070115individualJim Echols, the city editor who hired me at The Roanoke Times in 1965, often said a true newspaperman defies categorization by those who believe in stereotypes.

“If you do your job correctly you will be called a Republican by Democrats, a Democrat by Republicans, a rightie by lefties or the other way around,” he said.  “You have six months to piss off at least half the folks who read this newspaper.  If you don’t, I will fire your ass and find someone who will.”

I lasted four years at the Times.  I pissed off a fair number of readers.  Others also liked my stories and columns.  Managing Editor Woody Middleton replaced me with Mike Ives, a newspaperman who was much better at making people mad.

Nowadays, a half-century after joining The Roanoke Times, I still apparently have a knack for pissing people off.  Over the last couple of weeks, articles I have written have generated several hundred comments on social media and a fair number of those comments are accompanied by obscenities, threats and anger.

Republicans call me a shill for President Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Democrats claim I’m a right-wing nutcase.  Devotee of the Confederate flag call me a traitor to their cause because I feel the flag is, itself, a symbol of treason.  Enemies of anything supported by the current President call me self-serving because I feel the Affordable Health Care Act provides my wife in insurance she was previously denied and they overlook that millions of Americans now also have health insurance they did not have just a year or so ago.

I’m called a “queer” or a “fag” because I support gay marriage and equality for homosexuals.  In reality, I’m a screaming heterosexual who, in my single days in the “swinging 70s,” enjoyed the intimate company of women.

At 67, I’m in what some call the “waning years” of a long life that provided adventure and satisfaction.  I still work 50 to 60 hours a week in a profession I love and retirement is not an option.

As a recovering alcoholic (21 years, 24 days sober) I no longer hang out in bars.  I did for 35 years.  My bad.

Amy and I will celebrate 36 years of marriage in December.

Am I a liberal?  No really.  I’m a gun owner who also believes in a woman’s right to choose when it comes to abortion.  I support the death penalty in criminal punishment.  I believe in God but I don’t believe in organized religion.

I’m an individual who is not controlled by any political party or philosophy.

Make of it what you will.  Your approval or disapproval is not important to me or those I love.