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.