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OPINION: Writing in anonymity is cowardly act

December 2, 2020 at 5:23 a.m.

"Chirp of coward shouted in crowd, dare to speak but not to be known." -- Toba Beta

"Never answer an anonymous letter." – Yogi Berra

In darkness, evil is magnified. The dark is a convenient cover for those too ignorant to voice an opinion along with their name. Anonymity provides cover for words never uttered face-to-face or above penned signature. Far too often, a coward's identity is never made known. While a speaker stands on the podium, voicing opinions in the light of public view, a coward masks his face while spouting untruths and slander from the back of the room; ready to take flight if noticed.

The cowards in the dark have always been with us. The hidden voice in a crowd and unknown phone calls were predecessors to the anonymous online commenters and bullies of social media. Regardless of the venue, the motive is to make their target afraid of speaking out again. Because the coward cannot form an appropriate answer to an argument, he resorts to using fear as a means of control. The coward's biggest fear is being exposed for what he is: ignorant and small of mind and character.

Some amount of courage is required to write a newspaper column with your name and contact information in the byline. A writer may take on a persona not readily apparent if met in person. Some write for the notoriety; some feel led to express an opinion not voiced by others. Writing is an occupation for many. For those like myself, it is an exercise of the mind, provoking reactions to challenge established views. Sometimes we inform; other times we poke fun at ourselves or others. Writers may keep their audience at some distance; others may reveal their insecurities, doubts and inadequacies. More often than not, a writer is hoping that someone finds a bit of their own self in the work.

The skin of a writer must be thick. There will always be those with differing opinions. Most writers welcome respectful arguments and actually look forward to a civil debate. This is why they put their names and addresses in their bylines. I have had my share of those who do not side with my views. I am always willing to reply to their arguments personally or at least acknowledge their disagreement. Some go so far as to express their differences publicly in a letter to the editor of the newspaper rather than in a private email or letter. I actually find this exhilarating, because a public discourse on any subject promotes understanding and makes newspapers more relevant.

The letter had no return address but was postmarked locally. It was written on a computer, but no signature was present. Disappointment was expressed in the content of a recent column, dismayed that I pointed out differences between Biden's and Trump's post-election comments. I was asked how I would feel if my business or home were burned down or if my wife was attacked. While violence may not have been implied, it was disturbing nonetheless. He or she then stated that Democrats were baby killers and only cared about the rights of gays, the transgendered, and Blacks. The election was obviously rigged, but Trump would be victorious in the end. Various other false statements were attributed to my column, followed by a discourse on supposed religious differences between myself and the author. Other unflattering attributes were made, but you get the picture.

When I showed the letter to others, all agreed that the author is a coward. The writer showed no discernment or grasp of the subject matter. It was difficult to take the letter seriously, but I kept it and forwarded it to others just in case the unthinkable occurs. There are a lot of crazies out there, as another columnist warned.

The problem with an anonymous letter is that it cannot be responded to privately. So, I will respond publicly.

"Dear Anonymous, please know that while you may actually not be a coward, you in fact acted cowardly. If you want to redeem yourself, send your name and I will gladly discuss your opinions. Better yet, forward the same letter to the editor of this paper along with your name and let your views be known publicly, just as I have made mine known."

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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