What to do when you encounter someone who instinctively, pathologically hates President George W. Bush? Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean clearly spoke for many when he said, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for …" Consider, for example, the following anti-Iraq war letter I received, and my attempt to engage the sender in dialogue.
"Dear Mr. Elder: … How you can support an illegal war waged specifically to line the pockets of rich American Republicans, a war that has killed at least a half a million innocent Iraqis and now well over 2,000 volunteer soldiers, and has made us the most hated people in the world, is beyond my comprehension. I travel the world extensively, and let me tell you that the U.S.A. is completely out of step with the rest of the planet Earth. …
"’Sarah,’ retired public school administrator and university professor"
"Please tell me, do you have a source for your statement about the death of ‘at least a half a million innocent Iraqis’? …
"Looking forward to hearing from you.
"This is purely MY estimation based on my readings. It is curious indeed that there have never been any real numbers given by the American press. Too many innocent deaths would make the U.S.A. look even worse than it already looks. You are most welcome, Mr. Elder."
"When you criticize a ‘war that has killed at least a half a million Iraqis,’ I would have thought you would have some basis for the assertion. Now I understand it is your ‘estimation based on (your) readings.’
"OK, let me rephrase the question. What have you read that caused you to reach this ‘estimation’? I would like to also read at least some of the same material — if it isn’t too much trouble to retrieve it or refer me to it.
"If it is of any help, the British medical journal Lancet last year estimated the number of Iraqi dead at 100,000. A Web site called Iraq Body Count places that number at between 21,000 and 25,000.
"You claim that ‘there have never been any real numbers given by the American press.’ I didn’t realize that the ‘American press’ was expected to ‘give’ these ‘real numbers.’ If you mean the government has never offered any Iraqi casualty figures, that is not true. This month the Pentagon, in a report to Congress, estimated the number of Iraqis dead at 26,000.
"I look forward to hearing from you and reading the material that caused you to reach an Iraqi civilian dead ‘estimation’ five times higher than any I’ve heard.
"Dear Mr. Elder:
"At first, I really thought I was dealing with an intellectual equal when our chats began. You have disappointed me. It was never my intention to encourage you to so arrogantly participate in ‘doing the political dozens’ with me, for the obvious reason that you are right of center and I am to the left, and never the ‘twain shall meet. As for my estimate of 500,000 dead Iraqis, I merely used the 50,000 estimate admitted by our government and multiplied it by 10, which is probably pretty close to the real number of dead. The Bush administration is filled with masters of lies, deceit, distortions, spins, etc., etc., so reaching my conclusion was not unreasonable. As for your British source, I say, ‘big deal’! Blair, or rather Bliar (sic), and Bush have been conspiratorial regarding the Iraq war since its creation. But if the British admit to 100,000 dead, then there are now 1 million dead Iraqis!
"You know, Mr. Elder, it is ludicrous at best for you and I to be arguing about how many Iraqis have died in this senseless war. If it is ONE DEAD, then it is ONE TOO MANY! Mr. Cheney’s dark-side buddies must be pleased with the human beings that have been sacrificed to support their greed for power and money. …"
"It was indeed a very limited pleasure ‘chatting’ with you, but since I do not wish to develop high blood pressure from our political debates, which would never have an ending and because I really want to live long enough to see my great-grand-children fairly soon, I bid you ADIEU!
"Does this mean that you won’t be sending me the reading material on which you based your 500,000 Iraqis dead figure?
"And I was so looking forward to being enlightened by an intellectual superior.
"I already told you how I reached my conclusion. S."
In the spirit of the season, I attempted to open my heart, my mind and my arms, and start a dialogue with a retired-public-school-administrator-and-university-professor-Bush-hater. Oh, well. Merry Christmas. (Is that still allowed?) Pass the eggnog.