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Opinionated Octogenarian, #1C, Facts

July 27, 2014

Just the Facts, Ma’am

I cannot stop having opinions, and facts from the news help me form them. An opinion is a conclusion or judgment, an estimate, or evaluation based upon my knowledge of facts. I respect people whose opinions seem to be based on the facts they know, even when they differ from my own opinion. I listen to dissenting opinions, hoping I can learn some new facts. Truth needs facts to support it, and I believe justice cannot exist without truth, but that is my opinion.

The more facts one has, the more relevant his opinion will be. My generation remembers the theme song from Dragnet, a TV series running from, 1951 to 1959, and again in 1967 to 1970, and later made into a movie. “Dum-de-dum-dum.”

“The stories you are about to see are true.” Pulled from actual police cases in LA, the stories involved fraud, drugs, kidnapping, robbery and murder. Sgt. Joe Friday and his companion solved cases, frequently interviewing witnesses. Our hero, Jack Webb, in a dry laconic voice reminded garrulous observers, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” He meant, “If I am to solve this crime, skip the opinions until I forge my own.” It is often difficult to distinguish opinions from facts. An opinion frequently becomes a fact to its holder.

But facts are not easy to determine. A fact is a statement that is true or observable, something already in existence or that has already happened. But “facts” are not set in concrete; indeed, they seem to change. What we believe to be true today may not have been yesterday’s truth and may not be true tomorrow. (No, the earth is not flat; it is round or perhaps elliptical; but I won’t fall off it.) Discoveries are made with astonishing speed, changing the “facts”. That is why I must listen to all opinions that seem to be based on facts. I have a right to change my opinion or decide that I have the facts most true, and you have the right to disagree.

In this 21st century, much of our political belief is controversial. Conflicting attitudes and opinions escalate into quarrels and outrageous behavior. Politics is about getting power to administer government affairs, and controversy about opinions began with the founding fathers. In the newly formed government, Alexander Hamilton wanted to pay the Revolutionary War debt while Thomas Jefferson did not. They both had good reasons for their opinions. George Washington listened to both before deciding. Some of the founding fathers wanted strong states’-rights, others wanted a stronger federal government. Many compromises had to be made before the Constitution could be agreed upon by all. Those compromises and provisions to amend the document have made the constitution a living document for more than two centuries.

I believe in a strong central government that protects and defends all people; but I believe this country is too large to have all matters decided by that central government, so, in many instances, states-rights are necessary. I am a conservative holding some liberal ideas, a Christian accepting of other religions which do not sponsor hate or war. Currently in the United States, we hear wars being waged on poverty, on drugs, on women, on religion, on majorities, on minorities. These wars become political wars, not viewed as social problems. Determining the victor in political wars is problematic. Who won the last election? Who will win the next term? What kind of society does the majority desire and can the minority live with that? Real wars have visible antagonists and last until the opposition is dead or calls “uncle.” Which country is still standing? But how is the victor in a social war determined? Will social problems be solved by arguing or by compromise?

Wars confirm enemies, establish conflict, cause destruction: wars do not cure social conditions. Elections seem like wars. Each side tries to outspend, outmaneuver, and shoot-down the other side. Civility is considered weakness. The scheming for advantages in government power today, called politics, divides people and makes little attempt to solve problems with compromises.

I have written opinion stories, for how do I know what I think until I see what I say? This collection of opinions and politics begins with the election of President Obama in 2008, and covers some of the more discussable incidents during his two terms. I do not intend to offend, merely to report my views. I am open to other opinions based on facts, and I hope to gather facts with respect and civility.

George Bernard Shaw is reported to have opined, “If you have an apple, and I have an apple, and we exchange apples, we each have one apple. But if you have an idea, and I have an idea, and we exchange ideas, then each of us has two ideas.”  Without facts we ought not to bore people with our opinions … but, in my opinion, a life without opinions is not very interesting.

Opinions have their ends,

But can we still be friends?



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