Friday, September 03, 2010

Anonymous Letters

(This is not what I planned on writing today, but I heard this story and had to share it. I'll probably write about it again.)

I'm sure that I've received anonymous letters--at least anonymous notes--before. You know, in elementary or junior high, someone might like you and pass along a note. As you walk down the hall, you wonder who it might be that likes you. It changes the way you look at everyone when you receive a note like that--anyone could be that person. In this case, it's an exciting feeling as a kid.

That's not exactly what I'm writing about today. I sat with my mom in her family room. The back porch door was open. My dad, sister, and brother-in-law sat talking on the back porch. Mom and I sat in the adjoining room with the T.V. on. I had turned it on "Murder She Wrote." She said, "Let's not watch "Murder She Wrote." Let's watch "Monster Fish"--something really stupid. Don't you want to know about the jungle catfish?" This was after an extensive conversation about the benefits of emu oil which everyone in the house insisted on calling MU oil. I tried to fix this to no avail.

We sat for a moment and she said, "I don't understand how someone could hate me so much." I had no idea where this conversation was going, and she continued to talk. "I received a letter in the mail the other day. The letter was addressed to me--Mrs. Louise Franklin. I opened it, and there was an article about President Obama and the mosque. I didn't even read the article. I read the first line. I looked on the back to see if I could figure out where it came from. I think it either came from X. or X. They have family in K.C. (where the letter was postmarked), and they could have had family mail it. I just don't understand why someone would do that. I feel like the newspaper. If someone won't sign his name, then I won't read what he sent. But, why would they do that? I haven't even been talking about politics."

She told me that she wasn't going to tell me, and she thought it was better to not talk about it. I told her it was better to talk about. She asked me how I felt, and I told her I felt disturbed and very angry. She said she didn't want to talk to any of the people in the group they know. She also considered making a copy of the letter and passing it out to everyone, and saying that she would appreciate it if they would talk to her instead of send anonymous notes. She said, "It's malicious and disturbing that they feel it necessary to send something anonymously. If they have something to say, sign your name. I would have read it."

Writing the last paragraph made me recall an anonymous note I received as an adult. I coached volleyball at a high school. I had recently started working there, and it was a hard semester juggling the coaching with the new job. I went to the mailroom in the morning, and there was a note in my box. I think it said I wasn't a good coach, and I wasn't fair. I don't really remember what it said exactly. And, it didn't really matter what it said so much. What mattered was the fact that it was anonymous. It felt so threatening. I felt scared. I felt shaky, and I felt suspicious of everyone. How could someone write an anonymous note to me and say these things? It was truly frightening. (It turned out it was from the father of player. A retired military guy, and it was still creepy when I found out who wrote it.)

I know my mom feels that way now. How could I be hanging out or know someone who could do something like that? Even though only one person sent that note, the experience changes your perception of everyone in your circle. It's just another amazing example of how President Obama has affected people. It just feels like people are crazy.  

My mom's response to my last sentence: "People aren't tolerant and they aren't forgiving and they can't accept things."


Casey said...

Whew! Why can't they all just be anonymous love letters? And, I almost left this comment anonymously...

I guess you lose "face" by signing your name...or you lose power by signing your name maybe. Writing anonymously gives people this sense of "gotcha!" or"I'll show you." But I couldn't agree with Louise more--it's not worth my time and energy to read if you don't sign it. (Unless it IS a love letter...then keep them coming!) :)

tmmaerke said...

Today I got a letter from someone. It was signed, but it was about a month old. They didn't want to give me the letter because they weren't sure how it would be accepted. I think that's something that people who write anonymous letters don't think about. Considering how the words and the message will be accepted by the recipient would change things. Maybe the author would change the letter so that they could feel alright about signing their name. Maybe they would write the letter and then let the power of the written word do the trick, without sending the letter out to anyone. But many times that's not what happens. This makes me think of Jon Acuff's post about "Writing 'open letters'" on his blog: Anyway, just as you told your mom, I think it's good to share and process things in the open because somehow, by putting your name behind your problem, you're growing stronger. And that's something anonymous letter writers will never know.

K. Wallace said...

I have many students leave me anonymous papers. However, I don't believe this is intentional. Maybe though...

I think the anonymous letter writers are afraid. They are driven by a poison and they need to spew their venonm. The letter is the bait. They hide behind the idea, wait for those who fall prey to their vacuous rhetoric, then they have struck. They have pulled you down to their abyss.

Then again they could just be stupid.

Keri said...

To Casey, I think you gain power--not a good kind of power either--when you write anonymously. It is powerful to say mean things and have people wonder who did it.

To Thomas--It's important to get it out there and share.

To Kyle--Stupidity must be catching lately.