Sunday, October 25, 2009

Club Freedom (of Speech)

I've defended the antics of David Blaine, and, at 13, the effects of The Empire Strikes Back.

I've rallied against TV shopping carts, hatemongers, and Michelle Malkin. Sorry to be redundant.

I've... written lots of letters to editors.

I love this medium; I love that my grandfather, with his grade school education, was prolific on the editorial page of The Beaver County Times. And I especially appreciate that the playing field is leveled: journalist writes for newspaper, average citizen's opinion is printed in same paper.

But when my most recent letter appeared in the online edition of The Grand Rapids Press, the "Post A Comment" section made the occasion of publication a little more interesting than usual.

Where I had taken time to make my point cleverly and succinctly within The Press's word count; submit it; return a phone call verifying I lived where I said I did; and hope the letter was good enough to be printed, anyone who registered on the site could comment immediately. And comment they did. (By the way, the online version says that one John Phipps wrote my letter. Hopefully they'll correct this attribution soon; the paper version was fine.)

My criticism of the conservative columnist Malkin was a cue for some commenters to throw out the usual fighting words of socialism and liberalism. One person wrote that Malkin is "goodlooking," as if beauty might explain, excuse, or otherwise improve on one's opinions.

My carefully-crafted point--that Malkin played the lowest card in a journalist's stack, manipulating readers by distracting them from the heart of an issue, which in this case was the story of a jobless woman with cancer--was all but ignored.

Some people did agree with me; not all commenters accused me of being in the "LIBERAL BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB," as one did. (Little does this person know I'm actually in the club called "I Know How To Turn Off Caps Lock.")

Everyone gets a forum nowadays, what with the dern internet being democratic (actually, socialist; see wikipedia) and all that. Our lunch guests today wrestled with ways to deal with the Rush Limbaughs among us, for whom subtleties are often tossed aside along with civility. I suggested chalking it all up to psychological disorders; others said that sometimes these folks have something to say, even when they package it all wrong.

My husband stayed up late last night working on a novel way to handle the hate.

After writing a letter to the editor for the GR Press recently, Greg was the lucky recipient of a response in the form of a call to his office. Delighting in the fact that the woman's vehemence was captured on voicemail, this composer decided to work through the pain and produce some art.

Bu not all responses make us letter writers despair, thankfully.

After a letter of mine appeared in Newsweek suggesting that red rooibos tea made a comeback thanks to The No. I Ladies' Detective Agency series, I received a call from a local man who just had to know where I shop, as he hadn't been able to find any rooibos since returning from Africa.

And where did I send him?

Remember those TV carts I rallied against for corrupting minors in our grocery store? Proving it's possible to disagree without demonizing, I sent my caller shopping there.

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