Manners are a species of morals. Other than to hate mail or rude mail, I try and respond to all letters I receive—to each and every one. Many thousands since 1998, which is when I got my first newspaper column. Due to time constraints, my replies are laconic. Sometimes I slip up. But if a reader has bothered to read my work and comment on what I have to say—then it’s only decent to acknowledge the gesture.
Most American opinion-merchants, however, don’t reply to their mail. That smacks of hubris and pride, almost always unwarranted. Since most are so uninspiring and mediocre, one wonders what they’re playing at, and why they’re not more humble.
George Will once wrote that “manners are the practice of a virtue. The virtue is called civility, a word related—as a foundation is related to a house—to the word civilization.”
In this context, a Golda Meir zinger comes to mind: “Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great.” It’s a relic from a time when false humility was at least still practiced.
A riff on the Meir quip might go as follows: “Can’t be bothered to answer your mail? Don’t be so arrogant, you suck.”
Here are some gratifying notes, received in response to “Get Off Your Knees, Gov. Pence! (You’re Not In A Gay Bathhouse),” a hot favorite.
Naturally, I replied these and to others.
Sent: Friday, April 03, 2015 9:17 AM
Subject: “Into the Cannibal’s Pot.”
Just read your advice to Gov. Pence and was reminded that I wanted to complement you for what is without a doubt one of the most important and brilliantly written books I’ve ever read (“Into the Cannibal’s Pot”). Sadly, what passes for “conservatism” in America today can’t seem to grasp that individual discrimination is the essence of freedom. Sanctimonious conservative talking heads, who seem to believe that Indiana is all (only) about freedom of religion and are incapable of registering a connection to “civil rights” legislation of 50 years ago, would do well to read you.
Thank you for being a beautifully intelligent voice in the wilderness of 21st century American political discourse. And thank you for finding your way to America – your arrival in your adopted homeland has come none too soon.
Sent: Friday, April 03, 2015 8:03 AM
Subject: Get Off Your Knees, Gov. Pence (You’re Not In A Gay Bathhouse)
A friend of mine forwarded me your excellent column. You did a terrific job of articulating one the basic aspects of liberty (enshrined in the First Amendment): the freedom of association. I live in Indianapolis (and know Mike Pence slightly). This issue has become so polarizing here, and, as you noted, the law itself is innocuous. …
… At any rate, please keep writing. You have a great gift for expressing important ideas through everyday examples.
Best to you,