Just filed my 450th consecutive weekly Bismarck Tribune newspaper - TopicsExpress


Just filed my 450th consecutive weekly Bismarck Tribune newspaper column. I had five or six things I would I would have liked to write about this week, but in the end there was one that I felt I needed to write about. The writing was not difficult in one sense, but very difficult in another. I knew what I wanted to say, and the words came; but I knew too that there would be readers who would be disposed to thrown down the paper in disgust, because they just wont accept the premise of what I have to say. My goal always is to stay in the conversation as long as possible, to try to be reasonable, to do nothing deliberate or calculated to offend readers of all sorts of political points of view. My great mentor Ev Albers taught that the role of the humanities scholar is to clarify, invite conversation, provide perspective, offer what we hope will be insight. He always said: Judgment is easy, understanding is hard. At some point, you have to push send. I always comfort myself by remembering that only X number of people read what I write. X+ read the Bismarck Tribune, but the majority of my fellow North Dakotans dont. Of the X+ who read the Bismarck Tribune, only some fraction read what I write on Sundays, and fortunately nobody is required to read me. Im not a Congregational preacher you have to listen to every Sunday or leave the church. Im not the sportscaster you have to endure if you want to watch the Yankees or Lakers game. To paraphrase Lincoln, Im not everyones cup of tea all the time, and Im not many peoples cup of tea some of the time, and if the sun is shining and the tomatoes aint in yet, even those who like my work skip it often enough. Why write a newspaper column? It is not for the money--it is, in fact, the least remunerative work I have ever done. It is not for the social standing and social harmony. My life in North Dakota would be going so much better if I just shut up altogether. Writing has cost me opportunities and it has cost me friendships. And yet-- Im prouder of the writing I have done about North Dakota in the last nine years than of almost anything else I have done. I have tried, to the best of my limited ability, to make sense of this improbable windswept place, to sing its praises, to delight in its buttes, badlands, farms, ranches, villages and towns, history and culture, and its two great rivers, the Missouri and the sacred Little Missouri River. Im fortunate to be a student of the great Jefferson, who believed that we can enlighten ourselves, that we can engage in civil discussion, even civil debate, about who we are, where we have been, and where we are headed. Jefferson believed in the power of reason and civil argument to make a civilization better. He believed that we Americans were exceptionally graced with possibilities, and that if we really really worked at it we could be the most remarkable people who ever walked the face of the earth. Thats a tall promise and challenge, but I believe it to my core. Everyone who loves America is aware of the ways in which we have stalled out. As Jeffersonians we have to believe that we will recover our sense of balance, educate ourselves more completely, pursue enlightenment with mutual respect and tolerance, regain our place as the worlds great hope for the human project. We have to be willing to talk about the hard things as well as the lovely, agreeable things. We have to be willing to look into the mirror--unblinkingly--and to be honest about what we see. I can tell you this. It is so much easier to write these after-words than the actual words. And it is useful to me to debrief my essays amongst my friends. csj
Posted on: Wed, 21 May 2014 17:00:05 +0000

Trending Topics

Recently Viewed Topics

© 2015