If you think Cheryl Boyles is curled up in a corner somewhere sucking her thumb, think again.
Boyles is the Green Valley woman whose letter to the editor last Sunday launched an avalanche of criticism. And since this is the opinion page, I guess I can say it: She deserved every word of it.
I told her as much when we talked after Wednesday’s paper came out. We printed 24 letters to the editor, all destroying her overwrought description of a visit to Trader Joe’s in Tucson where she was reduced to, well, snowflake status by the sight of a man in a Trump 2020 T-shirt.
Boyles told me she writes screenplays for a living but this wasn’t one of them. This was the real deal, she said.
“He had a whole look about him and an air about him. It was way more than a shirt… it felt different,” she said. (No more letters, please — we’ve piled on enough.)
I received about 50 letters (and they’re still arriving), lots of phone calls and a few personal visits — including one really rude man who called me a “can’t-use-the-word-in-a-family-newspaper-but-it-starts-with-an-F liberal” before stomping out the door. For shame…
I told Cheryl I printed nothing in support of her position because I received nothing. Zero.
The good news was that only two people canceled their subscriptions because we printed Cheryl’s letter, and we gained one new subscriber: Cheryl Boyles. (I kid you not.)
Why did I publish her letter? We fact-check facts, we don’t fact-check experiences. She had as much right to share her experience as anybody. I had no right to dismiss it or to tell her how to feel.
But, sure, I knew she’d get blown out of the water. Green Valley has a way of taking care of these things and I had no desire to rescue Cheryl from herself.
Lots of lessons here.
•President Trump has fans in Green Valley. A lot of them. I bet they vote, too. Democrats shouldn’t underestimate this fact like they did in 2016. He’s popular nationwide, and for lots of reasons.
•Most of the people who wrote in were first-time letter-writers. I get hit upside the head a lot for our “liberal” opinion pages. Fact is, the left writes in a lot more often so it naturally tilts that way. It took Cheryl to bring a lot of people into the town square — my name for our op-ed pages. Good for her.
•The lack of support for Cheryl’s position shows the left does a lot more thinking than the right gives it credit for. They knew her letter was indefensible and didn’t represent their views. I’d guess that many concluded it was exaggerated, too.
•Cheryl’s hand-wringing was a big laugh for a lot of us. It was, hands-down, the oddest letter to the editor I’ve seen in my 30-plus years in newspapering. Unfortunately, her letter detracted from the fact that sometimes our president can be scary. No, his fans aren’t terrorists (bad move, Cheryl) and a T-shirt shouldn’t set off anybody like that. But consider Friday’s single tweet by the president, which led to a 623-point drop in the stock market. Please don’t defend Trump’s recklessness as some sort of mad genius. It’s not. This may stun some of you, but sometimes he’s wrong.
•But the truth about the president is, as usual, somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, few of us go there anymore. We’d all be better off if we sought out lots of sources to help us form opinions; don’t just listen to the people who are saying what you want to hear. Try it; you might find the president isn’t as awful or as awesome as you think.
As for Cheryl Boyles, she says she’s going to be fine after a brutal trip to the woodshed.
“I don’t internalize it or personalize it in any way,” she told me. “They don’t know me.”
— Dan Shearer