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And it's me and my machine for the rest of the morning/ And the rest of the evening/ And the rest of my life...
- 'Millworker,' from the Studs Terkel musicial 'Working'
Every once in a while, someone will introduce me as a well-known blogger. I'm shocked if people even know who I am (or know what blogging is, for that matter), because really, I just sit in my living room and write stuff late at night, or early in the morning when normal people are still asleep. Come to think of it, I'm pretty much hunched over a computer for an average of 18 hours a day.
And I wonder why people think this is glamorous. Dear God, why?
I'm sitting here with one of those "As Seen On TV" compression socks on my right arm, because the nerves are so shot. (I cut holes in the end for my fingers.) I don't think it's so much the typing, because I did that for more than 15 years as a full-time journalist and the damage wasn't this bad. It's the damned cutting and pasting that does it, I think. Sometimes the pain is so bad, it makes me cry. (It's what makes me so succinct.)
I have an ergonomic mouse, an ergonomic chair. Thank God I have an articulating keyboard tray that one of my readers paid for because when the pain got really bad, I had to take a week off.
I'm plugged in most of the time. If I'm not home, I'm checking my smartphone. I have the TV on in the background with the sound turned off, because you never know what you might miss. It's like any assembly line job - you have to feed the content machine.
When I'm not writing, I'm reading. Looking for story leads on Twitter, on blogs, on news sites. I always prided myself on how much I read, but now my idea of heaven would be six months without reading any news. I suspect (although I can't be sure) that most of my C&L colleagues feel the same way, at least some of the time.
Because while the readers get to skip over anything that's just too upsetting, we don't. It's our job. We immerse ourselves in the muck, and we swim through it pretty much 24/7, 365 days. While you have the option of walking away when it gets to be too much, we don't. And we're still here when you decide to come back.
It's depressing as hell, diving into the dark side all the time.
And while you might say, "Hey, then go get a regular job," it's not that easy. Because you know what HR people do now? They Google your name. So bloggers' reward for the many years we've spent blogging, the years we've sifted through the news and the politics chaff for you, is to frequently get screened out as a potential employee. So here we are, delivering up a heapin' fresh platter of news and opinion because hey, it's what we do.
As someone once said to me, "Aren't you getting a little too old to beg for a living?" Every time I hold a fund drive on my blog, there is always at least one person who says, "I don't believe in fund drives. Why should I have to pay for your hobby?"
"Hobby." See, I think it's more of a calling, one that many progressives do little to support. We're trying to make a difference here. Your support would make a difference.
There is no progressive equivalent to the wingnuts' welfare system. George Soros won't send bloggers money, no one wants to hire the old guard bloggers for think tanks or high-falutin' magazines. The funny thing is, as bloggers continue to do this soul-searing, butt- and cardiac busting work, we are still relentlessly criticized for our many shortcomings by our own readers (many of whom are notoriously absent during our fund drives).
No matter what else you can say about conservatives, they do take care of their own. Progressives expect us to do it as a public service, but we still have to pay rent - and medical expenses. Look at some of the bloggers we've lost on our side - people like Steve Gilliard (The News Blog), Jim Capozzola (Rittenhouse Review), Melanie Mattson (Just A Bump In The Beltway) and Jon Swift, who just didn't have the money to pay their medical bills and died as a result.
Our smart, informed, hardworking liberal bloggers aren't the ones who get those nice CNN jobs. It's wingnut morons like Erick Erickson.
Why do so many readers think nothing of riding for free on the backs of our hard work and yes, sacrifice? I'm not talking about the people who are out of work themselves, or otherwise hurting. Hell, no. I mean the people with jobs and some level of security who turn to blogs like this several times a day for the news they need to know, but never even think to contribute. Why?
I think of that old line from sportswriter Red Smith, when asked if it was hard to write a daily column. "Why, no," he said. "You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed."
Support your local blogs. It's going to be a long election season.