Every week I check my reader emails. Sometimes it's every two weeks. Sometimes I'll do it a couple times in a single week. Either way it averages out to be a weekly occurrence, and for a contributor like me who doesn't write columns for a living, I figure a once-a-week cadence is passable.
And if you had access to my laptop camera when I'm opening that email account, you might laugh since I probably look like someone who's watching a horror movie. Because really, I never know exactly what's going to be waiting in my inbox.
Most reader emails can be categorized one of three ways. They're either (a) pleasant notes from subscribers who agreed with whatever I've written; (b) sorta pleasant notes from subscribers who do not agree with whatever I've written; or (c) nasty messages full of insults, curse words, and exclamation points that are, quite often, typed out in all capital letters.
Thankfully the third category doesn't happen too often. Yet when one of those steaming emails is waiting on me, I can usually chuckle through it. As for the first two categories, I really enjoy them. Yes, even the ones that want to debate whatever it is I've published.
Ok, so why am I writing about reader emails?
I want to address a recurring issue that some fellow conservatives keep bringing up: that I don't hurl enough flames at Democrats. Apparently my column last week, "Chattanooga City Hall's election year Oprah impression," left much to be desired by some on the right. It, to a few readers, didn't have sharp enough elbows. It should have, as one emailer suggested, "attack(ed)" the mayor more than it did.
To that line of thinking, I've got a few things to say. Most importantly, this isn't an attack column. It never has been, and it never will be. That's not my style. Sure, we live in an era when many commenters have long taken their gloves off, turning political discourse into a never-ending bare knuckle brawl. Unfortunately even the newest White House resident takes this approach, normal-
I subscribe to a less hostile school. And though I've been quite direct with people and subjects at times, I believe columnists should pursue three chief aims. First, we should synthesize topics, adding a layer of unique perspective to them. Second, we should be reasonably provocative in our delivery. And third, we should create pieces that make readers want to come back for more.
Tossing hand grenades doesn't have a place — not here, anyway.
Which brings me to something Barack Obama noted during his Chicago farewell address last week. In discussing how democracy demands debate (a bit ironic coming from him, yes), he said, "If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one of them in real life."
Engaging with my political opposites is something I do every single day. And here's a filthy little secret of mine: I like most of them. It's true!
Most everyone I deal with regularly knows where I stand politically. Yet it's rarely gotten in the way of business, friendships or family. The reason for that is because I refuse to throw cheap shots. When the time comes to voice my opinion — which happens to be here every Friday — I do my best to do it fairly.
I know it may seem quaint to take such an approach these days, but my hope is that someday it will become fashionable again.
If you want no-holds-barred bashing from me, sorry. But I promise I'll try to deliver provocative perspective that brings you back next week.
Contact David Allen Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @DMart423.