Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

If readers’ validations are writers’ rewards, in years of publishing columns, I’ve become wealthy indeed. 

Positive feedback is gratifying. So is feedback from certain civil critics, one of whom wrote, reluctantly, “Not bad… I (almost) agreed with some of that one.”

But angry, largely incoherent, sometimes vulgar, even vicious personal email attacks unsubstantiated by honest readings of the material, often underscore the points and unwittingly validate the content of columns critics dislike.

I’ve written that the American left has debased public discourse by substituting insults for argument, that “…one cannot question liberal orthodoxy in America today without consequences,” and concluded:  “Though they are never at a loss for words, the American left is effectively out of arguments. The manner in which they respond to simple disagreement is the proof of it.”

Critics who imagine that nasty e-mails settle disagreements never make real arguments. Those who demand “fairness” show none. And attempts to bully a conservative voice into silence complete a perfect Trifecta of underachievement.

This was memorable (unedited): “Jerry,Jerry,Jerry you stupid jerk how dare you even to in your stupid corrupted rant even to allude to 9/11.” My reply: “There’s nothing about 9/11 in the article. Where did you learn to read – the same place that failed to teach you manners?”

On January 10, 2023, a woman wrote, “I read your column…dated January 11th. You are obviously a tunnel visioned Republican. Please find some factual sources of non-biased information. There is so much wrong information out there. You don’t have to buy into it.  Broaden your resources please!”

I replied: “Not sure how you did that, since 1/11 is tomorrow. Your lack of specificity is confusing as well. What didn’t you like in what you haven’t read yet?”

Concluding a dose of condescending, marginally-insulting prolixity, one correspondent speculated: “I’m sure you have something intelligent to say. Give it a shot.”

I’ve since fired hundreds of additional “shots” – and counting.

E-mail reactions usually run heavily in favor, but two columns stood out.

The first was entitled “Who will stand up for the Old White Man?”

The lead: “Sure, most of us vote ‘wrong,’ but when and how did peace-loving, law-abiding, elderly, white, conservative, heterosexual males become politically disreputable?”

That column was linked, reprinted, and netted emails from as far away as Montana, Alaska and California – all positive.

The other, entitled “Who was intolerant in the Duck Dynasty Flap?” was also linked to or reprinted by other outlets, and elicited dozens of emails, all but three of which, surprisingly, contained the words “thanks” or “thank you.”

In it, no value judgment was made about the central subject’s personal opinions. The column merely defended his right to express them, and inquired “How ‘hurtful’ can a reality show, off-camera, Corinthians-quoting duck hunter really be?”

Following a column entitle “Hysteria, the modern left’s default setting,” a woman wrote:


“No matter with whom I disagree, I do not resort to calling them hysterical. That has the effect of pouring gasoline into a fire. But perhaps that is what you consider your role. Too bad. I thought columnists were meant to edify.”

I replied:

“The piece was written for the ‘edifying’ purpose of reminding and reassuring readers that, while the lives of people who work hard, raise families, attend church and engage in their communities may not be newsworthy, they are normal, and that the left-wing expressions of angst, aggression and vituperation that too often surround and assault them are not.

“Over years, I’ve met and heard from dozens of ‘hysterics’ like those described therein – all of whom were dismissive, condescending, and, ironically, never included rational arguments to refute the published material that ‘triggered’ them.

“Frankly, I am constantly astonished – saddened, really – by the number of emails I receive from regular folks who agree, but who are moved to thank me for publishing sentiments they are reluctant to express for fear of gratuitous attacks.

“Other than ‘hysterical,’ how would you characterize bafflingly hostile people who call you ‘stupid,’ ‘racist,’ ‘science-denier,’ ‘Nazi,’ ‘homophobe; or ‘xenophobe,’ among other charming sobriquets, for no good reason other than that I published something they dislike? I’ve been called all of them by people who have never met and know nothing about me. Those are just lazy – and, yes – hysterical ways of saying ‘SHUT UP!’

“I won’t. Please keep reading…”