Monday, March 2, 2009

Why would I blog?

2 March 2009

I’ve had a couple of friends tell me they can’t imagine why anyone would write a blog. Too personal, too "out there." I’ve actually been thinking about this for several years because I wanted to write and to be published. I’ve wanted to write since I learned to hold a pencil and make letters.

I did work as a reporter and columnist back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. For the last couple of years I was again a columnist until the newspaper folded. It was fun. So I finally set up a blog.

I was encouraged to do this by memories of “The Carolina Israelite,” published by Harry Golden from 1942 to 1968, reaching at its peak 16,000 subscribers. I subscribed for the last few years of its publication and loved it. It was a forum for his political views, but also his observations about life and reminisces of his boyhood in New York’s lower East Side. I’m pretty sure I found out about The Israelite from reading his book, “Only in America.”

According to Wikepedia (will all my librarian friends please quit shrieking and sit back down) and, Golden (1902-1981) was born Herschel Goldhirsch in the shtetl Mikulintsy, Ukraine, then part of Austria-Hungary. In 1904 the family immigrated to the US. Harry grew up to be a stockbroker but lost his job in the 1929 crash. Convicted of mail fraud, he served several years in a federal prison. In 1941 he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and as a reporter, wrote about and spoke out against racial segregation and the Jim Crow laws of the time.

He was very funny. I remember a short piece explaining that Elizabeth Taylor was a serial monogamist, obviously during that whirlwind time of Michael, Eddie, Richard and Richard.

One of his solutions to the racial problem in America was “The Vertical Negro Plan.” Observing that whites were loathe to sit with African Americans on busses or in restaurants but that they often stood in line with African Americans, he called on public schools to remove all the chairs from the classrooms.

If Harry Golden were alive today, he would have a blog.

Thomas Paine, whose biography I recently read, is another man who wrote prodigiously and published frequently, at a time when pamphlets were cheap and popular. I’ve long wished we could still blanket the country in pamphlets. They would now be way too expensive and worse, written on dead trees. Until we can once again grow hemp in this country with which to manufacture paper, among other things, pamphlets cannot be morally justified no matter how important or worthy the text.

Paine wrote “Common Sense,” a document credited with fueling the American Revolution. He also discussed ideas almost daily (well, every evening, in a pub or tavern usually), belonging to discussion groups with other men interested in ethics, philosophy, politics and religion. If he were alive today, he would have a blog. I bet Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Christabel Pankhurst, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, along with thousands more gutsy women of the past would have had blogs.

This is part of my reason for writing a blog. I believe, passionately, that Americans need to discuss ideas, philosophies, beliefs. We need to discuss them, examine them, write about them. We’re not all in the realm of Golden or Paine but until we all start speaking up, we will continue to be controlled by the few who speak longest and loudest, those people who dominate the media with their unpleasant voices and hate-filled minds.

But finally, I love words, I love to read, I love the challenge of putting words together in both a pleasing and a sensible way. And as with email, the delete key is handy. I have the pleasure and reward of publishing, no one has to read me and it’s free.

Only in America (a collection of essays from The Carolina Israelite) and The Right Time : An Autobiography, by Harry Golden.

Thomas Paine : Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations, by Craig Nelson, published 2006