My son Eamonn had a letter to the editor printed in the local paper, in which he supported the decision, much vilified by our courageous lawmakers, of a federal judge that questioned the constitutionality of the phrase, 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. I was a bit surprised but very proud, as much of the high technical quality of his writing (he was 14) as of the passion that drove him to write. The paper edited out very little; his tone is emphatic, even a bit combative, but he takes an arguable stance on a real issue.
It was not a week before we received an anonymous letter in the mail, computer-printed, and clearly a form letter that the timid soul sends out to everyone he disagrees with. The gist of it, repeated ad nauseum in a blustering, hectoring tone and style, was that since Christians founded this country, it is a 'Christian country', and any and all who cannot accept this dominance by Christian culture (as defined by the writer) should get out while the gettin's good. The writer is careful to make no actual threats, and does not reply to any of Eamonn's specific points, but his point is quite clear: those who do not agree with him cannot be tolerated in 'his' country.
Needless to belabor the point: the opinions of individuals without the courage to sign their names, have no force in the marketplace of ideas, even if they are argued with the logic of Socrates and the eloquence of Daniel Webster. But in this sort of letter one feels the touch, light but dreadful, of our collective subconscious: our underground rivers of fear and anger, boiling like black lava, suppressed, but still threatening us, the conscious, thinking individuals, with the deadly eruption of corrupted thought, twisted logic, the demagoguery that, as we know from history both ancient and recent, can quickly strip from human beings all that makes them better than animals, and leave them worse: animals with tools and weapons, and no desire to think beyond the rude wooden palisade of crude ideas that they raise against the outer darkness, the unknown.
Here is a quote from the letter, neatly, and laughably, illustrating the stupidity of the writer: he affirms the First Amendment and then invites all dissenters from his point of view to leave the country:
"Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right the express his opinion about our government, culture or society, and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great American freedom: THE RIGHT TO LEAVE!"
Notice the clear division between 'we' and 'you'.