Here’s an ‘old-fashioned’ view of some modern dilemmas | Whale’s Tales

I have been writing this opinion column ever since my return from the extended time I took off to deal with my first bout with cancer in 2021.

Reaction has been mostly positive. I appreciate that.

But I appreciate also those readers who have dinged me for my “liberalism.” I don’t mind at all. In the never-ending interest of learning, I share the sentiment of the great English writer Samuel Johnson, who said: “Sir, I am indebted to any man who can teach me something.” The critiques could very well be valid.

Having said that, I’ve gotta add that is not criminal to have an opinion, whether it comes from the left, the right or somewhere in between. And it should be obvious that opinion is what one is expected to voice in an opinion column. So, I make no apologies for sounding my “barbaric yawp” over Auburn.

One’s perspective is formed first of all by whatever that mysterious “x factor” is with which we enter the world. By the family into which we are born, by one’s native land or region thereof. What we become as we roll along is a product of our own initiative, or lack of said, our education, the books we have opened, the people we meet, what life throws at us, etc.

I remember once telling Mr. Larson, a teacher of mathematics at Green River Community College, “I want to be an old-world man,” as I disclosed to him my plan to study classical languages and literature at the University of Washington. He laughed good naturedly, though he probably thought, “fool.”

If you were to consider the books I love, starting with the Odyssey, the Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare, etc., you’d probably say, “My, my, how old fashioned.” Truth is Latin, Greek, etc are fundamental to a classical education.

I don’t cotton much to modern poetry, which disdains any rhythm or rhyme. I have been reminded that such a statement immediately marks me out as a dinosaur in literary circles. Yes, the modern has its place, but to my brain, poetry, which began in the circle around the firefight, with people banging on drums and stomping their feet to a rhythm, should welcome in all techniques.

I also believe that one should learn one’s craft and be willing to undergo a time of apprenticeship. That also puts me outside the circle of the people who believe in the primacy of first inspiration.

As Rudyard Kipling once wrote: “Praise be to Allah, who gave me two separate sides of my head.”

The other side of my head I suppose reflects a fundamental dislike for people. whatever their political stripe who stomp on others’ rights and take advantage of them. Who gain economically off of the misery of others.

As Abraham Lincoln once said: “To whose who support slavery let it be tried on them.”

Who gobble the good stuff, but maliciously and selfishly ensure that it is beyond the reach of others. Also for people who consider themselves incapable of error. Who call attention to the good things they may do. My practice is to do the good thing and then shut up about it.

Progressing through life has worn away many of the old certainties I once had.

I have noticed that flaws plain to everyone undergo a scrubbing process when we are the ones who possess them. When we practice them, they are virtues. The right and the left abhor “cancel culture,” but practice it on the other.

We do not note our own leaps of logic, our tendency to paper over the flaws of our heroes. As a friend of mine once preached in a sermon: “We want mercy for our own, but the hard hand of justice for the other guy.”

What I have a very hard time with is people who go too far in either direction, left or right. Life, as my Irish friends say, has a tendency to “take the piss out of you.” Or it should. Sixty-one years into this life, I have seen. myself wrong too many times to assume I’ve got anything figured out.

I was a student in the 1980s when the anti-apartheid efforts were in full swing at the University of Washington. And while I agreed wholeheartedly with the call to end apartheid in South Africa, I disliked the blatant racism some of the movement’s leftist leaders showed.

“Go home, white trash,” I heard one of the most vocal spokesperson that movement spat,out one night in my dorm when her food order didn’t match her expectations. I have never forgotten her gross hypocrisy.

Perhaps what I am saying,is that I agree with Walt Whitman. I am inconsistent. Very well, I am inconsistent. And so are we all — we contain multitudes.

Robert Whale can be reached at