My Call Stories

Here are my call stories in response to Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen’s  sermon,“What Is Your Call Story?,” which was the subject of a prior post.  

The sermon drew from the Bible’s account of Isaiah receiving a direct call from God and Zacchae’us having one from Jesus. I never had such a direct call and doubt that I ever will. Instead, as will be discussed, I have responded to various requests by friends and colleagues to do something that upon reflection were calls to service. Such requests often can lead to personal reflection and conversations with pastors and friends to discern whether there has been a call and what your response should be.

The title of the sermon suggests that each of us only has one call story. Yet I have had multiple calls to service and believe that is or should be a common experience. After all the sermon mentions the pastor’s father, Rev. Dr. Henry William Andersen, who had a strong calling to Presbyterian ministry, but upon his retirement from that ministry was perplexed for a while before he discovered a calling to retire and be a friend and counselor to other retired people.

In other words, vocation “implies a dedication to a certain kind of work or service over a period of time. A one-time effort probably does not count. On the other hand, . . . vocation does not necessarily require a lifetime commitment to doing a certain thing. Indeed, an individual’s circumstances change over time and what was a vocation for one period of life may not be appropriate for other period. Thus, an individual may have several vocations over time, some of which might be simultaneous.” [1]

Before I joined Westminster in 1981 I had no religious calls to service.

My Calls to Service

Church Leadership [2]

Shortly after I joined the church, I was asked to be an elder of the church. At the time I was surprised that the church wanted someone to serve in that capacity with such limited experience in the church, but I said “Yes” and now regard that as a call to service. This led to service on various church committees—Spiritual Growth, Evangelism and Global Partnerships, the last of which I chaired for ten years. In the process I learned a lot about these different programs and helped shape their missions.

This call was expanded by an invitation I accepted to join the Board of Trustees of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, an ecumenical Protestant institution, which I served, 1988-1998.

The Sanctuary Movement Lawsuit [3]

While serving as a church leader, I struggled with how I could integrate my new religious faith with an active legal practice as a corporate litigator.

The answer to that struggle emerged in 1985, when the senior partner at my law firm asked me to provide legal advice to a firm client and his church, the American Lutheran  Church (ALC), which was headquartered in Minneapolis and since merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The problem was to help ALC decide what it should do in response to the U.S. Government’s disclosure in a criminal case in Arizona that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS and now the (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE)) had sent undercover agents into worship services and Bible study meetings in ALC and Presbyterian churches in Arizona that were involved in the Sanctuary Movement.

The result was the ALC joined my denomination—Presbyterian Church U.S.A.—in suing the U.S. Government in federal court in Arizona over what we called “spies in the churches.” In preparation for that case, I had a trip to Phoenix to meet religious leaders involved in the Movement, including Rev. John Fife of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, who in 1986 was convicted of harboring and transporting illegal aliens and served five years probation before being elected Moderator (the national leader) of my denomination. 

The courtroom work in this case was handed by two excellent lawyers—Peter Baird and Janet Napolitano of the Phoenix firm of Lewis and Roca (n/k/a Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie)—and after a Ninth Circuit reversal of a judgment for the Government, the court in Arizona granted a declaratory judgment that the U.S. Constitution’s “freedom of religion” Claus of the First Amendment protected churches from unreasonable investigations. (Napolitano, of course, later became U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, the state’s Attorney General and Governor and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and now is the President of the University of California.)

Thus, I came to understand that my senior partner’s asking me to provide legal services to the ALC was a call to religious service.

Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer [4]

Moreover, at the start of the Sanctuary Movement case, I knew very little about the Sanctuary Movement or refugee and asylum law or what had been going on in Central America. This led to my leaning about this area of the law through a refugee and asylum training program from Minnesota Advocates for Human rights (n/k/a Advocates for Human Rights) and then volunteering to be a pro bono (no fee) attorney for an asylum applicant from El Salvador. Simultaneously I engaged in research about the Sanctuary Movement and about what had been happening in that country. I then tried the case with an experienced immigration attorney in the Immigration Court in Minneapolis. As was typical at the time, we lost the case, but immediately filed an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C., which enabled our client to remain in the U.S. with a work permit.

