For many years now I’ve had a mantra which goes something like this: “Anyone who challenges you to define what you believe is your friend.” As my brother in law is wont to say, “in other words”, they have done you a favor by making you think about what you believe and possibly learn a thing or two in the process.
In 2015 most all of us are bombarded with catchphrases, slogans, politically correct goose steps, and stultifying quotes by the likes of Kanye West and his new mother-in-law Lola Jenner. Along that same vein, Jerry Seinfeld was recently quoted as saying he doesn’t do college campus gigs because he believes college kids simply repeat politically correct nonsense their liberal instructors teach instead of actually deducing the facts for themselves.
I don’t claim my slogan is totally original, but I’ve made it my own because I believe it. It sometimes comes back on me too. Like you, it is important for me to be right and I attempt to research a subject (sometimes too much) so I can give an educated reply. I am not ashamed to say I don’t know (sometimes a little to energetically).
When some well-meaning friend sends me a news item, I like to read up on it before I offer an opinion, but more times than not, I already know a good deal about a lot of things, especially if it involves freedom or ethics. Like you I categorize subjects by how they relate to me and sort of triage whether a reply is worth the energy it takes to research it. Other news like which MMA fighter will win, or how the Houston Aeros are doing goes in one ear and doesn’t leave a trail as it exits the other.
There is a website www.snopes.com which is very good for researching whether Bill Clinton has asked Lola for a date or not and I suggest you become a regular reader of the site before you forward that juicy email to 250 other friends and further pollute the Internet.
Back 10 years or so, the Baytown Sun hosted an online forum titled Baytown Talks. After it Mike Kercher ran www.hotpursuit.cc. Both online forums were notorious rumor mills and I say that kindly and in no way slander Mike or the Sun. It was the Wild West and that is why when Mike shutdown hotpursuit.cc, I was remiss to take over the job. I don’t like the drama or the proliferation of speculation, cyber fighting, trolling posts, and hyperbole.
Most of all I was very weary of self-appointed experts arguing or pushing agendas. Fortunately the newest iteration is www.baytowntalks.net and is running as smooth as baby feet. We have real experts, such as BPD assistant chief David Alford, Public Affairs Coordinator Patti Jett, Tourism Director Anna Enderli, Judge Don Coffey and many others to dispel rumors and dispel them they do.
Many of us post ideas which we believe to be fact and different opinions are offered and it is all done cordially, as true debate allows. Facebook is my favorite place to post controversial subjects and I invite friends to comment. There is an occasional virtual fist fight and I delete the thread, maybe to start it again the next day after folks have calmed down. I use civil discussion to help write this column and along the way either teach or learn.
Believe it or not Louis L’aMour, the famed writer of Western novelettes helped me define a sort of code to live by many years ago. His hero, often times operating very close to the edge, lived by a defined sense of justice.
The trouble with our current way of learning is many people do not read. I would wager to say most people on my Facebook friends list do not take the time to read my usual 8-900 word column. It’s just too long. Anything more than three sentences taxes modern readers. The old 100 must read books before college entry is a thing of the past. Young people used to have a pretty good idea of how it is supposed to go before they left high school because of this list.
The only hope may just be what these days is “conversating”, a term I avoid. People need to be informed and challenged in a civil manner and dared to define what they truly believe. Otherwise, we all need to line up and run and jump off a cliff into the ocean. I blame the state-regulated school testing for a lot of this. Everyone learns the same thing. Beware the clones my friends. Study different sources. Make up your own mind. Learn.