Monday, April 18, 2011

Worthy Opponent Remembered: Fat Lester's Tribute to JeffK

I know that there have already been several different tributes done since JeffK's departure for the hereafter. While I do not want to be redundant, I think it is only appropriate that I, Fat Lester, publish my own tribute to JeffK (formerly known as "janejas"). 

For one thing, the tribute song chosen for one of the dedications to Jeff was the same song used in a faux tribute to Violet Planet following her banning from Mixx. Maybe it's just me, but it seems as though that cheapens it some when included in a tribute to one of the other three 100k karma Mixxers (no offense to VP, it's the likening of being banned versus the real thing that bothers me). The other thing is that enough time has passed now that I can write the tribute that best commemorates my time here with Jeff without the shock-factor influencing me.

The other reason I decided to go ahead with this tribute is that unlike the authors of Jeff's other candlelight-posts, this one was written by someone on the side of the aisle opposite Jeff. That is significant to me. That someone who spent countless hours arguing back-and-forth with Jeff would take the time to pen a tribute weeks after his passing says something about the kind of man Jeff was. I've debated hundreds if not thousands of different people during my time at Mixx, but none ever challenged me the way Jeff did.

Conservatives tend to classify liberal arguments as being rooted in emotions as opposed to logic and reason, thereby discrediting left-wind arguments on the basis that left wingers don't think logically. While many liberals do indeed wear their hearts on their sleeves, JeffK's logic was as sharp as any conservatives, and he made quite the habit of routinely shredding the widespread over-generalization regarding left-wingers and logic. Defeating him in debate was never easy, and most of our arguments ended with a mutual agreement to disagree for the sake of allowing ourselves enough time to experience worldly things other than Mixx. That isn't to say liberals are right about anything, just that proving they were wrong was far more difficult when Jeff was on the other side of the debate than it would have been with most others.

Jeff and I butted heads more than a few times the first couple of weeks he was a Mixxer. I can recall dozens of heated exchanges between the two of us during the two-plus years I knew the man. However, despite our frequent disagreements over politics and philosophy, the two of us came to develop a relationship based upon mutual respect.

It didn't take long at all for the two of us to realize that the other was not a fool or an idiot, and that our failure to see eye-to-eye on many of these matters was not a byproduct of either of us being an intellectual superior to the other. Essentially, we reached a point where we could accept our disagreements as such without villainizing the other.

Within a matter of weeks after he had joined the Mixx community, Jeff and I had developed a strong mutual respect for each other in spite of the fact that disagreed often about politics, and neither of us was shy about expressing our views about a given subject. We each were able to come to terms with the fact that neither of us were bad people, and that neither of us was severely lacking in intellectual capability. We recognized that so long as our debates pertained to the given issue or topic at hand and did not become personal (meaning neither of us would insult the other despite the extent to which we disagreed on a subject), that our lively debates could be fun, educational and an overall positive contribution to the community.

There was a period of about eight-to-ten months when the discussions at Mixx well far more civilized, intelligent in nature, thought-provoking and educational. For a while there, we really did have the best community of its type on the web, and the ability of Mixxers such as Jeff and myself (and dozens of others - you know who you are) to debate rationally and with respect and civility to all despite our differences that set the example for new users. For a period, that mature and intellectually-stimulating culture was the dominant culture at Mixx.

I was forced to take a five-month leave-of-absence from Mixxing last summer to address some medical issues and later pursue a job opportunity that was prohibitive of my involvement in social media. When I returned, Mixx was not the same place it was when I had left it.

While Jeff certainly didn't have this sort of relationship with everyone he interacted with at Mixx, it was his leadership as an outspoken representative of the political left that helped set the tone for debate and raise the bar on the community standards for interactive conversation. There were some people on both sides of the aisle who eventually made their presence felt in the community, much to the detriment of said community. It was very challenging to have a conversation with some of these folks without insults flying. In most cases, these were the people who lowered the bar for everyone and helped spur the eventual decline in the community and the standards for debate that for years we Mixxers took so much pride in.

If I had to choose a song to represent my relationship with JeffK (aka: "Janejas"), it would have to be "We Just Disagree" by Dave Mason. The words that best express my experiences with Jeff were articulated to perfection by Mason in the song: "There ain't no good guy. There ain't no bad guy. There's only you and me and we just disagree."

Jeff, you were the epitome of a worthy opponent, and while I vehemently disagreed with many of your political views, I hadn't the slightest bit of animosity for you whatsoever --- in fact, quite the contrary (as you well know). There are not many people with whom I can have such challenging and intelligent conversations without having to worry about ruffling anyone's feathers. You were a warrior, and your skin was impenetrable by the words of mere mortals.

God Bless you and your family Jeff. Your presence is missed, but I take comfort knowing that you're probably sitting around having a beer throwing darts with Michael and Gabriel, helping the Easter Bunny prepare to kick off the year's most important Holy Day.

I miss you man. Now more than ever. Since I know you're already in Heaven and do not need my prayers in that regard, I instead will pray for your family, that they may come to peace with your departure for the next world. While I admit I'm in no hurry to get there, I hope one day I am deemed worthy of joining you in paradise so we can resume our ideological jousting, ostensibly for all eternity. Until then, you'll not be forgotten.


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