What am I talking about? Opinions, of course.
In the last several weeks I have been privileged to write the opinion in this newspaper.
It has been my belief that opinions should provoke readers to think. So, for the past 37 years, I have shared those opinions with the readers of 11 newspapers, including my hometown newspaper the Cloquet Journal, and the mountain town paper in Ramona, Calif.
Almost everyone reacts the same way: they either agree or disagree. Those persons who choose to disagree with my opinion vehemently express themselves in a letter to me, which I publish for others to read. That’s discourse. Discourse, according to Mr. Webster, means to “talk over.” If there’s an important issue, it is important for this newspaper to provoke thought so that, as readers, everyone has an opportunity to talk things over. It may never lead to a concensus, but it will give everyone choosing to share their point of view the opportunity to “talk it over.” That is extremely important.
For example, the state legislative bodies in St. Paul are weighing the “right to work” measure that is working its way through the house and senate. If the measure passes, it will be on the November ballot as a constitutional amendment for the people of Minnesota to decide whether they want to join 23 other states that have passed the right to work measure that allows workers to choose whether they wish to join a union when hired by a company that is a union shop. Sounds straight forward enough, but there are those who do not want individuals to have the right to choose whether they should join a union and pay dues. I happen to think that it’s everyone’s right to choose whether he or she wants to join anything, especially if it’s philosophically opposed to one’s belief system.
Now, that flies in the face of most union organizers. I know, because I was brought up in a Teamsters union home. My father was a truck driver and belonged to the union. He made a choice to work for a company that was a union shop and joined the union. There was no choice for him. How then, can my father’s son be opposed to being forced to join the union? I guess it’s the idea of being forced to join, versus choosing to join a union that sits crossways with me.
Others don’t see it that way, and I am certain that some of our readers will write in and let me know that they believe in unionism and that being forced to join a union keeps the shop owner on his or her toes.
That is discourse. I welcome that kind of dialogue. It makes the first amendment to our Constitution come to life. How many times has the first amendment been called to our attention: “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....” In a nutshell, that’s what I’m talking about — each of you, as readers, has the right to disagree with me, or anyone else who writes something you do not find agreeable in the Dispatch. The publisher, owner, and I will defend your right to express your thoughts as long as you do not slander or libel those persons with whom you may find differences.
Sounds simple. However, in this ever growing divide within our country, many are less inclined to enter into civil discourse. Hence, the sharp-tongued attacks that are not issue-oriented but rather attacks on a person who might present a position that is contrary to one’s own position. Name calling, terms such as stupid or “what a moron,” creep into the conversation. That type of personalized attack is counterproductive.
What is productive is for discourse, such as was offered up in the Tuesday issue by Jackie Burkey, a member of the Dispatch Editorial Advisory Board. She disagree with my position on contraceptives and the Catholic church and voter ID. She stated her disagreement concisely without making her attack personal. That is civil discourse.
As the editor of the Dispatch I welcome your thoughts and ideas. I will publish comments whether they agree or disagree with the position I present in this column. I look forward to this exchange of ideas and will defend everyone’s right to state his or her opinion.