Although he’s been dead almost 20 years, look I still have a strong mental image of my father. In the image, he’s sprawled out on the couch. The TV is on, some news show, and he’s reading the newspaper.
Let me correct that, he’s reading from a pile of newspapers. His daily habit was to burn through three newspapers a day. The result was piles upon piles of newspapers throughout the house.
There was the pile littered over the coffee table. That was the “pending” pile. There was the scattered pile on the floor around the couch. This was the “read” pile. And at the top of the basement stairs was the stack that would reach the height of my adolescent waist . This was the “archived” or “ready for discard” pile.
When I asked him why he read so many newspapers, he gave a said, “It’s important to know the full spectrum of opinion. I read the Boston Globe for the liberal side. The [Nashua] Telegraph for the independent take. And I read the [Manchester] Union Leader for the conservative side.”
He also counseled, “You should read the letters section of the Union Leader. They’ll publish anything, no matter how incoherent. It’s hilarious.” So this kind of thing was drummed into me early – first, the importance of knowing all aspects of the argument and second, incoherent written opinion is hilarious.
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I later majored in journalism. But it’s a shame my father passed before the internet arrived. If he were alive today, I have no doubt he would be an internet addict. And, like me, he would subscribe to a number of outlets that he disagreed with vehemently. If you look over my list of Twitter feeds, you’ll see Ann Coulter, the National Review, and (my very special form of torture/entertainment) Paul Azinger.
You may not have heard of Paul Azinger. He’s a former golf pro who dabbles in denying evolution over Twitter. If there ever was a medium for futility, it’s arguing science in under 140 characters. Azinger is like the online version of the 1980s letters section of the Union Leader.
Every time I read Azinger’s posts I write some smart-ass reply and stop myself before hitting “send.” Then I laugh at myself as I remember Robert Frost’s quote: “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper.” So I say, write on Mr. Azinger! Your buffoonery will continue with or without my comments and I thank you for bringing back this fond memory of my dad.