|By A.D. Freudenheim||
17 September 2005
The numbers are fascinating, and tell a story all by themselves:
So what do they represent? 209,610 is the number of words I have written for this web site since I started, and 34,935 is the average number of words I have written per year, in that same time frame. Those words (and a few more from some outside contributors) make up a total of 226 articles, for an average of 38 articles per year. All of those words average out to 928 words per article. And for the record, five years is equal to 1,826 days.
Today is the fifth anniversary of this web site, a date that did a good bit of sneaking up on me since that first article back on 17 September 2000, titled God & Politics is not Mom & Apple Pie. Weighing in at a slight 671 words, that first article is almost 30% off the average length of subsequent articles. I cannot recall the last time I read it, nor do I remember much about the process of birthing it and although I recently re-read it, and still agree with what I wrote, it is most definitely an article that existed most strongly in that moment, at the time it was birthed. It was also clearly the start of something, a statement easy to make at this juncture. Did I know or recognize that at the time? No, I dont think so.
A look back at my diary from September 2000 does not help much; other than noting that the diary-writing itself began on 29 September of that year, and that I was very much enjoying the thrill of trying to write as much as I could about anything I could, the web site is not mentioned. My web article from 16 September 2001 (Recollections and Reflections, And a Moment of Thinking of the Future), one year on, does not help much either; it was all about the tragedy that took place five days earlier. Similarly, diary entries from September 2001 shed little light, with their focus on my then-recent trip to South Africa (some of which also trickled over to the web site, as with Right of Admission, 1 September 2001), the upcoming religious holidays, and trying to capture my state of mind after New York was attacked.
What was I thinking? That I needed an outlet. That I had something to say, and wanted a place to say that. That I didnt want to be a blogger, that I wanted something that forced the writing to drive the technology, not the other way around (as I subsequently wrote in Technodiarrhea, 18 May 2003). That writing was personally meaningful; a tool as much as a passion; a way to think through an idea, a perspective, an argument or a philosophy; a way to stop and make myself think about the world in which I live. And that I loved the dilettantish idea of being a columnist, even if I knew I was unlikely to wind up as one for the Times.
Whatever I was thinking, here I am, five years later.
A few days ago, when I realized that this anniversary was coming up and that I wanted to write about it I began thinking about how I would approach the subject. Statistics aside, two ideas have dominated my thought process about this: the first was to try documenting the evolution of my political views over the last five years, the second to try to identify some favorite articles. Both have been challenging.
My instinctive summary of my political views was to say that I have moved from being a capital-D Democrat to being a lowercase-l libertarian; that five years of writing down my observations on politics, the economy, state-supported benefits, global conflict, etc., had nurtured a clear shift in thinking. However, while there is no question at all that I now identify thoroughly as a libertarian, I do not think I ever fit the mold of a Democrat or at least, have not in many years. The evidence is pretty clear, too: I disliked and distrusted Bill Clinton while he was in office (but not as much as I hated the feminists who defended his sexual harassment of a White House intern; and theres no doubt that Clinton looks good compared to the current White House squatter); I endorsed Nader in 2000 (and the semi-libertarian Dean in 2004); and at bottom, I have been critical of the expanding role that government unfortunately plays in our lives. Doesnt sound much like a Democrat, does it? At the same time, there are many references to libertarians (and Libertarians), civil liberties, and the like since my early articles and where the references are not explicit, the ideas are nonetheless quite clear.
All that said, my lowercase-l libertarianism grew stronger as such and closely observing national and local politics has only increased my wariness of political parties, the Libertarian Party included. (Maybe if the Libertarians did not appear to endorse national GOP candidates when push comes to shove, I would feel differently.) I vote I think it is important, as I have written over and over and over again but I hold my nose. And I do believe, firmly, that libertarianism is compatible with social justice, and that even government has a role to play in supporting a just, and caring, society.
On to favorites a word I tend to resist,. (I am in my mid-thirties, and I still do not have a favorite flavor of ice-cream. Go figure.) Semantics aside, there are a few articles that stand out:
In Pursuit of Happiness, 24 December 2000 First in this list chronologically, and I still think it is one of the best, clearest, and most powerful things I have ever written. And theres no connection to the Christmas eve timing, except coincidence; records indicate I began writing the piece 12 days earlier, and spent more than 3 hours editing it.
The Jewish High Holidays 2001/5762, 30 September 2001 An accurate if not particular descriptive title, what makes this article memorable is the use of Philip Roths magnificent story The Conversion of the Jews and my own sense that I am still, like Roths Ozzie, headed for the roof-top.
As a New Yorker, I use and love public transportation; it is one of the greatest things about this city, and about living along the nations eastern seaboard. I also love New Yorks architecture, its charming grit, and the way that the sublime and the seedy can all cluster together. I have written about these things a few times, in different ways, whether to compare New York to Paris (Good Morning, New York, 29 June 2003) or to note the need for a better transportation infrastructure (Nonstop to Nowhere, 20 July 2003), from arguing that Mayor Bloombergs Olympic passion was misguided (Game Plan, 9 February 2003) to remarking on some of the things I see on my way to work (A Commute With a View, 12 April 2004) or just running around town (Cultural Absorption, 21 October 2002).
Judaism, Zionism, Israel, and what is euphemistically-termed the Middle-East conflict have all been persistent subjects. Two articles on this subject stand out: my two-part essay The Case for Israel Revisited, 7 October 2000, and my two-part report on a speech given by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, from 21 March 2001, which was published here and here.
Fear Factor, 1 December 2002 Prompted by seeing the documentary Bowling for Columbine, this was an articulation of something I had been feeling but unable to express: that even after the 11 September 2001 attacks, I refuse to live in fear. It happens to be one of the columns I do get comments about, mostly from people who have had a more challenging time feeling safe in this world. But I didnt say U felt safe, only that I wasnt fearful. And to me, its no wonder they dont feel safe; my fearless sensibility has only grown, along with the belief that many of the things the government does to make us safer such as putting armed soldiers in the subway (Guys With Guns, 30 March 2003) not only do not work, but are serious threats to our life and liberty. Bottom line: if you are going to trust the government, at least do it with your eyes open (Their Tolerance for Risking Your Life, 19 June 2003; Risky Business, Life, 31 January 2005).
Finally, two articles from December 2004 and January 2005 tie together several different ideas and concerns about social security, education, jobs, and the state of the nation and they do so, I think, with clarity and force. Those are: The Jobs and Education Con Game, 26 December 2004, and Social Insecurity, 16 January 2005.
There are others, too, on subjects as diverse as non-profit management and employee recruiting, but go discover them for yourself, dear reader.
Every now and then, people ask me questions about this web site. They ask: Who reads it? (Answer: I have no idea, except when people tell me they read it.) How many people visit the site? (Not a clue. Once upon a time, I had a hit counter, but it stopped working, so I took it off.) How do you find the time to do it? How do you write so much? (I just do. 928 words a week? Thats an average of only 137 words per day. Think about how many words you write using e-mail on a daily basis. Betcha its more than 137.) Dont you care if people read your work? After all youve written? (Well, yes and no. Yes, because it is satisfying to think that someone might see and be inspired or provoked by something I wrote. No, because ultimately: I do this for myself. Thats what makes it so much more powerful, and meaningful.)
Enough navel-gazing. In the 2.75 hours it has taken me to research and write this, I could have blasted away at the stupidity and narrow-mindedness of our Commander-in-Chief, or told you about the letter I wrote to Howard Dean. Theres work to be done, and other words to write. Onwards.
Copyright 2005, by A.D. Freudenheim.
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This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.