Opinion: Walking common ground together

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There was only one downer.

Iíve been working for morning newspapers most of my life, which generally means staying up late and sleeping past the normal rush hour.

This time, though, my phone began making some awful sound at 5 a.m.

At first I thought I was dreaming, and I could ignore it ó which would have been delightful, since I was zonked out in a really comfy position, with Sammie the Worldís Greatest Cat jammed up against my neck and cheek.

Finally, though, the reason for that alarm squawking in the dark hit me. I had an appointment Friday morning as the guest speaker at the North Idaho Pachyderm Club.

I was booked at the IHOP just off Appleway and Fourth Street for 7 a.m.

Once that had sunk in, my feet hit the floor. No way Iíd let down a group of Republicans, no matter how early they schedule these weekly get-togethers.

Truth is, I enjoy speaking engagements.

No, not to show off or drown out a crowd with my own opinions. Thereís a much more important reason.

I believe that the media and the general public donít really know each other as well as we should, not up close. Sure, we interview a few folks, but thatís not the same thing.

Most people donít have many chances to chat informally with a newspaper columnist, and itís an important thing ó especially in an era when the president has described us as ďenemies of the peopleĒ who hate the United States.

Generally, I think we dismiss those statements as political rallying, but itís a sad fact that plenty of everyday citizens have seen and heard enough nonsense that there is a general distrust of the media.

One survey after another suggests that the most frayed connection seems to be between the media and Republicans ó so what better reason for falling out of bed at 5 a.m. than to go talk with our local Pachyderms?

AS IT turned out, the audience on Friday wasnít a gang of media critics at all.

It was just a group of nice folks, and most of these Pachyderms are worried about many of the same issues that I am.

One of the items Iíd brought up from the lectern was the scary increase in suicides ó particularly among young people, and most especially in North Idaho.

We were definitely on the same page that this suicide epidemic has been made worse by most kids packing smartphones day and night.

There is such a danger of cyberbullying, and I saw a lot of affirmative nods when I suggested that perhaps teens should have to be 18 to carry a smartphone ó just like we put sensible age limits on things like drinking, voting and getting a driverís license.

Many of us at the meeting are veterans, and there also was general agreement that the government has to give the VA enough money to be of use to vets.

We could have talked all day about that.

Overall, it was a wonderful meeting and Iím honored that I was invited to speak.

Society canít possibly get better if we arenít talking to one another.

So thank you to the North Idaho Pachyderms.

Letís do it again.

ēēē

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steveís sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Twitter:@BrandNewDayCDA

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