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Your Opinion: Letters forum fills a need

Your Opinion: Letters forum fills a need

March 9th, 2011 by Joe Bachant, Holts Summit in News

Dear Editor:

Frankly, I appreciate reading all the opinion letters published in your paper regardless of their point of view or even the redundancy of individual contributors. Such missives are, unfortunately, one of the last vestiges of true democracy left to the "man in the street." If we hear from only one side and that message becomes redundant, opinion runs the risk of becoming ideology.

I am a retired public servant of over 40 years of service. One aspect of the responsibilities of such a career drilled into my psyche by respected mentors was the need to listen to public views, needs and aspirations. In New England, where I started my career, the Town Hall was one last, true vestige of democracy in action. Unfortunately our nation has become more cosmopolitan and the art of argumentation and debate essential to forming informed opinion is becoming lost. At least as one individual public official, I held the prerogative of asking persons how they came by their views in order to form my opinion for an informed decision.

While letters to the editor are in some respects a poor substitute for such discourse, still the views expressed can be instructive but only if all aspects of an issue are aired. Condemning a person or persons with views contrary to a point of view flies in the face of a democratic republic. Demanding sources of information, automatically changes a letter from an (presumably informed) opinion to a forum of an essential but different nature.

Absent today in public discourse is objectivity and the true art of journalism. Decision makers need to hear all points of view and in a forum where decision makers can ask probing questions of the commenter. Unfortunately in my personal experience, this is all to frequently not the case in considering legislation by today's legislative hearings.

Until such voids are filled, the public opinion page as is fills a need.