Nasty feedback and George Will writes a good one

Wow, fun morning.

Just got off the phone with some guy who started off sounding nice, but quickly degenerated into shouting, uninterruptably, over my column today on tattoos that an Ogden High English teacher has.

Funny, I was sure the word “vagina” was the part of the column that would get me in hot water. Oh well.

For this caller, tattoos are simply wrong. That is not his opinion, that is established fact and I owe the readers an apology and retraction if I am at all ethical, he said.

“You and I have differing opinions and there will be no retraction,” I said, and he went off again for another 5 minutes, finally asking to speak to the boss, to whom I gratefully transferred the call.

What is it with people who can’t see the difference between opinion and fact? He has his opinions, I have mine. Fair is fair.

It is a fact that a huge percentage of the population has tattoos. Ink is no longer just for gangsters and sailors. Regular folk get tattoos for religious, romantic, artistic or affiliation reasons. George Schultz had a tiger tattoo on his but from some college franternity he was in.

 It is this caller’s opinion tattoos are evil. It is mine that they are something I don’t want on me, but other people can decide for themselves. Is this so hard?

It is a fact that Mark Johnson, at OHS, works with a lot of inner city kids who live around gangsters and other types with tattoos. If having tattoos, as well as being black, makes it easier for kids to relate to him, and hear his teaching about English and literature and so on, that’s more for the good.

It is sad Ogden schools are taking such a small-minded attitude towards tattoos. They need to see the big picture.

Speaking of George Will (OK, we weren’t. So?) His column today in the Washington Post is a symphony of impenetrable words about the rediculousness of the State of the Union Speech. Every now and then I find myself agreeing with George, and today is one of those. Read his column here: (click!)

Washington refused to have his image on a coin because putting your picture on money is what kings do. Jefferson didn’t believe in making state of the union speeches because he felt that the president should not act like a monarch and lecture to the congress, which is the representatives of the people and a president is no better than any of them.

Mr. Will is discussing Obama’s last speech, and he’s right — as with so much, though, I wish Mr. Will had written this column back when it was President Reagan turning the speech into political theater, or President Bush. Or Carter or Clinton too.

Too often political pundits make very good points only when it is the other side who provide the convenient exemplar. Will would boost his cred a lot if he’d demand conservative principles from conservatives when it is conservatives who are in office, such as when he opposed the war in Iraq while Bush was still in office.  A column or two on balanced budgets under W, for example, would not have been out of place and might have done some good.

Having said that, I agree completely with this column — the State of the Union is just theater, and pretty silly theater at that. It could easily be replaced with a post card, or perhaps a blackberry message, something along the lines of “Everything’s hunky-dorey! Call if have questions.”

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19 Responses to Nasty feedback and George Will writes a good one

  1. Sylvia says:

    Charlie,

    George Will went after Bush and the Republican-led Congress ALL the time–about the Medicare drug benefit bill, etc. etc. Will doesn’t need to boost his credibility–he’s a conservative, not a Republican defender. Never has been.
    My only beef with Will is tone. Too often he comes across as arrogant and condescending–thus appealing only to those who already agree with him and not persuading the unpersuaded.
    As to the tattoo issue, I, like you, think tattoos are “icky” (even though my son has one) but the more important issue is the teacher’s qualifications. OHS just got let their chemistry teacher go–he left for better pay and OHS and the district did NOTHING to stop him. He’s probably the best chem teacher in the state. It wouldn’t have mattered to me if he were covered in tattoos because he was such a great teacher. I understand having dress codes and wanting a professional atmosphere etc. I don’t relish having teachers and gangbangers be indistinguishable, but when someone has a proven track record (I’m assuming Johnson does because I haven’t heard otherwise), it seems at the very least, he and his tattoos should be “grandfathered” in.
    I did have to laugh at the Standard’s reporter on this story, though–she quoted Johnson’s WIFE to say that the school would be losing a great teacher? That was funny.

  2. Sylvia says:

    P.S. I think you should required posters on your blog (any blog, for that matter) to use their real names (like Dan and me). If you can’t post something and attach your name to it, you’re a chicken.

