The Goal of Writing Opinion Pieces -OR- Weathering Like Whitlock

Yesterday and Tuesday were really good blog days for me.  I surpassed my daily readership record by several hundred, had tons of shares, and was read by people in countries across the world.  I felt particularly accomplished when Ellen Hopkins, a widely known young adult author, not only took the time to read my post but also commented on it.  Very briefly on Tuesday, I even made WordPress’s list of 100 most quickly growing blogs in the world.  In the world!!!

Some comments have surprised me though.  I actually agree with this one! and Liked this.  Some I don’t. were unusual complements to me.  Because what I, being overly analytical,  read was this:  I only enjoy reading things with which I whole-heartedly agree.  I can only acknowledge the merits of a piece of writing when I find its content personally acceptable to me.  Yikes.  This is the type of idea I want to change.

By reading and discussing the ideas of others, even if we don’t completely agree with them, we become more considerate people.  If someone read Tuesday’s post and said to themselves, “Oh! That’s why people are upset!” (whether or not they actually changed their own mind), then I did my job.  I do not write to be agreed with.  I do not write to persuade you to my “side.” I write to make you think and to open discussion.

whitlockHere’s a great example.  Jason Whitlock is my very favorite sports opinion writer.  When things happen in sports (or lately in the world in general), I cannot wait to hear what he has to say.  Recently, he has stirred up a controversy over his statements on black culture as it relates to the Zimmerman trial, Aaron Hernandez,  and the impact he sees HipHop music having on athletes and young people.  (Here’s one if you’d like to read a sample. Oh, and this. )  Whitlock just seems incredibly brave to me.  He says things other op-ed writers won’t say, sits back, and weathers the storm of angry readers.  But here’s the thing I now understand about Whitlock:  These comments do not hurt his feelings because he has accomplished his goal of opening a dialogue about his subject.  He got people talking, which is the true nature of this type of writing.

I do not always agree with Whitlock.  He was (is?) often really harsh on Vick, which is a sensitive topic for me.  I get nervous about blaming HipHop for behaviors because it takes responsibility off the individual.  I think he finds the misfortune of some athletes down right amusing.  Do I dismiss him as a writer when he goes against my personal opinions?  Nope.  Because at the very least, he has made me cognizant of the opposing view. I choose to take this writer and appreciate him for what he is:  a fearlessly honest, opinionated guy who throws out his own thoughts to spur discussion and understanding.  Sound familiar?

When we briefly see the world through the eyes of another person (even if just for the amount of time it takes to read an article, even if it’s an article with which we do not agree), we become more understanding people.  My readers will never change my mind just like I will never change Jason Whitlock’s, but only good can come from sharing, respecting, and reaching a new appreciation for that with which we don’t agree.

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