For much of my adult life, I’ve had some kind of perch at a journalistic institution from which I could carry on a conversation with fellow citizens who did me the honor of either reading or listening to my Centre Square commentaries.
That dialogue, however tense or challenging it sometimes got, has been one of the great pleasures and privileges of my career.
Last summer, the latest version of Centre Square, appearing fortnightly as an oped in the Inquirer, fell victim to the ongoing tumult and reboots at the paper. Somehow, some way, it seemed to someone that having yet another old white guy taking up space on the page did not meet the needs of a woke moment.
The point was not without merit, so I exited stage left with as much grace as I could muster.
Still, I was suddenly left without a ready platform, without the useful prods of a regular deadline and a set word limit (things which are the good friends of any writer, no matter how much he might grouse and moan about them in times of stress).
This absence has proved more painful and frustrating to me than I would have imagined before it happened.
Like many Americans, I’ve spent the last year confounded, angry, anxious and distressed about what has been happening to this democracy and this society. I sit down to read the New York Times over my morning Frosted Mini-Wheats and often, before the bowl is finished, I’ve tossed the paper down on the dining room table in exasperation, grief or outrage.
Those sentiments used to have a place to go, where I could work through them in public, teasing out insights and meaning, occasionally to the benefit of others.
During past moments of American crisis, whether the Clinton impeachment, the 2000 election stalemate, 9/11, or the Tea Party uprising against out first black president, I was able to say at least a few words that have stood the test of time. (Some, such as insistence that Bill Clinton should resign for having betrayed the people who voted for him by violating vital rules of honesty and executive behavior, were excoriated by many at the time, but have experienced bitter validation in recent days.)
Maybe it’s just the tedious ego of an old has-been, but I can’t shake the sense that I still have something useful to say about the current cascade of dysfunction in Washington and beyond.
Whether or not that’s true, I just feel duty-bound as a loyal citizen of the Republic to heed those familiar instructions: If you see something, say something.
So here goes. Centre Square rides again. Join me on the trail whenever the mood strikes.