November 13, 2004
They Sent Us Love Notes, We Sent Back Rants
By Doug McGill
The McGill Report
ROCHESTER, MN -- The world sent us delicately worded letters, asking for
our friendship yet eager not to intrude, written in longhand and sent in
We sent back a flood of hateful e-mails in return.
Marina Celina McCall of Uruguay sent us this ardent note:
“I remember sitting in my junior high school classroom in November
1963,” she wrote to a correspondent in Ohio. “A nun came
in to call us to the chapel to pray for the president of the U.S., who
had been shot. I remember sitting for two days watching on TV and crying
like I had never cried before, just like I cried on September 11 when
the twin towers collapsed.
“I have loved America ever since, and it is because of this love
that I write to you today. Because I’m saddened to what is happening
to America’s image abroad and the hatred I see all around me.”
That is just one of more than
14,000 letters sent by people who live outside the United States to
swing voters in Clark County, Ohio, before
last week’s national election. The letters were sent as part
of a campaign organized by the Guardian newspaper of London, which
people in Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia who felt
their lives would be affected by the election, to express their feelings
people with a vote.
Ms. McCall urged her Ohio
correspondent to vote for John Kerry because “dialogue
is what Mr. Kerry is offering and that is what the world needs now. I
would please beg you to vote for all of us that cannot, but whose lives
are affected by the decisions take by the leader of the free world.”
As a result of setting up a channel through which non-Americans could
reach actual voters in Clark County, Ohio, the Guardian was deluged with
thousands of vicious e-mails from Americans all over the country.
It would be impossible to
print in this newspaper the e-mails that the Guardian published. Wishes
that sudden death, bad luck, and tooth
be visited on the Guardian’s editors were numerous. Every act
of human elimination was invoked in capital letters. Grave threats
“Keep your noses out of our business,” read one of the milder
notes. “As I recall we kicked you out of our country back in 1776.
We do not require input from losers and idiots on who we vote for in
our own country.”
When I lived in England in the middle 1990s, I was amazed how both the
Brits and the Irish invoked centuries-old battles with the freshness
of a recent grudge. Now I am hearing the same thing here.
When is it going to sink in
that we all live together on this one beautiful earth, and that if
we want to survive we’re just going
to have to get along?
“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet,” said
President John F. Kennedy in a commencement speech at American University
in 1963. “We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s
future. And we are all mortal.”
History can sometimes reach
such a point that the noblest aspirations we’ve ever managed to articulate can come to sound outdated and
naïve. Have we really become so cynical that Kennedy’s call
to common humanity no longer moves us?
In the election just past, the world was for John Kerry by 8 to 1.
That certainly doesn’t
mean that John Kerry should have been elected. The campaign was enlightening,
the election was fair, and
we got the
president that most of us wanted and that we as a nation deserve.
I’m just saying, we can’t
tell 7/8 of the world to shove it.
Already our foreign policy has made us unpopular around the world. Of
course, governments sometimes have to take unpopular positions.
But the role of individuals
can be different. Even when governments clash, on a personal level
there can be peace. Hospitality can thrive.
It’s not easy but it can be done. It’s one thing that individuals
who otherwise feel powerless in the face of great world events, can actually
Kennedy also said in his commencement speech:
What kind of peace do I mean?" Kennedy asked. "Not a Pax Americana
enforced on the world by American weapons of war. I am talking about
genuine peace, not merely peace for Americans, but peace for all men
and women; not merely peace in our time, but peace for all time."
He didn’t specify how to attain that peace, but here is my suggestion
for a good start: politeness by politeness, kind word by kind word.
Copyright @ 2004 The McGill Report