Saturday, March 27, 2010

Going Public, or How I Learned to Manage My Healthy Awareness of Diplomatic Security

Well, I've certainly let this stagnate.  The pressure to update frequently isn't there when I'm in the same language training program day after day for eight months.  Additionally, it seems that everyone who used to be in my audience has given up on me.  Not being able to add this blog to an RSS feed was a pain in the ass and led to a loss of readership.  After seeing the shaming of a new FSO last January over her public blog, I've been thinking a lot about going public with this site, and what that might mean for me.

The simplest thing, of course, is that DS or Management just tells me to shut this down, with no further consequences.  That has happened to a few of my friends who maintained sites that were little more than travel blogs - certainly no policy discussions.  I don't intend to weigh in much on the most pressing issues of FS life (like Digger admirably does) or the greater scope of State policy (such as Diplopundit does).  Frankly, I'm not experienced enough in State to be able to pick up on a lot of the nuances of the debates that rage on other, bigger blogs.  And I'm certainly not a subject matter expert in a technical field, like Madam Le Consul, so I doubt that any of my posts will catch my superiors' eyes.

The shakedown of FSO Rookie really struck me as emblematic of the battle between the Old School State people and the newbies in the Department.  I certainly don't want to disparage the old hands, who have knowledge and experience that will take me years to accumulate.  However, I think that things have changed in the Department, and those of us in the new generation don't have quite the same point of view that our superiors have on a number of FS traditions.  This job is wonderful, but it's not the only thing in my life - I'm not sacrificing my sanity and my personal life to uphold the self-imposed ideal of a US diplomat.  As programs like Pickering, PMF, and Rangel bring in a younger, more technologically connected, and more diverse set of FSOs, the face of our diplomatic corps is changing, as is our attitude towards the work-life balance, the way that we interact with and engage the world, and the values we hold dear.

This is a long way of saying that I'm opening up this blog as a way to stake out my position on free speech for federal employees and our right to talk about our lives in a mature, logical way online.  I understand the need to stay on message and the need to be secure.  Neither of those concerns should preclude me from writing generally about my job, its benefits and difficulties, and the joys and struggles of living overseas as an American with an unusual position in my host country's society.  Additionally, I've become a lot more connected to the FS blog community in the past few months, and I want to be able to take part more fully in conversations on comment boards.  (My apologies to everyone who's gotten firewalled away from my profile/blog over the last two years.)  More practically, my friends who have been bitching at me to write more (all two of you - everyone, say hello to Joanna and my mother) can finally lay off me.

I've gone through my old posts and made a few edits here and there, and I've selectively hidden a few that were geared for a private audience of close friends and family, not the world at large.  I've also found a few posts that I wrote while on vacation last year but never got around to posting.  Hey, can't hurt to publish them, right?  In a few days I'll write a general re-introduction, and I'll finally get around to writing out the lessons that I drew from my first two years in State.  I went through hell to learn them...  might as well share!

Here's to the future, folks.