Confessions Of An Opinion Columnist

A “peek” at a columnist’s “inner sanctum.” No tawdry or salacious revelations. Most have read syndicated columnists, Cal Thomas, and George Will, who have a legendary following. Both enjoy great admiration, especially among those with a conservative bias. They’re inclined to write primarily about political and cultural events. Will has a vast reservoir of historical memory. His vocabulary rivals Webster. Thomas, an avowed evangelical, is candid about his unequivocal pro-life stance. They’re familiar faces inside the Washington Beltway. Both routinely criticize the political gridlock, on both sides of the isle. They have captivating, though dissimilar styles.

One confession: it’s always surprising what readers like, or dislike. It’s wholly unpredictable. There’s no consideration of what readers want to read before commencing a column. The process that drives this columnist is fairly routine-but uncommon. Praying in advance of writing is modus operandi of choice. Some call it “inspiration.” Another confession: public opinion’s immaterial to this columnist. Agreement’s a by-product-not a goal.

Once settled on a topic, that’s when the work commences. No polls or surveys. Prayer and cogitation; a powerful elixir. It’s akin to writing a song-lyrics without the music. The tune’s in the head. Not for the faint-hearted. Limiting a column to 1000 words demands restraint. A close companion, The Writer’s Brief Handbook, by Rosa & Eschholz. Yet, we take considerable liberties with grammar and syntax.

Since the first column, in 2008, in The Glenrock Bird, the driving force has been to offer a Biblical perspective, irrespective of the issue, freely quoting Scripture. It may be overt, like any mainstream evangelical “worth his salt.” Or originate from a conversation with someone, confirming the direction of a column. A recent email, asked, “How do you write a column?“ spawned this column. Familiar readers recognize the “fragility of life,” as a common theme.

It’s humorous when an emailer criticizes a position taken, with a familiar comment, “That’s just your opinion!” That’s probably why its called an “opinion column.” A recent column, “Porkus Erectus Isn’t Extinct” drew a stinging indictment from a reader, accusing this columnist of “diminishing fat people.” Nowhere was the word “fat” employed. It was primarily a tongue-in-cheek epistle on obesity, some of the contributing factors, consequences, and encouraging readers to “get off the couch.” As common practice, each email deserves, and receives a response from this columnist. Readers sometime foist their insecurity onto the column.

After nearly two-hundred columns, the most emails generated by any column was, “Finding Faith in Cheyenne.” At issue, the Boy Scouts of America permitting homosexual members in the ranks, and the corresponding decision of a Cheyenne church, to no longer host a chapter. “Homophobic!” The only repeatable barb hurled at this columnist. It comes with the territory. Readers have opinions too. Most comments are favorable.

Frequently readers chide this columnist for using “big words.” There’re reasons for that. An expanded vocabulary after three score and ten years. It’s also designed to challenge readers. So-called “big words,” are often just unfamiliar. There’s a reason for dictionaries. And, brevity, “infrangible” requires less space than, “Cannot be broken, violated, or separated.” When theological terms, like “eschatological” are introduced, clarification’s warranted. Such terms may be foreign to the general public.

This columnist strives to offer a unique perspective on otherwise uninteresting, or unfamiliar topics. One way to do that’s with humor. Humor makes opinions more palatable. A March, 2015, column entitled, “Should They Rent A U-haul?” is about the defeat of Wyoming’s Legislative attempt to pass SF-115, crafted as special rights bill to pacify LGBT members. That group threatened to “leave the state” if the bill didn’t pass. Humorously, this columnist suggested, “They’re welcome to rent a U-haul. We’re not going anywhere.” The bill failed. A Cheyenne, paper, who published the column, changed the title. Perhaps they weren’t enamored with that attempted humor. News outlet editors are obligated to change or alter columns to fit their editorial format. Some do. Most don’t. All columns end with the same question, “What do you think?” After all, “That’s our realm.” Relevant quotes, like, “Earth hath no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal,” by Sir Thomas Moore, augment a good column. Old bromides pique interest.

Some issues are too grave for abject humor. Any assault on the life of the unborn incurs this columnist’s unrelenting wrath. However, satirical sting may suffice. An October, 2014, column, “Gone Up In Smoke,” exposes Planned Parenthood’s lamentable faux dilemma, to both “pay the rent” and “fund their habit.” They’re on the federal dole for half-billion dollars. It’s suggested they consider, “joining the burgeoning number of vogue panhandlers standing outside retail giant Walmart nationwide.” Their execs prefer sipping expensive wine, while hawking unborn body parts. Suggesting a modest proposal in the column, that they “sell cigars, with the appropriate color band around it, that reads, “It would have been a Boy… or Girl,” in a joint venture with Cuban cigar makers.

Some inquire, “Ever regret writing a column?” The most accurate reply, “Only regret-not writing a better one.” With a self imposed, weekly deadline, there’s little time for regret. Admittedly, it’s disconcerting to discover misspelling or gross omission, after the column’s distributed by the Wyoming Press Association. Readers beneficently point out miscues. Shifting the blame’s impossible. Like the “Maytag repairman.” It’s a lonely, sobering privilege. Being a “word-smith” is advantageous. No frippery. We speak of temporal and permanent things.

Full confession: this liberty minded columnist, advances a Christian worldview, assailing secular humanism, in all forms, and emphasizing that the vicissitudes of life, which are numerable, are amenable to His healing balm. A November, 2014, quote from “Those Nagging Questions,” “Alas, we can choose to look to Him who ultimately answers them all, justly, with uncompromising veracity.” Though delicate, we attempt to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. That’s the job of this columnist, touting a personal credo, “Taking on serious issues, without taking one’s self too seriously.” What do you think?

Mike Pyatt is a Natrona County resident. His email is roderickstj@yahoo.com

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