How Expressing My Opinions Gets Me in “Trouble”

And why I don’t care.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I occasionally — or often, depending on how I’m feeling — express my opinions about things. And sometimes those opinions seem rather harsh in that they go against the grain of what other people think. Or think they think.

That’s the key, of course. It all comes down to thinking. And I believe that’s where I differ from my critics. I think. They let other people think for them.

[Uh-oh. Another harsh one coming. Better put on your mental armor and get your hackles up.]

For example, a few years back I wrote a blog entry putting forth my opinions of the snowbirds that flock to Wickenburg every winter. I commented on the increased traffic, crowded parking lots, and blocked supermarket aisles. I made some observations about the attitude of most of these people toward their winter home and its year-round residents. The observations were not positive. I also commented about how the town’s dependence on a seasonal economy supported by fixed-income, part-year residents was a big mistake. The blog entry gained me fame throughout Wickenburg. The people who spread the blog entry were trying to make me look evil. But most of the people who read it — the year-round residents in the same boat I was in, looking with the same kind of eyes and heart — agreed with me. I was stopped quite often for a few weeks by people who told me how much the blog entry had made them laugh or how it was nice to read something that wasn’t the same old party line.

I’ve written other blog entries with my opinions in them. I think my opponents have realized that calling attention to my blogs was helping my cause more than theirs because I haven’t gotten much local publicity lately. Too bad. It’s always fun to stir up the pot here in Wickenburg. Too much old school, old boy thinking.

I did a piece a while back about the yellow ribbons that people were sticking on their cars. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one bothered by the yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbons. I’ve since read dozens of blog entries with the same basic opinion.

And then there was the one about public sacrifices for the War in Iraq. I didn’t get any feedback about that one. Could it be that everyone who read it actually agreed with me?

Last week I wrote a podcast about NaNoWriMo where I stated a few very strong opinions. It might be safe to say that I “blasted” the folks who run the NaNoWriMo Web site. But I made my statements — as I make most of the statements I make here — after some deep thinking about the topic. In that case, I’d been exposed to NaNoWriMo for a few days and had visited the Web site in question. I was able to look at it with the eyes of an outsider, someone who has succeeded as a writer and knows something about the business, even though I’ve spent my time on the non-fiction side of the business. (More on NaNoWriMo in another new entry.)

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts from NPR, Slate, and the Progressive (egads!). They’re full of strong opinions, even stronger than the ones I write here. I agree with some of them and disagree with others. But in all cases, I’ll admit that the authors of the pieces have put a lot of thought into what they composed. They’re logical arguments based on facts. And I think that’s why I listen to them. They not only expand my knowledge of a topic, but they provide insight into the way other people have thought about it. People with brains. People who aren’t afraid to think for themselves. And sadly, for the rest of us.

I think that’s a huge problem today. I believe that only a small percentage of the U.S. population actually spends time learning about and thinking about the things going on around them. I don’t think they spend time making their own opinions. Why bother when someone else can make opinions for them? A political party, a church group, a club? Find a herd, join it, and follow it anywhere it goes. Put a flag or yellow ribbon on your car because everyone else is doing it. Just don’t miss the next episode of Desperate Housewives, Lost, or the latest incarnation of C.S.I. I don’t belong to a herd and I’m not interested in joining one. I’d rather think and act for myself. And if it gets me in “trouble” with people who don’t agree, so what? The more of them who speak out about the things I’ve said or written, the more I know my message has reached them.

And maybe, just maybe, it’ll get them thinking, too.

What do you think?