Commentary and Opinion

Are you Nice or Are you Smart?
by Kathy Coogan

Have you ever sat down to write a commentary, a book review or a critical essay on a current topic and been paralyzed by the choice between truth or political correctness? As a freelance writer, you must be aware that tone is set by the publication. Leeway exists but if you want to publish you must sing along with Johnny Cash, "I walk the line."

Sometimes I feel as if there are two MEs: One, the person who has strong beliefs and the capacity to express them, and Two, the person who doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I am Twins. We look alike on the outside but on the inside, we couldn’t be more different. I call us The Smart Twin and The Nice Twin. Schizophrenia, anyone?

Perhaps my upbringing is responsible for this dichotomy. (And perhaps I just need psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy.) My mother is a sweetie who, like Will Rogers, never met a stranger. She offers cake to the mailman (See here is an example of PC: I should type postal delivery person, but it sounds too goofy) and she offers peppermints to her pharmacist. Her come-back in any argument is, “Oh, I see your point.”

Dad (he’s gone now) was self-made of firmer stuff, the Man of the House. He held strong views and had no qualms about condemning yours as just plain g.d. dumb. The changing times never penetrated his thinking. He was an edgy Ozzie to Mom’s Harriet. What was right, was right. No wishy-washy PhD or politician was going to tell him yada, yada, yada. The truth was Mom held it all together while Dad argued policy. Global warming would have sent him round the bend!

In my writing psyche, The Twins constantly battle for my attention. Each wants to be represented on the page. Neither types very well, so I need not defer to the more mechanically adept one. Each races to present her opinions because, as we writers know, getting it down on the page is Step One to getting it published. Let me give an example of the Twins in action.

I was writing a commentary piece for a daily newspaper on the hot topic of Catholic Bishops who had protected pedophile priests. As a kinda, sorta member of that Roman denomination I had definite opinions. No bones about it. But, here The Smart Twin wanted me to “blast the b------ds” but the Nice Twin wanted me to “condemn the hierarchy.” In my head I heard Johnny Cash. Let's see if I walked the line.

Read on for the article that was published. I think The Smart Twin won but The Nice Twin provided the parable. Wolves in Shepherds' Clothing

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