A reader writes:
I’m know you’re getting a thousand-and-a-half of these emails today, but some bizarre, sentimental impulse compels me to write my own goodbye. It’s hard to see you go, and it certainly came as a shock: standing at the urinal yesterday between classes, bored out of my head and reading the Daily Dish for a precious few seconds, I read the news, stumbled in surprise, and (truly) pissed myself. If only soapy water and paper towels could mend my broken heart!
Really, though, I’ve felt a bit bereft since. Your blog has come to seem like a friend. It’s weird to think about it in those terms, and probably a bit cultish, but it feels true.
I’ve read your blog for 12 years. I’m not sure if I’ve ever before felt such closeness with a complete and total stranger, which perhaps explains why your decision to quit is something then that almost feels like an important change happening in my personal life.
But honestly, I can’t believe you’ve done it this long. I’m exhausted just trying to keep up.
And don’t let anyone tell you that you owe anything to “us.” You don’t. You’ve already given so much to strangers, in this most public airing of all the constitutes the life of your mind, with all of its beauty, sadness, love, hope, loss, brilliance, and yes, even maddening myopia. That is something truly, inexpressibly human, and therefore worthy of all my respect and thanks.
Was yesterday’s VFYW a South Park reference?
I am really going to miss the Dish.
I hate to add my snowflake to the avalanche that you’re surely receiving from readers, but I just can’t help myself. Over the past five-ish years, the Dish has become my go-to source for just about everything. Not just “news,” but cultural relevance. It’s been invaluable as such. It’s helped me to be a more knowledgable, thoughtful, and well-rounded person, and I’m insanely grateful.
From my heart, I understand – even applaud – the decision that’s been made, and I will miss you. It didn’t fully hit me until yesterday evening when no posts came to fill the strange vacuum following your fateful 1pm missive. Refreshing did nothing! Nothing? Nothing.
I have literally no idea how I am to get my news now. I went through the whole internet trying to add things to my Feedly, and I find myself skipping everything and forlornly looking back at my empty Daily Dish …
No words. None. I’ve been struggling with this since I read your post yesterday. Then re-read it. Then read it again, just to try and absorb it.
I’ve been reading you since the early days of the Iraq War, and through all the madness since. You helped me clarify my own thinking on so many things in so many ways. Even when I didn’t agree, the Dish was thoughtful and welcome.
I will miss you all so much. I will miss Dishness. You were the best thing about my mornings, no matter how crappy the world was.
I think it was sometime in 2005 when I first heard your voice on a podcast of “Real Time with Bill Maher”, and I must admit that you mystified me a bit. So much about you felt very contradictory, I thought, who IS this guy?? But the more I’ve listened, and the more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned about the “liberalism” I apparently stand for, how to look at it more critically and fully, and how to more effectively parse the gray area that exists amid the extremes. That’s really hard to do these days. Thank you for teaching me how to think for myself.
If anything has kept me reading you, while I’ve long left behind the others (I used to read Mark Steyn compulsively), it’s your unpredictability, your breadth of curiosity, and your willingness to change your mind. First, of course, you were the gay conservative Catholic, a combination that sounds incoherent until you see it embodied in a real, thinking human being, as you were in your blog. Of course I didn’t agree with everything you said (though I ended up agreeing with an awful lot of it), but the honesty and passion (sometimes obsession) with which you would continue to make your case many times won my over, if only slowly.
Sometime in 2006, I think, it seemed that I was reading five posts a day about the federal marriage amendment, and up to that point gay marriage was not an issue of interest for me, and if anything I leaned to mild opposition. But I kept reading, because I now had this connection to you and the blog, and your arguments, your reasoned arguments persuaded me (it would be the same story on the recognition of the disaster of the invasion of Iraq, or of the growing power of the maximalist settler movement in Israel, and others).
That brings me to the last, and for me most important, quality of your writing and thinking: your commitment to free debate, free speech, and free thought, in the fullest sense. It’s this liberal attitude that I fell in love with in college while studying philosophy, and which I respect so much in you. I now teach university in the US, and am dismayed at the trends I see and feel. It’s not so much that I have to be careful about what ideas I bring up, how my words might be misconstrued, or that a passing joke might be felt to cause offense to someone. It’s more what I see in my students, who have already learned these lessons so well that many of them seem unwilling to debate any remotely controversial idea in the classroom. When so few people seem to be willing to live out freedom of speech when it counts, you are a guiding example of its value.
Who the else is going to curate the Internet for me, keeping me abreast of current events while also keeping a keen eye out for psychedelics, Marilynne Robinson, animal cruelty and corporate media whoredom? Seriously. This is fucking impossible.
