Sunday, June 03, 2007

Steve Gilliard

Steve Gilliard has passed away after a months-long illness.
This is an incalculable shame. I can't add much to the outpouring of grief and tribute that has met the news, but I would be an ingrate if I didn't try.
I found Steve's blog via James Walcott of all things. It was around 2004, I think. I was immediately drawn in by his utter non-weaselly-ness. Steve never couched his opinions in the language of "it seems" or "there might" or "I think." What Steve thought is what was as far as he was concerned. I was instantaneously hooked, and before long (like within a day or two), the News Blog was the first site I went to each morning after checking my email. And throughout the day it was "check the email, then check the News Blog," without fail. And I check my email about 82,000 times each day, so I was really on top of Steve's action.
I started the Bush years as a pretty middle of the road "give-him-a-chance" sort of fella. I like to think of myself as a pretty reasonable guy, and by the time I found Steve's blog, I was still quite a bit more willing to listen to the bullshit coming from the right-o-sphere than a lot of liberals. As time and events passed, though, Steve's passionate, articulate stand against everything that Bush and his coterie represented never waned. He simply acquired more targets to fire his erudite criticisms at. And he was erudite. My god. Steve Gilliard was able to stomp a dumbass argument or idea down using analogies to history that simply blew my mind. His knowledge of military history was his great asset. More importantly, I have to say I don't recall anyone seriously questioning the conclusions he drew when he was on his military history jags. On a blog, that's profoundly weird. I don't think it's because he lacked for haters. There were trolls aplently over at the News Blog. But he was authoritative, and that's hard to argue with-even for a troll. Before long, I found that experience and common damned sense forced me to catch up with Steve in a lot of ways. When I started reading, he was a very articulate expositor of a position that I often didn't share, but could see the logic of. After Katrina, thousands more dead in Iraq, Plame-gate, ad-bloody-nauseum, I found myself naturally reading Steve's posts as a reflection of what I was thinking. Just phrased better.
He hadn't moved. I had. Not because he convinced me, either. I moved because he was right and smart and it just took me longer to get where he'd been sitting for years. Though his commentary certainly didn't slow the process.
One thing I got from Steve Gilliard, which I don't get from some other bloggers I read regularly, was the fact that he was a real guy with a real life, and not just some news consumption machine. His food posts, (with recipes included, thank you very much) were as sharp and as useful as what he wrote on politics. My experience as a newly minted soccer fan was immeasurably enhanced by his posts during the world cup. I had something meaningful to say about sports for the first time in my life, and that was all Steve.
I moved to Brooklyn in 2005, and I was able to slip into being a resident of New York City far more easily than I ever would have been able to manage without his help (I suspect that's a legacy he'd be at least a little proud of). Notice I didn't say "New Yorker." I'm not, and I won't be for some time, but when I am (in several decades, probably), I'll have Steve to thank for laying the groundwork.
Steve's blog was the first and only one I posted comments to with any regularity (under the moniker "Mr. Stoopid"). When I thought my posts were awesome, I was quickly reminded of how not-so they were when I read the brilliant (seriously, not kidding, BRILLIANT) musings of Lower Manhattanite or Driftglass, among the many other very sharp commenters over there. The News Blog was a community un-self-conscious about itself as a community and it drew some very talented people into its orbit. This was shown most clearly when Steve went into the hospital and Jen and Jim from LA were able to keep the joint cracking with guest posts from the locals. I came to know many of the commenters' situations (Hubris Sonic is a vet, Jesse Wendell is a doctor, etc...), and so did Steve. Before long, it became apparent that Steve wrote the way he did because he respected his readers, and he respected his readers because he knew them.
I've been reading the many tributes to Steve all over the blogosphere today (by Pachacutec, Jane Hamsher, Digby, and tons more, and have only now found out what a gentle, loving guy he was. But I should have known. It was there between the tough-as-nails lines.
Bottom line: I'll miss the hell out of Steve Gilliard. I didn't know him, but I knew the value he added to my life and to my mind.
Thanks Steve.