By James Castagnera Attorney at Large Columnists write to be…

By James Castagnera Attorney at Large
Columnists write to be read. A sure way to know you’re being read is the “fan” mail. I use that term loosely. A reader needs to get really worked up to bother writing. Usually this means the reader is mad at me.
Such was surely the case with last week’s column, “One Size Does Not Fit All.” One angry reader responded to my discussion of Buck v. Bell, the 1927 sterilization decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, with the wish that my mom had been sterilized… pre-Attorney at Large, of course. Other epistles of the same general tone found their way to my email address and my editor. One suggestion — that I don’t deserve the oxygen I breath — was on a par with the woman who diagnosed me as brain damaged a couple of months ago.
Time, to coin a phrase, does not permit individualized replies to these missives. As I discovered early in this three-year stint, no response ends the dialogue. On some issues — race, religion, and, yes, disabilities — the folks who write are passionate. They are committed to the cause. I respect that. I just can’t immerse myself in it.
So… if less engaged readers will indulge me… a single reply in this space will have to suffice.
What to say?
To note that I am a service-connected, disabled vet would probably be put down to taking the easy way out… something like Foley blaming it all on his parish priest.
To gently suggest that my critics didn’t read my column very closely would be to placate no one, I’m sure.
To posture an apology would be to sound as dumb as John Kerry.
No, none of the above will do. Instead, let me borrow a quotation from a better writer than I, a long-dead journalist named Finley Peter Dunne: “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Re-reading my take on the “No Child Left Behind” Act and the handling of disabilities at the college level — in the harsh light of those emails — causes me to conclude that I may have afflicted the already afflicted.
No quest for readership is worth doing that. I’ll try to remember my daily dose of sensitivity from now on, before I fill this space.

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