Wednesday, February 7

Hate mail

I received the most appalling e-mail today. It was from a deeply religious friend who I love dearly, even though she tends to go a bit overboard at times. You know the type: won't say anything stronger than "gosh", gushes voluminously over babies and pictures of puppies, whose entire existence revolves around her children and grandchildren. Basically a sweet dear person whom I thought did not have a mean bone in her body.

All of which makes this e-mail all the more shocking. It was one of those messages with a dozen "Fw:" tags in the subject. Clearly it has been making the rounds for some time. These are not my friend's words, but rather a message she agreed with enough to bother forwarding on to us.

The e-mail started out angry:

Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001?

Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan, across the Potomac from our nation's capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania?

Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they?

And I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was "desecrated" when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet?

Well, I don't. I don't care at all.

Then it got worse. Far worse. Bad enough that I do not want to give it the credibility of posting it all here. It goes on to a vitriolic list of "I'll care when ..." statements that condone hatred, torture, and death inflicted upon the people of Iraq.

I am aghast. I am disgusted. I am astounded that statements like these can be made openly in our society without even the slightest sense of shame - quite the opposite, in fact. This message has clearly been making the rounds wrapped in pride and so-called "patriotism" and has found many supporters who agree with it.

Never mind that even the most extreme pro-war proponents in the government now admit that Al Qaeda was not, in fact, connected with Iraq.

Never mind that conservative estimates put the civilian death toll in Iraq at more than fifty thousand people. (A two-year-old CNN story puts it closer to 100,000 civilian deaths).

Never mind that the "Holy Bible" the message refers to so prominently clearly directs its adherents not to hate, but to love your enemies. As do many of the world's religions.

But saying these things here won't do any good. It won't do anything to educate the writer or the people who agreed enough with the message to forward it on. Rebutting the writer's profoundly offensive invective here with this audience will not show the writer that there is no place in our society for such hatred. Preaching to the choir here isn't going to show the world that the citizens of the USA are not all bigoted, jingoistic fiends whose focus is to kill anyone who does not subscribe to their worldview.

I feel the need to speak up. To do something. But I do not want to sacrifice a friendship by throwing more gasoline on the already-massive conflagration. Simply responding to the e-mail is likely to either close off that avenue of communication, or incite yet more flames. A face-to-face confrontation will seem like an attack on their beliefs. How does one fight hatred without stooping to that level? How do we as rational and caring human beings and members of society let someone know that what they think is patriotism is really hate wrapped in a flag without becoming part of the problem?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. TeacherRefPoet said...

    The only way to handle it is to appeal to the better angels of her nature. Jesus' teachings aren't related to the email, as you rightly point out. I'd reply to the email in a "This disturbs me" fashion, and if I'd either avoid (accurate) words like "bigoted," or take care to attach them to the email and not to the woman.

    Matthew 25, Matthew 25, Matthew 25. Verses 31-46. Nobody can rightly read it and think that the author of that piece represents Jesus, especially the worse parts that you left off (easily found on Jesus wouldn't condone Abu Ghraib or this war at all.

    I don't know this woman, your relationship, or your comfort zone, but if you call her attention to the disconnect between Christianity as Jesus presented it and the anti-Christian message of this email, you will at minimum get her to see that disconnect and possibly explain it.

    I'd recommend it. And remember not to throw all Christians in this pile. Swankette and I (and millions of others on the Christian Left) are just as pissed off as you are.


  3. Thanks, TRP. Fear not, I am in no way throwing all Christians on that pile. Far from it. I know the vast majority of Christians (and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and ...) are peaceful, life-affirming people who do not condone such hatred. It's just the freaks on the fringe who are making all the noise and getting all the attention, drowning out the more moderate and reasonable voices.

  4. Interesting ... the version of the message I got had everything from the post plus another dozen more equally poisonous lines.

  5. It's fair to say that, in the last year or so, cut-and-run has become the majority view. I just hope it translates into action, or at least our own regime change.