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I found a hate message posted on the information board at my US Post Office in Dayton, Iowa, 50530 on March 2, 2012. There were also three modified cartoons referring to President Obama, fried chicken, watermelon, and black salami. I thought that the cartoons were inappropriate and offensive to public decency; I removed them.

The threat letter seemed more personal, so I added my answer and left it there. I will transcribe the notes for your convenience.

The original message was: “What do you call 20,000 liberals in the bottom of the ocean? A good start. Liberalism is a mental disorder”

My answer reads: “Please, don’t just threaten me with drowning and post anonymous racist hate cartoons against our elected President in a US Post Office. Make your case, explain your issues, and give practical ideas for improvement… and please have the courage to sign your name. With sincere best wishes, Your neighbor, David Satterlee”

Frankly, I worry that the threat could get personal. It may already be personal: I’ve had an Obama 2012 poster in my front window for weeks.

Having lived in this small rural town for only two years, I’m still a bit of an outsider. I’ve improved the old 1880s workman’s Victorian that we bought and joined the Lion’s Club until my social anxieties got too severe. I smile and speak kindly at every opportunity, and wrote a series of positive local feature articles for the Dayton Review until I had a stroke last year.

The editor of the Dayton Review has encouraged me to begin submitting an opinion column, which I can write from home without running all over to take interview notes. I plan to feature liberal ideas explained in terms and values that conservatives claim as their exclusive own.

It occurs to me that my openness may fan the flames among those who are prone to reflexive hate. I could just hide in the shadows, cringing and hoping that no one will notice me or be mean to me. But, I am aware of the courage of those great souls who spoke out to end slavery, gain the vote for women, oppose the baron kings and their trusts, and march for civil rights.

As a child in school, I was raised in a particularly rigid, conservative, Christian faith. I remember how it was to be the object of hate, bullying, and abuse. I learned to run fast. No more. I’m going to stand fast. Bullies should be faced down. I’m tired of this shit and I’m not going to take it any more.

I’ve spent decades trying to figure out all the things I didn’t learn as a closed-minded conservative. I started with all the self-improvement and pop psychology books. I graduated to social psychology, Eastern religions, and theories of human development. These past four years, I’ve concentrated on figuring out the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I came out of the process as a generally-tolerant, love-thy-neighbor, but still-evangelical liberal. But, I still can’t feel good about hate, disrespect, and bullying.

FOLLOW UP:
After several weeks of removing anti-Obama postings, and having patrons turn them in at her counter, our postmaster filed a police report and put a message threatening arrest, with a copy of the police report, on the board. The postings quit showing up.

The police report cited "trespass" and the seizure of "Political cartoons featuring President Obama with racist and sexual commentary hand written on them." The narrative reported: "Called to Dayton Post Office. Spoke with Relief Postmaster __. She reported finding approximately 12 political cartoons featuring President Obama with racist and sexual commentary on them posted on the bulletin boards in the Post Office lobby. She also found several empty beer cans in the lobby... The cartoons have been placed several times over the last 4-6 weeks. It is an ongoing issue. No suspects at this time."
Although, in the greater scheme of things, I have confess that this situation amounted to much ado over relatively little, I still believe that it was right to make this an issue. The saying, often attributed to Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" seems to fit here.

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