A Vintage Jim Buckley Non-Apology Apology

By Montecito Journal   |   June 10, 2021

In last week’s issue, Gwyn Lurie’s “Editor’s Letter” decries what she calls “incendiary language” in my recent column, calling it a “mistake” to have even printed it in the first place. I re-read it and though found it somewhat provocative, I believe that at no time does it reach the incendiary stage (450 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Handbook of Physical and Mechanical Testing of Paper and Paperboard Volume 2; edited by Richard Mark).

My impression of what constitutes incendiary is probably different from Ms. Lurie’s, but even so, last week’s “My Take,” I believe, was a thoughtful article describing the political leanings of the two experts invited by a local group calling itself “Protecting Democracy Partners” to join them in a conversation about voter suppression.

When Republicans or others are accused of voter suppression for simply trying to guarantee the integrity of each vote by, for example, requiring some kind of Voter ID, well, I’m often “triggered” by such claims. Consequently, I felt compelled to point out that the two invitees — Marc Elias and Tiffany Muller — were partisan Democrats and that anyone considering joining in their conversation should be forewarned.

That’s all.

Apparently, there are some phrases — many phrases if one is honest — that are now considered “trigger language,” though I don’t really understand why “triggering” is a bad thing, let alone no longer allowed. I grew up in an era of free speech, without which positive outcomes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Stonewall defiance that led to gay liberation, even slavery itself would have survived much longer if not for the right of newspapers to present anti-slavery opinions.

I do believe it’s better if other points of view are presented in a community newspaper, and I’ll admit that my views are often 180 degrees the opposite of some of the other columnists in this paper. But that’s OK, right? I can be and have been snarky in some of my comments but put me down as an out-of-touch newspaperman who still lives in and relishes the era I grew up in. No doubt, journalists and editors half my age would have a completely different reaction, but I honestly enjoy it when a waitress at Camarillo airport’s popular Waypoint Café asks me: “Is everything okay, hon?” 

One more thing, at the risk of digging an even deeper hole for myself: “Mr. Buckley,” Gwyn’s Editor’s Letter states, “mistook the challenge of healing our democracy with a competitive sport in which someone wins and someone else loses.”

Ah, isn’t that the point of an election?

Just asking.

That said, readers should know that I not only enjoy stirring the pot, but also love adding ingredients to the stew. Gwyn has proven to be an inspired and superbly competent shepherd of Montecito Journal, a paper I founded more than 25 years ago. So, in a personal aside to her, I suggest that allowing the sometimes snarky but respectful and always well-intentioned “My Take” to continue could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It might even attract a different kind of readership to the paper.

Who knows? 

James Buckley

(Editor’s Note: While we left commenting on Letters to the Editor behind with the Jim Buckley era, I had to make this one exception to ask: Is it just me, or do Mr. Buckley’s pieces always get much better towards the end? ~ GL)

An Enjoyable Retort

I enjoyed your Editor’s Letter regarding James Buckley’s “Opinion” piece and also the “counter” letter to Mr. Buckley that followed. Mr. Buckley likes to play hide-and-seek with the truth, futilely trying to camouflage his partisan bias with sarcasm and innuendo. I lived in Goleta for 32 years (1983-2015), so I’m very familiar with his writing style.

I also appreciated your comment about The New York Times, but you were too kind. The incident you mentioned is only one of many extremely poor errors in judgment by this once respected newspaper. Did they ever accept responsibility for these errors or try to correct their course? No!

Keep up the good work!

Robert Baruch

Championing Civility

It was truly refreshing to read Members of Protecting Democracy Partners’ counter to a previously written Letter to the Editor by James Buckley. The Members demonstrated that political discourse can be done in a dignified and factual manner, without hurling insults to those holding opposing views. In this age of divisive polarization and pundits spewing forth disinformation and vitriol to their devoted and unquestioning audiences, it is heartening to be reminded that there are still those that are able to communicate with civility and provide fact-based information.

Kerin Friden

A Need for Change

We are all quite aware of Mr. Buckley’s opinions and grievances. Can we please let some other people have his ink.

Lee Chiacos

Time for Action

More talk is pointless. As Santa Barbara County and city spend and waste more time and money each year, to address the homeless or ‘unhoused’ problem, the problem has grown in my 41 years here.

Listening to Tuesday’s city hearing, I heard locals get shriller in their tearful sympathetic comments about homelessness, without voicing concerns for the greater public interests or safety. Nor did these speakers offer to solve this growing problem. 

