An explanation

This will be one of my rare non-woodworking, non-birding posts. Last night my Instagram feed’s statistics dropped from 49.2k followers to 49k. I had posted the front page of the New York Times with the caption from me “All the news that’s fit to print.” I said nothing else. The caption has long been the moniker of the NY Times. The post had over 100 comments when I woke up, some positive, some negative. They quickly descended into rants and insults (in 2 directions) that I stopped reading. 

I didn’t write anything about Trump, or how I feel about him and his supporters in the government. But by my post, it was clear I was happy with the election result. The main reason I’m glad is because there’s hope for some of us that there will be a return to decency, honesty and civil behavior from our leaders now. I’m not terribly political, but when Trump ran for office who could help but have an opinion? Lying, demeaning, cheating, bragging – these are things I don’t want my two young children to learn. For me, it’s that simple. Beyond that, it’s details.   

This blog, and my Instagram feed (which gets copied to FB) are mine – I rarely step beyond woodworking and bird-watching there. Whenever I do, people get upset. I wish they wouldn’t, but I can’t control that. When I used to teach in-person woodworking classes in this Trump-era, I made an announcement up front that we wouldn’t discuss politics. This was because I know there’s differing opinions which could quickly derail any cohesion in the group. The woodworking is/was something that we could come together around – I could enjoy the company of a Trump supporter because we were connecting on a different level. And, I think, they could enjoy my company likewise. 

Plus – in that setting – they are my paying customers. But here, it’s a bit different. In one sense, this blog (and my social media feeds) is something of a journal for me. No one has to pay to read my stuff here on this blog, since 2008. 1,295 posts. For free. There’s often stuff for sale; but there’s plenty of free content to help people who might be wanting to learn something about the sort of woodworking I do. What people do with their screen-reading time is their business. My hope is that if there’s something you dislike, you can either pass it by, and read the bits you do like, or drop it & move on. I don’t see the need for name-calling and insults. I’ve stopped following people on IG/blogs/FB before, but I’ve not written mean and insulting notes to them as I did it. I just left quietly. 

Next post is back to woodworking. 

49 thoughts on “An explanation

  1. Well said, Sir.
    I personally would not wish to inhabit a world where lying, bragging ,bullying and general crass behaviour became the accepted norm.
    My rule is never to discuss politics or religion, even with friends. I have seen good friendships break up over Brexit. I make certain no-one knows my political views. I’ll talk all day about science, art, literature, history and, of course, woodworking.

  2. Thank for the post, Peter. Our right to vote is a great thing and I’m so proud to cast my vote every election, come what may.

  3. I agree with you 100%. Today, there seems to be no such thing as respect for a differing political view. As a nation, we seem to be headed for another civil war. I couldn’t believe that I was caught up in a Trump train on my way to Deerfield a couple weeks ago. There needs to be more emphasis on history in grade school.

  4. Peter,

    Trump—one either loves him or hates him with very little in-between. Probably no president since Jackson (and probably Lincoln) has elicited such strong emotions. Although, his blustery Twitter posts and personality are at times over the top, I personally have changed my mind about Trump after listening closely to his actual rhetoric (not media articles or commentators which are generally too biased) and observing his policies in action. One thing of which I am sure and speaking as an administrator in a small university, the Trump administration has been much kinder to us than the previous one.

    Regardless of different views, I want to again express to you my gratefulness to you. Your posts are a delight to me and will continue to be so for many years. Thanks!

  5. Two points:

    1. Your loss of IG followers works out to be 0.4%, which is within margin of error for most statistical analyses. Nothing to worry about, and probably no big loss.

    2. I’m going to disagree with the notion about not discussing politics or religion. For me, it’s not the topics that are the issue. It’s that we’ve forgotten how to have real discussions on this sort of thing.

    I’m sure there are better people than me to show how to have this sort of discussion, but some things I use are to assume the best of intentions in the other person, understand the argument from the other side, and to stick to evidence and data as much as possible. If the discussion is online, waiting 24 hours before responding helps a lot as well.

  6. Peter,
    Thank you for saying this in a civil and thoughtful way. People who react in that way are being conditioned to do it. You should watch the documentary on Netflix ‘The Social Dilemma’ to better understand how social media has become a very dangerous force in our world. We are all manipulated by these platforms but they are creating a much more worrisome and unhealthy situation in our society than we realize or understand.

  7. Peter,
    I share your love for woodworking, although my interests are about a century later. I think Charles Dickens said it best; “These are the best of times, these are worst of times—“ We go from extreme to another and all too often we choose to make the best into the worst. We need to choose to make the best of life, no matter the circumstance. I appreciate your initial post and especially your follow up. Do not quit the occasional non-woodworking post; it adds life to your work. Now, as you, I am back to my rococo frame.

  8. I was taught to be polite and respectful when I was in someone’s home. This is your place you have chosen to share with us (Thank You!). I’m sorry that some of your guests have been rude under your roof. Hopefully they can reflect on their behavior and find within themselves the basic courtesy a guest owes their host.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, skills and passion!


  9. Posting “All the News That’s Fit to Print” is pretty harmless it seems to me. As you say, it has always been the NY Times motto. I wouldn’t have given it a 2nd thought. Someone was just looking to pick a fight. I have friends here in Michigan that I have known almost all my life. One has held office as a Republican. When we run into each other we have a nice time catching up. That is because we don’t bring up politics. We talk about old friends we have lost and our families. It is a choice we make. I have lived in a liberal college town in another state where at the contra dances one guy who had a different opinion tried to pick a fight at every dance with someone who wasn’t a Republican. It wasn’t the time or the place. But it was again, a deliberate choice. I am sure there were other Republicans who danced who did not act like that.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy your posts on woodworking (Kenelm Winslow was my first ancestor in this country), and your bird photos.

