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Being told I’m opinionated, doesn’t offend me at all. Opinions are important catalysts in a society, and free exercise thereof a measure of democracy and free speech. Opinions can be enlightening and progressive, or confusing and reactive. To be useful, opinions should be based on reality and not just reflect prejudice, indoctrination, or heritage. I’ll leave it to you to pass judgement on the letters in this book. I think you’ll find a variety of counter opinions from irate readers, not always based on facts and reality, but with lots of emotional involvement. As a regular reader of letters to various editors, I held back for most of my life, but finally couldn’t hold my pen any longer, – or rather, keep my two index fingers off the keyboard.
My letters to the editor (LTE) of some newspapers started innocently enough a few years ago as my response to things that bothered me, or to set some ignorant, uneducated letter writers straight regarding opinions expressed that I thought were completely off the wall, or even off the deep end, or worse. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I got published, and people began to respond to what I wrote, – some even in support! That was fun! Even the derogatory letters, and believe you me, some were, encouraged me to write more since I apparently had a hitherto unknown talent for hitting raw nerves. I soon realized that some nerves out there were very raw and ready to explode at the slightest attack on their well established, often inherited, and just as often unsubstantiated beliefs or opinions, many of which were totally detached from reality. I’m not sure which encouraged me more, the positive or the negative responses. Perhaps both, in some funny way. That taught me to appreciate any and all feedback. It is nice, of course, that people agree with you, but perhaps even more electrifying to read that someone has taken great exception to the thoughts you have expressed in writing and gotten some editor to agree is worth precious newspaper space. That makes you think, crow about your own perceived superior intellect, or even, heaven forbid, go back in yourself and question your own position. Perhaps there is something to learn even from the most outrageous, idiotic, un-enlightened response letters.
Feel free to use, plagiarize, embellish upon, change, improve and resubmit as your own work, any letter under my name in this book. What I have expressed here, whether published or not, I would like to see as widely distributed as possible, under your own name. Thus, through the readership of your local papers you can have an influence far beyond your own sphere of family and friends. As I see it, if you can make a single person think and become more educated and enlightened, even react in disgust, you have accomplished something beyond yourself. There is so much misinformation, misunderstanding and deliberate distortion floating around, especially in the political arena, that the common man or woman needs to stand up to be heard, – or in this case, read. Most of us would like to have some influence, some impact, the feeling that we can contribute to changes for a better world. Here’s your chance! If you get published, I would like your permission to include your letter to the editor of whatever paper you appear in, in a sequel to this book, with your name recognized as the author. Tentative book title: “The best of ‘Dear Editor’”. There is no monetary compensation, only the pride and glory of having contributed to a book that, hopefully, will find a wide audience and make an impact, far beyond both you and me.
Here’s an encouraging line I was very surprised to receive through our local “Nextdoor Highlands” on-line network: “Jorg – I have always wanted to tell you how much your insightful and vigorous letters in the Daily Journal are appreciated by me. Regards from Jonathan F. (MD) Just send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a link to your letter, or attach or embed your letter in an e-mail, with the name of the newspaper and date of publication identified. Actually, if you feel strongly about something you wrote that didn’t make it to print, send it to me for possible inclusion anyway, preferably with the rejecting newspaper(s) identified. Being such a frequent reject victim myself, I have a soft spot in my heart for others who write great stuff that some dense editor didn’t fully understand, – or was too bigoted, or gun shy, to publish. And, if you are lucky enough to get some response to your letters, positive or negative, send me those, too. The more outrageous, the better! I look forward to hearing from you and wish you good luck as an author of letters to various editors!
There is a wide gap between the vast majority of people who rarely say anything outside their own polite circle of family and friends, and the few who write books and articles about various topics, often expressing very strong opinions from one extreme to the other. In-between we have newspaper columnists and radio and TV personalities who express their opinion, also at times with one extreme position or another. Letters to the Editor (LTE) serve an extraordinarily important function by letting the more or less common individual express an opinion, add insight, weed out misunderstandings, influence people, and help spread enlightenment, – or in many cases unfortunately, bigotry. Such letters fill the gap between the many who say nothing and books and articles too heavy and time consuming for most of us. It is amazing what can be expressed in a few words in a readers’ opinion section of a newspaper. Opinion letters are as close to grass roots as you can get. And, they do have an impact! Whether left-oriented, right-oriented, or des-oriented, the opinion pages with LTE’s are often read with greater interest and by more people than he rest of the paper, – with the possible exclusion of the obituaries that older people seem to gravitate to.