By Barney Blakeney
I received a telephone message the other day that’s been bothering me ever since. There must have been a bad connection because I could understand very little of what the caller said except that he was ticked off at me about something. I have no idea what he was saying otherwise.
The message bothers me for a couple of reasons. I’m one of those strange people who long to be liked by others. I know you can’t please everybody, but I want people to like me. I guess most people feel that way. But I make it hard. I’m opinionated, I believe what I believe and I don’t mind telling you how I feel about stuff. That ticks a lot of people off. It’s not my intention to tick people off; I just want them to understand where I’m coming from.
So this guy was going on about something, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Another guy came on the line that appeared to want to smooth things over between us. But again, there was a bad connection and I never got an understanding of what was the subject. I was left trying to figure whether the issue is personal or professional. I’m inclined to think it’s got something to do with my writing.
I learned a long time ago not to get too upset if people don’t agree with stuff I write. You try to be objective and accurate then you have to let it go. I have a lot of trouble with people getting confused about news stories and opinion pieces. In news stories it’s ‘just the facts, ma’am’. You let others tell the story. The writer’s opinion shouldn’t be in a news story. Of course we’re all human and sometimes a reporter’s personal opinions slip into news stories. But ideally, editorial pieces are the place for opinions.
This column is different from a news story. It’s all about what I think. I’m blessed to have this opportunity. I try not to abuse it. I try to present ideas that have merit, but at the end of the day, they’re just my ideas. Some people agree some don’t. I just try to keep it real.
Still, a lot of times people will read a news story and think that’s what I’m saying. Sometimes I agree with the stuff in a news story, sometimes I don’t. But I think it’s a good idea to present as many viewpoints as possible – agree or not. As a writer for a publication with integrity, I don’t spin how stories are presented. Good, bad or indifferent, everybody gets a shot. I’m old enough to remember when news of importance to Black people wouldn’t be published in the white media. That’s what necessitated Black newspapers in the first place. That playing field still ain’t level. I don’t want to add to the problem.
I don’t know what I did to tick that guy off, I only ask: don’t shoot the messenger. If it regards a news story, show me the mistake and I’ll do my best to correct it. If it regards an opinion, I’m entitled to my opinion. This publication always has been more than willing to present other opinions. Send a letter to the editor.
If the objective is to promote progress for our people, it’s counterproductive to get mad and stop speaking. That’s an all too common response for some people. I know of different factions in the civil rights community which don’t communicate with each other because of such foolishness. It disturbs me that there isn’t more collaboration and cooperative effort between local organizations. Same holds true for our political entities.
I got a call the other day from Charleston County Republican Party Chairman Larry Kobrovsky responding to a remark from the county’s Democratic Party Chair Brady Quirk. It seems the Democrats are accusing local Republicans of bigotry if they don’t oppose Donald Trump’s banning of transgender individuals’ service in the military. Kobrovsky said he feels the need to respond because resorting to name-calling does little to open dialogue on the subject. Kobrovsky said he thinks the question of whether or not transgender individuals should serve in the military is one best answered by generals.
My experience with Quirk has all been positive, but I took away a couple of things from my conversation with Kobrovsky. We can’t allow understanding to take second place to a political position on an issue. Our positions should be based on our understanding and not the other way around. We can’t become so rooted in a position that we refuse to embrace understanding. The position or party affiliation can’t be more important than people. The service of transgender individuals in the military is a complex issue that can’t be explored adequately based on political party affiliation.
And Kobrovsky said when we start the name-calling and disrespect, it becomes more difficult to have rational discussion and to reach solutions. Some people thrive on conflict. Their goal is not to reach better understanding that leads to progress. Their goal is to continue conflict. My brother Ellis Mack used to say everybody’s got an agenda. I add when you know a man’s agenda, you better understand his behavior. If someone is ticked off about something, it makes sense to me to resolve the issues which create that irritation. You do that through conversation and understanding.