Pursuing truth through the rhetoric | Our Corner

This writing stuff is a strange business.

It’s an amalgamation of talk, tattling and, at times, tawdry titters – all under the headline of truth sleuthing.

Newspapers, books, television, social media, magazines and internet sites all make varying claims to some type of protean veracity.

I read an article this week about a woman in Walla Walla who worked for a daily in that city. After Donald Trump was elected, she saw a sign making an accusation her paper was fake news — the new wonder cliché of the year.

The woman went home and told her husband and began to cry. Although the accusation was not directed at her, it was pointed to her paper, and she felt the fire of hot-gas rhetoric.

It occurred to me after reading the piece, our newspapers need writers like that, young women and men who care enough to cry about jabberwocky talk, and keep writing.

If you read your Reporter, you will find writers of that caliber – some emerging and some there.

I put little stock in agenda agents trying to turn the screws of coverage. For anyone in the news business, it is as common as a deadline.

If I had been her editor, I would have told her in the political trenches both sides try to use flame throwers. Groovy clichés are grabbed off the shelves to prevent that darn thinking and pondering. Bumper sticker diplomacy is much more accessible. And the results? Only winning matters.

I probably would have told her, if they use groovy phrases, you’re OK. If they start saying your facts are wrong, and can back it up with something besides pointy fingers, check your notes.

My tack is always listening to what a person has to say, because one never knows. I always tell reporters, listen to all, sometimes the one who is way out in the wheat field stumbles across a stray dollar that can’t be explained. Writers must never take the easy way. It dulls the edge and leaves one missing the overtones.

My stumbling years of writing about politics taught me a few truths.

A political race, particularly a hot-house campaign, is similar to death. It can bring the best and worst out. If you want to witness the inner tides of a soul, follow a campaign battle to the last vote on the last day. And don’t worry about the winner; it’s the loser who will show the seams. Those losers keep writers awake at night — wondering.

The best writers will in time discover what they witness in the dark times, what they hear and see, is in them, too.

Politics is people – the good, bad and sad. As a people we have taken the term politics and made it the snake in the tree.

It is us, the snake; no fake news, it is all of us.

I am ending this column with a quote that has been rolling around in my air space for a while. My inner illogical logic says it fits right here and now … not sure why.

David Blight, history professor at Yale who teaches a course, “Civil War and Reconstruction Era,” pointed out this passage from Abraham Lincoln in 1838 : “All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the Earth, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge Mountains, in a trial of 1,000 years. If destruction is to be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and its finisher. As a nation of free men we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

David Blight’s course is available on the web at the Yale Open Courses site, oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-119.

Reach Dennis Box, Covington Reporter regional editor, at dbox@maplevalleyreporter.com or 425-432-1209, ext. 5050.

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