My Pilgrimage to El Salvador [5]

In 1988 I volunteered to handle another Salvadoran asylum case, which was more complicated. As a result, I decided to go to that country in April 1989 with a group from the Washington, D.C. Synod of the ALC through the auspices of the Center for Global Education of Augsburg University of Minneapolis. My purpose was to conduct investigations for this new case and learn more about the country and those objectives were accomplished.

The day we arrived, the Salvadoran Attorney General was assassinated with a car bomb. This produced an intensely tense and dangerous time in the country with her security forces with their automatic rifles stationed throughout the capitol.

Unexpectedly this trip turned out to be the most intense religious experience of my life and a major call to faith and service.

I started to learn more about Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated while saying mass on March 24, 1980, because of his outspoken criticism of his government’s human rights violations. My group visited the beautiful, modern chapel on the grounds of a cancer hospital where he was killed. Across the street was his small apartment. No fancy archbishop’s palace for him. Another stop was at the capitol city’s Cathedral, which was still unfinished due to Romero’s refusal to spend money on the building while so many Salvadorans were being killed and persecuted. His tomb then in one of the transepts was very plain and covered with photographs of people and their written prayers. There were scraps of linoleum on the floor and plain wooden benches for worshippers. On the outdoor steps to the Cathedral women from COMADRES (Committee of Mothers of the Disappeared and Assassinated) with bullhorns were screaming protests against the latest round of repression by the government. Tears filled my eyes as the words of the Holy Communion or Eucharist echoed in my mind: “My body broken for you.” As a result, Romero became a self-appointed saint for this Protestant believer and I was overjoyed in October 2018 when the Roman Catholic Church canonized Romero as Saint Romero. [6]

Of the many other searing events of my week in El Salvador, another stands out. At the small Lutheran Church of El Salvador, we met an attorney, Salvador Ibarra, who was the one-person human rights office of the church. He spoke of his joy in his work even though such service put his own life at risk and thereby was calling me to continued work as a pro bono asylum lawyer.

Additional Pro Bono Asylum Work [7]

I accepted that call upon my return to the security and comforts of my office in a large law firm in downtown Minneapolis. I helped my second Salvadoran client to obtain asylum.

Thereafter until my retirement from the law firm in 2001, I was such an attorney for other Salvadorans, a young man from Afghanistan, two Somali men, a Burmese man, a young woman from Colombia and a Colombian family, all of whom obtained asylum and at least some of whom are now U.S. citizens.

Teaching International Human Rights Law [8]

In the Fall of 2001, after retiring from the practice of law, I audited the international human rights law course at the University of Minnesota Law School, which was taught by friends, Professors David Weissbrodt and Barbara Frey and by Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, who became another friend. Thereafter David extended a surprise invitation to me to help them teach the course in the future. I accepted that invitation or call, and from 2002 through 2010 I was an Adjunct Professor at the UM where I taught the chapters on refugee and asylum law and U.S. federal court litigation over foreign human rights violations. Along the way I also learned a lot more about other aspects of this large area of law. I am grateful for this call.

Blogging About Law, Politics, Religion and History [9]

One of the reasons I had another retirement (this from teaching) was to research and write about law, politics, religion and history and stumbled onto blogging as a way to do just that. As a result, in April 2011 I started this blog.

My writing about religion has concentrated on the life and witness of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. I have been enriched by reading the Biblical texts and sermons and then thinking and writing about them. I have come to see this as my way of doing evangelism by demonstrating how an intelligent person can have a religious, spiritual life, something I did not believe possible during my 24 years of religious and spiritual nothingness before I joined Westminster in 1981.

Another major subject of my blog is promoting U.S.-Cuba reconciliation, which grew out of my work on Westminster’s partnership with a Presbyterian-Reformed congregation in the City of Matanzas, Cuba, making three mission trips to the island and welcoming Cuban visitors to my church and city.

Thus, I have come to see blogging as another call that I have accepted.