  3. Charles Trentelman says:

    I could not agree more, Sylvia — my name AND picture are on everything I write. Anonymous posts are kinda weenie, at best.

  4. Jim Hutchins says:

    I don’t know. I sorta enjoy slipping into this “Jim Hutchins” persona to post.

  5. Jim Hutchins says:

    Oh, and on topic…

    I am deeply offended by the amount of makeup Marie Osmond wears. She’s really a beautiful woman, and I don’t think she should be covering it up with massive amounts of pancake.

    If I were a woman, I would NEVER wear that much makeup. It’s an abomination.

    Can I get her fired from her job now?

  6. Charles Trentelman says:

    i do have an ulterior motive in today’s column, to tell the truth — I never, ever, wear a tie which some people consider the standard of professionalism. I decided early on that, in a profession that sometimes has me at Board of Regent meetings, sometimes interviewing cows in pastures, and sometimes hitting the extreme bottom and covering the Legislature, a tie would just look silly.

    So any time I see someone else fighting back against the narrow, short-minded “look professional” dictum, I shout a big hurah.

  7. Di Lewis says:

    I kind of find it funny that no matter who I quote or how much time I have to write something, someone always thinks I should have quoted someone else.

    And while Di is technically a nickname, I think it suffices.

  8. Michael Trujillo says:

    Tattoos must be the Millinial version of ear-piercings for Men. Remember back when men started wearing earrings in the 80′s? It got to the point where everyone and his dog had at least one pierced ear. But just before it went “mainstream”, there were still a lot of conservative men who looked at it askance. I read one statement by a well known businessman that he wouldn’t want to be served by a waiter in a restaurant who was sporting an earring because it signaled a certain lack of hygene on the waiter’s part.

    Now, no one thinks twice about a man wearing an earring. And now that it’s become accepted, fewer and fewer males are choosing to get their ears pierced.

    Our society is going to have to face the fact that in a few years, it will be very difficult NOT to do business with or hire quailified people because there are so many young people getting tattoos now. Tattoos are being worn by “normal” men and women now. Remember in “An Officer and A Gentleman” in 1982, Robert Loggia states, “Officers don’t have tattoos” and Richard Gere covered his up when he reported to Officer’s Candidate School? In 2010, that’s no longer the case. Some of the young people becoming Ensigns have more tatts than a Master Chief Petty Officer with 30 years of service.

  9. Neal Humphrey says:

    Sylvia, I’m the pastor’s evil twin …

    While we’re on a roll here, I do a little Dutch oven cooking for large groups. At the end of the meal when my guests are starting to slip into a digestive torpor I’ll produce a small gold ring and announce, “Someone here ate so much that they popped this ring out of their belly-button.” The improbability makes the joke even funnier. Although one time a middle-aged LDS Bishop’s wife declared, “Oh my heck, that might be mine! Lemme check!”

    She too, was joking, but I also think she would have tolerated the Ogden teacher’s tats.

  10. flatlander100 says:

    Three things:

    1. On tats: what an insane thing to do to nice looking skin. But, diff’frent strokes for diff’rent folks, as they say. And with all the problems our schools have now, focusing on trivia like whether an experienced teacher with an arm tat can roll up his sleeves at work is just damn silly. “Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind.

    2. On what’s a fact: Charlie, you wrote “It is a fact that a huge percentage of the population has tattoos. ” Is it? A fact that a “huge percentage of the population” has tats? I’d be curious to know what that “huge percentage” is. If it’s more than 15%, I’d be surprised. If it was anywhere near 50% [and surely it would have to be more than that to minimally qualify as a "huge percentage"], I’d be stunned.

    3. Nicknamed posts: people do have reasons, and they are not necessarily trivial ones. Those who object to nicknamed postings are free, of course, to discount anything said in them.

  11. Carl Kove says:

    I’ll start using my real name as you suggested when I start getting paid for my comments.

  12. Charles Trentelman says:

    Paid?

    People here get paid?

