The first time I wrote a letter to the editor was in the summer of 1976 or thereabouts. It was to the Ft Smith Times Record, from whence I was fired on December 26, 1975. And it was anonymous.
I was working at Madcats Records and for the first time, the mall in which it was located was open on July 4. This appalled me. Back in those pre historic days, stores were closed on Sundays and working on the Nation’s Birthday just seemed un -American. Plus, it prevented me from going to the big shindig at the Ben Geren Park off Zero Street.
So, I sent in the three-paragraph letter—three paragraphs because that is what I was taught in Freshman Comp, intro to issue, discussion and resolution. It basically called for a boycott of the mall and it was anonymous because I did not want to get fired on July 5, no matter the symmetry. It ran, with so many modifications it was basically an announcement that the stores would be open.
The next time was in 1984, about teacher testing put in place by then-Gov Clinton and it was sent to the Arkansas Democrat. I got some letters from a few politicians back, most telling me I was wrong.
It was 2004 before I wrote anything else for the paper, and it was the column about the ACLU, which was picked up by many papers, which was kind of a kick.
I started thinking about these the other day when someone told me I was very open with my opinions. This may be true now, but it was not always so, as documented by the anonymous first letter.
I was basically an opinionated chicken—lots of ideas and no courage. I was afraid I would embarrass myself and my family (probably accomplish this quite frequently—my family, that is). I was afraid a client would read something I wrote and complain to my boss and I would be on the street looking for a job.
Maybe being a slight left-leaning moderate living in a very conservative state pushed me to the brink, but I have found out a couple of things about expressing opinions.
First, opinions are like, well fill in the body part of your choice, in that everyone has one and so long as opinions do not diatribe those with divergent views and are expressed with some semblance of tact, well, discussions can be had and no one loses their temper. Well, not always. The reaction to the piece I wrote about Keith Ellison, the Muslim US Representative from Minnesota was loud and abusive and even made the radio shows, whereupon I learned things about me I never knew, such as I was a Muslim, and a frequenter of the Middle East, and so on. And I am often called a socialist and a gun-hater and a hater of freedom, and so on, but after awhile, so long as these things are not from people who know me, well, its water to the back of the duck.
Second, while client do talk to me about things I write and sometimes strongly disagree with me, so far as I know, I haven’t lost a client for a political stance. People have said: you are a CPA and you should know better. This and similar comments cause me to sometimes say I am the only card-carrying ALCU member in Oklahoma who is also a CPA. Probably not true, but have not yet met another.
The other thing I have found is that my stating that certain words offend me to clients, co-workers and others (such as the “N” word and “G**D***”), they don’t get said in my presence and I don’t get teased about my “sensitive” nature (yeah, right). Maybe this means nothing because probably they words get used when I am not around, but it is something to me. It counts.
Others ask me why I write this stuff. I suppose it is because I need to. There is something in me that wants to make my voice heard. I don’t think I am right all the time, and often, when I write, it is in search of differing views, which is why I read all comments and sometimes write other posts based on comments.