Conclusion

I concur with Rev. Hart-Andersen when he said in his sermon, “ Christian vocation is less about a particular job and more about how we approach that job, less with what career we choose and more about the underlying purpose we sense in our lives and how that purpose manifests itself in whatever we do. . . . Being called to follow Jesus is a way of life, a pilgrimage on which we embark together.”

Or as noted Presbyterian pastor and author, Frederick Buechner said, a calling is “work I need most to do and what the world needs most to have done. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” [10]

I am eternally grateful to have received, and accepted, these calls to service. My life has been enriched!

==========================

[1] My General Thoughts on Vocation, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 6, 2014). 

[2] Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, dwkcommentaries.com (April 6, 2011); My Vocations, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 23, 2014), 

[3] The Sanctuary Movement Case, dwkcommentaries.com (May 22, 2011) 

[4] Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer, dwkcommentareis.com (May 24, 2011).

[5] My Pilgrimage to El Salvador, April 1989, dwkcommentariess.com  (May 25, 2011); Inspiration of a Christian Lawyer by the Martyred Jesuit Priests of El Salvador, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 14, 2014); posts listed in the “Archbishop Oscar Romero “ section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—-Topical: RELIGION.

[6] The Canonization of Oscar Romero, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 15, 2018). 

[7] See n. 4.

[8] Auditing the International Human Rights Law Course, dwkcommentaries.com (June 30, 2011); Teaching the International Human Rights Law Course, dwkcommentareis.com (July 1, 2011). 

[9] The Joy of Blogging, dwkcommentaries.com; List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: RELIGION

[10] My General Thoughts on Vocation, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 6, 2014). 

Blogging About Westminster Presbyterian Church

Attending worship services at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church usually is an enriching experience for me. I especially appreciate our service’s being divided into three parts: Preparing for the Word, Listening for the Word and Responding to the Word with the reading of the Scripture and the sermon in the center section of the service. That structure helps me and, I assume, others at the service or watching on livestream to focus on the central message of the day from Scriptures and the sermon.

Moreover, I often have discovered that being present at the service is not enough. Afterwards when the text of the sermon is available in hard copy or on the church’s website, I frequently read the Scriptures for that day plus the sermon and the prayers printed in the bulletin as well as occasionally conducting independent research on the topics.

I then write an essay about all of this. In the process I deepen my knowledge of, and appreciation for, the sermon and the issues it explores. This research and writing process usually takes several hours. Typically I then leave that draft on my computer overnight and revise and add other thoughts the next day or so.

I then publish these essays on my blog to share my thoughts with whomever in the world follows my blog or finds them on the web. I hope that they provoke thoughts by others, which when shared by commenting on the blog’s website will stimulate additional reflections by me and others.

For example, an especially meaningful service for me was on November 18, 2018, with the tale of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth 1: 1-18 and the sermon “Whose People Will Be Our People?” by Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen. I, therefore, wrote and published a post with the title of that sermon. After quoting the Prayer of Confession, the Scripture and the entire text of the sermon, I entered my Reflections, which was my way of Responding to the Word.

In addition, I write other blog posts about different aspects of Westminster’s life to share the good news. I see all of these blog messages as my way of doing evangelism.

 

 

Why I Do Not Hope To Die at 75

Under the provocative title, “Why I Hope To Die at 75,” the 57-year-old Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and head of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, sets forth in The Atlantic Magazine what he claims to be his firm conclusion that he hopes to die in 18 years at age 75.

As a 75 year-old-man who was graduated from high school in 1957, the year Emanuel was born, I do not hope to die in the remaining months before I turn 76 or at any other set time.

