By Bradley Harrington
“Remember, son, that your ‘enemies’ are never evil in their own minds.” — Byron Harrington, personal discussions, 1975 —
Last week, in a very distraught frame of mind over Barbie and I’s loss of our Dobie dog Mercedes, I did something in my column (“No One Here Gets Out Alive,” WTE, Dec. 9) that I’ve rarely done before in print: I opened up about my innermost emotional state.
That’s not something I normally do, as I’m a pretty private person as a general rule. I don’t trust most people — until I get to know them, at any rate — and would prefer not to hand them weapons to use against me.
In this instance, however, I was apparently overwrought enough to not really care, as that’s precisely what I proceeded to do.
The results were a bit unexpected. Through phone calls, online comments or emails, I received more responses from Dear Readers on that piece than I’ve gotten on everything else I’ve written in the last two months combined. And not a one of them attempted to club me over the head with my admittedly scattered and intense emotional reactions.
No, to the contrary, it was exactly the reverse. One online reader, generally a strong critic of my columns, had the following to say: “Brad finally wrote an opinion piece that nobody should argue with.” (“Jockey44,” “Online comments,” Dec. 9.)
Another reader, usually equally vigorously opposed to my normal fare, said: “Hey, a poignant human interest piece! Thanks for making things human again.” (“Accountabullity,” “Online comments,” Dec. 9.)
Hmmm … “Who woulda thunk that”? Nor were the phone calls and emails any different; indeed, they were even more so. It seems pretty clear to me, at this point, that my emotional ravings touched quite a number of hearts out there — including in people whom I would have previously wondered whether they even had a heart or not.
By far, however, the most stunning of the responses I received came from a heretofore unknown and very vociferous critic, through a private email which I’d like to quote at length, who blew me away with this:
“I was very touched by your editorial published today … In the past, you and I have rarely — I might say never — been on the same page in our positions on local issues or our philosophies. In fact, I have often felt anger when seeing your behavior at City Council or reading your editorials. But, today I understand that, at heart, we are the same. This is an important lesson — to once again be reminded that differences in how we view the world are just that, differences in how we see the world. That does not include our basic humanity. In this measure, we are the same.”
And more: “I’m glad to find kindred spirits in you and your family — a sentiment I can’t imagine I would ever feel toward you. Thank you for sharing who you are.”
Well, after reading that, to say I was a bit speechless for a while would be a slight understatement.
So, for several days now, I have been pondering these thoughts, along with the myriad others I received in feedback, and I remain speechless no longer, as there are a number of things crying out for discussion:
(1) If nearly all of us DO have hearts and are essentially good people, then how is it that things have gotten to the point in our politics and culture where they could be characterized as “un-human” in the first place? What social forces, exactly, have been at work to separate and divide us from ourselves?
(2) As a philosophically-inclined, theoretically-minded system-builder, I know there’s answers to these questions — and, from both an intellectual standpoint and as an individual who seeks truth wherever it may lie, I am now obligated to determine just what they are.
(3) And, once those questions have been answered, in what fashion can those divisive forces be counteracted and nullified?
(4) Finally, on a more personal note: If I am now aware that even my most intense critics can be touched by my words, is it not now my responsibility, as a writer seeking to impart ideas, to figure out how I can actually PERSUADE people instead of merely making them angry?
Yes, I know — there are a few of us who are simply unreachable, evil and not interested in any kind of truth or honesty.
The feedback I’ve received, however, coupled with the lesson my Dad taught me 41 years ago — which I’ve obviously forgotten — tells me clearly that such people are the exception and not the rule.
So, Dear Readers, you’ve all left me with quite a bit of work I need to handle … And “who woulda thunk that” either?
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column was originally published in the “Wyoming Tribune Eagle” on December 16, 2016. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.