Communication Exchange

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 will defend positions and icons even when these haven’t been attacked.

* 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.


  1. I like that you took time to reflect on the second email and that also that the response to what you call a ‘snarky’ first email was a gentle one back to you. Respect is so important, you remind us of that with your post.

    • I will admit that I can sometimes be flippant, his really nice reply pulled my chain just enough to bring me pause. It has started a very nice correspondence and gentle debate.

  2. I think rather than label him, perhaps the kindest assumption is he has enough common sense to change a nickel. Rather than draw battle lines, he was curious as to the rules of engagement. For me, it is the fine line between hatemail (of which I am a connoisseur) and intellectual, meaningful communication.


  3. Ah, the love of the hate mail gang! You know you have done well when you get hate mail, as the goal of the blogger is to cause an emotion in their readers! Great job!

    • I don’t think this was really hate mail, that is why it was so fascinating. The continued correspondence is also really interesting because (s)he is very calm in approach to disagreement and willing even to provide insight to the other side of the argument. It is a great relief compared to some of the real hate mail.

  4. In my younger days, after a good night out and too many drinks, I would groan the following morning with self embarrisment at something I said to a girl at the abr etc. “Never again” I would say to myself. Nowadays, I repeat those groans about the rash emails / postings I have made the night before.

    You might like to visit the website of a short talk on the ettquette of emails broadcast by the BBC recently:

    if the recording will not work – then you can read the script.

    I am not a pastor or an educator – so that must mean I am a Brit!

  5. I think he was a Democrat, too, lol!

    • Actually after our third exchange he admitted to me and I quote:

      “I am a right leaning religious type that you like to try to provoke, but maybe a little different from some of those who like to throw barbs.”

      Because he is extremely polite and very knowledgeable I suspect he is one of the following: a pastor, an educator, a Brit

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