The Yin and the Yang of it
My father was exuberant on the phone Tuesday evening.
“I want you to personally thank …,” he began.
I waited expectantly, my mind whirling. Why would my father want me to personally thank someone? He lives in Vermont; I live in the Upper Delaware River Valley.
“Jude Waterston,” he continued. “I made her Asian pork marinade tonight and it was great! I like Chinese food, and the flavors were so good.”
Then he proceeded to tell me the very thoughtful substitutions that he had made. “I didn’t have Thai basil, so I used regular. And I didn’t have a pork loin, so I used a pork chop.”
Later when my husband Stephen arrived home from the monthly business meeting of the Narrowsburg Fire Department, I told him about the fun conversation I had with my dad extolling the virtues of Jude Waterston’s Asian pork marinade.
When I started to tell him about the ingredient substitutions, Stephen laughed heartily, thinking the story was that my dad called to say what a great recipe it was and then actually had not followed it. Substituting this, substituting that.
But that wasn’t the story.
The story I was trying to tell was that my dad just loved the recipe in last week’s Food section of The River Reporter. His story is that he wanted me to personally thank Jude for giving him a recipe that he enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. My story was my delight that the paper had given my dad such joy this week!
It’s not unusual that when people tell stories, our minds go to a different place than what the storyteller intends. So much depends on the storyteller, how they are telling the story and how the listener hears it. It is funny, and totally human, for someone to love a recipe and completely change it up. It’s also true that someone can make careful substitutions that retain the nature and foundation of the recipe.
The problem is sometimes we don’t know that we have interpreted a story in our own way. You’ll remember my mantra last week: We all read the news differently. This week I add: We all have different interpretations.
Consider this email message that I received yesterday.
The subject line read: “The River Reporter refuses to publish comments.” The body of the email read:
“NY Assembly passes gun safe storage bill | The River Reporter
The River Reporter refuses to post a comments section.”
It had a P.S. that mentioned how the openness of the internet was being closed by news organizations shuttering readers’ comments. The writer said it was the "Left’s War on Comments". He cited an October 2015 article published on breitbart.com.
I responded that none of the stories on our website have comments enabled. I told him that, from our perspective, comments need to be moderated and we simply do not have the resources to do that at this time. I let him know that we print letters both in print and online, and I invited him to share his opinion there.
What surprised me about the email, which was copied to numerous people, was that he had placed willfulness (refuses) at the center of our decision to not maintain an open comment section because we could not moderate it. (This is a decision that can be and may be revisited.) It’s not that we “refuse,” it’s that we made a decision to publish moderated opinion through the editorial section.
I didn’t receive a response yet. And I hope that the writer does send a letter to the editor.
In the moderated spaces that we have, we need to have access to a variety of opinions. In those moderated spaces, we can compare our stories, adjust our interpretations and talk about our differences. (From The River Reporter’s perspective, that happens on our opinion pages, both online and in print. Our weekly print deadline is Mondays at noon; send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org)
In those moderated spaces, we all get an opportunity to form a more nuanced opinion. We, in one sense, get the opportunity to thoughtfully consider another’s opinion in relation to our own.
It’s a little like a recipe. We make substitutions. We innovate.
“Since I had less pork, I only used half the marinade,” my father told me at the end of our conversation. “I’m going to try it on chicken.”