Why I Love the Fictional Earl Ray

There are these people out there, and sometimes you don’t even know who they are, but you’ve got to love them.  I can no longer contain my adoration for my personal candidate for the next individual elected to the chief executive office for the great State of West Virginia…….please give it up for @ActingGov_WV!

Hailing from Chapmanville, West Virginia, this tan, rested and ready top gun on Twitter states his bio as follows:

The (fictional) Governor of WV is the head of the executive branch of WVa’s government and the commander-in-chief of the state’s military forces (fictional).

The profile pic of @ActingGov_WV

I like the real ERT very much so far, but if for some reason he can’t fulfill his duties I rest comfortably knowing that the fictional Earl Ray Tomblin is ready to roll.

I can hear your thoughts, dear reader.  Why would anyone spend their time creating and sustaining a fake account, masquerading as Earl Ray Tomblin, and being completely clear that it’s all fiction?  I can’t say for sure.  But I can hazard a guess or two.  This person knows state government, and not just the structure and processes and rules.  He knows the people.  He knows how the personalities of those people can work for or against functional governance.  And God bless him, he knows that so much of our crazy world at wv.gov is just pure hilarity.

Citizens in every state across the U.S. of A. are losing their collective sense of humor, and that is understandable.  I follow and appreciate @ActingGov_WV because he makes me laugh at things that need to be laughed at, including myself as a voter and a citizen.  He also has a gift for poking at people who take themselves too seriously in a very gentle way that keeps things in perspective without trying to take a body count.  Having worked in the Governor’s Office myself a few years back, I can assure you that this skill is rare and to be treasured.

It is impossible to share all the great tweets because, well, they are all great.  If you are on Twitter and follow West Virginia politics, you really need to find @ActingGov_WV and treat yourself to the full smörgåsbord of fun. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite tweets from a very funny mind:

  • OK. Get this clear. Tent was a Manchin thing. It’s in state code that all Manchin stuff is tacky. #lookitup
  • John Raese sure does love the people of West Virginia, Alice Click. That’s why he lives in Florida. #totallyobvious
  • Sending intern to Natalie’s kickoff to spy. Also to bring back some pizza. Don’t tell Mrs. Earl Ray.
  • Joe apparently wants all state residents to stop what they are doing and listen to his maiden Senate speech tomorrow. #yeahright
  • Marcellus shale will give me a perpetual perfect tan and get me on Jeopardy.
  • May do musical chairs next Board of Public Works meeting. If you don’t grab a chair, you can’t run for governor. #imfast
  • When Senator Jenkins talks about the “Far East” I’m suspicious he means Jefferson County.
  • I think Betty is giving Kabler gift certificates to the Food Court. Will have to step things up. Delivery + a behind the scenes tour.
  • As Senate President, may order heat in Sen. Jenkins turned off over the weekend. Freeze all his hair products.
  • Are we sure there is actually a real Shelley Moore Capito and not just a bot in DC pretending to be SMC?
  • UK Parliament amending the Act of Settlement isn’t going to put the Speaker in line to be King of England, either. #justnothisday
  • Text from Joe. He wants to know why we haven’t made his birthday a state holiday yet.
  • Polishing the ATV for the ride into the chamber.
  • May challenge Natalie to a shovel-off for the next big storm. Won’t tell her I’m bringing the ATV. #planningahead
  • Clearly, one should not trifle with Daily Mail reporters. The editorial staff is a different matter, altogether.
  • Communications staff is in for a rough meeting this morning; expect an explanation of why @CartneyWV gets better press than me.
  • I walked to the candy machine instead of sending an intern. #fitwv
  • Considering submitting legislation to make the Speaker the governor of Mason County. #dontwantitanyway #compromise

And my personal favorite, naturally:

Thanks @ElizGaucher for the #ff! I always insist the staff read your blog. 😉

Though I am bracing for:

@ElizGaucher kissing up, dropping resume hints.  Think she’s too pale to do get the job done. #letherdowneasy

The Best of the Blog 2010: What Lit Fires and Stirred the Pot

Last year I ranked the “Top 10” Esse Diem posts by the number of comments.  I was still new to blogging and had did not have access to statistics that would allow any other evaluation.  This year, it’s different.  And more interesting.

WordPress provides statistics on the number of visits to the blog each day, and breaks it down by post and page read.  I’ve also started tracking how posts are shared on Facebook and Twitter, as well as keeping mental note of private email messages about posts that people do not necessarily want to comment on in public.  (Those stats are some of the most interesting, to be sure.)

