This week three readers wrote passionate emails; their displeasures with our newspapers were different, as were their approaches.

Two were direct and polite; stating their concerns and what outcome they desired. The editor and I responded respectfully; dialogue ensued. Were they happy in the end? Perhaps not, but both felt listened to (because they were) and all could agree to disagree. Freedom of speech is interesting; everyone wants it but when the other side gets it, complaints follow. Our policy is to invite diversity, the goal to create discussion leading to dialogue that connects us, leading to better understanding.

The third was also direct; a diatribe of complaints that grew with each interaction. The reader went from reasonable emails to denigration to the point of name calling; a Trump-like nickname to a person at the paper he doesn’t respect, using derogatory terms like stupid, while informing us our papers weren’t worthy of being “on the bottom of a bird cage or used for fish wrapping.” He called us “arrogant” and told us heads needed to roll, adding, “People are expendable.” When I disagreed people were expendable; he wrote me: “Well opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.”

Responding one final time with a simple, “Why you got to be so rude?”, his response was he was being “honest.”. To be “honest.” If I printed your name in this space, your claim of our irrelevance might be challenged.

Why does society have an element that thinks rude is OK? It’s not; we need to find humility to stand back and say, “You have a point” or “I’m sorry.”

The second Democratic debate had some back and forth conversations and aha moments. Kamala Harris had a couple; her well-rehearsed response, one that was “locked and loaded,” came during one of many moments where multiple candidates were talking over each other, vying for attention from moderators. Kamala bellowed out, “America does not want … a food fight. They want to know how we’re going to put food on their table.”

That resonated because it often feels like no one listens, no one cares what the other is saying, and we are back to a time where “nice guys finish last.”

Harris’s second debate moment highlighted Joe Biden’s absolute resolve to never apologize. When Harris talked about the “little girl from California” being subjected to racism in regard to school busing, Biden defended his decision to allow states the mandate to decide, doubling down by reminding us he is a civil rights champion.

That is well and good, Joe, but why not rise above this and say you were on the wrong side here, tell Kamala you’re sorry, add that in retrospect the federal government’s job should have been to step in and legislate, instead of leaving it to individual states?

This is consistent with Biden’s apparent “never apologize or say you’re sorry” strategy. People want to be heard, their pain acknowledged; ask Anita Hill, or the women who felt their personal space violated by your hugging. There are no personal issues with who you are as a person, what you stand for, or that you are a man of the people, but it’s concerning that, like Trump, you can never be wrong, Joe.

There were two moments in the debate where honesty won out. First was Bernie Sanders and his response questioning whether a democratic socialist could win the general election. Sanders explained, “We need a revolution” if we want to alter the direction of our country; he didn’t duck it, he hit it dead on.

The other poignant moment was Pete Buttigieg responding he “couldn’t get it done,” explaining why his South Bend, Indiana, police force was not more racially diverse during his two terms as mayor. It was a moment of humility that set him apart from the others.

Experience has shown that being loved is better than being right and that our best learning comes when we are on the “wrong side” of our belief system, but only when coupled with humility.

In fact, those moments boost you up. If Biden had come back with “You’re right, Kamala, it turns out I was on the wrong side of that one. That’s part of my learning and evolution and that’s what we need in Washington. Age is wisdom and wisdom is a benefit I bring to the table,” then that would have been more satisfying.

For those old enough to remember “Happy Days,” Fonzie couldn’t ever be wrong. When pressed one episode, he tried to say it but it came out “wrrrooooogh.” Fonzie got away with it because he was a champion of the underdog and this one faux pas was considered “cute.”

For the rest of us, humility is a virtue, and learning from mistakes and failures invaluable. Sometimes referred to as “not my finest moments,” that list is large and growing, hopefully at a diminishing rate. That’s called progress and, by definition, means imperfection.


“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe people are really good at heart.” — Anne Frank, Holocaust diarist (1929-1945)