Don’t Let the Mad Men Win the Internet Too

Last week, America’s president stood at the memorial in Tucson, Arizona and asked “for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
Here’s what I have learned in the days since the shooting that sent Barack Obama to Arizona: nothing has changed.

The hatred is still there. Still bubbling. Still loud as a clanging gong. Still stifling.

I know it better than some this week, a week after I sat down to write a heartfelt article on behalf of the parents of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. It was an article that apologized for the knee jerk reaction that I shared with so many parents – wondering how they could get on TV so quickly after the death of their daughter. It was an article that explained, as only a reporter can, why people talk to the press in times of grief, the catharsis of sharing one’s innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s a therapy I know well as a columnist here at the Democrat, as an internet blogger.

But it’s one I delve into at times at my own expense. Because opening your heart on the internet means opening yourself up to the vitriol that spews forth in the one place where so many can remain shrouded in anonymity.

It speaks to the darkness in America that people hunched over their keyboards last week not to simply read a piece filled with nuance and kindness but to take the word of yet another blogger, a blogger filled with rage, a blogger who tore my words to shreds and spit out his own vile version. And people bought it, hook, line and sinker. Because in America, it has become all too common to leap first, question later. The premise that one should read an article before commenting on it? How absolutely quaint! It’s a fast-paced society. Who has time for that?

What came forth were death threats. Calls for me to die, to suffer, to lose my job. Words unprintable in a family newspaper.

The form of insults were telling of the nature of the insulters. That they expected me to be insulted by being dubbed a “lesbian” was at once amusing and disheartening. Lesbian? A woman who loves another woman? Since when is that a “bad word”?

Since when is casting insults the way of expressing displeasure in America? Because let me tell you, it went far beyond “lesbian” with the epithets, the “wishes” that I would die a long, painful death, the string of curse words.

That I said nothing mean, nasty or insulting to start the conversation makes this reaction especially disturbing. I was kind! And my kindness was met with hatred! But in truth it would hardly matter what I said. One wrong should not beget another. To disagree with another is a right we still have as American citizens. To badger, to torment, to subject others to the hatred within our hearts is what separates the madmen from the good in our society.

The mad man already won in Tucson. Don’t let him win the Internet too.

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Image via orangeacid/Flickr

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