How can I take on a topic that would take the space and effort of a book?
As the saying goes, “many drops make an ocean,” and so a letter to the local newspaper, repeated by millions of people the world over can have the effect of a one-time major publication. And we really must get it across to everyone in the community how important a community newspaper is, and can be; even those whose letters may not always be accepted.
I walked past the telephone by the dentist’s office in Port McNeill yesterday and the man on the telephone looked up, thought for a moment, and then said, “You are the one who writes those letters!” “Yes, how do you know?” I answered and then added, “I hope we are still friends and you are not too mad at me because of what I have to say.”
And he answered, “Not at all, keep on writing.”
My friend Ingvar once said, “Bill, if I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” I like to say, “If I had known that someday I will end up writing letters at regular intervals to a newspaper, I should perhaps have taken some courses at UBC in journalism and writing.” But really, it is the substance, much more than the style that matters.
If I had one suggestion I would like to convey to the publishers and the editors of newspapers, be they the small local papers or large national publications, it is this: forget trying to influence your readership with old-fashioned left-, center-, or right-wing policies, but let the readers freely express themselves, and, I am certain, the truth will emerge, stupidities will be exposed, and it will be easier to discover and discern right from wrong, and what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Take the oil debate at Port Hardy recently, all eight hours of it!
Could they have a similar free-for-all debate like this one in China, or North Korea, or Iran, Cuba or Nigeria? I doubt it.
Yet, because of the internet, people in those countries will have no trouble in stumbling on the truth of things, or coming across suggestions that make sense, even in those countries where censorship will slowly become meaningless.
In Iran of course it is important for us who stand before such critical decisions— oil pipelines or no oil pipelines, super tankers or no super tankers— to know that years ago they toppled the Shah so they could become masters in their own house, throw out the BP oil company, and own their own oil resources again. Venezuela did the same, and Canada tried once, under Trudeau – or are you not old enough to remember?
But compare Nigeria! The horror stories one often hears on Radio International about how the delta area is messed up with these oil activities, some of which are caused by the locals themselves, tapping into the pipelines to obtain a little bit of that precious industrial commodity, so they can drive a vehicle powered by that devilish or divine little gadget; the internal combustion engine. In Nigeria, one poet and political instigator was hanged – will I suffer the same fate now for writing this letter? Or will the very well informed people who in good faith submitted their ideas to the Enright Pipeline Commission? Not likely! So let’s count our blessings and preserve these freedoms we are enjoying!
Let me remind the reader what Abraham Lincoln had to say concerning taking a stand on the important issues that face us in ever-increasing frequencies: “The hottest spot in hell is reserved for those who do not take a stand.”