As this week's letters pages show, an opinion that might seem innocuous or insignificant, a mere question posed out of curiosity, can have repercussions far beyond what was intended. That, fortunately or unfortunately, is the nature of today's world of social media, memes and digital communications. Even more so than print, what we release to the cyberworld can grow beyond our control and haunt us forever. Just ask Kevin Hart or any number of others who have been brought down by comments thoughtlessly tossed off and then dredged up by cybersnoops.
Last week we editorialized on the issue that is debated in the letters, and we won't repeat ourselves. But as we get ready to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, there are a couple of lessons we can learn from the reaction and from similar events in the larger world.
The first is tolerance, something that is in woefully short supply these days. Respecting others' opinions goes along with that. There's nothing that requires everyone to agree on anything; thank goodness we don't, otherwise it would be a pretty bland and likely far more dangerous world. But, as we gather with family and friends whom we may not agree with on some subjects, it's important to listen, to try to understand, to tolerate differing points of view even if all you want to do is stand up and walk away. Most people just want to be heard and will gladly listen to a different point of view, as long as they feel their views are validated.
Acceptance follows. You don't have to adopt a position to accept it as sound, but a reasoned discussion requires that you recognize that someone could legitimately have a different view, and that it's OK. There's a lot of talk these days about a lack of civility in society, but that's really just another way of trying to invalidate another view.
Finally, while everyone is entitled to their opinion, truth and facts are not disputable. We rely on facts in reporting the news, and as often as possible provide the sources if anyone wants to fact check us. On this page and the several pages that follow, there's a lot of opinion, some backed up by facts. That doesn't mean opinion without facts isn't valid, but as a society we have to have agreed upon facts and truths to function. Failure to do that, as we see at the national level, leads to dysfunction.
To review: Be tolerant of the opinion, use facts and the truth to back up your own, and remember to pause before you hit the “send” button.
Introducing The Monomoy Citizen
Along with a special section on this year's First Night celebration, this week's paper includes a second insert: the debut issue of the Monomoy Citizen.
Produced by a staff of Monomoy Regional Middle School students under the guidance of The Chronicle's Tim Wood and Terri Adamsons, the publication reflects the concerns and activities of members of the school community and is included here, as well as being distributed to all middle school students, thanks to the generosity of several advertisers. We thought our readers would enjoy discovering what's going on at the school, what the kids care about, and seeing what a future generation of journalists can do.
We congratulate the Monomoy Citizen staff on their inaugural issue and hope it is the first of many to come.