I got home the other day and found a political brochure in the mail. Sheesh, I thought, don't they know the election is over?
It turns out it wasn't even about a public office. It was about who should be the next chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
Here's what struck me: The brochure was an anonymous attack on one of the people in the running, somebody named Deborah Cox-Roush of Hillsborough County.
I do not know Deborah Cox-Roush from Adam (or Eve), but immediately was more disposed toward her.
Good grief! Really? Is this how we're going to do everything?
The mailer was a low-rent thing, black-and-white. The front had a sneering attack in larger type saying she should "release all records."
(That's a common tactic these days. Somebody calls on somebody else to Release All Records. I hope that nobody ever asks me to release my records; I do not have any interesting ones.)
Also, it's funny that somebody was demanding that Cox-Roush "release all records" while sending out an anonymous mailer paid for by who-knows-who.
Look, I could give a flip who wins. It's just striking that the same venom, the same cowardice of anonymity that marks elections these days now invades even disagreements among friends and neighbors, in this case Republicans and Republicans, who are on the same side.
This is our culture.
I blame television.
Also, I blame anonymity itself.
Except for the occasional big giver to charity, nobody is made more noble by being anonymous — usually the opposite. It frees the darker impulses of our nature, to hurt, to mock, to insult, to slander, even to threaten.
You want to attack somebody else, then you oughta have the guts to stand up and say it with your real name. Either that or you are a coward and a punk, and your words mean nothing.
• • •
It does make me laugh sometimes.
Once in a column I used the story from Genesis about Abraham bargaining with God for the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
I was astonished by the resulting torrent of hate mail, which called me a moron, a liberal idiot, and a fool who should be fired, because EVERYBODY KNOWS IT WAS LOT, not Abraham.
Except it really was Abraham. These days, you don't even have to get off your lazy rear to check the family Bible — you can type it into Google while still eatin' them Cheetos.
The other day I used the phrase, "Once more unto the breach." It prompted this comment (anonymous, of course):
Into, unto, what's a little misquoted Shakespeare between stupid columnists?
Except the usage was correct. I know this because I used to get it wrong myself. The text is from, Henry V, third act, first scene.
In fact, will you do me a favor? As a blow for civil society, let's read it aloud now — I promise you I am doin' it too — and then knock off for the day, it being Sunday and all.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.