As Donald Kaul explained in a column about how he had a heart attack on the Fourth of July, he’s either taking a break after half a century of writing hard-hitting, liberal, and humorous commentaries or he’s retired. Going through the height of election season without his razor-sharp insight has been hard for many of us who revere him. However, I wanted to take a moment to let OtherWords readers know that he’s still on the mend and weighing whether or not to return.
This is the fourth installment of a series of posts showcasing many of the moving letters Don received following that column and my own tribute. We received at least 200 emails and115 snail-mailed letters and cards between late July and mid-October. Please consider sending me a holiday greeting to forward to him at OtherWords@ips-dc.org or snail-mailing cards to OtherWords, 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036. If you’re a devoted fan, you’ll want to read the first, second, and third of these posts if you missed them over the summer.
—Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.
Say it ain’t so! With Molly Ivins dead, and you retiring, I may have to move to Mexico. I hope your heart heals, and you put your head back to work for us. Thanks for the great work so far.
—Kim Stanley, McPherson, Kansas
I will miss your columns. Have felt we were on the same page for years. I was very surprised to hear of your heart attack. I, too, experienced heart problems. I am lucky to be alive, and I sure hope you are doing better. Suddenly for both of us, the things that seemed to matter are put in perspective. We, too, feel as you do about the political scene. Will miss your take on it all, but understand you situation. Live life for whatever time we have left.
—Mary Anne Frey
I’m glad you’re feeling better. Being in Arizona doesn’t allow those of us who don’t subscribe to the neoconservative and right-wing driven news much journalistic choice, other than what we seek out ourselves. So what I’m hoping is your complete recovery and return to what you do extremely well. Thank you.
—Luis J. Rodriguez
As a teenager growing up in Iowa, reading your articles in the Des Moines Register was a highlight for me in the 70′s. While I never went into journalism, or even had the opportunity to write much, I always admired the literary profession, and the way a well-crafted article could inspire. Your articles seemed to exude such common sense and were written in a way that no one else could. As a bartender at “Aunt Maude’s” in Ames in the Fall of ’83, it was a thrill the day you sat across from me and ordered a drink. I wanted to be so suave, but ended up breaking a glass right over the ice chest, and spent several minutes emptying and replacing the ice when I could have possibly been exchanging witty repertoire with you instead. Alas. Thanks for all the great stories.
Your comments about having a heart attack are apt. As a retired physician I particularly appreciated your description, “…like being sent through a cardiac car wash.” I hope your post-procedure recovery is progressing well and you are adjusting to the new situation.
—Robert J. (Bob) McElroy, MD, Traverse City, Michigan
I have very fond memories of reading your columns with my mother when I was growing up. Not getting to read them will be like losing my mother again.
I was so happy to hear you survived your heart attack but I was so sorry that you stopped writing your column. Here in Southwest Missouri, yours is a voice we don’t hear often enough. There are so many true believers (think Todd Akin types) that I always looked forward to reading what you had to say. It was an oasis, a respite from the conservative prattle and overblown importance of the George Wills. I understand your reluctance to spend your hours shouting in the wilderness, but it is lonelier out here without you.
You’re my favorite Pulitzer-prize-losing journalist. You’ve done so much already, it’s not a matter of owing anyone. It doesn’t have to be at the pace you’ve been doing it but as much as you see fit. You do make a difference. I hope you are feeling better.
— Christmas Carol Halitsky
Dear Mr. Kaul, or may I call you Don? I have only been reading your columns for the last 40 years. I find myself quoting you from time to time. I’ll tell people that my dad always said two things: “That’s how they get you.” And “They’re all in it together.” But it actually was your dad, not mine, of course.
Your ideas were the subject of discussion at our college booster picnic tonight. Most of us are in our 60s and grew up in your America. We don’t know where that America went. (We pay attention to issues, are involved in local government and vote). We don’t know how our representatives and governor took the politics sideways at the state and federal levels and we can’t believe what they are doing. One man at the table said “I don’t think I want to live here anymore.” Another said “We do not have any rational voter choices.” I’m hoping that you will continue to write, to help Your America understand exactly what is happening and if possible, how to stop it. We’re out here but we feel isolated and alone.
—Kathie Rogers, Pretty Prairie, Kansas
Terribly sorry to hear you suffered a heart attack. I remember when you were great five days a week (an impossibility), and you’re still damned good today. Hope you get back to writing. In any case, you picked the right half century to be a journalist. I used to say that things were always falling apart but never got much worse. Today they get worse. The only explanation is that God, the Great Developer, underbid on the Earth contract and had to cut corners. Mary’s two sons and two of their sons rode in RAGBRAI this year. You and Karras will go to heaven just for starting it. Anyway, good luck and good health.
I was sorry to read of your heart attack in The Progressive Populist. If you’ll keep writing, I’ll keep enjoying your articles, rants and insights. My counsel? Do what gives you pleasure and satisfaction. Don’t, however, expect our population to get any smarter. Nixon: twice. Reagan: twice. Dubya: Need I say it?
As a kid, I remember my mom and dad agreeing with and chuckling about what you’d written in your Over the Coffee column. My husband and I would do the same with your contribution in the Des Moines Register. Love love love your writing and you are greatly missed! Best wishes on a speedy recovery.
I’ve been reading your commentary in the Hanover, Pennsylvania Evening Sun for a while now, and I’ve come to really appreciate your good sense and humor. I hope we’ll see articles from you again sometime in the near future.
—John Nischwitz, Littlestown, Pennsylvania
As one of the very few left-leaning people in Southwest Missouri, I certainly appreciate your columns. I know you will have to do what is best for your family and your own health, but I want you to know that I will really miss hearing your reasonable voice in the wilderness in which I live.
—Deborah Davis, Springfield, Missouri
Over the years I have really enjoyed your well written columns, sometimes funny, sometimes so close to my feelings that it scares me. I hope you have a full recovery and will be back to writing soon. We need writers like you who will tell it like it is and keep the truth in politics. It is sad how the civility of today has changed. I am 80 years young and I have never heard politicians speak so harsh about each other. Take care of your health and I hope to be reading you again in the near future.
—Juanita Jansen, Rogersville, Missouri
Thank you, Donald Kaul, for your previous columns. They mix serious and humorous views, like a living Will Rogers. Take time out to heal your broken heart, but please write more some day! Appeal to OtherWords: please offer Kaul the option of writing without deadlines, whenever he chooses.
—Martha E. Martin