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Opinions Should Lead to Solutions
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 • Posted July 23, 2014

I would suppose it's a bit confusing to have a column on the opinion page, with the header saying it's an opinion, and the subhead also talking about opinions. Yet, I feel that it's important to remind readers that this is an editorial page of the newspaper. Elsewhere, there are news articles that contain varying amounts of opinion; but, that attempt to maintain a degree of impartiality in order to get their message across to the readers.

My column is an opinion piece, as are the "Letters to the Editor." These should not be viewed as articles, for they contain the unchecked, unverified opinions of the authors. Opinions and editorials play a vital role in journalism. They allow the population at large to share their personal views upon religion, politics, education, business, weather or finance. At no time should an opinion piece ever be mistaken for unadulterated factual journalism.

Much of what passes for factual journalism these days is, unfortunately, thinly disguised opinion. Marketing departments have seen that presenting breathless and hysterical news reports and articles attract more readers than straight facts. Those panels of talking heads screaming at one another and frothing at the mouth on the networks are all presenting their opinion of things, not clean facts. It actually seems that when facts are presented, the general public is so accustomed to hyperbole and exaggeration that they no longer accept the truth.

In addition to lacking veracity and supporting truths, opinions often have another debilitating weakness - they rarely offer solutions.

Anyone, even those of us who do not understand the military, immigration, health care, finance, education or infrastructure details of the world, can issue an opinion. We can be armchair quarterbacks, second guessing every decision, every piece of legislation, every executive order. It's is very easy for those of us peering in, with the benefit of hindsight, to offer our opinion on what ought to have been done and on what was done wrong.

What is not so easy is to stop being a critic and become an effective builder of policy and order who addresses the many problems facing our contemporary world. That means not always paying attention to polls and public opinion, which can often be based upon bad information and the opinions of others rather than upon facts. Abraham Lincoln opposed public opinion on slavery, and freed the slaves. Lyndon Johnson ignored public opinion on equal rights for blacks and enacted legislation to even the field. Richard Nixon ignored public opinion on the causes of pollution and enacted laws reigning in the most egregious of those polluters.

The greatest leaders, those that are remembered long after they are gone, move beyond just telling others their opinions. They take the risks associated with taking action and enact laws and policies that actually address problems. The risk, of course, is that their actions often result in failing to win reelection, and being vilified by all those issuing their opinions about what has been done. Lincoln was hated by southerners, his actions resulted in the secession of those southern states, and he was assassinated by someone who blamed him for all the ills of the country. Lyndon Johnson lost the support of the southern voters for his equal rights stand, and his actions precipitated the shift of the southern voters from the Democratic to the Republican party in the "Old South" states. They took risks, and they paid the price.

Many of our current elected officials rely upon opinions, and fail to produce any solutions. They issue commentary on actions of those who preceded them, those who oppose them, and those who might replace them. What they fail to do is to offer any solutions to the problems they discuss in their editorial actions. Solutions are difficult to find, more difficult to enact, and most difficult to defend. But, solutions mean that action is occurring and that attempts are being made to solve problems. Once enacted, solutions tend to lead to further solutions, while opinions lead only to opinions.

So, I guess it is only fitting that I close with my traditional sobriquet...

It’s all just my opinion.

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