Friday, December 24, 2010

Bonanza Column 216: To My Detractors

I've been writing this column for over six years now with a short break when I ran for the IVGID Board in 2006. I undertook this labor of love in the first place to bring some balance to the columns and letter to the editor in the Bonanza which, like the community, tended to reflect a Conservative view. Knowing that that view was not held by 100% of the people in town, I decided to write a column from the Progressive side. Over the years that polarity has been reflected in columns on national and state issue and elections, though on local issues Jim Clark and I have rarely disagreed.

A column like this (or Jim's for that matter) will attract responses, mostly from those who disagree. In the old days responding to a column or sending a letter to an editor took some time and effort – you had to write or type a letter, address an envelope, find a stamp, mail it. During all this the heat of the moment would be likely to dissipate and many letters would not be sent. Today, email makes it easy to dash off a response and send it, and with the columns on line, commenting on the web site is even easier, and so perhaps lends itself to less thoughtful responses. Some people seem to read this column on line for the sole purpose of getting aggravated and responding with invective. These I ignore, or if they're especially ad hominem or otherwise abusive I report them as violating the site's guidelines. Others are thoughtful and these I read and sometimes respond to.

It occurs to me in this last column of 2010, my 216th since 2004, to respond to everyone who has and does read the column and to thank those from both sides of the political spectrum who have taken the time to think about the issues I've raised and to respond thoughtfully. I'd also like to thank those who have taken the time to correct me when I've gotten a fact or facts wrong – they gave me the opportunity to correct those errors, and for that I'm grateful.

To the small minority who hide behind the anonymity of their website user names and respond with name-calling, invective, and the like, I want to say grow up and to let you know that, unless what you're trying to accomplish is to be annoying, you're failing to do anything that makes a difference. It's one thing to point out specific facts I may have gotten wrong, but it's another to say I don't know what I'm talking about with nothing to back that up. Comments on my being a Psychologist or having a degree are about as effective as playground taunts, and as for name-calling, I consider the source.

Here's who I take seriously – anyone, whether they agree with me or not, who makes a reasonable argument. I don't have to agree with them either – I can respect a sincerely held view that is based on reason, facts, or even just plain emotional preference. We may differ on the role of government in society and we may both feel passionately about or opinion, but I can respect the fact that the Conservative, small-government view is one that has been around a long time and is held by many intelligent people – I just don't agree with it. Similarly I have friends who are staunch conservatives who recognize the legitimacy of the Progressive view of government as a provider of services and support, while they disagree with that view as strongly as I do with theirs.

So if you want to display your pettiness by anonymously calling me names or the shallowness of your position by yelling "you lie" without backing it up, go for it, but be clear that you're less useful than my electric teakettle – at least when it gets hot and screams, there is water for tea. I will continue to follow the advice of Mark Twain: ""Always tell the truth. It will gratify some and astonish the rest."

Here's wishing us all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011.

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