As I See It
I had originally planned this week’s column to be about immigration, population and politics, but my attention was diverted by a disturbing trend in the quality and nature of an increasing number of letters to the editor which have started appearing in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. What is becoming more and more common is the substitution of invective and vituperative comments in place of a reasoned debate of issues based on factual information.
A few years ago the Post Independent issued a policy statement advising writers of letters to the editor to stick to factual arguments on issues and to refrain from attacks of a personal nature.
I believe it is time for the Post Independent to repeat that admonition and to edit personal attacks out of the letters to the editor which it receives. Otherwise the Post lndependent will take on the character of the Aspen newspapers, in which letter writers delight in questioning the intelligence and making derogatory remarks about the ancestry of letter writers with whom they disagree.
Any thinking person will disregard these attacks on the messenger instead of on the subject of the message. When a writer has to resort to such tactics, it is an indication of frustration with his inability to come up with factual information to support his opinions and challenge the facts presented by the writer he is smearing. These tactics preclude any intelligent discussion of the subject at hand.
Personal convictions, clung to stubbornly regardless of factual information to the contrary, take on the aura of a religion, legitimizing in the eyes of the castigator any aspersion or epithet he chooses to hang on those with whom he disagrees.
For several decades after the end of World War II, it was popular to label anyone who questioned the direction in which the country was being led as either a communist or a fascist, depending on which side of the political spectrum the accusers were aligned.
Today, if you raise questions about the direction in which our leaders are taking us, you are branded anti-patriotic, traitorous, and in league with terrorism.
We live in a country that was founded on democratic principles, the most precious of which are freedom of speech, including the press, and freedom of religion.
Several times in our history, attempts have been made to undermine these freedoms. The first was the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, intended to silence political opposition to the party then in power. In the 1950s it was the communist witch-hunts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Fortunately both were repudiated.
Today, as during the Vietnam War, too many people are unable or unwilling to distinguish between criticism of our political leaders and love for our country. The reason many people are critical of our leadership is because they truly love their country, and are convinced that our leaders are taking the country down a path which will be harmful to the future of both our nation and her people.
Finally, I want to thank reader John McDonough, who was more alert than I was, for calling attention to a miscalculation in my last column.
As he pointed out in his letter to the editor, the Bush administration could not have started planning the attack on Iraq “fully a year and a half before 9-11.” I should have written “nearly eight months before 9-11.” I miscalculated by nearly a year ” my apology.
(Perhaps if the Bush administration had had a year and a half, they might have been able to base their decisions on a proper assessment of the intelligence. But I doubt it ” their minds were already made up.)
Next time: “Immigration, Population, and Politics”
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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