'Footprints made long ago'

In today's paper I wrote about Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense who publishes his memoir "Duty" tomorrow. It's rare to receive a positive e-mail from a reader, and even rarer to get one that recognizes exactly what I was trying to do with a specific piece (the Gates piece hinges on the sentence about a glacier). So pardon this indulgence, but I want to submit for the record a lovely e-mail from a reader named John:

I read your article about Robert Gates online. Didn't intend to read the whole thing but I found there something that we all have been missing for a long time. There was an expression of civility, of honesty, of an understanding that we see footprints made long ago, now part of the rock, or cement, that forms our nation's capitol [sic].  Memories float on the cold wind reminding us of dreams other people left to us to fulfill. There is a vacuum there now.  We need to talk. We need as a nation to quit screaming and shouting at each other and sit down and talk about our problems. Your article is a start in that direction. Thank you. I will remember it.

And just as meaningful, but in a different way, from a reader named Joseph:

I read your article on Robert Gates in today's Washington Post and am very glad you wrote it. Robert Gates was an enigma to me during his years as Secretary of Defense, and now I see him as a thoughtful, feeling person who led our Defense Department well. I am a retired military officer and defense engineer a few years older than Mr. Gates, and I share his anguish over the human cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also believe we have not been served well by our elected leaders since the 9/11 attack. I don't expect everyone to agree with Mr. Gates, but I think I understand his thinking since I'm doing something similar in examining my own life. Its a very personal process.


'I wish you all the best, son. You'll need it.'

Every couple months I have an e-mail exchange with a "reader" like the one below.  Truly. Nearly verbatim. Every couple months. I'm always a villainous communist who is paid to fellate the president, and the country is always on the brink of unimaginable cataclysm. It's stunning how the talking points and "rhetoric" are so consistent from e-mail to e-mail. My reaction to them is pity. I just want to hug these people -- not because they are largely misinformed, or because I may disagree with some of their arguments, but because they are stricken with a blind rage that saps them of any civility. It's sad.

This exchange is actually briefer than most. My text is in bold. I have not cleaned up any of the reader's typing.

Sebelius is too damn ugly to be a demon.
What are you, 6 years old?
What are you,an asshole?
Of course. All journalists are assholes. 
Journalist? HaHa--It doesn't  take much to qualify as a "journalist" today. Set up a website, type a few inane words and "VOILA !--I'm a journalist". Of course it always helps to be a liberal clown to qualify as a real journalist today. I remember when Edmund Burke's "4th estate" ( have someone read you the meaning of the term) meant a free press that stood between the people and the government. Now it's just another arm of the democrat party. Picking an ass as their symbol was appropiate, I'll give them that.
Right. That’s why we broke all that NSA news. Because we’re just another arm of the “democrat party.”
I wish you peace of mind, Mr. Smith.
Haha-When did the Washington Compost become The Guardian and when did you become Snowden?
Well,Dan, I appreciate your wish for me but it's difficult to have peace of mind when your country is being torn apart. It doesn't matter so much for me. I'm a 72-year-old totally disabled veteran with God only knows how much time left. It does matter to me about the men who were with me who died fighting communism and now I know it was all for nothing. I do worry about my son and his family. I worry about you,believe it or not. You're what? In your 30's? But yet you cling to this false hope of big government taking care of you. Do you "journalists" no longer take World History in school? Do you really not care if you're free or not?
Actually,Obama has been successful beyond his wildest dreams. He has torn this country apart which was his goal from the beginning. Do you really think he gives a damn about his approval ratings? He's got three years left and he knows he's an untouchable because he's black and no one in congress has the cajones to draw up impeachment papers. He's already past obamacare and onto throwing our borders wide open for every degenerate in Mexico to "come on up". I remember when Castro opened up his prisons and asylums and sent them all here and Nieto is getting ready to do the same thing.
 Obama also has the likes of McCain,Graham,McConnell and Boehner kissing his butt at every turn. I hate to see what's coming next. I'm sick of seeing these do-nothing republicans on these news shows, "He Lied! He lied about "fast and furrious"! He lied about Benghazi! He lied about the NSA and the IRS ! He lied about obamacare"! (Or ,as you "journalists" put it, "he misspoke"). I wish they would just shut up and keep kissing his butt. You should be, not asking, but demanding answers as a journalist. But that won't happen because he's your lord and saviour. I wish you all the best,son. You'll need it.
I did not vote for Mr. Obama. And I think it's useless to engage in dialogue with someone who makes such assumptions, who looks at the world only as black and white, right and left. The world -- and the country -- is a more complex and grander place.
And it's also useless for someone like me to be trying to debate an idiot. It's sorta like me going against a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. So long,crackerjack