Letter to the Editor

I just typed off this letter to the editor of Dissident Voice in reply to Mr. Joshua Frank’s bigotry and paternalism regarding Senator Reid’s position as Senate Minority Leader. Thanks to Ronan for pointing me Mr. Frank’s direction.

Here is the emailed letter that I have hastily shot off:

From: John Fowles
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2004 9:31 AM
To: letterspage@dissidentvoice.org
Subject: Letter Page Submission

Dear Dissident Voice:

I was shocked at Joshua Frank’s bigotry in his article about Senator Reid’s new position as the Senate Minority Leader. It seems that to this “enlightened” liberal, Mr. Frank, it is still kosher to disparage a man because of his religious affiliation. I was surprised to see this vitriol based on Senator Reid’s being a “Mormon” coming from Mr. Frank, who should know better than to demonize a person because of such a criterion.

Aside from the bigotry, Mr. Frank’s words reveal perhaps the key weakness of the leftist mentality in this country: he dismisses those things that are important to a majority of people in this country as “backwards” Republican values. If only everyone were as enlightened as Mr. Frank–then no one would think there was anything wrong with killing a baby in the womb or with supporting traditional families. Mr. Frank lists some of the Reid’s “backwards” political moves, including voting “yes” to ban partial birth abortions, as if stopping partial birth abortions were a bad thing. And there lies a large part of the problem because, quite frankly, it scares a majority of Americans that people like Mr. Frank take such a view towards the dignity of human life. As long as the majority of Americans see the democratic party as espousing such views, it will remain on its deathbed.

A second major weakness of the leftist mentality comes through in Mr. Frank’s bigoted words. He reveals a prescriptive vision of the democratic party that reinforces the exact difficulty that Reid’s leadership is calculated to allay. He longs for the day, not too many weeks ago, when the democratic party was so ideologically rigid that even the most minor voice of dissent could not be heard. Life on the ideological plantation would again flourish under Mr. Frank’s vision and anyone, whether a member of a minority group or not, who dared stray off the ideological plantation would have their foot cut off with an axe. And under this view, minorities who dared get off the democratic dole and find a place for “backwards” values in their worldviews would continue to deserve crucifixion, as we all witnessed with Estrada and Jones.

I voted for more democrats in this recent election than republicans. And yet, I am a man who espouses a clean and decent worldview that includes many of the exact values that Mr. Frank condescendingly dismisses as ignorance-based “backwards” relics. Reading Mr. Frank’s pessimistic arrogance reminds me of everything that has traditionally made me uncomfortable with the Democratic Party and causes me to question my own judgment in voting for democratic candidates in the recent election. But then I remember that this bigot is entitled to his own views just like the KKK is and that he doesn’t speak for all democrats or for the democratic party, as is evidenced by the fact that the democratic party is making the reasoned and realistic move of positioning Senator Reid as the Senate Minority Leader.


John Fowles

I have little or no hope that this letter to the editor will end up on the letters page of dissident voice. Presumably, they only want to hear like-minded contributions. I am used to this, since the letters to the editor that I send to German newspapers have never yet (to my knowledge) appeared in those pages.

12 Responses to Letter to the Editor

  1. Anonymous says:

    John, does it occur to you that they might not print your letter not because “they only want to hear like-minded contributions,” but because your letter is just too full of vitriol and hyperbole? You’ve used the word “bigot/bigotry” three times, “leftist” a couple of times, thrown in a couple of references to slaveholders and the KKK, and accused Frank of “demonizing” Reid because of his religion.

    I’m inclined to agree with you that Frank could have made his points without reference to Reid’s religion, but all he really did was point out that Reid has commitments to a church that is perceived (rightly!) as socially conservative and largely Republican. His criticisms were generally of Reid’s policy positions, not of Reid as a person, and of the Democrats for choosing a moderate/conservative Dem. as the face of the new leadership of the party. You, on the other hand, move straight to ad hominem charges of bigotry and arrogance. Of course they won’t print your letter. I agree with you, and I think it’s great that the Dems. have a moderate leader in the Senate, but I wouldn’t print it! It’s really hard to listen to people if they get your attention by calling you names.

