If John Balentine’s goal is to get reaction to his columns in The Forecaster, well, to borrow a phrase from one of his two favorite 21st century presidents: Mission accomplished.

The Northern Forecaster’s July 15 issue ran four letters and one full-length guest editorial that took aim at (and issue with) his expressed views on mask wearing, freedom, the role of government and a variety of other issues, all of which Mr. Balentine predictably approached from his familiar –and to many of us, increasingly tired – right-wing talking point perspective.

One reader referred to his “particularly uninformed” column of July 1, another suggested he was “wrapping himself in Betsy Ross’ flag,” a third labeled his rhetoric “jingoistic” and yet another suggested he was a “Tucker Carlson wannabee.” For good measure, a full-length guest editorial from an exceptionally articulate former congressional staffer eloquently laid out the incongruousness of Mr. Balentine’s simplistic contention that “Our government’s lone job is to ensure individual rights to speech, worship, peaceable assembly, private property and a host of other liberties” by providing a quick review of what America’s Constitution actually states and, presumably, a needed refresher course on the purpose of government.

To be clear, I agree editorially with each of the writers who criticized Mr. Balentine; I find his commentaries so consistently at odds with reality and facts that I sometimes wonder if he actually believes any of what he writes.

However, what each of his critics failed to do in their assessments of his work was to point out his courage. I’m quite sure Mr. Balentine knows a significant number of his readers (probably most of them) will strongly disagree with every one of his published commentaries, and as such, he’s going to be the consistent target of public criticism. Every opinion writer needs a thick skin, but a right-wing pundit living in a majority-progressive area is particularly vulnerable to verbal and written disapproval, a significant amount of which is, sadly, abusive and/or personal.

Mr. Balentine’s detractors should take a step back and imagine how we’d feel if we held the opinions we do, but lived in a rural area of Oklahoma, Idaho, Alabama or any other red state. Were I to write a column stating my views on current issues in a non-urban area of Arkansas, Wyoming or even certain parts of Maine, I imagine the feedback I’d get would be overwhelmingly unfavorable, no matter how rationally and persuasively I stated my case. And while I realize that public criticism means people are paying attention, I also imagine that being the brunt of ceaseless abuse week after week can be anywhere from discouraging (at best) to frightening, depending on the mental and emotional state of the people doing the criticizing.

John Balentine is doing Forecaster readers a vital service by expressing his opinions. While a great many people may disagree with him, it’s important his views be aired, because it’s a reminder he’s not the only one out there toeing the “far right” line. I just completed a trip that took me through Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee, and I can tell you that there are places in this country where Mr. Balentine’s views would probably strike the locals as far too liberal.

As illogical and infuriating as people like me find most of Mr. Balentine’s screeds, it’s important to remember he’s not the only one who holds the views he’s expressing. Belittling him (and others like him) merely serves to further polarize Americans, which is, ironically, the goal of certain people Mr. Balentine admires and people like me so strongly object to.

Andrew Young is a resident of Cumberland.

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