As they say on social media, I have some personal news. Today, The Atlantic announced that I’m joining the magazine as a staff writer, which means that I’m now … well, staff. (So much for my retirement.) I’ll be mostly handling our flagship newsletter, The Atlantic Daily, as well as writing other pieces for the magazine.

But I’m not closing up Peacefield! Since we began more than six months ago, I’ve been having a wonderful time exploring everything with you, Faithful Readers, from Russian nuclear threats to the inner peace brought by watching Mannix late at night. I hope you’ve been enjoying it too, and I intend to keep this clubhouse open. There’s still plenty for us to think about and discuss here; while the Daily is (mostly) tuned to the news cycle and the goings-on at The Atlantic, the subscriber newsletters like mine are a bit more wide-ranging and personal.

I also hope to keep you informed here in more detail about things that are of particular interest to me—and you, I hope—including the state of global democracy and threats to international security. And of course, I have to keep Peacefield going, if only because there has to be a place for my often contrary pop-culture takes, which I probably can’t get The Atlantic to publish anywhere else. (Honestly, I see their point.)

The only change is that I’ll be writing a bit less frequently in Peacefield, since I’ll also be writing the Daily. As much as I’d love to tell you that I’m worth reading almost every day, I think that’s a lot to ask of you.

But here’s where I put in my pitch (which you knew was coming): If you’re enjoying Peacefield, and you want to read me every week, come along and sign up for the Daily, where I’ll be commenting on the news. You’ll also get the Daily team’s rundown of major events, alerts about new pieces in The Atlantic, and some cultural highlights, plus contributions from other Atlantic writers. It’s free—although to access all the content linked within it, you’ll need a subscription to the magazine.

And if you haven’t subscribed—it’s time to do it!

In any case, thanks for sticking with me these past several months. There’s more to come—at the Daily and in our explorations together here at Peacefield.

Speaking of our conversations, let’s check in on some reader mail.

First, let me tell you all how touched I was by the reaction to my Father’s Day piece about two of my “other” fathers: my Uncle Steve and my high-school chemistry teacher, George Kennedy. It’s always a little unnerving to write about very personal issues, but many of you reached out to tell me how much their stories resonated with you.

Zach J. said, “I owe so much to the other fathers in my journey: men of integrity, compassion, and wisdom who saw through my insecurities and called me to the man I could be.” Some of you noted that Uncle Steve and I are both adoptive fathers and wrote about being adopted by fathers who helped give them a better chance at life. And some of you just shared your emotions on Father’s Day: “You cried for two days when Mr. Kennedy died,” Ben R. said. “I only cried a little bit at the end of your article.” Thanks, Ben—we could all use that now and then.

Other readers were heartened by the story of good teaching and mentoring. Phyllis H. wrote, “Having been a school teacher all my life I identified with George Kennedy and cheered for him in his ability to read what you needed and give it to you and in his willingness to go against the ‘system.’” A reader named Angelle said, “These teachers are unsung heroes.” Bruce M. rightly reminded me how fortunate I was that Mr. Kennedy, and not Walter White, was my chemistry teacher.


Speaking of parents, I was surprised by how many of you had such vivid memories of watching old television shows such as Barnaby Jones, The Time Tunnel, Cannon, and other bits of cheese from the 1960s and ’70s. In fact, I was flooded with mail after publishing this piece. I watched a lot of those programs with my mom, and many of you, including reader Rita P., had fond memories of watching shows like Dragnet and Highway Patrol with your parents as well. “I also watched Perry Mason with my Mom as a kid,” Carmen D. told me. “My 94 year old Mom still watches and I'll watch it with her occasionally. I think she has all the dialogue memorized.”

Now that’s commitment.

