WSS Featured Blogger: Melanie of Just a Bump in the Beltway
- Name: Melanie
- Blog: Just a Bump in the Beltway
- Tag Line: Politics and Culture from the Left Side of the Page
- Location: http://www.node707.com
1. How did you start blogging? Why do you keep at it?
I started reading the blogs a couple of years ago and admired the way they built (or defeated) community and gave voice to the powerless through the comments boxes. I'd been reading the fairly rough lefty political sites for a long time before I got the nerve to begin commenting a little over a year ago. The political blogs are very male dominated and not the friendliest place for a woman with strong views. In the process of becoming a heavy commentor at places like dKos and Atrios, I found a voice I'd never used before and discovered that I'd developed some real expertise at political and cultural commentary that was a new and surprising development for me. And that other people liked it.
Other people liked it so much that I was eventually invited to become a guest blogger at dKos, the first and still only woman ever to accept such an invitation. It was exciting, it was scary and a learned a great deal about myself as a writer, scary because Kos's audience is so huge and they have zero tolerance for mistakes. It was a wild ride and I enjoyed every minute of it, particularly the interaction with the other guest bloggers. I'd had some stylistic difficulties with Markos from the very beginning: I was consciously writing with a more personal woman's voice than had been my habit because I discovered early on that more women commentors would take the plunge and come out from lurking. Eventually, Kos decided that what I was doing stylistically just didn't fit with his "brand" anymore.
A few days after I disappeared from his site, I was contacted by a reader (with whom I'd corresponded briefly) who wondered where I had gone. When she discovered I was blogless, she offered to set up a site for me (which was beyond my technical capabilities at the time.) Within ten days or so, I was live at Just a Bump in the Beltway and a number of readers who liked my work at dKos followed.
2. What are your most important issues?
Bump is still evolving as my interests and those of the readers evolve and the constraints on my time change, but my interest in the intersection of politics, religion and culture hasn't changed much. My perspective is female and occasionally specifically feminist Gender and sexuality (and specific biases about what those words mean) are so much a part of the secular culture that they must be looked at as a prism which sometimes distorts and sometimes illuminates. I hope that I maintain a critical distance from both.
The secular left in this country doesn’t understand that it has a common cause with the religious left and I hope to bring my theological background to bear to help religious lefties find their voices. The vocabulary of the religious right has co-opted nearly all of the traditional language of theology. It is time for us to take it back.
3. What's the nicest recognition you've ever received from the media and/or the blogosphere?
Gosh, there has been so much approbation. My readers are some of the kindest, most generous people on the planet, and that is the recognition that matters to me the most. They've bouyed me through some of the darkest months of my life.
In terms of media recognition, I can't suss that out from my life in the blogosphere. Writing at Bump and The Village Gate has resulted in some magazine commissions from the dead tree media, I've been invited to join the fine stable of writers at The American Street and I received a nomination for a Koufax award last year within a couple of weeks of my first appearance at Bump. All of these things are meaningful, but it is still the readers who really make my heart sing.
4. Who is your audience? What is unique about your blog?
I mix news commentary with editorializing (and the odd rant,) theologizing on popular culture and politics and try to look for context stories that aren't getting much play on the lefty blogs, which can be as much of an echo chamber as the righty ones are. I'm looking for the stories and perspectives that "The Bigs" miss. I'm successful enough that some of my readers are daily visitors.
To the extent that I've got any kind of a handle on who my audience is (commentors and email writers being a small fraction of any blogs audience) I think that a lot of of them are rather a lot like me: older than the typical blog reader, professionals with advanced degrees. I have a lot of lawyers and academics. I also know that I'm frequently read by Washington/US correspondents for outside-DC newspapers and have regular correspondence with several of them. My readership in non-US English speaking countries is not insignificant. This pleases me enormously and it has resulted in some long and very rewarding email relationships.
5. Most frustrating aspect of blogging?
Same as everybody else: not enough time! I wish I had much more time for research.
6. What's the one point you'd like a reader to take away from your blog- the one thing for them to really "get"?
That you don't have to drill too far beneath the traditional media to see how shallow the coverage is that we get in the states, that the popular culture itself is shallow and that we as a people have very tenous roots into the facts of our own existences. The world we live in now is the most superficial of any time in my 50 years on the planet.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
"Little Gidding," Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot