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All’s well that ends well: Angry email exchange ends with Merry Christmas

stopthepresses-newAn email exchange that started with an angry reader calling an AFP columnist an “f—ing idiot” ended with he and I wishing each other a genuine Merry Christmas.

That I live-blogged the exchange on Facebook made it almost into performance art.

“It’s Dana Jones’ right to voice her opinion and support about Cheri Laporte. I possess that right as well, if she finds nothing wrong with what happened at Riverheads HS, please tell her she’s a f—ing idiot, and needs to put a towel on her head and go live with the Islamic extremists! I’m sure you won’t show her this, because you on the left are the bigots, and do not like my opinion……..you should look up the definition of that word.”

This is how it got going. The ire from reader Scott Mahoney was directed at a column by Dana A. Jones on the Arabic culture lesson in a Riverheads High School class that became national news last week.

Jones is a Riverheads alum and a former student of geography teacher Cheryl LaPorte, a beloved and respected teacher who has become the target of the right-wing media and blogosphere.

Jones’ column is one of several that we’ve published on AFP showing support for LaPorte and raising issue with the continued attacks on her and the Augusta County school system, which responded to the attacks by closing schools a day early for winter break, citing online threats to protest county schools that included disturbing images of beheadings.

The hateful online commenters have flooded local news websites with language similar to that used in Mr. Mahoney’s email.

Having long since passed any normal breaking point, I typed up a quick response – ‘Go f–k yourself” – and prepared to hit send.

I paused for a couple of reasons: one, c’mon, it’s Christmas, and two, a friend had posted on Facebook the previous day about how both sides need to calm down.

Me telling a stranger to go f–k himself isn’t the Christmas spirit, and it’s not going to calm anything down.

So I deleted the response, and went with this: “Merry Christmas to you, too.”

Passive-aggressive, sure, and less passive than aggressive. But still, it’s not go f–k yourself.

The reply: “Merry Christmas. Thank you for reaffirming your belief in God.”

A friend who is a local newspaper editor observed at this stage that the emailer was setting an odd bar in pointing to my wish of a Merry Christmas as being the indicator that I have any religious beliefs worth mentioning.

Good point, I thought, and didn’t write, and it occurs to me now that this is a symptom of the issues that we have, that one side just assumes the other is godless, soulless, whatever, lacking in ethics and morals, however you want to define it.

I respond: “It would be nice if you could affirm any belief you might have in God. Your words here reflect a soul full of hatred. You might think to yourself that you represent Christ, but Christ preached love.”

I observed on the live blog of this that it’s probably no fun for a right-winger to be preached to by a member of the liberal media.

I kind of figured this would end it, or that at best I’d get another f-bomb response, and that would end it.

To me, I’d gotten my point across, and I was prepared to move on.

Again, it’s Christmas.

Quick response: “Anger, not hatred, Chris. I am angry that there are people out there (the minority I believe), that believes we need to keep God out of our schools, and this seems to be glorified by the media, because the controversy it creates sells newspapers and commercials. Now we have a high school teacher that wants to have children write that allah is great, and you nor any of your media cohorts don’t even throw out there the “keep religion out of our schools” cry. I’m not an expert in the field of media and broadcast, so please tell me if I’m wrong. Once again, Dana voiced her opinion, and I voiced mine. I don’t hate anyone, so don’t even try and use that “hatred theory” that liberals like to use. Hatred, like racism, seems to be the card to play when liberals do not get the results they want. I do not know what your political views are, but I will tolerate them, because they are needed to ensure checks and balances in our great country.”

We’ve gone from aggressive on his side to passive-aggressive. That’s progress.

I tend to fire off quick replies.

“I happen to disagree on a lot of what you have to say, and the basis of your opinions, but I’m with you, that each side needs to be tolerant of the beliefs of the other. I wish your first contact was of that nature, without the expletives. Go back and read your first email to me, and you won’t have to wonder why I sense hatred as motivating you.

“Liberals love this country as much as conservatives do. Once both sides can come to that realization, and stop demonizing the other, we can try to move forward. We certainly won’t agree on everything, and neither side will get its way 100 percent, but we can move the ball down the field.”

There’s a chance now that this can end well.

And it will.

“Much agreed. Sorry about the “F” word. I don’t use it often, but when I need to vent or make a point. It may not always be the best way, but it’s my way. I’m sure we both have our different ways to try and get our point across, as we are all different people. Peace be with you and your family at Christmas this year.”

My response: “Peace be with you. Thanks for writing, and no worries on the venting. We all do that from time to time!

“Merry Christmas to you and your family.”

And it ends with us not agreeing, to say the least. I certainly understand where he’s coming from more, and though I could and would want to debate him on the finer points, I’m just glad to know what the finer points are.

I’d bet that he would say something similar. I was able to share some insight into what motivates me, and ostensibly others who share my perspective, and he can walk away a little more enlightened as to how someone on the other side sees the world.

And one thing we could agree on: Merry Christmas.

That goes for you, too, by the way.

– Column by Chris Graham