Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Anonymity - A Retort

I want to start this post by saying how overjoyed I am by the entry of a new voice to the Howard County blogosphere.  I normally save my "overjoy-ment" for a certain amount of time after the blog starts (to allow for the all-too-common fall-off of new blogs), but with five posts over the last two weeks, I think HoCo Rudkus is showing early signs of staying power.

Yesterday, Rudkus posted "In Defense of Anonymity" explaining their reasons for writing anonymously, a personal pet peeve of mine.  Thankfully, Rudy did not rely entirely on the tired trope of "some of our Founding Fathers wrote anonymously!  I'm like them!" They went on to explain that they want their words to "speak for themselves" and not be colored by personal attributes of the author.

As fortune would have it, I read something last night that seems directly on point.  I've recently started a fascinating and well-written book - Lincoln and the Power of the Press.  In describing the press climate in the 1830's, the author recounted the story of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, an abolitionist printer from Missouri, and how he died.  From Wikipedia:
In May 1836, after anti-abolitionist opponents in St. Louis destroyed his printing press for the third time, Lovejoy left the city and moved across the river to Alton in the free state of Illinois. In 1837 he started the Alton Observer, also an abolitionist paper. On November 7, 1837, a pro-slavery mob attacked the warehouse where Lovejoy had his fourth printing press. Lovejoy and his supporters exchanged gunfire with the mob, which fatally shot him. He died on the spot and was soon hailed as a martyr by abolitionists across the country. After his death, his brother Owen Lovejoy entered politics and became the leader of the Illinois abolitionists.
I think Lovejoy's story needs to be heard alongside the lionized anonymous writers of lore.  One can personally abandon their words, and allow them to stand alone, or they can make their words so integral to who they are as a person that they may be willing to die in their defense.

I once wrote anonymously and I regret having done so.  It represents some of my worst writing and includes embarrassing disregard for the people I addressed.  But that's on me.  That's not inherent in the nature of writing anonymously and Rudkus has shown how considerate, measured, and intelligent one can be with a faceless voice.  On that point, I can only say this - by writing with my real name, I entered a world that has been personally and professionally enriching in more ways than I can describe.  Those experiences further informed my writing and changed me as a person.

I'm no Elijah Lovejoy and Rudkus is no Benjamin Franklin.  But I will say that if another named writer were still around, he would be awfully frustrated about not being able to take Rudkus out for a beer.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love.