Blog on the Blogs: Goodbye … again!
A memoir of my eighteen months posting on the Milford Patch
This morning, in the midst of my latest, rather heated, tussle on the Milford Patch, I had a rare moment of clarity. It isn’t at all rare for me to stop at any time of the day to ask myself, “What am I doing here?” and by no means does “here” usually mean the Milford Patch. What was unusual about confronting myself this morning, when I was, as I say, in the midst of another verbal battle, was that I asked myself the question in the third person. That’s what brought me up short, and has led me, a few hours later, to attempt this little valedictory confessional, if confessional is the correct term for a self-examining farewell.
So, as I was saying, I caught myself in the very act of posting another well-phrased (grant me that, at least) vitriolic comment on the Patch, and I suddenly realized that I had become two people! The David Nolta who is writing this now is, I think and hope, the real David Nolta—well-raised, sociable, polite, optimistic, and kind. The other me, whom I was shocked to admit was also me, was an angry, suspicious, mocking, liberty-taking, no more defensive than offensive character out of a horror film. Yes, ladies and gentleman, and everybody else, the other me, who had somehow grown out of me in the past eighteen months, and had now established a seemingly-separate, self-sustaining existence, was a monster of invective, a kind of Beast of the Blog, a Frankenstein of the factoid, your worst nightmare in 198 characters or less! I (or in any case this other me) was my OWN worst fear: I had become my own nemesis, a—and I hope they can forgive me just this once, in referring to them in an almost admiring way, and in a good cause—another Rizoli!
I started posting on the Milford Patch in the summer of 2011, at a particularly bad moment in Milford’s recent history. I am referring specifically to the terrible tragedy in which a young man was effectually murdered by a drunken, illegal immigrant two doors down from my house. My first comments on the Patch, then, were in answer to some of the very impassioned cries for justice (by all means), vengeance (worrying), prejudice (unacceptable), and cruelty (really unacceptable) that were rife at that moment. A very divisive time, and I prided myself on my own relative meticulousness and calm. It wasn’t long before I realized—at first I was shocked, then angered—by the use that some veteran commenters made of the Patch to make personal attacks against other posters with whom they did not agree. And already, back then, there was a tendency among certain of the angriest of these posters to employ that distinctly non-kosher phrase, “We know where you live…”
What a strange, exciting, and even rather risky place this Patch turned out to be!
In the eighteen months since I entered the fray, I have had an amazing variety of experiences with the Patch, and have had numerous conversations with a lot of fascinating people. I have also had my share of problems, and caused a few of them, too, I know—otherwise I would not be confessing to you now. More interesting than any individual experience or debate, I have been inspired by the numbers of people who take the time to comment, and the eloquence of so many of them, and the depth of feeling that nearly all of them bring to the table—even my antagonists. So, for example, I have tangled profitably with the indefatigable Republican blogger from Westborough, and have learned a lot from people who have served in the military—one man, in particular—who helped me to see things from a perspective I can never share, based on experiences I have not had. I hope I have also learned a bit about respect.
But that other me, then, where did he come from?
Well, along with the good, adult battles about ideas; the occasional, healthy jabs in the ribs; the quick, bracing tonics of truths—and a few graceful concessions—I hadn’t anticipated, I have also become inured to personal attacks, and have, to my own shame, come to engage in them. I am not excusing that behavior. I was tempted to, this morning. I found myself telling the ever-patient Mary MacDonald that I only called so-and-so a name because he called me one first. (How my mother laughed—and rightly so!—when I told her that!) But I don’t want to give others the credit for creating the monster in me. In just the past few months of my unpaid involvement with the Patch, I have been called “gay”, “subhuman”, “a moron” “with a perverted agenda”, “vile” “disgusting”, etc. I have been threatened physically, and not very subtly, twice—more than any other poster that I am aware of; there ought to be a prize for that. Though I have never threatened anyone in my life, I have in my turn called people liars and cowards and suggested that they might be too close to trees... And it was, funnily enough, not a threat made to me, but the tree comment made by me, that, upon consideration, made me recognize the monster I was becoming, the other, Patch-addicted, me.
So what can I do?
I think I had best put that Patch monster to bed, once and for all. I am writing this in the sincere hope that I may be of help to one or two other posters, who may understand, and even empathize, with my plight. If that is the case, trust me, you are stronger than the other you.
And so, for now, so long Patch posters. I shall miss you, Linda and Paul and Myd and UglyHat and David and Dave and Brenda and Ron and Ed and Ben and Dennis and so many others from whom I’ve gained so much. Good bye, but remember what Sarah Bernhardt taught us: no good bye is forever.
And of course, you know where I live.