    Wait just a cotton picking second ……

  13. Charles Trentelman says:

    as to flatlander’s question, some stunning results from the Pew Research folks:

    36% – Tattooed Gen Nexters

    Gen Nexters, Americans in the 18-25 age bracket, are not afraid to express themselves through their appearance and tattoos are the most popular form of self-expression — more than one-in-three (36%) now has one.

    Tattoos, however, are at least as prevalent among the preceding generation of Gen Xers — 40% of them have a tattoo.

    Other nontraditional appearance-altering practices are also prevalent among Gen Nexters: About half (54%) have done one or more of the following: gotten a tattoo, dyed their hair an untraditional color, or had a body piercing in a place other than their ear lobe.

    Roughly a quarter of both Gen Nexters and Gen Xers have dyed their hair an untraditional color. Gender is not a factor in either tatooing or untraditional hair-dyeing — men and women are about equally likely to have done either — but body piercing is more common among young women than among their male counterparts and slightly more prevalent among Gen Next than among Gen X: three-in-ten Nexters have had a piercing somewhere other than their ear, compared with 22% of Xers.

    The generational divide on these measures is between those under age 40 and those over age 40. Among the over 40 crowd, just 21% have engaged in any of these.

    In an accompanying chart, asked who have a tattoo, in the 41 to 64 age bracket, 10 percent said Yes.

    so, yes, I’d say a huge percentage of Americans have tattoos, almost to the point where you are weird if you do not.

    Which, yes, makes me weird in yet another category. I’m cool with that.

  14. Michael Trujillo says:

    Many of you know that I am generally suspicious of polls. But if we’re trying to determine if Charles is on the money of off base when he claims that a huge percentage of the population has tattoos, there is a Pew Research Poll available from 2006. It states that 36% of people 18-25 years old have tats, 40% of people 26-40 years old have them, and 10% of people 41-64 have them.

    My experience with the people over 40 that I know personnally is that these figures could be low. But I live in San Francisco, where tons of ex-hippies and artists live.

  15. Al says:

    Funny. Back in January, Will thought that the State of the Union was a profound illustration of Obama’s political failures. Seemed to think it was pretty important at the time.

  16. flatlander100 says:

    Charlie and MT:

    Thanks for the numbers. They are higher than I’d expected, overall. My surprise doubtless the result of we proto-geezers tending to hang out with other proto-geezers, — i.e. the age-group with lowest tat percentages.

    That said, I’d still challenge “huge percentage.” For the population overall, it’s one in three. More than I expected, absolutely, but “huge percentage”? [Hey... I are a professor. Pedantry-R-Us.]

    Thanks again for the numbers.

  17. ctrentelman says:

    flat — the bigger issue is not the 40 percent, but the fact that 40 percent feel comfortable getting something that people used to look down on — this speaks of general acceptance even among those who do not have tattoos.

    In other words, while a minority has them, a vast majority either has them or doesn’t mind them enough to go “Yuk! Get away!” when one of their friends gets one. The reaction is more likely — and I’ve seen this in operation — a “Oh, wow, cool! Maybe I’ll get one.”

    People looking down on tattoos now are the same people who defended the Beatles’ long hair. Ignore the younger generation at your peril, folks, and flat — get out more!

  18. Dovie says:

    Well, I really don’t get the real name thing. I thought there were rules of internet safety. Silly me.

    This coward wishes the Standard staff best of luck responding to each others posts. It is a paid position for you all. But I do have one suggestion for the “brave hearts”.

    Since everyone has to use their real name, I think they should give their affiliation also; i.e. Doug Gibson’s sister from Georgia (or wherever she is) etc.

  19. Carl Kove says:

    You should remember George Will devoted a complete newspaper article complaining about men wearing jeans when out in public. He menyioned seeing a father and son out together and lamented that they were not better dressed. He took offense that people wore comfortable affordable jeans instead of dress pants and long sleeved shirts when in public. Mr. Will is one of those eople who judge based on external images instead of content. Also it would be nice if the GOP would quit trying to rename everything Reagan.

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