Baring Souls and Cupboards

This is the time of the year when I declare all my conflicts of interest, both financial and philosophical. I think readers are entitled to know from whence we journalists are coming, but so far as I know, I’m the only one in America who does this.

It’s amazing how easy it is for a blue-collar guy to avoid financial conflicts of interest. Now that I’ve retired from my corporate newspaper job, my income comes entirely from the sale of these columns and Social Security. I rolled over my IRA, and that, such as it is, is handled by a financial adviser who has put most of it in money-market funds, CDs and a couple of mutual funds. I couldn’t tell you what they are without looking them up.

I quit accepting fees for speeches a long time ago, mainly because I think it is silly. I’ve never desired to be a performing monkey. I only speak to people I like, and I say what I please.

I don’t belong and never have belonged to any private clubs. It goes against my blue-collar grain to pay people for the privilege of spending money at their establishment. I belong, in fact, to only two organizations: the National Rifle Association and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I am registered as a Democrat. That occurred after years of listening to Republicans make conservative speeches and then provide us with liberal policies. I prefer the company of an honest liberal any day to a hypocrite posing as a conservative.

Nevertheless, my personal philosophy is about as conservative as you can get. I am a traditional conservative, not a neo- or paleo- or any of those other buglike classifications. As I have often said, you can read George Washington’s Farewell Address and know exactly where I stand on every issue, foreign and domestic. I’m with the first George all the way.

I am a great admirer of Thomas Jefferson. In fact, one of the most moving moments of my life was the first time I stood in the snow at the foot of his grave. Nevertheless, a lot of experience has caused me to not share his unlimited faith in the people. Too many people these days too often more resemble sheep than citizens of a free republic.

I was born in Georgia, and I have been at one time or another a grocery clerk, a janitor, a printer, a reporter, a soldier, a photographer, a reserve deputy sheriff, an advertising copywriter, a political aide, a speechwriter, an assistant city editor, an assistant to the publisher, and I even have one of those silly honorary doctorates. It’s not a distinguished career, but I’m proud of the fact that since the age of 13, I never have been without a job. I was born in a lucky year and avoided all the wars, though I have been shot at twice by civilians. As Winston Churchill said, it’s fun to be missed.

I am opposed to abortion. It is taking an innocent human life, and I cling to the notion that human life is sacred. As for the issue of gay marriage, I don’t care one way or the other. If they wish to deliver themselves into the hands of divorce lawyers, it’s no skin off my nose. There is, for those with the eyes to see it, a great deal more decadence to worry about than that one issue.

I love the South, the land and its people. I’m proud of my Confederate ancestors and the flag they fought for. I understand why some blacks might feel offended by that flag. It’s been misused by some yahoos. Nevertheless, there is no protection in the Constitution for sensitive feelings. With the exception of slavery, the South was right, and everything wrong with this country today — centralized government, imperial wars, pork-barreling and corruption — stems from the fact that the North won the war. The more you study that war, the more you realize that slavery was a sideshow. The war was about regional differences and the Constitution.

At any rate, that part of the river went to the sea a long time ago, and all of us — North, South, East and West — have our own sets of problems to solve. My only purpose in writing a column is to stimulate people to think about those problems. I don’t care if anyone agrees with me as long as he or she thinks and acts. What will kill us as a country is apathy, and we should all take the field against that.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

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