So, yesterday evening, as Your Humble Blogger was listening to the ballgame and puttering around on the internet, Gentle Reader Gannet retweeted a comment about Arizona and confederate memorials:
Listen, Arizona wasn't even a state during the Civil War, so obviously those statues were never about the fucking war. They're about racism. https://t.co/0U24tkDZSN— cx (@cxcope) June 5, 2017
Arizona’s history of course does not start with statehood in 1912 (or even with white settlement, if it comes to that) and its confederate history is actually quite interesting—well, if you are interested in the war, anyway. There was copper at stake, and the rebels took Tucson and the California Column marched down to take it back, and there was a skirmish at Picacho Pass which is not a Pokemonz thing at all but an actual real thing that had actual consequences back in the settled territory and is also the westernmost battle of the whole war. Well, and I think it was also the smallest “battle”, but still. And it all gets caught up in the Apache Wars, which obv also racism, and the raising of a Confederate Memorial across from the Capitol in Phoenix is about white supremacy, yes, but at least as much about supremacy over the Apache and the Mexicanos and the wide variety of local native folk as over the Africans. And at the same time, there are Confederate soldiers buried in Arizona, who were loved by their families and mourned.
So, yeah, Arizona’s (and New Mexico’s) confederate monuments were about the fucking war in a different way than the statues in Texas and Louisiana were about the fucking war, and they’re about racism in a different way than the monuments in Texas and Louisiana are about racism, but short answer: yeah, racism.
As an AZ-born guy, it's tempting to 'Well-actually' about AZ's confederate history and the graves of confederate soldiers, but naah. Racism.— Vardibidian (@Vardibidian) June 6, 2017
Now, as y’all noticed, I did give in to that temptation and well-actually up there, but that’s not really why I bothered writing up a post. No, what’s unusual is that YHB interacted with a total stranger on Twitter, which hardly ever happens. And this stranger @cxcope, who I know nothing whatsoever about, has something like twelve thousand followers. That seems like a lot. I have, let me see… thirty. Twenty-nine. Maybe twenty-eight by the time I post this. Call it thirty people following me, though, which I think is the most it has ever been, and which includes at least a few defunct or nonexistent people. This person has twelve thousand, which, I mean, that’s a lot of strangers that I just posted to without thinking about it.
And, there’s this twitter thing that happens sometimes: half-a-dozen people I don’t know retweeted my reply, and more than fifty strangers have ’liked’ it, and more than ten thousand people have seen it. Ten thousand people. Ten thousand people have seen something I wrote, and it was 140 characters of nonsense. That makes me deeply uncomfortable.
I think, at one point during the beginnings of this Tohu Bohu, I imagined that I would like a wide readership. I don’t know that I ever wanted ten thousand regular readers or imagined what that would be like, but a wide enough readership so that other bloggers who I found interesting would occasionally include me in their conversations, responding to my essays and such. I never applied myself to getting that readership, because I found the necessary work of commenting on the blogs of strangers unpleasant. At this point, I figure I have about twenty or so regular Gentle Readers of this Tohu Bohu. Amy, Chaos, Chris, Catherine, Dan P, irilyth, Jacob, Jed, Jim, Kendra, Fred, Michael, Melissa R, gannet, ruthling, Stephen, textjunkie and of course my Best Reader. I am aware of one other Gentle Reader who doesn’t comment, and assume there are a few more, which may bring the readership up to, oh, twenty-five? Call it thirty, the same as my Twitter following, and I think you’d be overestimating. And over half of y’all are old college buddies, and I love y’all dearly, and interacting with y’all is not like interacting with strangers over the internet. And half the rest were friends-of-old-college-buddies (or even old-college-buddies-of-old-college-buddies) and are now friends indeed, whether that began before or after YHB started blogging, lo these fourteen-and-a-half years ago.
Wow. It’ll be fifteen years of blogging this winter. More or less, if you count the months I barely poked my head in to delete comment spam. Still. That’s a lot. More than three thousand entries, anyway, tho’ 5/6 of those were in the first ten years. But in all that time, I have always been startled when I am reminded that I am interacting with strangers. Hello, Ronald Goetz! Glad to have you with us! Hope you stick around! I miss Duck and Dance (prone to laughter) and hapa and Matt and, um, I can’t remember who else used to hang around and chat with us. On the other hand, that thing when Lois McMaster Bujold came across the blog and I wound up arguing with strangers was incredibly stressful and unpleasant for me. No, I wouldn’t mind another twenty-five Gentle Readers and occasional commenters, but I don’t want a massive audience for my internet interactions.
I have mentioned, several times, the Famous Blogging Brothers Bernstein, who I have known as long as I have known anyone in the world, and who I think most of the two-dozen of you have met at least once. I forget that they are, at this point, actually Famous: @jbview has over ten thousand followers and @dbernstein has twenty-five thousand. I have been blogging longer than either of them (well, and I suppose neither of them actually blog these days; Jonathan writes columns and David does reporting and they of course they both tweet constantly) and it was very strange to see them over the years, putting in the necessary work and becoming the sort of blogger that I had imagined becoming. I mean, in their own ways and with their own expertise and topics of interest and skills, of course; I don’t mean to say I could have done that because I couldn’t have done specifically what they did, even if I could perhaps have done something similar. I did struggle with envy, the way I do with old friends who have Emmys or tenure or who get cast as Benedick, damn ’em. But in truth those are things I do not want. Well, except Benedick, obviously, but the other ones are not things I actually want, lives that I want to live. Not taking into account the whole life, the inconveniences as well as the benefits, and most of all the laborious, unpleasant or difficult work that these folk do.
And, in the case of the internet, I had decided years ago that I don’t want ten thousand readers. I don’t like interacting with strangers (outside of audiences, with a script, a director and weeks of rehearsal) even when they reactions are almost entirely positive. The thought of what can actually happen on-line when thousands of people notice a person terrifies me, even if it seems unlikely that I will bear the brunt of such an experience. I chose not to swim in those waters
And then—a slip and respond to a stranger with one goofy paralipsis, and ten thousand people see it. It’s a strange world we live in, Gentle Readers.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
Edited to add this Postscript: I must admit I found this amusing: