Sunday, September 18, 2016

Where Have I Been?

One of the places I've been--though not in the last month...

It's been awhile. Thirty days, to be exact.

Thirty days ago, I wrote a piece about Hillary Clinton, and why I think her wonkishness is exactly what we need in he Oval Office. Soon after I wrote it, Amy, two of our kids, and I spent a day flying to New Hampshire, where we met up with most of the rest of the Anderson family, and laid our father's ashes to rest in our mother's family plot.

Claremont, New Hampshire, was not my father's home town--but then, nowhere else was, either. My father's childhood was divided up among three locations: Shanghai, China; McMinnville, Oregon; and Redlands, California. As an adult, he lived in many other places, finally retiring to McMinnville, where he spent the final quarter century of his life. But the community never really embraced him. Like my grandfather, who also led an itinerant life, Dad asked that he be buried with his wife's family. We honored his request last month with a brief, simple ceremony at the gravesite, followed by a few words spoken at the top of Mt. Ascutney, Vermont, a place my parents loved during the five years they lived in New Hampshire.

It was an emotional time, and feelings ran high. Things that had been bottled up came out. I learned that I had wounded people with things I'd posted to this blog. I took down one of those things, tried to put another in context, and rethought the whole concept of blogging.

I've been writing in this space for three and a half years now. In the beginning, my goal was to write about the passages I was experiencing professionally, personally, relationally, spiritually, politically, as I made the transition from middle age to senior citizenship. Along the way, I found myself dipping deep into my opinionated passions, writing furiously about guns, religion, music, theology, and my favorite topic, politics. It was great fun being a critic, a pundit, a theologian. It was not as much fun, but powerfully fulfilling, to be an online memoirist.

The blessing and curse of blogging is its unfiltered nature. Write for a newspaper, a magazine, or a book publisher, and everything passes through editorial hands before it lands in front of a reader. Blogging is a whole other experience: I can write anything I want and publish it instantly. No deadline, no editor, everything is exactly as it emerged from my prolific cerebrum. All my ideas are right there, in front of me and you, uncensored, uncut.

Which is how people get hurt.

Hence the month-long hiatus. I've been rethinking this pastime, regretting the embarrassment it may have caused in the shock of recognition, the pain of a criticism that landed too close to home, the unpleasant surprise of being written about without one's prior knowledge or consent. And I've reached a conclusion, one I came to as a too-self-revelatory preacher in the mid-1990s, then forgot as I lost touch with the pulpit: some things ought not be shared in a public forum.

I will no longer, then, post anything that a member of my family might find embarrassing. No, you needn't worry about me censoring my political and theological views: they will continue to be as irascibly curmudgeonly as ever. It's unlikely I'll ever run out of revulsion for the perversities of conservatism, whether in the ecclesial or secular realm. I will not, however, use a family member as an illustration, or level a specific critique at a congregation to which a family member belongs.

To anyone who's reading this who has been previously hurt or embarrassed by what I posted in this public space: please consider accepting my sincere apology. I should've known better. I did know better. Passion is no excuse for harming the ones I love.