    One is tempted to trot out a cliché or two about flies, vinegar, and honey. 

    Posted by Kristine

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ll second Kristine’s remarks without dwelling on specifics. Two questions about Kristine’s comment: (1) I was puzzled by the flies, vinegar, and honey remark, but Google (the source of all knowledge) supplied this: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Between fish’n’chips and an acquired Canadian taste for vinegar on fries and chips, I would have to declare myself a vinegar fan over honey. (2) Please tell me how you got the accented “e” in cliche to appear. 

    Posted by Dave

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dave, I’m using a Mac–the é works if you hold down the “option” key and type e, then release “option” and type e (or whatever letter you want to appear under the accent). I can’t remember how to do an accent grâve, though, although I can do ü, ø, and ñ. 🙂


    Posted by Kristine

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kristine and Dave, I understand your insight and realize that my letter was partially ad hominem. (Why is that so wrong, by the way?) Despite any ad hominem characteristics of the letter, it by no means avoids a substantive response to Frank’s arrogance. Are you saying that calling a spade a spade (i.e. outing Frank’s religious bigotry, eugenicism, and racism) as part of a substantive response automatically invalidates that response? Fiery responses and partially ad hominem critiques have gotten me in trouble at T&S, BCC, and most recently at Dave’s MI, and rightly so, since we are all loosely bound together by religion and other ties of internet relationships, but how is it wrong to blast someone like Frank in a response? I don’t see any reason why the forum should decline publishing the letter just because it is harsh towards their writer. Freedom of expression anyone?

    Kristine, your point is much more applicable to the reason why the German newspapers to which I send letters to the editors aren’t publishing me. In those letters I call them to task for their hypocrisy in their European insularism and arrogance in their criticism of the US and its supposed “Imperialism.” The fact that the letters are informed and written in fluent German, which of course Americans aren’t supposed to be capable of according to them, is surely disconcerting to them. But they have every right not to publish an inflammatory letter in their pages (as a believer in the free market, I don’t disparage them this) as a marketing matter. I consider “Dissident Voice” a different subject altogether.  

    Posted by john fowles

  5. Anonymous says:

    By the way, it is really an ad hominem attack if, rather than calling him fat or ugly or apostate (he is a former Latter-day Saint) or whatever, I point out the bigotry in his substantive position and the presentation of it? That is something that has repeatedly confused me when accused of ad hominem argumentation around the blogosphere. 

    Posted by john fowles

  6. Anonymous says:

    John, racism, eugenicism? I don’t even see religious bigotry, though there’s strong disapproval of religious conservatives. I’ve read the article pretty carefully a couple of times now. I’m maybe not so bright, but I’m just not seeing what you see. Maybe you have some history with Dissident Voice that makes you read it this way? (I’ve never seen the publication before.) 

    Posted by Kristine

  7. Anonymous says:

    “apostate (he is a former Latter-day Saint)”
    Is he really a former LDS? I am unfamiliar with his story. I certainly haven’t heard anything about about that, but would like to know more…. Thanks for the heads-up. 

    Posted by Peggy Snow Cahill

  8. Anonymous says:

    Peggy and others, here is the response that Mr. Frank sent to my email:

    Elder John,

    Having at one point in my life been a Mormon, I think I have plenty of room to criticize their positions on social issues, as I do and would with the Catholic Church etc. If Reid’s religious beliefs did not influence his policy making, there would be no reason to point out his Mormonism.

    Secondly, yes, I do believe an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-military, pro-corporate agenda is indeed “backwards”. I am not going to argue with a
    anti-choicer (a man no doubt) that believes an unborn fetus is a human being. No email discussion will change either of our minds on that, I am sure.

    And regardless, choice, which Reid and yourself (penis fully erected I am sure) seems to not understand, is that policy makers should not be allowed to dictate what a woman does with her own body. Being a man, I don’t think I have any moral authority to regulate a woman’s body, and therefore believe she has the right to choose what to do with it. Not you, not Reid, nor myself.

