In clearing out some clutter in the house recently, I came across a small book titled "In My Humble Opinion." The book is meant to be a journal to encourage venting about why one supposes people in general are so stupid.
On each left page is a quote about humanity. For instance, "The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything." - Clarence Darrow
On the right is a ruled right page for one to expound on the statement at the top: Why people are like that today.
My book is blank. Perhaps it's because, in my humble opinion, people in general are not like that.
Most are fairly intelligent, somewhat creative and well-meaning. And some otherwise smart people are misguided or misinformed.
Of course, some people are idiots. And some are just waaaay out there, with ideas that seem ridiculous to the rest of us - these are the folks Darrow describes.
One thing we all have in common is the tendency to have opinions.
Long ago, I learned that opinions are like noses, as they say. Everybody has one. We have certainly seen evidence of that during the past weeks of political conventions, haven't we?
We publish opinions in this newspaper, under the heading of "editorial." This column is based on opinion (as well as inspiration, random thoughts, encouragement and positivity).
While our expertise articles are written by those well versed in their subject areas, the writers' opinions sometimes show through.
Even the choices of what goes into any publication, or TV and radio broadcast, are based on the opinion of the editor, publisher, director or editorial committee about what constitutes the best news.
Sometimes, it's easy to take on someone else's opinion as fact because it sounds good. It makes a little sense, so we believe it.
But do we do our research before we adapt this newly discovered "position"? Do we find out if the information is true or partly true or made up, or taken out of context or sensationalized?
Often, the "facts" are someone's opinion reformulated into a "truth" that is constructed to lead others to believe it.
So, how do most of us do research for the truth? Why, the internet, of course. And if we read it on the internet, it must be correct, right? Not necessarily.
Keep in mind that some web sources such as Wikipedia are written by folks like you and me, people who have a little (or a lot of) knowledge about a topic. And anyone can create a "news" website.
Election season is probably one of the worst times to listen to "truth" formed from the opinions of others. In these weird times in American politics, with its back room deals, lies, deceit and misleading information, we must be ever more diligent in discovering the truth.
Read a few respected news sources, watch more than one TV news network, listen to smart people. Don't just blindly believe everything you read or hear.
The world is a great place, America is a great place, the Lowcountry is a great place. Good, smart people exist (maybe more in the Lowcountry than elsewhere), but we aren't immune to stupidity, or personal agendas that aren't in the best interest of the whole.
Especially in this election season, use your own nose to sniff out truth.