Maybe you recently read something on our opinion page that you disagreed with.

It happens to everyone - and that’s a good thing.

We regularly publish guest columns and letters to the editor in these pages. They aren’t necessarily the opinions of anyone on staff at the Weatherford Democrat, but they do represent opinions that people living right here in Parker and Palo Pinto County hold. And on occasion, we get pushback from other readers - sometimes ones who want to cancel their subscription - because of a guest opinion they disagreed with.

Here’s the deal. Even if we don’t agree with what someone says, we will still defend their right to say it - and yours, too, for that matter. It’s literally our job to provide a public forum in which locals can share their opinions, no matter which “side” they end up on. That’s because newspapers represent a public exercise of the First Amendment, which protects your right to criticize your elected officials and other public figures without fear of government reprisal. In other words, we don’t live in Russia or China. We’re in the United States of America, where you can’t get arrested just for saying something an official doesn’t like.

That’s important because it’s this very climate of free expression that promotes liberty and furthers a healthy society. Somebody states an opinion, maybe somebody else disagrees, and together they discuss their arguments civilly and respectfully. When that happens, we just might arrive at a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s position. As the biblical proverb goes, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” - or in this case, a position actually gets stronger the more healthy criticism it withstands.

That’s why at the Democrat, we believe opinions matter even when we disagree with them. It’s important to represent a variety of viewpoints in our op-ed pages so that you, the reader, can decide which analysis you find most compelling and discover the strong points of an argument you disagree with. That’s particularly true for the local issues that those who write letters to the editor or guest columns often address.

So yes, you’ll probably disagree with a letter or a guest column sooner or later. Since we publish so many different viewpoints, it would be impossible never to disagree with at least some of them. But when you do, consider expressing your disagreement not by shooting the messenger, but by tackling the message. Consider writing a letter to the editor in response, or if you know the original author, maybe give them a call and invite them for coffee to talk with you about your disagreement. Explain what you disagree with and why, civilly and respectfully. Help us foster healthy discussion. It’s what makes a community better in the long run.

Weatherford Democrat

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