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It's so much fun being an author! We get some very nice letters from fans like this guy. This is what we all work for--the chance for some numbskull to call our work derivative drivel.

This guy does not know how to express himself without using obscenities--a sure sign of a deep thinker.

Kiss Hitchens' feet? Bite his feet off, maybe. He makes my skin crawl.

I was a liberal until I was 27 and just as mouthy about it. And never once did a conservative talk to me like that.

Since becoming a conservative A LOT of liberals have talked to me like that. Anecdotal but revealing.

I read an article about a reporter who wore a Kerry shirt around the most Republican area of California and a Bush shirt in the most liberal: Not one incident with the Republicans. They were all polite and helpful and nice and he never got more than a little gentle friendly teasing.

A lot of liberals treated him poorly, rudely, and like an outsider. The reporter was liberal, expected the exact opposite, and was shocked.

I'm from Scotland.

...no, I'm not him! But if you look closely at his word-capitalisation trends in the email, he seems to be saying 'Impossible idea, go challenge'. Hm.

Margaret,

I don't think I'd want to kiss Hitchens' feet, either ...

Harry,

There are some conservatives who can be pretty rude 'n' crude - like the execrable Michael Savage, a master of the cheap shot. Ann Coulter can be mean, too. It does seem to me that more of the venom is on the left, but that may just be because they are out of power and feeling frustrated. During the Clinton years there was a lot of toxic talk from the right - claims that Clinton was a drug smuggler, a murderer, a Soviet dupe, a spy for China, and that Hillary was a lesbian who (at the same time) had an affair with Vince Foster ...

It goes both ways, I think.

Brin,

Believe me, I'm not tarring all Scots with the same brush! I am of Scottish descent myself. The family legend is that we came over on the Mayflower, but I am doubtful.

Interesting about the capitalization. The email almost cries out for psychological analysis, doesn't it?

If I were trying to read between the lines, I would say that this fellow was raised in a religious (possibly Calvinist) household, then rebelled, and is now very hostile toward religion in general - yet still thinking in somewhat religious terms ("Damnation awaits ...").

He says he is a bookstore clerk, a fairly low-paying job for someone who seems well educated - which leads me to think that he is an aspiring, and so far frustrated, writer. He blames his lack of success on the intellectual superiority of his work, which cannot find a publisher in a marketplace dominated by mediocre commercial hacks - hence his antagonism toward genre fiction. He sees himself as part of an intellectual elite, held back by the ignorance of the masses, who do not want to be "challenged."

His otherwise inexplicable reference to 35-year-olds who live with their parents strikes me as psychological projection; my bet is that he is (or was until recently) dependent on his family for some measure of financial support, and he is ashamed of it. He may be less confident in his abilities than he pretends; his references to low IQ, etc., suggest that he may fear he is not as smart as he likes to believe. His references to bilge, crap, rubbish, etc. also strike me as projection; generally when we label others as no good, we are secretly afraid that we ourselves are no good. (Scapegoating is a very old practice.) So for all his bluster, he may be quite insecure and may even see himself as a failure, as garbage.

For all these reasons, I think that he is very unhappy with his present circumstances, and when he writes with peculiar emphasis, "I ... just ... don't ... understand," he is really saying that he doesn't understand how to break out of the situation in which he finds himself. In that sense, the letter may be a cry for help at an unconscious level.

If I were trying to help him, I would say that he should not judge his worth as a person by what he has or hasn't accomplished thus far. There is more to a human being than a resume, and a lack of success in a particular endeavor does not turn a person into garbage. Being mad at the world or mad at himself (it amounts to the same thing) is only a short-term coping strategy. The longer-term strategy is to pursue a meaningful goal while not investing one's own value as a person in the outcome. Commit to the process, detach from the outcome, as the Bhagavad Gita teaches.

Of course, my analysis could be all wrong, but usually when someone invests this much emotion in a letter to a stranger, there is an underlying meaning that is much more profound (and more profoundly human) than the surface message.

You know what, Michael? You're absolutely right. We weren't very classy when not in power. It's easy to be generous when you're ahead in the game. Excellent point.

I guess that shows, there can be more to people than meets the eye. In this case, perhaps quite a lot more!

Seriously, this analysis certainly has potential to elevate the guy beyond the title of 'some numbskull'.

Who knows, maybe he'll read all this and chip in his two cents!

Harry,

Of course, the other side of the coin is that the Clintons were (are?) astonishingly corrupt. Hillary's cattle futures, Bill's Troopergate, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, the travel office, IRS audits of conservative think tanks, the Secret Service's arrest of a guy for asking Clinton a tough question at a town hall meeting ... not to mention the corrupt cronies they surrounded themselves with - Ron Brown, Web Hubbel, Janet Reno (she was either corrupt or just grossly incompetent, I'm not sure which) ... and their hatchetmen like Dick Morris and Harold Ickes ... and the general air of sleaze emanating from the Clinton White House, with Bill hanging out in the Oval Office in a sweatsuit, telling people what kind of underwear he wore, making "jokes" about his critics being racists, implying that talk radio hosts were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing ...

Yeah, it's all coming back to me! In that atmosphere, a certain amount of paranoia and mean-spiritedness on the Right was probably justified. It looks bad in retrospect, though.

Brins,

I admit that my analysis of the hostile emailer was a flight of fancy that could be entirely off-base. It was interesting to create a mental picture of this gent and flesh it out imaginatively, but of course he might be altogether different. One thing is certain: he needs to work on his social skills!

Just blogged that amazing list. I'd forgotten as well.

But Republicans did accuse the Clintons of murder. Jesse Helms made some crack about what the army would do if he came to NC -- and lost my vote. They made fun of Chelsea...

That's coming back too,

Updated my post so it reflect better the context of all this.

Oh, I don't doubt that you didn't exactly pour hours of in-depth analysis or research into your assessment of the email, Michael, but what you came up with is still very impressive, however far from the truth it is!

It's probably not going to happen now, but a comment from this person here would have added some depth to all this. I'd be interested to see his scope on what you've said (then again, he might be equally hostile!).

Anyway, this grand discussion has gone far enough now, I think.

Now, black holes...

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