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Sticks and stones? Bring ‘em on

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By Rick Howell

    My blessed mother reads the paper every week and always notices the hateful and snarling letters that are often aimed at your favorite liberal.

    “Did you see that awful letter?” she’ll ask. I usually haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll say, “Yeah, mom. It’s no big deal. It’s just the hot air you get from some people who can’t stand that somebody else disagrees with them.”

    Mom is still not assured at that. Any attacks on “my son” are very personal to her. But I try one more time….”I have every right to express my views, and as long as the paper allows me to do that, there will always be those who can’t handle it.”

    It generally takes a few more lines similar to that to re-assure her. It’s great to have a loving mother, isn’t it?

    It’s always a laugh to get letters from critics that are filled with bad grammar, words spelled incorrectly, and diatribes that are just so blatantly nothing but personal attacks. The most recent such example was written by someone who obviously doesn’t know what the word “correspondent” means.

    Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary lists one definition as “one who contributes news or commentary to a publication…” Such a person is not a regular employee of that paper, but is also something more than an “average citizen” subject to the rules of writing letters to the editor.

    In my case, the word is used correctly to describe what I do here, which is contributing commentary. It is in no way a “false title.” Such a person can or cannot be paid, depending on the particular newspaper policy.

    But you notice I didn’t go there….also, I was labeled as “definitely not a journalist,” which seemed to be listed as one more reason to edit, discipline, tar and feather me, or whatever. No, I’m not a journalist at the moment, but where is it written that one has to be a journalist to contribute political commentary if you can write well?

    I am, however, proud of my journalistic background, which this writer is apparently unaware of: a dozen years with newspapers in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee as a reporter, editor, columnist, editorial writer, and typer of many, many obituaries.

    I’m not under the illusion that I’m making a single dent into the Great Wall of rural conservatism that so hovers over our beloved Bedford County. I know, too, that there are many Democrats and liberals here who agree with me, but alas, they don’t seem to write letters!

    But here’s the bottom line to all of this: Many conservatives are absolutely hysterical to see the tide of history in this country finally turning against them. There are Pentecostal preachers running around calling Barack Obama the “anti-Christ.” Commentators shriek “socialism, socialism!” over the health care plan, the bank bailouts, and the stimulus package.

    Conservatism is losing across the nation and that frustrates them. So, many local conservatives, who can’t get their hands on Barack Obama, are more than happy to slap around Rick Howell in the newspaper. And I’m more than glad to let them.

    Whenever the Bulletin says, “Okay, Rick. The jig is up,” which is its right at any moment, then I’ll be glad to thank the paper for the opportunity I was given and state how much I enjoyed it. But I doubt it will ever be forced to do such a thing by people who just hate the sight of the word “liberal.”

    So, to my critics, I will say this: Sorry, boys. You haven’t laid a glove on me. But you sure do upset my mother!

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.