Saturday, August 30, 2014

Robert Stein (1924-2014)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(I apologize for the lateness of this post. I was away on vacation for a while and not doing much writing. So I am coming belatedly to this sad event.)

Last month, Robert Stein, author of the blog Connecting the Dots and guest contributor here at The Reaction, died at the age of 90. Bob led an amazing life as an editor, publisher, media critic, and journalism teacher. (Go to his site and have a look at the wonderful photo album his family posted, including photos of Bob with celebrities and politicians, as well as more domestic moments.) My own relationship with Bob was limited to e-mails and our joint interest in political blogging, but even in our limited interaction over the years I could tell he was a warm, kind, generous, extremely intelligent, and truly remarkable man.

He was blogging up until the end of March, and the last guest post of his here was one that meant a great deal to me, "The View from 90." You see, unlike so many of those who write about politics, Bob was not full of vitriol. He had some strong views, and he expressed them, but he was not out to cause harm, not out to score political points, and in many of his posts what came through most clearly, and most elegantly, was his desire to share his experiences with us, his readers, experiences from a long life well lived, having seen and having learned so much, having acquired a perspective – and, indeed, the wisdom – that far exceeds the morass of our day-to-day political arena. And as one of his readers, and as an acquaintance, I did learn a great deal from him, and there was just so much to admire in what he had to say about the world around him, and about the incredible things he had done and seen.

I wish I could pick out 20 or 30 or 50 or 100 posts of his that you should read, and you should go have a look through his archives, but I'll single out one more, which also appeared here, "A Life in Black and White," about race in America, from July of last year. What struck me then, and what lingers still when I think about Bob, is the hope for a better future that shines so brightly through everything he was ever writing about, that gave his writing so much life and that seemed to define his outlook on the world. (Another great post that stood out for me was "A Day That Lives in Infamy and Me," from last December, about World War II.)

As he wrote at the end of "The View from 90": "As I blew out a blast furnace of birthday candles on this weekend of ominous headlines, I was silently repeating Dr. Pangloss' mantra, that with a little courage – and some luck – we may all soon be living again in "the best of all possible worlds."

I hope so, Bob. I really hope so. Rest in peace.


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  • Thanks for writing this! One of the big regrets of my blogging career is that I never got to meet Bob in person. But I am glad to have been able to call him a colleague. He was always generous and encouraging to all of us who blogged alongside him at newcritics.

    By Blogger Lance Mannion, at 7:40 AM  

  • Sad to hear it. I'm a long time admirer of his thoughts and of his craft.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:33 AM  

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