Friday, July 31, 2015

An Open Letter to Open Letter Writers

Dear Open Letter Writers,

I applaud you and your public bravery. That special way you share your public-but-should-be-private finger wagging with celebrities, athletes, politicians, or that guy who cut in front of you at Starbucks serves as a reminder of your work as a positive role model to society.

After all, it takes a lot of chutzpah to share your opinions in public. Other people might call it passive-aggressive. Sort of like the way someone speaks loudly to friends in a restaurant about how noisy children are a sign of bad parenting, in the hopes that the people at the next table will tell their bratty kids to shut up.

I can only imagine how irate and annoyed you must be with someone in particular that you want to publicly shame them for what they've done. I'm guessing you have a special insight into the actual circumstances in that person's life, so why shouldn't you air your opinion?

After all, rulers and religious figures have done it for centuries, so why not you?

When kings and presidents write an open letter, it's called a letters patent, and it's usually in the form of a legal document. Think of it as a legal proclamation, such as appointing someone to a political office. Meanwhile, a letters patent written by the Pope is called a papal bull.

The New Testament's Letters of Paul are also open letters. In them, he writes to a particular church, such as Ephesus, or a single person, like Timothy. But in all his letters, the lessons and ideas are intended for everyone. Which some people think are also bull.

That's what I admire about you, dear open letter writer. You're no religious or political leader, and yet you write your own open letter, sharing your ideas from on high. Just like a king or queen, you place yourself in a position of moral authority, allowing everyone else to purse their lips and clutch their pearls in agreement.

Some people might be encouraged to take a less visible route, and find a way to send a private message to the object of your scorn. They might — incorrectly, I'm sure — believe that the other person would appreciate some privacy and quiet dignity to ponder the error of their ways.

But not you. You share your gripe with everyone, because you're well aware of how much the rest of the world cares what you think about your chosen celebrity, athlete, politician, or Starbucks line cutter.

Of course, we appreciate the way you put yourself out there. Not only do you bravely point the finger of shame at a complete stranger, you also serve as the beacon of goodness and righteousness for the rest of us to follow.

That's a heavy burden indeed.

Don't get me wrong, dear open letter writer, what you do is valuable. You demonstrate what self-righteous indignation should actually look like.

In turn, we can embody your outrage and channel it into other issues, writing our own open letters — in the form of Facebook status updates — about topics that affect us greatly. Like whether two people we have never met can get married. Or how at least half the politicians in this country are idiots. Or whether athletes in a sport we don't actually care about cheated at their sport.

Your example of how right-thinking people should behave serves as an inspiration, and makes us feel free to lecture strangers on what we think is appropriate behavior.

For example, I feel more justified in writing open letters to the parents who let their young children scream and run around at restaurants, and then slipping the letters into the bill holders when they're not looking.

It's definitely safer than standing up and shouting over at them to "shut those blasted kids up!" Plus, my wife doesn't kick me under the table so much. And I don't receive open letters from the manager about how I'm not allowed in the restaurant.

Well, not so much open letters as restraining orders, which I suppose could make them letters patent. Especially since the judge got mad when I kept saying "if it pleases her royal highness."

So thank you, dear open letter writers, for all you do. For guiding us and showing us the proper way to act. For singling out people you've never met and holding them up for shame and ridicule. With chutzpah and audacity like yours, I predict even greater things for you.

Like becoming a newspaper columnist, for example.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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