As an “opinion columnist,” I have always known – deep down – that what I do on this page is a trivial thing. Oh, it feels important to me while I’m doing it; I pour my barest, truest, most soulful ruminations into the endeavor, agonizing over every word and phrase. But deep in my heart . . . I know.
Because everybody has opinions, right? They’re a dime a dozen. Less than a dime. In my case, they’ve always been free.
I started this gig long before the rise of social media, too. Long before everybody else began freely sharing their opinions – informed or otherwise, agonized-over or off-the-cuff. But even back then, I knew.
And now, the world is flat-out flooded with opinions; we’re literally drowning in them. Choking on them. Today, I’d say opinions are probably worth less than nothing. I should pay you to read mine.
But since I can’t afford that – I’m a journalist, remember? – I thought I’d try something slightly different this week. Instead of serving up another plate of hot, steaming opinions – telling you what I think for the umpteenth time, along with everybody else on your newsfeed – I thought it might be fun to share some questions, mysteries I’ve been pondering lately, but have yet to solve to my own satisfaction.
Questions are just opinions in their larval form, after all. Every opinion worth its salt starts as a question.
So I’ve been keeping a list since our last issue. No question was too great or too small – or too awkward or too taboo – to make the list. The list is long and getting longer, but since space is limited, I’ve chosen a few of the most topical questions to share.
Are all our modern institutions corrupt? The government, the media, the scientific community, the Church, etc.? Is it possible that corruption is simply inevitable? When humans are involved, I mean?
Are we really more “performative” today – in the age of Instagram, Facebook and the ubiquitous selfie? – than generations past? This question reared its head last week while I was indulging in the guiltiest pleasure of them all – watching Season Two of ‘Bridgerton’ on Netflix. If the writers of that show are telling the truth, the people living in Regency Era England were “on” 24/7. (Jane Austen’s novels also support this notion.) Popular opinion says that we 21st Century Westerners are the most performative culture of all time, but is it possible we’ve simply found ourselves a new stage? A new place to promenade?
Was Will Smith’s slap really as big a deal as we made it out to be?Is it possible that we opinionators – both professional and armchair – went a bit overboard on that topic, extrapolating all sorts of cultural implications from a very brief, atypical moment in time? Everybody and their grandmother wrote a “hot take” about Slapgate, and the pros wrote long, intricate essays, but was all that social commentary really warranted? (Also, is it possible Will Smith was just . . . drunk? Why is nobody asking that question?!)
Is Volodymyr Zalenskyy manipulating me? Is he intentionally playing on my emotions? I probably would be, in his position. Also, he’s an actor, so he’s got mad skillz. Can I trust every word he says? Does it matter?
What should we do about the war in Ukraine? On the one hand, we want to avoid World War III. And Vladimir Putin has nuclear weapons. On the other hand – Bucha. And Mariupol. And the train station at Kramatorsk. The atrocities are piling up. What does the civilized world owe its neighbors – and itself – when barbarians breach its borders? I toss and turn over this question nightly. I’m glad I don’t have to answer it.
Why are so many men in that part of the world named Vladimir, or some variation thereof? Is “Vladimir” like the “John” of Eastern Europe? And come to think of it, why don’t Americans name their sons “John” anymore?
Should I get a Covid booster for my Covid booster? And if I do, how many more boosters will I need before I need a whole new vaccine? And will we keep calling it a “vaccine” when it’s really more like a shot?
Why won’t anybody be honest about Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill? It doesn’t say that – “Don’t say gay,” I mean – or anything like that. And yet it does say some things that bear scrutiny and require an honest conversation. Along those same lines, why do supporters of the bill keep calling their opponents “groomers”? That’s a dishonest and deeply offensive accusation that immediately shuts down discussion. Words have meanings, and people – on both sides of the political aisle – should stop playing fast and loose with those meanings. Most people have no clue what this Florida bill actually says, because we don’t honor language, and we don’t have honest, good faith conversations in this country anymore.
(I think I accidentally slipped an opinion in there. Sorry.)
Did Jesus Christ really rise from the dead? Yes, I went there. I know it’s a fraught question, especially coming from a Christian during Holy Week, but let’s be honest – the resurrection of the body is a tough proposition for the postmodern mind to wrap itself around. It’s not surprising that many contemporary Christians embrace a more metaphorical interpretation of that Biblical claim.
In the Year of Our Lord 2022, “Follow The Science” is the mantra of the educated, and The Science does not support the proposition of The Resurrection.
The beautiful thing about science – one of them, anyway – is that it’s never finished. I have this crazy notion that much of what we currently refer to as “the supernatural” is really just “the natural”. . . that we don’t yet understand. In fact, the older I get – and the more closely I observe the natural world – the more persuaded I am that the physical and the metaphysical are inextricably entwined. . . overlapping realities that can’t be separated so easily into comfortable categories like “science” and “religion.”
We children of the Enlightenment love to separate, divide, classify and categorize, but there is a strong counterforce working in the world – a counterforce that constantly urges us back toward unity, coherence, wholeness, oneness. And that counterforce calls to us in a still, small voice, saying, “Follow Me.”
But that’s just my opinion. If you don’t like it, there are thousands of others to choose from out there. Happy Googling.
And Happy Easter.