One would think after five decades of making mistakes I’d have made them all. But nope, that’s not the case. Take my newest way: Letters to the editor.
I am originally from Metro Detroit and l have always liked to write letters to the editor. I wrote them to the large dailys and I wrote them to smaller community papers. I wrote in response to political events and politicians, and I wrote them in response to letters from others who were writing THEIR letters in response to political events and/or politicians. Once in a while my letters would get published and except for maybe a comment from one or two of my friends, there was no response.
So when I moved to Clare County I continued to write letters: Letters to The Sentinel, letters to The Clare Cleaver and letters to The Clare County Review. Letters chastising the local county commissioners and their decisions, letters about local issues (like a library millage), and even a letter critiquing a local woman for her long rambling letters to the editor.
Metro Detroit has more than 2 million people and Clare County has a bit more than 31,000. And that means there are rarely six degrees of separation up here. As one person so aptly put it: “In a big city you may see everyone you know during a day, but in a small town you may know everyone you see during a day.” The people I was criticizing were my neighbors, my fellow congregants and the relatives of people I already knew. My letters got published and they got read. One is not anonymous in a small county.
In my letters I had tried to get a point across and do it in a clever way but in doing so I had gotten too personal and attacked the people themselves. In Metro Detroit no one noticed. Up here people did. Some of them were hurt and some were downright pissed. At church, one got in my face after a service. The lady I wrote about wrote her own letter to the paper. It began, “This is a response to Marty Johnson.”
I have since tried to make amends. I attended a meeting of the county commission and publicly apologized. I even contact the lady who wrote me the personal letter to the editor and we met for coffee. I even brought her cookies. We’ll see if this issue eventually goes away. Obviously, it can’t be erased. Print never can.
I should know better than most given that my blog is entitled The Moving Finger and is taken from a quote found in the poem The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Based on that alone I should know one can’t take back something in print. Plus, I am a writer by trade so I know the power of the pen.
I need to be more careful and disagree without being disagreeable. These people have the potential to be my friends and if I am going to be involved in politics or work with volunteer organizations up here (I’m getting involved in a bunch), I need to be on good terms with those I will associate with. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, one of them might even have a job lead for me.
As a newbie in a small community I need all the friends I can get. Plus, people up here hunt, and you know what that means.