A Flawed Idea Finally Escapes


One of the very few downsides of writing a weekly column in the Petoskey News-Review is that I don’t have the time I would like to write about things that probably aren’t suitable for the newspaper.  The question of “suitability” is basically decided by the editors, and I have developed a pretty good feel about what things they’ll reject.   As a consequence of not committing these flawed ideas to paper, those ideas float around in my head wondering why they have to stay indoors while all the other ideas got to spread out all over the county.

On their face, of course, these rejected ideas are seriously flawed in some way or else they would already be the subject of angry letters to the editor.  Trying to convince an idea that it’s flawed is sort of like trying to convince a teenager that they don’t already know everything.  No matter what logic you throw at them, they always have an answer.  And the answer sounds pretty much like all the previous answers to everyone but the flawed idea or the recalcitrant teenager.

Having raised three teen agers and having been more than a casual observer of the raising of two others, I have a lot of experience in knowing what to say to obstinate ideas who just won’t give it up.  With teenagers, it was sort of easy to say my piece, head into the office, and sip some bourbon until they gave up.  With ideas it’s much more difficult because throwing bourbon on a flawed idea often emboldens the very idea that I’m hoping goes away.

That being said, I’ve been toying with a PNR column idea about the way people interact with my wife and I since I started writing my column.  But it is such a flawed idea, that there is absolutely no reason to even propose it to the editors.  They will sit on it for two days and write back that the idea needs work…maybe even a lot of work.  But I know if I don’t do something with the idea it will begin to fester like that like that itchy spot in the middle of your back that nothing short of a power sander on a long pole can reach.

In the past year I have posted several blog entries on the ideas that didn’t make the paper.  Today is another one of those.  While ideas for this never-to-be-printed column have been floating around in the cranium for months, I didn’t become committed to writing it until last night.

While walking around Petoskey’s Festival by the Bay, I was approached by a woman who leaned in really close, looked around, and said “I really love your columns.”  She squeezed my arm and melted into the crowd looking over her shoulder to make sure no one saw her.  I mentioned to my wife that this is standard operating procedure for anyone who wants to compliment me.  There is such a fear that they will be outed as “progressives” that people are rarely at ease to be seen agreeing with me in public.

It’s the same with Letters to the Editor and emails.   Almost all the letters that make it in the paper are from people who don’t agree with me.  Almost all the emails I get are from people who praise my work.

But these clandestine compliments happen all the time.  At the grocery, people peer around the avocados to check for spies before telling me they like what I wrote last week.  When I check out at the meat market, the cashier waits until people have moved on from her register before encouraging me to not “let the bastards off the hook.”   I really wonder what they’re afraid of.   Well, ok, I really don’t wonder.  After spending a year reading about what a rotten gay-loving, Muslim-loving, nigger-loving communist I am, I can imagine most people wouldn’t delight in such diatribe as I do.

But such is the reputation of the area in which I live.  People are apparently proud of the racism, homophobia, and intolerance that we’re known for here in the Great White North.  I am reminded frequently that my views “don’t belong around here.”  I was even told by a Gaylord School Board member once that “we don’t like your kind.”  Plenty of people, of course, don’t contribute to that image, but they’re also quite reluctant to take a stand against it.  I have a feeling until folks are comfortable walking up to a rotten gay-loving, Muslim-loving, nigger-loving communist and loudly proclaim their appreciation for his work, that little will change in the way our area is perceived.  Most of the people who think of themselves as superior to people who don’t look like they do, pray like they do, or have sex like they do are really cowards hiding behind their perceived superiority.  While the rest of the world laughs at their 1890’s approach to life, they somehow stay indignant towards anyone who tries to enlighten them.

Ok..so that’s one of the ideas that’s been buzzing around for a few months.  Think it’s fit for the newspaper?  Neither do I.

4 Comments on “A Flawed Idea Finally Escapes”

  1. jrpalm August 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    We had a “melted into the crowd” experience when a Petoskey woman ran up to us with a $20 bill and asked we accept her donation anonymously since her job would be in jeopardy if she donated publicly. Sad. Think of yourself as a missionary?

  2. Mark Pontoni August 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    A missionary? I feel like I’m sitting in a big pot of boiling water sometimes! Actually, none of the stuff really bothers me. When they go after my job or mistreat my family, that’s over the line, but I can handle the rest of it.

  3. Richard Scott,D.O. August 17, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    I know the feeling for sure. We live in a culture where epithets are casually thrown and failure to follow the dictates written in most religions are forgotten, if ever learned.
    That we live in a time where such polarization and hate seem to abound frightens mr

  4. Julie Bernstein August 18, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    I was at the Festival by the Bay too – I don’t know what you look like, except from your tiny picture. If I had seen you there or anywhere else around town, I would have come up to you, shaken your hand, and LOUDLY said, “I support you and everything you write and keep up the good work!’ There are a lot of us out here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: