Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What is relevant? What is truth?

I achieved a “first” this day. After nearly five months of publishing the Chicago Argus (and its sister site, “The South Chicagoan”), I deleted a reader’s comments that were attached to a piece of political analysis I wrote.

Now personally, I have a very loose attitude with regard to reader comments. I believe that when I write a commentary or analysis piece for the sites, I am having my say on the matter.

THEREFORE, I AM willing to let anyone who takes the time to read this site have their say – even if they have the “wrong” opinion (wrong being defined as anything that disagrees with me).

But in this particular case, I deleted someone’s attempt to attach a poem to the commentary I wrote for Tuesday as a preview of the Democratic primary elections held in Indiana and North Carolina.

The poem, in a sense, dealt with the election – it was a ditty entitled “Ode to Obama.” It was labeled as having been written by “Publius II.” Of course, the person who posted the commentary to my political analysis remained “anonymous.”

A check of Sitemeter, a service I use to give me some sense of how many (or few) people are actually reading my weblogs, could only tell me that the poster used a account to gain access to the Internet, and used an Internet Service Provider based out of Franklinville, N.J. Of course, that vague information could mean anything.

THE POEM ITSELF was fairly much half-witted trash (when the first verse’s rhyme is “drama” and “mama” and makes the point that Stanley Ann Dunham was “eccentric” because she didn’t date only white men, you can tell where it is going). The gist of the poem is to provide the Obama life story from the perspective of someone who thinks the Anglo perspective is the acceptable one, and that other perspectives are to be shoved aside.

Now if any of you really feel the need to read this, you should check out this link ( The exact same poem that was put on the Chicago Argus as a comment is posted at this weblog as an actual piece of commentary – not a response to someone else’s work.

I get the impression that someone is taking this trivial little poem and trying to spread it around the Internet. It wouldn’t shock me to learn it has been attached to many different sites in an attempt to spread the word that “real Americans said ‘FU’” to the concept of Obama as the next president of the United States.

Seriously, my commentary was posted Tuesday at 12:03 a.m. and the “comment” was added at 12:07 a.m. The anonymous poster who added the comment came to my site at 12:06 a.m., after having learned about the Chicago Argus through the Google search function that allows one to look only through weblogs for the phrase “Obama.”

NOW I MADE it clear early on in the campaign season that I cast my ballot in the Illinois primary for Obama, and I remain an Obama supporter. I disagree with the borderline racist sentiment expressed in this poem.

Nonetheless, had there been anything in it that related to the Indiana or North Carolina primaries, I likely would have allowed it to remain. Heck, when I wrote about an Indiana attorney campaigning in Illinois at a National Socialist rally in Chicago, I received a comment from someone informing me I was an “infidel” for taking the name of Adolf Hitler in vain. I left it in place.

This poem was just irrelevant – and long, it took up a ridiculous amount of space.

Now to the person who posted this comment, I’m sure they will get miffed for a moment and probably try to claim I am censoring their thought. No, I’m not. If anything, you are trying to censor my thought by trying to overpower my piece of commentary published on my site.

IF YOU REALLY think this poem was worthy of being published (and as noted above, there’s at least one weblog editor out there who thinks it is), then get your own site. Publish it. Highlight it. Come up with graphic elements to make it look nice and draw people to it.

I will vehemently support your right to do so and join you in a fight against anyone who tries to shut you down. That’s the American way. Don’t clutter my site with your ramblings, which in all likelihood, you didn’t even write (that’s a guess on my part – I don’t know who “Publius II” really is).

Now I’m sure some people are going to claim that I am particularly hard on this poem because I think its premise is offensive. I do think it is trite to try to lambast Obama because his life story doesn’t completely match up with yours.

But I learned early on in my just over two decades of professional life spent trying to chronicle and interpret the news and public affairs of the day that no matter what I write, there will always be someone out there who is convinced I am full of dog poop. There also will be people in complete agreement.

I REMEMBER A day about two weeks ago when I happened to be checking e-mail when someone used the e-mail address I provide on the Chicago Argus and The South Chicagoan to send me a lengthy rant telling me how ridiculous I was for writing pieces of commentary that acknowledge the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s view has some historic legitimacy.

The moment I finished reading that message, another e-mail came in from someone else, thanking me for writing the piece and acknowledging that African-American people come at some aspects of the United States from a different perspective than white people.

If I’m always going to be criticized by somebody regardless of what I write, I believe I am always better off just writing “the truth” as I see it. After all, this is a site offering commentary and analysis as provided by me – no one ever claimed the site to be anything more than that.

Besides, when it comes to “the truth,” we need to remember that it is subjective. Anybody who thinks anything can be reduced to a simple list of facts is being ridiculous. Everybody (including myself) colors “the facts” with their life perspective.

THAT’S ACTUALLY WHAT most of the so-called racial controversy surrounding Obama’s campaign is about. How severe was the racial harassment toward African-American people in this country’s past, and how much should we continue to be aware of that today. People who want to bash Obama with Wright want to think it not terribly significant.

At times like this, I think back to a course I took when I was a student at Illinois Wesleyan University. The course was in the proper technique for writing of historical papers, and we actually spent a significant amount of time acting as philosophers on the question of “What is Truth?”

The point eventually driven into our heads is that we had to take the perspective of the author of any historic “documents” into account, and not just accept something as hard fact because it was written on paper. We could accept it as fact that the person had an opinion – and here it is. But assuming that opinion bore resemblance to reality, that is a different matter.

Having to look at things in such a way can complicate the pretty pictures of life some people would like to portray. But I actually think that view has helped me in my time as a reporter and writer. It is a healthy skepticism intended to get to “the truth” behind somebody’s words.

SURPRISINGLY, IT IS a skepticism that some Journalism School-educated reporters never picked up (they want to report everything that comes from someone’s mouth or computer keyboard, regardless of how absurd it is).

There are times I think that if only Dr. Michael Young (the professor of history who taught me that course) could have a crack at educating the entire world in the concept of “What is Truth,” we’d all be better off.

At the very least, we’d all write a bit better – that man was a stickler for proper grammar, more so than any English professor I ever had.


EDITOR’S NOTE: For those interested in reading Obama-related poetry, consider this. The Occidental Weekly (the student newspaper at the Los Angeles-area college where Barack Obama was once a student) dug through old archives and found poems ( written by Obama when he was just a college kid.


Anonymous said...

Yeah I posted it on my blog then deleted it because I wanted Obama supporters who get all their Clinton news from my blog to see what was out there. I never post stuff like that but wanted readers to see the nasty stuff out there. It's not all nasty. Some of the political commentary is true.

Anonymous said...

So they knew I was fair by comparison. Obama suporters are shocked at ANY criticism of Obama. There is some incendiary stuff out there.

Anonymous said...

Do you need a tissue? It's nice to see that you felt the sting of reality so badly that you decided to write a meandering diatribe in response.

Wipe your tears, coward. Man-up.