Thursday, July 21, 2022

Now We Are Twenty

It happened on the 21st of June, just one month ago, and went without notice in the interwebs. This surprises no one, including me.

Twenty years and one month ago, on the 21st of June, I made my first entry on this weblog known as "man with black hat" -- that would be the one you're reading now.

It was a time when "The Scandals" were coming to light, and a group of aging adolescent boomers who assumed that the world revolved around them, started a group called "The Voice of the Faithful." At their first national convention, their keynote speaker was the former head of an organization that had endorsed (as a matter of record) "consensual" sexual relations between adults and children. No one thought too far ahead on this. Or perhaps they did, and had other ideas.

EIther way, it was not a bright move, and their spokespeople admitted it, sort of. But some of us didn't let them off the hook, which led to a "schism" of sorts within the organization. And now, twenty years later, no one takes them too seriously, because no one thinks they've accomplished anything. And no one would be wrong.

But what was accomplished was the start of a conversation; about the Faith, about the world, about the Faith in the world, about other things in the world. The late Canadian writer Kathy Shaidle -- arguably noted as the original "Catholic blogger" -- encouraged me to write for myself in a medium such as this, and so I did.

I wrote about the Faith. I wrote about the world. I wrote about my world, which back then was comprised mostly of the cajun/zydeco music scene in Washington, in Baltimore, in places around and in between. I wrote of my struggle with chronic depression, the isolation of living alone, in a city about which President Truman once said that "if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

In time, things got better. They have to when there's nowhere else to go. My son finished high school. I finished child support. His mother finished bothering me. I bought a townhouse. I met my beloved Celia.

And I wrote about the things I knew. I had guitar lessons on videos. I had political commentary, the voice of one working two blocks west of the White House. I wrote of trips to my home city of Cincinnati, and to the little town of Milford on its outskirts where I grew up. I spoke of the long farewells to my father, and a few years later, my mother. I wrote of my travels here and there. I wrote my most cicrulated article ever on "The Latin Mass: Why You Can't Have It" simply by skipping the long-winded gripes of better-known cranks of the internet, and pointing out the obvious. I also wrote an essary which gave credence to the prospect of a female diaconate in the Church, while remaining completely free of moral or doctrinal error.

Then in the past decade, things changed. Maybe I was running out of things to say, or maybe I got the feeling that fewer people were listening. Facebook and Twitter became the messaging of choice to the riff-raff who chose to give up blogging (and in many cases, doing the rest of us a favor).

Life can get in the way, even of something to say.

But others had something to say. In the early years of the Catholic blogosphere, you had to be one of four things to be famous at it: 1) already known as a writer, 2) a priest, 3) a kick-ass conversion story such as being a high priest of the Church of Satan for umpteen years before seeing the light, and/or 4) the originator of a clever gimmick. (Remember "The Cafeteria Is Closed"?)

But then along came a game-changer. In 2007, two brothers named Archbold, who didn't fit in any of the above categories, started the "Creative Minority Report" which totally took off; not because it was clever, but because they didn't have to possess to usual celebrity prerequisites to be good at it, never mind gain a wide readership, which it soon did. Then came the consequences of celebrity, as two gifted writers were removed from their roles as Contributing Editors of the National Catholic Register for the high crime of Not Being Respectable Enough. (Oh the humanity!)

And so, as I have more or less assumed a lower profile in the last decade, we have seen yet another rise of "celebrity Catholics." The Great Catholic D**k-Measuring Contest continues, as a former Episcopal priest and Eagle Scout squares off against a former purveyor of "the gay lifestyle" bent on becoming the next Mother Angelica. Both are shooting across each other's bows. Both have their respective followings. Both are dedicated to the Truth. Both insist the other is ... not so much.

And so there it is. At a time when my professional life is (ostensibly) coming to a close, and my (alleged) retirement is imminent, I may yet take to having more to say, and therefore may yet take to writing more. There is always room for another voice to be heard, especially after one gets tired of the internecine rivalries among the others, don't you think?

Or don't you?