I was insulted by a friend recently, although he will never know.

I’ve never had a lot of friends; in the past 15 years, I’ve had even fewer.  When I rode the bike, I had several, but after I quit riding, I lost contact with them, for the only connection we had was the bike.

The friend to whom I refer once practiced medicine next door to my office.  He often brought his dogs to the office, and I took an afternoon break from seeing patients to go over and pet them for 10 minutes.  It was relaxing.  He retired just before I went back to graduate school, moving to another part of the country.  He sent Christmas e-cards and generic letters, telling his friends what he was doing.  We weren’t close, but I did consider him a friend.  Until yesterday.

He sent an e-mail to me, probably to everybody in his address book, about how the Senate almost voted to give to the UN the right to take away the right to own a gun.  I haven’t followed this debate closely, but I know enough to know that treaties require 2/3s approval, which this vote wasn’t even close.  If it is not a treaty, it won’t pass the House.  In any case, I fail to see how anybody who is thinking clearly thinks it is physically possible to confiscate three hundred million firearms in this country.

We can’t even pass a law strengthening background checks of who should have a firearm, despite overwhelming (85% of firearm owners in favor is overwhelming) support by the public.  Newtown has been and will be forgotten until December.  I knew it would be.

I have never touched a handgun and don’t plan to.  I shot skeet once, in 1976.  I have no use for firearms.  I also know that in my lifetime, we will never control their use.  Firearm control is like the Middle East peace process:  it comes up from time to time, somebody thinks something good will happen, and nothing ever does.

The e-mail annoyed me.  I started to write the sender, saying that politically hot issues should not be e-mailed to those whose political beliefs you do not know.  It is a good way to destroy a friendship, which he just had.  It was short and to the point.

Then I let the letter sit and deleted it 6 hours later. I have learned to wait before hitting “send”.  I pick and choose my battles.  I will go to the mat on some issues, like the climate, but a wise man doesn’t fight every battle.  I thought perhaps the sender might becoming demented.  He is old, and his recent Christmas cards have become extremely religious compared to prior years.  I haven’t seen him since 1998 and don’t know his current situation. I won’t change his mind and will only annoy or hurt him.  Why do that?

This isn’t the first friend I’ve lost over political issues.  One crossed a line that I considered important, and I decided not to contact her further.  I’m not going to change her mind, and silence is the best option, for it has many meanings.  Silence can hurt, but unlike hateful words, silence can be reversed.

A third individual, from Russia, whom I help learn English, explained Islam to me.  At first, I learned several facts I found interesting.  But later, she told me that I was of course going to go to hell.  I was more than a bit miffed and thought about stating to her my lack of belief in hell, except here on Earth. I could have asked what happens when two people, both believing their religion is “the proper way,” collide. It comprises a good deal of the world’s problems.

I remained silent a few days. She finally wrote me to see if I were upset. Yes, I was very upset, but I replied only that I was ready to teach her English. My silence had been my answer.  Maybe she understood what it meant; I doubt it.  Remaining silent in the face of hurtful comments, or comments that make one livid, is difficult.  I’m getting better at it.

I don’t ask people to read what I write here.  People log on, read my words and decide whether they want to read anything else I write. They choose.  I write, because it is how I discuss difficult or interesting issues. I hope my words will make people think about the world in a different way, I also hope my pictures will show people parts of the world that they are likely never to see.  Perhaps if people see how beautiful this world is, they will be happier and will work to protect it.

What I have learned, which took far too long, is that sometimes it is better to let others have the last word, especially a spouse.  For many, having the last word matters.

My silence makes it impossible for others to know what I think. That’s powerful.  For me, having the last action matters.

Even when it is silence.



  1. zohre Says:

    always love to read your words.

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