I have known for several weeks that I would be writing this post eventually. It has taken me multiple attempts to get my thoughts down, which might come as a bit of a surprise for those who are familiar with my slap-dash style of posting. Still, this is part of an important decision for me, and one that I have not come to lightly.
Once the particulars have been put out of the way, there will be some who will say that the decision was made for me, but I have come to this from various angles of thought and deliberation.
After nearly three years away, I will be returning to the financial services industry. I have been offered, and accepted, a position in management with a very fine firm. It is a rather singular firm, not at all what one would think of as a money management business. But this is a large part of why I have taken this post. It's philosophy is firmly in sync with my own, both in terms of investment policy and in how to run a business.
As a condition of employment, I had to agree to refrain from political blogging. I was expecting this, as most firms have clients of broad political views and prefer to keep politics separate. An interesting feature is that the principals offered me the position in part because they have read this blog (among some of my other writing) and think that I write well (which will be part of my duties). Why they believe this is anybody's guess.
I wish that I could say that I am being forced to give up the politics and that it's not fair, but that wouldn't be the truth. And in a way, the request is giving me an excuse, perhaps, or at least permission to change. I have been having an argument with myself these past few months about this blog, about the soaking stench of American politics and about political blogging in general. But I can give this up because no matter how much I love writing here, the reality is that while it nourishes me, it does not feed me.
I believe that I am seeing my country go through a period of self-doubt, and I'm not so certain that we bloggers aren't at least partly responsible. It's humorously self-aggrandizing for me to include myself in that observation, because my readership has remained microscopic and save for a few big posts, I would have very few visitors knocking on the door. However, I count those who have visited some of the most insightful and intelligent of blog denizens. Among the bloggers with whom I have traded links and ideas, there is a greater level of talent and complex thought than live in the shoutfests that get all the traffic. But woefully few are listening to them.
I could continue to blog about other things, although politics now encompasses so much of our thoughts and lives that the choices seem limited. I am considering continuing with the arts, culture, food, language, etc. and I have been gathering notes for a new novel, but for now I will take some time to decide what I should do. There is more to life than politics, of course, and more to my interests. I just need some time to figure out a new direction, if it is to come. Ironically, this comes as I am just now being approached for blogging opportunities.
I don't intend this to be a Graves-like seethe, or a rambling complaint, but I wish to express, this last time, a few strong opinions and presume to offer a bit of advice.
When I first started this blog, I had already firmed up my roster of daily reading, although some of which still stay on my blogroll I hardly think about anymore. I had spent a lifetime firmly and faithfully in the political left and regarded the right as a amalgam of fat-cat cigar chompers, government-hating ideologues and religious fanatics. I had been raised with a priority to inquiry, but I knew that no matter what theories might be put forth from the right, the rhetoric just seemed so blatantly wrong. I found, to my despair, that my beloved left was just as ossified and infected with ideological fanaticism as the right.
Fortunately, I slowly found a middle. But that didn't exactly satisfy as so much musing from the center tended toward "on one hand... on the other hand" kind of analysis that often left more questions than were posed to begin with. I have done my best, I think, to stay away from that impotent kind of thinking, instead taking a tack that doesn't glorify contrarian argument for the sake of it, but for finding something closer to the truth. I have not been very successful in that regard, but I feel that the effort was worth the occasional slur or insult.
It's been an interesting ride. I have exchanged emails and gotten nods from some of the biggest voices on the Internet, I have interviewed and spoken directly with some of those we watch on our news programs. I have been termed conservative, liberal, libertarian, pragmatic, idiotic, insightful, funny, romantic, cloying and vitriolic, among many other compliments and epithets. Beyond that, I have been lucky, from time to time, to receive comments that have caused me to think and rethink my prejudices and to look at myself in a clean light. I am not universally proud of what I have written, but in the mean, I am satisfied that I have raised my pixellated voice for some to hear.
Which brings me to that about which I am most passionate, and about which I have the most distress. I am a believer in partisan politics, because I find that partisanship is the best, so far, system of keeping those in power in check. Partisanship can devolve into political sports, as we have seen most recently. No matter what, we want our team to win, and most of us refuse to accept logical arguments from the other side for fear of losing some advantage. That rivalry, usually, serves a purpose. But when the party in power becomes infected with hubris, and when the opposition fails to mount serious challenges, we all suffer.
