I am now a fairly old guy with an interesting little side hustle developed relatively late in life: writing. My preferred form is the short essay and I like to comment on the passing scene, just like everybody else with a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. But unlike most people who are active on social media, I tend not to get overly worked up over the morning (or evening) headlines. At least not in the usual way.
I like to think I operate from a slightly different, and broader, perspective. I do not consider myself a liberal per se, because I don’t possess an unshakable belief in the steady, uninterrupted march of progress. Nor can I be described as a conservative, because I do not pine for the way things used to be.
I admit to being a bit of an iconoclast who doesn’t mind challenging conventional wisdom. But only in the noble pursuit of “the rest of the story.” Above all else I want to avoid coming across as just another blowhard sounding off on what I find fault with.
Now more than ever it strikes me the key to a comprehensive understanding of our socio-economic predicament is not to be found in an iron-clad, either/or choice between “conservative” and “liberal” viewpoints. Unfortunately, these two confrontational categories are what dominate all public discourse. So I am left without a camp, apart from any easily identifiable tribe. Not that I bemoan my outcaste state, mind you. A renegade status suits me just fine, as I have an innate solitary streak and a pronounced contrary side. Though I am a reliably good-natured contrarian, and a friendly loner.
As just another failed English major who left college in June 1973 after only one year of instruction, I make no bones about approaching all this from a working stiff’s perspective. Putting on scholarly airs is not my thing. My target audience is a fellow commoner who might be bogged down and pre-occupied with the daily struggles of life, while maybe yearning for a little quiet time to think. My objective is to prompt such an average citizen to reconsider certain fundamental issues he or she assumed were already settled, requiring no further attention.
I may lack academic credentials – an unlettered layman, if you will, punching far above my weight – but my life-long interest in history and philosophy and the arts informs my perspective, and I am just delusional enough to believe there is a market for what I do. Unlike all those talented professional pundits who come out with guns blazing on a weekly basis, I write sporadically, and always try to maintain a charitable tone. My aim is to sneak a little light in where it’s least expected, with a style I like to think of as practical poetry.
Christopher Bell, Professor Michael J. New, and the Catholic Vote November 2016
World Meeting of Families, Philadelphia 2015: A local resident offers a layman’s perspective