I live in a largely rural and very Republican region of Ohio. Somewhat regularly, letters to the editor that make my very progressive wife shriek are published in our daily newspaper. She usually reads them to me out loud and then suggests, for the umpteenth time, that I should write a reply so that anyone who may be undecided on a particular issue actually has two points of view from which to choose. I usually beg off by asserting that the people who write such letters to the editor or who read them and give them any credibility are unreachable. One of my favorite remarks is that it would be a better use of my time to talk to the wallboard.
Shortly after the 2012 election, the following letter to the editor appeared in not just our daily newspaper but in several newspapers in our region:
Perhaps this letter is written in vain because I am aiming at the people who voted for Barack Hussein Obama, an incompetent community organizer, and to most of those voters who do not watch the national world news or read newspapers because they are busy watching Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, and Honey Boo Boo.
I want to say congratulations.
Congrats to all of you baby killers who voted for having the right to have an abortion on demand, no questions asked and to abort a baby because of the wrong sex.
Congrats to Obamacare promoters who voted for the collapse of small businesses who cannot abort this mandate to pay for insurance for their employees because of increasing costs. A fine will be imposed.
Congrats to those who voted for the unions who are destroying companies by demanding more benefits, higher wages, and defending the incompetent worker.
Congrats to you who voted for higher gas prices and not wanting to drill into our own resources and killing all of the jobs that would have been created by the Keystone pipeline.
Congrats to you who voted for stricter regulations and bigger government so that businesses who cannot comply will have to shut down.
Congrats to you voters who believe the bailout to GM was helpful and they will pay us back.
Congrats to you voters who are able-bodied bums and enjoy riding the government gravy train, who tell their kids to act dumb and fail a mental competency test to obtain mental disability payments. (Yes, I know for a fact this happens).
Congrats to you who voted for a growing trillion dollar deficit and blame George W. Bush. Get ready to bow to the Chinese.
Congrats to you who believe Al Qaeda is on the run because Osama Bin Laden is dead.
Congrats to you voters who trust our treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, the tax cheat who didn’t pay $10,000 to the IRS.
Congrats to you voters who trust the attorney general, Eric Holder, and his Black Panther buddies intimidating voters in Philadelphia and the debacle of Fast and Furious at the Mexican border.
Congrats to you voters who still trust this administration for the biggest lie and cover-up this nation has ever seen. The president, vice president, and secretary of state should be impeached for the assassination of our U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Americans were left behind!!! I guess the truth doesn’t matter.
And a big congratulations to all you voters who just stomped all over our constitution. You get the government you deserve.
God bless America and help us all.
Our house is for sale.
This is certainly the sort of letter that I try to avoid reading and usually beg off replying to because, well, how can one reply to such a rant without either indulging in an equally pointless, snide and dismissive rebuttal or presenting a long and, by comparison, dry series of factual counterpoints that will almost certainly be completely lost on anyone who could mistake such a rant for reasoned and persuasive argument.
But I may have conditioned myself to have given up too easily. The following letter to the editor was published a week or two after the rant and directly in response to it:
Perhaps this letter is written in vain, since I am addressing the small minority of local residents who voted to re-elect President Barack Hussein Obama, a man who began a lifetime of public service as a community organizer. I am proud to be among those informed voters who closely read, watched and listened to both national and world news (presented by liberal as well as conservative print and broadcast media) prior to casting my ballot. I have never watched an episode of “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol,” let alone “Honey Boo Boo”.
I want to say thank you.
Thank you to all those individuals who feel that women should be allowed to make decisions concerning the health and welfare of their own bodies.
Thank you for ObamaCare, a national initiative which will ultimately lead to a far more inclusive and equitable health care system than currently exists. Thanks to ObamaCare, over 30 million uninsured Americans will be covered by the new law. The rest of the uninsured population will be covered by expanding Medicaid, thus providing health care for everyone.
Thank you from those who are represented by unions, giving voice to those most easily ignored, overlooked, and ostracized. Far from incompetent, it is the American worker, with the dedication and willingness to make a better life for their families through the concept of hard work and physical labor, who embodies the vast majority of this nation’s population. In a world dominated by mega corporations whose allegiance is to the stockholder demanding quarterly profits, it is more important than ever that workers be allowed to collectively bargain.
