A response to the anonymous letter

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In today’s social-media-driven world, it is easy to say things without anyone ever knowing you said them.

You can post online with a cleverly made up name that often leaves no trace that you were ever there. This allows, even encourages, people to say things they would never have the courage to say in public.

The most destructive site to a community I have ever seen on the internet was the community forum on Topix. The forum was a good idea gone bad, hijacked by people who could only say no good about their neighbors and friends.

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It captivated the voyeur in us as we checked regularly to get the latest dirt, true or not, while secretly relieved the post wasn’t about us.

With the many ways to speak today, I find it a bit odd that the old fashioned anonymous letter seems to have made a reappearance, at least in my mailbox. Perhaps well-intended, but probably not, these letters often target people I know in the community, or my own employees, challenging me to do something.

The letters have two things in common. They are usually written in a way that does not hide the anger that prompted the letter in the first place and the letters never have a true, honest signature of any kind, though hints about its author are much more apparent than imagined. By the way, “A Concerned Citizen” does not count.

I doubt any anonymous letter has ever been written that had doing a good deed as its sole purpose. A man or woman who seeks to do good by letter is never afraid to sign their name. After all, the Apostle Paul, who wrote many letters of rebuke and correction to the leadership of the churches he founded, signed his letters. Ironically, ministers probably receive as many or more anonymous letters as a newspaper owner.

The stressed writer often confuses fact with feelings. You can sense those feelings in their writings. They feel afraid so they want to instill fear. They feel wronged so they want revenge.

If the letters documented concerns in a rational manner, the writer would be proud to sign their name. The sad truth is that most anonymous letters deal with misrepresentations, innuendoes, untruths and outright lies. Even the most malicious person would not want their name on such a document.

I thought it important that these writers, few in number, know exactly where their letters to me are today and what I do with them. They collectively reside in the bottom of a large, powerful shedder in our office where the other trash goes. As the grinder destroys them into hundreds of pieces, they are cleared from my mind as if they never appeared.

Recognizing that there are often legitimate reasons to discuss items of concern without disclosing your name, my newspaper and my company both have an open door policy. We won’t use your name, but we have to know who you are. I don’t have to have a signature, but I have look you in the eye. I have been doing this long enough that I can tell if you are telling me the truth or simply the truth as you see it.

Your name is one of your most prized possessions. For better or for worse, your signature in a letter says something about the words above the name.   No signature says a lot as well. For me, it means the words mean nothing.