Letters: A study in contrast
We saw in last week’s Yuma Pioneer a note-worthy pair of letters-to-the-editor.
The first of these was submitted by Gabe Harper:
“I was raised in Yuma, but for the last few years lived in both Denver and Chicago. Making new friends I found myself debunking what I thought were misconceptions about small-towns. After I moved home in March I soon realized it was my mistake to believe stereotypes of community were misguided.”
He then gives several examples of precisely the stereotypes he’d previously attempted to debunk.
“While on a walk in April, passengers in a passing pickup threw garbage at me and called me ‘girlyboy.’ In May, white supremacists on Facebook discussed arming themselves and intimidating attendees of the peaceful Black Lives Matter vigil. In June, a man (not wearing a mask) called me a ‘faggot’ at the grocery store. In July employees at a business pointed and laughed at my rainbow shirt and refused me service. In Auguste, I heard someone casually use the N-word…Smalltowners are quick to villainize ‘PC-culture’…but who will point out their participation in the division? I wish it weren’t true, but now I know better than to defend Yuma the next time someone assumes our community is close-minded, ignorant, and bigoted.”
Do any or our readers dispute that these sorts of things regularly occur in our great county? Does it bother you?
By chance, directly below Gabe’s piece was a letter that offered an illuminative contrast in how to speak directly to difficult issues. It was written by someone called Name Withheld:
After a paragraph that attempts to establish legitimacy by invoking the First Amendment, Withheld writes, “In America, freedom of expression is under attack. Instead of engaging in honest debate and allowing people to decide for themselves, many Americans label any views they disagree with as ‘hate speech’ or ‘racist.’ They even try to pass laws that ban undefined ‘hate speech.’ We are all aware of ‘hate news’ which the media outlets engage in blatant bias and pretend it is honest reporting.’ It’s true, not all media is like that, but we as humans tend to be drawn more to that type of reading, not only in the news but on the internet as well!…We as Americans should develop a healthy skepticism about what we hear or read online, as well, and that truth prevails. American democracy depends on it.”
What, precisely, is Withheld objecting to? I sort of agree with some of what Withheld is sort of saying (for example, humans do tend to be drawn to alarmist stories). But what is Withheld actually saying? If Withheld longs for an honest debate, then Withheld must first honestly declare what he/she believes.
Since we have no specifics, we’re forced to guess, which, unfortunately, leaves Withheld at the mercy of our imaginations.
Does Withheld perchance get his/her ideas from Fox, OAN, Newsmax, Facebook, the ol’ gang at the coffee shop, maybe an influential pastor? His/her rhetoric suggests that this is the case. Does Withheld long for the days when it was acceptable to call someone a faggot, to use the N-word, or to refuse service to someone wearing a rainbow shirt? One hopes not. Then again, what sort of hate speech (or, using Withheld’s telling punctuation, “hate speech”) is Withheld withholding from us?
Instead of making vaguely-phrased complaints about suppression of free speech, and thereby inviting wild suppositions such as the ones I offer in the above paragraph, Withheld could simply say what he/she clearly wants to say. But something tells me that Withheld knows perfectly well that his/her views are too loathsome to share in a family newspaper. Maybe Withheld can clarify his/her stances in some future letter-to-the-editor. (I will apologize forthwith if I’ve mischaracterized Withheld’s statements.)
Ultimately, one of these letters-to-the-editor was submitted by someone who had the courage to call out the cowards and bigots who have harassed him.
The other letter was written by someone who wouldn’t even sign his/her name.
Letters: A study in contrast