George Bush is not, by far, a stellar president. Those thinking that he is exactly the right man for the right time fail to acknowledge the impulse of this president to act without a firm grasp of constitutional government. While the outcome of the Hamdan case can be manipulated, this is one of the few times in which this president has been reined in. Pity that the straps came not from his own, but from what he would term, if he understood what he was saying, an extra-legislative judiciary, signaling his disdain or incomprehension for our very system of government.
While I continue to support the battle against the terror forces, I am bitterly disappointed in the prosecution of this war, which demonstrates for me the perils of becoming a one-issue voter. But this also indicates to me that we are being ill-served by both our public officials and our press. Agendas get in the way of reality, and ideology is trumping unity.
Rampant spending, religious footsie-playing and the proposal of hollow attempts at bottom-feeding (FMA and flag burning come immediately to mind) has contributed to the breakdown of rational discourse and ruined what unity was evident in the aftermath of September 11.
Not that it's all Bush's fault. He is not the devil incarnate, either. Writers such as Katha Pollitt and Paul Krugman, politicians such as Jim McDermott and John Murtha, and gadflies such as Noam Chomsky and Jimmy Carter certainly haven't acted in high principle. There is an ugly characteristic of the left (trust me, here I am talking about my own) to brand everyone who disagrees as either stupid, sinister, or an illogical combination of the two. The left is also fond of the Nazi brand, while failing to articulate exactly what it is that makes one a fascist.
The default for much of the left is to see everything wrong in and with America and then call it patriotism, when in fact it is self-loathing and bitter recrimination without much logical sense of American worth. It then becomes easy shooting to describe these people as "anti-American," as their every utterance confirms the prognosis. The irony is that the prescriptions for what they see as an American ailment often require someone else to foot the bill, and even more often, cause them to tacitly ally with dictators and mass murderers.
The right has just as much to be ashamed of. Instead of fighting on and for principle, rightist politicians treat their constituents the same way the left treats theirs: with contempt and by cheap manipulation. Conservatives now seem not to give two hoots that their president can't seem to keep his pen in his pocket, writing bad check after bad check and merely cry war when that subject is brought up. Civil rights are now deemed quaint and war is again blamed.
One gets the impression that the term laissez faire has morphed from a bedrock conservative principle, to something forgotten or discarded by the right. Maybe it sounds too gay or something. I am constantly befuddled by conservatives who supposedly want to get government "off the backs" of the people, then attempt to dictate to these same people.
In other words: you all make me sick. And I will not miss the stupidity, the blind fidelity to failed ideology nor the crass, vulgar, sleazy, wretched, bilious claptrap that spews forth from the mouths of those we have been stupid enough to elect.
And while I'm at it, Democrats, I don't want to hear anything about stolen elections, WMD lies or Halliburton. And Republicans, I don't want to hear anything about France, the UN or George Clooney. Just, please, shut up and get to work.
And people, people: let's take a breath and decide if we want to continue down this road or make an effort to work towards our collective future and benefit. It really shouldn't be that hard. George Bush did not cause September 11. John Kerry does not wish for the US to surrender. Not all Muslims are saints and not all are terrorists. Jews don't run the world. Two guys exchanging rings will not bring down the American family. It's okay to say "under God." No one is forcing you into it, however.
Since this is my swan song, I want to make a list of those things that I think I know, for this last time, and hack off as many people as I can. So here it is:
- Islamic terror is a real threat, and anybody who thinks that it will go away or isn't really a problem should remove their head from any orifice it may be impacted in.
- China is big, bad problem, and will continue to get bigger and badder. It will dominate this century as the US did the last.
- The economy: Yes, the Fed is busily fighting inflation, but the rise in interest rates will catch many in a crunch, which could lead to record numbers of personal defaults and bankruptcies. Thanks to a GOP that is in the thrall of the credit cartel, individuals now have less rights than corporations to write off debt.
- The environment: Al Gore's doomsday cry notwithstanding, there are problems we need to address. While it is evident that the globe is heating up, there is no consensus on why. Still, why not follow traditional advice and not shit where we eat?
- Politics: It would be a good thing to have a Democratic House, at least to act as a semi-rabid guard dog against the over-reaching proclivities of the Bush Administration.
- The EU: It is not a good idea for Europe to descend back into fractionalism. Europe has its own Islamic problem, and unless its policies and practices change, there will likely be another European war this century.
