For a few years now, my favorite means of self-expression, at least to people I can’t talk to directly, has been the Facebook status update. The dividing line between FB addicts and FB haters seems to run right through my generation, with a roughly equal number of my friends either unable to stay away from it or trying to figure out what it is and why anybody would want to “do” it (with a small group apparently unable to decide).
For me, it was a natural fit from the start. My wife, Marie, who is an anthropologist, read an article that likened Facebook to a virtual village a person can wander through, or a street in a city neighborhood. Some folks are on the porch, some are hanging out their laundry–some of it dirty–and others are inside their houses. You can wander over to chat, eavesdrop and enjoy the show, knock on a door or walk on by. I like people and like talking to them–in my job as a high school history teacher, I might have a hundred conversations in any given day, and they energize me. The chance to talk with people from all the different parts and periods of my life is too much to resist, and since I’m often reading the news in another tab when I’m on FB, and since the news riles me up, it’s not uncommon for me to post something about it.
Or about anything else, and over the years, friends have asked me to start a blog. Some have suggested it because they say they like what I have to say and how I say it. This is gratifying. Some, I suspect, would just like me to stop blowing up their news feeds, filling their smartphone screens with thousands of words when they’d prefer I keep it to something more tweetish. Either way, there have been enough requests that I figure it’s about time to get blogging, and this is it.
Unfortunately for my impatient friends, some of these posts will simply duplicate what I share on FB: I’m not going to stop spouting off there; it’s just too much fun. I’ll link this blog to my Facebook page, but I hope those of you who like reading what I write will subscribe. You’ll get these posts automatically.
Here’s what you can expect to find:
Political commentary that I hope will be passionate, thoughtful, provocative, sometimes funny but always respectful. Even when I’m pissed off. Which happens.
Reflections on life as they come to me. I hope they’ll be all of the above, but maybe will shed a bit more light and less heat.
Links to good stuff I’ve read, either embedded in my own posts or posted directly. One of the beauties of the internet is that ideas fly around like leaves in an autumn wind. I’ll try to grab the ones I like best and show them to you.
Older writing I’ve done, including my “greatest hits” from Facebook and work going all the way back to when I was in college. I’m a lousy filer, and there are a number of op-eds, essays, letters and a few poems I’ve written that are stuffed in boxes, trapped on ancient floppies and hard drives, or stored in the archives of newspapers like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Daily News. Part of my goal here is to finally create an archive where this writing can live, and I’ll post it as I remember it and dig it up. I hope you’ll like it, even if it’s way past the sell-by date.
Your writing. I have smart and thoughtful friends, I think, and some of them wield a sharp pen. If you’d like to post something here, send it my way. If I think it fits, you’ll see it here.
The title of this blog is a nod to eighteenth-century Pennsylvania statesman, politician and author John Dickinson, the namesake of Dickinson college. His essays during the time leading up to the American Revolution, Letters From A Farmer in Pennsylvania, earned him the title “Penman of the Revolution,” and that’s really something, because he had plenty of competition.
In a traditional sense, the greatest battles of the Revolutionary War were not fought in the state where I’ve lived my life–a state famously described by political operative and human-catfish hybrid James Carville as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh [my two hometowns] with Alabama in the middle”, but in the way that matters, I think Pennsylvania was the site of the most important battles in that epic struggle. They were the battles over ideas fought in the pages of pamphlets like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, written and first published in Philadelphia, where I was born. They were the battles that raged in debates in the Continental Congress and at the Constitutional Convention, and they were fought with words. They were heated battles, but they were often constructive. In fact, they were necessary, and I think, if we’re to fulfill the trust the founders passed onto us to make this a more perfect union, they still are.
I’ll make my stand here.