Here is one recent example:
"I think your paper is nice but I think all the gay Lesibian (sic) in the back page is sick. They should of (sic) all stayed behind the closet. I hate seeing them I just want to throw up. Then you advertise it. For them to look for a same sex partner.
"Puke me and gags (sic) me."
As the newspaper's editor, if that person had provided a name and number, my first course of action would have been to call and thank them for the compliment. I probably would have then asked exactly why they are, if so disgusted, compelled to troll the adult ads in the classified section. I probably would have asked them if they were willing to have their letter published. It is very American, after all, for a newspaper to provide a forum for many opinions.
But this column isn't about moral values. At least not mine. This is about anonymous intimidation. It's about a Colorado Springs resident who wrote a letter to the editor of the daily newspaper and got it printed. It's about a subsequent effort to shut him up by threatening bodily harm.
On Nov. 7, Joe Sciallo offered his fervent response to the outcome of the presidential election. This is his letter, which was headlined by the Gazette as "Sour grapes":
"Face it. John Kerry just wasn't entertaining enough. Wanted to talk figures, statistics, facts, plans. Wanted to speak about reality, not fantasy. Bush, on the other hand, well, let's just say that he wants to run the country like a reality-based TV show. The libuhrals (sic) are the baddies, and must be voted off the island. As long as Bush can talk in simple platitudes, right versus wrong, blacknwhite (sic), and keep the dual spectacles of terrorism and gay marriage revved up like a Sunday afternoon football game, 51 percent of the people will follow.
"By the way, when things get really bad, when Johnny and Suzie Young Republican are spending their spring break in Iraq, when the national debt bleeds so much red ink that Bush wants to permanently gut Social Security and Medicare, when the Supremes get two or three new right-winger members and overturn Roe-v-Wade and your daughters are buying coat hangers again, I don't want to hear you 51 percent complain one damn bit."
Mr. Sciallo says he was hoping to make his point through sarcasm. "My wife and I have talked about this topic for a long time; the hypocrisy of supporting life being taken in a misguided war but so much emphasis on abortion."
The next day Sciallo received a letter mailed to him at his home. The return address indicated only it was from "a true American." This is what it said:
"Well aren't you the great one getting your filthy Bush bashing artical [sic] printed in the paper? You liberals are the sickest poor sports we've ever seen -- How stupid can you be voting for a dumb bell like Kerry? Have you no sense or morals? Get real stupid & do something positive with your life (low life that is.
Don't write any more stupid articals (sic) & be a good sport -- You lost, thats (sic) the way it is fella -- !! Hope you haven't brought any of your people in the world ugh
Partial Birth Abortion - Out (In the letter, there's a circle with the word "Out" in it, and a slash through it.)
I suppose you agree with killing babies!!
Your (sic) also a (sic) abortion lover -- how many abortions have your girlfriends had??
That way you don't have to take care of babies & still have your sinfull (sic) fun -- your (sic) pitiful & discusting (sic)!!
Maybe your mother should have aborted you stupid!!"
Four days later Sciallo received this second, unsigned letter:
"You better watch your back -- you abortion loving S.O.B. Get out of our country & join the terrorist (sic) & the other hate American (sic) groups -- we don't want you here -- Watch out you idiot -- we are watching you at all times."
Mr. Sciallo was, not surprisingly, rattled. He called the police. They came and looked at his letters. They opened a file on the case. They told him, " 'Welcome to the club,' " he said. They told him to keep his doors locked, to call them if he observed any suspicious activity or gets any more letters. It is, of course, against the law to threaten someone with bodily harm. But what else are the cops supposed to do? And what else is he supposed to do? Call his congressman?
"I'm dismayed, shocked, concerned," Sciallo says about his welfare and that of his family. "The first [letter], well I didn't take it personally, though I did take offense at the moniker 'true American.' My wife and I value family. We volunteer in our kids' school. We give to charity. We recycle. We have values."
And of the un-American effort to get him to shut up by way of intimidation? Will Sciallo stop writing letters to the editor?
"Oh, hell no," he says.
God bless him.