For more than a decade, I've had the privilege of writing opinion columns for East Valley newspapers in the Freedom Communications family, though I joined the Tribune on the back end of those years. It's the best gig in town. Luckily, I've found that my roots as an Arizona native have provided perspective and enriched my conservative bent.
I began the opinion skirmish about the time Interstate 10 was suffering expansion pains along the Ahwatukee corridor. That mess mimicked U.S. 60, which was responding to the call of the Superstition Mountains, stretching width and length, as commuters migrated east and south. I began before the corn and cotton fields that lined Chandler Boulevard disappeared under a mish-mash of commerce. Carefree was still in Timbuktu and frowned down on Rawhide, which recently skedaddled south of Ahwatukee Foothills. I've seen every burg in the East Valley turn into a thriving city, all struggling with miserable growing pain. The issues are endless in the best places to live. And, I haven't even mentioned national stuff.
You may guess this is a farewell to readers. Not quite. It's a notice that you'll see less of my rantings for the next six months. I wish I could say that I offer this gesture as a gift to those who love to hate my take on the world, but actually, it's less magnanimous. I've taken on a book-writing project with a co-author - a book targeting women's journey. Thus, it's become necessary that I do less of this and more of that. With a nod from my editors, I'll sound off only once a month, until next fall.
I take this sabbatical after offering a few observations about the responses from readers over lo, these many years. Clearly, opinion works to generate ideas and discussion in regard to problem solving, and that's why publishers offer it. It also confirms the ebb and flow of love and hate.
Something interesting about those who react to what they read: At least three quarters of those who use my personal contact info at the end of the column are male readers. Less than a quarter of those are detractors. Every one of those, except a small fraction, thoughtfully debates the issues in a courteous manner. The final one-quarter of responders are from my own gender. Most attack with a viciousness generally reserved for a lioness protecting a cub. The venom is puzzling. What does it say about women's ability to confront opposing views?
One of my favorite attacks was recently printed in the Ahwatukee Foothills News, a sister to the Tribune. The responder is an East Valley therapist who took exception to my pro-gun stance. Consider her profession when I tell you she started her rebuttal by mocking my picture and my age. One has to wonder about her training in conflict resolution.
Her response is one example that might explain why a surprising number of readers privately share that they agree with my takes, but don't feel comfortable publicly writing in support. They "fear retaliation," against themselves and "their families." It's understandable. We live in a time where anyone, anywhere can locate all sorts of personal information on acquaintances and strangers. The intimidation tends to muzzle the precious gift of dialogue - and that's a crying shame. As it stands, fewer of us are willing to vote vocally, placing the power of influence in the hands of small special interests, who gladly bully the meek.
Something to think about though, folks: What kind of world will we end up with if we remain silent - which, in fact, will breed much more of what we're afraid of? Our voices are our greatest weapons for change; community newspapers remaining one of the best transporters of such. Pardon my generation for showing, but blogging is a poor substitution.
I'll be back full time in the fall, if the Tribune will have me. Blessings to all - especially to the therapist.
Linda Turley-Hansen is a syndicated columnist and former veteran Phoenix television news anchor who lives in the East Valley. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.