Dear Mr. Offerman,
I recently received your book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, as a gift from my son. He knows I immensely enjoy watching your brilliantly portrayed character, Ron Swanson, on the hit television series, Parks and Recreation. I think I had even mentioned to my son how I presumed your New York Times Bestseller would probably be a hilarious read. Immediately after delving into the modest paperback I discovered I was right, but I was surprised at finding how much our childhoods resembled one another’s upbringing. We appear to be alike in so many ways it’s almost uncanny.
I hold the exact hierarchy position in my family of six as you do in yours. Even the sex of each sibling in my family’s birth order is identical to yours: girl, boy (me), girl, boy. We also spent the majority of our waking hours outdoors, and all my brother and I needed to keep us occupied for hours on end was a ball and a bat. I am the oldest male grandchild in my family as well, and my parents also married young (they’re about to celebrate 52 years of wedded bliss). My father was the sole breadwinner, and usual disciplinarian of the household, while my mother stayed at home tending to the needs of their four children. She fashioned some of our clothes from patterns, purchased at the local fabric store, and she cooked hearty meals on a regular basis.
We rarely ate out which made the times that we did all the more special to us kids even though our typical order wasn’t all that exciting: six hamburgers, six small french-fries and six small cokes. Nothing else. My father always did the ordering and thought customizing our order would be too confusing for everyone involved. If one of us didn’t care for ketchup on our hamburger then we could just scrape it off the bun, and washing our meal down with anything other than a Coke was…”fa-get-about-it.” When my younger brother was in high school he went to McDonald’s with a few of his friends to grab a bite to eat. He was utterly amazed when he perused the menu board and noticed there were other options (besides Coke) listed underneath the soft drinks heading. He then understandably was overwhelmed and felt compelled to ask his peers, “What’s Sprite, what’s Dr. Pepper?” A whole new world opened up to my brother that day.
I was raised in a small-town in the Midwest, not unlike your upbringing, but since Iowa doesn’t have any professional sports teams I was forced to look outside the state for my favorite baseball team. However, I did not fall victim to rooting for the Chicago cubs like you did, Mr. Offerman. Thank God. My father also plants a garden in his backyard every year, and he taught me several valuable life lessons, too. He possesses a love and respect for his tools like no other, and he commonly can be heard saying, “take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you.” I was and still am a big fan of Prince, and like you I have no need for a firearm. I also love red meat, although I guess chicken and fish will do in a pinch, but I’d rather be shot than eat tofu for my daily intake of protein. I concur that all animals should be “humanely” killed before bringing their delicious carcasses to the table.
In addition, as much as it pains me to say, I am a proponent of the separation of church and state as well. I most-definitely would like to see a manger scene on the Courthouse lawn at Christmastime, but I realize that opens the door for others to adorn their religious symbols on government property, and I would not like that one bit. The only major differences I can ascertain between you and I, Mr. Offerman, is that you were raised a country boy whereas I’m pure city folk, and our stance on Christianity is as different as night and day. Sadly, I now find it ironic I received your book as a present for Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, since in it you refer to anyone who believes in creationism as an “ignorant fool” and a “silly motherf***er.” That was the precise moment when my enthusiasm for Paddle Your Own Canoe sank. It certainly did not take you long (by the end of the 2nd chapter) to make a broad judgment about all Christians and to in all likelihood alienate some of your readers.
I was enjoying your book, up to that point, although your overuse of expletives were growing a tad tiresome. I could even hear your unique monotone voice, good for a chuckle in and of itself, exuding from the pages as I read each word. With everything we have in common I imagine we could be best buds if you would just ease up on the name-calling. I may or may not finish Paddle Your Own Canoe (I probably will – it was in fact a very thoughtful gift), but I could not go any further until I penned this letter. I have been known to tell my lovely wife that if you hear something you do not agree with and remain silent then the person voicing their opinion will probably assume you concur with what they are saying. So, Mr. offerman, I disagree with your assessment that those who believe in creationism are “ignorant fools” and “silly motherf***ers.” I suppose there are some Christians out there who have earned those demeaning titles throughout the course of their lives; however, it does not make it so simply because they oppose your stance.
There actually are scientists amongst us who believe in God. It is possible to believe in science and creationism working in harmony with one another as part of God’s divine plan. You make mention in your book, “The thing that makes me mad is when a person suggests that I CANNOT be a nice person or live a life of goodness WITHOUT reading the Bible and attending church.” I don’t know who you’ve been listening to, but that has never been my sentiment towards non-believers. I have never heard any of my Christian friends say anything of that sort either. Agnostics and atheists are quite capable of being loving, caring, and all-around decent people. I would only argue that they could be so much more if they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, by book’s end I will have learned that you came to your senses and accepted Jesus Christ into your life. Of course, I cannot in good conscience recommend Paddle Your Own Canoe to anyone, but this “ignorant fool” will sincerely be praying for you regardless.