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Meet a member: Journalist tries to keep politicians honest

Eric Carlson

Name: Eric Carlson.

Where I live: Leelanau County, Mich.

Where and when I was born: Detroit, 1954.

Family: My wife works as a registered nurse. Our daughter, 26, is a graduate of Michigan State University, now living and working in the United Arab Emirates. Our son, 24, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, now a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division. We are all atheists.

Education: I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Oklahoma.

Occupation: Since 1998, I have been working as a newspaper reporter for a community weekly newspaper that has been named Michigan Newspaper of the Year for the last four years. 

Military service: I retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998 after a 25-year career as a combat correspondent and a public affairs officer. I am a veteran of the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the Somali Civil War.

Where I’m headed: We intend to remain in our community here in Michigan. I will throttle down from being a full-time local newspaper reporter eventually.

Person in history I admire and why: I have always enjoyed fantasizing that I am having conversations with Benjamin Franklin. The archetypal American newspaperman, he was a smart guy who made a big difference.

A quotation I like: “Life is tough. But it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” In the Marines, you’d usually see this quotation emblazoned below a picture of John Wayne playing a Marine in the movie “The Sands of Iwo Jima.”

Things I like: Ice cream. Boats.  

Things I smite: Dishonest and unthinking politicians and public officials. I smite them in the newspaper I work for.

My doubts about religion started: When I was about 14 years old and was beginning a four-year stay at a Christian boarding school in Illinois. After four years of serious bible study, prayer and chapel services every day, I finally became ready to call myself an atheist. 

Before I die: I would like to have just a little more fun.

Ways I promote freethought: Lately, I’ve been shining our newspaper’s spotlight on how our county Board of Commissioners wants prayer to be on the agenda of every meeting. In my private life, I am an alcoholic who has remained sober for 38 years with help from an anonymous fellowship of men and women. I am a founding member of a local group known as the Secular Sobriety Group, which is part of a growing worldwide movement within the fellowship.