There it is again, at the end of every ad. “Price does not include tags, taxes, or title. Dealer prep and delivery extra.” Or we hear “No purchase necessary to play. Employees and their immediate families are not eligible. Void where prohibited by law.” My favorite is, “The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff and management of Hot Air Communications.”
We live in a society filled with disclaimers. It’s our own fault of course. Since we sue at the drop of a hat, it is more common, and more necessary to make perfectly clear what an offer does and does not include.
I have discovered the same applies to writers. As a writer, you assume your readers will take your words with a grain of salt, understanding certain principles of interpretation apply to your column. You might assume they understand the spirit in which your comments are made, and give you credit for that when you say something they disagree with.
But then again, you know what happens when one assumes.
After all, the majority of readers have never met the person whose column or article they are reading on a given day. How then, can a writer expect a reader to know what motivates the writer to say what he says?
With that in mind, I’m going to set out my explanations and disclaimers for all past and future columns. Every time you read something that really gets your goat, and you want to get your pen and paper and put me in my rightful place, you can read this column and be sure I haven’t already covered your concern with one of my standard disclaimers. So, for future reference, here they are:
1) There are exceptions to every rule. If I were to say, “Men are stronger than women,” that might upset some people. Someone would write and tell me that their sister Martha could beat every boy in school in arm-wrestling. And I don’t doubt Martha could. But Martha is the exception, not the rule. If I have to address every potential exception every time I make a point, I would be writing books instead of columns.
2) Honest people can disagree. Just because I dispute a conclusion drawn by someone, don’t assume I am questioning their integrity or honesty. It is entirely possible they could look at the same set of facts, and come away with a different opinion. If I don’t trust their motives, or don’t think they are being honest or straightforward, I will say so. And that leads to my next disclaimer.
3) I say what I mean, and mean what I say. Just because you can infer something from what I have written doesn’t mean that I implied it. As a rule — there are exceptions, see Disclaimer No. 1 — I don ‘t like to leave points up to inference. I like to spell out my position in clear and understandable language. So if I say 77 percent of the people in Alabama support Roy Moore’s display of the Ten Commandments, all I’m saying is the people support it. Don’t infer I’m saying their support makes the display legal. If I want to discuss the legality of the monument, I will.
4) This is an opinion column. That’s one of the reasons the word “opinion” appears in the title. If I say “Millard Fillmore is the greatest President that ever lived,” you can understand that to mean “In my opinion, Millard Fillmore … “ You may disagree. As I have always said, I love to hear from you, especially if you disagree. But if all you want to tell me is that I’m wrong and you’re right, without any explanation as to why, then save your ink. I’ll just reply by sending you a copy of Disclaimer No. 2.
5) I’m a nice guy. If you don’t believe it, ask my mom. I’m the last person on earth who would want to see people starve or animals tortured; or, for that matter, animals starve and people tortured. Bigotry makes me uncomfortable, and injustice makes me angry. So if I disagree with you on a matter of policy, it’s because I honestly believe your proposal will make things worse instead of better. It doesn’t mean I’m a bigot, homophobe, racist, chauvinist or xenophobe. I just believe sometimes policies intended to help actually hurt.
Other disclaimers may apply in certain circumstances, but I’ll leave them to your common sense and discernment.
If, however, you wish to see the complete list, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and allow three to five weeks for delivery. This column void where prohibited by law.
Mike North is a professional land surveyor, amateur historian and former member of the Walker County school board. Send comments to him at Mike@myhumbleopinion.net. To read his past columns or contact him by Internet, visit www.myhumbleopinion.net