A few of you were put out that I didn’t include favorites such as Columbo, Banacek, and Dark Shadows. I loved those; in fact, I was a total Dark Shadows nut and had all the bubble-gum cards. But I was only talking about the late-night lineup on MeTV, which I find to be something like comfort food on sleepless nights. (Fortunately, the advertisers in that time slot have lots of help to offer: It’s a parade of sleep remedies, as well as supplements for gentlemen of a certain age—mine—who might be awake because of, uh, manly plumbing problems.)

On a more serious note, some readers were pretty upset with me regarding my piece about Fox News and its ubiquity on military bases. Most of you reluctantly agreed that we should not try to police what members of the military watch, on base or anywhere else.

Some of you, however, were adamant about shutting down Fox in general, and a few of you even said you were leaving the newsletter over my insistence that Fox, as awful and dangerous as it is, should not be censored. Laura N. was upset not that I posed the question but that my answer was “no.” She saw this as a kind of bait-and-switch that was not only “pointless” but “unethical.”

Sorry, Laura, but not sorry. Sometimes the goal here is to pose a question and then show you my reasoning for answering it the way I did. We’re not always going to agree. For what it’s worth, I think Fox is a corrosive presence on military bases—as it is in American life—but either we believe in constitutional principles of free speech, or we don’t.

On the other hand, base commanders, in my view, need to change those TV channels.

I had several interesting reactions to my piece wrestling with what it means to be conservative now that the Republican Party has given itself over to big-government authoritarianism, a cult of personality, and conspiracy theories. Some of you said that you were forwarding the article to friends or family members. I appreciate that, and I hope it helps spur conversations. I admit that I have my doubts about the possibility of such exchanges now—although the January 6 committee’s revelations do seem to be cracking some ice.

I expected that some from my former tribe would write, as Richard G. did: “Wonderful piece and captures my own position as a former Republican.” (There are a lot of us out here, Richard.) Greg M. agreed, noting that for him, this was “not a recent conversion” and that he “bailed out on the GOP when it decided to sign Newt’s ‘Contract with America.’”

Some progressives were positive as well. Randi S. described herself as a “dovish progressive” but added, “I realize that, like it or not, we are a two party system. And intelligent debate strengthens our democracy. I hope you and thoughtful, like-minded conservatives can resurrect your party from the ashes.”

I don’t think that’s possible, Randi, but I hope something sensible on the center-right replaces the train wreck the GOP has become.

A few progressives, of course, dismissed any such ideas and took the approach that today’s GOP is no different from the Republican Party of 40 or 50 years ago—an argument I reject. Jim B. wrote, “‘Conservatives’ are people who refuse to seriously engage with these arguments, instead dismissing them as you have done.”

As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.” It’s difficult to seriously engage with an argument whose premise is that engagement requires prior agreement. I have been plenty critical of my former party, as have the many conservatives who have written introspective books about how the GOP went off a cliff. But for those of us who became conservatives long before Newt Gingrich or Donald Trump were on the radar, “everything you ever believed is wrong” is not much of a starting point for discussion.

Finally, I have to share one of the greatest letters I’ve gotten in a long time. In my welcome letter—the one new subscribers get when they sign up—I note that I will continue to express my distaste for the music of Led Zeppelin. This led to a pointed question from Cori H.

Why the comment about Led Zeppelin? I don’t get it. What a great way to alienate a swath of your audience. If you haven’t been paying attention: people get tribal over all sorts of things. It just seems to me that throwing down a musical taste gauntlet as you’re trying to build an audience for a new newsletter shows bad judgment among other things. I’m tempted to unsubscribe over something that seemingly trivial despite the fact that I came here because I responded to your call to seriousness about our democracy being in freefall.
I have, at times, virtually stopped paying attention to what’s happening because it is just too painful to watch. You’re not going to be able to help me if you’re an asshole, Tom Nichols. Are you an asshole?

Yikes. Well, as the Soviet historian Roy Medvedev put it in the title of one of his books, “Let history judge.”

See you all soon back here at Peacefield, and I hope you’ll all join me as well over at the Daily starting next week.