Our View: Jumping to conclusions

In the movie "Office Space," one character talks of creating a game called "Jump to Conclusions."

The game is similar to a Twister board, in which the player would hear something and - in the literary genius of the game's title - jump to a conclusion.

The game may already be in existence.

It's called life.

How many times have you seen someone not have all the facts and make a conclusion on something or some person? How many times have you seen someone misinterpret something and make a conclusion based off of that?

How many of us have done the same?

Case and point: Two weeks ago, a letter to the editor about the proposed new hospital by Julia Baker ran in the Saturday Morning Press. Several people jumped to the conclusion that it was Julie Baker, or Julie A. Severson-Baker, the principal of Ridgeview and Maybell elementary schools, and had harsh words to say about her on the Daily Press Web site reader forum.

The harsh words were unjustified. Severson-Baker was not the author of the letter in question.

This is not to say anything about the stances of either Julia or Julie on the hospital, but being attacked for something you didn't say is not a pleasant experience.

And to the editorial board members, it seems jumping to conclusions can be a lot more detrimental to people in small towns.

Words have tremendous power.

They can hit you like a ton of bricks, or they can carry no weight at all.

They can make you sick to your stomach, or bring a smile to your face.

And depending on how you interpret them, they can mean nothing, or they can mean everything in the world.

The power of words, and the responsibility that goes with that power, was evident in another recent case.

You could see it with Sherri Lawton, wife of the late Staff Sgt. Mark A. Evans-Lawton, namesake of the Craig American Legion Post, and her - and many others' - feelings toward those using her late husband's name on anti-war T-shirt for monetary gain and/or for a political agenda.

Vendor Dan Frazier uses a Web site to sell anti-war T-shirts that include the names of fallen Iraq war veterans. One of the shirt styles includes the phrase "Bush lied" on the front, and "They died" on the back.

Evans-Lawton, a Hayden resident and 1982 graduate of Moffat County High School, died from enemy gunfire in August 2003 while riding in a convoy north of As Suaydat, Iraq.

He served his country. And he believed in what he was doing, Sherri Lawton said.

"Mark would never agree to his name being used in this manner," Lawton said in a Sept. 20 interview. "It feels like a violation to our loss and rights."

While each of us on the editorial board agreed that the use of the soldiers' names was heinous, there was debate on the rights of free speech in this case.

The one thing agreed upon was this: The freedom of speech we have in the United States is a truly special liberty, and we must take that liberty very seriously.

In other words, just because we can say something doesn't make it right to do so.

The editorial board encourages people to choose their words wisely, and to make sure those words are directed at the right person.

And part of that includes jumping to conclusions.

Because as Mark Twain once wrote, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

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