Let us explore the reasons for these different conclusions.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel’s Reasons

According to Dr. Emmanuel, “[L]iving too long is . . . a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” He then backs up this opinion with what he asserts as facts:

  • “We [in the U.S.] are growing old [in terms of increased life expectancy], and our older years are not of high quality.” Studies show, he says, that “increases in longevity seem to have been accompanied by increases in disability.” Another study found an “increase in the absolute number of years lost to disability [including mental disabilities like depression and dementia] as life expectancy rises.”[1]
  • Another medical researcher said, “health care hasn’t slowed the aging process so much as it has slowed the dying process.”
  • “[O]ur mental functioning deteriorates as we grow older: mental-processing speed, working and long-term memory, problem-solving and creativity.”
  • The “most dreadful of all possibilities: living with dementia and other acquired mental disabilities” while our society is expected to experience a “tsunami of dementia.”
  • As we age, we “accommodate our physical and mental limitations. Our expectations shrink. . . . [W]e choose ever more restricted activities and projects, to ensure we can fulfill them.”

He recognizes that “there is more to life than youthful passions focused on career and creating. There is [mentoring and] posterity: children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

But these benefits of aging are outweighed for him by “the very real and oppressive financial and caregiving burdens” often imposed on other family members and by the psychological burdens on children unable to escape from the shadows of living parents.

Although Emanuel does not embrace euthanasia or suicide for himself, he has executed “a do-not-resuscitate order and a complete advance directive indicating no ventilators, dialysis, surgery, antibiotics, or any other medication. . . . In short, no life-sustaining interventions.” In addition, if and when he reaches age 75, he will seek to avoid any visit to a doctor and any regular preventive tests, screenings, or interventions. He says he “will accept only palliative—not curative—treatments if he is suffering pain or other disability.”

A desire to die at age 75, he says, “forces us to think about the end of our lives and engage with the deepest existential questions and ponder what we want to leave our children and grandchildren, our community, our fellow Americans, our world.”

He concludes with this caveat. “I retain the right to change my mind and offer a vigorous defense of living as long as possible. That, after all, would mean still being creative after 75.”

Responses to Emmanuel’s Reasons

I agree with Emmanuel that as we age we lose some of our physical and mental abilities and that executing a complete advance medical directive forbidding extreme life-sustaining interventions, as he and I have done, is a reasonable thing to do.

Otherwise I vigorously disagree with Emmanuel’s conclusion that a desire to die at age 75 is a reasonable conclusion and reject his argument that what others think of us or how they may remember us after we are gone is relevant to this issue. Apparently creativity is a central virtue for him, and its predictable decline as we age appear to be the major motivation for his stated desire to die at 75. Yes, creativity is important for many of us, but it is not the only virtue.

I also wonder why he does not contemplate retirement from actively working for a living as another stage of life with certain benefits. Nor does he really grapple with the facts, he briefly concedes, that many older people are happy with new interests like “bird watching, bicycle riding, pottery, and the like” and that “there is more to life than youthful passions focused on career and creating. There is posterity: children, grand children and great-grandchildren.” He also glosses over the fact that his own father (Dr. Benjamin M. Emmanuel), now about 87 years old, had a heart attack 10 years ago and since then has slowed down appreciably, but still says he is happy.

My Reasons for Not Wanting To Die at 75

At age 62 with some trepidation, I retired from the active practice of law. I wanted to escape the pressure of being a litigator who oftentimes was forced to be in professional relationships with opposing counsel who were disagreeable people. This produced stress that I wanted to eliminate as life-threatening. I also wanted to create time to do other things beside working while I was still in good health: travel, spend time with my grandchildren, learn new things and write. After my first 10 years of retirement I assessed my retirement and concluded that these years had been productive and enjoyable. That confirmed for me the wisdom of retiring when I did. These conclusions have been reconfirmed by my subsequent three additional years of retirement.

In this period I became actively involved in my church’s global partnerships and made three mission trips to Cuba and one to Cameroon and in the process made new international friends and learned a lot about the two countries. My involvement with Cuba prompted me to become an advocate for changing U.S. policies regarding the island. I could not have done this while still practicing law.

I also have reflected on my own life and affirmatively set about determining the many people and activities for which I was grateful. Yes, this could have been done while still working, but the pressures of working, I believe, would have meant postponing such reflections to another day that would never have come. This process of reflection, aided by worship at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, has also enabled me to see certain of my activities as vocations in the Christian sense.

