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The Long Way Home

My old friend and one-time cigar purveyor, Anthony posted a meme on Facebook the oth­er day. In the days when he sold cigars, I knew that he and I shared an affinity for the philo­sophical. We share a love of books, too, and he now teaches college English. I tap a keyboard for slave wages and collect Social Security.

The meme was a picture of one of the daily traffic jams in this country with the statement, “You’re not stuck in traffic; you are traffic.”

Think about that.

As a chronic user of Mr. Zuckerberg’s cre­ation, I realize I’m not stuck in that noxious wasteland that is Facebook;

I am that noxious wasteland.

I’m not despairing, just self-aware.

I avoid posting long-winded arguments about whatever issue has riled me or oth­er citizens on community Facebook pages. I avoid arguments with the people who create verbose posts—the ones who repeat a lengthy argument repeatedly, answering everyone who dares to give a contrary position with the same argument they wrote previously.

Come on, guys (primarily males, but some­times females), if you post it once, it’s there for eternity. Stop repeating your argument, and we might take you seriously. If you have to an­swer every one, you’re scratched from my list.

In my newspaper publishing days, I had three conditions for accepting a letter to the ed­itor:

  1. It needed to be signed. Why should your opinion matter if you aren’t willing to stand behind it?
  2. It needed to be fact-based. You may have in­formation not previously known, but it is more likely to be verifiable.
  3. At most, 250 words. Any more wouldn’t make a point. Write as much as you want, but the newspaper will cut it if you don’t.

For better or worse, no such conditions are needed to post opinions on social media. Which is why the whole system may have “jumped the shark.”

My opinions here sometimes generate a vit­riolic email or phone call. They don’t change my opinion (unless some unknown fact arises). I don’t engage in a counterargument with the commenters since I already know how they feel.

No one needs to share my opinions, and I don’t need to enter into arguments after mine have been shared. Life is, as they say, too short and too filled with other concerns to make argu­ing satisfying.

The saddest part of social media abuse is that people let their feelings get hurt. Too many peo­ple are easily offended, become resentful, and carry grudges that end friendships and lead to escalating arguments leading nowhere.

I’ve hurt some feelings more than a few times over the years, usually with a sarcastic comment that I thought was funny.

My old friend Jim Morrison, not the long-dead leader of the Doors but the guy I was stu­pid enough to be in the trucking business with, had a saying whenever someone slapped him down (hurt his feelings). “Well, that’s another member of my fan club who won’t pay his or her dues next month.”

When I get my feelings hurt, I repeat what my brother Jim would say.

And when things go wrong, I remember an­other of his wise offerings: “It’s just an­other ‘Oh Well’ in a long and continuing line of ‘Oh Wells.’”

“Be good, and you will be lonesome.” Mark Twain. “Be lonesome, and you will be free.” Jimmy Buffett

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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