Even though I long ago disavowed making new year’s resolutions, partly because I hardly ever keep them, I do find one new year’s rite worth doing at the beginning of the year.
I clean my files. I mean the hard-copy files. The big stack of paper that piles up over the year, or over many years.
This weekend brought a revelation as I cleaned out one of my filing cabinets.
I tossed what I had kept for years in my files. I called them my “Praise and Damnation” folders. I copied the title of those folders from a former editor and a current friend who had kept them when he was active in daily journalism. They comprised messages from readers who either agreed with what I wrote or disagreed with me. Those who agreed were categorized as “Praise”; the others, well, you know how it goes.
My daily journalism career ended a couple of years ago, but I kept the files that previously had been stored in my office downtown, at the Amarillo Globe-News. This weekend, they went into the trash.
I felt rather cleansed, actually, in getting rid of them.
Before I tossed them, though, I perused a few submissions. I ran across an exchange from two individuals here in Amarillo. Their approaches are vastly different. They have wildly differing political views. One is a partisan Democrat, the other is an equally partisan Republican.
Here’s the crux of their disagreement, not just with each other, but with me.
The Democrat’s name is Jim. He accused me of being a right-wing mouthpiece for the Republican Party. He just couldn’t understand how I could be such a rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth ultraconservative “tea bagger.” He detested submissions from the other side. He would single out a few contributors whose work he hated with special vigor.
One of them is named Ricky, who would write occasional letters to the editor and guest columns. According to Ricky, I was a left-wing, squishy, bleeding heart liberal whose views had no legitimate standing in a community such as ours. This is the Texas Panhandle, for crying out loud, and how dare I espouse those lefty views here?
One guy called me a right-wing “nut job.” The other guy called everything just short of being a communist.
All this falls right back into what I told both of them: Their own bias frames their view of the work I did.
I actually tried to get them to talk to each other. Jim would have none of it. He had no desire to sit down over coffee to discuss his differences with Ricky. I don’t recall Ricky stating a specific objection to meeting with Jim.
But as the object of their mutual scorn, I learned to roll with it.
I’m glad to be free of the huge pile of paper — and to be liberated from the hassle of dealing with individuals who cannot see through their own bias.