It has been nine months, almost to the day, since the tragedy of last year. Four planes, three buildings, nearly 3,000 people and innumerable lives changed in one United States. Nine months may have dulled the pain, but the wound has not yet begun to heal. The tragedy begat a broad spectrum of emotional reactions, the most prominent a unifying patriotism in those not directly touched by the event. Considering other scandals of recent years, this unifying effect is a true silver lining to the very dark cloud hanging over our nation.

As we reflect on current events and discuss our opinions of them, we all need to be on guard regarding the emotional energy that arises from such circumstances, particularly when we are still convalescing from recent wounds. It is all too easy to lose focus, to misunderstand, to jump to conclusions and to lose sight of what, and how, we are relating to one another.

It is perhaps unwise to speak about things that one does not know for certain; likewise it is unwise to speak in anger for it clouds judgment and dulls the point. When opinions are debated, difference is inevitable but differences cannot be changed forcibly. They can, however, be resolved if we make an effort to understand each other and aid in the understanding of ourselves through clarity and restraint.

In coming to a mutual understanding, if not agreement, the first step is to humanize those with whom we disagree. Unfortunately, this process is often hampered by the written word as with other media. As a result, it is quite easy to become detached from people with whom we converse and to choose words less carefully than we might in a face to face conversation. Remembering the simple fact that we are, all of us, human as well as American can enable us to get to and deal with the point much more efficiently.

There are few defining characteristics that are shared by all Americans; surely the belief in the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression is one of these. When we as Americans converse, directly or indirectly, on topics of national interest divergent opinions are unavoidable. These differences often spark discussion, debate, and even argument. This open and free communion of thought is what makes our country truly great and our democracy truly strong.

As the Western Carolinian adjusts to a new format and a new editor, the paper will address many issues that are open to myriad viewpoints. Hopefully the paper will always offer balanced coverage throughout the publication as a whole, not weigh in too heavily on one side or the other. The Ombudsman looks forward to the opportunity of holding the paper to principles of integrity, honesty and balance. If you as a reader notice anything at all that you feel needs to be brought to WCnewsmagazine’s attention, please do not hesitate to write our Ombudsman at: ATTN: OMBUDSMAN, WCnewsmagazine, WCU, Cullowhee, 28723; or by e-mail at (subject field: “OMBUDSMAN”).