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« Good and Bad, Right and Wrong (Part Three) | Main | Brothers and Sisters »

Signed, Anonymous

gilded_quill.gif I received your letter today.
You didn’t sign it.

You know who I am, but denied me the same privilege of knowing who you are. You spoke of people and places, hurts and problems, opinions and case histories. You sounded authoritative and informed, like you knew exactly what you were talking about. You used “facts”, referred to incidents in which you could not possibly have the inside scoop, and recounted hearsay as though it were unadulterated truth. But those were the minor offenses of your letter. More seriously, you trashed authorities, contradicted the decisions made by boards and panels formed to fully air problems, and choked on the grist of the rumor mill. While you inflicted harm on others, you took no risks yourself. You lobbed your verbal grenades from an unidentified lair and took shots at unsuspecting enemies like they were sitting ducks.

By your own admission, you suggested your letter was cowardly (you were right), yet you wrote and sent it anyway. You instinctively knew that throwing your grievances over the wall of anonymity appeared unethical, but your secret outrage won out over propriety. Several reasons come to mind why unsigned letters like yours exacerbate the very problems they purport to resolve:

Unsigned letters give no forum for response.
Unsigned letter writers’ misunderstandings have no chance at correction.
Unsigned letter writers don’t have to face the people they criticize.
Unsigned letter writers avoid having any dirt associated with their names.
Unsigned letter writers don’t have to unearth facts or chase down stories.
Unsigned letter writers force everyone to become the suspected author.
Unsigned letter writers pretend to be speaking for everybody.
Unsigned letter writers elevate themselves to a pious perch.
Unsigned letter writers are more interested in self-protection than making things right.

This is why your letter greatly offends me: I believe that anyone who has something to say ought to come out in the open and say it. Look your enemies in the whites of the eyes and make your grievances known. This exposes your charges to the scrutiny of all others. If your charges are true, you will be justified. If they are false, you will be corrected and the accused party will be cleared. Remember, every person accused of wrongdoing deserves the right to know about it and defend himself. This is the scriptural way. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Matthew 18:15-17. Evidently, you would rather label your enemies as heathens and publicans, bypassing the preliminary steps. It is unfair, unjust and wrong. If you were the butt of someone else’s anonymous letter, you would understand.

What now? Do you want me to act on all your unsubstantiated charges? Do you think I should conduct an investigation, accost the troublemakers and demand they cease and desist on the grounds of your accusations? In choosing to write anonymously, do you excuse yourself from involvement in this messy affair? Do you want others to put their names and reputations on the line while you remain insulated from attack? Do you want me to display courage while you hide timidly in the shadows? Are you the one who has something to hide?

Despite the foregoing remarks, I do entertain the possibility that much of what you said is true. Unfortunately, when you decided against signing your letter, you greatly weakened your position. Issues do not stand by themselves alone; they draw strength and credibility from the people who advance them. Regardless of how substantial your charges may be, your failure to take personal responsibility for them makes them specious. If the problem is not worth attaching your name and reputation to it, why should it be worth attaching mine? You can probably guess the final destination of your letter. Now you know why.

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