The Young and the Restless, and thin skin

By Reade Brower | Dec 12, 2019

In this week’s Camden Herald, and at selected distribution locations, Midcoast readers will be treated to a publication that, until now, was regulated to a copy machine and circulated to about 100 readers, and is now a full-fledged student newspaper, with a starting circulation in the thousands.

Congratulations to Camden Hills Regional High School student Phoebe Walsh and the entire staff at Camden Hills Gazette for this fine effort. This work-in-progress began last semester, culminating in a monthly tabloid-size newspaper taking on a traditional look reminiscent of The Free Press almost 35 years ago. With business partners to support them, the staff has stories to write, mountains to climb and lessons to be shared.

Phoebe has put together a strong board of directors and wants to get other schools involved, while setting up a transition plan for continuation when she graduates in 2020. The goal is to stay independent of the schools and to run this as a for-profit co-op where profits are used any manner they see fit.

This month the Camden Hills Gazette tackles heady issues and its evolution will continue; one can tell when something has legs and is a stepping stone to more and better. May this be a model other schools take a look at.

***

Encouraging young people is of value. Pearl Benjamin has been writing a regular newspaper column for over a year and her youthful perspective is not only valuable, but also interesting and provoking; everything you want from a columnist.

Her recent “Loosen up and Listen: the lesson of OK, Boomer” was no exception.

She suggests stopping “elder-splaining in its tracks” with a “swift and efficient OK, Boomer.” While it might provide the “quick escape” she desires, it doesn’t move the conversation forward.

Being dismissive to “self-indulgent rambling” is an understandable defense, but is passive-aggressive. I disagree with Pearl that young people should be dismissive. Passive-aggressive behavior is not the best answer to people who think they are self-important or those who are dismissive notwithstanding if the young person is knowledgeable or has done research on the matter being discussed. Both young and old are entitled to one thing — their own opinions.

To deflect my youngsters, the term “Is that so?” might have come out. That kind of dismissiveness was not a great strategy (I’m sorry, kids); it’s also passive aggressive, not dealing with what most young and old want — a voice, someone to listen, and acknowledgment.

Perhaps the suggestion is to implore Pearl and her generation to find direct ways to handle lecturers, regardless of age. It’s agreed that anybody who is being talked down to, ignored, or lectured could rightfully stop the conversation. Rather than passive-aggressive or aggressive methods, perhaps insert curiosity into the mix and try and figure out what makes a blowhard a blowhard.

Direct confrontation could be simply; “I am looking for a discussion and this feels like a lecture” or “your tone feels dismissive of my views, is it?”

Maybe this is naïve but “OK, Boomer” and “Is that so?”, while deflective, don’t solve the problem the way mutual respect does.

No lecture here, just my opinion.

***

Now to the case of thin skin — mine.

Thomaston’s Cynthia McGuirl, in a letter-to-the-editor, criticizes my promoting civility in a column written about Sen. Susan Collins. Cynthia, like others, refuses to take the column at face-value, accusing me of lecturing, while she justifies the treatment Collins received — which includes “things” left in her yard, strangers jumping from bushes in the middle of the night, personal space invaded at airports, anthrax and other things not reported by the press that threatened her safety — the ends justify the means, lecturing me, claiming I’ve not called out Republican policies “destroying our Democracy” while labeling me a “millionaire newspaper owner.”

That’s a lot to take in. And selective recall, Cynthia, on not calling out Republican policies. Cynthia doesn’t know me but thinks assumptions and judgments are fine, and thinks it's cool writing to newspapers and posting on Facebook because it’s fair game to come after newspaper owners in her rulebook. And, perhaps it is, but it’s not OK to infer and label things you know nothing about.

I’ve been plagued by this from the beginning — for the first decade people had me going out of business regularly, during the next decade people figured I’d weathered the storm and was here to stay and stopped speculating, and now, 30 years later, speculation again, bu this time it's that I'm on easy street.

I live in the same house (across the street from the dump) as I did during that first and second decade and I still put my pants on one leg at a time.

It's fine to criticize what I write about but kindly leave the speculation out, saving the space to write your opinions freely, while standing behind those convictions.

Here’s the curiosity piece, why the need to attack and speculate about others to make your point that Republican policy is bad?

***

“The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be.”

— Louis de Bernieres, novelist (b. 1954)

 

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Reade Brower | Dec 13, 2019 18:09

Thank you Cynthia, you do rock. An apology without a but, something we can all learn from (I wish I was better at that). Civility now. :LIP: Reade



Posted by: James Bowers | Dec 13, 2019 17:51

Cynthia McGuirl, you rock!



Posted by: Cynthia McGuirl | Dec 13, 2019 12:25

Dear Mr. Brower, Ouch. I have reread your letters and my own and I would like to apologize to you. I did go over the line in the way I spoke about you personally. Ironically, what your initial column was about. I have admired you and appreciate all you have done for journalism in Maine. I would like to clarify that I do not think it is ever justified for people to attack and threaten anyone. I was feeling upset and distraught at the state of the world and should not have sent my letter so quickly. Lesson learned- I will take more time and care with letters to the editor. Sincerely, Cynthia McGuirl

 



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