First, I’m going to Rwanda this weekend, on vacation. I’m looking forward to it immensely, especially since I discovered that the Bare-Faced Go-Away Bird, which topped my list of Best Bird Names Ever nearly five years ago, lives there. (And did you know that the name ‘Watusi’ comes from the Tutsi? I didn’t.) If anyone has any great suggestions for things I might not think to do, etc., please let me know.

Second, I’m taking this opportunity to retire from blogging. I’ll be here through Friday, but after that, I won’t. (I’ll still hang out in comments, though, after I get back.) I’m not sure it would be possible for me to stop if I weren’t going off to central Africa without my computer, but since I am, I will.

The main reason I started blogging, besides the fact that I thought it would be fun, was that starting sometime in 2002, I thought that my country had gone insane. It wasn’t just the insane policies, although that was part of it. It was the sheer level of invective: the way that people who held what seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable views, e.g. that invading Iraq might not be such a smart move, were routinely being described as al Qaeda sympathizers who hated America and all it stood for and wanted us all to die.

I thought: we’ve gone mad. And I have to do something — not because I thought that I personally could have any appreciable effect on this, but because it felt like what Katherine called an all hands on deck moment. I had heard about times like this in the past — the McCarthy era, for instance — though I had never expected to live through one. Nonetheless, I was. And I had to try to do something, however insignificant.

But what? I had no idea. And I kept on having no idea for a while. I worked my heart out for Wes Clark, since I thought that he would be our strongest candidate in 2004. I talked to random people. It obviously wasn’t enough, but it was all I could think of.

Then, in 2004, I was asked to join Obsidian Wings. It was an honor: at the time, ObWi was, for my money, the best blog that really tried to create a dialogue between liberals and conservatives. And that was what I really wanted to do: to listen to people I disagreed with, to engage with them, and to try to show that it was possible to care deeply about politics without hating your opponents. Being civil doesn’t mean you’re lukewarm, and being committed to your principles doesn’t mean you have to be hateful. Being asked to write for the Washington Monthly was a further honor, and one that I never expected.

That said, it seems to me that the madness is over. There are lots of people I disagree with, and lots of things I really care about, and even some people who seem to me to have misplaced their sanity, but the country as a whole does not seem to me to be crazy any more. Also, it has been nearly five years since I started. And so it seems to me that it’s time for me to turn back into a pumpkin and twelve white mice.

It has been wonderful, though. I’ve had the best co-bloggers I can imagine, both at ObWi and at the Monthly, and I’ve learned an enormous amount from all the commenters. This is one of the things I love most about blogging: I put something up, and suddenly all these wonderful, smart, and articulate people whom I’ve never met pop up and start saying interesting things about it. It’s a gift for which I will always be grateful.

Thanks to everyone. (And, as I said, I will be here through Friday.)