Another classic G. George Ostrom column. This one George picked out from March 1969...
In the past seven years, the Hog Heaven Correspondent has traveled the length and breadth of the nation, added two more children to his family, changed jobs three times, got his first gray hair, written nine stories for national magazines, given over a hundred public speeches, climbed high mountains, floated wild rivers, chased wild horses, prowled a primitive island overrun with large wolves…yes, we’ve shared a thousand adventures here in well over 300 columns. Enough writing to fill a very large book.
These columns have been mostly happy things and, more often than not, I’ve made myself the goat because I believe a man who can’t laugh at himself hasn’t earned the right to ever laugh at someone else. When I’m critical it’s because I seriously believe someone or something deserves criticizing. I’ve written a few columns with tears in my eyes because no man can lead a full life without taking time for tears.
Writing a successful newspaper column of this type requires several characteristics over and above a fundamental working knowledge of the language and an above-average power of observation. It requires a keen sense of involvement in the destiny of one’s fellow man and it absolutely demands and almost impregnable ego.
In my combined total of 16 years of publicly expressing personal opinions via radio, magazines, newspapers and television, I’ve been sure enough of my ground that I’ve only had to back up once, but on that occasion, I really backed up.
That time was in 1964 when I attacked the county fair board in this column for what I felt was a public injustice. The fair board not only counter attacked, but they also right out told me if I was so damned smart, they’d see that I got appointed to their group and I could then solve their problems for them. I studied their point of view and then declined that generous offer and wrote an apology the following week.
When I first started the column, I used to spend agonizing hours over critical letters that were unsigned, and I grew to hate the kind of person who would criticize without giving the accused a chance to defend himself.
Not being a very effective hater, I soon began feeling sorry for people who held dear a certain point of view but could not gather up the courage to sign their name to a paper expressing that point of view. It must be some sort of special hell to not have the self-confidence to sign your name to a personal opinion.
Writing a newspaper column is also like painting a picture, playing a musical instrument or any other creative act.
The person doing the creation is ironically exposing himself or herself to the heady wine of public approval or the ego-shattering prospect of public disapproval. It is the exposing of oneself to judgment, at that takes guts. There are always those who think Rembrandt was a good painter, Art Buchwald can’t write satire, or Pete Fountain can’t play clarinet.
My heart and my hand go out to those who are not Rembrandts, Buchwalds or Fountains, but who nevertheless have the will to try and the personal capacity to gracefully accept the judgment of their fellow man, be it good or bad.