Words – are they the same if you know who said them than if you do not know? Do words stand on their own? Does an idea stand on it’s own? Or is in necessary to put everything in the context of who said it?
I write as Ohg Rea Tone, a nom de plume of dubious invent. My purpose is simple – I want to write honestly, but I live in a bible-belt conservative town. There are real consequences. I have advertised this blog with everyone I care about in this town – they know me and accept me for who I am. I am less confident about others. My experience of being outspoken in this community is that it does not pay.
I argue that the words stand on their own. That ideas stand on their own. One of the fundamental concepts of scholarly writing is that the writer state their prejudices up front – a qualifier of sorts. We excuse ourselves as just being bloggers – we don’t have to do research and we can say anything we want. We let the market decide if they want to read us or not.
If we knew nothing of our Founding Fathers; if we did not know they lived under the rule of King George III of England, If we did not know they were tobacco farmers or slave owners or scientists or businessmen or farmers – would that change the way we perceive the three documents that define our country? Some think it is critical to put the documents in the context of their time. One of the most significant events in our country’s history is the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence. It has become cliche to say, “Let me put my John Hancock on this.” Those men had the courage to publicly sign the document.
How about the Bible? Is it important to know who wrote it and why? What were they thinking? The Bible was written anonymously – scholars invest lifetimes in trying to discover the authors – is that relevant to the message? I am one who argues that the context of the Bible is important, both from a historical perspective and the perspective of the authors.
If we found a copy of “A Tale of Two Cities” and did not know of Charles Dickens – would the manuscript have merit? It would, but it has more value when we understand the life of Dickens. I am one who thinks that knowing about the life of Mark Twain adds value to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
A few years ago somebody wrote a novel called “Primary Colors.” It purportedly told the story of Bill Clinton’s quest for the Presidency. It was published anonymously. In this case the ‘anonymous’ nature seemed to add value – the author let the story stand on it’s own. The book was a best seller. The mystique of anonymity added value.
We are bloggers. As I have said to you in private conversations, we must be careful with our identity – we have to protect our families. We have put ourselves out before the world. We talk about our families in this blog, but we are careful. I say things like ‘your mother’ or ‘your sister’ or ‘your daughter.’ Careful not to say names that could bring grief into their lives.
There are personal blogs. Your wife has a wonderful blog where I can go to see pages of pictures of my grandchildren. I enjoy this blog immensely. But I also know that she distributes it to family and friends. The news media is going crazy today with the tale of a wacko sex offender who video taped his encounter with a small child. Those people are out there and they scare me.
I am quick to take anonymous shots at politicians, journalists, radio hosts, theologians, other bloggers, anyone is fair game. Is it fair that I write under an assumed name?
Dad (Ohg Rea Tone)
See Also: On Writing, Blogging, Journalism