Montana Politics

Somewhere Between a Retirement and a Sabbatical from Blogging

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After seven and half years and somewhere around 2,500 posts, I think it’s time to stepIMG_1955-001 back and take a break from posting.

There are moments when I think I have devoted more energy addressing the Rehberg for Senate campaign than Representative Rehberg did—I certainly did during the last week. By the way, has anyone heard from the man since last Tuesday?

It’s more than the effort that’s required to research and write quality posts. I struggle with the tone that blogs seem to generate. If you’ll indulge a personal story, when I graduated from college, I headed immediately to law school, planning to put my debate background into the pursuit of a law degree and career as a lawyer.

The second day at law school, I realized something about myself. I joke now that it was an existential crisis, but it’s not far from the truth. I was a successful debater in college because I was merciless and driven. Winning and losing meant everything to me, and so I sacrificed my health, friendships, relationships, and kindness in the pursuit of victory. On that second day of law school, I realized that the law would have been another avenue perfectly suited to that kind of aggression.

Not every lawyer is like that; I just knew that I would have been. After a 15 minute drive, I knew that I needed to leave law school and go back to something else. Those ended up being coaching and teaching. At the end of that drive, I made the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.

Teaching, while a profession that does require being critical, isn’t one that demands biting criticism. It’s not about winning and losing, but about helping people find ways to achieve success. It’s about lifting people up rather than tearing them down.

It seems blogging is a lot more like debate than teaching. The posts that get attention, the posts that matter? Critical. The more bitter the better. And that’s what I’m good at.

I’m just not sure I want to invest energy right now into do those things. For awhile, at least. I want to spend some time sinking into some great books (a re-read of Anna Karenina is calling me right now) and investing more energy into the people around me. In my favorite book, Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection, Tolstoy writes of his protagonist:

More than once in Nekhludoff’s life there had been what he called a “cleansing of the soul.” By “cleansing of the soul” he meant a state of mind in which, after a long period of sluggish inner life, a total cessation of its activity, he began to clear out all the rubbish that had accumulated in his soul, and was the cause of the cessation of the true life. His soul needed cleansing as a watch does.

It might be time for a little cleaning.

This doesn’t mean that Intelligent Discontent is going to die. We’ve injected some much-needed life in the past few months with some insightful, bright writers and I certainly plan to keep the site running for them. if you’re someone with an interest in writing for a great site that has, surprisingly enough, generated a fairly impressive following, please drop me an e-mail at dpogreba@gmail.com.

In the event this is my last post, I do owe some thanks.

Thanks to Jason for starting this thing about with me and Matt Singer for giving me the encouragement and promotion when I started. I’m not sure that anyone would have ever made it over to my site without his mention from Left in the West. Thanks to Jay Stevens, who really inspired me to see the potential of long-form blogging and the importance of writing well, not just interestingly. I can’t forget Rob, who often mounted a better defense my posts in comments than I did.Thanks to the anonymous folks at 4and20 blackbirds and MT Cowgirl—even if I don’t know who you are, I’ve enjoyed sparring with and working cooperatively with you.

Thanks to Matt, Tyler, Jesse, Micah, Aaron, and Jesse for coming on board to add some great arguments to the site.

Thanks to all of the people who’ve been reading and commenting over the years. While I’m reminded of what Bilbo Baggins said at his farewell party in The Fellowship of the Ring, when he said, “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve,” it’s been a pleasure discussing and arguing with many of you.

Thanks to all of the people who sent in tips and suggestions, even criticism, you jerks.

Vacation or retirement? Time will tell. There is a legislative session coming to town, and good intentions or not, the spectacle of the nullifying, gun-toting, UN-conspiracy theorizing Legislature debating issue that mattered to the people of the Montana Territory in 1878 might just bring me back.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

17 Comments

  • You aren’t going anywhere! Take the break you need, and it is well deserved. It will rid yourself of trolls and second guessers…. we all know you’ve put up with dandy’s, while giving them the right to blather incoherently, and second guess your writing.

    You did well against the naysayers, and all the wanna be bloggers penning in the comment section — People who couldn’t have gotten as many hits in a month, on their blog, as your site has had in a day.

    You’ve done a good job continuing the truth, when it mattered here in Montana, and with your wisdom you helped us defeat a lazy, corrupt, self-righteous legislator called Denny Rehberg! I thank you for that also.

    Take a break! The surrogates you have picked are smart, level headed, and can carry on in your stead… but you will be back because truth Matters to you. and I will be there waiting patiently to read your Opinion.

    Thanks Don, See you soon!

