In just a few days, my body will be 76 years old. That’s incredible. I don’t feel 76. People tell me I don’t look 76 but maybe they’re just flattering me. I suspect what’s keeping me going is a combination of three things: watching what I eat, exercising every day and most of all, loving my job.
After many years as an academic, a nightly commentator on commercial television news programs, running the Legislative Gazette newspaper and writing columns like these, my workload has narrowed. Now most of my energy goes into the WAMC radio stations, twenty-nine facilities in all.
When I tell people how much I love my work they inevitably reply that I am a lucky dude. They often quote Thoreau who once said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Of course, I’m not saying that my job is easy -- most days it is not. Something is always coming up and when it does, as the head of the WAMC organization I am usually assigned the blame. I guess that’s fair.
I’m lucky in that I get a lot of nice mail but you had better believe that every once in a while someone will decide that it is appropriate to let me have it. Often there is no rhyme or reason. Sometimes it’s from a Trump supporter who is furious because I have said something negative about the minority-elected President.
There’s one right wing guy who loves guns and writes to me almost weekly about my “communist” tendencies. On the other hand, I also get letters from people on the left who blame me for not doing enough in the time of Trump. Sometimes I think that when these letters come late at night, the grape or the malt may be speaking.
Recently I received a commendatory letter saying that I was doing a tremendous job. “Thank you once again for bringing the best to the table…” Nice letter, so I wrote back, “You’re welcome.” I get hundreds of letters every day and we can’t answer them all but when I can, I acknowledge them. Sometimes I just say “thank you,” even when the letter castigates me. In this case of the nice letter writer, I got a response that did two things -- it continued to turn my hair grey and actually cost me some hair. The nice letter writer had turned vicious, calling me a lot of names for giving him a one word answer. I was reminded once again that no good deed goes unpunished. My letter writer suggested that I had allowed “this [Trump] travesty to continue unchallenged.”
Folks, I have written column after column and commentary after commentary about Trump. I have been out front in reacting to the man’s arrogance and assault on the body politic. So I wrote back to the guy. I gave him my phone number and asked him to use it but I suggested he reread both of his letters. I'm really proud of WAMC, particularly of our morning Roundtable and of the panel discussion that sifts through the news every day. I am proud of our wonderful staff and I am proud of all of you on all sides of every issue who have given us the means in record time to make our daily contribution. There is no other station, and I mean no other station, that can equal what we do and our willingness to speak truth to power.
Of course, there are people who think that when you reach my age you should mandatorily retire. The argument goes that old people should not continue to work. Hey, I’m proud of what I’ve done and what I will continue to do, God willing. All the isms, sexism, racism and ageism, can be literal killers. Until my board says, “Time to go,” I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.
Oh, and by the way, our letter writer did come back with a remarkable letter of apology and said that after having visited his grandchildren, "I just got very frustrated." All is forgiven.