  10. Hi Peter,

    I can’t say it any better than everyone already has.

    Best wishes to you and your family on a beautiful, if earthquake shaken, Sunday morning.


  11. Can’t express how much I appreciate your efforts to share your knowledge. You have helped so many fledgling woodworkers. Keep up the good work and know that you many people who are grateful and supportive.

  12. You have my support and total respect Peter. Thanks for the mountain of brilliant stuff you freely share. Agree with your comments completely, and even if I didnt, I’d still keep following your blog – its mine of information, positivly and generously given. Thanks

  13. Yes, the hate, name calling and demeaning comments are lousy. I’m sorry you had people who seem to be out for blood in their comments to you.
    We who follow your posts know that you are an enlightened and educated man who sees clearly in our world. May all Love be yours.

  14. I believe Politics and religion are subjects which are best left out of woodworking particularly in these times were emotions are running high. Thank you for all you have done, all you are doing, and all I hope you continue do for the woodworking community.

  15. I’ve been following your blog and social media for years and just donated to help with the blog and such. Not that my little bit will offset all of the time and work, but hopefully it might help take a bit of the sting away from the loss of some online followers.

    Keep up the wonderful work on the blog and social media.

  16. Well said Peter, hopefully the future will revert to a more decent society where people have respect for each other.
    I too have followed your blog for years and learnt a huge amount from your expertise and friendly wisdom. You have been an inspiration.
    From a bodger living in the Chiltern Hills UK.
    Keep up the good work!

  17. ” I’m not terribly political, but when Trump ran for office who could help but have an opinion? Lying, demeaning, cheating, bragging – these are things I don’t want my two young children to learn. ”

    Not political? PLEASE! What a bunch of sanctimonious claptrap. Also, it seems too simple to realize you just insulted 70 million Americans who just voted for the president.
    I guess it’s not surprising considering where you are from, a state that once hung women and men from trees for being witches, your lack of self-awareness is stunning.
    With all due respect, please stick your moral preening where the sun don’t shine.

  18. I’ve had the best luck when trapped by a political discussion by not mentioning names and sticking to fairly nuts-and-bolts things: “NATO is something that has been very important for all of the time I’ve known about it”, “you know, renewable energy has been making some remarkable progress in recent years and power companies are moving away from coal plants on their own”… Sometimes things get defused. The thing is, woodworking is much more interesting than politics, I would much prefer to draw the people who have me as a captive audience into a woodworking discussion.

    It’s an unpopular view, but I am hoping to be snowed in this winter so that I can make use of your wonderful new drawings.

  19. Well said, Peter. It took some guts to say it publicly out loud.
    Where can I obtain an autographed copy of your book?

  20. I am an avid blogger (on a different subject) and worry about posting political stuff for much the same reasons.
    But for me this has been more about what example do I want my children to see as the one to follow? What is a role model they should look up to? Trump certainly isn’t it and across this side of the pond Boris Johnson isn’t either (he won’t even admit how many children he has).
    In a world turned upside down it’s less about what’s right or left and more about what’s right and wrong.
    Much respect to you.

  21. Hello Peter, I have been following your blog for a few years and want to say thank you for all I have learned about hand tools, joinery, history, etc. and applied to my own craft. Also for your down to earth viewpoints and writing. Hope to continue following many more years.

  22. Peter, can’t say it any better than those who have already posted. It’s unfortunate that some don’t respect other’s points of view. Greatly appreciate all you do.

  23. I have enjoyed your post on green woodworking and birdwatching for a number of years. I value your advice on these matters. I do not expect political views to be voiced on such a site. I have other sites to go to for that. First Joe Biden has not been elected president yet and there is legitimate concerns about significant voter fraud. I would think any American citizen would want the truth on either side. Our country can withstand a delay in the results but we cannot withstand having a illegitimate president as this would the thread beginning to unravel the fabric of our country. As to the matter of President Trump’s flaws in character and return to civility decency and honesty you are either blissfully ignorant and morally blind or either you believe the same things as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and that is just to mention a few- that Roe vs Wade needs to be the law of the land and even extended to murdering the barely born if Harris has her way, allowing a 8 year old to decide his/her gender and sending us down the black hole of a socialist/marxist society. Biden/Harris are the antipathy of civility decency and honesty. As far as the example President Trump sets for my children, win or lose, I will tell them that sometimes you have to look beyond personality flaws and in when you do in his case You will see a man for our times, one who loves our country, one despite a unprecendented media attack for the past 3-4 years, hostile congress on both sides of the aisle and numerous hoax conspiracy and impeachment attempts has still done great things for our country(why don’t you look at his record of accomplishments), protected our constitution, our religious freedoms, family values and helped us to gain respect from foreign nations(something that Obama had destroyed). Again I enjoy your blog for woodworking and birdwatching info. You certainly have the right to post what you want and I have the free choice not look at it. I will just quietly leave the next time without another word.

  24. Thank you for all your informative tutorials! They are alway welcome and interesting! On a different note, re: politics, well said! I’m in your camp, but say little to nothing in response or retaliation to something I see (it’s pointless, no one’s mind will be changed). Keep up your good work! We are all working to create a better world … for everyone!

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