Thank you to those agencies who take into consideration the welfare of future generations when issuing permits for oil and gas exploration, insisting that industries think about the environmental impact of their endeavors (as well as exploring vast tracts of government land where leases have already been approved) before further developing and altering federally protected lands. The stewardship of our resources is far more important than the immediacy of knee-jerk reactions to inflated gas prices established and regulated by big oil. Regarding energy, we must think long term.
Thank you to a federal government which establishes strict regulations so that businesses which attempt to operate outside the law are punished for their infractions. An unregulated economic system will lead to abuse. Along with human resources, the conservation of our soil, water and air must always be weighed against the benefits to society of the products produced by private enterprise.
Thank you for the bailout of General Motors, which employs nearly 80,000 workers in Ohio and over one million people nationally. Investing in American manufacturing jobs is preferable to investing in foreign ones.
Thank you for compassionate individuals who understand that there are those who are less fortunate than themselves, refusing to point fingers at welfare recipients; or worse, those with mental or physical disabilities, as being the bane of American society simply because they require public assistance.
Thank you to those who understand that the expense of unprecedented tax breaks for the wealth, two unfunded wars, and failed economic policies which brought our great nation to the brink of collapse, are a heavy burden to bear. Patience and bipartisan efforts are needed to reverse the excesses of the past decade. Extreme positions on either the left or the right are not beneficial in resolving the debt problems created since 2000.
Thank you to a government which has the power, intelligence, technology and brave soldiers to rid the world of its most wanted and despicable terrorist, regardless of who was president when it occurred. Although we will never again be able to return to the sense of safety and security we enjoyed in the days prior to September 11, the world is a better and safer place without Osama Bin Laden.
Thank you for a country in which individuals like Tim Geithner and his brother are not immediately prosecuted when found to be delinquent on less than $5,000 in property taxes. The taxes were actually owed by their mother, and discovered while settling her estate following her death. They have since been paid.
Thank you for a democracy in which an attorney general is appointed to help steer the ship of state through legal waters. While Eric Holder has legitimate questions to answer concerning “Fast & Furious”, his record is stellar compared with that of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, who resigned rather than face impeachment proceedings. And while Holder is indeed black, he is not, therefore, automatically connected to the Black Panther Party.
Thank you for your generous outpouring of heartfelt sympathy and support for the families of the four Americans killed in the attack on our embassy in Benghazi, Libya. We should honor the request of the parents of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and relatives of the other three murdered members of his diplomatic mission, who have requested that the tragic incident not be politicized. Investigations have been ordered in both the House and Senate. The truth does matter, but is not always immediately evident.
And a big thank you to the foresight of our forefathers in drafting a constitution not easily held hostage by extremists. Although it may not be perfect, the American constitution has been the model for all other democracies to follow, and I am proud and privileged to live in the United States of America, a democracy governed by a truly remarkable document.
Lastly, thank you for voting. The act of voting gives the citizenry a voice in their government, and should never be described as “stomping on the constitution” simply because the results aren’t in agreement with the individual. Let’s endeavor to return civility to our discourse.
God bless America, and help us all.
P.S. Our home is not for sale. Although as Democrats we are vastly outnumbered by Republicans in the local area, my wife and I still feel that Mercer County is one of the best places in the country to live and raise a family. We have no plans to move. We are both lifelong local residents who have many friends on both sides of the political aisle, and we have no interest in allowing that one distinction to come between the myriad other things we have in common.
This masterful letter to the editor was written by Mike Lamm, one of my former students. I am not, however, taking any credit for the clever rhetorical strategy or the deftness of expression very evident in it. A non-traditional student who had already had an accomplished career as a photographer when he returned to college, Mike brought to my courses and the others that he took at our campus a fully formed and very keen intellect and an intense curiosity. The most that I can claim is that he seemed to find some of my courses entertaining and occasionally provocative. On the other hand, he often illustrated the generally vapid truism among educators that we sometimes learn as much or more from our students as they learn from us. He would often make contributions to our class discussions that truly gave my mind something to chew on for the rest of the day.
Certainly, he has given me reason to reappraise my reluctance to respond directly to the most extreme rhetoric from the Far Right. The cleverness and reasonableness of his response to such rhetoric has probably framed progressive positions more favorably than any much more directly combative writing that I have managed to produce.