Letter: The pot, the kettle and Panther pride

It isn’t very often that a writer knows for sure that he has struck a nerve. But the responses in the March 22 edition of the News to my letter of March 15 were comforting evidence that my words had indeed produced a lot of anguished squealing from their targets. Apparently these folks can dish it out but can’t take it. Because I had the temerity to point out that many of us are weary of the usual suspects annually attacking the school system, I am proud to say that nearly two pages of the newspaper were dedicated to eviscerating my integrity and questioning my character. I got almost as much space as the real estate ads! Well, I never promised y’all a rose garden . . .

I just got tired of listening to this stuff year after year, especially the attacks on the Rappahannock Schools. I stand by what I said. Harry Truman was fond of saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” This kitchen is getting crowded.

Since this “ain’t my first rodeo” I am accustomed to being called names. I once ran against Newt Gingrich for cryin’ out loud. Now, the Newtster is a founding father of “the politics of personal destruction.” He is a walking thesaurus of pejorative adjectives. Newt once called me “scurrilous.” It isn’t as bad as it sounds. “Scurrilous” means one who uses profanity. He was right. I cussed him.

But these Rappahannock News letters are going to go up on my wall as Gold Star examples of the pot calling the kettle black. I was accused by four different writers of being, among other things: very disturbing , guilty of a personal attack, guilty of sarcasm, practicing derision , being a bully, being presumptious, being an ideologue, being unfailingly snarky, guilty of sarcastic vitriol, guilty of lacking class, guilty of cowardice, of a paucity of cogent arguments, of name calling, of smug abuse, of being churlish and being nasty and personally insulting, of being incredibly ignorant and intellectually vacuous and, my favorite, that my “mean spirited, politically motivated, personal attacks are nothing more than a clumsy attempt to intimidate and stifle legitimate public involvement.”

Oh yeah, and that I called Jim Gannon a “scold”! Okay, so I confess to that Gannon part. I also said he was not as tiresome with it as I am.

Well, folks, I went back and read what I wrote and I didn’t see anything in it that deserved this kind of calumny. So I guess these “concerned citizens” have, by this vituperative response, sort of proved my point about their own motivations and modus operandi. I called them out. And they came out by sending these letters, which to me betray a thin-skinned insecurity. I basically said that “this is political nonsense” and they responded with this scattershot blast of 12-gauge buckshot that is a satire of outraged political rhetoric.

It is vital that everyone with concerns about public policy express them, and I would defend anyone’s right to do that to my last breath. And hard-eyed scrutiny of any public budget is also an integral part of our democratic process. Our school system, like our other public institutions, is our business. It is our trust.

But there is a difference between the process of honest analysis of the bottom line and these organized, demeaning attacks on our public schools.

Some folks need to understand that they have moved to a rural community where generations of mountain people have gone to those public schools, and they are very proud of that. Their grandparents went there and their grandchildren go there, and those schools have always been a source of pride for Rappahannock County. I would suggest that that school system is the foundation of our county’s success and specialness. Those generations of Rappahannock families created and protected an environment for living that has attracted so many people to come here.

And sometimes the newcomers seem to arrive with a zeal for improving what they feel is lacking, and some of them have a grating talent for complaint.

So my gripe is with the gripers, and I frankly don’t care what is thrown my way in a public disagreement. I simply consider the source.

Ben Jones
Harris Hollow