When Communities Erode


Thanks to William for another spectacular guest post. You can follow him on twitter at @willibaldoea

We live in a time when no one wants to remember. We pretend we are where it starts. Look at the way we live—we build houses on cliffs, on fault lines, in the path of things, and when something happens, we don’t learn history, we build it again, right on the same spot, bigger, better… Fallout accumulates. What we’ve got now is a blend of fact and fiction that we’re agreeing to call reality.

– A.M. Homes, This Book Will Save Your Life

There’s a fantastic article titled “From Coast to Toast” in the August issue of Vanity Fair. It looks at two communities, one in Malibu and another in Nantucket, that are facing serious erosion problems and the increasing possibility of disappearing for good. I’ll let you read it for yourself, because I think it’s a fairly interesting and involved piece that merits attention and thoughtful consideration. Besides, I can’t tell you what the right answer is.

What I can say is that moments like this reveal something that goes beyond who’s rich and who’s not, which the debate here appears to be about. Admittedly, the debate is also about man and Nature, and we can’t seem to untangle the issues long enough to know what the most pressing facet of the problem is. Or what the most pressing facet is at this moment. That’s the real problem, in my eyes, and also the saddest part about this entire debate.

I can’t help but think about The Bling Ring, a film that’s simultaneously lauded for its beautiful direction but critiqued for its lack of anything resembling a moral stance. Sofia Coppola lingers among the teenagers she depicts in all their delusional and raucous splendor. She doesn’t say much about them, but her lingering instills a sense of discomfort. Or at the very least it did in me, because I recognized those teenagers. They were the same ones I went to school with who are now detoxing from heroin and cocaine addictions, removing tattoos they grew to regret, and dealing with the legal consequences of lives they put on the fast track long before the time was appropriate.

I can’t say my friends made the wrong choices and that I made the right ones. That all remains to be seen, really. What they do with their lives from this point forward, and what I do with mine, are the only true indications of what successes we’ll be able to claim later in life. So as Coppola did, I invite you to linger with the people you meet in the Vanity Fair article. Don’t judge them – because you’ll want to, and there are two sides that are equally understandable but also infuriating.

Just sit with them. Listen. And hope, for everyone’s sake, that this is something we can figure out.

If you want my opinion, I’d say let nature takes it’s course. It seems like the only humble approach possible, and maybe it’s what will ultimately save us from ourselves.


Does Your Niche Allow For Debate?


Recently I got a DM (direct message on twitter) from a fellow blogger asking me what to do about the angry comments on her site. The comments ranged from “you are stupid” to quite vulgar. The most remarkable part of it is that she was reviewing a cell phone. The post wasn’t about politics, sex or religion, it was a tech review, and tech reviews don’t often inspire ire.

I gave the blogger the same advice I give every mom blogger who asks: Treat your blog like your living room. If you wouldn’t be spoken to in that manner in your home, you have every right to remove it from you blog. Understand that I see disagreement as a pleasant intellectual exercise, and I assert that it can be done respectfully, joyously even.

I don’t actually follow my own advice (you’ll find that I am in the habit of ignoring all good advice no matter who it comes from), and you might see a number of revolting comments splattered about the pages here. I am not often bothered by what strangers say. I’ve been blogging a very long time, and more often than not I find that the comment says more about the person who writes it than it does about the person who receives it.

I’m afraid that niche blogging has stripped away our ability to debate. If I’m looking to talk about balancing motherhood and career I’d land at Ad Hoc Mom, if I wanted to talk about breastfeeding I’d find myself at PhD In Parenting, and to get a little bit greener every day I’d be at Eco Child’s Play. The audience at Joy Trip is described as people who are environmentally conscientious with a bend toward type-A athleticism, if you’re going to argue that BASE jumping should be banned, they are not your group.

What do you think would happen if a Quiver Full Family was given a column at the Huffington Post? For those of you unaware the Quiver Full movement comes from this passage in Psalms:

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:
and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man;
so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:
they shall not be ashamed,
but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127:3-5 (KJV)

Quiver Full families take that passage quite seriously, often having a dozen, or more, children. Would a liberal “news source” like HuffPo be able to provide an extreme example with a thoughtful audience? Will Fox News ever be taken seriously by anyone but the far right?

Is there any chance that a respectful discussion would ensue, or have we taken our blogs, our news sources and our commentary and placed them into compartments, labeling them niche, in hopes that no one notices that we only want to talk to people just like ourselves?

What is so terrifying about just being a blogger? When did we lose the ability to debate without attack? Why would we only want to get news from people just like us?