One of my activities in this first phase of retirement was being a part-time Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School to co-teach international human rights law. In the process I learned a lot about this field of law and enjoyed interacting with law professors and students. I could not have done this while still practicing law.

At the end of 2010 I retired from law teaching in order to create time for sharing things I already had written and for research and writing on new topics that came along. In the spring of 2011 this desire lead to my creating and writing this blog. It is exciting to come across new things, like Emmanuel’s article that prompted this post. I frequently find that such things immediately start my composing an article in my head. Often this triggers a desire to do research, frequently using “Google” searches, but sometimes going to a library or sources of original documents. I enjoy this kind of puzzle and challenge as well as the writing.

In my retirement I also have thought about mortality, especially as friends, acquaintances and others my age die. But such thoughts are not depressing, but rather reminders that I too am mortal. Therefore, try to make the most of each day you have.

I do not worry about when I will die or wish that I will die at a particular age. Nor do I worry about what happens to me after death even though Christianity has a promise of eternal life.

Be happy! Enjoy life! Love one another!

This point was raised in an article entitled “Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry” by Jason Karlawish, a professor of medicine, just after the publication of the Emmanuel essay, but without citation to same. Karlawish said, “Age seems to be a blunt criterion to decide when to stop” and “we desire not simply to pursue life, but happiness, and . . . medicine is important, but it’s not the only means to this happiness.”

Here are some of my blog posts that relate to the previous statement of reasons why I do not desire to die at 75.

Post # Date Title
19 04/22/11 Retiring from Lawyering
21 04/23/11 My First Ten Years of Retirement
226 03/15/12 Gratitude I
242 04/11/12 Gratitude II
243 04/13/12 Gratitude III
276 06/13/12 Gratitude Revisited
221 03/08/12 Intimations of Mortality
489 04/08/14 Mortality
492 04/11/14 Death Certificates’ Documentation of Mortality
466 02/06/14 My General Thoughts on Vocation
475 02/23/14 My Vocations

[1] Emmanuel makes no reference to the immediately preceding article in the magazine by Greg Easterbrook, What Happens When We All Live to 100?, The Atlantic at 61 (Oct. 2014) that discusses research into further increases in vibrant life span.

A Septuagenarian’s Reaction to the Social Media

The social media did not exist when I practiced law through 2001.

Now, of course, they do.

Several years ago I took the first step into these waters when I joined Facebook. I did so primarily to discover what it was all about and to try to keep up with my grandchildren as they were starting to approach their teenager years. But I did not do much with it.

Another step was taken in April 2011 when I started this blog, which at least for some people qualifies as a member of the social media. I did so “in order to share my experiences and expertise in certain areas of U.S. and international law, my concerns as a liberal or progressive Democrat about weaknesses in the U.S. governmental system and my renewed and progressive Christian faith. Such sharing and advocacy I see as part of my responsibilities as a U.S. and world citizen and as a progressive Christian.” I then set up the WordPress Dashboard for my blog to send automatic notifications of new blog posts to my Facebook Friends.

I initially dismissed thoughts of using other social media. Twitter, I thought, was silly and trivial and of no use to me. I rejected requests to connect with others on Linkedin because I thought it was only for professionals, and I was a former (retired) professional.

These thoughts about other social media started to change at a recent full-day workshop on the social  media and blogging at the San Miguel Writers‘ Conference. Our instructor, Nina Amir, emphasized that writers of fiction and non-fiction books should promote their books on the social media. In the process I discovered that at least two of the authors who were keynote speakers at the Conference had their own personal websites: Lawrence Hill, about whom I have written blog posts, and Luis Urrea. Although probably not included in social media, these websites are means of self-promotion for an individual.

But I am not a writer of fiction and non-fiction books and do not need to, or want to, have a personal website. I am a blogger. Amir, however, helped me see that the social media can be, and should be, used by bloggers to promote their blogs, which might some day become books.

