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Opinion: Can letters to the editor, other rhetoric, be civil?

Why do some send letters to the editor of this newspaper with strong political and religious views, many rancorous and with vitriol? 

Surely, opinions of others will not be changed — maybe it is just vanity or to look good to their own group of like-minded friends or simply to degrade and provoke others.  

The result invariably seems to be a further polarization and inflammation of our citizenry.

While not proposing a particular political or pious point of view, I only ask that writers of letters to this editor simply be more civil and respectful to all others, no matter their beliefs.

Democrats have been denounced by writers and others as godless Satan worshipers, immoral, radical, insurrectionist, misguided, corrupt, elitist, election-stealing, looting, lazy, welfare dependent, sniveling complainers, squanderers of our tax dollars, socialists — and pernicious people wanting to propel us to Chinese communist rule.

Republicans have been castigated locally and elsewhere as intractable, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, ignorant, immature, gun-toting, trigger-happy, baseless-conspiracy-believing, climate-denying, voter-suppressing, white-supremacist-supporting, COVID-refuting, mask-refusing, rich-rewarding, gerrymandering religious zealots.

If political ads are to be believed, all politicians are crooks and liars.  

Words matter, and this language by both sides, including letters to the editor, does not bring our community together. We must do better.

While we all have a First Amendment right to express our views; we ought to be able to disagree with dignity, state our policies and positions, explain what can be improved and inspire others, while refraining from attacking, castigating and demonizing those with whom we disagree. At the same time, we can promote our positions without impugning people — if we just try.

We should not get the news solely from Fox, Newsmax, OAN or from other far-right sites just to reinforce our preexisting beliefs, nor should we get news only from MSNBC, Huffington Post or other liberal sites. Try listening to the other side; get your news from multiple reputable sources — you just might learn something and better understand others. Vet those conspiracy theories; use some critical, rational thinking.  Watch out for far-left and far-right sources. Learn what is “news” and what is “opinion.”

Let us not try to criticize and demonize others just because they do not think like us, believe what we do or even look like us. 

I may be tilting at windmills, but maybe someone, just someone, might be moved to change their behavior and be more civil to others. That would be a good start.

Michael R. Egolf  


To submit a letter

Send by email to and include name and hometown. Letters never publish anonymously. Letters are limited to 500 words on topics of public interest and may be edited for content and length. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Letters may be rejected from readers with no ties to Northeast Georgia or that address personal, business or legal disputes. Letters not the work of the author listed or with material not properly attributed will be rejected. Letter writers may hyperlink portions of their letters to sources of their information. Letters and other commentary express the opinions of the authors and not of The Times.

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