Champlain Valley Union High School student Ethan Duncan’s recent contributions to the Shelburne News are commendable. It is heartening to hear from young people who present cogent, reasoned arguments based on critical thought and factual evidence. In formulating his position, Mr. Duncan demonstrated the capacity to reject the hysterical and fearful misinformation so often presented in lieu of fact, and demonstrated the courage to take a position for which he must have known he would be chastised.
There is no reliable way to formulate defensible positions and make rational decisions other than examining truth and fact. Yet, in his response to Mr. Duncan’s initial letter, Henri de Marne presents his opinion as fact while simultaneously contending Mr. Duncan is doing the same. Mr. de Marne’s statement that we should make a concerted effort to learn about facts when making public statements is laudable. But surprisingly, he failed to adhere to his own principle by presenting no factual evidence to support his public position.
Politicians, the mainstream media, and others who would benefit most from emotion-based decisions by citizens relentlessly encourage this process. Therefore, we must be constantly vigilant in recognizing and resisting these appeals in favor of our own fact-based thinking. Just because someone tells us they are sure doesn’t mean they are right.
Long ago Daniel Webster said “The strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.” His words seem prophetic in this and many debates. If there is one thing we can probably all agree on, it is that we would like to prevent all murders, irrespective of what tool is used to commit them. Where we differ is how to approach this goal while facing the unpleasant reality it will never be fully realized. In the meantime, it should come as no surprise that law-abiding citizens object to relinquishing their constitutional rights to those whose motives aren’t always clear, and who seem long on opinion and short on fact. No one wants to be punished for someone else’s crime.
Hopefully Mr. Duncan and anyone determined to value facts over emotion will continue to participate in the civil public discussion of important issues. A fact-based dialogue is badly needed in our current political environment.
In closing I would like to offer a sincere thank you to Mr. de Marne for his service in World War II.