For one thing, I don't know much about politics. I mean, sure, I know that Clinton is president and that Newt Gingrich is one scary dude -- but I don't know the details. That's because I usually don't read the news part of the newspaper; I jump right to the arts reviews and the sports pages. From time to time, I've tried to read about the economy and the government and other stuff like that -- but I find the typical "balanced" reporting (on the one hand, yet on the other hand . . . ) unsatisfying: give me a point of view, dammit! And then, when I do try to focus on a subject -- like, say, the Republican assault on free school lunches -- I quickly grow frustrated at my own ignorance regarding the legislative process. (I knew there was something I missed while daydreaming through my Social Studies classes in high school.) In short, almost any exposure to political news makes me feel dumb and vague.
Another thing that makes this political column unusual is that I'm not a columnist. I did used to be a journalist (at the socialist newspaper In These Times and at the sporadically "alternative" Boston Phoenix), but with a few exceptions (the occasional TV review, one cartoon) I spent most of my time copy-editing and proofreading. My few attempts at reporting terrified me: No matter how short the article or how narrow the topic, I just knew that I'd get something wrong. I was -- and remain -- in awe of those journalists who become true experts in the field they're covering.
So, given these caveats, why am I attempting to write a political column? Well, one reason is that -- as I approach my 36th birthday -- I feel an urge to try, at least, to learn about my government, and perhaps even to have some tangential effect on it. After all, as the child of Communist parents I grew up feeling obligated to destroy the military-industrial complex. (Okay, so I didn't -- Freud didn't do much better with the Oedipal complex. )
Another reason is kind of a sneaky one: I've been itching to explore the Internet, but daunted by its uncharted vastness; my hope is that by focusing on a limited number of political topics, I'll find a constellation that will help guide my cyber-navigations. And finally, I want to do this because I think it might be fun.
To paraphrase Ray Milland in the original version of The Fly: Please help me! I don't know where I'm going, and I have no idea how I'll get there. If you have suggestions for Internet sites that I might find interesting, please e-mail me: email@example.com. And check back in a month or so for a report on where my wanderings have taken me.
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