OK, I admit it. I’m a liberal. I’m also a conservative. And a libertarian. And profoundly silly (mostly that, really).
Oh, no! I’m not ideologically pure! Gasp!
Like most people, my politics are not confined to one part of the spectrum; my thoughts will vary according to the topic. One of the reasons I’m not a fan of party politics, especially as they are now, is because of groupthink (and I hate that word, so you know I’m serious). Rarely will a workable solution for a problem be completely one-sided; the best solutions for the greatest number of people tend to evolve through compromise. Pragmatism is not a bad thing, you know. (And … just a thought … it might be a good idea to take the time for hearings, markups and all the fact-finding that should go into making laws. Crazy, I know.) I miss the days when political identification didn’t matter and people worked together for the greater good, not for the glory of the party. I really miss people like Dale Bumpers and John Paul Hammerschmidt, two true public servants who knew that people are more important than parties.
So why should my party affiliation matter (especially since I don’t claim a party)? It shouldn’t, but it does to a few readers of the Voices page. Therefore, let’s address, again, a few matters regarding letters. (Sorry, out-of-state readers, for such an Arkansas-newspaper-centric piece, but I’m giving you adorable animals to make up for it.)
The vast majority of the letters we receive at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette are what some might consider liberal (though they’re often more middle-of-the-road than anything else, and sometimes center-right—apparently even conservatives who don’t particularly like the president are considered liberal now). Because of that, that may be more of what you see on a given day.
Some days, you may see mostly conservative letters if that happens to be what I’ve got at the moment, though I try hard not to have a page (that includes the columns, which are mostly conservative, and cartoon) that’s all liberal or all conservative. What makes that difficult is that when I talk to some conservative readers and encourage them to write in, I typically get a response like, “Well, I shouldn’t have to,” or “If I write in, liberals will attack me.”
In the nicest way possible, I say, “Get over it.” People of all stripes have taken the chance because they believed in something, and have endured the abuse that some people seem to believe is deserved by differing opinions. If you believe in something just as strongly, write. I don’t let letter-writers attack each other on the page, but I can’t control what they might do if they feel the need to track someone down, which is extraordinarily easy, as evidenced by past liberal letter-writers who’ve reported abuse. I know, I just made writing a letter sound a little dangerous, but it’s not really. If you want your voice to be heard, write; be brave enough to stand behind your words. I can’t run letters I don’t get.
Of course, not all letters get in. Sometimes it may be because news events make them moot, or I didn’t have time to verify a letter’s statements before it got too old (one of the side effects of cutting staff is the struggle to get more work done in the same amount of time). Sometimes a letter may be inappropriate for a family newspaper. Sometimes the letter-writer didn’t respond to my request to print the letter (hey, if I email or call you, answer if you want that letter in).
Sometimes things stated as facts aren’t necessarily true; perhaps it’s the opinion of the writer, but it isn’t phrased as opinion. At times those statements could be salvaged with an attribution (“Barack Obama was born in Kenya, according to WorldNetDaily,” for instance); it doesn’t make it true, but it does tell people where you got that information. That way you’re simply reporting what was said.
Sometimes (far too many times, really), a writer has convicted someone in print of something for which no charges have even been brought—for example, you can say Bill Clinton is a perjurer as the House impeached him on perjury and obstruction charges, but you can’t say Hillary Clinton is a murderer because she has never been convicted of, or even charged with, any such crime. Seriously, is it that hard not to call someone a criminal who has not been convicted? (Yeah, what am I saying …)
I often get letters across the political spectrum that echo talking points from national pundits—sometimes word for word. Besides the fact that I’ve never been a fan of repeating talking points, many of which are blatantly false, printing essentially the same letter repeatedly doesn’t serve the readers. I know you can think for yourselves.
Civility also goes a long way, as does waiting until you’re clearheaded to send in a letter (rereading in a clear state of mind does wonders, and can keep you from sending in word salad or something that might get you and the paper sued if printed). Sure, it might make you feel better to rant and rave about the evil Voices editor or a dastardly column writer, but if what you write is incomprehensible and/or outrageously vitriolic, you’ve sort of sunk yourself.
It’s not that hard to be civil. And I’m pretty sure it won’t kill you. It may ruin your reputation with the boys at the bar, but is their approval really that important?
There is at least one letter-writer, who shall remain nameless, that I will never please. The presence of John Brummett (and me and my apparent far-far-left tendency, which is a surprise to those who know me) is all the proof he needs that I’m the worst thing that ever happened to the Voices page.
Deliver facts to him, such as that he’s had at least four times (a conservative estimate) as many letters printed on the page in the past five years than in all the years preceding, and it doesn’t matter. He’ll keep sending multiple letters in the space of a few weeks and complain when any one of them isn’t printed. And nine out of 10 of them will contain blatantly false information and/or libel.
Do the research he asked for comparing numbers of liberal and conservative letters, and he’ll ignore it if it doesn’t prove his point. Tell him he can’t convict people in print or call other letter-writers morons, and he’ll double down.
My political leanings (again, all over the map) don’t affect the way I do my job. I get called evil by conservatives and liberals alike when I don’t print a letter.
If doing my job makes me evil, then fine, says my mama: “I raised you right, you evil little girl.”
But it’s the fun kind of evil. Really. I promise.
Speaking of the fun kind of evil, policemen in Cape May, N.J., indulged in a little good-natured tomfoolery when a patrolman responded to reports of a pug running through yards.
The officer collared the pup, named Bean, and took a “pugshot” (yeah, I can’t take credit for that), posting it to Facebook. It, of course, went viral, but it still took a few hours for Bean’s owner to realize her pug was a jailbird and bail Bean out, reportedly with cookies.
A comment from Yadira Aguilar on the department’s Facebook post pretty much summed it up: “Crime is out of control! It must be…. ruff in NJ.”