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February 20, 2012


Bud Byrd

It is obvious to me that we have moved from an era when arguments were fact based to a time when opinions are substituted for facts. We have reached a point where empirically provable facts can be countered with fact-less opinions. The media, once the champion of factual reporting, seems satisfied with reporting what people say. We, the public are prone to accept pseudo fact or outright lies (some might say spin) as a permissible replacement for opposing parties debating generally accepted and provable facts.

In today's media, it is common for two parties with opposing views to strenuously debate (on camera of course) the simplest to most complex issues with neither party ever introducing facts into the argument. While politicians, government officials, business people and other talking heads have these pointless debates, the press and the public stand-back and seem to enjoy the show. Seldom is a spokesman for any point of view pinned-down to using only factual (independently provable) statements rendered in words with established dictionary definitions.

Are the previous paragraphs examples of facts or opinions. Of course, both are opinion, but I suspect that each could be made into provable fact if only I would take the time and do the research.

A question that I have often considered: Are facts disputable? It would seem to me that facts are finite. In any argument, there cannot be your set of facts and my set of facts. Given the argument, there can only be one group of facts. To muddy-up the debate, many inject partial facts ...facts that pertain to some other solution, but for any given issue, there is only one set of facts. Facts are black and white. They do not come in shades of gray or in an array of colors.

The media today, masquerading as News organizations, establish elaborate studio sets, marshal an array of expert hosts, analysts and commentators ostensibly to inform the public. Actually, the purpose of the shows is to entertain, to attract high ratings that meet their sponsors' need to advertise their products to as wide an audience as possible in exchange for advertising dollars spent. Successful shows are not the ones that dispense facts, but rather the ones that attract the largest audiences. Unfortunately, our resulting public knowledge and civic discourse becomes the material of the other media success formula ...the Reality Show.

The predominant formula for these 'news' hours of entertainment seems to have evolved to partisanship, controversy, strong opinions, glamour and a complete lack of factual debate. The formula works. Products sell. With the entertainment formula success, a susceptible and apathetic public buys into even more media broadcast and print garbage threatening the very basis of our democracy. Opinions prevail. We go our separate ways.

Given our recent track record, can we be pulled apart? I pray that we cannot.

Jerry Heyman

The fundamental question that needs to be asked is "What is does it mean to be an American - one people?" Growing up in the mid/late 1970s, there was still the concept of a melting pot. What that meant (at least to me) was that diversity was good, but that people wanted to be Americans first. It was important to learn our common history of the United States, and identify with the uniquely American culture.

Since that time, it has become more important to carve out the hyphenated culture. That term before the hyphen is now the identifier, no longer being proud to be an American. The more people cling to the word before the hyphen, the harder it is to be seen as having anything in common with other hyphenated americans - making it virtually impossible to be one people.

From what I've observed, assimilation is no longer acceptable, which was seen as critical by previous generations. The current mindset is that of having the majority accommodate each hyphenated group - not that the hyphenated group needs to give up anything to be part of the whole.

As for the TEA Party's view of "Taking back America" and it being related to the fact that there is an African-American in the White House, I point that researcher to the campaign speeches during the 2004 election where the goal by the party out of power to was to "Take Back the Country" from someone they felt didn't represent their perspective, and claimed was lawless.

Can we survive? Sure, but there are too many people (both politicians and media) that survive only because of the divisions that they create. As long as everyone's a victim, everyone is entitled to be compensated - there is no pulling together to solve the big problems.

Lou Masi

Did I learn about these complicated matters (or perhaps not so) back in High School?

Take three very different towns, sheer insanity I know, and send them to the same high school. Make one come from an all black low to middle income community. Another from an all white low to middle income community. Now just for fun through in the third from a more affluent upper middle income community, you know, white collar dentists, lawyers, and corporate types. Add more than a hint of 60's and 70's prejudice and let's see how many full out riots and it was only a couple freshman trying to through each other off the balcony incidence happen on a routine basis. No common adversary, no higher calling. Come on, who can beat up whom and here's why 'you people' are so ignorant.

But, this is just when it got interesting for me.

The solution was as simple as the plot from any modern sensationalist action movie (insert the one you enjoy most). On the football, soccer or track field, it didn't matter, me or my new friends weren't going to let that other school kick dirt in our face. How can we value and leverage our differences [those weren't our exact words back then]...we can beat this common rival [also not the words from back then].

If an independent leader steps forward that can polarize the nation, like guidance from a simple compass; or Kennedy and the Space Race, or Lincoln and Slavery, we will all see what E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) really means. What America stands for and can accomplish.

Without a bigger problem or a more independent leader, I'm forecasting a lot more of the same. And here is an important and interesting thought. Is there a relationship between the problem or enemy and the degree of independence required from our leadership. Based on the size of the challenge, does the need for independence diminish? I can tell you first hand, debate about what town the best QB, goalie, pitcher, or center should come from dissipated quickly, everyone seemed to instinctively know. Strangely or not, it was based on the size and capabilities of our opponent. A bigger problem, no thanks, so I'm all for a more independent leadership.

Consider reading or rereading Kennedy's Profiles in Courage and Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

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