I have started up a new blog at In Hope and Darkness. The direction will be a tad different, but thinking about radical politics will still be at its center. Follow me there if you are so inclined; I look forward to continuing the debate/discussion.
I am reprinting the introductory chapter of my book below, which should give more context for the change of digital locations.
There is a lot to be said for letting the past unassumingly crumble with time. Not every creation deserves to be enshrined in memory or cataloged for future generations to discover. Yet, our desire to save portions of our past, snippets of contemplation and conception, appears to be a universal human aspiration. We place pictures into sturdy photo books, or records in protective vinyl sleeves. We carefully store legal documents, birth certificates and marriage licenses, in locked fire-proof safes. Surely, there is a practical reason for this, but part of this meticulous cataloging is the desire to preserve a small part of who we are, even if we as individuals are the only folks who will ever care about such items.
This book is a testament to that. There may be few who were clamoring for an anthology of this sort, but it serves an important purpose in my eyes. Most of the pieces collected here were written during the heydays of blogging; the format has declined in popularity, but it proved to be a worthwhile experience for my own political development. As I have gone back and read through all I wrote in the last ten years, I was not surprised to see significant change in my attitude and approach to culture and politics. This anthology of essays, in the literal sense, is meant to be a bookend to my last decade of debate, inquiry, and political discovery. While I hope some readers see elements of their own ideological growth present in the trajectory of these essays, this is more an attempt to make sense of where I was when I began writing, where I trekked, and where I may be headed.
When I left my university in 2004, I had grown tired of the brand of leftist politics I formally practiced and participated in. I walked into college a committed radical; attending one of the more “liberal” universities in the UC system was by no means an accident. I dedicated large swaths of time to socialist, communist, and anarchist causes and the various parties that propagate those movements. I wrote obtuse essays on the merits of Marxism and the inevitability of worldwide revolution, while still finding time to pass my classes and debate the finer points of punk rock over coffee at local cafes. My time on the radical left may appear to be cliché; a young man far from home at a bastion of leftwing thought, playing the part of a diminutive Che Guevara from the comfort of a middle-class, predominantly white, California town. However, I sense my commitment to these causes was more staid than your average college radical. I believed I had found the answer to life’s problems, and was working diligently to implement said solutions.
A number of events challenged my commitment to the Left, or at least how it was practiced in Northern California in the early 2000s. Like many of my generation, the events of 9/11 significantly changed the world around me, and subsequently, my perspective on. Now that nearly fifteen years have obscured those events, it may be hard for some younger radicals to understand how the debate on campus tempered as a result of the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. In fact, my impetuous to start blogging was an attempt to work through issues I had with other activists, and “think aloud” about my previous years as a youthful radical. Now that I was far from the ideological puritanism of college leftist networks, I could begin to contemplate what I truly believed publically without fear of communal reprisals. Was there anything from my time as a radical that could be salvaged? Did I still share aims and ends with my old comrades on the left? Could I remain friends with people I had spent so many hours collaborating with? I didn’t know the answers to these questions, and blogging became my tool to address these concerns.
While I approached blogging initially as an insular activity, I quickly realized that others were experiencing a profound questioning of their previously held truths. Connecting with other writers, both young and old, expanded my horizons beyond the shallow pool of activists I had formerly been exposed to. I recognized that I was not alone in my “loss of faith.”
Yet, reading through these essays, I realize that I am no closer to finding an ideological home than I was in 2005 when this project began. The trouble with bringing up past work bathed in youthful exuberance, is the difficulty my now seasoned self has in accommodating the tone and claims formulated. I shake my head in disbelief at some of the causes I publicly supported (prolonging the Iraqi occupation and stumping for John McCain being the most egregious). Others feel like they are heading in an interesting direction, but were not fully realized. Thus, the essays collected here were not necessarily the most popular or profound, but ones that give a window into my thinking at different stages of my ideological development.
As for this book’s title, it is a play on the byline used at my predominate online home (But I am a Liberal!) for the last ten years. Oddly enough, the blog’s title started as a bit of a joke, borrowing from a film I had seen called But, I am a Cheerleader! The film, about a fictional high school student sent to a summer camp to reform homosexuals, reiterated that she could not be gay, as she was a cheerleader. I felt the same way about being a liberal; even when my opponents derided me for a perceived move to the right, I felt my ideological heart still belonged somewhere on the liberal left.
I am not sure I feel that way anymore. One of the reasons for my abandonment of the website for newer writing pastures was how uncomfortable I felt having the “liberal” term hung over my head. While liberalism acts as a place-holder for a multitude of perspectives in this era, I now find myself having a harder time fitting comfortably into any of its existing definitions.
Under the blog’s title also hangs a phrase I feel increasingly prickly conforming to: Words From a Wandering Internationalist. Between the years 2005 and 2011, I spent most of my time away far from California, living in various parts of the US, Asia, and Europe. I wandered both physically and ideologically, looking for a home. I consider myself a citizen of the world, but internationalist carries its own set of preconceptions and ideological baggage. Baggage I am less willing to carry forward.
Thus, as I move forward, I am looking to recapture that same sense of wonder and discovery I experienced when I first acquired socialist texts not allowed by my teachers in high school. When I left the university, it felt like breathing fresh air to read some of the great conservative minds of the 20th century that had miraculously been left off all my reading lists. I want to feel that frightening sense of discovery that comes with thoroughly considering and digesting new ideas. To do that, I must leave all previous identities behind, and chart a new course into the dark unknown.
I hope these essays stand on their own and can further generate debate among my friends, allies, and enemies. They may not be where I stand politically today, but they represent a worn path, paced countless times, in search of meaning and truth.