May 20, 2001

My great-grandfather, John Wilson Jasper (1867-1939) was a farmer and a lay Methodist preacher who wrote poetry.

My grandfather, William Godbey Jasper (1897-1984), spent nearly 50 years in the newspaper business, mostly serving as a reporter, managing editor, and editorial page editor for The Monroe (La.) News-Star and Morning World.

My father, Paul William Jasper (1932-1989), also was a newspaperman and spent more than 30 years working for the Pensacola (Fla.) News-Journal. The last 23 of those years he was that newspaper's editorial page editor, churning out on average five editorials a day and one personal column every week. I figure he must have written at least 23 million words in the 23 years he spent (until his dying day) in that job.

In my family, we write.

We write when we're happy. We write when we're sad. We write when we're bored. We write, on occasion, from the depths of despair, and on other occasions when our hearts are bursting with joy.

For my father and grandfather, there wasn't much question regarding where to write. They wrote for a living, and one of the perks their employers gave them was the opportunity (burden? curse?) to write about what was on their minds, and even what was in their hearts.

For me it's different. I decided in my mid-20s that life as a newspaperman was not going to work for me. Instead, I became a librarian, a career choice that has been just right for me. Working for the most part in academia, I have had plenty of opportunities to write about what's on my mind and for a while I did so, both formally and informally.

Eventually, though, it became pretty clear that I was more interested in writing about what was going on around me than writing about librarianship. Fortunately, thanks to the internet there are plenty of venues. Unfortunately, not all of them are suitable.

And some of them...

I've spent the better part of the past eight years writing about what was on my mind and in my heart in soc.motss, a Usenet newsgroup for gay, lesbian, bisexual and others. In many ways it is perfectly designed for people with a writerly bent, allowing for sustained pieces of writing and quick exchanges and a high degree of interactivity.

Still, with any endeavor you pay a price and very early on I realized that the price exacted by any Usenet newsgroup, and by soc.motss in particular, was one that I wasn't really willing to pay. I didn't then -- and I still don't -- see the need for it. I'm referring, of course, to the unceasing hostility and rancor that can and is directed at people who, for whatever reason, don't quite fit.

And, boy, did I not fit.

Recently, I realized that for all practical purposes soc.motss constitutes -- at least for me -- an abusive environment. And that by sticking around I was doing the same thing as members of my extended family who have stayed, stayed, stayed in abusive situations, when everyone around them has said, "get out, get out now!" Eight years later I have a much better appreciation of why people DO stay in abusive relationships. For whatever reason, they fill a need and it's easy enough to overlook the pain when the need is being met.


Now what?

I think, at least for now, RPJournal is what. A place for me to write about the stuff of my life. A way of sharing it with whoever might be interested and whoever might come across it, whether serendipitously or by design. If it reaches a sympathetic soul, well and good. If it generates snarls and derision, that's fine, too. I can deal with private ridicule and scorn. If nothing else, there's always the delete key.

We'll see what happens.


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