EDITORIAL: Letter to a letter writer

WE DON’T GET MANY anonymous letters and we’ve never published one that I recall. Nor would we knowingly print a letter from somebody using false name. That’s why we call letter writers to confirm their identity. We couldn’t call you.

Last week your handwritten letter arrived in our mailbox and I’m going to share some of it even though it’s unsigned. It looks like you put effort into your letter. You covered both sides of the lined, three-hole notebook paper (I use a lot of that). You got my attention by addressing it to “The Editor and Alan ‘Cry Baby’ Chartock” and you say at the top that it’s from a “Reader/Subscriber.”

As you know, Dr. Chartock writes the weekly Capitol Connection column. He’s also CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and he regularly faces far worse name calling than yours. He doesn’t need me to defend him. But you open your letter by saying you’ve read The Columbia Paper “for years.” I take that as a compliment and for your investment in this newspaper, I say, Thank you, whoever you are.

You write that since Donald Trump was elected, Dr. Chartock and I have been “crying about all the liberal bull–,” here you censored yourself; I appreciate that. You say, “It’s making me sick!” Specifically, you fault me for saying “Trump is bad and the women are so badly downtrotted. [sic]” I’m sure you meant to write “downtrodden” (but I really like your new word) because you follow that with: “Tell the women or gays to go to the Arabic world and see what will happen to them.”

You and I would agree that women and people from the LGBTQ communities are oppressed in countries like Saudi Arabia. The rulers there are fundamentalist autocrats with no tolerance for a diverse society. But c’mon, is that the standard you want us to use to measure progress in this country? Our goal should always be that we’re the freest, fairest nation on Earth, not one step above the worst.

You can call it crying when I voice support for equal pay for equal work. I call it my American sense of fair play. If I say that a national plan for family leave would make the economy stronger, you’re hearing a cry for common sense. And if I urge readers to resist Republican efforts to undermine Planned Parenthood clinics that provide vital healthcare to thousands of women, any tears I shed are for those who could lose their only healthcare options if the GOP has its way on this issue.

You hope President Trump succeeds and say, “you both hope he fails. Help the country. If you don’t, you are traitors.”

I admit that the president has made it difficult to approve of some of his actions, especially when he says the news media are “the enemy of the American people.” We don’t cover White House press conferences and I doubt that President Trump has The Columbia Paper on his enemies list. But his practice of governing by tweets often leaves me confused about who he has in mind when he says stuff like that.

Mr. Trump emitted this latest anti-press tweet after you wrote your letter, but there were similar attacks on the press going back to the campaign, when he characterized the reporters as “dishonest” and “despicable” and on and on. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for us. But before Donald Trump rose to power, how many times did you call someone a traitor for doing a job protected by the Constitution of the United States?

You end by saying: “I’d write my name but you’d get the SS after me.”

I’m guessing again, but I think that by “SS” you’re referring to the Secret Service, the agency of the Treasury Department that protects the president and investigates threats to both the president and vice president. We would report anyone who did lodge a threat, but your letter did not, in any way, threaten Mr. Trump.

That makes me wonder whether now, under the Trump Administration, you think you are at risk from your government simply for signing your name on a letter addressed to a local newspaper. I don’t think you need to worry about that but I promise you this: If the time comes when letters to the editor are a crime, I will do everything in my power to protect your right to speak freely.

Parry Teasdale, Publisher

Comments are closed.