'My work here is done'

November 17, 2011|Ron Smith

This is my 146th column for this newspaper. This unlikely marriage was arranged by then-Sun Editor Tim Franklin in the summer of 2008. I was stunned by the proposal, considering that for more than 20 years I had been publicly opposed to his newspaper's political agenda.

I mocked what The Sun advocated and advocated what The Sun mocked. On Second Amendment issues, the differences were so stark that the newspaper once printed an editorial cartoon by KAL that showed me as a revolver spewing bullets out of its barrel. I argue the importance of limited government; the newspaper believes powerful government is the key to needed progressivism.

Mr. Franklin said he needed a conservative local columnist and wasn't averse to having me use my space to disagree with editorial positions, or anything else. I accepted the proposal, and down the aisle we went.

I must say, with two exceptions, the editors of the op-ed page have printed what I submitted. They've treated me well even when I knew what I had written on a particular topic was shocking to their belief systems.

Four weeks ago, I revealed that I had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a disease with poor prospects for recovery. It was inoperable, but, they told me, treatable. The treatment was with chemotherapy. I said I would fight it as long as the fight made sense — as long, that is, as there were prospects for extended quality life.

Sunday, the first treatment ended. There won't be a second. My cancer and my body responded very poorly to the chemical regimen. After consultations, I decided to move on to home care, palliative treatment only. My life will end sometime in an undetermined number of weeks in home hospice care.

Considering the circumstances, this was my best choice. My wife agrees, my oncologist agrees, the supervising nurse agrees, and so this is the path I will follow.

In my column of Oct. 21, I referred to the tidal wave of get well messages I've received since the announcement of the illness. I can't tell you how much each one has meant to me. The love showered on me by family, dear friends, listeners to my show, even from many who do not agree with much of what I have to say, has been heartening and humbling.

Throughout my life, I've been motivated by curiosity, always eager to find out what happens next. As I exit, our society faces grave crises, and it's clear that the current political leadership of both parties is incapable of fixing them. I would have liked to witness the next great unfolding of events, even though I believe these will prove catastrophic.

What must be done will not be done — not, at least, until all the normal dodges have undeniably failed.

I have just finished reading Pat Buchanan's "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" It lays out what has led us to the current unsustainable circumstances that bedevil us. I recommend it to anyone interested in understanding what likely lies ahead.

In my lifetime, America has been transformed from a cohesive society — the greatest country of modern times — into what Buchanan calls "A multiracial, multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic stew of a nation that has no successful precedent in the history of the world."

The country is torn asunder between those who perceive a profound decline and those who believe passionately that there is no decline at all, but rather the beginnings of a march into a progressive utopia. That all previous utopian schemes have failed utterly is ignored.

What is a mere individual to do? Live as sane and decent a life as you can, love your family and friends and understand that everybody is in this together.

My work here is done.

This is Ron Smith's final column for The Baltimore Sun. His email is rsmith@wbal.com.

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