Somewhere Between A Retirement and a Sabbatical from Blogging: A Reprise

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Immediately after the 2012 election, one whose results were far more positive than the outcome of yesterday’s Trumpster fire, I decided that I needed to take a break from the blog.

While I would describe myself as still mostly being in a state of shock, I’m furious—at an electorate that refused to vote in its best interests, at a print media whose false equivalency and horrific coverage led to the election of candidate like a State Auditor who has no real understanding of the job nor a real desire to do it, at the people who tell themselves from awfully privileged perches that elections don’t matter.

And that anger isn’t going to change anything, at least not here. While I am certainly wrong at times, certainly intemperate at others, I simply don’t have the ability to respond to a world in which reason and objective fact no longer matter. How do mere words combat a Presidential candidate so mendacious that he often repudiates his own words minutes after having said them or gubernatorial candidates who deny recordings of their own voice having said something they wish they hadn’t?

It used to feel like pointing out the lie mattered, that exposing dishonesty and calling out hypocrisy made a difference, and maybe both once did. Now that we live in a post-fact world, though, one in which the volume of your ad buys matters more than the validity of your words, it seems to matter less and less.

And so stepping away for a time makes sense.

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 War and Peace 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. It’s time to read books, go to the gym, plan trips to new and exciting places, pretend to work on my “novel,” and to step back from a system that seems, today, to be broken. I’m not sure a country that just elected a candidate they believed to be less fit for the office of President, a country that passed over the most qualified candidate in a hundred years, a country that elected a man who called for unity after running the most hateful, divisive candidate in a generation, is in a place where I feel like I can make real change here.

As I so often have been able to, I’m finding strength in the words of my students and former students today. Their righteous anger, genuine compassion, and understandable sorrow reaffirm the decency at the heart of the people I have the opportunity to work with.

I’m so disappointed in the voters of this country and so worried about those who will bear the brunt of this election, but heartened by the courage and goodness of people who know enough and love strongly enough to overcome even this.

This doesn’t mean that Intelligent Discontent is going to die. I hope to keep the site running and 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 [email protected].

More people read this blog in 2016 than ever before, and I’ll be happy to devote some energy to promoting new voices who might have more effective arguments to share than the ones I have been trying to make over 3,000 posts in eleven years.

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 MT Cowgirl—even if I don’t know who you are, I’ve enjoyed working with you.

Thanks to Pete, Calamity, 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.

Last time, my vacation from blogging lasted about two months. We’ll see about this time.

Keep up the good fight, friends.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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.

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Pat Lueck
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Pat Lueck

OK… I get you. Last night, at about 11:00 PM, I turned off CNN…and started reading John Grisham’s “Whistler…” In sleepless spasms, finished it by 3:30 AM. (Not his best..but good escape literature.) This AM, about 8:30, I lined up three more novels and hunted up some ‘escape TV…’ Streaming, natch. My advice, check out Kate Atkinson’s very good detective(?) novels. She is an award winning British author… Her Jackson Brodie series are unique, as is her writing style. I always recommend “When Will There Be Good News?” While this book is the third in the series, it has a… Read more »

John Kelleher
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John Kelleher

Have a great and well-deserved vacation, but please don’t retire. We need you and people like you now more than ever to right the wrongs we see all around us.
This is a great country and a fabulous state. We’ve got to fight to defend thrm.

Karen
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Karen

Thank you Don. I’m so glad I stumbled upon Intelligent Discontent. You have been a voice of sanity in the political wilderness that is Montana. Your intelligence and insight will be missed. Come back soon!

MaryJane Barrett
Guest

Don, I want to thank you so much for what you just shared but also for what you have done, reported and brought for consideration on your blog. I don’t want you to quit because our family looks forward to reading what you have to say……Once you have taken time off and digested this very shocking and disturbing event that has occurred in the U.S. I hope you will return to analysis and writing. We need committed, intelligent, gritty people like you to help us remain inspired that goodness and kindness and taking care of each other will win out… Read more »

Joe Furshong
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Joe Furshong

Don, By all means take a break. We all need time to process this egregiously frightening election. Teaching, connecting, talking, listening and actually getting some significant downtime will help you regain your balance. But, I believe more than ever we have to get involved, get organized and get results. Wherever we are on that spectrum, I hope we can continue but with that one further step toward commitment. If we all do this I think we can start to set this thing right. If you do decide to stop writing then you would do so with the gratitude of many… Read more »

Bill
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Bill

Com’on guys, get over it. We are all in the same boat. You have the below and a lot more to bitch about. Sure you will have a put on the Un-affordable Health Care Act replacement. Plus, you won’t feel so bad when the Clinton Foundation get ripped apart by the Feds and New York State AG and we get the full story on Benghazi. Trey Gowdy is still pissed due to all the stonewalling, etc. Also, watch as the Clinton Foundation as it turns in to vaporware due to no more donations and big money speeches with influence peddling… Read more »

Pete Talbot
Admin

Bill, here’s a link to WordPress so you can start your own blog to keep us posted now that everything is OK in the world since Trump is President and we have a Republican controlled Congress. I’m sure the working class will flourish under their leadership.

https://wordpress.com/create/

Good luck with that.

Dan Hall
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Dan Hall

Don, Thanks for the insights, its been much appreciated.

Randall
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Randall

Enjoy your sabbatical, it has been a pleasure reading yours and other comments. These are interesting times in which we live, hopefully in the dark of winter I will once again be able read the Intelligent Discontent. I’m going to check your site out weekly just to see the background of a true statesman, Mike Mansfield. All The Best.

Lorraine Collins
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Lorraine Collins

I did not encounter this blog until a few weeks ago and I’m sorry to see that you are now going on a sort of sabbatical. I can understand that, but then this IS the time your voice needs to be heard. I moved to Montana at the age of 80. That was over four years ago. I had lived in six states and three other countries before I got here and I’ve been finding my way around. I have been a journalist and freelance writer for over 60 years, written a newspaper column, been a commentator on public radio.… Read more »

Bob Williams
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Bob Williams

Don Pogreba created his own brand and held true to supplying Montana with intelligent discontents! Here’s a personal example. A High School English teacher had us kids write book reports based on each of three perspectives. One perspective was to evaluate a book in terms of how well did the author achieve the purposes of the book. Don I know you not, nor know of your work, but know a bit about your multiple accomplishments here with Intelligent Discontent. Only way I can come close to thanking you, is to encourage others to bring more quality meta-journalism to Montana.

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