Arguing well (or just arguing) in politics, print
“I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.” – Columnist Dave Barry
Despite that warning from one of my favorite writers, I do occasionally get invited to gatherings. Local Realtor Bob Colony extended the invitation that found me standing in front of the Golden K Kiwanis Club last week down in the “garden level” of the Redlands Community Center.
Bob suggested I might reflect on my time in local politics and also talk about being a columnist, something I’ve been doing for about eight years now and which might ultimately eclipse the dozen years in elected office. God, Bob Silbernagel and Jay Seaton (not necessarily in that order) willing.
I could do that. I knew my role. Fill the time between coffee and donuts and the business portion of the meeting while making certain the golfers in the club could make their tee time.
Besides, there are similarities between politics and pontificating.
The first is the realization that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I know that from political scars that are healing very nicely four years after exiting my last elective post. And because I put my personal e-mail address at the bottom of every column and know from responses there and on The Daily Sentinel’s web page that my musings occasionally fall short of universal acceptance.
Another is that there is no shortage of issues that demand attention. And that, since the tendency these days is to first run those issues through an ideological filter and only then to begin discussions, problem solving is often an afterthought that invites comment.
Also applicable to both endeavors is the idea that the easy answer today may not be the best long term solution; that those speaking longest and loudest may or may not reflect the majority opinion; and that push comes to shove when you sometimes find it necessary to say “no” to or be critical of your friends.
Thankfully, I was in a room full of readers, folks familiar with national and community issues, many of them leaders with opinions of their own.
Some of the discussion was complimentary as we talked about things I’ve written over the years. “Greedy Geezers” and the arguments over whether or not so-called entitlements like Medicare and Social Security ought to be off limits in debt and spending negotiations. How the brother of a fallen military pilot and the brother of a conscientious objector found themselves working together on the Vietnam memorial out in Fruita. Growing up in Grand Junction during “Boomer Times.”
One or two of you are occasionally grumpy when I take up space writing about family or personal matters. Kiwanians last week didn’t seem to mind. Those columns, they seemed to agree, provide some sense of how my opinions are shaped or, on the best days, a universal lesson or two.
We talked about past community leaders most in the group knew very well, people like Sam Suplizio and Dale Hollingsworth whose names have appeared a time of two in columns. And about folks like Jamie Hamilton and Ron Tipping, who’ve been in the news lately.
A former Chamber of Commerce leader asked about my occasional criticism of our local Chamber. I talked about remembering a Chamber that used to operate under the principle that what was good from the community was good for business, about my feeling that perspective has been reversed today and that the difference is more than just semantics. We talked about perhaps having too many economic eggs in one basket and ignoring lessons learned in the hard work to diversify our economy after the bust of the early 1980s.
I also relayed my favorite comment, received only recently, about my columns.
“It’s always such a refreshing breath of reason,” one reader wrote me, “especially when others make me feel like I’ve been called names by a playground bully for 650 words.”
It doesn’t get much better than that and the donuts were great. I hope the golfers made their tee times.