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Political blogging is not always a trivial pursuit

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike Byrd on September 23, 2010

In 1993, Stephen Carter in his important book The Culture of Disbelief argued that religious expression is trivialized in public discourse because of political habits of reducing it to a purely private pursuit or hobby with no authority and little influence in public life. Conceding all of the ways that blogging and religion may be different from one another, I intend to underscore a significant way they are alike in American culture: except for the very large, influential houses, they are both politically and economically trivialized as subjective and individualized expressions impinging little on society.

I do not intend to argue that personal, private expressions of opinion do not carry any intrinsic value or have their own kinds of influence. Hobbies and subjective pursuits are invaluable and can give rise to significant projects. What I am more focused on is the way writing as blogging is hemmed in and marginalized by attitudes that power, authority, and legitimacy arise elsewhere.

I am also not attempting to skirt the truth that blogging has often brought the minimizing on itself. Blogging has turned the publishing world on its head. (more…)


A Tale of Two Cities

Posted in Disasters, Nashville, Tennessee, Voluntarism by Mike Byrd on May 10, 2010

In the wake of America’s inattention to last week’s catastrophic flooding, increasing numbers of outspoken Nashvillians–half with pride, half with complex about others–insist that what sets us apart from those others is that “we help ourselves” and that “we have no looting.” A garden variety example is this local blogger’s assessment:

So, now that something happens that deserves national attention, you’re leaving us alone. We’re OK with that. Because we’re helping ourselves. That’s how we roll here. The volunteer effort here has been amazing …. Nobody is bitching at FEMA. Nobody is looting. Nobody is getting raped at a shelter. We’re helping each other. We’re cleaning up and we will move on.

Implicit in this preoccupied reaction is a response to the old nemesis, New Orleans. It’s a slam against another American community by placing ours on a higher moral plane. Don’t get me wrong. I concede that the Big Easy has its corruption problems and it is one of the most crime-ridden cities in the country. Whenever I visit New Orleans I’m much more on guard than I am in Music City. Wayward is also something that Americans and tourists in general reward New Orleans for being.  We incentivize misbehavior in some places over others. But that’s a subject for another time.

What is most striking in the Nashville narrative is that at its base it is a disingenuous re-write of history. It is a judgment call based on a fabricated all-things-were-equal scale. (more…)