The comments are in, readers say keep anonymous letters

March 24, 2012

I asked the question last week, “Should we, or should we not, allow anonymous letters on our Viewpoint Page.” I was not prepared for the response we received by mail, by email and by website comments. It was simply overwhelming, but very gratifying. Gratifying in the sense, I write this column every week, and had no idea how many people actually read and care about this newspaper. To all of you who responded, I extend a heartfelt thanks.

Many of you were very persuasive in your commentary but one letter really stood out. It was written by Tom and Joan Randall, I would like to publish it here, because I truly believe it captures my opinion better than I could possibly write it. Here is their response:

We have some mixed feelings/ideas/thoughts about the current “Cops and Doughnuts” issue.

We have always respected and admired our policemen and women. We know their job is at times extremely dangerous and requires a lot of patience in dealing with people. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty, leaving behind husbands, wives and children to grieve their loved ones.

When it became public knowledge that some of our “own local guys” were able to save a business by investing their own money and time to keep it going, we were thrilled at the prospect of their new adventure. Kudos to them! It’s been a joke for many decades, about cops and donut shops. The fact that they chose to use that to their business advantage showed their good sense of humor and a down to earth attitude that has endeared them to the public.

But this is still a Constitutional Republic, and we have the right to protected speech. We all have opinions and we all have the right to voice them without fear of punishment or reprisals, as long as they are not libel or slander; and even anonymously if a person feels he/she might be excoriated for an opinion, or if concerned about safety issues.

In order to protect their good name and reputation, ordinary business people have to take all types of “opinions” and deal with them, either by doing some personal examination of their practices, or relegating the complaining opinions to the “round file.” Finally writing a defense or explanation and sending it to the newspaper’s Editor to have “your say” can be an effective way of explaining your motives or actions. You may think your motives or actions are above reproach, but if they come into question, you owe answers, without anger, if you want the goodwill of the public!

Policemen face a lot of verbal abuse from time to time, from criminals, drunks and druggies; and probably even from injured, scared and sick people; and not to mention smart alecks. When you respond “in kind” to ignorant people, you take yourself down to their level and fuel your own fires. Your job requires that you must remain above all that so you can do your best.

It seems to us that in this case, “on duty for the city,” the men are police officers….(by the way, paid for by citizens’ taxes, so we want to know you’re working “for us” when you’re on the clock.) When they are at the Bakery, they are businessmen, who only “happen” to be policemen. It’s a novelty which we enjoy, but the two cannot overlap. It takes a strong and FAIR mind to differentiate between someone stopped for a violation…and the same person stopped for a violation who has made a critical remark about your bakery or your weight. It takes a person with great integrity to resist the temptation to exact a little “flesh” in the form of a ticket or inflicting some fear though a subtle threat. It’s a real necessity to develop a “thick skin” and let it “run off your back,” by sometimes just considering the source!

More of us that would like to admit have plenty of pounds we don’t need. If we’re well-over our healthy weight, we have to expect either “looks or comments, whispered or otherwise.” Of course it’s rude and unkind, but people are full of flaws and faults, and if we take umbrage at every little thing, we’re going to be most unhappy….and we’ve made the rude one’s day. If we can’t stand the heat, we’d better stay out of the kitchen.

We’ve all heard of incidents in many other cities  and states where a “cop” has used his position to “check up on, harass, lean on or intimidate” a citizen for an opinion or for some other reason for which the citizen could not legally be arrested. Good cops hate those kinds of behavior! ALL THE MORE REASON to avoid “the appearance” of that kind of thinking!

To withdraw your ads from the newspaper because they allow anonymous opinions comes across as defensive, petty and vindictive. It also smacks of a “threat” and hard feelings, which might account for people’s thinking that they can expect some harassment. Why would police insist on names, if they were not going to use those names…and to what purpose? That’s not a good way to “make friends and influence people.”

Those of us in positions of authority or responsibility are always held to a higher standard! We don’t have to be a literal punching bag, but we can respond in a mannerly way to unkind or even untrue statements made about us. When working with the public, we must be able to defuse anger with an even tone of voice and kindness. Why? Because they look UP to you!

While writing this I took another three phone calls. The debate rages on. Right now, about 65 % of those responding feel are policy should remain, unchanged. Since majority typically rules, we will continue to accept anonymous letters.

However, I promise to be more diligent in my editing duties. Personal attacks and even remotely slanderous statements will be omitted. AND if you don’t sign your letter (that doesn’t mean your name will appear in the newspaper) and we have no way of verifying who you are, your letter will not appear in The REVIEW.

AGAIN, I would like to say “thanks” to all those that responded. The fact that you care is tremendously gratifying.

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