On one of the websites that carries the Weekly News Update, it’s part of a webring called "Opinions on the Net". Now, I never thought the WNUpdate had much of a point of view other than loving redheads, hating the french and realizing that I am a pathetic loser who hasn’t had a woman interested in him since the Reagan Administration. I make fun of everyone, slamming on the right, the left, and the middle with reckless glee as long as it makes me laugh. If you are reading the WNUpdate for information, you need professional help, because it’s like watching Jay Leno for an in-depth study of the situation in the Middle East. However, as I read through a lot of the sites, I noticed two things. One, I get out in the world a lot more often than these people. Two, there are a lot of people who wouldn’t know a fact if it were attached to a rock and beaten into their skull for the next week straight.

Harlan Ellison said, "You are entitled to an enlightened, informed opinion," which means that if you don’t know what you are talking about, you should keep your damn mouth shut. That’s what I am here to talk about today. Who should talk, who should shut up and what you should expect when you open your mouth. Yep, that’s right, free speech isn’t exactly free. It, like any other right is also a responsibility and if you don’t use it correctly, we will point and laugh at you.

Charlton Heston recently gave a big speech where he talked about how the liberals of the country have not just run the United States into the ground, which is odd, since he also said that the US is the greatest country ever to grace the face of the nation, but I guess where you’re that old, paralogia sets in. However, the vast majority of the speech was about the price he had paid for speaking out on issues he felt were important. Excuse me? The price he’s paid? Here’s a guy who gets millions of dollars a year to speak for less than an hour, and more millions to do commercials for the NRA. Please, let me pay that price too. So a few people call him a flake...and he can’t get a job acting in movies, neither can I and I don’t lump myself in with Nelson Mandella.

Let me clue Mr. Heston in on a little secret that he may be unaware of. There aren’t a lot of guys in their 70’s still playing leading men in movies. The ones that are, are good actors. You, my friend, are not. You couldn’t suck enough in the Ten Commandments (which looked like a silent movie except it was not as subtle as a Keystone Kops feature), you couldn’t suck enough in Planet of the Apes (I guess William Shatner wasn’t available, so they got you to overact in that one) and you couldn’t suck enough in most of the movies you made since then. I’m sorry that you’re mad that you don’t get to make movies where you make out with Sandra Bullock, but for an old retired guy who wasn’t much good at his job, you have nothing to complain about. For anyone who is on the radio, TV, or in lecture halls to earn a paycheck to say that they are under attack for their beliefs, they should look at the people who actually were persecuted for what they said.

Sit down and talk about it with Salmon Rushdie, I’m sure he’d sympathize.

He’d love to swap stories of you not being able to get into a trendy restaurant because it’s owned by someone who didn’t like what you said. Of course, his stories are more about having to live in constant terror of being killed for his book, but it’s just a matter of degree, isn’t it? Maybe you should read up on the Hollywood writers who were blacklisted in the 50’s, so you can see what real persecution is all about. Oh wait, you were in on that, weren’t you? How about the people who spoke out against slavery in the South before the Civil War? Or the people who marched on Montgomery in the 60’s?

Nelson Mandella. Thomas Payne. Martin Luthor. Those who spoke out against the Catholic Church in the middle ages. Or the brave souls who even today say that they liked the TV show Twin Peaks. Ok, maybe that analogy isn’t quite the same, but you get the idea. These are people who are persecuted. You got laughed at. The difference, you could lose a little dignity, they could have and did lose their lives, livelihoods and families. In the cosmic scale of things, I think you are sitting pretty.

Also, where did you get the special privilege to be able to speak without fear of being criticized? One of the costs of free speech is that you have to expect that people will question what you have to say, and they will speak up. Just like you did. Funny, isn’t it, that people have the same rights that you do? Welcome to the real world, where people have differing opinions. Have a seat, join the discussion and expect to have your precepts challenged. If your beliefs and opinions can’t take the harsh light of discourse, they must not be very strong.

I fully expect people to disagree with me. I welcome it, because the only way opinions and beliefs are tested is to have them challenged. I have changed my mind on a number of things based on hearing other people, reading more, and getting more information. The problem is, the national discourse has become a national discord, a free-flow of ideas in instead a free flow of monkey crap being thrown in your face from behind the bars of stupidity. It rarely rises to the level shouting match between people who can’t hear what anyone else is saying and could not possibly care less what someone else believes. Does anyone REALLY think that a bumper sticker can be persuasive enough to change another person’s mind? And if it did, wouldn’t that mind be changed again by a different bumper sticker? Or a sharp blow to the head? Or a batch of bad Border Fries at Taco Bell?

I can see it, clearly, "I hadn’t thought that abortion was wrong until I saw that mini-van with the ‘Abortion is Murder’ bumper sticker. Now I’ve completely changed my way of thought. Oh, ‘Mean People Suck’ and "Bikers Do It Wihtout Helmets’."

The problem is, most people’s beliefs rarely go deeper than that level. You ask them why they feel a certain way, and they can’t tell you. Why do you believe in the death penalty? Why do you think drugs should be legalized? Why is Darryl Strawberry out doing cocaine with hookers?

