My mind wanders occasionally into strange places.
I think of people I used to know and wonder things like, oh, how would they fare in today’s world?
The name of a one-time Amarillo gadfly came to mind today. His name was Michael Wyatt. He’s deceased now; he died in an automobile accident in the late 1990s at a fairly young age.
I came to Amarillo in early 1995 to become editorial page editor of the two papers published by the same owner: the Amarillo Daily News and the Amarillo Globe-Times.
One of the things I learned upon arrival was that the opinion section operated under a policy that I felt compelled to change immediately. It did not place any time restriction on the frequency of people submitting letters to the editor. Put another way: One could get letters published every day of the week if he or she were so inclined.
Michael Wyatt was a prolific letter writer. He had opinions on just about anything — and anyone — in public life. He was unafraid. He took on City Hall, the school districts, county governments, the chamber of commerce. You name it, he had something to say about it.
The frequency of Wyatt’s submissions, I would learn, had a chilling effect on others who had something to say about a public issue. Wyatt scared people off, kept them from expressing their views. “Why get into a public p*****g match with this loony bird?” they would ask themselves.
Well, we changed the policy right away, settling finally on a once-per-calendar-month rule.
He also would come engage us face to face, talk our ears off about this and/or that. He wanted to know what we thought about something and, of course, he would share his own view.
I’m wondering now how Wyatt would fare in this Internet Age.
I have to believe he’d be in hog heaven with the availability of venues, forums, platforms, websites — whatever — to express himself.
I wrote a column for the newspaper upon hearing of Wyatt’s death. I saluted him as someone who felt the calling to contribute to the public dialogue. He did so with gusto and demonstrated great courage in speaking his mind. A member of the Amarillo City Commission at the time called me to complain about the column paying tribute to Wyatt; he told me he “couldn’t stand him.” Why? “Well he was just so damn critical all the time.”
My reaction at the time, as best as I can remember, was “umm, too bad.” He sought to keep our elected officials on their toes.
To be blunt, Wyatt likely would put many of the individuals who respond to this blog to shame. I’ve got my share of “regulars” who like to comment on this or that; many of them get into arguments with each other on the social media outlets through which I channel these blog posts (and which will receive this one once I’m finished with it).
I find myself chuckling at the notion of Michael engaging in these seemingly endless exchanges. He was quite capable of devouring anyone rhetorically.
It’s too bad he didn’t live long enough to witness the dawn of this new “information/disinformation age.”
Michael Wyatt — wherever he is now — no doubt is wishing he could come back to take part. He would be right at home.