Thursday, July 22, 2004

Some of you know that I have been pondering for some time now whether I would continue blogging after Patti’s return.  I’ve been leaning toward the cessation of my online opining – however it is only recently that I’ve solidified the decision. 
I’ve decided to retire from the website business…and I am finally able to articulate to myself several reasons why.  Let me share some of these with you.
My mission is accomplished.  It was accomplished the day Patti returned home.  She and I began her site as she was preparing to deploy figuring it would be an easier way to keep our families informed of news of her.  That was before we learned there would be weeks with no contact, hence no news .  So I began to fill in the blanks with news items I could find on my own around the Internet.
Then COL Mike Tucker, the commander under whom the 1st Brigade originally deployed came to Friedberg and spoke with the family members.  He convinced me that the press was giving us only the bad news…and thus was born the raison d’etre under which this site has operated ever since.  Root out the positive developments in Iraq and the global war on terror and, where appropriate, offer a military perspective translated for those who don’t speak “Army”.  Oh…and on certain occasions throw in my own opinions free of charge.
It was a niche angle for a niche market.  And I don’t know all of the few hundred regular-to-daily readers but the common element among those I know is that most of you are personally invested in this war…you have a loved one who has been down range doing the dangerous heavy lifting on behalf of the nation. You have been the core of the niche market.
I know many of your loved ones are in the 1st Armored Division…and I trust they are home or en route and we can get on with the business of living our lives, cherishing our returned soldiers, and relearning, perhaps, to sleep without one eye open.
So…Patti is home – Praise the Lord – and I no longer have the essential motivation to spend hours everyday sifting through hundreds of negative headlines to find the positive nuggets.  And if I’m not going to do it well, then I’m not going to do it at all.
The site also served as my own bit of therapy.  But my darling wife is home now…I’ll take my therapy in the sunshine of that amazing smile and her uncanny ability to push back the frontier of sweetness every day.
But there are a few more reasons I feel compelled to stop.  You can agree, or not.
Back in June Sarah had an incident in which a posting on her blog caught the eye of someone who apparently sits among the blogging pantheon to those who lean (or lunge) left.  As a result of this notice, her site was deluged with comments from those who didn’t like what she had to say.  In between the occasional lucid argument were numerous scathing personal attacks and filthy epithets hurled at her simply because she stated her opinion.
I’ve not had that problem on this site…in part, I believe, because for the most part the message has been simple: here is good news from Iraq that you aren’t seeing in most news outlets.
However, since I’ve already confessed that my mission is accomplished and I no longer have the inclination to do the daily good news search…the danger exists that this would become a site dedicated to my opinion.
And I have several problems with that, not least of which is that Patti’s good name doesn’t need to be associated with my opinions as I try to sort out what is what in this world.
But larger than that it may be that I’m a product of my generation and breeding: I’m a forty-something Southerner, raised a Southern Baptist.  And back when I was growing up there in South Carolina it was a widely respected view that we don’t discuss politics or religion in what we Southerners refer to as “polite company”.
See…being polite still carries some sway with many of us who hail from Dixie.
And while reflecting on why folks would write such nasty things to Sarah on her website, I concluded that the anonymity of the Internet contributes greatly to such behavior.
But in an honest discussion with myself I found an incongruity in faulting some for such rude behavior when in fact an opinion blog is, by my standards, very likely crosses that line that separates polite company from the steely edge of politics, religion and other subjects likely to result in argument.
In short, I found that if I were speaking publicly to the same numbers of folks who visit this site daily, well, frankly, I would be more circumspect about expressing my opinion.  In short, the anonymity of the Internet has allowed me to cross the line of decorum set by years of successful tradition by my forebears.  And I’m not convinced – ultimately - that is a good thing.
I’ve titled many posts here over the last year some variation of “The Death of Civility”.  Each of those posts indicated to me that the lines of individual restraint that collectively support the smooth functioning of society are being eroded at a rate that I believe over-values the individual and undervalues the traditions and mores of civilization. 
In being honest with myself I know that by hiding behind the Internet and discussing politics, religion and societal problems I am breaking with the values I was raised with.  Especially with the steady readers whose names I know off the top of my head…for you, above all, are “polite company”.
A technological advancement should not be an excuse to forget one’s manners.  Shouldn’t be, but frequently is.  Some among us haven’t yet figured out that one’s cell phone conversation should not intrude on another’s ears anymore than routine table chatter.  And why someone’s car alarm should awaken me in the wee hours of the morning requires a logic that defies simple, common courtesy.  The failings of some to apply tried and true manners to new technology does not excuse those of us with the vision to see the old rules need to apply still.
So…I am correcting a mistake, now that I recognize it.  I’m stuffing my opinions back into my pocket and I’m renewing my efforts to enhance the daily personal exchanges I have with others along the lines of good manners and the tenets of a civility.  I’m making an attempt in my life to extricate myself from the shrill shouting back and forth, and I intend to re-center myself in a land of genteel approach.
A website I use to track links to the site indicates that its software is tracking over three million blogs today.  That number has grown by nearly a million in less than a year.  My departure will not appreciably affect the blogosphere in any way.  And my return to the practices of the values of my heritage will do little to affect the balance or direction of manners and politeness in this world.  But it will have a large affect on the world Patti and I live in.  I’m doing what I can to make it better.
Finally, I’m going to borrow a phrase from Naomi Judd and “Resign as general manager of the universe.”
Patti and I have fourteen months of stressful separation to overcome.  We have a home and a relationship to rebuild, and we have immeasurable thanks to return to Him, by whose hand Patti has returned safe and whole.  There is much on which I need to focus.  Moreover, I need to be fully present in the real world.  So…I’m pulling up the stakes in cyberspace and replanting my feet squarely in The America I Live In.
I’m grateful to those of you with whom I’ve walked the last fourteen months.  Many wrote to encourage, some wrote to praise and others wrote to politely challenge.  Some shared photos, others joy, and a few, tragedy.  You filled the vast loneliness of a tiny apartment, and some of us formed an odd little 21st century family, brought together by a common event. Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for sharing with me.  I wish you well.  I wish you joy.

Hello, everyone!  It is so incredible to be home with Tim - the sweetest MAN on the planet.  The last eleven days are best described as AMAZING!  Tim has made every minute of every day full of happiness and normality.  Believe it or not, normality ranks a close number one to happiness on the list of good feelings from coming home.  It is so lovely to see green trees, smell clean air, walk down clean streets, gaze upon cultured gardens, watch happy and prosperous families play with their children, and just open the refrigerator to reach in for a cold German beer when I want one.
My experiences in Iraq were numerous and definitely have changed me in varied ways.  Right now, the most significant change in me is a heightened and most intense feeling of how life is so precious and everything in life, especially the little things, should never be taken for granted.  I am thankful to God beyond any words that I could use for bringing me and my Gators home safe and sound.  Thank you so much to all of you for your prayers, well wishes and many words of encouragement to Tim.
God bless you all and God bless America!
CPT Patti