There are plenty of otherwise rational individuals in the world who avoid confrontation at all costs, as if getting labeled a “Capitalist” was somehow worse than actually being one. This article is dedicated to them.
Sometimes, even I receive hate mail. It’s shocking, I know, but true. And although each frothing critic has his own peculiar method of letting me know precisely how I resemble various organic debris stuck to the bottom of his Birkenstocks, all the hate mail I receive elicits one simple response: a confident smile.
Receiving hate mail is a sign that one has enemies, and having enemies is a sign that one has principles.
After all, triggering hate mail isn’t as easy as it looks. In order to elicit a negative response from readers, two noteworthy events must occur. First, someone has to actually read the offending article. For many writers, this alone is an accomplishment; few people write hate mail to the authors of IKEA instruction manuals, even if the authors deserve it. Second, the reader has to figure out that there is a point to the article, and that he doesn’t particularly care for whatever that point is. Because articles that have points are generally preferable to those that don’t, this too is an accomplishment for many writers.
But for a reader to embark upon the eminently futile task of composing a venomous letter to some writer whom they’ve never met, the article must fulfill one additional requirement: it must say something important. Articles that generate hate mail are those that make statements that directly and broadly relate to people’s lives. They are about politics, morality, war, religion, or–for someone who has managed to convince himself that he and a pile of feathers are integrally related–spotted-owls.
As it turns out, the world is full of lots of different people. Although this trite observation sums-up nearly the entire curriculum at many public schools, people often forget it. An observation conspicuously absent from those schools, however, is that some of these different people are stupid, uninformed, or just plain evil.
For proof that evil men exist, one need only look slightly south of Florida. Fidel Castro routinely throws political dissidents in prison. Last year, his thugs beat and jailed six human rights activists–one of whom was blind–for alleged crimes of “public disorder” and “contempt.” For proof that stupid men exist, one need only listen to what leftists say about Cuba. Last week, reverend Lucius Walker of the Salvation Baptist Church in Brooklyn publicly praised Castro, saying, “Cuba, you are a world leader in human rights and respect for human life.” Huh?
With guys like Castro and Walker on the loose, one ought to have enemies. No matter what one’s moral code–Objectivism, Christianity, Kantianism, or Environmentalism–someone on the globe is bound to dislike it. Jesus and Carl Jung had enemies anytime someone bothered to think, and Ayn Rand had enemies anytime someone didn’t. Having enemies is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the reverse is true. To exist without enemies is to be a miserable jellyfish that stands for nothing. It requires withholding criticism of anyone for any reason out of fear of disapproval–cowering to Stalin, blessing the Ayatollah, and winking at Hitler. Throughout history, those who avoid making enemies have found themselves ruled by murderous tyrants wondering why “fate” dealt them such a lousy hand.
The question for any self-respecting person to ask is not, “How can I avoid having enemies?” Instead it is, “Who are my enemies and what are their arguments against me?” Having enemies who use cogent, well-reasoned arguments might prompt one to carefully reconsider a position. But if the enemy considers himself an “authority” because he plays the President on television and his argument against going to war in Iraq is that “Alcoholics Anonymous and jazz are the only original things of importance” ever to come out of America, then go ahead and throw Mr. Sheen’s letter away. Having a moron for an enemy is a good sign. Wear his criticism like a badge of honor.
So what about my enemies? Before writing this article, I reviewed several e-mails from outraged comrades on the left. I studied carefully the ad hominem, ad verecundiam, and irrelevant conclusions in all of them, and guess what?
Any man ought to be proud to have enemies like mine.