Earlier in the week, I was referred to as a lazy intellectual. Well, not really me personally, but people with my political leanings. I was also called a liar, an idiot, a piece of garbage, a vilifier and a baiter.
Those ones were meant for me. Some of those flowery words were preceded by the word Jew or liberal.
I have been blogging for about 4 years now, me and my nice little corner of the world where I write mostly about our family’s journey with autism. I started blogging because I’ve always loved writing and when my daughter was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, I was thrown for a loop, confused, sad, worried but mostly petrified. Blogging was an outlet, a way for me to process what was happening, both to her and to us, a way for me to chronicle our journey for our friends and family, to make our journey real for those far away in distance but close in our hearts.
My blog hasn’t gone viral, it’s not even gotten a runny nose. It’s read mostly by my family and friends and other bloggers also on their own journeys with autism. I blog for me.
Still, a teeny-tiny piece of me longed for the attention that I see other blogs getting but mine doesn’t seem to attract. I wanted some of that attention, the occasional accolade, the hugs-sandwiched-in-by-asterisks. I think on some level, every blogger is in it for some attention. Otherwise we’d all be writing in diaries.
Earlier in the week, a fellow blogger and parent of a wonderful son on the autistic spectrum made the decision to stop blogging about autism. I felt like I was losing a favorite snuggly blanket. Her reasons for stopping? Well, complicated, but it kind of boils down to feelings of powerlessness at where things are in the autism world, the severe division and polarization among the different factions of autism and the inability to be able to exchange ideas and find common ground and the frustration involved in trying to have a dialogue and exchange those ideas.
I was saddened by her decision, but I understood it. Autism is a tough world, we have challenges with our kids, we have to fight for them, fight for services, fight for their dignity. We shouldn’t have to fight other parents too. As a parent involved in the world of autism, I recognize these very things, but because I had a small, little blog and didn’t reach that wide of an audience, I have remained largely personally unaffected by the divisions and nastiness in the world of autism.
The wider you cast your net, the more fish you catch, but you also catch a lot of fish you don’t want to eat, plus rusty license plates and everything’s dripping with algae and seaweed.
That’s kind of how I feel after starting a blog at the Times of Israel.
A friend talked me into starting a blog and convinced me that I had something to say, something of value to offer as an American Jew living in Europe. I had been wanting more attention for my writing so I decided to do it. I finally wrote a blog post that was widely read, it put me on TOI’s most popular blogger list.
It is true that you should be careful what you wish for. I got a lot of interesting comments and honestly, most of them were respectful, even those that strayed from the topic, they may have been heated and one-sided, but the majority refrained from name calling, nasty language and being the kind of comments whose sole purpose is to push buttons and create and sustain arguments.
I did get a few those too and one or two which to me went beyond the realm of decency, particularly those who found it necessary to message me hate mail to my Facebook account.
The good news is that I learned how to block someone on Facebook.
For a few minutes I considered stopping my relationship with TOI, retreating back to my nice, little cocoonish blog. Like my friend, the autism blogger, I felt beaten up, felt like blogging to a wider audience isn’t worth all the crap you have to put up with.
I am not going to stop blogging on this forum, however, I may do a few things differently in the future. For one, I will think much more carefully before engaging and communicating directly with people commenting on pieces that I write. As a frequent commenter on other blogs I have always appreciated it when the author takes time to respond to my comments, so I try to do the same, even to the negative ones. My last post has shown me how very much of a waste of time it is to respond to those who so obviously have an ax to grind and who are just in it for the confrontation.
Please let me be clear in saying I am not referring to those who do not agree with my views. I do not claim a monopoly on the truth. I am not a journalist or a professional writer. I am not the world’s foremost authority on anything. I am a woman, a wife, a mother, whose lived a life, racked up experiences, knows how to read and think and knows how to move beyond the sound bytes to form independent thought. What you are getting are my opinions and perspectives on various topics which may strike a chord with you or which may turn your stomach.
If my unwillingness to engage with those who only so clearly are interested in shaming different beliefs, choices and opinions makes me lazy, so be it. My particular brand of laziness clearly means that I care more about listening and learning from people than about winning an argument, I care more about those people who are in my life in the flesh, than about the multitudes that make up whatever so-called community I am in, be it the Jewish community, autism community or any other. You don’t like that? You are perfectly within your rights and to say whatever you want about it.
If people think it makes me a bad Jew because I didn’t get up and slay dragons at a dinner party, fine. So be it. What kind of community are we if we cannot tolerate a little difference anyhow? Judaism didn’t survive thousands of years by everyone being carbon copies of one another. This insufferable need to be right at all costs is a sign of a lot of things, not many in my point of view fall into the realm of something worthwhile.
But hey, that’s just my opinion. Think differently? Start your own blog.
By blogging I am putting myself out into the world, leaving myself open for scrutiny, taking a risk. I realize that risk means that people may not like what I have to say and they may be vocal and critical about it. I get it, it’s part of the package and the attention. That’s fine. I will just conduct myself differently from now on.
So, yes, I may be a lazy intellectual, liberal, Jew (fill in preferred noun here), but I am wearing it as a badge of honor.