A few years ago, I met a man in a workshop that I conducted for would-be authors on finding a literary agent. He was earnest, enthusiastic, and hopeful. He liked the workshop a great deal. He later became a friend on Facebook and would occasionally attend my storytelling shows.
Last week, I received an email from this man that began:
He went onto explain that he does not like Donald Trump but considers Hillary Clinton a career criminal undeserving of my vote. There was more to his argument that I didn't read, but he ended by telling me that he has helplessly watched American exceptionalism atrophy over the eight years. "Now it's your turn. Suck it up."
I am fascinated by this email for a few reasons:
1. He opens the email in such an insulting and demeaning way, but then goes on for quite some time explaining why Clinton is bad and Trump is palatable. If he genuinely wanted to teach me something about Hillary Clinton or help me to understand his opinions, why open with such an offensive, off-putting greeting? I honestly didn't bother to read the bulk of the following paragraph simply because his first few statements made it clear that he was not engaged in thoughtful rhetoric.
2. The "Bye bye" is also interesting. I think it's meant to be condescending, but instead, it comes across (at least to me) as childish. Anything but serious. It's an unfortunate rhetorical choice that strikes me as petulant and angry and in no way helps his cause.
3. The most surprising aspect of his email is simply the fact that he has chosen to unfriend me because of what I have written about the President. Frankly, this kind of astounds me. I have been exceedingly careful to avoid insulting or even criticizing Trump supporters while writing about the President. I stand in opposition to Donald Trump's administration, but I have not attacked the people who voted for him. I have even gone out of my way to explain to some people why fundamentally decent and rational people might have voted for such a fundamentally indecent and irrational candidate.
Disagreeing with my positions on our President and his policies is fine. But why does this person - and so many others - take this difference of opinion so personally? It was not uncommon for me to find myself in the company of someone who did not support Obama while he was President. I was not opposed to listening to their opinions. I was not offended when I learned that they felt differently than me. I oftentimes thought that they were wrong. Misguided. Misinformed. Even dishonest in the deployment of fact. Perhaps even racist on occasion. But their views were not an attack on me personally.
I found this level of anger directed at me for the expression of my opinions bizarre. After all, I wrote the words. Just don't read them.
4. Facebook's unfriend feature does not require an email notification. Why not simply unfriend me and move on? Why send me a condescending, insulting email that would most assuredly do nothing by way of enlightening me? Did it make him feel good to spout off? Or why not simply hide my posts? I have hidden the posts of friends and even family members when their level of vitriol exceeds tolerable levels or they attack a group of people to whom my friends or I belong.
Never would I waste my time firing off an angry email in addition to unfriending someone. A thoughtful, rhetorically rational email? Perhaps. But even then, if I was unfriending the person, that's probably enough to turn them off to anything else I might say.
Happily, this email gave me something to think and write about, so it wasn't all bad. It was even a little entertaining. Slightly amusing.
I don't think that was his intent, but when you use words like "bloviation" (spelled wrong in his email) and phrases like "Bye bye" and "Suck it up," it really can't be helped.