This is the time of year that some news organizations feel the need to tally up what they believe would be the cost of the gifts in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” PNC Wealth Management’s annual index this year says one round of those gifts would be $34,130.99, by the way, but we at the paper don’t put much stock in that.
Plus, that’s just entirely too many birds for my taste. I’m getting Hitchcock flashbacks right now just thinking about it.
In the realm of letters pages, we in the biz sort of have our own version going on.
♥ Partridge in a pear tree: These would be the ground-nesters who tend to stick pretty much to the same topics—sometimes the same letters (I’m not kidding here)—all the time.
Some (the more polite people, anyway) might call that a wee bit obsessive. You don’t want to know what others might call it.
And yep, there’s the huge tendency for me to just switch off when I see (yet again … and again … and again) the same arguments on climate change, health care, etc., especially when no solutions are ever offered—all that matters is that the other side is WRONG!!!!!!
♥ Two turtle doves: Some of the rarest of writers, these people tend to be soothing rather than reactive, urging reasonable discourse rather than calling everyone else big doodyheads. I get a warm fuzzy every time I read something from them … the turtle doves, not the doodyheads.
♥ Three French hens: Like the French attitude toward French food (magnifique!) versus other cuisines (exécrable!), anything not American isn’t worth their time … unless that time is spent putting down all that is not American. Oops, but the French suck, so we’ll have to change that to “‘Murican” hens. Oh, and girls are icky, so it’s gotta be roosters!
♥ Four calling (us out) birds: Often we’ll get letters from someone claiming his letters are never printed, but when we start actually checking, it turns out most of those letters have indeed been printed, or that that person had sent only one letter that might or might not have been printed (like the Publishers Clearing House commercials say, you can’t win if you don’t enter).
Then there are those who insist that the page should represent the makeup of Arkansas, apparently not realizing that it already does most days, at least according to the last Arkansas Poll (about a third each—32 percent liberal, 27 percent conservative and 32 percent independent). The balance for each day depends on what letters are available at the time, not on any quota (which would be highly unrealistic and virtually impossible), as well as the columns (mostly conservative) and the editorial cartoon. Some days there will be more conservative ideas on the page, some days more liberal.
Perhaps the issue is that liberal voices are being printed at all, such as the ones who were hounded off the Voices page in years past—how dare we give other ideas an airing!
If I can get a reader’s letter in, I do my best to do that, but letters will still be fact-checked and edited for publication. I’ve thought a few times about putting completely unedited letters in, but that would just be cruel, and not just to lovers of the English language.
♥ Five golden rings: Another rare bird, but wholly appreciated, the letter that appeals to all political stripes, with sage advice and deep thought. Which means that Crazy Uncle Ray gets a bit ticked off at such rationality.
♥ Six geese a-laying: And after they’re done a-laying, they’re a-honking up a storm about something that offended them, which often turns out to be more imagination than reality. War on Christmas? Hell, yeah! (What do you mean there’s not one??)
♥ As for the seven swans a-swimming, eight maids a-milking, nine ladies dancing, 10 lords a-leaping, 11 pipers piping and the 12 drummers drumming: There’s all that swimming in partisan “logic”; milking (real and trumped-up) scandals for all they’re worth, which makes every letter sound the same … almost like a central command has dispatched the approved talking points; dancing around the actual problem in favor of often-insignificant details (but … but … China!); leaping to every conclusion possible and impossible in order to buttress what one believes to be true (especially when it’s not); piping in of pundits’ oft-debunked tales of woe and/or overhyped ados over little or nothing at all; and drumming along with the party line regardless of logic and reality. Logic and reality are wildly overrated.
A lot of the letters we get give me a good laugh (intentional!), and most of the letter-writers are kind (and handsome devils, I’m sure). It’s the perpetually unhappy ones who tend to give the gifts that keep on giving me a headache and the uncontrollable compulsion to keep reading their online comments. If I could give them a gift, it would be a sense of humor, perspective and the ability to accept the opinions of others.
Who am I kidding?
And if my true love is out there, go for chocolate and lavender roses … and a few catnip toys for the furry one. It’ll be easier on all of us.
When I make a mistake, it’s always annoying when I see it too late. Last week’s column contained just such a mistake. Apparently I thought I was 10 years younger since I said the movie Se7en was released 10 years ago rather than 20. I saw it in time to correct it for the blog, but not the print version.
I’ll blame the stomach bug (later to turn in to full-fledged flu) that hit me last week on top of my pre-existing IBS. So. Much. Fun. And the dehydration, low blood sugar, aches, chills and fever? They made my heart skip a beat.
Wait … that’s not good …