The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Year of Our Lord 2007.
And then, Steve Gilliard got sick, got worse and died.
Sunday Morning Comin’ Down
“Fuck your bony ass, you still lose” Edition
Today the Mouse Circus was a low-grade fever dream of yahoo pundits and has-beens.
With talk of Ted!Kennedy! Jimmy!Carter! the need for Bold!Proposals! For Fundamental!Change! that gets rid of Evil!Big!Gummint!, Newt Gingrich (Fox) beckons the wormy GOP base back to cozy 1979. Those halcyon days when the wingnut slash-and-burn rampage through the America they despise was just a brimstone glimmer in Jerry Falwell’s dead, black eyes and not a tangible, disgraceful, wreckage-strewn legacy from which they and their Dear Leader now flee in belligerent denial.
And everywhere else – from “Meet the Press" turning the spotlight over to odious loser Bob Shrum, cockheaded, matalinwhipped dope James Carville, shark-hearted Cheney- Chekist “Bloody Mary” Matalin and the imperceptible Mike Murphy…to the dusty, waxwork dummies on "This Week"…to Episode 2,774 of Chris Matthews’ creepy and now-overtly stalkerish “Hillary Panty Sniffing Half Hour” – dead things simulated life by lurching and swaying in the cold currents at the bottom of the media sea.
And as their flopping jaws and nutating hands urgently signified nothing, my thoughts turned to missing friends.
So that’s what this Sunday essay is about; some thoughts on Steve Gilliard, and the perversity of a media world where vitality can be the province of the deceased and little-known, while the living and famed contend for the title of Most Debased and Most Irrelevant.
I never met Gilly, but know how he put words together, and as another writer I much admire once said, if you want to know me, read what I wrote.
Gilliard wrote like being hit in the head with a solid gold Howlin’ Wolf 78. And he did it virtually every day, for years.
Think on that for a minute. What has anyone you know done brilliantly, every day, year after year? On spec?
And yet as regular as the Cubs tanking in August, you always knew, every day, Steve was on the job, putting round after round after thermobaric round into the joyless wheelhouses of the Right and those who thought they could defeat monsters by appeasing them.
Shit, if I were a squirt dumber and believed in Intelligent Design, I could very persuasively argue that the internets were invented by a Lefty God specifically so that people like Steve could speak and be heard at the speed of light.
I haven’t a clue what his ledgers looked like, but I am given to understand that Steve made at least part of his living from his pen, and did it without giving up a picodecibel of his voice or a dram of his integrity.
And that, kids, is also no mean feat.
Nor was it an accident. In a media Universe where mutually masturbating bags of polluted natter arbitrarily labeled as “Serious Pundit” can command rock god salaries and the baffling admiration of the Cheetohing Classes, Steve labored without surcease to carve out an acre of blogosphere and make it a home-place for legions, using only a keyboard, a head full of smarts and a fierce fidelity to the plain truth.
And yet in the world of the tony, smirky Lords of Media, everyone knows that selling out and dumbing down is what pays the mortgage. That sincere belief in anything is strictly for the rubes, and Authenticity pulling on the same oar as Realism is just…so…country.
At the Broder Banquet there was no place for someone like Steve, so he paced off a hundred yards, drove his stake into the hard ground, and built his own fucking picnic.
All on faith.
I have no idea if Steve believed in any sort of deity or none, but he was a man of astonishing faith.
He had faith in Democracy.
He had faith that honesty applied to civic life in steady, thoughtful and ferocious doses could slowly force this country to slough off hateful, hag-ridden legacies and become the nation in-fact that we are so terribly good at being in words.
In the end his writing tells of a man with an abiding faith in people. In you and me, contending with the darkness beneath the Proscenium arch of History that he knew so intimately.
He had faith that we would prevail because the alternative is too terrible to allow: a world that would be no kind of world at all.
And he walked that faith every day.
I mean, there is something just insanely brave about setting up shop out on the electronic interstate, baking cherry pies every day, propping them up on the digital windowsill every few hours, and believing that you are enough of a kitchen wizard and enough people are sufficiently hungry for honest fare that they’ll come around to the front door and pay you to keep ‘em coming.
He laid out words out like Chicago brick – straight and true – and how fucking ironic is it that in the long, cankered kick-line of Conservative wingnut welfare babies all ranting out their subsidized tantrums about Evil Commie Liberals the joys of unfettered Corporatism, you can’t find a one of them that show the kind of genuine and audacious All American-brand confidence in the power of real entrepreneurship and a real Meritocratic, value-for-value-received economy that stinkin’ Lefty Steve Gilliard had on public display every single day?
I believe he saw that the world as we know it has left thousand – millions -- starved for talented honesty in the service of blunt truth and lively conversation. And that we would happily pay to keep his site a going concern for exactly the kind of reasons W.P. Kinsella so eloquently described in “Shoeless Joe Jackson Goes To Iowa":
Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom.The site he built and powered became more than a regularly replenishing font of the best writing on the web. Because it was the invention of one, clear voice, it also became distinctive. And because it was interactive -- because you could talk to the author, argue, curse like a beast in real time and, six-to-five-and-pick-‘em, he’d respond -- it became a community-of-choice for a lot of people.
They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon.
They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes.
With his passing, folks want to do something. I know I do. Organize something, or knock something down. Take action. Wouldn’t be Gilliardians otherwise I suppose.
But with specific regard to Steve’s site or his legacy, there is nothing to be done right at the moment.
Nothing, except maybe raise a glass, or go read something challenging, or remember to tell the people you love how you feel, or go ahead and cry, or make a point of saying “Thank You” to those who do for you things you appreciate.
Nothing, except working where you are as best you can to oppose people that work to mislead and betray you into the abyss.
Nothing, except demanding and supporting a new journalism that is contemptuous of craven deference to power, the chasing of shiny, distracting objects, and a flatworm-reflex obescience to fake “balance”. A journalism that is instead strongly committed to honesty and insists that readers use their brains and participate in the conversation.
Nothing, except getting off your ass, picking up whatever corner of the banner you are capable of carrying, telling the Reaper to go fuck himself with a steam hammer, and going about the business of saving the world.
Because we are the cavalry. And we are unstoppable.
Namaste to one and all, rest in peace Gilly, and of course,
fuck the fucking Yankees.