The week when everyone swore “Je suis Charlie” in order to defend free speech and the free press, I was engaged in an e-mail exchange with a somewhat less noble creature of the “progressive” left who held me in about the same amount of esteem as the Muslim terrorists held the staff of Charlie Hebdo.
Of course, the takeaway from “Je Suis Charlie” — as explained to us by the national media — is that most people (even in left-wing France) celebrate free speech and encourage a free exchange of ideas.
Sadly, my experience over the past 10 years is not the same. Writing a column from a conservative point of view has left me exposed to vitriol, venom and vulgarity more times than I care to remember. Prominent citizens wonder aloud how I could be allowed to write my column and say what I believe. Can’t I be muzzled? Silenced? Stopped?
How dare I write in defense of the Constitution? Or in opposition to Obamacare? Or in outrage over Benghazi?
To refresh your memory, two weeks ago I wrote my “Editor’s 2 cents” column on the American public’s lethargic acceptance of policies that have put in grave doubt the continued supremacy of the U.S. Constitution and thus the continued existence of the republic of the United States of America.
Although I spiced things up a bit with references to “The Walking Dead” and the Roman Coliseum, the argument of the column was serious and alarming. It was not a partisan attack, by any means, but inveighed against “abuses and the corruption of the system by powerful forces that have only their own self-interest in mind.”
I noted in the column that “a lot of good people will read these words and declare that I am the problem.”
Well, one gentleman in particular must have taken that as a personal challenge because at 9:36 a.m. on the Sunday the column was published, I got an e-mail from a guy we can call Frank’s No. 1 Fan.
It was titled “A--hats and Idiots” and it was a semi-literate attack on yours truly. Here it is, in full (except for the expletives) and as it was sent:
“you forgot to blame,BENGAZZY!what a right wing tool you are franky.I moved from kalispell because of a--holes like you.ignorant ,opinionated with a bully pulpit,good work frankie.anyhow I just wanted to tell you to f--- off b----!
Let it not be said I don’t like to get fan mail. Indeed, I was so tickled that I quickly wrote a response and e-mailed it back. I tried to be my usual pleasant self even though I noticed a slight tinge of hostility in Mr. No. 1 Fan’s letter.
“Hi XXXX: I don’t think we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, but feel free to stop by sometime to continue this high-level conversation. One thing I didn’t notice in your reply was any attempt to respond to the substance of my column. Feel free to try. Best, Frank.”
Apparently my efforts at being gracious were unsuccessful, as No. 1 Fan wrote back a day later even more dissatisfied with my e-mail than with my column!
“a little thin skinned,franky?your word salad has no substance.your reaction to people telling you to f--- off is very telling thou.is sara palin a hero of yours?is louie gomert a god to you?do you fantasize about torrid wide eyed bungholery?we have meet,that is why I titled our talk,a--holes [sic] and idiots!”
You can imagine my shock that I had met my No. 1 Fan as I didn’t recall anyone ever using any of those nasty words in my office or, indeed, to my face at any location. I wrote back to my old pal while I was still somewhat in shock, but I think I was pretty polite considering the circumstances.
“Hi XXXX-Y: It would appear you don’t know the meaning of thin-skinned. It is you who have reacted with a wild-eyed, profanity-laced tirade to a commentary about politics that you did not like. I, on the other hand, after being personally insulted by you, invited you to come in and have a chat. Have a happy new year. Frank.”
Did I go too far with the “happy new year”? Perhaps. Or perhaps my No. 1 Fan did indeed pop some corks and was downing the bubbly when he wrote these vile words:
“‘have a chat’, is gay slang ,right,frankie boy?I see the angle you are working!brilliant!want to tap your foot by my toilet stall?what a man frankie boy!the pen is mightier than the d--k!right frankie!”
That e-mail was sent to me about seven hours before the office of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris was entered by two Muslim terrorists who sought to silence free speech with bullets. By the time I read my No. 1 Fan’s sad gay-bashing e-mail the next morning, it had paled into insignificance compared to the carnage abroad. But it also was obvious to me that he was no more capable of learning tolerance than those Islamic brothers with their AK-47s were capable of compassion.
The pen is mightier than many things, but ignorance is a hard shield to penetrate.