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You can’t stand tall without a spine

Posted: January 23, 2014 8:32 a.m.
Updated: January 24, 2014 5:00 a.m.

I’m a big fan of nearly every genre and era of music. Music has always been an important part of my life and I’m certain it will always be. One particular style I often enjoy is country music.

But I don’t mean the modern “southern rock” country that’s out now, where most every song sounds the same and is about the same thing … you know, sitting on a tailgate drinking moonshine or a cold beer with a girl in cutoff jeans next to a bonfire down a dirt road. Sounds like a good time, but everybody and his dog has jumped on that bandwagon and driven it to death.

In 1990, country singer Aaron Tippin, a Palmetto State native by the way, released his first big hit called “You’ve Got to Stand for Something.” Now that was a good song that actually had meaning. Tippin wrote the song about his father, who stood up for what he believed in and taught his son to do the same.

The lyrics, in part, said:

“You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.

“You’ve got to be your own man, not a puppet on a string.

Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name.

You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”

Those are words we all would be better off if we took them to heart and lived by them. In this day and age of way too much “political correctness,” many of us have lost the ability or desire to stand up for ourselves when it’s proper to do so. That applies to us as individuals and goes all the way up to us as a collective nation. I’m not talking about being belligerent bullies with chips on our shoulders looking to pick a fight where it’s not needed, but, instead, I’m talking not allowing ourselves to be bullied.

Fortunately, I have not been threatened with physical attack for decades. But these days there are all kinds of bullying that don’t involve actual violence. One threat that people all too often fear and all too often makes them compromise themselves is the “I’ll sue you” tactic. That phrase makes some people twitch like a Chihuahua. Not me. In the newspaper business, we hear that threat from time to time. We take it seriously, to be sure, but we also look at what was written that offended someone, making sure we really haven’t done anything wrong and then, hopefully, we call their bluff and that’s the last we hear about it. It is a bluff. They’re looking for an apology or a retraction or correction even when one is not appropriate.

There have been times in my career when someone has said, “I’ll be talking to my lawyer,” and my reply has always been a gentle, “that is your right if you choose to.” And, if they even followed through with the threat, which I doubt, any good lawyer would explain freedom of the press and that public records are indeed open to the public and are therefore eligible to be printed in a newspaper. I have been threatened a few times and never sued. Ever.

But, I have worked for people that would fold like a house of cards at the very mention of the word lawyer. Even when they were right, their apology could not fly out of their mouths fast enough. Offending people is usually not good in any business, especially in journalism, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided if we are to report the truth, which is our duty. I never could have respect for a spineless boss.

As people, we all occasionally make mistakes. When I do, I admit it and let the chips fall where they may. When I haven’t made a mistake but someone thinks I have, I will stand up for myself to the bitter end. That’s how I was raised and how I think all people should conduct themselves.

So, I’ll say it again. Don’t go out of your way looking for a confrontation. But if one comes to you, be ready to stand your ground and defend your position. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I failed to do that, I could never hold my head up and look myself in the eye again.

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