Dang it, this was supposed to be my final Beacon column, but guess what? After holding the “Send Dave Packing” contest open to all comers for what Beacon editor Kellyn Brown agreed would be a decent interval, Kellyn is still looking.
Isn’t anyone in fabulous northwest Montana even mildly interested in stirring the think pot every couple of weeks in their spare time? Perhaps a little taste of journalistic glamour, prestige, fame, glory, wall plaques and riches?
Yeah, I’m being sarcastic.
I know firsthand that everyone in Flathead County has an opinion about everything. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve been told what topic I should attack next, and what I should say, by volunteer “assignment editors.”
My standard response is to suggest my “editors,” especially those I disagree with, try their hand at writing themselves if I’m so terrible, or if the topic is so important to them. I love good arguments. And society NEEDS good arguments.
But in the last weeks, there’s been a new aspect. I’ve been astonished with total strangers sporadically coming up to me saying: “You can’t quit!” I mean, my mug shot is tiny. People actually looked close enough to recognize me? Wow!
I’m humbled, gratified, thankful for the sentiments, but also concerned. Friends, enemies, frenemies and strangers all, nobody has submitted any work with their name on it. And I’ve been encouraging them all to have a spin. “Oh, no, no, noooooo thanks.”
Of course, hearing that, especially from those I KNOW can write their way out of a wet fertilizer sack, I had to ask: In sum, “I couldn’t risk my reputation the way you do.” Yeah, that’s good, proper English from someone I like and respect. The underlying issue, for more than one person, seems to be fear.
Fear of what, exactly? How about our nasty “cancel culture” environment?
When the Beacon was young, the website featured unmoderated comments from “registered” but too-often-pseudonymous Beacon users. What was, and is, the problem?
Human nature, silly. Whenever people think they won’t be held accountable in any way, and are too spineless to actually be accountable, they become keyboard kommandoes. Gosh, what a toxic mess, just an embarrassment. Worse, the Beacon comments were soothing milquetoast compared to today’s spew, especially in larger markets with a larger pool of crazies mindlessly wallowing in an untracked ocean of their own barf – all yours, Fakebookistanis and Twits.
Now, I’m going to confess one of my secrets: I loved getting comments, the nastier the better. Why? Well, there was a “hack” to the old Beacon comment system. Beacon writers would get a direct copy of comments posted, including the originating email address. In a happy few instances, those addresses were, um, revealing enough I was able to, at just the right time, get up close and personal. Man, that was fun. It’s amazing how fast faces change color sometimes. I miss that.
The larger lesson from our tiny sample of the “brave” new world of Al Gore’s Internet is – your stink, whether you or someone else pours it on, sticks with you, forever.
Now, in our nation, which Constitutionally sanctifies free speech, for too many of us the increasing default is to not say anything, especially about important issues, especially in public, and absolutely not over one’s John Hancock. No wonder the clowns are running the circus! For real!
I’ll admit there are topics where I’ve held back. Worse, there are topics I’ve avoided, although they are critical, and need adult discussion. But I chickened out … I’ll take that shame with me wherever I’m going next.
A few times, though, I’ve barbecued a nice hunk of raw meat just right. That’s not stink, but aroma, the kind we all hope lingers forever.
So, while this is my final Closing Range, and I honestly wish it was not, it’s probably not the last time I’ll write for you. I’m focusing now on my bucket list, but might be back with a few, um, “Parting Shots” until my most worthy and talented successor finally comes aboard. If you’ve got a recipe, please, start cooking! We’re hungry!
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