Boy, they sure don't make New Year's resolutions like they used to.
No, really. I mean, people simply aren't making them anymore.
Time was, right around the first of each year, folks would take on all sorts of outlandish promises to lose weight/quit smoking/start exercising/stop cursing. But statistics show that, these days, people just aren't resolving to do better in the new year.
Which is why I've taken the liberty of making a couple of resolutions for you.
Trust me, you'll thank me later.
New Year's Resolution No. 1: Get involved in the discussion.
If there's one thing 2010 showed us, it's that there are a lot of bat-poo crazy people out there. And unfortunately, often theirs are the only voices being heard on some very important issues. The environment. Immigration. Health care. Taxes. Whether or not that little blond girl on "America's Got Talent" was actually singing or just lip-syncing.
Look, this great country of ours already has plenty of extremist loudmouths popping off about this and that. What it really needs are thoughtful, considerate readers such as yourselves, taking the time to offer your two cents' worth. Because otherwise, only the shrill voices of those on the fringes will be heard.
So that's your first resolution for 2011: Start taking part in the conversation. Just remember Mom's advice: Don't talk with your mouth full.
New Year's Resolution No. 2: Use your real name.
OK, seriously. If you're unwilling to commit to Resolution No. 2, then forget everything I just said about Resolution No. 1.
That's one of my biggest pet peeves -- right up there with people who clip their fingernails in church and wild animals that think they have the right to just wander into my yard anytime they darn well please. Namely, that most folks post anonymously on comment boards.
Sorry, but this one is non-negotiable for me. I believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe that freedom comes with a hefty dose of responsibility for one's words.
We all bemoan the fact that our civil discourse has taken on an air of incivility. Well, a big reason for that is we can anonymously snipe from the virtual bushes of online comment boards.
And frankly, accountability breeds civility.
So man up, people, and whenever you feel the urge to flap your gums about something, use your actual name.
That's right, "efialtis," I'm calling you out. And you, too, "MacDaddy." And "OutofZion." And "I Hate Mammals." And every other shadowy figure who regularly posts comments on the Standard-Examiner's website without taking any real responsibility for their words.
Don't get me wrong, clever little screen names are fun and all. Heck, I myself would prefer to sign all my columns as simply "McLovinNewsDude007," but that probably isn't going to happen in this lifetime.
There's this great scene in the Disney animated classic "Bambi" where Thumper makes the observation that the newborn deer prince "doesn't walk very good."
"Thumper!" Mrs. Rabbit scolds. "What did your father tell you this morning?"
Recites a penitent Thumper: "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all."
Actually, I suspect that Mr. Rabbit was misquoted. What he actually said was, "Son, if you can't take responsibility for the things you say, keep 'em to yourself. ... And oh, by the way, your mother's pregnant again."
Think my weekly rantings are a steaming pile of subject-verb-object? Take a number. But at least have the common decency to use your actual name when you tell me I'm full of it. That way, I can hunt you down and key your car.
And so, without further ado, it's time to make these resolutions official. If you would all please kindly stand, raise your right hand (and, just for grins, your left leg), and repeat after me:
"I, state your name, do hereby resolve to become more active in important community discussions, like why Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey is/isn't a creepy troll. I further resolve that in any and all conversations -- with the possible exception of screaming at referees during sporting events -- I will not hide behind the cowardly veil of anonymity. I henceforth eschew false 'screen names,' which are almost as annoying as vanity license plates. Oh yeah, and while I'm at it, in all future exchanges with columnist Mark Saal, I resolve to affectionately refer to him as 'McLovinNewsDude007,' and this I do of my own free will, so help me Glenn Beck."
Perfect. Now, about that resolution to lose a little weight ...
Contact Mark Saal -- quietly, if you please; he's a little hung over this morning -- at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.