It is finished.
After many years, I relinquish space on the opinion page to someone else. I do so for several reasons, not least because I trust that someone else will step forward to contribute to that ongoing conversation about political ideas and the secrets of the good life.
In 2011, I moved away. The people of Decatur County deserve to hear from someone who continues to live in the vicinity, someone who experiences the rhythms of life there and knows what needs to be said in the moment. My thoughts here stray to abstraction and national issues. Better if you hear from a neighbor.
I am under contract to finish my second book. Writing a book can be a daunting project. I should devote my energies to upholding that promise to submit a completed manuscript soon -- on top of everything else I do for my university. Such work just doesn’t come easily to me.
Through the years, I have curled back to the same basic themes, to such an extent that regular readers might have found my column repetitive. It was in this space that I tried to carve out an identity for conservatives who try to be thoughtful and fair, without bending over backwards to appease the spirit of the age. There is such a thing as a conservative who is not reactionary, holier-than-thou, boorish, calloused, and predictable.
More important than what divides us, however, are the things that unite us. From my vantage point, the small-town, Midwestern ethos that is centered on piety, family, and respectful neighborliness needs to be celebrated, yes, but also exported to a fractious country. And that process starts with the recognition of what is right about Decatur County. Even if folks reading this do not conquer the world, at least you should keep the world from conquering you.
On a personal note, my eldest son just married a local girl, passed the bar, and put out his shingle. He will take over the house where he was raised. It is as much his town as mine, such that now it is time for him to leave his unique imprint on the place and not have his old man shooting thunderbolts into local conversations from a mountain range away. I should be gracious enough to let him emerge with his own voice.
Among the many gifts this weekly column has given to me is the chance to experiment with writing, to take my chances and look for some harmony between style and content. Often, it didn’t work, as my good wife sweetly pointed out now and then. On occasion, I felt as though I got carried away. But every so often, I felt good about my prose. And I was proud of the fact that I never repeated a column; each one was an original.
The ultimate judge, of course, has been you, the reader, who has been on my mind each time I wrote. I imagined you. I wondered whether you even read my column, but that if you had, did you find it provocative and even sometimes persuasive? And did you laugh at the lines that made me giggle when I wrote them?
It was not uncommon for me to rush in to look for Karin so I could share my latest effort with her, almost as though I had found the brightest red leaf under the maple tree. She never gushed. Occasionally, she corrected my grammar. But she helped me immeasurably as a sounding board through the years, so I owe her public thanks. I love you, Karin.
It is strange that after literally hundreds of short compositions, all saved somewhere on my computer, I do not feel any grief as it comes to an end. Maybe that’s a good sign. You have work to do. So do I. Let us each turn to the work that awaits us, now that this work is done.
Blessings be on the people of Decatur County. May you all flourish. And please, look after my children in that community we shared for eighteen years.