One of the oldest sayings in journalism reminds readers and writers alike that “It’s hard to argue with facts.”
True, but readers of this weekly effort often rise to the challenge in their letters and emails to me. Most mix “new” or “alternative” (thank you, Kellyanne) facts with their opinion to point out the wrongs of my ways.
Others forgo niceties and jump right to name-calling. These writers often find their black-and-blue prose highlighted in a twice-yearly “letters” column where my detractors debate the pros and cons of — as one noted a few years ago — my “shrinking brain.”
For example, after the White House announced a new, ag-heavy trade deal with China in mid-January, David C. from Illinois was not surprised that I failed to highlight the pact in a “positive column,” nor was he subtle in noting his disappointment.
“… I should have known you are a partisan hack who gives no credit nor respect to the President when he does well by Illinois farmers.”
Hack or not, my non-response to the January deal — the numbers didn’t add up then or now — looks like a good call. Despite big, recent Chinese purchases of U.S. pork and soybeans, November soybeans futures are now $1 per bu. less than in January and August lean hog futures are $35 ($35!) per cwt. lower.
Speaking of numbers, Bob C. from Iowa wrote in April to say that I “was misinterpreting what he… a Trump voter and others… were saying about the [corona]virus. We’re not actually saying itself is a hoax. We are saying the press and the dems are working together…(to take) advantage of the virus and make it worse. It should really be termed a scam.”
Well, Bob, I like your sense of humor; Dems working together … now that’s funny.
What isn’t funny, though, is the number of COVID-19 dead in the U.S., now about 120,000 and climbing. As such, if COVID is a “scam,” it’s the deadliest scam either you, me or the nation has ever witnessed.
Another emailer, Marvin H., had a different take on an April column that examined COVID-19’s impact on rural America. It’s not the disease that’s killing people, Marvin suggested; instead, “Fear is killing people.”
Well, “How many alcohol and smoking deaths are there per year? Ten million worldwide,” he claimed. And with “social distancing … people are sitting at home in fear, drinking and smoking to calm their nerves.”
OK, Marvin, you got me on that one.
The past six months have set a record on what my mother called “upside-down compliments,” or compliments that poked you in the ribs as hard as they slapped you on the back. For example, in late March, Rob W. wrote from St. Paul to say that he has “tried to read my column … many times but I rarely get through the first few paragraphs before I move on.”
But, he quickly adds, “The headline this week caught my eye … (I read) the first sentence about your dad. I continued to read on, praying that the story would stay focused on him … It did and I thank you.”
Thank me? Sounds like the Lord did the heavy lifting, Rob.
The best left-handed compliment I’ve ever received, however, arrived by email just this week from Joe in Maryland. In its entirety, it reads:
“Hi, Alen:” (no worry, Joe; there are too many ways to spell my name)
“Just wanted to let you know I appreciate your articles. Good, bad or whatever, you give us something to ponder. Also, [it] doesn’t hurt that you seem to be truthful and forthright, regardless of your thoughts on the subject. Thank you.”
No, Joe, thank you. Your letter was straight from the heart and I treasure it and you.
And thank you, faithful readers, emailers, letter writers, and — at least twice a year — columnists. Good, bad or whatever, you, too, are treasures.
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