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Opening my email inbox

Happy to hear from readers of all stripes

Upon moving back to my home state of Massachusetts a few years ago, after 10 years in Washington, D.C., I was asked if I would be interested in submitting bi-weekly op-ed pieces to The Recorder — an offer I accepted and an endeavor I enjoy. I have fond memories of being a Recorder “paper boy” for years as a kid; hard and rewarding work … for which I even hauled in a few “paper carrier of the month” honors.

While I set up an email account to which readers can respond, I seldom have the opportunity to check it. When I do, I try to respond in kind. I would say the “like” to “dislike” ratio is roughly 50/50. I must confess that, while I thank folks who send me good reports, I much prefer reading the “dislikes.”

Criticism is more enjoyable than common praise.

With the election in the rearview and the year winding down — and with 150,000 miles in the air this year behind me — I have had the chance to go through many of these emails, thoughtful all. Here are some responses to a sampling of reader mail. They are general — with anonymity preserved.

My favorite is the bombast the likes of: “I don’t know who at The Recorder allows Ben Clarke to publish his opinions.” First and foremost, allow me to welcome my Soviet friend to the U.S. While I admittedly have relatives who share your sentiment, my hunch is someone at The Recorder holds the dastardly view that differing opinions have, at the very least, a modicum of merit. If it is a barrage of narrow-minded ideology you seek, flip on MSNBC while perusing the pages of The New York Times for a dose of high-minded self-affirmation. They could use the viewers; not to mention the readers.

Though on the road quite a bit and unable to read The Recorder on a daily basis, folks from time to time will send me emails about letters to the editor that reference my writing. I got a kick out of this one: “Who’s behind Clarke? His right to express opinions granted, they would be better understood if he came out of the financial closet.”

You got me. The leaders of the conservative movement — with a keen eye toward flipping Franklin County from Blue to Red — have planted me here in the valley solely to preserve the future of the GOP.

In that vein, many express covert curiosity about what I do and who I work for. Not sure why. For the record, I work for a Washington, D.C.-based communications and public relations firm. As offices have become blessedly obsolete, I am able to work from anywhere. So, three years ago, I chose to come back home to Massachusetts. Closer to family; closer to Fenway. And I missed the taxes.

So to those who rant and rave about my “journalistic integrity” — code for “how dare you disagree with me” — settle down and swallow your tofu. I am not a journalist. I do not work for The Recorder. And I am not, as one writer queried, related to Hitler. I think he was a blogger. I love when bloggers bloviate — from the cozy confines of their mother’s basement.

This was one of my favorites: “Yours is an evil I can only pray people see before they are infected by the plague of your ideas.” Simple, straightforward and to the point. So how long have you been with the postal service?

And this brief gem is going on the fridge: “You have no class, no class whatsoever.” Then again, my youngest sister has always been known for her brevity.

Keep ’em coming …

Ben Clarke spent 10 years working as a speech writer and political consultant in Washington, D.C. He is now based back in his hometown of Greenfield, where he works for a global political, corporate and entertainment communications firm. You can comment on a piece by sending an email to benclarkeopinion@gmail.com.

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