Michael Cleverly: The heart of democracy: lots of letters to the editor | AspenTimes.com
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Michael Cleverly: The heart of democracy: lots of letters to the editor

Michael Cleverly

There is something about stupidity that is untrackable; it evades our cognitive scanners and turns up as the uncanny double of mastery or intelligence.

– Avital Rongell

Clearly I’ve been reading a lot of letters to the editor. In fact I’ve become a big fan of this section of the local papers. I suspect that this is partly because when I go on to the news and editorials, I have to endure such things as this paper’s endorsement of Tony Hershey’s bid for re-election and the senseless revisiting of a youthful crime spree whose perpetrators have either already paid or are still paying their debt to society.

I can’t imagine that putting those kids’ faces on the front page of a newspaper served any good purpose. Ah, but in the letters to the editor, I get to enjoy local wits, dueling with those that G. Gordon Liddy would describe as being essentially “unarmed.” There are those with opposing political views, cheerfully exercising their freedom of speech and really ticking each other off, and there are always letters from students and all kinds of folks who just want to publicly thank other members of the community for some kindness.

Through the letters to the editor we can observe the entire spectrum of opinion from a safe distance or jump into it ourselves if we so desire. It hasn’t been this much fun since Roger Marolt was doing his Merry Prankster thing. I’m almost sorry I dissed him for his efforts.

Letters to the editor are the quintessence of American Democracy. We need an election to actually “throw the rascals out,” but we can bad mouth them year-round. I can pen a letter and say the most vile stuff about the leader of my own nation and include everyone who agrees with him and not fear jackbooted squads tracking me down. This is stunning when compared to all but the most free societies.

While The New York Times has to be extremely selective regarding what letters it prints, here, on the grass-roots level, our papers have a policy of printing, unedited, pretty much everything with a confirmable signature.

Nincompoops can gleefully flaunt their suicidal tendencies in much the same manner as the fools running through the streets of Pamplona, Spain, and, as with those who run with the bulls, I get the distinct feeling that none of them are on their way to a Mensa meeting.

A few years ago, an entrepreneur thought that he might be able to turn a buck by staging a running-of-the-bulls-type event here in the States. He shopped the idea around to cities and towns from one end of the country to the other. His search for a venue became news in itself. The response from communities that he approached was pretty much universal, that he was crazy as a shithouse rat. He finally ended up in some Godforsaken rat hole, something like Dorkbreath, Nev. They were willing to host the event, I think, because a “Running of the Rattlers” occurred there on a daily basis. So, this guy somehow managed to sell the idea to a major television network and the whole thing was televised on a weekend afternoon when there was absolutely nothing else going on on planet Earth.

The entire town of Dorkbreath turned out and several semipro ringers were brought in to paper the house. The total crowd that day was estimated at nine people. I have no idea what the TV ratings were. Even though there was no “second Running of the Bulls from Dorkbreath,” I personally consider this to be an inspirational tale, and, in the same spirit, am considering starting a newspaper that is nothing but letters to the editor. Unfettered by pesky news stories, stories that are usually a pack of lies anyway, especially ones emanating from the White House, I’ll be able to devote the whole paper to witty letters from you guys and large expensive display ads.

To that end, I’ve already contacted Victoria’s Secret and am expecting several model representatives at my cabin any day now. So listen. Sharpen your pencils. Crank up your vitriol and get your minds out of the gutter. This is serious stuff. “The Daily Letters to the Editor” may be coming to a newsstand near you. And if that idea poops out, you might be able to look forward to a “Running of the Victoria’s Secret Models” on the Hyman Avenue mall.


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