Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Letters, we get letters ...

Recently in our little piece of rural Wisconsin, one of the local governments had something going on that seemed a bit fishy to some people. No need to go into details (which would be meaningless to anyone not from here anyway), but it led to a couple of irate letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Then it turns out that the author of one of the letters used someone else's name [an important local name, I guess] in writing the letter, and then this someone-else apparently wound up getting nasty phone calls about a letter that this someone-else never wrote.

Much ado about nothing all that important. But it did move the poor editor of the paper to issue an apology and to point out that in a country that prides itself on free speech and a free press, (1) people need not be afraid to use their own name when they write to express an opinion , and (2) people should not be personally harassed for expressing that opinion in the letters to the editor column. Those with opposing points-of-view are invited to write (over their own name) expressing said points-of-view, which will then be published in the paper.

Actually, around here the letters to the editor often move beyond expressing an opinion on an issue and cross the line into badmouthing and insulting other letter writers on a personal level. This becomes particularly distasteful when people drag God into the middle of it, and I often choose not to read the letters to the editor for a few weeks until all that foolishness has played itself out. It crops up periodically, of course, and it can be pretty vile. But one consequence of free speech is that people have a right to say vile things. On the other hand, a consequence of free will is that I get to choose what I will expose my fragile brain to when I peruse the newspaper.

One of the wise principles of Twelve Step programs is what is called "restraint of tongue and pen." (These days I would add "and of e-mail.") I often compose letters to the editor, but I rarely see any reason to mail them.


Sunny said...

Yeah, Only problem is- you have to read something-or at least a good part of it- before you can judge if it's something you want to expose your mind to.

Kristin said...

I just destroy people online via Google reviews...AND I sign my name. Of course, its never personal...its always a business I am destroying.