Judith Barnard: Guest opinion
September 4, 2009
Why do people write letters to the editor?
Some write to participate in debates or discussions on pressing governmental, economic or social issues that affect a region, a nation, or the nation as part of the world: health care reform, energy policy, wars, education, trade, and so on.
Whether these letters enlighten, enrage, inform, goad or perhaps influence policy, they are essential to democracy, making of us participants in the ongoing deliberations that determine the course of our region or country, and result in policies impacting all of us directly or indirectly, today or eventually.
Others write out of personal rage, to air a grievance. This is odd, to say the least. These letters neither enlighten, inform nor influence significant issues of our time; instead, they cry out a complaint. Recently an Aspen resident wrote two mean-spirited letters complaining about behavior of which he disapproves on the part of Alan Fletcher, CEO of the Aspen Music Festival. Why did the resident do this? Why didn’t he just call Mr. Fletcher on the phone (easily done) or send him an e-mail (easily done), suggesting other forms of behavior more to his liking?
Why didn’t he buy him lunch (very easily done) and discuss this behavior like an adult trying to improve an organization he clearly enjoys, one that is beloved by thousands? In other words, why use letters to the editor as if it is a crib from which a scream of rage might emerge that makes sure passersby know that someone is Really Angry?
It would seem the only reason is to stir up anger in others. This kind of letter does not appear in national newspapers, but in local or regional ones that serve communities where turmoil over issues smaller than national or global ones can be stirred up because the issues are more easily grasped and more quickly responded to. What a waste of time and energy!
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Worse, what a way to roil a community that, at its best, is filled with people who appreciate beauty and harmony, whether in music, civilized discussion, forums that educate and/or amuse, the sharing of literature and drama, or the glories of the mountains?
Surely there are far, far better ways to use our gifts of expression, and if they don’t always work to our satisfaction, there is solace in hiking to Buckskin (very fast) and, out of breath, and breathless with the scene on all sides, contemplate the vast gulf between infantile behavior and the immensity of our world.
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