people stand out most strongly: David Remer and Daniel Summars*.

You might recognize those names. I have mentioned them before. David Remer is the founder of VOID.


Daniel Summars is also a participant of VOID, as the Treasurer on the Board of Directors. I have had the privilege of working closely with both of them on behalf of VOID, and I assure you that they are definitely heroes each in their own quiet, subtle way.

Of course, VOID didn't exist then. It wasn't until after they had both gotten through to me, and to each other, their shared bleak vision of America's future (if we stay on our current path) that VOID was formed. It happened rather quickly, fueled by both knowledge and passion.

But, it is those experiences (1) being proven so totally wrong, and 2) learning how to do something about it) that I learned that politics is a truly hazardous pastime, but one that is most certainly worth our efforts. Politics isn't some game that's entertaining to play. It's not a blind passion that gives one the opportunity to assert one's views on someone else. Politics is the means to achieve America's future. Either a future that is bleak and dismal for the every day citizen, yet prosperous for those imbedded politicians we continue to re-elect despite their corruption and greed. Or, a future that is free, secure and prosperous for all.

That is the choice that Americans face. Do we stick with the same-old, same-old, that has not been working? Or, do we take the risk, learn something new, and act on it? It doesn't seem like that difficult a choice to me. And, yet it is for many people.

So, I ask those of who you are reading this to take a chance. Please look at what VOID is trying to accomplish. Either join with us, or tell me why you don’t find our message compelling. If you won’t tell me why within the comments section, please e-mail me. I promise, whatever it is you say, I won’t hold it against you. This is a big nation, a free nation, and I’m well-versed in the disagreeing agreeably department. But, I would really, truly like feedback on the endeavors of VOID. Give us a shot, and please tell us what you think.

*Many others have worked hard to make VOID what it is and I by no means wish to belittle or denigrate your enormous contributions. You know who you are, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!


At 8/30/2006 9:09 PM, Blogger David Schantz said...

VOID would be one of the antidotes/remedies I was looking for in my latest post.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

At 8/31/2006 2:33 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

I'll be looking around and getting back into the swing of things later tonight and I'll be sure to stop by!

At 9/03/2006 2:41 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

I think you got a couple of people interested in VOID when you stopped by. Good job and great post.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

At 9/14/2006 1:43 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

Friday September 15 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The day has been set aside to honor some of our heroes that answered the call to serve their country and were left behind, unaccounted for when the war/conflict ended. I hope you will remember them and their loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

At 9/14/2006 1:46 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

I forgot a couple of things. I posted a message about POW/MIA Recognition Day yesterday, 9/13/06.

I forgot my closing.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

At 9/14/2006 12:31 PM, Blogger reverse_vampyr said...

Great post, Stephanie. I find it uncanny that you happened to write about heroes since I was helping my college-age daughter write an essay about that very subject last night.

I liked where you went with this, and I'll definitely have to check out Watchblog. Thanks for letting everyone know about it.

At 10/20/2006 10:23 PM, Blogger Subcomandante Bob said...

Come back, Stephanie!

At 10/22/2006 2:41 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...


That was very nice, and excellent timing. I'm back!

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