Big question of the week: What should I do with my 750 words?
Now, some readers have very precise suggestions for what I should do with those words, but at the end of the day, I’m the decider.
Every week, every year for more than 30 years, I’ve sat down at my typewriter — oops, my word processor — oops, my computer — to write something that will resonate with readers. There are hits and misses, and many in between. As you know if you turn to my space, I range from the personal to the political to the occasional philosophical riff.
By the time I sit down to write, I have a kernel of an idea, and then I see where it takes me. This week I’m thinking about the 52 choices I made this year, and all the nascent ideas that never got to see the light of day.
Of course, President Trump is the problem. He is a headline-grabbing attention hound who sucks in all the air around him.
I was going to write about Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmentalist extraordinaire from Sweden who was just named Person of the Year by Time magazine for her relentless fight to save the Earth. I could have written about Greta and her precocious intelligence, and how she challenges us to do better. I could have explored that, but our president was busy trashing regulations that keep miners and drillers under control. He got the ink that week. Sorry, Greta.
Then I thought about Mr. Rogers and how he has suddenly become the rock star of the sweater set. Movies, memoirs, interviews galore are shining a light on this remarkable and somewhat enigmatic man. There was a column there … but then Trump decided to separate immigrant parents from their children as the ultimate discouragement to coming to America. Babies in cages trump Mr. Rogers, pardon the pun.
In early summer I had the transcendent experience of tasting a friend’s homemade Anzac biscotti. I really, really wanted to share the recipe with you all, but then Trump started telling White House aides not to comply with House Judiciary subpoenas. The sky was beginning to fall; the three departments of government were becoming unequal, with the executive branch appropriating more than its share of power. Biscotti? Threat to democracy? No contest.
I wanted to tell you the real story of my husband’s Aunt Ada. I wrote a laudatory column this summer sharing her Army letters in 1945 from Paris, where she was stationed. It was a nice column, all high-minded and patriotic, but there should have been a few sequels, since Aunt Ada turned out to be a vicious old witch who eventually sued us. We eventually got even by burying her in a high-traffic zone at the cemetery. And yes, she was dead. You would have loved the story . . . but the president kept threatening to fire Robert Mueller, and that was when we were all expecting the Mueller report to set the world right again. Had to write about it. Had to hope. Aunt Ada’s expose had to wait.
I wanted to write about our needing to find our heroes. I thought the new parenting styles were worth a column. I know a piece on decluttering, physically and emotionally, would work. I wanted to write about Melania and how she seems to be floating through the Trump years like a specter in designer clothes. I planned a piece on Toto toilets and another on in-law children. Readers always love to hear about Lillybee, the dog, and I wanted to write a column about being alive from the age of radio to the age of whatever-is-the-latest-technological-thing.
I especially wanted to write about the reader who wrote a letter calling me a “JINO,” an epithet that apparently means Jew In Name Only. A nasty bit of anti-Semitism, her note excoriated me for criticizing Trump, who she says is the unimpeachable defender of Israel. There’s more than a column there, but that week the president began his conversation with the president of Ukraine, asking him to investigate the Bidens, and we all know where that went.
I would have done it all, I promise, but nearly every week when I sat down to write, nothing ever seemed as compelling to me as doing my bit, keeping the light shining on Trump’s malfeasance and subversion of our freedoms. At the end of the day and the end of 2019, I want to know that I did all I could, in my small way, to help bend the arc of history toward democracy.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.