After a decade of earning my living in part or in whole through writing, not to mention a lifetime of relying on writing as a way of presenting myself to the world, I hit a wall in 2012. In the course of a year I lost my mother to cancer and learned I was to be the father of a newborn at age 45, two realities I never anticipated or planned for. I had only recently relocated to my home state of Michigan after a long, fitfully fruitful residence in Seattle, another of those major life changes that can disrupt a man's psychic equilibrium in the best of circumstances.
Through my blog, my freelance work and the songs that once poured out of me, I have spent thousands of words on my opinions about music, film and art, my search for philosophical balance when truth cannot be known, not to mention petty clashes with former comrades I barely remember anymore. In the face of momentous change, I decided that my emotions and attitudes were no longer anyone's business, that my grief or happiness or confusion was not for public consumption on any platform, and I went as cold as I've ever been.
I felt ashamed for my past openness, cringed at the arrogance of declaring judgments without proper reflection, mourned the waste of time and energy spent on ephemeral matters. This state of affairs affected more than my output of words -- I am more circumspect in most of my relationships since, and while parenthood is bound to constrain any social life it touches, my slide toward hermitry had already begun before we even suspected. But while I kept up with a modicum of personal poetry unmeant for other eyes and the odd stab at new songs without satisfaction, journals, blogs, social media posts, this activity ceased -- even emails became difficult to finish.
Aside from a few minor blurbs related to various musical misadventures, I found myself not only unwilling to write, but often unable. The rare burst of inspiration that might lead to a keyboard was usually challenged by an overwhelming panic and dread that froze my fingers and muddied my brain, and I succumbed to this weakness more often than not. Without this outlet to organize my thoughts, communicate with my fellows and declare my place in the world, I developed a creeping identity crisis, unsure of who I am now or who I will become in the eyes of my son.
I have not expressed my views of the election in any public forum. I didn't think it was productive to join the echo chamber of Facebook or address the empty lecture hall that is this blog. For what I could see, more than most of the populace had chosen a side long, long ago and all that remained was the counting of hands. I saw no need to debate Trump supporters or trade high fives with those who opposed him.
But now that we are all living in this speculative fiction novel version of America, where the biggest, most cynical publicity stunt of modern times succeeded in ways its inventor never intended, each of us must take stock of our true values and decide how we will live with each other. I still doubt my persuasive powers when it comes to matters of politics -- just like most of us, I am prone to knee-jerk reactions and emotionally-driven decisions that don't always prove prudent after cooling. And as with so many of my generation, my introduction to politics was watching the Nixon impeachment hearings on television, instilling an early cynicism and understanding that politicians were never to be trusted implicitly. So I can't hope to persuade, for I am rarely persuaded.
But what I can do is reflect upon, identify and codify the core values that I believe in and will stand up to defend. The basic truths as I see them that will determine how I react to important, potentially historic events that are sure to keep us all breathless for the next four years. Above all, freedom of speech, thought and movement. Equal opportunity for all groups, and the strength that comes from a diversity of viewpoints and experiences. Maturity, flexibility and transparency from our elected leaders and their representatives, and non-violent action from opponents who publicly protest. These are not partisan viewpoints. These are the values I will rely upon to evaluate the actions of anyone on any stripe of the political rainbow, right, left or center. Violation of these essential ideas will require me to take a stand and take action in whatever small way I am capable of, to add one more voice to the chorus of discontented who want the same United States of America we were always promised ... a vast, sprawling land of loudmouths with the freedom to be any goddamn thing they want to be.
Thanks for listening. Hey, when's the last time you watched Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood? Do yourself a favor, he's pretty much right about everything. More on that next time ...