Return to sender
This morning I got an anonymous letter. This happens now and then. They usually threaten some unspeakable punishment for my “forthright” views (my adjective not theirs) on 9/11.
I know that public figures get such things almost daily. But they have battalions of staff to open and filter them. I’m not a public figure and so I open them myself. That tends to give them bigger impact.
This one was rather different from usual. It was apparently a print out from an e-mail and it started like this (I’ve changed the names on the unlikely chance that there is something more than warped fantasy behind the whole thing):
“Your son, Richard, father of Jeremy left the church 5 years ago. He was given £60,000 BY THE CHURCH TO KEEP QUIET over another vicar who had been caught abusing a young girl. Richard, instead of going to the police, accepted the money.”
The writer went on to explain that he or she (and it feels like a “she” to me) was most worried not about “Richard’s conscience but the fact that there is a paedophile still out there.”
“You are a churchgoer and know Gods laws, you have grandchildren of you <sic> own. So please, to stop this happening to other children. Please confront Richard about this. I’m sure he will deny it at first, but you’re his mum and I’m sure you know when your own son is lieing <sic>. This is not a malicious attempt to get at Richard. But a genuine concern for innocent . . . .”
Whatever once followed (and it’s not hard to guess) was cut off .
Let me say at this point that I am not a churchgoer, I do not have a son called Richard and – so far as I know – I am not a grandmother. This could be a case of mistaken identity, or it could be a mad hoax. Maybe everyone in our street got one. If they did, I fear that it will have been a lot more upsetting for some others than for me. (After all, I can take it into the Faculty and show it round, then sit down and blog about it . . not options open to everyone.)
Whatever the explanation, it’s a nasty spin-off of current obsessions with paedophilia. Of course, child abuse is a horrible crime, as are many others. But our present fixation with it (above all other offences, with the possible exception of suicide bombing) is as revealing about the dilemmas of contemporary culture, as the fixation with prostitution was about the dilemmas of the late nineteenth century.
In my trivial and slightly sordid little message we get a glimpse of the suspicion, innuendo, fear and poison that can be spread by that obsession –and just how far its tentacles can reach.