I made a terrible mistake, a few weeks after Katrina, when I registered for an account on Daily Kos. I don’t mean my signing up for it per se; being here has been a great experience. I mean the too-casual decision of what handle to use. I had not realized that my choice of name would be affixed to that account more indelibly than a tattoo, nor that I would hesitate to give up my modest 65K UID for something higher and less "prestigious". I’ve been threatening to change my name for more than a year, but one thing or another kept getting in the way. Finally, the time has come.
Over the past few days, I’ve posted one diary explaining why I chose my name, and a series of three containing my entire annotated diary history. (The latter, linked to below, allows me to refer anyone who may want to review my writing history as Danby to three handy URLs, rather than their having to slog through eleven pages.) This diary explains why I’m giving up my brand.
Strangely enough, I can best do so by quoting Peppermint Patty.
"Don't call me 'sir'!"
As I’ve noted before, Catch-22 is my favorite book. The dialogue between Yossarian and Major Danby towards its end is my favorite fictional explanation of why we activists persevere – doing what we can, when and where we can – despite the odds. Perhaps because of that, to me "Major Danby" is a simply a character name, and no more conveys a real status than the handle "King Lear" or "Duke of Earl" would convey that I’m royalty.
That was ... let’s call it short-sighted, rather than stupid. Most people haven’t read Catch-22, Major Danby is a relatively minor character there to begin with, and while royalty seldom (to my knowledge) posts here, military officers do, sometimes with reference to their title. And so, understandably, people have thought that I was actually part of the military – or, worse, claiming to be, which I am not and have never been.
Being a member of the military carries with it a certain cachet, an implication of expertise, a demand for respect, and the opportunity to surprise people by taking anti-war positions that may seem to be counterintuitive given such a background. I did not intentionally seek out those effects; again, I was just honoring a character I like and a book I love. But people reading me here have often afforded me that status and the positive baggage that comes with it. I can’t accept it anymore; I don't like the notion that it may be taken as a sign of disrespect to our military. As one whose political awakening came with opposition to the last stages of the Vietnam War, the irony of taking this step primarily to avoid that appearance of disrespect isn't lost on me, but I think that I've learned since then that we are the ones who respect troops as human beings, even if not always their narratives about themselves (and us.) So, I think that the benefits of being recognized as members of the military should accrue to those who have earned it. That it means giving up a "netroots brand" that I’ve worked 27 months to build is unfortunate, but so be it. I’ll start on a new one.
This is unexpectedly difficult to do, not that I have any reasonable entitlement to an ounce of sympathy from anyone given that the choice of a pseudonym is ultimately silliness. But, as I pointed out earlier this week, I have 222 diaries and around 16,000 comments here by this name. It's been part of my identity for a while, one into which I've invested a lot of my energy and heart. (And again, I say that fully aware of how crazy this all sounds.) But, as I've argued before, this little corner of this site is, so long as I stay within the rules, my own little personal blog, where I can do what I want, and I'm going to luxuriate in self pity for a moment. ... ... There, I'm done. And with that, now able to look back a few seconds older, it does seem pretty silly.
I’m not announcing my new handle yet, though I don’t think it will be all that difficult for attentive readers to figure out once I start writing again. The first reason is that while this is a goodbye from this account, it’s not irrevocable. I've begun my three weeks of travel in Southeast Asia, and if something really significant happens while I’m there – coup, eruption, quake, epidemic – that required actual reporting, I would want to use the name that had visibility rather than the one no one knew. (Until I actually start using the account, I can do that.) Obviously, I hope that doesn’t happen. I may also do some clean-up of typos in diaries, etc., before I go.
The second reason I'm changing handles is that, as most of you know, I am managing a Congressional campaign for another member of this site, and it may well be that a lower public profile would make more sense. (Some have noted it; no one has demanded it.) This I do find very hard; blogging is what I love. With Ron’s campaign now having added some serious professional guidance (very much at my prompting, and in a way that I think people here will really appreciate), I don’t know whether I will want my status within it to change. But holding open the possibility of being able to blog with more anonymity on non-campaign activities, though, has some appeal. (I will still be one of the group who occasionally posts from the campaign account when there is anything campaign-related to discuss, but other than saying howdy I won't discuss unrelated issues from there.)
As sort of a sad aside: this paragraph and the next were not part of the draft I've had of this diary for months on my hard drive. I had initially contemplated coming back with a new account right away; then, right after my vacation ends; now, I don't know when I'll return, though I assume I will at some point. Since I decided to leave, I've been more attentive to the trail I've been leaving for posterity in my comments, and trying to look at it objectively it's not the trail of someone who wants to be here, as much as I love being here in so many ways. I don't know what place there is here for someone "neither fish nor fowl," with one foot in activist blogging and one in the ugly realities of campaigns and governance, and especially someone who is highly critical of a lot of aspects of the how the netroots are developing, self-consciously, as a political force. So I think I'm going to be lurking for a while, until I can't stand it, though I will probably be participating under one name or another (after checking sockpuppetry rules) in other sites.
The conflicts that I've had here from time to time don't blot out the larger truth, in my opinion, that from leftmost to moderatest, from most serious to wackiest, from Markos to the CEs to diarists and commenters to lurkers, this is a pretty extraordinary and wonderful group of people who are trying to make their way through a dark time in our history as best they can. We will disagree about all sorts of things, but I believe that there is a deep commonality in our hearts, which I'll miss being part of for the next weeks or months or however long. Now back to what I had written, in a better spirit, months ago.
It has been loads of fun being Danby on this site; I hope that it is evident in this diary history, the posting of which on this site I thank the proprietors for tolerating. Whether I come back in January or November, I hope to have as much fun being someone else. I have not yet decided when and whether I’ll change my UIDs on the other sites where I occasionally blog – I hate to give up those low numbers! – so if you see my name elsewhere for a while don’t be surprised. And if you scan through my back catalog and find something that looks interesting, I hope that you’ll read it. We’ll no doubt have many discussions of many of those same issues again.
Happy holidays to all; best wishes for a New Year bringing us victory at home and peace in the world.