Every day I am more and more convinced that the main difference between smart people and stupid people is that stupid people have all the answers.
As a corollary, to write opinion regularly you must avidly embrace your own stupidity, and roll with it.
So, say I wanted to write this week's column about Barack Obama's selection of Reverend Rick Warren to do the invocation at the inauguration. Just to mention Rick Warren's name here is an Adventure in Stupidity in itself. Why don't I just save myself the trouble, turn in a column with the words "I have nothing better to do in life than smack myself in the head with a 5-pound sledge hammer" repeated 33 times, and then smack myself in the head with a 5-pound sledgehammer? Should I mention that Obama might likewise have saved himself some trouble? Probably I should not. Just go to the hardware store, Wes, and get the hammer.
There are times when you can't take a side on a topic without inviting hate mail. Turns out that anti-abortionists, for instance, are as angry with Rick Warren for accepting the Obama invitation as the gay community is at Obama for offering it. You could make a case that Obama invited Warren in order to drive a wedge between anti-abortionists. Then, you could move to New Zealand, like you always wanted to, and live out the rest of your life raising chickens for slaughter, telling everyone you meet your name is Sally and you're really a vegetarian.
Or, take the case of the guy who shot up his former wife, their family, and in-laws, set fire to her house, and might have escaped safely to Canada if it were not for the one flaw in his plan, that his Santa suit caught fire in the commission of his own arson, and burned to his skin. If I had written that myself, it would have been a clown costume. Which brings up my opinion of clowns. I tend to think that, since clowns make fun of everything, it gives you the right to make fun of clowns. Not all clowns, it turns out, share that view. So I fall back on solipsist jokes. Why didn't the solipsist laugh at my joke about him? A. Because it didn't exist.
My point being, if I use this space to share an opinion of mass murder, such as "mass murder is unfortunate," I'm just asking for trouble. Someone will send a three-page letter in 8-point Courier telling me that my opinion is ill-informed and biased. "I have read Real Change for years, and in all that time you have never, NEVER, mentioned the good works that mass murderers do for their communities, or exposed the people that drive mass murderers to murder. Just this morning someone cut me off at the Mercer exit. Would you write about that? NO!"
Another fallback is liturgical-calendar humor. "Yesterday, I had an Epiphany!" Ha. "Advent-ures in Advent-ends." Ha, ha!
It's true. I was watching CNN covering the Israel-Gaza conflict, a conflict I don't dare have any opinion of, and they showed emails from viewers answering the question, "How would you solve the Israel-Gaza problem?" A number of stupid opinions followed. My favorite, which led to the small-e epiphany, was the one from a Canadian that said something to the effect that "we" should completely rebuild the infrastructure in Gaza and spread the people around better, so that it would be easier for "us" to spot the Hamas soldiers among them.
OK. I won't venture an opinion of my own of the kind. I have no solution. But I will say this much. If Canada ever mucks with the infrastructure of Gaza or sends its people to spread out the Gazanians or whatever they're called, all hell would break loose.
Some people can't see that "rebuilding infrastructures" and "spreading people around" are not solutions to violence. They are descriptions of violence.