    What your email rebuttal does not address is the issues that could make a progessive party stronger, or the Democrats if they were so willing (they aren’t and will never be). How about a living-wage? Real universal heath care? Those issues, among others, for many Americans (40% stayed home this year on voting day), are more important than telling a woman or a gay couple what it is they can and cannot do with their own bodies.

    I will not retract my “backwards” label for Republicans or Democrats, rather I will apply it to your dogma. Watch the Democrats continue to lose, or be run by people like yourself. In which case it is the same scenario.

    My preliminary response to this is:

    (1) Do you at least agree that if a fetus is a human being, then “choice” is not a morally defensible position? (If a fetus is not a human being, then “choice” has a lot more credibility over life, although arguments still remain why abortion is wrong.)

    (2) You said If Reid’s religious beliefs did not influence his policy making, there would be no reason to point out his Mormonism. This statement alone reveals the bigotry that animates your worldview. Presumably, under this logic, if a legislator’s atheism influences his policy making, that is not to be criticized; it is only if someone’s religious beliefs affect policy making (which is actually impossible to avoid for anyone with religious beliefs, just like it is literally impossible for Mr. Frank’s anti-religious beliefs not to influence his decisions and worldview, and if he were a legislator, his policy making), that the person warrants criticism. 

    Posted by john fowles

  9. Anonymous says:

    It would have to be demonstrated 1) what Mr. Reid’s religious beliefs actually are (sure, he’s Mormon but then the blogs prove that we are a diverse lot), and 2) how they influence his policy making. I don’t think either can be proven, which is why I took issue with Mr. Frank’s article. 

    Posted by Ronan

  10. Anonymous says:

    I was about to do my own rebuttal to try and help with some ideas for you, but then I realised that Mr. Frank very almost *is* the editor of DV, as he seems to be involved in a lot of the other replies to letters to the editor (it’s seems to be much like trying to tell a judge that it’s not right to summarily dismiss a case brought against yourself!) I was also going to suggest that you send his reply to the editor asking if he condones this sort of thing from his contributors (John’s allegedly ad hominem attacks come nothing close to this guy!), but considering Mr. Frank’s apparent position within the organisation, that would be a futile movement. Instead, I shall discuss some of the utterly ludicrous (and sometimes outright hilarious) things that he brings up:

    1) Lol – Elder John, when was the last time you were called that?

    2) It should be noted that his prior membership of the church does not in any way affect his priviledges to criticise the church’s social positions. It’s not like he has access to some secret knowledge on the subject to which non-members are denied.

    3) I liked the wordplay he did on the status of foetuses. In his article he referred to it as ‘personhood’. It would appear that to answer your point 1, John, he would answer “I do not agree, so I don’t care about the rest of your sentence.”

    4) The strong impression I get from him is that he views a good Democrat as being someone who opposes the Republicans in all things. While he may legitimately question Mr. Reid’s track record as much as he likes, trying to create (or recreate or maintain, or whatever) a confrontationally hostile opposition is counter-productive. UK politicians have been at it for years, and voter turnout just keeps decreasing. We don’t want someone who’ll say no because the other person says yes, no more than we want someone who’ll say yes because the other person says yes. They’re both an affront to a democratic government, but sadly, party politics, to a certain extent requires this ridiculous behaviour.

    5) I wouldn’t normally mention this, but as Mr. Frank was the one to bring this up: is he saying that his own penis does not erect fully? He should probably have a doctor look at that, you know… 

    Posted by Fraggle

  11. Anonymous says:

    I do not know who or what you are, but you have prevented me from posting comments anywhere on the web. I despise you whatever you are, and you need to study the Constitution, because you are criminals according to it. You seem to be right-wing fundamentalist mormons, morons, which is your right, but you do not have the right to censor me.  

    Posted by Sharon

  12. Anonymous says:

    Sharon, what a bizarre statement. I have not censored you or anyone else. If I had the power to prevent you from posting comments anywhere on the web, then how is it that you posted here? 

    Posted by john fowles

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