Sunday, November 18, 2012

Open Forum in the Denver Post

Never in my life have a written a letter to the editor. I love current events and politics. I love to read the newspaper in print at my kitchen table with a warm cup of coffee. Information and knowledge make me feel strong and powerful. It gives me confidence that I can use critical thinking, a skill I was blessed to learn beginning in the third grade, to dig into the abundance of information available in our world today.

Last week I read this article in the Denver Post and had to reply. They ran my letter today. I actually wrote a whole lot more but I had to cut it down to the pithy response published in the paper. I thought I would share my full response on my blog. After all, it is my blog. So here is the full response:

After reading Rich Tosches article in the November 11 edition of the Denver Post my initial response was anger and frustration. I wanted to bloviate my outrage with all of my sassy, southern force on his insensitive and false theories. Then I remembered a key principle of southernism, politeness.

Tosches paints a brood brush of Georgia because Honey Boo Boo hails from the state. He ignored the facts that Georgia is home to the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University (2 of the top 50 US universities) or that Georgia is also home to 15 Fortune 500 companies including: Home Depot, UPS and Coca-Cola. And if we want to discuss reality television do I need to say more than Jersey Shore? 

You see we live in a world of unending information and yet we fail to employ logic and critical thinking. Another danger of the abundance of data is the misuse of statistics. Statistics can be found to support almost any argument. Let’s look at Tosches’ use of statistics.

He references the Educational Attainment by State report from the 2010 Census. He offered a lot of statistics but what he didn’t say is out of the 11 states with over a 90% high school graduation rate five of the states were red states in the 2012 election. 

When I look at the breakdown of red versus blue states the divide I see isn’t one of smart versus dumb. The divide I see is one of principle. The red states are generous, resourceful and self-reliant folks. 

The statistics I actually want to focus on are philanthropy by state according to The nine states with the highest percentage of givers are red states: Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina. With only two blue states in the top 15: Maryland and Virginia. The six worst givers are all blue states: New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. 

There are trailer parks and poor people everywhere. It is not unique to the red states. I find it disheartening that Tosches would make fun and ridicule our nation’s disadvantaged. I don’t know if Tosches has ever actually been to the south but I grew up there in a low income, strongly Democratic family.

The principles the Democratic party embrace are helping the underdog, making the wealthy pay “their fair share” and creating a stronger working class. Isn’t it interesting that the places that voted for those principles don’t actually seem to practice them? Maybe they like the idea of the government fitting the bill to lift up the lower class while keeping their money tucked safely in their wallet.

My southern upbringing instilled in me a belief that we are morally responsible for helping our neighbor. I don’t see this as a government responsibility but a personal one. I remember many times when my family had financial difficulty and our friends showed up with groceries, and Christmases where Santa arrived in the form of generous family members. 

You can spin some statistics to make the red states look dumb but I will take the good-hearted generous spirit any day.

I understand he was trying to be satirical, but the key word is trying. Maybe his article would have been funny if the red states had actually won. As it stands, it just comes across as hateful. The only thing worse than being a sore loser is being a sore winner. 

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