Sir (or Madam, as it was not clear from the lack of signature which you may be),
Thank you for your note of the Nth instant concerning your feelings about our organization’s position regarding the current crisis in our community. The strength and sincerity of your position are well represented in the brevity of your declaration that you will cease to do business with us due to our public stance. As you may know, the open exchange of ideas is central not only to our own philosophy but to the very identity of our community and country. Unless we know, unless we can discuss and debate, unless we can openly disagree and engage with each other and, in time, find common ground based on such free exchanges, we cannot move forward, we cannot improve, we cannot redress grievances or attend to injustices.
Which makes it all the more puzzling that you chose to send your note anonymously.
You place me at a disadvantage, since obviously you know how to directly communicate your sentiments to me but I have no recourse to reply other than by public pronouncement. I can only conclude that you have no interest in my response, and so also conclude that this was not the sincere offer to engage that it might seem at first brush.
Why is that?
Well, perhaps there is a clue in what you chose to say to me.
You have declared that you find my—and my organization’s—position partisan, that I have failed to see a “bigger picture” by not including irrelevancies in my stated position, and that I am therefore “fueling hatred” by supporting only one side of the issue. You claim that by not opening out a larger umbrella that includes so many factors that the basic point of my argument would be lost in the muddle that I am an agent of chaos.
You finish by declaring that you will never do business with us again.
Since I don’t know whether you have ever done business with us in the first place, as you failed to identify yourself, I have no way of knowing how much of a loss this may (or may not) be.
However, I’m sure you have your reasons for remaining anonymous. Possibly many reasons. So, be that as it may, I will address myself to your detailed charge that I and my organization may be “fueling hatred.”
The hatred is already there.
Let me see if I can explain this by an analogy. “Fuel” suggests a fire, which seems apt in this case, so—
If a particular house is on fire and the fire department has yet to be called, if I start a campaign pointing out that a house is on fire in order to bring the firefighting strength of the community to the scene and put it out, then why would you try to undermine that by pointing to all the other houses that are not burning and complaining that the blazing house is getting preferential treatment when everyone knows “All Houses Matter”? If you’re successful, then the fire department will spray water all over everywhere and likely fail to put the fire out in the one house that is burning.
Of course, the problem with that is, since the fire will not then be out, it will likely spread to all those other houses which received a then-unnecessary dousing.
My declaration that “This House Matters” on the other hand points to the problem and it can, hopefully, be dealt with directly and thoroughly, before all those other houses are engulfed.
There is no logic in your opposition to my campaign.
Unless you don’t want the fire in that house extinguished. Unless you want it burned to the ground so you don’t ever have to think about it again. Unless you don’t regard the people living in that house as worth the same consideration as the residents of all those other houses.
Surely not. That would be cruel. That would be—how shall I say this?—discriminatory. That would be the position of…
But, surely not. Surely you are not so bereft of human sentiment as to wish ill upon people you probably don’t know. You would have to not know them to think that way, because surely if you did know them then you would be even less endowed with the compassion necessary to live profitably in a community.
Ah, not your community? Well, that’s just a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Perspective and border grids?
But, as I say, surely not.
Maybe you simply object to someone interrupting your tranquility by summoning a gaggle of loud firefighters into your neighborhood. After, your house isn’t on fire, why should you have to put up with the noise and inconvenience of saving someone else’s house? And, really, shouldn’t they have paid closer attention to their house so that it didn’t catch fire in the first place? Obviously, it’s their fault, otherwise the house wouldn’t be on fire.
And me? You object to me calling attention to the fire? Because it may spoil your weekend plans?
Logically, then, there are two conclusions. Either you don’t believe you should sacrifice your peace of mind in the cause of putting out the fire…or you want the fire to run its course.
I suppose it’s possible that you don’t believe there actually is a fire. That’s possible. But then why object when someone points out to you that there is?
Is it possible you could feel responsible for that fire?
This analogy has run its course. Obviously we’re not talking about houses on fire—although that has been a part of this—but people who are living in conditions less than ideal. And through no fault of their own, are being abused for having to live in those conditions. Or, even less comfortably for you, abused simply for being who they are.
Which is sort of similar to what you’re doing to me and my organization. I—we—have taken a position of conscience. Because this is who we are. You are objecting to that and threatening us as a result. Just because of who we are.
What is more, a part of you knows you’re wrong. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any of this anonymous nonsense. You want me to know how very strongly you disapprove of what I do but not strongly enough to sign your name to the disapproval.
Another possibility is that you feel compelled to take part in this debate but you don’t have anything useful to say. You resent that, you resent being made aware of problems you’ve probably been ignoring all your life—or never believed were problems—but now that there is an argument, you really want to take part in it, but there is nothing—nothing—in your background, your lived experience, your education, or among your family or friends that would provide you with one constructive thing to contribute. Saying nothing is not an option, because then you wouldn’t be in on the action, so…
That would be kind of juvenile, though, don’t you think? Not knowing how to build something and feeling left out, you do the one thing you know how to do—throw a brick at someone else’s building.
No, surely not. Surely you aren’t that bereft of options or compassion.
But you felt the urge to threaten. Why? You felt the need to try to obscure a problem and make it seem not so important. Why? You felt the need to get angry at the people calling in the fire department instead of taking your place in line at the bucket brigade. Why?
I am left finally with the one conclusion that makes any sense to me, given the paucity of clues with which I have to work because you have chosen not to engage in a dialogue but instead throw a brick—a paper one with words on it, but a brick nonetheless. That, in it’s simplest terms, you have caught yourself looking into the mirror I’ve helped hold up and you don’t like what you see. You hate me now for showing you a glimpse of yourself you thought long buried and forgotten.
To once more use the house analogy, while you may not have set the fire, you probably stood on the sidelines with a bag of marshmallows and a long stick.
I’d rather not think that of you but there’s no way for me to know otherwise, because you’ve chosen to show me this and nothing more. I can’t discuss it with you. I don’t know you.
You don’t know me, either. And evidently, you don’t want to.
And that is where the problem begins and finally ends.
….but you already know who I am.