In last week’s column, I invited people to tell me why they thought the Constitution was flawed or unfair, or with what parts they disagree. I concluded the column by saying, “Write and tell me why you think the Constitution is limited or flawed. Keep your answers as short as possible, and I'll report them in next week's column.”
As you can imagine, I got quite a response from a large number of readers, which I thought was great. Some people ignored the “keep your answers short” part and wrote a lot of stuff, but hey, that’s okay. I’m willing to read.
One of those people was “Ralph.” He wrote me a 1050-word explanation as to how he feels the Constitution is flawed. It was well-researched and well-written, but obviously far far too long for me to include in this weekend’s column. So I replied by saying, “Some excellent points - thanks for taking the time to send them.”
Oooooh, big mistake.
Ralph is obviously one of those people who thinks I spent my entire week just waiting for his email. Not satisfied with my admittedly short reply, he wrote: “Fascinating one-liner Patrice. Thanks for taking the four seconds to send it. I'd compliment your excellent points, in return, but, gee, you made none. Must not be a topic you really care to consider. Sorry to have cost you the four seconds. May the chains bear lightly…”
Miffed, I answered as follows:
“Sorry to offend, but I had 98 other emails to answer (literally), a cow to milk, my kids to homeschool, a woodworking business that required my attention, a column which is due tomorrow, a manuscript due next week, two sets of out-of-town music lessons to drive my kids to, a cow to milk again, and a house to maintain. I could have ignored your email altogether and not bothered to reply, but if someone is kind enough to send me something to read, I like to read it. I just don't have the time to write a tome in response.”
Not satisfied, Ralph wrote back:
“Had it been something I just did a copy/paste on I'd take no offense. However, I'm sure you can tell that it took a bit of my time. (Not counting the 100s of hours spent in research prior, so I could answer a question).
Had it been something I just sent to you out of the blue I'd take no offense. However, it was in response to your request.
If you've too little time to read, comprehend and minimally discuss an answer to your own question, the latter to act as a confirmation that you did read and comprehend the response, then perhaps you ought not to pose the question. The responder is very likely to take offense. Wouldn't you?
I could list a litany of my own scheduled events, interrupted so that I could answer your question, but I'd find that to be as non sequitur as your list.
Perhaps when your children's lessons arrive at the U.S. History segment regarding Wilson and the Treaty of Versailles you'll recall the uselessness of the subject matter (to American students) and be able to tell them what really happened, not what's implied in all the textbooks. That won't much divert your schedule. Hopefully, when they question why all the textbooks fail to accurately cover the topic, you'll have an answer for them.”
Okay, so Ralph is one of those readers who assumes he’s the only one who responded, the only one who deserves a 1500 word reply, and the only one to whom I should give any attention. Got it.
Ralph clearly missed the “keep your answers short” part. The purpose of my request for input was to “report them in next week’s column” (as I stated), NOT to engage in a protracted back-and-forth debate, a subtlety Ralph obviously failed to grasp.
When such misunderstandings occur, normally I would question whether my request was badly-phrased or otherwise unclear; but the 82 other people who replied got the right idea, so I don’t think that’s the case.
Not quite sure what this guy wants me to do except get into a pissing contest with him. Sorry, no can do. Ain’t got time. Instead, I think I’ll ignore all future missives from dear ol’ Ralph. People like him make me nervous.