This column operates under firm rules, the firmest of them being one made of casehardened steel, vanadium and chicken fat. It says anonymous communications will never be publicized here.
Naturally, we begin today's column with an anonymous letter.
It is from a mother who writes: "During the Easter school break, we visited out-of-state relatives. Our daughter noticed yellow ribbons tied to tree trunks, fences and car antennas, and asked about them.
"She was told they are reminders that Iranians are holding our people hostage, and reaffirmations that we have not abandoned our hostages.
"Our daughter wanted to spread the program to our own neighborhood. She asked me for permission. I said "Yes," but told her check with every property owner before putting a yellow ribbon on his or her tree.
"She set off with the high spirits of a young idealist embarked on a mission of love. She was back in 15 minutes, in tears. A man who had been working in his yard responded to her request with, "Hell, no. I'm a Republican. The Democrats got us into this, let them get us out.' The woman in the next house had heard her neighbor's response so she said, 'Not here either, honey.' At the next house, a woman with a baby in her arms said, 'Listen, I've got troubles enough of my own. Go home where you belong.' Our daughter was hurt, confused, embarrased. I didn't know what to say to her. Last week, a friend in another part of town told me her teen-aged son had run into the same sort of reaction. Can you tell me why people act like this?"
I'm sorry, but I can't. I do realize that some people are "anti". Their views run contrary to the majority. But I thank God we live in a free society in which these people are permitted to voice their unpopular views.
I am also aware that some people lack information. Their views might be different if they knew all the facts. For example, 11 people phoned me after Tuesday's comumn appeared and asked the same question in the same way: "If these Jewish girls found it so awful to attend a graduation ceremony on their Sabbath, why did they wait until a couple of weeks before the appointed date before protesting?"
I told the first two callers I didn't know. By the time the third one called, I had researched the background and was able to report that until 1977, graduations had been held at a "neutral" time, on Sunday evening. After the date was changed to Saturday in 1978, the sisters respectfully informed their principal of their religious beliefs and asked for a return to a neutral time.
They were juniors at the time. Their pleas were ignored throughout their junior and senior years.
Once I knew the background and could relay it to my callers, every one of them said something on the order of, "Gee, I didn't know that. I hadn't seen anything in the papers about it until a few days ago, so I assumed they had waited until all the arrangements had been made firm before protesting."
When people know all the facts, they usually react with a high degree of uniformity. There will always be a minority that disagrees, but the right of that minority to be heard is what makes this country so strong. The one thing about which most of us agree is that everybody has a right to disagree.
Example: After Rep. Henry Reuss (D-Wis.) suggested that President Carter remove himself from the presidential race for his "impulsive" attempt to rescue the hostages, I suggested that Reuss, who is a useful member of the Congress, had himself been impulsive. Ross Langdon of Bethesda snapped back, "I disagree. I think Reuss should have suggested that Carter resign and let Mondale finish his term."
John E. Minton wrote, "I find myself more in sympathy with Reuss than with you and George Bush. If I read you correctly, you want us all to be 'good Germans.'
"I happen to think that President Carter showed incredibly poor judgment and that I have the right, if not the obligation, to let it be known. The heavy burden that comes with the job does not exempt presidents from criticism, even in a crisis -- and I happen to think this 'crisis' is of the president's own making."
I did not suggest that any president should be exempt for criticism. My position is simply that a president is privy to more secret information and more expert advice than any other American. He is in the best position to judge what is prudent and what is not.
Before I could criticize a president's decision, I would have to assume one of three things: 1) He is a knave and not to be trusted; 2) I have more information than he does; or 3) He is a fool and I am smarter then he is.
I cannot assume any of these things about Mr. Carter. I did not vote for him, but since Jan. 20, 1977, he has been my president and he has been my allegiance. I will feel precisely the same allegiance to the man who is sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, regardless of his identify or party.