Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A young man asked me recently what it takes to be an editorial newspaper columnist. I replied that first of all it helps greatly to have a reasonable command of the English language — including a decent vocabulary.
But more importantly you have to be observant of the world around you or you will quickly run out of ideas.
But the most important attribute is a very thick skin that permits you to pay no attention to the malcontents of the world. Why? Because it makes no difference what you write — there will always be readers who take exception. You may write that Orange juice and Cow's milk is good for your health but you will have the soda and apple juice folks all over your case. There will always be opposition from someone.
Thus was the case recently when I wrote that the members of the Greatest Generation who fought WWII and shed their blood for our freedom were not about to let some White House edict keep them from visiting the nation's WWII memorial erected in their honor. I said that these folks who had weathered the bullets of Hitler and Mussolini were not going to allow the curtailment of their access by President Obama's White House or anyone else to hinder their access to their memorial. The vets removed the barriers and walked right in. I think my words were correctly interpreted by most readers.
But you guessed it; a few folks objected on the basis that I was comparing Obama to the villains of WWII. I did no such thing but yet there are a few folks looking for boogers under every bed and want the world to atone for supposed wrongs in the name of race, gender, political correctness, sexual orientation or any other perceived wrong-doing.
Can't these folks read plain English? They either only read the headline; can't read correctly or have a problem with context and understanding of what the words actually say. But still they shriek.
I am reminded of the famous line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” in which the prison camp warden dictates, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” But communication is a two-way process. One can speak or write but the recipient must comprehend what is being related. Clearly, there are some folks who have difficulty with the latter.
The whole shutdown of the national monuments and parks was totally created by an administration which wanted to close the most visible federal services and cause the most pain for the American public. And who do they blame? Somebody else of course.
Seldom if ever has this White House accepted the blame for anything. It's always someone else's fault when things go badly. President Obama has never adopted the phrase made famous by the placard on President Truman's desk: “The buck stops here.” President Obama has no problem allocating blame to others.
Additionally, the whole political correctness idea that assumes a firm grip on American culture has spoiled rational discourse. And, it's a shame. Many folks don't express themselves for fear of being politically incorrect.
But I will soldier on in spite of the fact that someone always stands ready to object to honest opinion.
For instance, I was taken to task in the past for not using the term “African American.” The reason I gave it up years ago was when I referred to someone as African American, I was immediately castigated by the person who insisted that he was a British subject from Bermuda and not an American in any sense. In order to resist making the same mistake in the future, I resorted to stating things in black and white.
But there are all shades of black and white as well as yellow, red and tan. I am not comfortable with the designation of people by color. If I had to correctly identify myself by color, I would have to say, “Pink.” I really prefer “American” to all of the hyphenated terms now in vogue. I await the mail on the alleged racism of this remark.
Speaking of color, I suppose the most outrageous local example of political correctness can be illustrated by a comment made several years ago when a new high school was opening in Georgetown County.
A public discussion of school colors was underway when the colors “blue and white” were suggested. Some citizen jumped to dismiss the idea on the basis that these were the colors of The Citadel and the band sometimes played “Dixie” at football games. Therefore, he reasoned, the color blue is “racist.”
So, young folks, if you want to be a newspaper columnist you must first be prepared for irrational response to what you write.
And you must develop a very thick alligator-type skin. Good Luck!
John Brock is a retired college professor and newspaper editor/publisher, who lives in Georgetown County. He can be reached by mail at this newspaper, or by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.
South Strand News is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. We expect our readers to engage in lively, yet civil discourse. We do not edit user submitted statements and we cannot promise that readers will not occasionally find offensive or inaccurate comments posted in the comments area. Responsibility for the statements posted lies with the person submitting the comment, not South Strand News.