I started Richard Nixon’s 1982 book Leaders, which profiles various world leaders, many of whom Nixon knew. In this post, I’ll use as my starting-point something that Nixon says on pages 25-26. Nixon is talking about Winston Churchill, and how Churchill in 1922 was really depressed because he could not serve in the House of Commons at that time, due to an “emergency appendectomy [that] prevented him from campaigning for reelection.”
“Talleyrand once said, ‘In war one dies only once, in politics one dies only to rise again.’ Churchill’s career certainly bears out the truth of this observation. But an adage is precious little comfort for a man who has just lost an election. Having lost a couple of them, I know how it feels. Friends tell you, ‘Won’t it be great to have no responsibility and to be able to travel, go fishing, and play golf anytime you want?’ My answer is ‘Yes—-for about one week.’ Then you have a totally empty feeling that only one who has been through it can understand.
“The immediate aftermath is not so bad because you are still numbed by the exhaustion of the campaign, and you are still operating with a high level of adrenaline. Weeks or months later the realization hits you that you have lost and that there is nothing you can take back or do differently to change the outcome. Unless you are wealthy, there is also the necessity of beginning another career in order to pay the bills that keep coming in every week regardless of how you feel.”
Politics was in Churchill’s and Nixon’s blood, so of course they would come back to it! Would I have? I don’t know. I can easily picture myself relaxing and chillin’, and thinking to myself, “Man, I hope this lasts forever!” I’d be happy to be out of the public eye, away from people’s nitpicking and attacks, away from having to socialize with all those people. But would that relaxation get boring after a while? Would there be something within me that would drive me back into the arena? And then there’s another factor that Nixon mentions: how real life comes crashing through! The bills keep coming, even to those who are burnt out. Unless one is wealthy, one has to make money!
I think of Garner Ted Armstrong. He was the head of one of the churches that I attended when I was growing up. He served in his father’s church as a preacher and as one of the personalities on the church’s radio and TV show, The World Tomorrow. But he was excommunicated from his father’s church, and he was confronted with the question of what he would do then. He says that he was offered jobs as a TV news anchor, since he had experience and some success on a TV show. But he concluded that those jobs were not for him. He would have to tell people the news, without bringing the Bible into his discussion. Instead of taking a news anchor job, he would go on to start his own religious organization, and he would have his own radio and TV programs, where he could discuss the news in light of his own understanding of the Bible.
In my case, there have been times when I have had to turn off my computer during the day due to thunderstorms, and I’ve enjoyed the time away. I could read. I didn’t have to worry about what people were saying (or, actually, not saying) about me on the Internet. I even thought for a second that I could walk away from my blogs, and perhaps never come back! But could I truly? I don’t think so. Granted, there may be seasons in which I’d rather not participate too heavily in the world of blogging and social media. But there is something within me that makes me want to write, to reflect on a movie, a TV show, a book, an idea, life, scholarship on religious studies, or a political personality by sharing my thoughts via writing. I doubt that I could walk away from that. I think it’s in my blood, like politics was for Nixon and Churchill, and like religion was for Garner Ted Armstrong.