Arrgghh! Just when I want to feel good about the intelligence of the electorate, the Aberdeen American News publishes this strange, vague, and arguably ominous letter to the editor from Densley Zambo of Conde. I reprint in full, for accuracy:
There is no respect today.
When I was in the Army and said halt three times, and you didn’t stop, I had the right to kill you.
When I came back from Korea, I took out three prisoners. And if they run, I had every right to use whatever means I took to stop them. Otherwise, I took their place in the stockade until they were found.
As soon as we got out, I told them I was a farmer, and I shot lots of rabbits on the run. When you run, you make a decision [Densley Zambo, letter to the editor, Aberdeen American News, 2015.04.15].
If I’m generous, I only run the English teacher critique. This letter is a prime example of the bad writing that comes out when a writer doesn’t put himself in his audience’s shoes and think about what words he must use to make his message clear to people who can’t hear the noises echoing in his own head. Who is not respecting whom? What decision do I make when I run? What exactly does Zambo mean by “took out” prisoners? In what official capacity did he have authority over prisoners? And what prisoners? Guys in the county jail? Deserters? Prisoners of war? Zambo does not make clear what point he is making about respect and shooting people.
The editorial page is no place for vague, random strings of letters. Editors have the right and obligation to demand that letter writers respect the readers by making their point clear. The Aberdeen American News should have declined to publish this letter until Zambo could make his point clearer.
By sending Zambo’s letter back for revision, the Aberdeen editorial board could also have protected Zambo from readers’ jumping to conclusions. Readers will assume that Zambo’s letter had some purpose, some connection to current events under discussion. If we are talking about shouting halt and shooting people who are running away, then casting about for some connection to current events could lead us to conclude that Zambo is looking at the news about police shootings of unarmed black men.
I don’t want to conclude that Zambo is saying police should follow the rules of the military and that “respect” means civilians living under martial law.
I don’t want to conclude that Zambo is equating black men with animals (the numerous rabbits he shot on the farm).
I don’t want to conclude that Zambo is saying an impulsive decision to flee made by a lone, scared, unarmed man facing an armed and angry-sounding police officer is a decision to sacrifice one’s life.
I don’t want to conclude that Zambo thinks shooting people in the back is a civilized action.
Sola scriptura, I can’t make those conclusions. Called to account, Zambo can say, “I didn’t say those words.” But in the context of the news, what else could Zambo be saying?
I can only conclude that Densley Zambo holds certain freedoms for which he fought in contempt. I can only conclude that he reprehensibly prefers some outlandish and violent police state to free civil society.
Indeed, there is no respect… in Zambo’s letter, for effective writing, for the rights of the innocent, for the rule of law, and for due process.