The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

America’s Next Pundit?

Dare I hope? I mean, I’ll never be on American Idol anyway. (Too old. Wrong voice type: baritone.) But the Washington Post is borrowing a page from the Idol handbook.

You’ve got an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Here’s your chance to put your opinions to the test — and win the opportunity to write a weekly column and a launching pad for your opinionating career!

Start making your case.

Use the entry form to send us a short opinion essay (400 words or less) pegged to a topic in the news and an additional paragraph (100 words or less) on yourself and why you should win. Entries will be judged on the basis of style, intelligence and freshness of argument, but not on whether Post editors agree or disagree with your point of view. Entry deadline: Oct. 21, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Then get ready for the great debate.

Beginning on or about Oct. 30, ten prospective pundits will get to compete for the title of America’s Next Great Pundit, facing off in challenges that test the skills a modern pundit must possess. They’ll have to write on deadline, hold their own on video and field questions from Post readers. (Contestants won’t have to quit their day jobs, but they should be prepared to put in about eight hours a week for three weeks.) After each round, a panel of Post personalities will offer kudos and catcalls, and reader votes will help to determine who gets another chance at a byline and who has to shut down their laptop.

Eyes on the prize.

The ultimate winner will get the opportunity to write a weekly column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of The Washington Post, paid at a rate of $200 per column, for a total of 13 weeks and $2,600. Our Opinions lineup includes a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners, regulars on the national political talk shows and some of the most influential players inside the Beltway. We’ll set our promising pundit on a path to become the next byline in demand, the talking head every show wants to book, the voice that helps the country figure out what’s really going on.

So what are you waiting for?

So, what am I waiting for?

Well, it’s actually too munch like Idol. After all, a popularity contest is pretty much assurance that the most mainstream “talent” wins.

And that means I’d have to make a decision. I’ve accepted that the kin of stuff I blog about and the way that I do it doesn’t lend itself to attracting a broad audience. Enter a contest and — assuming I make it past the first cut — I’d have to change that if I want to win.

And I’d want to win.

Why?

I’ve been blogging for almost six years now, and after all that time I know one thing. I want to write. More like I have to. It’s like breathing to me. And much of what I want to write about relates to politics.

But I’m at a place in my life where it’s increasingly difficult to find the time. It it doesn’t have to do with work or family, I’ve got very little time for it. And writing doesn’t have much to do with either my job or my family, except to the extent that I’m easier to live with and work with when I’ve able to write. I’ve made and continue to make efforts to make writing a bigger part of my work, but thus far to no avail.

I’m not doing what I want to be doing. And in a sense, despite doing everything I can think of about it, I’m not who I want to be.

I heard it said earlier this week that, essentially, there are at least two kinds of people in the world: people whose opinions matter people whose opinions don’t. I’ve a pretty good idea which category I’m in, because I spend more than half my reading the writings and opinions of people whose opinions do matter, and distributing them to tens of thousands of people. It’s a weird karmic situation in which I’m actually helping other people become more successful at what I want to be doing.

Put another way, we live in a world of somebodies and nobodies. That’s probably more true in D.C. than in most other places.

“Somebodies” are sought after, given preference, lionized. “Nobodies” get insulted, dissed, exploited, ignored. Low rank, even when the ranking is clearly meretricious, functions exactly like race and gender — as an unjustifiable impediment to advancement.

All forms of abuse, prejudice, and discrimination are actually predicated upon differences in rank. Rank-based discrimination deserves a name of its own to distinguish it from racism, sexism, and bad manners. By analogy, we shall call it rankism. Once you have a name for it you see it everywhere.

Our society no longer condones abuse based on race or gender, but inequity based on rank is, for the most part, still overlooked. It might be supposed that if one overcomes tendencies to racism, sexism, ageism and other narrowly defined forms of prejudice, one would be purged of rankism as well. But rankism is not just another ism, it’s the mother of them all. The familiar kinds of discrimination are simply special cases of rankism. Color, gender, etc. are excuses for exploiting power differences, not the cause of the resulting injustices.

Unlike race or gender, rank is mutable. You can be taken for a nobody one day and for a somebody the next. You can be a nobody at home and a somebody at work, or vice versa. “Nobody” is an epithet used to justify further denigration and inequity. “Nobody” is the N-word of our time.

In a town full of “somebodies,” the reality is that I’m pretty much a nobody. Not only that, but I’m a 40-year-old nobody living for the past 13 years in a town where those who have been “somebody” for as long as I’ve been alive (or longer) are on one side of me and the up-and-coming “somebodies” are often half my age. And the longer I sit here, the less likely it seems that I’ll there anytime soon, or even start moving in that direction.

In some ways, this would be a route to at least start moving in that direction.

