Mixed in with letters to the editor and assorted spam, I often get questions from readers, sometimes asked politely, sometimes … eh, not so much. It seems time, then, to hand out a few answers. And yes, I’ve taken liberties with the questions; most readers are unerringly kind, even when pointing out mistakes, but ya know, being nice isn’t as entertaining as being cranky. Good thing I’ve got a good sense of humor.
Why are you so mean? Do I need to tell your mama on you? I aim to treat everyone the same. I’m really quite nice and I don’t try to be mean, but some people take offense at everything … like “hello.” When you already have a good mad going before you call, nothing I say will pacify you. Especially if I say something truly inflammatory like, maybe, “Can I help you?”
How dare I?! The impertinence!
And good luck telling my mama; where do you think I got my personality? She’s a mischievous little sister too. Though I never ran after my brothers with a butcher knife (her little arms still couldn’t reach him), I’ve always liked poking bears. Politely, of course.
Are you still hiding under your desk? Nope, nor did I ever; for one thing, the stool for my short little legs is under there and it’s a bit cramped. No, I don’t believe that the minions of assorted Democratic and Republican leaders are out to get me, as they’ve got much better things to do … like not running the country, then blaming everyone else for its problems. And there’s that thing about me not having written anything to incur their wrath.
Then again, why should facts intrude on your little fantasy?
Can’t you spell? Most days, yes, but mistakes do get through sometimes, as one did in a guest column on Monday’s page; Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island, not Stanton Island. Rest assured, my forehead is very red from smacking the desk. There’s that typoglycemia again.
No, really … what about “just deserts” in a headline last week? Don’t you know that’s wrong? Uhhhh … it’s not, actually. Deserts, which in this case means “something deserved,” has been around in English since about the 13th Century, according to The Phrase Finder.
Though spelled like the arid stretch of sand, it’s pronounced like a Red Velvet delight, hence the mistaken belief that it should be spelled as it sounds. Spelling it “desserts” isn’t a horrible mistake, but it’s still incorrect, and makes it one of the most commonly misspelled idioms.
Besides, people who do something wrong or act in a heinous manner certainly don’t deserve a cupcake, and especially not a Red Velvet one. That one’s mine. I mean it; I will chop that hand off if you lay one finger on it.
Speaking of heinous, how could you print that horribly racist/sexist/fill-in-the-blank letter? Much has been said about freedom of speech and press in the days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and events following it, and though some people express opinions disagreeable to many of us, they too have freedom of speech. As long as there’s no libel, outright falsehoods, actual threats, imagery which doesn’t pass the breakfast test, or anything else unsuitable for a family newspaper, it might show up on the Voices page.
I’ve often said that, if I printed only those letters with which I agree, the page would be very sparse. Sometimes there will be letters on the page which will offend, but you have the freedom to voice your opinion on them.
That’s kinda what this whole thing is about.
Plus, it’s a good idea every once in a while to remind people of some of the more outré opinions out there; not everyone is as civil as most of you are. Believe it or not, those are some of the least offensive letters some of them have sent in. Scary, I know.
Why won’t you print my letter? And don’t give me that “fact-checking” malarkey. Sorry, but that “malarkey” is what keeps us from having to read, for example, the countless viral emails listing all the Obamacare taxes that supposedly went into effect on Jan. 1 (which we got last year and the year before … hmmm); sports screeds that credit TCU with a win it didn’t get (high treason in Arkansas, I would think); countless “quotes” that aren’t (c’mon, do you really think Thomas Jefferson said that?); wild reimaginings of news events (such as who was where and when … you’d think that’d be easy); etc.
And then there are the gatherings of old statistics presented as if they’re current. Yes, the “real unemployment” rate, the U-6, has been at 14.3 (and higher); however, the last time it was there was in June 2013. In the 18 months since, the rate has steadily declined, and as of December was at 11.2.
Using old statistics as new only indicates that you’re willing to play fast and loose with truth … and apparently are more likely to fall for old tales still making the rounds despite being debunked. Such as the ones about the most-scandal-ridden/corrupt administration in history, which changes with the president and often includes “scandals” from past administrations.
Time for a new hobby, guys. Perhaps a foray into political history and a reminder of administrations such as Warren Harding, Richard Nixon and, yes, home-stater Bill Clinton. Sorry, there will be reading and thinking involved in this task.
One of the biggest problems holding up some letters is hyperpartisanship that results in broad generalizations that ignore pesky reality (i.e., all Republicans eat babies, and all Democrats are cross-dressers … fairly sure there are baby-eaters and cross-dressers on both sides). This is one reason I often advise people to sleep on a letter before sending it in.
No party has the corner on welfare cheats, money-grubbing capitalists or low-information voters, nor do any have a monopoly on presumption, pomposity, taking offense, or moralizing.
I have no agenda other than filling the available space on the Voices page with letters. If those letters must be a little shy of absolute truth, they should be attributed to the source and/or hedged. When viewed through partisan lenses, though, anything shy of the party line is not truth, regardless of a lack or surfeit of evidence. It’s worse than trying to argue duck season (rabbit season!) with Daffy Duck.
Perhaps it’s time for that appointment with an eye doctor.