OK, I know why he's doing that. Because he can. But as for the


The websites of opinion I read are tiring. They all feel like they have cut and paste the same text from each other. Maybe that’s why I get angry mail from the people who find me on that ring. They haven’t read anything new since they booted up their first Vic-20 computer and just want stuff that reiterates what they already believe. The same old arguments, told with the same tired catch phrases, in the same old ways. Since abortion was legalized in the 70’s, the opinions on both sides have changed less than a

couple of percentage points. Why? No one is listening to the other side. I don’t know if there is a medium road in that issue, but I know we won’t find it by lining up on opposite sides of the street and chanting at each other.

Are we all scared to learn something? Are we so insecure in our ideas that we don’t want to ever see them challenged? It’s one thing to avoid not being subjected to constant bombardment of stuff that you disagree with, but quite another to hide in your convenient shelter of supposed truth, hoping that it doesn’t rain and wash it all away. Come out into the sun and join in our raindeer games.

I welcome people who question my beliefs. One of the greatest discussions I ever had with someone was when someone I disagreed with and I talked over an issue where we fundamentally disagreed. We talked for hours, not spouting the stuff we’d seen in pre-packaged TV commercials and the trite sound bites of politicians trying to whip our fears into full frenzy, but instead discussing the issue in full. I understood his opinion, and had moved toward parts of it. He’d listened to mine, and finally saw the people who held it as people just as concerned as he was. Then, I came home and read some girt-eating yahoo who sent me an e-mail that was nothing but what he’d heard on a radio show where the host only lets through calls that agree with him and tell him how wonderful he is.

Here in America today, those who compromise are considered to have sold out, or worse, have no principals. It’s all or nothing. For example, one of the big dividing issues is crime. On one side are people who scream for vengeance (and oddly, most of them are with religious organizations that have forgotten the Bible Verse "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." Funny how they can find verses to condemn those they hate, but ignore the ones that conflict with their own narrow worldview. But I digress.) and demand more prisons, no parole and the death penalty for any offence more severe than shoplifting.

Then, on the opposite extreme are those who say that nothing is anyone’s fault and we need to put criminals in hospitals and give them enough things that they don’t want to steal any more. I have worked in juvenile corrections for the past 10 years, and I have a solution that no one seems to think of, since they are so committed to hating each other.

What the flaming blue hootie is wrong with both? Yes, punish the criminals, but don’t expect that to solve the problem. I know from talking to people who are in jail that they don’t think about going to jail when they commit a crime. They are incapable of it. It doesn’t even enter into their thoughts.

It is a good thing to get them away from the rest of us, and jail should be punishment, but if it is nothing but punishment, what is the point? While they are making little rocks out of big ones, they can also be given a chance to turn things around. Yes, classes, college level if possible or appropriate, and let them work in the prison to earn tuition money. I’m sure there is enough work to do in our prison system that if people want to do it, it’ll be available. That way, when they get out, they know more than how to lift weights, look behind them while taking a shower, and assault people. Maybe, just maybe, they won’t reoffend. Anything got to be better than having a country where we have more people in jail per capita than anyone. Including China.

But, it won’t happen, because that solution is considered too soft by both sides. So to hell with you. You are more concerned with spewing outdated catchphrases that keep you from thinking so that you can let your increasingly fat ass sink a little deeper into the couch knowing that you are right and anyone who disagrees with you is a filthy liberal or a starched conservative.

Me? I’m going to keep learning, asking and changing. I’ll even stake out some issues that I know people who I care about will disagree with me on, not because I’m looking for trouble, but because a position never defended is a position never examined.

I think drugs should be legalized and offered in every drug store in the nation, with the same restrictions as alcohol.

I think abortion is wrong, but a necessary evil until we figure out what to do with the fact that we have too many people on the planet, and too many people can’t get decent parenting, so that they turn to crime or having more unwanted children.

I think that redheads are the most beautiful women in the world.

I find little difference in the core beliefs of the two political parties, since they will take whatever position they are told to by either their party’s leadership, or their corporate sponsors.

I think the Presidency is an empty position meant to give us a focus to direct our feelings about the country toward, while all of the decisions are made by long-term appointees who actually know how government works.

I think Trix suck now that they are in little fruit shapes.

I think that anyone who buys imported goods from Thailand should be ashamed of themselves for giving their money to a government who allows and encourages child sexual exploitation.

I think the death penalty gives the Government too much power and any time you give the government the power to kill its citizens, you have endangered your own freedom.

I think that the deregulation of TV and Radio stations is eventually going to kill free speech, not censors.

I think that there is nothing wrong with a 40 year old still working at McDonald’s and living in his parent’s basement, but that’s because if they are doing that, I look a lot better and don’t have to compete as hard to get the redhead I’m gazing at to go out with me.

I think getting on an airplane is the highest form of compliment I can give a person, since I’d rather stuff a rabid wolverine in my pants than get onto one of those aluminum tubes filled with explosive material.

And you know what? Those are my opinions. If you disagree, come on, let’s talk. But bring a lunch, because it won’t be a conversation that is over in the time it takes to sell the new flavor of Snapple. Freedom is hard work, and thinking for yourself is even harder. If you’re looking for someone to tell what you heard on Rush or Dr. Laura yesterday, or got in a leaflet from someone on the street who says that you shouldn’t buy fur because it’s icky, get ready to use that lunch to get the nasty taste out of your mouth, because I will feed you your ass in a not-too-tasty sammich.

So...want to chat?

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