Letter: For a welcome change, let's try civility

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To the editor:

On Thanksgiving Day, we were all greeted with a display of angry, partisan letters to the editor, save the beautiful tribute to Barbara Cianfarini from Denny Alsop ("Environmental legacy will live on in county," Nov. 28). It was fitting to see such a note on this day of gratitude. As to the others, from both sides of the fray, I've personally decided to ignore them and chart a new path.

My epiphany began when I read the tongue-in-cheek (at least I hope it was tongue-in-cheek) laudation of Rachel Maddow provided to us by Andrew L. Pincus ("Counting on Rachel to see us through troubled times," Nov. 23). While I might lean toward the author's point of view, I've always felt that Ms. Maddow was equally dangerous in her rhetoric when compared to, let's say, Sean Hannity. Both espouse extreme positions and fire up their viewers, encouraging them to call the opposition names. Liar seems to be the noun of choice for each side.

After reading the Pincus piece, my journey became crystal clear to me. And a few days later while in the Stockbridge Post Office, I did something that I've meant to do for quite some time — I introduced myself to Ed Dartford. I rarely, if ever agree with Mr. Dartford on anything, but his intelligent, cogent and thoughtful letters are written without anger or threats of retribution. Our conversation was brief but I'm hoping it might be the start of something; a dialogue that we should all be having. I told him that "we don't agree on most things, but isn't it wonderful that we live in a country where we can express opposing opinions" without being reported to the authorities and then fear horrible retribution; re-education, beheading or stoning for example. There are, in fact, countries that still exhibit such behavior.

I didn't know what to expect, as the last time I attempted to have a dialogue with an angry letter writer who had expressed views that differed with my own I was met with multiple expletives and a reference to my stature. In retrospect, I laugh at the exchange and continue to laugh every time I see an opinion from that particular scribe. But, in this instance, Mr. Dartford greeted me with a smile, a handshake and a thank you in recognition of this wonderful experiment, our republic and everything it stands for. He acknowledged my courteous approach and wished that we could all talk to each other in the fashion we were both exhibiting. I expect that we will continue to disagree but I truly believe we can, all of us, do so in a fashion more befitting the amazing country in which we live. I look forward to further dialogue.

I would be naive to think that my simple attempt at civility will result in anything revolutionary, but suffice it to say, it was Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Although it comes from an English writer talking about a French philosopher, that quote epitomizes the country in which we live. In this holiday season, I encourage others to embrace the thought and to seek a similar path.

David S. Rosenthal,

Stockbridge

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