Today marks the last of about 22,000 written opinion pieces in a newspaper career spanning 46 years.
Some summary thoughts....
-- Despite the citizenry self-describing as conservative vs. liberal by 2-1, liberalism continues overwhelmingly to control the rhetorical environment. Key opinion-shaping institutions -- the academy, mainline churches, the press -- have collapsed or dramatically changed. The printed word, a leading devotion of this professional life, confronts a dubious future.
-- The presidents of the past 46 years neatly describe the competing virtues of the nation's two principal ideologies. Compare the policies of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II -- as a cohort -- to those of Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama. It's not a difficult choice.
-- Still, George Will's formulation is correct: Unless one is actively conservative, the tendency is to drift left.
-- Regarding the very liberal Barack Obama as the most loftily placed tribune of the contemporary left: Where intellectual honesty has departed, there can be no trust. So, to Obama, this confession from John Marquand's book "Sincerely, Willis Wayde" aptly pertains: "I try to be sincere, really I do. But sometimes it's a problem -- how to be sincere." Those words go far to bathe in light the sullen anger of the hour.
-- As a culture, we're addicted to celebrity. Nothing else explains either our idolatry of insolent athletes and antic entertainers or our insistent belief in the jiggly wisdom of over-cleavaged Hollywood lovelies. Nor does anything else explain the "Today" show dispatching 50 staffers, or CNN dispatching 400, to cover the London marriage of Kate to William -- a prince in the royal line against which, 235 years ago, we fought the planet's most successful and consequential war of liberation.
-- Yet as a people, perhaps above all we crave intimacy -- the intimacy of place, family, friends, and community. The reliable, trusting, interdependent intimacy of the others in the foxhole -- and in what Albert Jay Nock termed The Remnant (see his compelling essay, "Isaiah's Job"). What is America if not a community of shared values on a national scale?
-- On the solitary business of writing, James Thurber had it right when he noted how hard it was to convince his wife he actually was working while looking out the window. And, as one whom readers repeatedly have sought to disembowel and loop with a noose, I can attest to the insight of Keats' observation, "Let any man write six words and I can hang him for it."
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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