In a Facebook conversation Saturday with someone from my high school days here in Floyd County, she said she never thought I would be so “outspoken.”
I laughed it off. I’ve never considered myself “outspoken.” I’m an old-fashioned newspaperman who observes the world around us and writes about it, photographs it and shoots video that illustrates it.
Yes, I wrote an opinion column for The Roanoke Times from 1966-69, another one for The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, for much of the 12 years I reported there and have written thousands of articles for newspapers, magazines and web sites for much of the past 50 years.
I have no political affiliation, even though I worked as a political operative for 10 years. No philosophical stereotype pushes any buttons. I’m conservative on some things, liberal on others and non-committal in most. I’m a gun owner who also believes in a woman’s right to choose, a Christian who supports gay marriage and equality for all. I see the Bible as a document produced by humans who too often let their biases affect their interpretations. Muslims, Jews and other religions, in my opinion, have just as much right and freedom to express their religious views as some to claims to be a Christian. Those who preach Christianity as a supreme religion, in my opinion, ignore a basic tenant of religious faith.
I support capital punishment for those who take someone’s life and severe punishment for those who harm children, spouses or others they claim to love but I also support rehabilitation for those who can benefit.
I do not support or endorse some of Barack Obama’s actions as our President but he was elected by the people to two terms and that qualifies him to lead under our system of government. He is not, in my opinion, a successful President but he is, also in my opinion, far better than the man who preceded him, George W. Bush: A liar who used false information to justify a war in Iraq and whose actions have resulted in the deaths of far more innocent civilians in recent years.
I worked for Ronald Reagan in 1984 as a principal writer for his second term campaign. Was he a good President? In my opinion, no. He caused considerable damage to this nation. I worked for him for money, nothing more, nothing less. Politics paid me well for a decade and it is the only part of my professional life that I regret. I left politics in 1994, the same year I took my first step to accept my alcoholism and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Today, I carry a 20-year chip in my pocket and celebrate 20 years, four months and 15 days sober.
I share this not as a badge of conceit or any claim for honor. I am a flawed human being, one guilty of many mistakes and far too many failures.
I write nowadays as part of a necessary penance for what I regret as my participation in a flawed political system that I believe continues to threaten America. I write because the biases, bigotry and fear that is so pervasive in our lives today circumvent reason and logic. I write to try and expose those who use those biases and bigotry for personal gain.
If I am outspoken today, it is because I was not outspoken enough earlier in life. I took the money, loved the power and accepted the benefit of a corrupt system that rewards those who cash out and put their own desires and needs ahead of what should, and must, be done to be productive members of society.
A little over two years ago, an encounter between a cow and my Harley-Davidson on a dark stretch of U.S. 221 at the bottom of Bent Mountain ended my life briefly on the asphalt. Medical professionals twice that night and once again in the following days brought me back after my heart stopped and my breathing ceased.
Several friends, including a minister, tell me that I was “saved” for a purpose. While I can, and should, question whether or not my place on this earth is part of any grand design, I do know I have another chance at life.
If being considered “outspoken” is part of that chance, then so be it.
Consider yourself warned.