Because there are so many different ways to evaluate a “Best of” list, this summary represents a combination of factors, from raw numbers to shares to gut instinct.  Different groups of people read different things, but the pattern that emerges is one of solidarity around an interest in people just being better to one another.  I could not ask for a more rewarding realization as a writer.

2011 will bring a new award recognition for West Virginians making a difference; another essay series; and a little more about sexuality issues, especially where they intersect with spirituality issues.

In no particular order, here they are.  Thank you for reading Esse Diem, and enjoy the 2010 flashback!

The Top 10 of 2010

What’s Mine is (not) Yours

WordPress has a daily feature called Freshly Pressed.  They term it “the best of bloggers, posts, comments, and words” and I wanted to be that.  After reading the qualities of blogs selected for this coveted status, I determined the one thing I wasn’t doing that I needed to change was to start using more original images and to make sure all other images were credited to their source.  This post kicked off a week of original drawings by my husband for the blog.  It was immediately selected for Freshly Pressed, and garnered 3,000 blog hits.  It also changed how I select and credit images on the blog.

Children of a Lesser god

I wrote this post after a student at Rutgers University killed himself when his roommate and one of the roommate’s friends broadcast the student’s private sexual encounter with another man online.  The suicide and what precipitated it were chilling, but the responses to the events were even more so.  One of the most disturbing pieces of fallout from this post was a lengthy Facebook thread that followed its reposting by an Esse Diem reader who tried to use it to launch a discussion about compassion, especially in his faith community. It was shocking to see the number of “Christian” voices who blamed the victim, and who attributed his death to a failure to exhibit confidence in (a particular interpretation of) God.  I was strongly reminded of Kiefer Sutherland’s character in A Few Good Men:  “Private Santiago is dead, and that is a shame, but he is dead because he had no honor.  He had no code, and God was watching.”  While I didn’t love what I discovered, I think it was important.


I can handle disagreement; in fact, without healthy debate I start to worry if anyone is paying attention to anything.  What I don’t tolerate is reactionary disrespect.  Twitter has many positive uses, but it can still be used similarly to anonymous online comments by people who see “tweets” and hiding places for their attacks on other people.  This post was my response to one such incident, and it received a large number of shares and hits.  Apparently many people concur:  Twitter should be open for debate, but not for bashing.  The post made the rounds in the Philipines and beyond.  I now have regular polite exchanges with the individual involved in this incident, even though we still don’t tend to agree on much!

The Victory of Every Woman

The popularity of this post surprised me, but it probably shouldn’t have.  The title alone suggests a wide range of relevance.  Women with cancer, strained marriages, and parenting struggles connected and shared their thoughts and emotions about Elizabeth Edwards.  One of the most important honors I’ve ever had is to have this post featured on the home page of a married woman and mother who is fighting cancer with every fiber of her being.

C’mon.  Don’t Be a Hater

This was a popular post, but I chose it for this list because it was the real beginning of something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and that is say, “Enough already with the cowardly crap.”  Cowardly crap is my kindest and best term for when people refuse to identify themselves online but feel free in their anonymity or disconnection from others to attack people.  It goes on all over the world, and is especially rampant on news sites.  I got some pushback from some — surprise, anonymous — bloggers who disagree.  That’s fine.  What I also got was change in online policy comments in my local paper.  The timing was no doubt coincidental, but it was satisfying.  The whole series of events helped me upgrade my own online transparency; it is true that owning our words makes a person more conservative but also discerning in his or her expressions and choices.

Essays on a West Virginia Childhood

This was by far the most fun project on the blog this year.  I learned a lot working with people who spent all or some portion of their childhoods in West Virginia, and I am so grateful to John Warren, Amy Weintraub, and Lisa Minney for sharing their thoughts and memories.  We decided to break up John’s essay into a week-long series, which worked well for a piece that was both serious and complex.  My hope is that this project convinces others that writing need not be long or published traditionally to be shared and valuable.

We still have a few more writers in the queue, so stay tuned!

The Short Ladders

One of my personal favorites, this post is about the perils and pitfalls of extreme opportunity in my home state; I was suprised that the only comments it received on the blog itself were from out-of-state.  I did receive some interesting private correspondence, which I appreciated.  Apparently it struck a chord, just one upon which no one really wants to elaborate publicly.  We might work on that in 2011!

I Want to Be a Shepherd

Regular readers of Esse Diem know I try to work in Good Will Hunting whenever I can.  This post was originally just a quirky musing on an event a friend had with her child.  It turned into one of the most shared and read posts of the year.  The response to the idea that we can do more than be victims or predators in this world, that we can choose to take care of one another, was very special for me.

I think this blog has the coolest readers around.  Thank you again for being part of this work!  See you after the ball drops!

Image credit: Painting in Thailand