Lessons From An E-mail

My inbox almost quivered with hatred.

The e-mail was racist, raw — and it came from a man who, years ago, was one of my favorite teachers.

He’s in his 80s now, and recently learned how to forward stuff to a long list of people.  I have no idea why he thought I’d be interested in this garbage; maybe he didn’t think at all.

I replied immediately.  I’m really offended, I said; please take me off your list.

Astonishingly, he e-mailed back.  I expected an apology; instead I got a reiteration of the stereotypes that infested his original message. He mentioned his service in World War II, as if that legitimized his right to spew venom about any American who is not white.

I don’t know which emotion I felt more strongly:  anger or sorrow.  But I learned important lessons from that brief, and now thankfully over, exchange:

Age does not equal wisdom. 

You never know what someone is really thinking.

And sometimes the heroes of our youth are just human beings — big, ugly  warts and all.

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