Letters I've Written


It's always been my belief that good argumentation is NOT aimed at one's opponents. If you truly believe in your cause, why should not they be equally committed and passionate about theirs? The TRUE recipients of good argumentation are the large mass of the undecided.

That being the case, I try to look at what sort of arguments would sway myself, and use them when trying to persuade others. I personally despise hysterical appeals to emotion, and rude name-calling. I do my best, therefore, not to whine or rant at those I'm trying to reason with. I also happen to agree with the following commentary re the inadvisability of antagonizing those who could be on your side with a little effort on your part.

I encourage everyone to do the same -- a plethora of courtesy, intelligence, and reason in argumentation certainly cannot hurt, and probably will help, any cause you are associated with.

For letters on the issue of gun- vs. criminal-control, please go here. For a letter on the issue of bigotry please go here.

This letter was sent out after I received, for the third time, a letter dunning me for money, from the organization "Common Cause," which does not seem to be clear on what cause(s) precisely it is espousing.

21 September 2000

Scott Harshbarger, President & CEO
Common Cause
1250 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington DC 20036

Dear Mr. Harshbarger:

I recently received a letter from Common Cause. On the envelope were two photos. One was of a rather grim looking older white gentleman, and the other of a young, pigtailed girl. The captions read, respectively, 'The NRA wants to make sure guys aren't hassled at gun shows' and 'She wants to come home from school alive.'

I am not really much involved in the gun controversy, but letters like yours certainly move me to become more so. Even not being up on the facts of the case, I was disgusted that you would use such blatantly inaccurate and simplified nonsense on your envelopes, and shocked that you actually thought me stupid enough to fall for it.

When I looked inside the letter I found more wild and poorly considered claims. Somehow, you seem to have decided the NRA -- a nonprofit organization, just as yours is -- is the source of all special interest money to the government. Personally, I find huge and impersonal corporations and the WTO far more frightening and far more willing to buy government representation at the cost of the people. However, I can certainly understand why you would feel the need to try to tie two completely different issues as gun control and campaign finance reform together like that. It's sadly obvious you're doing your best to cloud the issue with thoughtless and emotional appeals, after all, not contribute meaningfully to rational discussion of the issues.

Since this is the third time I've received this ridiculous and unfortunate piece of trash, I'm writing you to tell you to please remove my name from your mailing list and your rental list immediately.

Thank you for your time, and I do hope you reconsider your mailings. I don't think they're having the effect you intend.

Collie Collier

These two letters were sent out after the appearance of Tom Selleck on Rosie O'Donnell's show -- the one where poor Mr. Selleck got rather emotionally ambushed by Ms. O'Donnell. The first is to K-Mart, the second to Ms. O'Donnell herself. The one to K-Mart is signed with my middle name so I can tell if I get put onto a mailing list or not.

To Whom it May Concern:

I'm sure by now you've heard of Rosie O'Donnell's use of her show to conduct her campaign of hysterical condemnation of all gun owners. I'm sure you also know that she told Tom Selleck that since he did an ad for the NRA he must both represent and justify them to her.

I found this an odd tack for her to take, until I realized that she must therefore believe that as your ad representative she speaks for you. If this is the case I am shocked at your advocacy of her reprehensible verbal ambush of Mr. Selleck. I am also disgusted that you back her under-educated (she admits this herself) emotional rants -- I cannot bring myself to call what she does argumentation.

I shall not spend another penny of my money at your stores while Ms. O'Donnell speaks for you. Furthermore I shall also advise my family and friends to refuse to spend their hard-earned money at your stores, until Ms. O'Donnell is no longer your representative.

Thank you for your time.

--Alden Collier

Dear Ms. O'Donnell

To me you've always seemed a pleasant and thoughtful individual, as compared to the usual under-educated, thoughtlessly burbling show-biz bimbo. Unfortunately I've been violently disabused of this notion, as I recently read on the web of your show with Tom Selleck. I'm quite surprised at your behavior.

My first thought was 'what a jerk!' and to simply tune you out. However, my second thought was to wonder why on earth you're pontificating about guns if, by your -own- admission, you have no personal knowledge of them. Stating at the top of your voice that they're evil does not equal knowing anything about them.

