Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Love On A Two-Way Street

We Don't Say It Often Enough...But Thank You.

In the ten months (!) since we've hung this cyber-shingle out, so many words, thoughts and ideas have passed from our fingers (our, being us the principal writers) and out into the electron-sparked internet ether that it's hard to keep track.

The pieces have ranged in topic from care for our elders, to electoral primary coverage, the destruction caused by and explanations of particulars of this horrible war, to analyses of school shootings, food, political history. movie and theater reviews, ruminations on American archetypes, tech, relationship issues, mental health, physical health, music, fashion and consumerism.

And maybe fifty other subjects as well.

With that hodgepodge of things, there is one constant.

That constant is YOU, the readers, and specifically the commenters.

What gets put up here for perusal is in many ways an unfinished product. It's a skeleton on which the comments you share hangs muscle, sinew and flesh. You animate the work.

There are countless instances where the comment threads so enhance the original works themselves that in the end, the idea of separating the two would be damn near blasphemous.

Like Reneé's “Dorothy Boyd” to Tom's “Jerry Maguire”, complete us.

It's not just about yelling “Frist!” or all the funny and slick blog-isms we chuckle at every day. It's about the give and take—the feedback—and the learning that feedback inspires.

Not long ago, I wrote a post about the generational issues underlying this year's presidential campaign. The piece itself was decent enough, but what happened in comments was where the real action was. Within the thread there ensued a spirited and detail-rich discussion of a secondary element about clear and lucid behavior at the government's executive level—going back to Reagan, and then further, back to Nixon and the back-channel goings on in Washington during that time when the possibility of things going totally off the rails wasn't all doom and gloom-speak, but a possible reality with real potential of coming to pass. There was a helluva discussion on geopolitics in that thread that I just sat back and saw play out. I literally said to myself, “Wow!” and that discussion led me to do some reading up on the subject—which only made me that much more knowledgeable on the topic.

In my attempt to inform, I found myself informed. By you.

That wasn't the only instance of that occuring. You folks do that every day, for every one of us who contribute. In the thread based on the relative mundaneness of my agony of tooth pain, aside from all the wonderful wishes of good health, there emerged a little sub-narrative that struck me as being what this place is all about.

I turned the post towards a brief discussion about the need for decent health care for all, and you guys picked up the ball and ran with it alá Barry Sanders on a speedy turf. The gold-plating of access to emergency dental care in America—a life and death issue for more than a few people is one of those issues you don't think about. Until it's you suffering through a Friday night, agonizing through a Saturday, counting every painful hour of a Sunday, and if you're lucky like me, finally getting to see someone on a Monday morning. If you're un-lucky, you inflame and fever up until something much worse than a sore mouth lays you flat on your back in a hospital bed. And beyond that, there is the issue of there being pretty much no such a thing as ER dental care—even if you really require it. A longtime reader, but infrequent commenter “Fuzzy” chimes in with this tale:

“It still blows my mind that you can't really get anything done with your teeth in the E.R. or the minor emergency room. I was with the misses after she had a bike accident and lost a quarter of a tooth when we went to the minor followed by e.r. to find they had a dentist's chair, tools, everything there but a dentist. We were told to find a dentist somewhere and schedule an appt. She was given pain killers and antibiotics to last the weekend. When I asked why they didn't have a dentist since there are cases where a problem with your teeth could be lethal or life threatening, the doctor on duty frowned and said they would be doing crowns and cavity fills for every poor person in the city and probably bankrupt the hospital. His statement there shocked me and I to this day can't understand why dentistry isn't considered as important as any other medical procedure. We as a country need national health care of some sort, and dentistry needs to be included and in hospitals. It really is ridiculous.”

It IS ridiculous, and is a subject you just never really hear discussed. But Fuzzy's anecdote just makes you think that much more about how one horribly neglected aspect of health care can impact you, and from there highlights how health care in general in this country so desperately needs to be fixed—for all. It's a simple story. One rarely articulated and rarer yet as clearly. It made me stop and think about the ludicrousness and flat-out danger of a situation like that existing in a country we like to call forward-thinking. That simple thing typed into a haloscan box ('s a kludge sometimes, but hey) adds so much to the discussion I began on access to health care that it's kind of stunning. Fuzzy's a longtime reader—a “lurker” he says. But that one missive of his has spurred me on to think about this situation with an increased intensity and you can bet—will move me to post more on health care issues and how they affect us as a whole. And how we can affect said health care as involved citizens. One comment. Driving the point home. Completing the circle. Sparking the mind to move foreward in figuring out solutions to these problems—big and small. You have no idea how good it makes us feel when that happens.

So I don't think I'm engaging in hyperbole when I say that you guys and gals (outside of our little troll-y hit-and-run friends) are among the most literate, most knowledgeable, and well-rounded co-contributors I read on these here internets every day. I think we learn and get as much from you as you get from us.

And for that, I—no...we cannot thank you enough.

For your knowledge, your humor, your willingness to push the discussion along, and yes, your odd ability to inspire us to do certain things based on the creativity of your responses —again, we thank you.

Now, I know life hasn't all been a crystal stair. There are scraps. Boundaries are nudged and crossed. Feelings get bruised. Words are said sometimes in haste, which engenders some waste. Sensitivities are not always considered as much they should and maybe, yeah—we piss each other off. In the end though, we dialogue. And just as life is an every day learning process, it's that for us in putting this thing out here and it's the same for you in your reacting to it. We're actually working on this thing together and maturing as we go. Post. Read. Comment. Reply. We think. You think. Thousands of people's brain cells a' firing. That's a helluva thing. We thank you for indulging us in your reading and truly appreciate what you give back in your sharing via comments.

It's something you don't hear often enough in these venues. But I mean it. We mean it when we say it. You're valued. Simple as that.

Through whatever disagreements there are—whether between poster and commenter, or commenter and commenter, the fact that you as commenters for the large part choose to come here respectfully (even when in disagreement) time and again and share—and in turn enhance what we try to do here is a wonderful thing. Back in the day, Steve himself would from time to time publicly let folks know that their readership was appreciated, and I still have several e-mails he sent me that personally thanked me for what little input I contributed to the comments.

Those still kind of get to me. Especially since whatever I do here these days is directly attributable to where I got my start (like the stratospherically talented Driftglass)—talking with folks on these here intertubes—as a commenter. I remember how nice it was when someone would even notice a comment I'd make, and maybe pick up from it and continue the conversation in-thread. And what was most rewarding of all was when a little blast within a thread would spur or be attached to a greater conversation “above the fold”. You'd be amazed at just how much you folks do that for me...and we.

So thank you again, for your readership, and beyond that—your feedback in comments. It means a lot, and makes what we do here more worthwhile, and in the long run, that much better.

You guys are...the best.