A tree falls in the forest

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3We launched Scholars & Rogues in April of 2007. In the six-plus years since I have been responsible for over 1,500 posts, with more than 500 of them touching upon politics (see them all here and here). Before that I led the charge at S&R’s now-defunct predecessor, The 5th Estate, and probably was doing about the same volume there that I have over the past six years.

That’s better than one per week, and by just about any reasonable standard I think it’s safe to say that I have been an active “political blogger.”

It’s been an … interesting … run. Highs and lows, moments of vague hope generally outnumbered by rage and near-despair. Posts that confront this conflict and ambivalence, posts where I’m debating with myself as much as I am others. Posts that ignited fierce reactions and thoughtful debate, but more often posts that either lured the trolls and idiots out from under their rocks or simply set the crickets to chirping. Posts where I offer guidance and others where I realize that I have nothing to say that amounts to more than a sneeze in a windstorm. It’s been rewarding at times and frustrating at others.

Most of all, though, it’s been exhausting. I can’t describe the toll it has taken on me emotionally and physically, save to say that my health has suffered noticeably at times and it has occasionally fostered in me a toxicity that inflicted serious damage on important personal relationships. My attempt to be a better person, and to use what I know to the benefit of others, has frequently had precisely the opposite effect. I’m just about positive that I’m less likable than I was seven years ago.

I have carried on, though, because I was fighting what struck me as a critically important battle, and I felt like I had useful insights to offer. Doomed or not, this was my mission, and if I failed, at the very least I’d go down swinging. You can insert your own self-involved martyr joke here.

Obviously I’ve been thinking a lot. And I have reached some conclusions that perhaps I should have acknowledged long ago. For starters, while I can stroke myself all I want about how prolific and intelligent and noble I’ve been, I’d be hard pressed to point you toward any place I have made a mark. When I look coldly and objectively at all those passionate and informed and educated and enlightened commentaries, I see trees falling in a forest, a forest with no one to hear them.

Wasting my breath. Tilting at windmills. Preaching to the choir. All the while generating a caustic bile that eats me alive from the inside.

Enough is enough. So today I’m announcing my retirement from political blogging. I don’t expect the world to care or even notice, of course, and I don’t expect my absence from the grand debate on the dumpster fire that is contemporary America to be any more affected by my absence than it was my presence. But this last six years … that’s a significant chunk of time, isn’t it? Arguably those political writings will define my life over this era moreso than anything else. So I’ve chosen to pause and mark this spot in the road with a small cairn, metaphorically speaking. It’s who I am. Even when nobody else is paying attention, I have to live as though I matter.

This doesn’t mean that I’m through writing. No, no. I remain dedicated to the idea that if we take care of the culture, the politics will follow along in due course. I’ll keep commenting on music and sports and all the other things I’ve been known to address, and since I am who I am, it’s a certainty that my writing will continue to reflect the principles that have driven me as I flailed away at the depressing state of our republic. It will also give me more time to concentrate on my photography, which has become my great new love over the past year.

It also doesn’t mean that I’m going to go out quietly. No, this particular end is going to be characterized more by bang than whimper. First off, I’m going to do a brief goodbye letter to the citizenry, with some remarks on conservatism and progressivism and so forth. Nothing you haven’t heard from me before, I’m sure.

Then will come the swan song. I’ve been noodling on a project literally for a decade, and maybe more. I knew the day would come when I’d sit down and firm it up and publish it, and that day is almost here. I won’t give too much away, other than to say it will be a three-week series where I take all my years of bitching and complaining and turn them into a clearly stated solution. You may not like it, but you’ll have to admit that I took at cut at the upper deck.

I expect it will antagonize people. Either that or I’ll be walking away to the sound of crickets.

The rationale piece will be along later this week, and The New Constitution will begin Sunday.


  • I want to encourage you, but I can’t even encourage myself. I just remember the Ranger….

    Looking forward to the next posts….

  • Release yourself from the obligation to produce, but don’t swear off writing at all in future. Please. kthnxbai

  • Samuel,

    I must confess I started reading some of your posts as well as some of your sharp commentaries on the post regarding online dating just lately and I have been enjoying reading them.
    The variety of vocabulary you use and the syntax level are not common in the blogging world and it feels really nice to read so well written comments at a time where most people no longer bother writing complete words or sentences.
    I am a bit disappointed you are leaving the political blogging ( even if I sometimes barely understand some comments…Having grown up and lived most of my time outside the US does not help much understanding all the codes and political references ), so you will be glad to see that your decision is not being unnoticed 😉
    However, I do understand how exhausting it can be to read, comment and write dozens of posts every week, especially when it comes to politics.
    It’s very time consuming and time spent away from the face-to-face, brick-and-mortar world, which is was grounds us, no matter what.

    What is your letter to citizenry supposed to be ?
    Will it be published on this blog ?

    I hope you will still be blogging or commenting on social and cultural topics from time to time.

    Thank you.


    • Thanks for the kind words, everyone. As I say, I’m not going to quit writing, but the political stuff is killing me and I’m not accomplishing anything.

      Arielle: The letter post – really a sort of retirement address – will go live at 10am EDT tomorrow.

  • I have to admit that I was concerned for a while there that you were essentially calling it quits on blogging at all. I’m glad that is not the case. Of course, I could have simply asked outright, but that would have been too easy.

  • That isn’t the plan. Of course, once upon a time I had no plans to quit teaching, or writing poetry, or doing the political stuff.

  • I only found this blog a few months ago, so I don’t have much standing to make request, but I really enjoy your culture posts, so please keep those up

  • Well one of my refrains is “have fun” so if the political stuff is killing you … (here is where I avoid waxing sentimental).

    (Here is where I abandon that principle) But maybe you are a political butterfly and the winds of change are just searching for a place to converge and create a tsunami.

    On the other hand I am thankful you will continue writing. You are a wonderful writer and certainly improve my world.

  • >>Highs and lows, moments of vague hope generally outnumbered by rage and near-despair.

    Sounds like a pretty good summary of life itself.

    >>Even when nobody else is paying attention, I have to live as though I matter.

    Just FYI, this sentence alone would justify you as a writer to me. This is something I struggle with every day, and you have expressed it succinctly and powerfully.

  • Sam, I love your writing and it’s why I’ve stuck around here, even though as a moderately conservative individual I disagree with a lot of what you (and others here) say. I think there’s too much bile on both sides of the aisle. (That’s as close to poetry as you’ll get from me.) I think it’s wise to try and reduce the stress while still caring about the world. I hope you find some contentment.

    • Thanks, Hound. I look forward to hearing from you during the New Constitution series. I expect some of it to piss you off royally, but in other places I think you’ll like what I have to say.

  • Ah ah excellent, reading the comments and answers to the comments is as much fun as reading the posts 🙂

  • Sorry to hear that you are leaving the scene. My livelihood, and at times my life, has depended on how well I could read people. You got guts and fire, but most of all you are a class act my man. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean that I agree with most of what I’ve read from you so far, but hey, isn’t that what its all about?

    • Thanks. I’m wrong at times, but I at least try and be wrong for the right reasons.

      • Well, sometimes times right and wrong are a matter of perspective. Again, your response proves my point… You are a class act. I look forward to reading more of your insights, and possible discussions in the future.

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