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Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | What a heady feeling it is to foist my opinions off on an unsuspecting public! It fires up my ego so much that sometimes I’m disappointed to learn everybody doesn’t appreciate my attempts to save the earth from the foibles of its inhabitants.
Last week I wrote my heretical opinion about the cross on Mount Soledad. So many wrote letters in agreement, I was astounded when neither Mayor Jerry Sanders nor the city’s chief legal guy, Mike Aguirre, took my advice. Rather than call off further appeals to save the cross, they vowed to keep pursuing a lost cause. But they weren’t the only ones who disagreed with me.
An old shipmate, nicknamed “Swish,” lives in a place called South Carolina. He read my piece from across the continent, possibly because I sent him a link to it. His e-mail started out like many an argument we’d had over a half century.
“It sucks,” he wrote. Swish always gets right to the point. Then, just like when we used to argue over a few (or a lot) of beers, he really tore into me, and I tore right back. We exchanged several heated notes. Then, one or the other of us realized that a friendship extending all those decades wasn’t worth destroying over a difference of philosophy, so we made nice and argued about something non-controversial: the Dixie Chicks.
A few other readers, who knew neither of us, had no reason to be nice and they let me know it. In this cyberspace world, everybody has a chance to foist his opinion off on everybody else. Today’s technology provides countless vehicles to express those opinions.
We still have the giants of information: The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and various wire services. But even they have embraced the Internet.
And so have the smaller publications. The one you are reading now was in fact a creation of the Internet. You’ll not find a hard copy of voiceofsandiego.org anywhere unless you print it out yourself, something I recommend by the way.
Then we have blogs of a million varieties. Sunday’s print edition of the other San Diego daily even carries a copy of someone’s blog. Such thinking could make your head spin.
But it doesn’t make it spin as much as those credulous urban legends forwarded by folks who refuse to, or can’t, think. One nitwit idea after the other is passed around the world at the speed of light. You have to presume that they figure “if it’s in writing, it’s true.” Many carry the caveat “if you agree forward this to 10 people. If not, delete it.”
As a small “d” democrat, I should love the idea of so many getting involved. In fact I’d revel in it, if it didn’t bother me that so much is simply forwarded because it sounds good.
We are certainly in an information age, but when all rules of common sense are eliminated, it becomes surreal. We need rules and I have made up a few. You may add your own. Just be nice as always.
Rule One: If you don’t want your ideas challenged, don’t send them to people who think.
Two: Everybody doesn’t have to agree with you. Complete agreement may be necessary during a battle otherwise it’s dangerous. The closest thing to total agreement is found in Saudi Arabia. You want to exchange San Diego for Riyadh?
Three: I have as much right to answer an e-mail as the original poster had to send it to me. I also have the right to send my reply to the same addressees.
Four: “Don’t send me that crap” means little if you’re sending me crap.
Five: I have the absolute right to ignore such admonitions as “If you don’t agree with this, delete it.” Once it lands in my mailbox it’s mine. I’ll do whatever I want with it.
Six: All unsubstantiated claims are subject to question unless it’s something so obvious it cannot be disputed. “God wants you to vote Republican” is not that obvious.
Seven: Your reputation accompanies your e-mail. If you don’t take the time to check it out, I will be glad to do it and embarrass you.
Eight: I’m not religious but I have just as much right to talk about religion as someone who is. If a president thinks God wants him to wage war, I’d like to discuss it with him, or with God.
Nine: The best way to honor the Bill of Rights is to use it. Please remember that the next time you feel like telling someone “sit down and shut up!”
10: The wisest thing a person can say is often “I was wrong.” Or it might be “I changed my mind.” I don’t know.