The reason people send hate mail, according to essayist William Giraldi, is that it cheers them up. (“Cruel Intentions,” by William Giraldi, New Republic, June 2016, pg.64.) To prove his case, he cites the views of William Hazlitt, a minister and essayist (1737–1820). Hazalitt insisted love cloys but “Hatred alone is immortal.” (Ibid pg. 64.)
The poison pen letter flourished with the growth of literacy and the overhaul of the Royal Mail which made sending letters cheap. (Ibid. pg. 64.) Until that advent, writers bantered among themselves, serving up a cold gruel of witticism. Sometimes the banter led to duels or ended with the abruptness of the hangman’s trap door. D. H Lawrence wrote a note to Bertrand Russell which said, “Let us become strangers again. I think it is better.” (Ibid pg. 62.)
Giraldi notes that in today’s world, any writer – and I will add any person, public or private — can be assaulted by “any mosquito with a keyboard.” (Ibid. 67.) And though I am no fan of author Saul Bellow, I am obliged to nod, when he writes in More Die of Heartbreak , that “There is no having any relations with people; none at all if you won’t accept abuse.” (Ibid pg. 64.)
Self righteousness gilds the lily of hate letters, particularly those about the “ist” sins– racist or sexist and the like. Giraldi describes “ist” words as silver bullets meant “to take you down and then to wake you from your own beastliness.” (Ibid. 64.) It doesn’t matter if the accused is guilty as charged. What matter is that he or she seems so. The moral outrage that follows allows us feel good about ourselves.
The current election is rife with righteous anger and indignation on both sides of the political aisle. “More anger with less thought,” seems to be the rallying cry. But despite the blustering rage from the right and left, a deafening silence dominates the middle. One candidate is quietly winning votes if not hearts. One candidate is setting a steady course for the country without the siege of passion. Perhaps the blanket of silence shows a majority of Americans aren’t as outraged as the media suggests. Perhaps the bulk of the country is ready to welcome 4 more years of Obama-like policies. These people are not leaving hate messages on Facebook or Twitter. They are voting, which is where their voices counts. (“Who Is the Hillary Voter?” by Eric Sassoon, New Republic, June 2016 pg. 14.) They know strong leaders attract enmity and they are not diverted by it. They show up at their precincts ready to support a steady course for the country, one intended to bring prosperity and well-being to all.