2018-07-27 / Letters

Offer words that foster understanding

To the editor,

In response to the letter to the editor by Robert F. Lyons (July 13, 2018), I wish to be charitable. However, it is difficult when the author uses extreme and hurtful language. Asserting at the beginning of his letter that “As the Republican Party morphs toward the image of the Third Reich,” he is using language that is emotionally charged and highly inflammatory.

This is language that does not contribute to meaningful dialogue, which is what we most desperately need at this point in American history.

Mr. Lyons makes reference to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” In his attempt to make the sitting president appear illegitimate and unworthy he describes him as “a thrice-married womanizer, elected by a minority.” The inconvenient truth of this statement is that in recent memory we have had similar occupants of the White House, both Democrats and Republicans. (I will not refer to the womanizers by name, but do note the recent presidents elected with less than a majority of the votes cast: Truman, Kennedy, Nixon, Clinton and George W. Bush). I suspect that Mr. Lyons would not hold all of these in such contempt.

But what troubles me most is Mr. Lyons’ misrepresentation of a quote he attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. First of all, the quote to which he refers is not from Bonhoeffer, but from another German pastor of the World War II, Martin Niemoller (who, by the way, suffered in a concentration camp, but was not martyred. He died in 1984).

The quote is, “First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist - so I said nothing. Then they came for the social democrats, but I was not a social democrat - so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew - so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left who could stand up for me.”

Mr. Lyons’ choice of “victims” is misleading. Again, he omits the “inconvenient truths” that President Trump’s targets are only the immigrants who are illegal, only Muslims who are terrorists, and only those journalists who purposefully and knowingly report lies.

As for doing away with judges, that is blatantly false. In fact, President Trump has appointed more appeals court judges than any other recent president at same point in tenure (PEW Research Center, July 16, 2018).

Whether one agrees or disagrees with President Trump’s positions is one thing; but to intentionally misrepresent him is another. And though it is Mr. Lyons’ right to do so, I find it inappropriate and misleading to assimilate Pastor Niemoller’s words for the points he is trying to make.

We are a deeply divided nation – no one would argue with that. Careless, foolish, inappropriate and dangerous words are hurled about by many on both sides of that divide.

I trust that Mr. Lyons is a person of good will and will reconsider his harsh rhetoric and questionable choice of words. We all need to offer words that are clear and truthful – words that make for reconciliation and peace, words that foster understanding and good will.

The Rev. Emil A. Witschy
Kennebunk

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