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Answering my hate email

| Friday, December 1, 2017

Call it anything — hate email, cyber bullying or an electronic cry to counter an Oedipus complex or cure erectile dysfunction — haters relish an opportunity to lord over others by belittling peculiar physical characteristics, age, religion or other perceived weaknesses. Much of the hate mail I receive mentions my presidential appointment under Bill Clinton, like a recent email reasoning that I “pimped for two verified sexual assaulters in Bill Clinton and Al Gore.” By their logic, such guilt by association absolutely dooms me as an Italian-American Notre Dame alumnus who in their eyes definitively supports the disrespect and oppression depicted by the Columbus mural in the administration building.

Responding to my column questioning why Notre Dame reversed its objection to provide contraceptive healthcare (“Why the contraception fight flip-flop?”), a lawyer — an “old guy” slightly younger than me, who legitimately signed and sent his email through an account bearing his name — ranted about “maximum fornication,” my old age, my induction into the Metropolitan Washington Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame, the “undistinguished hacks” I worked for in Congress and how I “pimped” through life. He seems to have touched all bases (pun intended).

Obviously this son of a Notre Dame graduate failed to ask his parish priest to proofread his content, which rang a tone of bitterness. He attended another college “because they offered me free tuition, whereas ND offered an $800 loan and a pat on the back.” As one of nine children, he was “not going to trivialize the sacrifices our family made, because some career Capitol Hill staffer and softball jock who is 66 years old is advocating for maximum fornication and not more procreation.” He asked me, “Did you work for them because their staffs had good softball teams, and you Baby Boom ND jocks put sports ahead of morality?”

After scouring the content of my column, I sadly could not find where I was trivializing any family sacrifices, especially since I lived in a first-generation immigrant household where everyone scrimped and worked to pay for my Notre Dame tuition. We accomplished it — with me working during high school as a theater usher and summers on various manual labor crews — without playing softball or participating in maximum fornication. While stating, “For heaven sake’s man, you are 66 or 67 years old, and headed to the grave,” he asked three final questions.

“What are you doing to your soul this late in life counseling the young at ND into the wrong path?” My reply: I strive to match Judge Judy Sheindlin, much older than I at age 75, earning much more than I at $47 million a year, but who imparts much similar life-lessons counseling.

“Is The Observer that hard up for viewpoints that they have to drag an aging Hill rat back into the editorial pages, because the current editorial staff can’t defend maximum fornication effectively?” My reply: I had not discussed “maximum fornication” with the Editorial Board, but would consider it an interesting cocktail hour topic. Each semester the editors rate their writers, and thus far I have not been told to pack my bags and go off to maximally fornicate.

“Aren’t the lawyers for ND jocks who commit sexual assault like Prince Shembo more suited for this role than you?” My reply: The Notre Dame admissions office was wise in only offering you a loan.

The second anonymous, but a routine respondent, replied to my October column (“Ending the sexual predation problem”). He illustrates how Notre Dame is a microcosm of society with its good and sad makeup of people. His doggedness to harass conjures an image of a loner sitting at his computer in his underwear, relishing how next to torment someone. What emboldens most of these insecure, inferior-minded haters is the ability to hide behind the veneer of anonymity. Sadly, their minds invoke warped connections between a fragment of what they see and how they use it as a straw-man issue to lash out.

My ending sexual predation column pointed to the #MeToo movement’s power. Even 93-year-old former President George H. W. Bush apologized for what he considered an occasional good-natured playful joke. The anonymous email noted my mention of Bush’s taps “but left out Bill Clinton’s adventures in rape:) maybe cuz he was your boss?” I freely admit that Clinton depicts a “Bubba” in every stereotypical manner, but my column was in support of ending sexual predation.

My anonymous “friend” displays smiley symbols as though to grin of his superiority. However, that diminutive endowment between his ears prevents him from understanding capital letters except for emphasis. For example, after not answering his initial email he wrote, “c’mon, gary — what are you, ignoring me? pretending to take the mature route?? as if getting attention ISN’T the reason you’re STILL writing for the observer – right? :)” He ranted, threw in the big word “obsequious” which I sometimes use and ended with “go irish!!”

One hopes that anyone connected somehow with Notre Dame — even a generation apart through a parent — would exude a modicum of civility towards the world, especially towards those with whom they disagree. People of integrity do regardless of how passionate they may champion a cause. Go Irish!

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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