Some writers devote a lifetime to creating the perfect opus, agonizing over every word, crafting each phrase, and breathing life into characters. Yet that pinnacle of achievement remains elusive. Then there are others, like Brendan Duffy, who are catapulted to fame doing what Mr Duffy said anybody could have done: he wrote a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper, The Newtown Bee.
That letter, which was given the title “Elected Officials Are Fundamentally Dishonest” by The Bee editor, and published January 10, 2013, in the Letter Hive, has generated more than 100 letters and phone calls to the Sandy Hook resident, and as of March 17, he said, had surfaced in nearly 225,000 hits on Google and 490,000 hits on Yahoo.
Forwarded to President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, and Harry Reid, and Representative Elizabeth Esty, as well, the letter succinctly stated Mr Duffy’s opinions on health care, abortion, the federal budget, and gun legislation, and left to no one’s imagination his low regard for today’s politicians.
He was not surprised that the letter was published in The Bee, he said, feeling that the local paper does a fair job of publishing letters covering many viewpoints, but he was completely taken off guard to find that his January 10 letter had reached an audience far beyond what he imagined when he penned the words. Of the 18 to 20 letters Mr Duffy estimates he has written to, and had published in, The Bee since moving to Sandy Hook in 2004, none has come remotely close to evoking the response of “Elected Officials Are Fundamentally Dishonest.” If he received two or three phone calls over the years, that would be a lot, he said.
People in 28 states have contacted him by mail and e-mails, phone calls, texts, and of course, online. “People [who contacted me] spoke of courage, but I didn’t feel the least bit courageous when I wrote that letter. I was irritated,” Mr Duffy said. That people responded so positively to his comments was also a surprise, he said. “I haven’t gotten any hate mail, in any of the just over 100 responses. The letters I received, some were tear jerking, they were so emotional.”
In looking over the posts online, Mr Duffy said that again and again he has read words to the effect that they were surprised this letter was published in its entirety. “I assume it’s a reflection of their own dissatisfaction with trying to get letters published [in their own local newspapers],” he said.
It is his experience, said Mr Duffy, that when reading items on the Internet, two things tend to catch one’s eyes. “One is the title,” he said, and the title assigned by The Bee to his letter was accurate and catchy. Where a piece originates is also attractive to those surfing the Web, he said, and he does not doubt that his Sandy Hook, CT address, now a place that rolls off the tongues of people worldwide since the tragedy at Sandy Hook School on December 14, caught the attention of many readers.
Because 12/14 has evoked opposition to the sales and possession of certain firearms and ammunitions, a fair portion of Mr Duffy’s January 10 letter focused on the rights of citizens “to protect themselves against tyrannical government” and providing a “balanced firepower” between citizens and government. The “power grab that is present day Washington” is a threat, stated Mr Duffy, and among other things, puts the citizen ownership of guns at risk. That today’s politicians lie, lead lives of deception, and govern indifferently is distasteful to him, and for the many who responded to his letter, said Mr Duffy, that seemed also true.
Placing focus in the right place is important, Mr Duffy said. His overriding concern, in expressing his views, is the hope that something like 12/14 never happens again. “It is a horrifying experience for our town, and for these people [who lost family members],” he said. In an e-mail to The Bee, Mr Duffy clarified that “armed security for our kids is the absolute least we owe them, and other solutions may arise as well ... inasmuch as Adam Lanza is an abhorrent statistical anomaly, his actions are not unprecedented, nor likely to never be repeated ... solutions will not arise form the politicians we have turned to for the very reason I stated ... they are dishonest at their core.”
While his Sandy Hook address may have been the initial hook for some readers online, ultimately Mr Duffy feels people reacted to the substance of his letter. The responses in letters he received were two-fold, he said. “Most that responded to me have expressed support of the statement I made regarding the Second Amendment and gun control issues, probably about two-thirds of the people,” Mr Duffy said. “The other is utter disgust at government officials.”
One of the benefits available to politicians on both sides is a national media not interested in reporting the truth, Mr Duffy said, and that his letter was printed in a newspaper was astounding to those who commented. “I think people did react to the fact that they are not getting the straight scoop from the media, and to the feelings that dishonesty in government is prevalent.”
His own experience proves that a single opinion can be far-reaching, though, and his optimism is shared in a letter of response to those who reached out to him. “As evidenced by my letter,” Mr Duffy said, “through the magic of the Internet, letters to hometown newspapers can have an impact. They can introduce people to thinking and viewpoints they might otherwise not have. They can expose the fallacy and fraudulence of modern, progressive, liberal thinking and policies. They can change people’s thinking and how they vote.”
Fame is fleeting, Mr Duffy is aware, but his time in the limelight has resonated with others. “I’m very humbled by the kind words expressed in so many communications,” he wrote to his correspondents. “Far more important, I am encouraged that so many people seem to believe what I believe, regarding our great country.”