I can’t believe I have to write this column

Saturday, October 7, 2017

“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule, Matthew 7:12.

What has this world come to? If you have ever wondered why more “good people” don’t get involved in solving the world’s problems, well let me tell you. It is because there is a very high price to pay when you peek your head up and dare talk about, debate or help solve the problems that so desperately need solved.

It is absolutely true that not everyone has good ideas. It is also equally true that everyone comes up with bad ones from time to time. But the only way any problems have ever been solved, anywhere at any time, related to any topic, has been when people have had the freedom to cross-pollinate ideas. Each educated, wise, mature person that participates in community discussions views things from a slightly different angle and brings different expertise. TOGETHER those perspectives and expertise, when shared, oftentimes bring the best solutions.

Not one person, or one city, one company or one anything has improved and learned without FIRST making a few mistakes or bad assumptions. Mistakes and experiences are where growing and learning occurs. That is why we don’t elect little children to public office. They haven’t learned enough and most importantly they haven’t lived enough, learning what doesn’t work. But to eventually get there, they must be given a chance to mess up a few things.

The same was the case with YOU in whatever job you have. You had to be given permission to make a few mistakes before you became as well trained as you are now.

Have you noticed how it seems that just a few people that don’t have any good sense or good manners always try to ruin things…and oftentimes, those that do have the good sense and good manners are simply, “too good mannered to put a stop to it?”

I am often reminded of the bar scene in the movie Secondhand Lions, where Robert Duvall is confronted with a small group of punk kids, one of whom thinks Duvall old and weak and tries to “show off in front of his friends” by harassing Duvall’s character. Duvall uses the moment to teach the young boy with him about bad behavior by saying (and I have to paraphrase because of language) that the young punk had been given everything his entire life but discipline. He then adds, “And now his idea of manhood and courage is to get together with a bunch of punk friends and ride around and irritate folks, too good natured to put a stop to it.”

Online trolls are even worse, because they either hide behind anonymity or at the very least, they say these outrageous insults from afar and to someone they know can’t respond publicly because it’s their job. Doesn’t sound so impressive now does it?

Even Thumper in Bambi knew, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

What about “freedom of speech?” Should readers and commenters have freedom of speech? Absolutely! Should journalists have “freedom of speech?” Absolutely! The question is – in which public forum.

Each of you wants journalists to ask the tough questions, even in their opinion pieces. If fact, you can’t do the job of a journalist without it. If one fails to raise tough questions, then they cease to be a journalist. At that point they have become a public relations parrot for whoever “fed” them the information.

To those that don’t think that opinion columns should be in local newspapers: too bad, get over it. Opinion columns have probably led to more awareness and change than anything else in the history of the press. The public benefit from columns has been very high, but the price required is that you must allow space and permission for some really dumb ideas…that is simply the law of large numbers.

So, should columnists be allowed to use labels or name calling in their pieces? Absolutely! But very seldom should name-calling be used. The use of labels, however, is a literary device used to communicate complex ideas quickly and in limited space. So, if the use of labels or hard questions is too much for a reader, then they should protect their delicate sensibilities by simply not reading the column. They should simply skip right over it.

So, if columnists can use labels and strong questions and bring up controversial ideas, doesn’t that mean that readers and commenters online can do so also? Absolutely! But in the correct public forum. Everyone can debate ideas on the CN’s social media outlets, but no one will be allowed to curse or attack individuals. Juvenile behavior and rants that cross the lines of common decency must occur elsewhere. Start a blog! CN columnists take cussings and name calling on a regular basis, but obviously we don’t cuss back. So, in essence when someone cusses out or bullies a CN columnist, they are simply bullying someone with one hand tied behind their back.

After all, if the only argument one has reacting to what was written is a personal attack on the writer and one is not mature or decent enough to control their rage, then I doubt they are the one that needs to educate the writer. But if we are wrong regarding an idea or concept, correct us maturely with the facts.

Does your job pay you enough to take public cussings and personal attacks? Does your spouse’s job pay enough to watch them take public cussings and personal attacks?

Neither do we.