  • Your efforts and insights will be missed. But there is a time to let go and, at minimum, metally recover from the intensity that comes with serious political engagement.
    Over my years of serious involvement in political activity I have several times found myself at the same point you find yourself. I would need some time to reconnect to the real world and allow my remaining sanity to expand. In each such instance, I found that after about a year of recovery I was ready to go and in full fighting trim.
    So, good luck at the personal level. And I hope that you find a way for Intelligent Discontent to stay active and in the fray, providing the clarity, insight and commitment to integrity that are needed in this world of “spin,” hypocrisy, demagogery and phoniness — especially because of the critical battle with the monied corporate interests that seek own the country under the banner and protections of Citizens United.
    Tap ‘er light from Butte … and good luck!

  • I do hope you lean more towards sabbatical than retirement, but I understand where you’re coming from. Try doing what I do – just go months without actually expending the effort to research and write a post, and spend some time as a comment warrior. I assure you it’s much easier.

    Or, and I’ve heard this is the easiest of all, adopt a political philosophy with perfectly circular reasoning so that you can write the same post again and again just with different pictures. I’ve heard that’s the best way to blog, and the best part is you don’t have to do any research, because all facts are part of the vast conspiracy against you.

    Seriously though, I think between the rest of us we can almost attempt to keep the writing here at the same level of quality, relevance and incisiveness you maintained. Until you come back to blogging, I suppose we’ll have to get coffee so we can talk, you know, in person!

  • If this is your last post, you’ve had a damn good run and Montana is better for it. But finish the 2012–2013 school year before making a final decision. And find a way to keep Intelligent Discontent alive. Best wishes, and profound thanks for your work.

  • Bill Murray in the movie “Stripes” – “And then, depression set in.”

    President Bill Clinton – “I feel your pain.”

    I did the whole attempt at law school, and you explained my reaction better than I ever have. I couldn’t see myself becoming ‘that guy’ for money, regardless of my will to ‘make the case’. You have also well better said what I never really could have. Long form blogging should be about one’s life, not a task of it. That is why I have become so reticent to post anything, save comments.

    Still, I have a selfish desire to read your opinions and hear your voice. They will be missed, a great deal. Please, strongly consider The Polish Wolf’s suggestion. As you indicate about my comments, there is often as much if not more value in rebuttal as there is in exposition, and you’ll likely enjoy it more. Quite obviously, that’s what I’ve been doing. Please, join me. And for the record, there is a huge difference between being the face of opinion and being the support of it. Standing with a banner invites attack as the face of a cause. Defending a banner in comments makes you the warrior, and is much more gratifying.

    I offer my congratulations and a bit of worship for the efforts you’ve put in. But you can’t just walk away from the relationships you’ve built in this online ‘verse. (I won’t be ignored, Dan with boiling bunnies and such …) Do what you have to do, and please believe that we all have your back, whatever the choices you make. You made the choice to be a part of our lives. Accept that many of us will continue to honor that choice. Thank you.

  • Thank you. Your quality posts have raised the bar for relevant and acute commentary. You’ve raised the standards for blogs across Montana, and for those of us here who will attempt to continue your work.

  • For over a year now, I have been a daily reader of your blog. It’s unfortunate I didn’t find it sooner. From my point of view, the time and effort you have put into this blog and its posts was time well spent. I am certainly a much more informed Montanan than I would have been otherwise. As are my wife and friends, and any number of other Montanans who have been patient enough to be on the receiving end of my political opinions. If you’re finished, Thank You. You’ve made a difference.

  • This is one of the first sites I go to when I open my laptop. You’ve done the blogosphere proud.

    Here’s what I’m counting on. After a well-deserved break, some issue, politician, media outlet, etc., will get under your skin and you’ll just have to write about it. You’ll expose a hypocrite or uncover something no one else is writing about or challenge some thoughtless stereotype …

    Good luck, Don, although I’m hoping, betting that we’ll be reading your stuff in the future.

  • Thank you so much for what you have done. I have looked forward to your posts and have used your arguments to strengthen my own (thanks) I hope you come back as I have looked forward to your comments. But as someone who has been actively involved in politics and have felt many times like “this is it, why continue the fight” I can understand where you are coming from. Soul searching after big campaigns seems to be the norm, and I wonder how I will feel in a couple of months. Again thank you so much for the columns you have written that I have enjoyed and gotten so much from. You have been an inspiration and have sustained me in the turbulent times.

  • Pogie, you really are one of the best. I await you’re return. I know you’ll be back.

    It has been asked how does one know if they’re a writer? Answer: You must write every day.

    How do you tell if you’re a blogger? Answer: You must blog every day.

    I’m thinkin’ that you’re a writer, blogger, AND one of the best reporters around. You understand your duty and see your way to it.

    You’ll be back. It’s who you are! And I take my hat off to you for your great work!

  • Thanks for your amazing research, insights, and writings.

    It’s been a pleasure being on the left’s blogging team with you and I look forward to your future posts.

  • one aspect of your blogging I’ve appreciated is your media criticism, Don. where papers have diminished, writers like you have filled a very important niche. it would be a shame not to have your perspective during the next legislative session.

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