The truth sometimes hides in our opinions

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The caller got my first name right, but butchered my last name.

I told her that she had mispronounced my name correctly, but my feeble attempt at levity was lost on her. She’d already started asking questions. I asked her a couple in return and she terminated our conversation.

Professional sports are known for the trash talking. A silly endeavor. Irvin Loe was our garbageman for years. He was dependable and fair. I enjoyed participating in a little trash talk with Irvin. It was a kind confabulation.

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I don’t enjoy talking to pretend pollsters who pose questions intended to push my answers in the direction they desire. They use that technique under the guise of conducting a poll to influence voters. It’s the worst kind of trash talk and the lowest form of negative ad in a world where there are no good negative ads. They wield telephones as clubs to get the opinions they want. They’d use waterboarding if they could get by with it.

Political beliefs are like silverware on the sides of plates. Some go on the left. Some go on the right.

Pollsters mark us as “undecided” if we don’t agree with them. It’s a wonder that any of us vote after hearing what each candidate says about another.

Part of it’s our own fault. We open our ears only to make sure that words we don’t agree with go in one ear and out the other. Everyone has a confirmation bias, which is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs. We toss in a bit of wishful thinking, our interpretation of facts and actions or words as we’d like them to be rather than as they really are. We complete the recipe with some self-serving notions and a preoccupation with our own interests while often disregarding the truth or the concerns and well-being of others. We’re willing to carry the lamp for things we believe.  We tend to look in the same direction, looking another direction only to say, “Tch, tch, tch.”  We all do this. We can’t help it. We’re humans. We think the world needs more people just like us.

I love newspapers. I’ve loved newspapers since I saw my first one at the bottom of my cage. I prefer the print version. I enjoy the tactile sensation of paper and it’s easier to swat flies with a newspaper than with a digital device.

I’ve read opinion columnists in newspapers for most of my life. I read Mike Royko, James J. Kilpatrick, Molly Ivins, Jimmy Breslin, Ellen Goodman, William Safire, Russell Baker and Art Buchwald. I still read George Will, David Brooks, Leonard Pitts, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, Gail Collins, Charles Krauthammer, Steve Lopez and Kathleen Parker.

I don’t always agree with any of them, but I enjoy reading all of them, and on an occasion, a columnist causes me to change my opinion. A telephone pollster cannot do that without the use of waterboarding.

It’s hard to swing someone over to your side without offering a monetary reward. Prove someone wrong and he proves himself stubborn. Telling someone he’s wrong in an unpleasant manner is telling someone he’s stupid. Life is short unless you’re listening to someone trying to convince you that you’re not only wrong, you’re a misguided twit.

I appreciate dignified disagreement that involves polite discourse completely lacking in rancor.

We’re the way we are for various reasons. Some is tradition. If opposing women’s suffrage was good enough for his ancestors, it’s good enough for him.

It’s easier getting someone to try lutefisk. You can badger someone into that. Taste buds change. They give up. Our opinions change. The changes are usually gradual and coincide with changes in our lives. Our comfort zones become uncomfortable and our opinions change. The odometer spins and puts a stop to the best strut. Cocksure one day and unsure the next. Our lives are remodeled and new opinions bloom.

Scientific facts sway me. I know that liars figure and figures lie, but it’s a good ship to board.

I’m not into horoscopes, but if I were, I’d realize that I’m Pisces and because of that, I’m sensitive and see both sides of a situation.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

I try to keep an open mind, but the wind whistling through it is annoying.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.