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2017-08-03

My Bias

By Bev Barr

I grew up with newspapers. As a kid, I never thought about why some papers were called “family” papers, but years later I realized that the newspaper was central to my experience of the family institution.
For instance, the family newspaper joined us at the breakfast table first thing every morning, where it was promptly divided into parts and passed around. Phrases such as “Are you finished with the front page?” and “Can I have the comics after you?” were as commonplace as “Will you pass the salt, please?”
My family read the paper and discussed it. We kids selected articles every week to take to school with us and discuss current events with our peers and teachers. Teachers required this activity, to prepare us to carry out our civic duty as adults.
My 5th grade teacher used the newspaper to introduce us to the world of data and graphs by making us pick, track and follow stocks from the business section. These graphs became pictures that reflected change in small things and the interconnectedness of one event with other events. We learned about a small thing’s relative place within a bigger picture, such as overall market trends. And I’m not just talking about Bulls and Bears. The process of working on those old-school infographics daily provided us with an experience that made it possible for us to see other qualities — like stability, volatility, fear and panic, euphoria and satisfaction.
These days, of course stock market information and comprehensive analysis of that information is available at a moment’s notice with any smart phone and a halfway decent internet connection. But just because information is readily available — doesn’t mean we always use our information resources well.
This past week, I was reminded of the fundamental responsibility we share as citizens in a democracy to educate ourselves and stay informed. In some circumstances the effort required is as simple as reading a public notice. But who reads public notices anymore? Those dull bits of legalese don’t “go viral,” but well crafted petition might.*
In the early part of the 19th Century, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote “Democracy in America” and described the New World — us. The French historian wrote about the governing challenges of balancing what is good for the individual with what is good for the community.
More recently, a French economist examined the distribution of wealth over the past 250 years. Thomas Pikkity captured a picture of wealth distribution and income inequality in his book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”
And now, a French woman from Vanderpool eloquently paints a picture about an immediate concern, one close and dear to rural Americans. The entirety of Caroline Royall’s speech to the commissioners is printed on this page.

*An online petition detailing concerns regarding the 26-story structure proposed in Vanderpool and a request for T-Mobile and Branch Towers, LLC to find an alternative site is circulating through social media. Concerns include proximity of the proposed tower to the pristine Sabinal River and the inherent dangers to wildlife in the area, including the Golden Cheeked Warbler and the Black Capped Vireo; and the risk of contamination to underground springs that feed the Sabinal River and wells that provide water for landowners.
To learn more and read the petition follow this link: https://www.change.org/p/t-mobile-urge-t-mobile-to-protect-the-environmentally-sensitive-lost-maples-region-of-texas