I'd like to offer you a proposition. I realize you're unlikely to take me up on it, but I thought perhaps a voice of reason might be welcome in the midst of all this hysterical mud-slinging. It's quite simple: I have responsible and law-abiding friends that are gun-owners. I'd like to invite you to come with me and one of my responsible gun-owning friends, and just go shooting with us, at a local shooting range. There wouldn't be any name-calling, no one would ambush you or demand that you justify yourself, no one but my friend and I would know it was you... and you'd be able to get some first hand experience with actually shooting a pistol.

I think you'll find that guns are just tools -- not mind-warping, or evil incarnate, or anything similar. Furthermore, if you're willing to try this with me you'll have some personal information that will allow you to have an -informed- opinion on guns. I believe doing this can only help you, as it is my personal belief that more information is always better than none, and that reasoned debate requires education in the topic of discussion.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to a reply.

--B. A. Collier

This was in response to an e-mail I received concerning my gun control = media propaganda pages.

I happen to agree with you concerning the Second Amendment -- either change it or don't! But stop throwing all these foolish and misguided attempts at gun regulations that deliberately flout the Second Amendment at us. I feel the same way about the issue of free speech -- partial free speech is about as logical as being partially pregnant.

As far as careless people allowing murderous children access to guns, we should keep in mind that not all the school shootings occurred in this fashion. On several occasions the guns were unlawfully gotten. One case I'm thinking of specifically (Arkansas, I believe?) the two boys in question broke into a safe and smashed a locked case to get at the guns. The recent shooting in Canada (a country with strong gun control laws) also demonstrates this -- namely that if people want guns, they WILL find a way to get them.

It's my belief that it would be more productive to heavily punish those that misuse guns. If someone steals your car, and it's used in the commision of a crime, we don't punish the responsible car owner. We punish the thief that smashed a window to get into the car and took the car on a joyride that ends up killing someone. And yes, parents are responsible for their children, as well as for safely storing weapons and cars. But if the storage was safe, the parent has gone to great lengths to keep dangerous tools from the children -- and the child still goes to great lengths to retrieve these tools, how can you hold the parents responsible? They've both acted in a moral fashion, and done what is required by law.

Ordinarily I would agree with you concerning gun registration. It seems quite harmless on the surface. However, as I noted towards the end of my paper, it would work ONLY if it were truly gun registration, not a prelude to further restrictions and confiscations. This may seem overly paranoid, but I will note that we can see this precise issue in action today. Consider: the Brady Bill was supposed to put a 3 to 5 day waiting period into effect until instant checks could be instituted. The information gathered was supposed to be kept for a maximum of about 3 months for administrative purposes only.

Today we have instant checks in place. Unfortunately, the organizations responsible for destroying the records are keeping them -- they are breaking the law! Furthermore, our president has put forth a broad crime bill which includes a provision that expands the Brady Law, reinstating the waiting period. Why? We already have an instant check.

This is exactly what gun ownership proponents are afraid of... and in light of current events, I think their fear is justified. Individual, shocking tragedies are being used as a pretext to further the abolitionists' agenda. People keep saying gun owners are paranoid. I think the gun owners have every right to be concerned about the actions of the abolitionists and the legislature.

Key members of the gun control faction have stated publicly that 'this for the children.' There have been several documents leaked from their organizations which make their agenda very clear. Those organizations have since disavowed any knowledge of these documents, saying they are complete frauds. However, their actions and activities strongly correlate to the goals and plans stated in these documents: the complete abolition of guns in the United States.

Furthermore, they use advocacy research (a study performed to support a pre-determined result. Any data that doesn't 'fit' is discarded). A single example: redefining 'child' as including all individuals up to the age of 24, to inflate the child mortality rate due to guns. This doesn't make their 'research' accurate, or their facts true. Yes, they have actually done this -- I mention this in my paper. Or you could check out the data in some of their supposed research -- but good luck finding it. Most of the time they won't release their raw data, just their conclusions. Or you could read Suter's paper about accuracy in research. I list a link to that very article in my bibliography.

Unfortunately they frequently cloud the issue by characterizing any research that doesn't support their beliefs as 'flawed' or simply state 'it has been refuted,' and again, they provide no supporting documentation or data.

To me, this means the 'gun control nuts' are either liars, sadly misinformed, or in a very strong state of denial. One thing you must realize, most of the visible proponents of these laws have suffered great personal tragedy. While I'm sympathetic to their loss, I don't think an emotional appeal is a substitute for good science and good laws.

As far as the proponents that deliberately lie... I despise liars, almost as much as I despise hypocrites. I consider these people to be both. Think about it: if it were really for the children, why aren't they legislating out of existence the things that kill more children than guns do? More children are killed in car wrecks or drowned in swimming pools than are killed by guns... yet we don't have car control nuts or swimming pool control nuts. How about getting every kid in the United States vaccinated? All this time and effort would be much better spent improving the lives of children, rather than restricting the lives of adults.

As far as the media being free... heh. I'm afraid I fear the media's bias almost as much as I fear my government's bias. For an interesting view on it, I recommend Dr. John Lott's webpage discussing how the media treated him and his 1998 book More Guns, Less Crime.

Unfortunately there are no major newspapers or media outlets that aren't owned by some major international corporation. Needless to say, there's been a quiet chilling effect on certain types of stories -- not just over the issue of guns. How can these people be unbiased? How can our press consider itself 'free'? The answer is: they can't. The newspapers owned by the conglomerate that includes Disney, for example, didn't report anything a year or two ago concerning problems Disney is having with workers in EuroDisney, and the newspapers owned by Warner made almost no mention whatsoever concerning the furor a few years ago over the rap song 'Cop Killer.' I'm sure it was just coincidence that the singer was contracted to Warner. ;-)

No, I don't think the top brass in these corporations are saying 'you may not do this.' I think the people in the 'front lines' are inadvertently shying away from stories that might get them in trouble 'up the line.' If there's only 3 companies in the country that own every newspaper, where can you go if your editor won't publish your 'hard-hitting expose'?

For myself, the piece of 'research' I would MOST love to get a copy of is the Kellerman study. Unfortunately it appears he won't let anyone see his actual numbers. I try hard not to assume that is due to a guilty conscience, but he does make it difficult on occasion... Glad you enjoyed the resources I could find though.

This letter was sent concerning Steven Pyrhho's article in Salon titled Black & White & read all over.

Mr. Pyrhho has my sympathies. I had something similar happen to me some months ago, in what was supposed to be a senior thesis under-grad class on the cultural construction of masculinity at the University of California in Santa Cruz anthropology department. A grad student, who did not know how to handle conflict within the classroom, was teaching this high level under-grad class.

A young Asian girl in the class decided I was a racist. No matter what the actual details of the occurrence were -- I (a white woman) had been branded a racist by a woman of color. As a consequence, no concept I wanted to explore and nothing I said could be of any significance. The one person who openly noted in class that the girl was deliberately misinterpreting my words was informed that he (a white man) was "behaving in a patriarchal fashion." It was courageous of him to speak out, and I deeply appreciated his telling comment to me later, "Her identity crisis is NOT your problem, Collie." He was also accused of "heightism" since he was taller than most of the people in the class...

Everyone else in the class was either silent or actively supported the girl in her verbal attacks on me. I even received "supportive" hate-mail, letting me know that they were willing to help me once I had "admitted my complicity in racist white privilege." I believe that many chose to remain silent in an effort to avoid being labeled a racist by the girl's clique and the instructor. The instructor, who should have remained neutral while encouraging debate, alleviated his "cultural feelings of guilt for [my] whiteness" (his words, not mine) by actively encouraging the girl to speak at length, while asking me to remain 'respectfully' silent.

No one was allowed to question this girl's assessment. It was assumed to be true because she was a 'woman of color' and I was (I suppose) a 'colorless woman.' No one was allowed to ask why judgement based on the color of my skin was acceptable behavior. None of my experiences (in the United States or abroad) were relevant; they had already formed their opinion and had decided who and what I was, regardless of the facts. I was the class scapegoat, designated by the instructor as a convenient target to alleviate their own fear of being labeled racist. If the righteous defenders of the new status quo were attacking me, everyone else in the class could keep their heads down and avoid getting attacked themselves. Amusingly enough, the only other 'woman of color' in that class came to me privately and told me to stick to my guns -- the class would find a new scapegoat soon enough.

I chose to fight back against this bit of bigotry. I did not and do not believe that those who shout loudest are necessarily right. You can see my final paper (which the instructor disliked) here.

I firmly believe that universities should be places of learning and intellectual exploration. Until people of conscience refuse to allow the anxieties of the thoughtless and insecure to dictate what is taught, we will be force-fed dogma instead of learning to question, to explore. I realize it is currently very hard to be a single, lonely voice of reason against what appears to be a uniform mass consensus, but I encourage you to try. If nothing else, your conscience will be clear. :-)

Thanks for listening, and good luck.