Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: Interesting article on the Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter:

WHENEVER Abraham Lincoln felt the urge to tell someone off, he would compose what he called a “hot letter.” He’d pile all of his anger into a note, “put it aside until his emotions cooled down,” Doris Kearns Goodwin once explained on NPR, “and then write: ‘Never sent. Never signed.’ ” Which meant that Gen. George G. Meade, for one, would never hear from his commander in chief that Lincoln blamed him for letting Robert E. Lee escape after Gettysburg.

Lincoln was hardly unique. Among public figures who need to think twice about their choice of words, the unsent angry letter has a venerable tradition. Its purpose is twofold. It serves as a type of emotional catharsis, a way to let it all out without the repercussions of true engagement. And it acts as a strategic catharsis, an exercise in saying what you really think, which Mark Twain (himself a notable non-sender of correspondence) believed provided “unallowable frankness & freedom.”

Harry S. Truman once almost informed the treasurer of the United States that “I don’t think that the financial advisor of God Himself would be able to understand what the financial position of the Government of the United States is, by reading your statement.” In 1922, Winston Churchill nearly warned Prime Minister David Lloyd George that when it came to Iraq, “we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having.” Mark Twain all but chastised Russians for being too passive when it came to the czar’s abuses, writing, “Apparently none of them can bear to think of losing the present hell entirely, they merely want the temperature cooled down a little.”

That’s about it for this week. Interesting article, though, with an interesting hypothesis as to why the Internet is so often a cesspool of spittle-flecked rage. It’s not just that it’s easy to post angry missives online, it’s that the very ease of doing so negates the intended catharsis of writing them in the first place.

More next week!

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2 Responses to Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    this is why I NEVER write anything to Facebook and Twitter of my own, just news stories, weather alerts, and my already-thought-out blog posts.

  2. Arthur Schenck says:

    I use the "unsent letter" trick and have for a very long time. It definitely helps when responding to angry emails or blog comments. I also do this with my own blog posts, but in that case I usually end up killing the post entirely, not merely toning it down. It turns out that when my passions cool, I often don't even care about the topic, much less what first set me off.

    As for Twitter and Facebook, I share the same sort of stuff that Roger does, but also my own comments. I've become much better at not always posting what I think at the moment—better, but certainly not perfect. Sometimes, I just can't help myself!

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