Conversely, at a similar city hearing two years ago, I heard Richard Bertie, Bob Bryant, and other generous business and civic leaders offer up $100,000 each for starters to develop a village campground with hygiene facilities and electricity; a location where tents and tiny homes of 100-150 square feet could be accommodated. With designated land, multiple local donors could gift a $3,000-5,000 tiny home to provide shelter and services at one location for an ‘unhorsed’ person, couple, or small family. The suggested location off Cathedral Oaks is land near county social services, mental health, vets’ services, and county fire.

The city and county failed to follow up on this exemplary offer that would have given homeless a safe, clean place to belong for everyone’s mutual benefits.

All taxpayers fund is talk. Government talks and throws more dollars at employees and nonprofits to in turn talk to homeless while problems expand.

Taxpayers expect results starting with a designated space for Santa Barbara’s homeless.

Isn’t it the duty of our elected officials to follow through on offers; and then to hold the county and city managers accountable for making a village campground with tiny homes a reality? Are liability concerns what’s stopping this? Are we the next Venice?

Denice Spangler Adams

Returning to Where it all Started

I recently read Leslie Westbrook’s article on the Revere Room at the Miramar. She mentioned memories of past visits. Just wanted to share that we spent the first night of our honeymoon at the Miramar way back on June 6, 1964. I have photos of our stay. Our car parked in front of our ocean view room and a picture of the accommodations. After the year of COVID, and some medical issues, knee replacement, cataract surgeries and pending hip replacement, I decided to splurge and return to the Miramar once more. Unfortunately, we could not afford the ocean view accommodations, but we will at least be on the grounds. We are booked for June 6 -8. We are excited and looking forward to our fantasy 57th anniversary. Maybe if I start saving now, I can book the ocean view for our 60th.

Charlotte Gallo

The Gallos spent the first night of their honeymoon at the Miramar in 1964
The Gallos will return to the Miramar to celebrate 57 years of marriage

Saving a Life

From an early age, I was a girl whom out of circumstance found it necessary to be a responsible adult, completely independent, take care of my parent, and never ask for help. Such girls may walk gracefully in their strength; but they are not the princess in the tower. They are usually kind warriors, protectors, and cherish wisdom. How else can a girl navigate the world?

So, it overwhelms my soul when I am witness to the heroism of men and women… the extraordinary lengths of humanity given freely and without concern for self. I hear of these stories from across the globe, in remote places or cities, where life and death coexist minute by minute, second by second. I need to add my voice to the many who have expressed their gratitude and speak again of the incredible heroism here in Santa Barbara, this blessed and incomparably beautiful place.

So, here I lay with a broken leg, having just recovered from surgery and I wish to thank my heroes with all of my heart. I was not Ashley Judd, who tripped over a log and broke her leg in the Congo, at 4:30 am, searching for rare primates.

Nor was I Brooke Shields, who broke her leg on the last day of her personal training session, in the gym, while practicing balancing. If this is beginning to sound like Edward Gorey’s Amalphgory, yes that is a personal favorite. I have the idiotic distinction of breaking my leg simply walking on a very slight incline, which was covered in fine gravel.

The punch line is that it was a beloved Montecito mountain trail, which I have actually run almost every day, over the past 18 years. I know every rock and blade of grass on that trail.

Of course, I was at first in denial, and tried to stand, but the pain would not let me stand. I dragged myself to the waterfall and plunged my leg into the water and within a few minutes the cold water was simply not enough to hide the pain. Three hikers called 911 and sunset was approaching. I was at least 45 minutes up from the trailhead.

So, the timely arrival of the search-and-rescue team was a glorious site. The first wave of rescuers was a team of four men, who strapped me up and proceeded to carry me down the narrow, rocky mountain path, as if I were an Egyptian mummy. My view was of the sky darkening, and I could not stop apologizing to these men, nor thanking them. They were met halfway down by another team of men and one woman, and so I had eight brave souls navigating the steep and winding cliffside, protecting me from a fall, which would have finished me.

In my prone and helpless position, I could only compare the experience to author James Gray’s rendition of the Lost City of Z and actor Charlie Hunnam being carried thus by the South American shaman and natives to his destiny. So, I prayed to God and thanked the God within each of these brave men, for rescuing me and taking me to my destiny. Please make no mistake, that the search-and-rescue team of Santa Barbara, Montecito Fire Department, and ambulance saved my life. My gratitude is immense. It is a debt of gratitude that I will find some positive way in which to repay… But, I will need a few weeks to walk again! Endless blessings!

Alicia St. John


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