Bob McKinney

When I started writing this column nine years ago this month (which boggles the mind), it was called “What I Know.”

“Write what you know” is an old writer’s maxim, one that a beloved college professor emphasized to me many years ago when I was struggling in his creative writing class. The name of the column was in honor of him and his timeless advice.

Although the column heading has been dropped, my intention is still to write what I know. If I’m stating an opinion, I’m going to tell you that. If I’m writing about something I’m relaying as factual, I’m going to make sure I know of what I speak – or write.

Some of you have at times challenged me on that, suggesting I might have overstepped. I am grateful for your input. When you write to me for any reason, even to gently chastise, I know you’re reading.

Also, I am a firm believer in learning as a lifelong process, and I have learned much from those of you who have been kind enough to send the occasional email.

This year I think the learning curve is only getting steeper. There are things I know, but still a great deal I don’t.

I thought it might be a good idea, at mid-2020, to summarize some of both, with an eye toward current events:

  • I know 2020 will be remembered for the events we never saw coming. Who would have ever thought a virus originating in China would turn into a worldwide pandemic that would alter life as we know it? And who would have known racial injustice and inequality would almost overtake it as the most prominent headline news item of the day?
  •  I know, even as we have begun to “open up,” I am still being very careful. I wear a mask in public and if I had my way, everyone would. My social interaction is limited.
  • I know I have missed that interaction. For the first time since mid-March, I had lunch at a restaurant with two friends last week. We sat outside and, due to some unseasonably mild temperatures for June, it was delightful. I miss meeting up with folks in this way.
  • I know seeing someone on a screen does not replace seeing someone in person.
  • I don’t know when the pandemic is going to be done, but I hear a lot of people referencing an ending to it, and how it will run its course. I don’t know if they know something I don’t, but I hope they do.  
  • I know, although we have come a long way in the area of justice and equality, we still have work to do, and we need to keep talking about it.  
  • I know I grew up in a racist environment, and it has taken my entire life to overcome it. For that reason, the subject of racism is a raw and sensitive one for me.
  • I know, even with the progress we might make regarding justice and equality, some people still won’t get it. It’s a matter of the heart. You can tear down statues, change names and remove other symbols of racism, and while those actions might help, they won’t necessarily change people.
  • I don’t know why police officers are being vilified because of the bad actions of a few. Every day these brave folks put their lives on the line to serve. One of them did that in Brentwood last week and was killed in the line of duty. Just as it unfair to engage in racial profiling, it is unfair to lump all police officers into one category. 
  • I know there is a presidential election this year. Similar to how it was four years ago, I know neither major party candidate is going to excite me.
  • I don’t know what I’ll do when I go into the voting booth in November.
  • I know, for many questions, there are no easy answers. But I know it’s important to continue asking. 

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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