I have worked over the years for a publisher who once told me he knew he needed a vacation from the newspaper business whenever he started feeling the urge to write a letter to the editor of one of his own newspapers.
I laughed, because all of us in the newspaper business approach letters to the editor trying to hold on to two ideas simultaneously.
One, we're glad folks are writing in because that means our publication is being read. But two, we often wonder how anyone could get so angry about sports, community affairs or some local political upheaval.
If we're honest, we often fear for the mental health of some of our letter writers. They seem so angry.
But you can't deny that many letters to the editor are entertaining and prove once more that just writing down the facts doesn't guarantee that all of your readers will read your words in the way, or even the spirit with which, they are written.
I have been spending a lot of time lately reading letters to the editors of our two daily newspapers, and I can tell you one thing for certain: there ain't gonna be no rapid healing of the wounds opened and exacerbated by the recently concluded presidential campaign.
I don't know how you all feel about staying at odds with approximately half of your fellow Americans. (And half is all it is: Bush's alleged mandate is 3 million votes out of approximately 120 million cast. In football or basketball, a 51-to-49 game is a squeaker, not a mandate.)
But I don't mind staying disconnected from a large portion of the President's more rabid supporters one bit.
After all, as the Bush supporters themselves keep telling pollsters, it isn't as if we disagree about the running of the Iraq War. Bush's and Kerry's plans for that fiasco were semantically different, nothing more.
No, the hot-button issues for the Bush supporters, at least those who call themselves evangelicals, is some alleged moral-values hooey.
I don't know about you, but I am not having a sitdown with people who think all of my gay friends are perverts at worst, or defectives at best. I don't think gay marriage is the number-one issue troubling my troubled country. I don't think it's number 10.
As long as the gay men out there show no interest in my aging flesh, other than friendship, I don't care who they marry. Or how many times they marry, for that matter. We heterosexuals born between 1945 and 1964 have proved conclusively that we don't know how to keep our conjugal unions conjugated.
There is nothing moral, or valuable, about bigotry.
Read Suetonius. One in 10 Romans was gay. And they got together. The Greeks your kids used to read about in school, before they started watching videos for homework instead - most of those guys were gay.
Alexander the Great, as played by Colin Farrell, may be a lush Celtic womanizer, but the real Alex was turned on by war, conquest and his own gender.
Stem-cell research is not a moral value, either. I'll take Superman's word for it. He's the one who suffered and recently died in a wheelchair, and he's the one who believed stem-cell research might get him, and those afflicted like him, out of the chair and back on his feet.
Gay marriage and stem-cell research are slam dunks, not moral issues.
One is good for the afflicted, and the other is a right - the right to marry and learn to compromise or get a lawyer. I wish everybody were forced to marry at least once. I learned more trying and failing to stay married than I picked up in every "happy" relationship in my life, before or since my nuptials were rendered asunder.
I single-parented two daughters through their teens. Both reached a stage where they were tricked or hurt by someone professing a value, like love of belief, who did something different from what they claimed they were doing.
I gave my daughters maybe the only good piece of advice I've ever imparted to anyone:
"Girls, don't pay the slightest bit of attention to what people say - watch what they do.
"Girls," I said, "anybody can say anything. Air is still free. Most talk is empty, on both sides of the political aisle, the gender aisle, the international aisle. Any aisle."
I've recently watched Mr. Bennett, the alleged moral force of a previous set of Republicans, admit he is a compulsive gambler. I've noted Mr. Limbaugh, who excoriated junkies on his show, discovered he had (has?) a serious drug problem. I've just the other day noted that Mr. O'Reilly settled out of court with an attractive young female who claimed he harassed her. That paragon of angrily expressed moral values denied the charges, but evidently he's paying anyway. Michael Jackson should be so lucky.
And being of the age I am, I remember the pro-Vietnam war, Republican hawk, homophobe and warmonger, one Gen. Eddie Walker, who in 1972, as the war wound down, was arrested in a public toilet near a monument in Washington, D.C., after allegedly soliciting an undercover police officer. A male police officer.
So there. I've circled back.
Saying gays are less than you are, and that stem-cell research is immoral, doesn't make you a moralist in my book. It makes you a bigot and a Luddite.
I'm worried about Bush dismantling Medicare and Social Security. I'm worried about the rising, screaming trillions-of-dollar deficits we're leaving our kids so the rich can save on their taxes. I'm worried about a dragging economy that is only showing recovery if you happen to make more than $100,000 per year. I'm worried about the future of America and its economy. Not to mention the gutted environment (let's log those national forests into concrete!) we are being promised by our pro-business, at-the-expense-of-everything-and-everyone-else government.
No, in my opinion (and that's what this column is, my opinion), it ain't me who needs to be working on healing.
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