Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why Do I Do This?

This column was originally published in the Mansfield News in September 2004.

There are questions that this intrepid local columnist gets asked all the time. The first is – Will you please just shut up?

But it is the second most frequently asked question that I would like to discuss in this space today. That question is – Why do you do what you do?

Many people cannot understand what would motivate someone to write a local opinion column for a weekly newspaper, never mind three of them each week as I do. Believe me when I tell you, it is not for the money. I will never be able to retire on what I make here..

Some folks think it is to gain power and prestige in order to advance some personal or political agenda. If you have read this space on a regular basis, you know that my views are uniquely my own and do not align with any particular group or philosophy.

In fact, my wife has a theory of why I put myself out there in this manner each week. She says – tongue-in-cheek - it wasn’t enough for me to be hated in one town, I had to go for a couple more.

But the truth is, I love to write and I love to discuss the issues of the day. I am a firm believer in the need for ordinary citizens to be involved and lead. Since I am as ordinary as anyone, I consider myself qualified in this regard.

What bothers me is how few people seem to understand this desire to be involved. In today’s world, people struggle mightily to maintain their anonymity. They seek not to be noticed, to simply melt into the background and enjoy the pleasures afforded by their own families and friends. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.

After all, they see what happens to those who dare to speak out and lead. Those people are subjected to intense public scrutiny, their faults are made public and expanded, they are placed under the glare of a spotlight from which few if any can come out looking perfect.

Who in their right mind would subject themselves to this type of treatment unless they had something significant to gain? These people surely must be masochistic, egotistic or crazy. They must love to fight.

Perhaps that is true. No one who puts their opinion out there every week is without ego. If you don’t strongly believe you are right, you stand no chance of convincing anyone else you are. And crazy? Well, my family members will concede that issue to almost anyone who raises it.
But I speak directly to the public on a weekly basis because I want to – no other real reason. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel as if I am serving a purpose, as though I am making a difference. I do it for myself.

I do it because I enjoy the give-and-take when someone contacts me to dispute my view on an issue. I do it because of the way I feel when someone writes to thank me for saying what they wanted to say in a way they had been unable to express successfully themselves.

These columns are meant to inspire thought and debate. They are meant to lead, even if they wind up leading people in the direction opposite of where my printed words want them to go. I write to make people think, to learn from their responses, and to express myself.

What bothers me the most is how few people realize that. There is nothing exceptional about me. I simply say what I think, and the truth is I can’t understand those who do otherwise.

So the answer to the question of why I do this is – because I enjoy it and because I believe it helps me make a difference. Also, it is considerably less expensive than a psychiatrist.

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