By editorial board • 

Letters of 2017 reflect county all over the map

While the News-Register rarely strays into national news, fully a fourth of all the letters to the editor we received in 2017 referenced Donald Trump — perhaps illustrating what former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill meant when he said “all politics are local.”

Or perhaps it reverses feminist Carol Hanisch’s 1970 observation that “the personal is political.” Here in Yamhill County, the political is very personal.

Our new Twitter-obsessed president incited emotions across the political spectrum among readers of editorial pages around the country. However, emotions ran high on many other political issues this year. News-Register readers certainly added their voices to America’s often cacophonous political chorus.

Observers trying to get a sense of Yamhill County’s prevailing consensus on any given issue would have found themselves suffering vertigo and probably nursing a headache. For people who live in the same geographic area, county residents were all over the map in 2017.

And it wasn’t just the result of our polarizing commander-in-tweet. Readers readily fired off commentaries on everything from the economy and health care to religion and immigration. Even partisanship was the subject of bitter partisanship. (It’s those other people’s fault, you know.)

Of course, regulars Melvin Nysser and Milo Nakamura could always be counted upon to extol the virtues of veganism. Having regulars is wonderful. It means people are emotionally invested in the paper as a public forum. We appreciate that (even when we have to remind Fred Fawcett that letter writers are limited to one submission a month).

There are worse things, however, than having passionate readers. As former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan observed, debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open. It is certainly thus in Yamhill County.

Letters to the editor are vital parts of any newspaper. Debate is not only healthy but essential in an open society. It’s also good to take the local temperature, no matter how wildly it fluctuates.

The leading local issues inspiring letters included developments at the Riverbend Landfill and the homeless. People also had a thing or two to say about the McMinnville’s bag ban and the Newberg-Dundee Bypass.

Some readers, naturally, bemoan the number of inarticulate lunkheads who seem intent on expressing opposing viewpoints. Another quote comes to mind, this one from iconic country editor William Allen White: “Where there is freedom, folly will die of its own poison and wisdom will survive.” That is the history of the 242-year-old ongoing argument that is America.

We appreciate all letters, no matter where on the map an issue falls. But, heading into 2018, we’d like to conclude with a quote from another Readers Forum regular, Steve Sommerfeld (from his March 17 letter): “It’s time for all to focus our attention on state and local politics where we may actually have a chance to affect change. ... (There are) many local issues that we can all come together on to help make this county and our neighborhoods a better and safer place to live.”


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