This is not the chronicle I had intended to write, and this is not when I had intended to write it. I had planned to send a happy piece about New York penguins yesterday. I didn’t get around to it. I didn’t get around to much yesterday except for one task.
I made myself a promise on September 11. I would not ignore any hateful e-mail I received. I would respond to each immediately.
For several weeks after the attack, it was a major task. Then the hateful messages fell off. I had not received one in quite some time.
Yesterday I did.
First, someone distributed a Thomas Friedman column from The New York Times. The column noted that many Muslims believed in strange conspiracy theories. I was on the distribution list.
Then another person on the list sent this to all of us in response:
“It is time to consider using nuclear, biological and chemical weapons on ALL of the Muslim countries in the middle east who are not with us
Since we cannot win them over with facts …
And they will continue to give aid and comfort to the terrorists … We should come to the realization that we have to…. KILL THEM ALL … When I suggested that back on Sept 12th …
Everyone thought I was nuts ….
When you are dealing with ignorant backward people with an ignorant backward religion … you are left few choices … ”
I responded to his message. He responded to my response. I responded to his, and so on. I didn’t get a lot done yesterday — or the early part of today. I also had to deal with the responses of others on the list, one of whom called the above paragraph “eloquent.”
Afghanistan, I pointed out, met the writer’s criteria for devastation a few months ago and now doesn’t (they’re now “with us”), even though the same 28 million people still live there. His response was a screed against all New Yorkers, somehow invoking Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It’s exhausting. But if my responses get even one person to think a little longer and a little more carefully before advocating violence, I will be thrilled. Even if I don’t get that victory, at least I let these writers know that their views are not universally shared.