2016

2 November 2016: Not with cold and timid souls

Students at the newspaper The Bear Truth at Palmer Lake High School near Colorado Springs recently caused an uproar by endorsing Hillary Clinton in an editorial. Outrage ensued.

Not realizing the irony of her statement, one parent wrote, “I am in complete and utter disgust at this blatant attempt to sway the minds of impressionable young voters.” Others called the teacher adviser, with impeccable credentials, a “communist” and demanded suspension for the free-thinking kids.

Imagine: 17-year-olds thinking critically and expressing themselves intelligently! What gives? How can that be measured on a standardized test?

When I read about the PLHS students’ action, my heart leapt. “Wow!” I thought. “Young adults courageously acting on principle rather than spewing venom.”

The Denver Post editorial board saw it similarly. It noted how the students diligently researched and reached their conclusion only after thorough debate. The Post concluded, “Their adult critics should have responded in kind.”

My last column, the core point of which was a defense of the proposed health service district, was not included in the Oct. 26 edition because of a decision by the editor. In it, I also took the Republican commissioner candidates to task for their opposition to it.

It’s important to remember that I am not an employee of Evergreen Newspapers; I’m a freelance writer. Thoughts and opinions I express are mine, not the newspaper’s. Any overlap between the two were and will always be coincidental.

Lately, the media are taking more than the usual amount of flak. Donald Trump, who truly owes his political prominence to the mainstream media dancing to his fiddle through the primaries, is taking umbrage now that he’s finally facing the scrutiny Clinton has endured. Certainly, the media deserve criticism for their roles in crowning Trump Republican emperor, but in the end we ought to be celebrating the fact we have a free press.

As Thomas Jefferson famously proclaimed: Better to live without government than without newspapers.

That said, with talk radio and cable faux news increasingly dominating Americans’ attention, newspapers are finding themselves in increasingly precarious positions. In order to print, whether hard copy or electronic, they need to survive financially. If they tick off a sizable portion of the market, consumers will go elsewhere. Sadly, editorial decisions can be made in that context.

One ought not to blame editors and publishers for that economic reality. Since reading takes work, time and concentration, listening is becoming the preferred option to ingest information in our fast-paced, often frenetic society — which plays into propagandists’ hands given it’s far easier to manipulate others’ thinking via speech than print.

A mirror is useful here. As Shakespeare’s Cassius states, “Our fate is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

The stakes are far greater than whether Clear Creek voters approve the HSD or which individuals they choose to serve as commissioners:

It’s about the vital role the Courant plays in our community

It’s about the First Amendment: The right to speech and press and the right of readers to receive issue-related information.

It’s about a community member with a conservative mind-set — who can write well, who can produce quality reads week after week, who isn’t a one-trick pony thematically, who, in short, can hang and do what I do — signing up.

Regular readers might know Teddy Roosevelt’s notion of the “man in the arena” is a guiding principle for me. (Google it if unfamiliar.) For 13 years I have taken public stands, many highly unpopular, on issues ranging from Georgetown’s March 2003 blizzard scandal to this 2016 campaign. The alligator hide I sport toughened greatly when I wrote passionately against the Iraq war and became the target of local conservatives.

My “triumph of high achievement” comes each time a reader comments critically on my column, for my goal has been and always will be not to sway but to open minds through reason.

Roosevelt’s summation speaks to where I am: “Never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” A place The Bear Truth editorial board won’t be found.

 

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