News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Stephanie Salter

February 27, 2010

STEPHANIE SALTER: How about ‘Different Strokes for Different Folks’ in the key of G?

TERRE HAUTE — This may sound odd coming from a newspaper columnist, but I’m beginning to tire of Opinion USA.

In fact, I keep thinking opinions these days are like German Marks during the Weimar Republic: Billions upon billions are in circulation, but they’re worth next-to-nothing. And, yes, I include mine in the count.

When is the last time someone’s opinion changed your mind?

How often do you hear or read an opinion that is the opposite of yours and spend a few minutes considering its merits?

How often, instead, do you see the headline of a column or letter to the editor, or note the identifying label beneath a TV talking head, and either think, “Right on!” or call that person a nasty name?

Have you ever read or heard an opinion that, after you’ve considered it, you concluded: “I don’t agree with that, but it’s a heck of a well-argued point”?

No, most of us are too busy shouting at each other and impugning one another’s character based on political affiliation, preferred economic system or church of choice. In a time of unprecedented communication capabilities, we seem as a nation to be employing the sort of societal thought processes that made the Salem witch trials such a bright chapter in American history.

I think the tipping point for me was a story I read recently about a self-proclaimed “conservative” organization that has issued a nationwide call for people to send packages of actual garbage to the Fox News pundit, Glenn Beck.

Their beef?

In the words of their leader, a Californian named Mark Dice, “Glenn Beck repeatedly attacks 9/11 Truthers (people who believe the government is covering up evidence surrounding the September 11th attacks or allowed the attacks to happen on purpose as a pretext for war).” The parenthesis are Dice’s.

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