Paul Greenberg

I see by the Letters column that I'm in trouble with readers again, but when am I not? Which is fair enough. More than fair, since I signed up for criticism when I became a newspaper columnist. Indeed, a columnist who isn't in trouble isn't much of one. If he isn't offending somebody somewhere, he isn't doing his job. Because he isn't saying anything.

There are worse things than drawing flak in the public prints. Like a columnist's churning out stuff so tepid he never gets a response at all. You have to try to be that boring. I don't know how David Broder does it.

A confession: When the letter writer disagreeing with me is petty, petulant, peevish and generally small-minded, I enjoy it. It's not that I'm a masochist; it just feels like vindication. If those are the kind of people who disagree with me, how wrong can I be?

I tell you what bothers me: When a letter writer who's petty, petulant, peevish and generally small-minded agrees with me. Now that hurts. If those are the kind of people who agree with me, how right can I be?

The other day, the good old Letters column offered responses pro and con to a column of mine about the Christmas Wars, the annual donnybrook over how to observe the birthday of the Prince of Peace.

Apparently there are two camps, the Merry Christmas crowd and the Happy Holidays people, and some folks insist on pitting them against each other. Like the Rev. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. He'd used the church's website, Lord forgive him, to post a list of those businesses whose observance of the holiday did not accord with his standards. Apparently they'd wished customers Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

Besides being petty at a time of year that should inspire generosity, this struck me as coming too close to intimidation. It lacked, shall we say, Christian charity.

A letter writer in Edgemont, Ark. -- that's on the shores of beautiful Greers Ferry Lake in the northern part of the state -- took exception to my views on season's greetings. (Which might be summed up as Good Will Toward Men.) On the subject of coming too close to intimidation, I'd mentioned my father's unhappy experience with the protection racket in Chicago back in the all-too-roaring Twenties. And so, rebutting my every point, the letter writer even managed to put in a good word for the mob before he was through. All in all, a most satisfying response to a column.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.