For those who don't know much about me
Here is my February 13, 2015 post at Booman Tribune (and TOP) when I decided I was no longer going to remain an anonymous poster online. Most of the information is still current, except I have decided to no longer post to the GOS, obviously, and don't consider myself a Kossack.
Yes, that's a recent photograph, taken this year, of yours truly. Today is the day I come out of the shadows of internet anonymity (what little is left of them). I am Steven D. Searls. I live in western New York. And yes, I am a real, living, breathing person, not just an faceless "name" on the internet.
I've been on this site for almost ten years now. I've always posted under the name Steven D, both here and at Daily Kos. Not a terribly original moniker, as it includes my first name and middle initial. Nonetheless, I've never revealed my full name, even as I have written over the years about my personal life on many occasions. I've never been to any Netroots conventions, however, so the only time I met any Kossacks in person was in September 2005, when my son and I marched with hundreds of thousands of other people against the war. I haven't taken advantage of my opportunities to get to know many of the people I correspond with here on a more personal basis, i.e., those who read my posts and comments. And that's a shame.
For a long time I wanted it that way. The anonymity, I mean. My wife and life-partner is Nisei, a second generation Japanese American woman, and we have two beautiful bi-racial children. And therein lies the tale of why I've waited so long to stop hiding behind this anonymous persona.
In 2000, John McCain, while campaigning for the Republican nomination, made remarks in which he used the racial slur "gooks" that bothered the hell out of me. When called on it, he refused to apologize. While he claimed the term only referred to his captors from from North Vietnam, I knew better. It's a word used to disparage all Asians in America, and I was pretty certain he knew that. So I wrote a letter The local paper published an op-ed piece I wrote that respectfully asked him to apologize for his use of that word, explaining it was demeaning and degrading to people such as my wife and children. I wrote a very polite piece, which also asked that all of the candidates for President take a pledge to refrain from using racial slurs or any other derisive terms for any group of Americans. I also went online at Yahoo bulletin boards using my real name to ask people to contact Senator McCain and make the same request for an apology.
The response I received was not what I expected. Suffice it to say I was naive and foolish. I expected a mostly positive response. What I received were many angry, threatening phone calls and letters from people questioning my right to dare to speak out about John McCain, a war hero. One individual in particular kept calling, implying he knew where I lived, and I should be careful no harm came to me or my family. Individuals to whom I revealed my identity online also threatened violence against me and my family. From that point on, I stopped using my real name on the internet.
So why the sudden change now? My children are all grown. They're adults. They can take care of themselves. My extended family knows I blog under the name Steven D, as well, so it is not as if they will be surprised or shocked to learn I post at these "far left" websites.
In addition, I have no employer who might fire me, as I am unemployed due to a chronic autoimmune disorder that first manifested itself in 1993 and eventually led me to retire from my profession as a lawyer. I'm 15 years older than that person in 2000, and I am not as afraid as I was then. And, in light of all the recent revelations regarding our privacy, I suppose I decided what's the point? If someone wants to find me they will. After all, it isn't as if I haven't left plenty of clues over the years in the diaries I've written, a number of which have included personal information.
I also thought to myself that this is a good opportunity to tell the members of this community what I've learned over the years I've been blogging at Daily Kos and BT, and why I continue to do it, despite my declining health, and all the times when I feel overwhelmed by the horrific state of our country and our world. To give all of you a chance to know me a little better.
After I was forced to retire in 1998, I spent several years dealing with finding a new purpose in life. As anyone who suddenly loses their job and career for whatever reason can tell you, it is a very demoralizing and depressing experience. Much of my identity was tied up with being an attorney. I was only 42 when that career went poof. Like many people, especially males of my generation, my self-worth was largely tied to my ability to contribute to the welfare of my family and to be a productive part of society (please, spare me the lawyer jokes - I've heard them all). Now that part of my life was gone, as well as the income that went with it. Already suffering from depression due to my illness, and socially isolated, I struggled to find meaning. My marriage was rocky at this time as well, for a number of reasons, but certainly chief among them were the loss of my job, my alienation from family and friends, and my behavior - I was angry and let my frustrations show all too easily. The side effects from high doses of prednisone I took for my symptoms only exacerbated these problems.
To say the internet saved me would be an exaggeration. Therapy, my beloved wife who was willing to forgive me my faults, and the support and love of my children, did most of that. However, online forums did offer me a lifeline, a new way to connect with people. It wasn't a perfect solution then and it isn't now, but it beats staring at a wall or TV screen all day. And the online world, for all its downsides, offers you the chance to learn a great many things, things that no one took the time to teach you in school or while working away at your career. I have always been a curious person, an incessant reader and I certainly had the time to invest at exploring whatever I found interesting, be it literature, classic movies, philosophy and, yes, politics. Like many here, Bush v. Gore, the 9/11 attacks and the Bush/Cheney administration's evil, corrupt response to that event - this endless War on Terror that we are still fighting - had a galvanizing effect on me.
On the political front, though I was not a Democrat, the perfidy and ideological agenda of the Bush administration, foreign and domestic, but especially the terrible consequences of the Iraq War, awoke in me a desire to become active in politics. I canvassed for John Kerry in Ohio, and also served as an Election Protection volunteer in Cleveland on election day in 2004, an eye-opening experience that I described in this diary. Over time, I became educated about a great number of issues, about which I felt strongly and which I felt compelled to write about here and elsewhere: Climate change, Racism, income inequality, the fight for civil rights for LGBT people (one I take very personally), women's rights (especially the important right to make decisions about their own bodies), Right Wing politically motivated violence and Hate Speech, the Rise of Fundamentalist Christianity, Wall Street's Greed, Labor issues, Torture, Human Rights abuses, our Prison Industrial Complex, Police Brutality, the rise of Corporate Oligarchy and the Loss of our Democracy, the Tea Party, The Koch Brothers, the strengths and weaknesses of the Democratic Party as a vehicle for advancing a progressive, people first agenda, and, of course, the defining political figures of the last 15 years from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, and everyone else you can think of.
It's been a long ten years for me, years of great changes in my life, personally, spiritually, intellectually and, of course, politically. And so this seemed like the next step to take, and the right time to take it.
I've tried to be a good member of this community, though I know I've had my moments when I haven't lived up to that goal. Too often, I still fail to to be respectful of others here, especially those who disagree with me or challenge me. To anyone to whom I have ever responded inappropriately, I sincerely apologize. I believe that we are all of us works in progress, none more so than myself.
Well, that's it. No more hiding. This is who I am. If you ever happen to find yourself in the vicinity of Rochester, NY, send me a message to the email address on my profile page. I'd love to meet any of you in person.
Thanks for reading,