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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Do I Owe To My Town?



The acidic drool of vindictive self-proclaimed sages has drenched the streets of my hometown. Clean shoes cannot manuever around the discharge without being splattered by the bitter black bile. Those who expectorate the horrible discharge expel such copious amounts of infectious hate speech that it coats every public thoroughfare. Without care for public safety, the perpetrators of deceit feel no obligation to clean the filth they have spread. Instead, they seek pristine territory for their foul, odorous overflow. Innocents become defiled in their daily walks to places of employment.

I am sick of yellow journalism that deals in sensational details and scandal-mongering. Quite frankly, the writers of yellow journalism seek self-promotion over any consideration of the public good. Their selfish, despicable use of name-calling, lewd details, and misleading information is carefully calculated for stirring public sympathy as they portray themselves as "underdogs" against the established system. Such sensationalizing pulls people down perceived paths of social reform. In reality, the people swayed by these tactics lack the knowledge and inclination to research the facts. Instead, people rely upon the shock and awe of scandals to realize potential believers.

Does anyone question rampant distortion, exploitation, and exaggeration, or does the public so hate public officials, authority, and policies that reasoning has lost its proper perspective? Do you ever notice that those who so often cry "Wolf!" are the same weak-minded, sniveling individuals who do absolutely nothing to compromise in difficult situations? Any spiteful person can find harmful facts about nearly anything or anyone and present them in negative stories. How many of us could stand the scrutiny of such slanderous complainers? These cowards love to play "judge" and "jury" as they reach out to pull people onto their filthy bandwagons.

Note this proverb that came from a story of an alleged speech by Pang Cong, an official in the Warring States Period in Chinese history. According to records, before he left on a trip, Pang Cong asked the King of Wei whether he would hypothetically believe in one civilian's report that a tiger was roaming the markets in the capital city, to which the King replied "no."

"Pang Cong asked what the King thought if two people reported the same thing, and the King said he would begin to wonder. Pang Cong then asked, "what if three people all claimed to have seen a tiger?" The King replied that he would believe in it. Pang Cong reminded the King that the notion of a live tiger in a crowded market was absurd, yet when repeated by numerous people, it seemed real. As a high-ranking official, Pang Cong had more than three opponents and critics; naturally, he urged the King to pay no attention to those who would spread rumors about him while he was away. "I understand," the King replied, and Pang Cong left for Zhao. Yet, slanderous talk took place. When Pang Cong returned to Wei, the King indeed stopped seeing him." (http://lib.hku.hk/bonsall/zhanguoce/24.pdf



The muckrakers in our town use this fallacy of argumentum ad populum (Latin for "appeal to the people") to spread their stories and appeal to the numbers. The fallacy alleges, "If many believe so, it is so." It is an example of false communal reinforcement used to sway opinion. In a twist on a very simple cliche', "smoke" does not always lead to "fire." Anyone who would carelessly accept the rantings of many slanted local blogs needs a political education.

Of course, the loud voices of accusation in town also frequently use a patriotic approach known as "draping oneself in the flag" to spew their supposed "red, white and blue" nationalistic inflammatory pleas.  Emotionally charged symbols and terms such as "Americanism," "rugged individualism," or "freedom of speech" decorate their rhetoric to assert that anyone who disagrees is not patriotic. The First Amendment is not designed to be a guarantee for slanderous speech. Limitations on all freedoms can and do exist.

As a teacher, I always tried to encourage my students to seek the truth. Before finding fact and opinion worth writing, they had to find the truth, but the truth is "inner" as it relates to the individual writer, and "outer" as it relates to the rest of his or her world. Humanity demands respected acknowledgment of differing views of reality. Without both inner and outer truth, the writer sounds, at best, as if he or she is begging the question of the theme.

Linda Ellinor explained the difficulty in the quest for truth so well when she said, "What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth."

Smug, condescending people believe the truth lies solely in their own observations, feelings, and interpretations. These tools of understanding seldom, if ever, represent a universal Truth. This leaves us with one task so often ignored in this day of blame and distrust. As writers, we are bound by a pledge to seek the common good and to avoid using words as weapons of needless destruction.Too many today are loading their pens with rhetorical "bullets" instead of helpful, well-conceived thoughts and ideas.

When people insist upon entering an argument, a proper topic for argument must provide nearly as many good concessions as it does good pros; otherwise, the topic is unfit for argumentation. Some of the mouthy mudslingers in our town should realize this. Far from being a sign of weakness, a concession to the opposition is a basis of strength when logically overshadowed by good reason. Constant slobbering from frothing mouths is deep enough in the streets of Portsmouth, Ohio. Maybe another old axiom is apt -- "If you don't have anything good to say..."


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