People Out Loud: Reflections – A few insights after 40 years as a columnist

July 2022 Posted in Opinion / Columnists

A friend of mine came to our class reunion last summer and handed me a column I had written sometime ago, dated July of 1980, 42 years ago. I started writing a column then called, “Rap-Up” for the Silverton Appeal. Scary, because it doesn’t seem that long ago. 

Writing a column is not for the faint of heart, especially if said writer has a business or easily hurt feelings. I have been fortunate in my career to receive loads of feedback, which I always appreciate, even when it did not have the affectionate tenor of a mother’s cooing when seeing her child’s first steps. I’m thinking December is a good time to hit the golf links and fishing hole. 

What is most difficult? Trying to write about things people care about and will make them think. Perhaps shed a new light on an old topic or make them consider that there may other perspectives out there different from their own yet still valid for the holder. Or telling them about someone they see regularly but know nothing about. Even harder? Doing so off and on for 40 years. 

For me, however, the most challenging aspect of writing a column is trying not to write about politics every time. There is so much fodder to toy with, day in and day out. It isn’t easy to talk politics anywhere but doing so in a public forum can have consequences, especially when you are in business. One business owner threatened to stop advertising in the paper because I expressed a candid opinion of the morally rudderless enigma known as Trump. Nothing political about it. Not a commentary on conservatives, many of whom I call friends. One progressive woman chastised me not jumping on the “Defund the Police” bandwagon. Again, nothing political about it. Not a commentary on progressives and liberals. But regardless, there is essentially no subject that every one can agree on. I could say babies are wonderful. Someone would say I failed to give God credit for these priceless little beings. Another would say, “No way, with those contorted little faces, tears, and a lack of control over certain bodily functions.” 

But as I slowly wind down on a long, rewarding career in journalism a few thoughts. We are at a crossroads in this country I love, served, and would gladly die for. We can become civil again and look for common ground. We need to listen more, and understand different viewpoints. We have to stop spewing cliches that others have fed us to push their agenda. In MY world, the alligators in the swamp are red and blue. So are the angels. We have to stop pushing the narrative that if you are a Republican, you are an ignorant militia member. We must stop perpetuating the myth that Democrats want porous borders to get more registered voters. We have to have dialogue about the Second Amendment, and understand that protecting our right to “bear arms” was created when muskets were in vogue. It has different implications in 2022. As a veteran, hunter, and gun-owner, I am supportive of responsible gun ownership. But if a cosmetologist must have 2,300 hours of training to get a license in Oregon, maybe an 18 year-old seeking a military-grade semi-automatic assault rifle could wait a couple of weeks for an extended background check, and demonstrate proper handling and safety on the range under the watchful eye of a skilled instructor. Like my Drill Instructor teaching me about M-16s? 

Maybe we can civilly discuss that the Constitution says we all have a “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, and that includes little kids going to school without fear of being murdered and women making a deeply personal decision about their bodies. I am not sure we can civilly discuss the Jan. 6th insurrection. There is no real “gray” area. It was an assault on our Capitol, the symbol of freedom to freedom loving people of the world. 

But we are at a crossroad in this country. The next year or two will determine if we choose the right path. My fervent prayer is that we choose wisely.

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