Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. – MLK II Letter from Birmingham Jail
And we thought letter writing was dead. In the recent past with the advent of internet, email, mobile telephony and social media, the art of letter writing was driven to the background and NIPOST, Nigeria’s flagship postal agency, almost turned into a parcel shipping service. That is until the presidential missives started flying back and forth.
Growing up as boys we were told that Abraham Lincoln once wrote a letter to his son. And we strived to live up to the ideals expressed in the heartfelt correspondence from America’s iconic President to his son’s teacher. The letter admonished the boy’s teacher to instill in the young lad virtues like courage and patience, and one can see that Lincoln poured as much emotion and time in it as in the Gettysburg address.
My son will have to learn I know that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend…..
Another emotion laden letter that came into prominence was the lovely letters Mr. Mandela wrote to his then wife Winnie while incarcerated on Robben Island. Full of pain and love and poetry, Madiba poured out his soul and frustrations in the letters telling Winnie how he missed her, the love of his life, and their children. The letters are now iconic because even after divorce, not a word of ill did Nelson speak against her.
My Dearest Winnie,
I have been fairly successful in putting on a mask behind which I have pined for the family, alone, never rushing for the post when it comes until somebody calls out my name…………Letters from you and the family are like the arrival of summer rains and spring that liven my life and make it enjoyable….
Half the New Testament is composed of letters – epistles – from Apostles to other believers. Whether it is one of Paul’s correspondences to the churches in Asia Minor, or to specific disciples of his, the content always points to “edification.”
May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment. But when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus. 2 Tim 1: 16-18 (NEV)
In school, letter writing was an important part of the studies. One had to learn the science of the informal letter, the art of the formal letter, and the one in-between; of salutation and conclusion; and the need to be clear, concise and polite. In the senior school examinations at the end of secondary school an inability to write a letter is costly and can make one lose a place in the university. So it is with glee and surprise that letter writing – that lost art – is back in the front burner.
Many leaders and politicians have achieved more with letter writing than with tanks and guns. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword. However letters can be acerbic too. In the war sodden fantasy novel, The Game of Thrones, Tywin Lannister writes ominous letters (via Raven) that culminate in the Red Wedding. It ends the war and violates the laws of hospitality (guest right). But Tywin was a man without scruples who said it was more humane to kill a dozen noblemen around the dinner table than a thousand men on the battle field.
In this digital age of the email and instant messaging and the 140 word limits. And in a society of instant replies and instant gratification where we have lost the patience to wait, it will be cheeky to remind people that the Pony Express was once thought of as lightening fast.