As a result, soon after the workshop, I registered for Linkedin and developed my profile. Initially I described myself as a “Human Rights Advocate.” I soon realized that was not a fair description because “advocate” for me implies I am representing someone else in some kind of dispute, and I no longer do that after my retirement as a lawyer in 2001. As a result, I changed my Linkedin identity to the more accurate “Legal & Political Commentator.”

I then started a search for Linkedin “connections.” As my requests for connection were accepted, I began “trolling” for additional ones by reading through my new connections own lists of connections and identifying others I knew and asking them to be connected with me. I also set up my WordPress Dashboard for my blog to make automatic notifications of new blog posts to my Linkedin connections.

Once I am comfortable with Linkedin, I will consider whether to create and use a Twitter account.

Another member of the social media–tumblr.com–was much lower on my priority list for evaluation, but I serendipitously tumbled into the site. A new “connection” on Linkedin was now in Spain for a year, and I sent her a message asking if she had created a blog about her experiences in that country. She had, and it is on tumblr.com: http://300daysingalacia.tumblr.com. In order to check it out I created a tumblr account, and at some point, I will explore tumblr in greater depth.

During the workshop, I observed to the group that in today’s uncertain economy, everyone at least in the U.S., if not the entire world, should be adopting a similar strategy for use of the social media to promote themselves. No one really knows if his or her current position is secure, and one should always be maximizing the possibilities of finding another position if the need or desire arises and expanding your circles or networks of influence and assistance.

I always have been concerned about the loss of privacy associated with social media. This issue recently was highlighted in a New York Times article about Facebook’s new search engine. The author said it has “the ferocious analytical horsepower of Google [that is] applied to Facebook’s data: your pictures; likes and dislikes; when and where you were born; where you were educated; where you work; your religion, sexual orientation and political views — though the engine searches only those things that you have chosen to make public (or, more to the point with Facebook, neglected to make private).” The article concluded that this new search engine “decisively shifts the burden of privacy onto you. It is now your duty to opt out of being discovered.”

This septuagenarian (an individual in his or her 70’s) surprisingly is engaged with the social media.

 

 

2011 Annual Report for dwkcommentaries

This blog started on April 4, 2011, and the blogger made 190 posts for the year plus 26 comments to previous posts.

WordPress reports there were 9,190 views for the year. The busiest day was October 25th with 131 views while December 27th had 113. Most of the viewers were from the U.S.A. with the United Kingdom and Canada not far behind.

Again according to WordPress the following were the most popular posts:

  • International Criminal Court: Four People Recommended for Election as ICC Prosecutor (Oct. 25, 2011)
  • My Grinnell College years (Aug. 27, 2011)
  • Celebrating the Rhodes Scholarships Centennial (June 21, 2011)
  • The Personal Jurisdiction Requirement for U.S. Civil Lawsuits (Aug. 8, 2011)
  • The IBM Antitrust Litigation (July 30, 2011)
  • My Years at the University of Chicago Law School (Dec. 27, 2011)

As indicated in detail on Page: Topical List of Posts and Comments to dwkcommentaries, the posts and comments for 2011 fell into the following categories:

  • Personal
  • Oxford
  • Religion/Christianity
  • Lawyering (practice of law)
  • U.S. Politics
  • Cuba
  • El Salvador
  • Human Rights Treaties
  • International Criminal Justice
  • International Criminal Court
  • Refugee and Asylum Law
  • Alien Tort Statute & Torture Victims Protection Act

The blogger would appreciate receiving substantive comments on his posts, including corrections and disagreements.

 

The Joy of Blogging

After teaching two class sessions of the international human rights law course in the Fall of 2010, I decided to retire from my position as Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. I had enjoyed the teaching, meeting and inter-acting with law students and professors and being part of the law school community. But I wanted to create time to write and organize the various things I had already written.

Being an organized person, I thought the first task should be preparing an outline or structure for what I would write. I never got very far with that idea because so many of the things that I wanted to write about are interrelated.

