The Open Letter


I have overcome my fear of spiders – I like the little ones and tolerate the big ones. The venomous ones get squashed if they are under my workbench but let alone if they are elsewhere.

I have also overcome my horror of skeletons. My Walt Disney-induced fear left me when I had to study skulls in university. Owning one cures you of the dread.

But I have never been able to contemplate an open letter without aversion. They are an open trapdoor to the pit of folly, envy, and dishonour. I have been brought to this reflection by a note on social media that features an ” open letter ” published by someone who wants other people to listen to, and possibly obey her.

Open letters in this context are no more than crude pamphlets that do not have the courage to show their vulgarity with multiple fonts and typefaces. They are generally couched in language that suggests an intimacy and concern on the part of the writer – intimacy that tries to get the reader to go further into the letter than they would otherwise do. The style of them varies, but the closest that they ever come to honesty is when a blackmailer sends a threat and a money demand and signs it  ‘ A Friend ‘.

Other open letters are those that may be left about to announce what the legitimate recipient of the note wishes known but is too afraid to announce. They are rarely about Lotto wins.

Of course, some closed letters are open letters as well – the blue frighteners sent by dunning agencies and the traffic infringement notices are both designed to be seen by all who handle them and pronounce guilt even before the envelope is opened.

Have you ever read an opened letter on the desk of someone else? Or read their note pad upside down? Or gone through their computer when it was unattended? Or every drawer in their house while they were on vacation? Or tied them up in the basement and beat them with chains while questioning them about the whereabouts of their relatives?

If so, you may be qualified to write open letters.


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