It was disconcerting to land in Atlanta this past Saturday, arriving from Greece, only to learn that there had been a car bombing at the Glasgow, Scotland, airport that same day. We left Greece a couple of hours before that bombing. I wasn’t worried about Athens International (where Greeks claim to be immune from Middle Eastern terrorism, despite their old airport being shot up by PLO sympathizers leaving several dead in the early 1990s)'I was worried about the home turf. After all, if terrorists can hit Glasgow, they most certainly can hit Atlanta'perhaps the most discombobulated airport I’ve ever landed at.nn
In ways, the terrorists have already hit Atlanta anyway. We arrived on schedule and had a three-hour layover. After checking through customs nn
â€¦ Sorry to put you through that. Reading the first paragraph or so of the Private Eye column that ran last week [“Free Scooter,” July 5, City Weekly], that is. I just wanted to get rid of the riff-raff. After nearly a quarter decade of practicing how to write'one day I promise to get up to the superior standard of even the lamest of critical letter writers'I’ve learned mostly how to piss off just about everyone. And that they’ll sniff and turn the page.nn
Leaving this space for just you and me. Comfy.
It really gets to many folks when I speak of being Greek or going to Greece. Bums them right out so much they miss the point entirely and write me nasty letters'which is my point, but later on that one. Over the years, I’ve found that there are certain words and topics I can put on this page that will not illicit response, like teen sex, pollution, Olene Walker, war casualties, climate change, obedience, spousal abuse, cronyism, talk radio, Iraq, parochialism, hiring illegals, arrogance, Latter-day Saints, virginity (among the LDS), hair loss and terrorism. Also, certain words and topics are guaranteed to draw response or ire'Greeks, Mexicans, liquor, beer, ouzo (especially ouzo), Rocky Anderson, environmentalism, feeding undocumented workers, Sandy, global warming, getting fired, print media, Mormons, virginity (among Mormons), BYU football (bad), U of U football (good), Vietnam and fake boobs.nn
I try to include as much of the second batch into each column as I see fit. Each one has been catching fish in the form of either appreciative or snotty letters now for more than two decades. I’d change bait but can’t find a good reason why. I figured a long time ago that if I was going to do this at all, I’d not pretend to be smarter than the readers of this page, but neither would I do this just for the sake of a byline. So, with each letter that comes to me, I respond back, hoping to create a dialogue. Sometimes I try to be kind or thankful. Sometimes, I’m an asshole. But I always hope for that second e-mail back from the original sender.nn
In those years, I’ve met many great people doing so. After a few e-mail exchanges, the transmission goes from one of keystroke bluster to one of finding mutual bases of understanding. Had lunch or drinks with many of them, too, from religious officials of all stripes to members of the business community to bikers to the young and old from all walks. I never wanted to write a column that sounded like anything except a conversation. I never wanted to be an authoritarian nor looked upon as one. You can find those all over town already. I just sit at the bar stool (here comes a letter!) and tell you what I heard and how I heard it'with some “reader bait” interjected. Most readers get it. Some like that style. Some readers need a helping hand.nn
Rarely do I have the knowledge, energy, ego or arrogance to stick to one theme and carry it through an entire column. I want to bore'actually incite'you honestly, not with facts that suit my table. In the first paragraph above from last week, I mentioned airports, terrorism, a car bombing, the PLO and travel delays'topics that most Americans can be downright pissed about'yet, instead of being incensed at any of that, I got about four letters knee-capping me for being Greek. I can’t imagine such people despise all Greeks'just me. Had I not mentioned Greece, Greeks (or later in the same article, Rocky), those readers would have yawned and turned the page. As it was, not only did they yawn, they also got activated and wrote mostly nasty letters.nn
That’s OK. I figure that’s a small first step for many Utahns to actually begin to question what they read or hear. Baby steps for them. Hopefully, more of it will come, because most Americans are downright lazy when it comes to what they can and should do as protectors of our Constitution, our values and our way of life. Most Americans have been duped (by one side or the other) and have taken to letting the loud TV and radio voices or dominant columnists do their thinking for them. It has to be that, for what else can explain the constitutional upside-down cake that is present-day American politics? A liar for U.S. Attorney General? Justice being defined as commuting the sentence of a person found guilty of obstructing justice? You only get those, dear reader, when you use your hands only for warming your ass, not for slapping theirs.nn
Become heard. Raise your voice. Begin to see clear of the cult of personality in mass media. And it can start so simply with a letter to the editor, under any auspices. So, cocktails, anyone?