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Jewish World Review July 1, 2002/ 21 Tamuz, 5762

Don Feder

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Goodbye to all this | My column first appeared in The Boston Herald on June 25, 1983. Nearly 20 years and more than 2,100 opinion pieces later, it's been great fun, but now it's time for a change.

My years at the Herald and JWR have been among the happiest and most productive of life.

As the Chinese would say, I've been cursed to write in interesting times. I covered five presidential elections, interviewed a sitting president, and filed from El Salvador during the civil war, Belgrade two weeks after the bombing ended, Israel from the first Intifada through the current crisis and in the aftermath of Sept. 11

If that wasn't enough, I had nearly a decade of what was for a conservative columnist the most target-rich environment since Sodom and Gomorrah -- the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton, including his crowning high crimes and misdemeanors. Impeachable Willie was the gift that kept on giving, for eight unbelievable years.

For most of my adult life, I've had a forum for self-expression many would envy. It has been my privilege to meet and share the insights of individuals who've shaped our times -- senators, governors, Cabinet members and opinion-makers.

Not surprisingly, the columns that mattered the most were the most personal -- reflections on my father, my hometown and October (that bittersweet month). Even for political junkies, politics is the chaff not the staff of life.

Like many writers, I never felt that I got it quite right. I was usually content with my efforts, but completely satisfied on only a few occasions.

The idea for a column is like a block of marble to be shaped and smoothed in hopes the finished product will appeal to both the intellect and emotions -- even when the subject is something as prosaic as politics. For me, that goal was approached far more often than it was realized.

Along the way, I made friends and a legion of dedicated foes.

Some were incensed by what I wrote, which admittedly stood against a swelling cultural tide. I've always found it curious that an ism which was once synonymous with free inquiry and dissent should end its days like a crotchety codger, muttering to himself because there are those who dare to contradict him.

Though I agree with almost nothing she represented, playwright Lillian Hellman spoke for me when she told the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1952, "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions."

Over time, a political writer is consumed by certain issues. For me, questions of morality and national identity became overriding concerns.

The outcome of our national debate about abortion, homosexuality and drugs will determine what sort of people we become. Immigration, English, patriotism, multiculturalism and national security go to the heart of whether we will remain a people, in a coherent sense, at all.

I am, I will freely admit, in love with America. I was fortunate to be born in this country at almost midpoint in the American century. For me, this blessed land represents all that is finest in the human spirit.

Devotion to America and a commitment to Biblical morality (the two go hand-in-hand) compelled me to embrace positions that provoked the rage of a cognitively challenged establishment and its minions burdened by ideological blinders.

I said things you weren't supposed to say and acknowledged universal truths many found offensive, if not outright wicked.

Big deal. In the past century, brave souls were imprisoned, tortured and murdered for their beliefs. Raspberries are small potatoes, by comparison.

But now the time has come to bid a temporary farewell to journalism. Two decades is long enough to do one thing -- even a labor of love.

For some time now, I've felt the need for a change. And so, I will take a sabbatical from writing a twice-weekly column. I intend to remain involved with the issues I've written about, but more directly.

Shortly, I hope to establish a website where I can continue communicating to readers. I can't conceive of not being able to express myself on the pressing issues of the day, if only to a highly select audience.

A reader once sent me an anonymous note that declared, "You'll never know the good you do till you get to heaven."

I'm not so sure of that. But the exhilaration of saying what had to be said, in the face of indignation and scorn, is reward enough.

Now, if I can only lead a cavalry charge with drawn saber, while the regimental band plays "Gary Owen," my life will be almost complete.

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JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate