Letter to the Editor

'Friend'-ly response

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dear Editor:

I'd like to react to Mr. Patrick Brophy's article, "I Had a Friend," in Friday, April 11's Nevada Daily Mail.

I recognize the identity of Mr. Brophy's "friend,"as she's been a dear friend of mine since 1973, when my family moved from Minnesota to Nevada, Mo.

I won't send her a xerox copy of Mr. Brophy's column, nor even a brief summary of his bile in a letter, because it seems to me a self-righteous and nasty little piece of work that would surely hurt her, and I'll have no part of that.

"People are more than their politics," writes Mr. Brophy here, in his beginning, "larger and more interesting than their abstract opinions." 'Well, bravo, Mr. B,' I thought, 'it's been a long time coming!'

But then, how is it that he himself can hardly wait to contradict himself by slapping the term "liberal" on her, again and again and once again, to the verge of the comic -- even taking a gratuitous swipe at "NPR arch-liberal Nina Totenberg" -- as if he were trying to spit a rotten, ill-tasting morsel of meat from his mouth?

Pftui! Pftui! I used to urge my writing students to avoid trying to impress their readers by feigning vast learning, because it nearly always does nothing but distract them from the main argument and shift their focus to such gaudy items as Latin phrases and irrelevant factoids. But Mr. Brophy, like most autodidacts, has always insisted on adding a dash of Latin to his stew to wow the hoi polloi: "Dum facit clamant," which he immediately translates as "Her silence speaks volumes." ("Her" is a nice sop tossed to his female "friend," isn't it?)

My question is: If Mr. Brophy's going to give the English meaning, then what's the point in giving the Latin original in the first place, unless as a little smidgeon of contempt tossed to his readers? Toward the end of his editorial, Mr. Brophy writes, "For her, many things [surely the printer's error, not Mr. Brophy's] were off the table, not to be taken 'seriously, but not too seriously.'"

Now, my question is, What the hell does this mean? Above all else, Mr. Brophy, be clear, even if it doesn't sound learned and profound. It's only a newspaper editorial, after all.

Second, the word "ecJeaternitatis" rather confuses me, as I suspect it would the columnist's "friend," too. Does it refer somehow to either Jeeter Lester, the laughable degenerate in Caldwell's God's Little Acre" or Derrick Jeter, of the New York Yankees? Beats me. Proofread! Proofread! Mr. B.!

Finally, Mr. Brophy reports that he lately wrote his friend that "she needn't feel obligated to go on subjecting herself to the torture of replying to my seemingly painfully malevolent letters."

"She seems to have accepted the invitation," Mr. Brophy concludes, a tad perplexed by what's happened to his 5-year-old liberal-conservative, long-distance friendship (although it sounds as if the gal on the other end of the wire has, in fact, just hung up on him).

Well, if people run into Mr. B., in the near-future, tell them to remind the man that the human race is not really, as he evidently believes it is, divided between "moss-backed conservatives," as he proudly identifies himself (I'm surprised he fails to describe himself with another of his favorite terms of self-approval: "curmudgeon"), and those small-minded and woefully misled "liberals" he spends his lifetime of leisure belaboring. Fact is, people are a whole lot, repeat, a whole lot more complex and interesting than that--even Mr. B. himself.

Small wonder the title of Mr. Brophy's column is cast in the past tense!

Dr. Charles C. Nash