I recently received an e-mail from a stranger challenging my thoughts regarding a specific person from history and how that person might align politically today. I didn’t think long or hard about my reply, I simply suggested they read the entire essay before attempting to correct my perspective. Thinking the correspondence was at that point completed I put it from my head. I will admit my response was a bit snarky, impolite even; I have only my own weariness to fall back on. The fact is that particular essay had been written in 2009 and remains a point of contentious debate even today, over the years many have come challenged the premise some politely and some not so much, one person even threatened violence, many have suggested there was a warm place awaiting me sometime in the future.
That wasn’t the end though. The next e-mail came within a day. It was politely written, though it chastised me for my snark, even the rebuke was done in gentle language. In reading this letter I thought to myself, in all the two-hundred plus comments not once has anyone actually asked me what was I really thinking when I put together this essay, why did I choose what I chose; perhaps this deserves an answer. Maybe it deserves more than, “Because I can, dammit”.
So I sat down to think about this essay, which my new e-mail friend had read twice now according to him. I went back to read it again as well, to make certain I hadn’t missed my own mark in the writing. Then I responded (without snark) with the explanation of my thoughts, the premise and the layers and gradations of the essay. Yes, I also apologized for my previous snippiness. Ultimately, I defended the premise of the essay but agreed I took literary license by assigning a current political stance to a historical figure based on past actions and teachings.
Communication isn’t really communication unless what I say and what you hear (read) are one and the same thing. This particular essay was nuanced; it was also a subject sure to offend some, if not many people. To some degree I knew this when I wrote it, certainly I knew it when I named it and as I tracked the comments I became increasing aware of just how big a nerve I had struck. The problem was the nuances were lost on those who took the greatest offence, but also lost on those who agreed. I learned some important things;
* People are often incapable or unwilling to read or hear below the surface and thus miss the tones.
* Always wait for morning to respond to e-mail.
I write other places on other subjects, sometimes more controversial subjects in fact. I have always thought to keep it lighter here so I have a place of solace and restfulness. I like it this way, though my links are here and you are welcome to read my more political thoughts, I don’t plan on bringing them here at this time. I have continued my correspondence with my new friend, he is kind and interesting in his challenges to my thinking. I suspect we disagree on nearly everything based on his stated political leanings. I find our discussions refreshing as they are about the finer points rather than personal attacks you find so often these days when two sides debate the issues.
Just my random thought on communication and what I learned from a single e-mail exchange.