I have been reading editorials, columns, and blogs for many years; and I do not recall ever seeing an admission of what may be the most important fact regarding opinions that appear in print. Everyone has stupid opinions. I do not mean that all written opinions are stupid or even that most are ill informed. My message is simply that we all hold ideas, thoughts, beliefs, prejudices, and views that are either not very smart or just untrue.
Every week when I sit down to write this column/blog, I confront the dangerous truth that I will put something into print that will confirm what many, until now, have only suspected. My guiding premise is that I write to inform and entertain rather than to provoke or advocate. This premise helps save me from revealing the worst of my dumb ideas, but I have been known to include an error, in fact, in at least one of my columns. The worst example I can recall was copying a quotation from a Web site attributing a quotation from the football coach Vince Lombardi to the painter Vincent Van Gogh. It’s hard to imagine that these two historic figures ever shared anything other than a first name, and the story is a telling illustration of the amount of research that goes into these writings.
I hope this blog is a useful substitute for the conversations that would be difficult to arrange with employees and other interested readers. As someone who spent many years in small towns, working in small organizations, it’s sometimes frustrating that I don’t know everyone who works for the City or serves on an advisory commission. Thanks to the good work of Bob Woods, I’ve recently started doing monthly “brown bag” lunches that anyone is welcome to attend. Today (January 9), I will be talking about the City’s Strategic Plan at noon in the Council Chambers, but I’m willing to discuss almost any subject. Please note the qualifier “almost” in the preceding sentence. Self-preservation dictates some limitations.
The fact that I have some stupid opinions and believe that everyone else does too does not mean that I think we should never share them. Many of my worst ideas have been changed by exposing them to people who know more than I do. I strongly believe, however, that we should regard opinions expressed in blogs or other venues with healthy skepticism and never take them too seriously. I sometimes worry about the anger I see even in our local newspaper’s online reactions to stories or editorials.
I have been writing columns or blogs for at least the last decade, and I’ve appreciated the many comments and stories I’ve heard in response to them. I do learn something from putting my own thoughts into print, but I learn a lot more from the reactions to them from other people. Please feel free to post responses as the spirit dictates. Stupid opinions need to be challenged if they are ever going to change.