An honored genealogy

The tiny bee is probably a columnist, pollinating the garden's discussion.The news should be about the facts. There is no room for opinion. So say many news consumers, many of whom are dedicated watchers of Fox and MSNBC.

I attended a conference last weekend in Buffalo, NY, with a bunch of columnists to learn stuff about our changing craft, and to mingle some. Along the way, several awards were presented.

The Will Rogers Humanitarian Award went to a columnist who writes a syndicated column offering a guide to spirituality for regular folks.

Kathleen Parker, a Pulitzer prize-winning, rightward-leaning syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post, received the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement award, named in honor of renowned travel writer and WWII wartime correspondent. Parker, whose prose appears in more than 400 other publications nationwide, also was the keynote speaker Saturday evening. 

There were more awards, for humor and general writing, in print and electronic media, including computer screens. “Columnists,” it turns out, are a diverse bunch.

Mostly, we are people with opinions. We find humor in unfunny occurrences. We criticize – or applaud – politicians. Some of us take on controversial issues, and fire up needed change. We are Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow.

One of the attendees at the 2019 National Society of Newspaper Columnists writes about grammar, and could be the next James J. Kilpatrick. 

Another writes poems about President Trump. No, he is not very complimentary, but then, criticism of heads of government is a long and proud tradition.

Yet another writes about the foolishness that characterizes the government of his hometown and state and the folly of runaway real estate development.

One writes about her experiences as military spouse, being moved from town to town according to the needs of her husband’s service, while another plies her craft from a desk in Washington, D.C., discussing the goings-on atop Capitol Hill, with an emphasis on race relations.

This column-writing thing has long pedigree in these United States, tracing its lineage back to the likes of Thomas Paine, creator of “Common Sense,” one of our first bloggers, taking on the King of England when it became obvious, to some, that it was time to throw off the reins His Kingyness used to control his slaves.

One might have thought the authors of the Declaration of Independence might have taken a lesson or two from their escape, but it turns out humans have trouble learning from the experiences of their predecessors.

In fact, the history of man comprises a series of group throwing off subjugation only to inflict it on another. And a columnist has been there, taking chisel to flat stone, to record the happening.

Will Rogers was another blogger; only his platform differed. He famously quipped, “We have the best Congress money can buy.”

“Citizens United” is a not a new issue. Will Rogers was well before the Koch brothers and Mitch McConnell.

The town in which I was raised was established by the Daggett family, one of whom was a coastal pilot who guided Compte de Grasse to the Chesapeake Bay. The Daggetts became founders of New Vineyard, Maine when they were “invited” to leave Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. by the then-predominant population of regally-sympathetic supporters who inhabited that piece of royal real estate.

No doubt, both sides were stirred in their intents by the Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow of their time.

Opinion – explanations, perspectives, and sometimes simply commentary on community peculiarities – is indeed a cornerstone supporting our national experiment. Its practitioners help us make sense of the facts of our lives. Newspapers may disappear, to be replaced by whatever follows Google and TMZ.

And columnists, will be there. Long may they serve.

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