And time is something I don’t really feel is on my side anymore. Partly because I feel I already lost a lot of time.

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As much as I hate to admit it, I was nailed by this particular statement in the clip above:

“A man gets to a certain age and he realizes he going to die someday. Really die. And what’s worse is that he’s everything he’s ever gonna be, he’s never gonna be rich, he’s never gonna climb a mountain…

I do lay awake nights wondering “Is this all I’m ever going to be?”

Most of that has to do with the work/career. The one remaining area affected. (I have no regrets whatsoever about my “spousal relationship.”) And that brings me to another video that registered with me in a way it didn’t with the hubby.

…That’s mainly because of our different experiences. He’s a doctor. He wanted to be a doctor and he became a doctor, because he was able to do what it took to become a doctor, and during a period in his life when he had fewer responsibilities than he would in later years. My experience was a bit different.

What was I doing in my twenties? It all seems like a blur now, but what I mostly remember was spending a lot of time and energy trying to keep my head above water, and not always succeeding. I remember watching other people advance in their careers and educations, while I seemed to be working hard just to tread water, and still occasionally went under. Now I look back and I wonder what happened to my twenties. What happened to those years? They happened, but what happened is something I’m still not sure about.

I tend to look at them as “lost years,” because it’s literally as if at or around 32 years a curtain was suddenly pulled away, and there was light where I’d previously been stumbling around in the dark. The obstacles I’d struggled with in the past were still there, but I could see them clearly now, along with paths around some of them. At thirty-six, I’m finally making the progress I felt I should have been making at twenty-six. It becomes obvious to me when I look up and see people around me doing incredible things at an age when I was stumbling around in the dark.

And I’m still afraid that I’ve lost so much time that I’ll never make it up. That is, I’ll never catch up to where I want to be, or where I think I could have been if not for ADD and the “lost time” incurred because of it. I’m afraid that the time for all of that has come and gone, and I missed it. Maybe it’s because the somebodies whose words I spend half my time reading, copying, pasting and disseminating, are now also half my age. Maybe it’s because I get this feeling that I working with 20-somethings who are gonna go off to grad school, etc., come back and end up being my boss one day — and I won’t have gotten much further than I am.

These days, if I had to describe where I am, I’d say it’s kinda like that movie The Terminal, the one where Tom Hanks plays a immigrant who arrives in America with no money, where he doesn’t speak the language and can’t talk to anyone. Plus, he’s from a country that the U.S. doesn’t recognize. And he can’t leave the airport without risking deportation, which would mean going back to a country where war just broke out.

So. He sets up residence in the airport.

Except, for me, I in a train station. I don’t know what happened on the way to the station. But I either lost my ticket, or arrived late and missed my train. My train has left the station. Still, there I am with my bags and my itinerary, and I don’t see my train on the schedule any more.

And it’s a pretty crowded station. In fact, I’m surrounded by people. The arrivals and departures are constant, so everyone’s on their way somewhere. I’m surrounded by people who are either just embarking on their journeys to their destinations, or people who have finally reached their destination. In other words, everyone seems either to be on their way or to have finally arrived.

Except, I’m stuck in the station. After all, if I leave the station, I’m guaranteed to go nowhere. The train left I-don’t-know-how-long ago. And I don’t have a ticket any. But I’m sure I’m supposed to be going somewhere.

I just don’t know how, when, or how long I’m supposed to wait and keep myself busy until then.

Besides watching the arrivals and departures.

Of course, there’s another drawback. If there’s one thing that living with untreated ADD for as long as I did gave me, it’s a long-standing acquaintance with failure, and an adage that I developed as a self-defense mechanism: If I don’t do it, I can’t do it wrong. If I don’t start, I can’t fail. That’s a survival mechanism that I developed to spare myself at least a little grief during that time.

So, what if I try it, fail, and find out that I just don’t have “it”? (Whatever “it” is.) Or, as Mama Rose said, “If I coulda been, I woulda been.” If so, will I have to find something else to be?

Would it be better not to try at all? Or Worse.

One Comment

  1. Work often amounts to getting paid in return for pleasing a bunch of a-holes. It’s worse if it involves prostituting something you care about. And when the rituals of work get you outsourcing your evaluation of your life to those same a-holes, I think that’s a form of hell.

    This contest, isn’t it a lot like the Romans offering freedom to the captive who wins the gladiatorial tournament? Some say I’m too cynical and they may be right.

    If you have to write BS in order to get the gig, then unless you can find the zen of that particular flavor of BS, you probably won’t win, and if you do, you’ll hate the prize, because it’ll involve writing more and more of it.

    Robert Fripp wrote an article a while back in which he said that if you think of yourself as a musician, you should be sure to understand the value of your relationship to music, be grateful whenever you are in the presence of music, and never become a *professional* musician unless you have no choice.

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