I met Joan online last week when she sent me a letter reacting to my July 9-15 column, “We’re all in the room where it happened.” We exchanged notes, and I realized we were doing what educated, respectful people do when they disagree: We talked. This is our gently edited back-and-forth.
Joan: First off, I want to let you know how much I’ve always loved reading your column. Your take on life and the way you incorporate humor into it remind me of Erma Bombeck . . . However, not any more. I can’t even get through one column without you mentioning your political hatred of President Trump. I get freedom of speech, but not when it’s so one-sided. If you want to be political, either run for office or represent both sides. . . . Like it or not, Trump is our president. Do you really see Joe Biden running the country? He doesn’t even know his name. Something is definitely going on there.
Please go back to writing the way you always did. God knows this world needs compassion and humor now more than ever, not hatred. Thanks for letting me vent.
Randi: Joan, I really appreciate your taking the time to write, and I’m happy to know you enjoy some of my columns. I’d like to point out that I write an opinion column — my opinion. You may disagree, but I have no obligation to give what you refer to as “both” sides. That’s for reporters. I’m a columnist, and I offer my own thoughts on the political scene.
I find it a bit sexist that you’re perfectly comfortable with my family pieces that remind you of Erma Bombeck, but don’t want me to be “political.” I can be political, serious as a heart attack and also funny. Depends on what life is throwing my way that week.
Please keep reading, and let’s keep talking.
Joan: Hi Randi, thanks for answering my email.
I never looked at your column as an “opinion” column, which does make me view it differently now. I was a little puzzled regarding your finding my reaction a bit sexist. Maybe “motherly” would be a better way to describe it. Thinking about it, I guess I need an escape from all the political hatred and BS going on in the world, and your column used to provide me with that.
The older I get (I’ll be 66 next month), I’m just tired of all negativity, whether it be political or not. It seems to be everywhere these days. That being said, I do recognize your opinion, and we can, as adults, just agree to disagree.
Randi: Joan, I’d love to know more about you. . . . Do you often write letters to the editor? What is your life like during the pandemic? What brings you joy during these difficult days?
Joan: What a nice thing it is to want to know more about someone; thanks for that. I’ve only written a letter to the editor one other time in my life. That was to a columnist who had just lost his dad, and wrote an article that touched my heart to the core. I had lost my dad as well, and the parallels between the two fathers were amazing, so much so that I felt compelled to write him.
My life during Covid-19 hasn’t been as awful as most people’s. I’m still able to work; my office was quarantined, so I’m basically by myself. I have four sons and 14 grandchildren, so there’s always something to do or someplace to be, so, honestly, I kinda welcomed the opportunity to do nothing on my weekends.
I did miss my hairstylist, however, and I loved your column about hair color and going braless! I totally related! The joy I get these days I would have to say comes from my grandchildren.
Randi: I have an idea: I’d like to use our notes back and forth as a column that shows how people with different political views can find common ground. I could do it including your name or without your name. What do you think? Is there anything you’d like to add to the discussion?
Joan: I was pleasantly surprised by your idea. I’d agree to anything if I thought it could make people less angry and negative. Of course, I wouldn’t want to get into a political smack-down of any kind with you. Deal?
Randi: My intention is to hold up our exchange as an example of mutual civility.
Joan: OK, just use Joan if that’s OK.
Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.