What a strange relationship. I’ve read a number of authors deeply. But the nature of the Dish is so personal, it feels like something different. In an amazing way, I have trusted you, and I’ve trusted you in a way that I have never trusted someone who is not actually a personal friend. I have allowed you to change me. I don’t think the same way I used to, I don’t occupy the same philosophical ground that I did pre-Dish.
I think the reason I allowed you to change me is that you yourself changed. You were publicly vulnerable in a way that few people are. The courage it took to do that has helped me over the years to muster the courage to truly examine my own beliefs, thoughts and opinions.
So long, and thanks for all the Dish.
I cannot actually remember the first time I read the blog, but it was awhile ago. I do remember telling my mother that she needed to read it … and read it she did. She and I would talk daily about the things you discussed – it was a connection we shared for many years. When something would happen in the world, we would often remark “I wonder what Andrew will have to say about this” or she would often tell me “Can you believe Andrew said that!!??” She was a big fan of yours, as am I.
When she died suddenly at the age of 71 a little over a year ago, I was devastated. But I kept reading The Dish, kept wondering what my mom would make of your take on the world she left too soon. Even now, I often remark aloud “Mom, I wish you were here to read this” or “Mom, Andrew’s lost his mind again.” It kept that connection, and I will forever be grateful.
I have little doubt that many of the emails you’ve received over the past 24 hours, like so many of the Andrew Sullivan encomia sprouting up in the political blogosphere, contain some version of the phrase, “despite your weird obsession with Trig Palin …” I’d like to take this opportunity to assure you that many of us consider your relentless focus on Palin and her nonsensical story of Trig’s birth as one of your finest hours as a blogger. It’s now glibly considered illegitimate and conspiratorial to look back on this episode for even a single moment, but you were correct to point out that Palin’s own version of this sequence of events is impossible to believe.
Now, I think it’s much more likely that Palin simply lied in her book and her public statements to dramatize the story of Trig’s delivery than that the pregnancy was some kind of hoax, but such brazen, public lying from a VP candidate is an entirely legitimate story. The mainstream press and most political blogs were and still are too cowardly to acknowledge this. You weren’t.
The only accurate way to state this is the simplest: You were the best practitioner of this “new thing” that has come along so far. And second place wasn’t particularly close.
You had an instinct for what political/cultural blogging could be; you were unrelentingly respectful of the diversity of thought and opinion that gravitated to you; you were unfailingly honest in admitting your mistakes in judgment (more so than virtually anyone in the business, Andrew); and you never stooped to insulting the intelligence of either your follower/subscribers or your adversaries. You never took the low road – even when you occasionally flipped out over something, and even when you were compelled by circumstances to comment on a certain former half-term governor (which took some doing).
The quality of the content – every single freaking day – was always first rate, whether I disagreed with you, or came out of my chair pumping my fist in the air. The best, most intellectually satisfying, challenging, and enlightening blog on the web.
“You’re my favorite.” It’s the thing I tell people when I’m drunk. It’s usually in the form of a text message to an ex-girlfriend or a friend’s ex-girlfriend or someone of equal embarrassment when I wake up the next morning. The truth is though: I always mean it. I just don’t have the guts to say it when I’m sober.
Well, Andrew … You’re my favorite. Thank you for being my friend for 10+ years.
There are some seas that cannot be navigated without the proper rudder. Swells that will pull you Left, or Right, lest you apply exacting pressure and gentle guidance, always adjusting – small and large, Left and Right, a correction here, a correction there – to maintain the perfect course through otherwise unnavigable seas.
You were always that rudder in the endlessly broken sea of senselessness that is America in the 21st Century. Your guidance plied us through times turbulent and timorous; your outrage made us grind our teeth, stamp our feet or laugh out loud. Your confidence gave us hope; your shrieking fits gave us heartburn. But the rudder jogged Left, and the rudder jogged Right, always correcting, and on we plied through dense black seas, always sure, O Captain, My Captain, of your navigation.
But no worries! Surely there are dozens of Oxford-educated gay Roman Catholic Oakeshottian-Conservative Obama-supporting HIV-positive beagle-loving bloggers left out there! DIME A DOZEN, SULLIVAN!
Sigh. You asshole.
One more for now:
The hardest thing we humans have to learn is how to let go. It is also the most essential thing we have to learn. This is because the process of living requires a series of letting gos – of things, places, pets, people, notions that no longer work, and eventually the letting go of life itself.
Life is like climbing a ladder. You can’t reach for the next rung if you’re unwilling to let go of the one you’re holding.
Good for you, Andrew. Have a good climb.