Political columnists tend to choose topics to open the flow of conversation. I am proud of my work and use my social media avenues to tell friends, family and colleagues about my latest.
Last week’s Missourian column, “Politicians' Secession Threats are Childish,” and a sister commentary at InkandVoice.com, "In the Purfuit of Happyneff," seem to have opened the floodgates. Beyond the 16 responses I received on the Missourian and Ink and Voice websites, 80-plus comments have been generated in my social networking groups, like LinkedIn.com’s “Democrats and Republicans,” “Republican National Committee,” “Democratic National Committee” and “Progressive Democrats.” Many of these are open and continuing conversations.
The flood of response is not worthy of Noah, but a small canoe would work to navigate the multiple waterways.
A large portion of this week’s discussion involves the definition of the American government, if we are a republic, a democracy, a representative democracy or something else. Or whether the Obama administration is sending this country down a road of socialism, fascism, totalitarianism or communism.
I used definitions from the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. One commenter claimed that I “picked the definitions which fit (my) agenda.”
Does this mean that Merriam is wrong? That Webster is a commie-liberal?
For the most part, the comments have been quite civil. Three of my more conservative readers, Todd, Mark and Mary, from the “Democrats and Republicans” group, welcomed me into their fold. Mark wrote, “I just want to welcome you officially to the group. I think you have survived your pledge program. We will likely not agree on much but that's OK. I admire someone with the courage to take up their position even if they are a Lefty.”
That’s “commie-pinko-hippie freak” if you don’t mind. I am still waiting for my secret decoder ring.
Then there is Joe, a member of the Republican National Committee group who thinks I am great. Or at least worthy.
I must say that regardless of the title of the political group, each maintains the gambit of ultra-conservatives to ultra-liberals and all the gray in between.
One conversation started with taxes and is now entering the realm of alarmist politics. Comments here prompted one responder to quote Henry Lewis Mencken, essayist, newspaper editor and satirist. "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
Maybe ole Henry had something there. He seems to have described the campaign for the April elections in Columbia.
The bottom line is, the vast majority of responders to commentary are thoughtful, intelligent and take pride in their own positions. They read and listen, and try to understand where the other party is coming from. They are, after all, commentators themselves.
They, like all good commentators, work on verifiable facts and sources that can be located and analyzed. Those sources could be questioned, but the source can be found. Readers also ask some very good questions ranging from Tea Party propaganda to Fabian Socialism. Yes, I also had to look that one up.
There are those few who only throw insults. From these two commentaries alone, I have been called an idiot, a “pecker-head,” a commie, un-American, and a few other things I cannot repeat here.
In all, I relish the feedback and I am glad that occasionally I will find a subject that incites others to take quill to parchment, or at least fingers to keyboard, engage their brains and enter in the conversation.
On April 30, I will be speaking to the luncheon meeting of the Muleskinners about writing commentary. You are invited. Maybe we can strike up a great conversation.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and the New York Journal of Books.