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Dueling readers

Sunday’s In Focus will feature a response to last week’s anti-war column by Jim Stoffels of World Citizens for Peace.

The In Focus column the week preceding Stoffels’ piece was also a response to an earlier writer.

We’re happy to run an opposing view, but dealing with dueling readers can be one of the trickiest challenges for the Herald’s opinion staff.

Letter writers, and sometimes local columnists, want to hold a slow-motion argument on our pages. If you write a letter, and a second writer runs your opinion through a meat-grinder, the urge to reply can be overwhelming. Truth is, we relish a good exchange between letter writers and think readers do too. If people are moved to respond — positively or negatively — by something they’ve read on the Opinion or Voices pages, then we’re succeeding in our mission to foster a dialogue.

But these disputes are also an opportunity for hurt feelings. We try to draw the line on name-calling or other ad hominem attacks, but it’s not always clear where that line ought to be.

A few weeks ago, our In Focus column featured a first-time voter’s thoughts on the presidential race. A lot of readers responded.

The young author, Angelina Navarette, has sent us a response to her critics. It exceeds our word limit for letters to the editor, but publishing it would surely to start another cycle of responses.

We’re thinking about giving Navarette and some other first-time voters their own blogs on This election has young people excited about the choices they’re facing, and we want to encourage them.

I’ll post Navarette’s comments to her critics below. I’d be interested in hearing what readers think. Should we find a space on the opinion pages to run it?

What about the general idea of tit-for-tat exchanges between readers. Do they enhance or detract from the opinion pages?

Here it is:

Hello again, it’s Angelina Navarette. I wrote the In Focus piece last month and I’ve noticed that quite a few of you have responded — and not in a good way.

I understand that not everyone has the same political views and rightfully so. When I wrote the op-ed piece it was an assignment for my writing class — not intended for anyone besides my teacher and I to read. He ended up liking it so much he asked me to submit it and here we are.

I had to cut my writing down drastically, from nearly 900 words to under 600. So for those of you who have advised me to do more research and take a look at more issues I’d have to agree with you — and I did, you just didn’t get to see all of it.

To Michael Anderson who stated, ”communism looks good on paper too” I would have to disagree — a government style that promotes the establishment of a classless, stateless society based on common ownership on the means of production doesn’t sound all that impressive to me.

Sadly this out-of-context statement was the most memorable piece of your writing, taking away from your otherwise cynical view of Obama.

On Obama’s economic policy Anderson says, “Raising business taxes will drive many small businesses out of business.” Why is it then that on Feb. 26, the American Small Business League publicly endorsed Barack Obama?

Lloyd Chapman, President of the ASBL stated, “I am so tired of being disappointed by our elected officials. For the first time in many years I am genuinely excited about this election. In my life, I have never been more excited about any politician than I am about Barack Obama. I believe that he holds the key to a new future for all Americans. I believe that with Sen. Obama in the White House, Americans are going to be more proud of this country than they have ever been in their lives.”

As to Ramona Vallee who advised me to look at THREE simple questions when choosing a candidate — if three questions are enough for you to make a decision on who should be President, well then I guess you’re worse off than me and my “cursory research and faulty conclusions.”

And for those of you who label Obama as an “empty promise” I’d like to ask you what backing do you have for this belief? You won’t know until he’s given the chance to fulfill all that he has promised.

Angelina Navarette