A cousin told me she was writing occasional blog postings so I started to wonder about creating a blog as a way to do my writing. This, however, was an unfocused, idle thought. One Sunday, as I was reading the New York Times, I looked through a supplement about the New York Times Knowledge Network and discovered a two-session online course, “How To Start a Blog.”[1] I signed up for this course and bought the book Blogging for Dummies that was recommended by my cousin.[2]

I only read a few pages in the book, but the online course was helpful. The best thing was the instructor’s suggestion to go to “WordPress.com” and start a blog before you did anything else. WordPress is a free hosting site for blogs with many “themes” or formats to use. I did just that and thereby avoided my usual approach of identifying the options (another was blogspot) and researching the pros and cons of each before deciding which path to take. On WordPress I quickly picked a theme (Kubrick) that I thought was appropriate and quickly decided to call the blog “dwkcommentaries.” Many blogs are narrow in focus, but that is not me. My focus is law, politics, economics, history and religion.

My initial posts were personal, describing my political philosophy and Christian faith and summarizing some of the details of my practice of law that I call “lawyering.” I also have written many posts about Cuba, El Salvador, human rights treaties, international criminal justice, the International Criminal Court, refugee and asylum law and two U.S. human rights statutes (the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act).

As time passed, there have been further developments relating to some of the prior posts. When I think these developments should be recorded, I write a new post or a comment to the prior post.

Like anything else, I learned as I went along. A friend with a blog of his own on WordPress suggested I add a “tag cloud.” I did not know what that was, but discovered it is a widget you can add, which I did. With this widget, the computer automatically creates a list of the tags you have used the most and uses larger letters for the ones at the top of the list. The tag cloud is now at the top right of my blog. It is one way to find posts on the blog; one just clicks on the tag in the cloud, and the computer displays the posts that have that tag.

The prior paragraph calls for an explanation of categories and tags. Categories are names you assign to groups of posts. I chose Economics, Higher Education, History, Law, Other Countries, Personal, Politics and Religion. Tags are names you assign to individual posts to highlight their main points.

I eventually learned how to add images to the postings. It is more work, of course, but I enjoy using some of my own photographs and finding and adding images from “Google Images.” For a recent post about books regarding Archbishop Oscar Romero, for example, I scanned the book covers from these books in my own library and then transferred the scanned images from my own computer to the blog posting.

After I had made quite a few postings, I worried about how someone would be able to find past posts. There was, to my surprise, no search function for the blog. In looking for a solution to this problem, I  went to the “Appearance” menu on the “Dashboard” for my blog and to the “Widget” sub-page. There I discovered a “Search” widget and added it to my blog.

I also discovered and added widgets for Archives, Blogroll (hyperlinks to websites and blogs related to my blog) and a button to sign up for Email subscriptions to the blog. For individual posts, there are buttons to share the post via Email, FACEBOOK, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Google and to print the post.

WordPress has a section called “Pages” on the right side of the blog where it puts your “About” description of the blog that you are advised to create when you start the blog. In order to increase access to the postings on the blog, I created the following additional documents for “Pages:”

  • In Finding Posts and Comments, I described the various ways for finding posts (and comments).
  • In Chronological List of Posts and Comments I have a list of the posts (and comments) in chronological order of posting.
  • Topical List of Posts and Comments is an ongoing outline of the posts (and comments). It is the type of outline that I initially envisioned as the first step in doing this kind of writing. I think it is the most useful tool for finding posts.

The last two of these documents on “Pages,” of course, require continual updating.

Many of the posts are personal. Maybe someday I will publish the posts,[3] but there are so many other things I want to write about, and the news keeps furnishing more topics. Another motivation for doing all of this is to leave something about my life for my grandchildren and descendants.

Writing a blog, for me, is very liberating. I love it.

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[1] N.Y. Times Knowledge Network, How To Start a Blog, http://www.nytimesknownow.com/index.php/how-to-start-a-blog.

[2] Sarah Gardner & Shane Birley, Blogging for Dummies (3d ed. Wiley Pub.; Hoboken, NJ 2010).

[3] I recently learned that Feedfabrik makes it easy to convert your WordPress blog into a book format with a customized cover that you can then order as a hard copy or a digital PDF edition. http://www.feedfabrik.com.