- Africa: Perhaps the biggest problem. This president has actually done more in Africa than all his predecessors, but the continent could burn hotter than all the other trouble spots. Poverty, AIDS, Islamic Fanaticism, racism and corruption are the demon spawn of colonialism. Europe has largely vacated and left the door wide open. The US may be the only country that can do anything there.
- Russia is slipping back into its Soviet impulses, and minus an unwieldy empire, Putin can move more swiftly to counter US interests. Russia's hands are deep into Iran and could frustrate any move there.
- Iran: Another crazy regime flummoxes the US. This is the only country in the Middle East capable of and crazy enough to start a war against Israel, which would surely take millions of lives.
- Israel and the Palestinians: I have been a supporter of Israel's right to exist practically since birth, and, frankly, I think it absurd that one should have to express this as if it is in contention. I also support the establishment of a Palestinian homeland, if at least for the sake of ending the conflict. The Palestinians have been abandoned by their Arab brothers, who have used them as pawns. This doesn't excuse heavy-handed and sometimes disastrous actions by the Israelis, but until Israel is given the same accord of other countries, this will continue.
- Iraq: We broke it, we bought it. The occupation has been so fraught with policy and bureaucratic bumbling, that it's a wonder the Army hasn't just sit down and waited for some adults to take control. That said, from this there appears to be real progress, something in between the unmitigated disaster of critics and the unqualified success of supporters. It would help Iraq if America conducted itself with more confidence.
- Our Armed Forces: Despite a few black eyes lately, many either trumped up or fabricated, our fighting men and women have proved again that they are not only the greatest fighting force in history, but also a repository of goodwill and compassion. Yes, there are some bad elements, but no more (and probably much less) than in the general public. I have no patience with and will not take seriously any person who uses isolated incidents (which are punished) to besmirch the reputation of our soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors.
- Capitalism vs Socialism: We now should be able to acknowledge that we live in a modified socialist state. These aren't fighting words, just reality. We have grown accustomed to certain entitlements, which grow each year and which many, if not most, Americans would rather not do without. Yes, we are demonstrating that both entrepreneurship and collectivism can work together through some rough ideological waters. We will likely never move towards a command economy because the evidence against it is too great, but we can't deny that a socialist mindset is present even among the so-called free market capitalists. It all depends on who is getting government support. Maybe in time we will land upon a workable hybrid. It seems that we are headed in that direction.
- My fellow Americans: We are living in a time of peril, some of which we have brought on ourselves, some not of our making. We can not get through this without each other. We must not regard those with whom we disagree as enemies, nor should be give free rein to those with whom we agree. We are poisoning each other and our society is in danger of dying at its root.
So that's it. My rant. It wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be, and I'm not certain if this is how I would like to be remembered. But who cares? It's just a blog, after all. I am including here, against my better judgement, a photo that Sherry took of me in the shadow of St. Sulpice in Paris. I am not quite as homely, old and perturbed as the photo would suggest.
I have failed at just about everything I have ever attempted. And yet, I have had the good fortune to live in the USA, where failure is not seen as an ending, as long as one refuses to accept it. I have no idea where I will end up, and I am thankful for many things: my family, my friends, the blessing of liberty and the opportunity to reinvent myself time after time.
And since this is a blog: Thank you, everyone, who has come here, has read and responded, who has poked me when I needed it, has praised and criticized, has opened up a world to me that I would never have known existed. I have wanted to be a writer since I could read, and it has been one of my life's thrills to know that there are some very good and smart people who have read my words and deemed them worthy of noting.
Okay, I lied. I will miss this blog and I will miss all of you deeply. I have rarely gotten as much satisfaction from an endeavor, and it has been because of this wonder of technology that brings us closer. I hesitate to start naming names, because I will likely leave some out that I have not meant to. You know who you are: those who have stayed with me since the beginning, those who have come along in the interim and all with whom I have shared, publicly and privately, some very personal and vivid moments.
I'll still be reading, and maybe commenting, but I don't know when. I might come back to Bloggledygook with something different, but again, I don't know when or what. For now, this will stay up, just in case I come back, but also because I like it. If anybody has any suggestions, I'll be very happy to hear them. This has been one of the joys of my life, and an experience I will always value and cherish.
I left a little gift in the post just under this. As I am not all that able a technical blogger, I have found the easiest path. You have to have Rhapsody (which is free for 25 streams a month) and install a plug-in if you're using Firefox. But, if you can, give this song a listen. Even though it's not a true parallel, it's the closest thing in mood that I have found to express my feelings today.
See ya later.