I had posted what I thought was a funny thing on Facebook the other day, and it turned into a mess. My son was on a trip to Washington dc with his class for three days. We had talked about all the what to expect-isms, etc. I remember before he left – he told me that he and his friend wanted to take a selfie while flicking off the white house. I told him, “I understand your reasoning, I agree with you – but I don’t want you to do that. Don’t do that. I don’t want to see a pic of you flicking off anyone or anything.”
Later, I found out from his dad that he and his friend flicked a hat emblazoned “Make America Great Again,” off the head of an older student from another tour group, and ran as fast as they could. I posted on FB that “my son wants to get his ass kicked in Wash. DC,”
Of course, I don’t expect everyone in the world to think that’s funny. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. My friends know me, they’d appreciate the remark. But even now, I’m still surprised and shaken, when someone I haven’t spoken to in literally 20 years, will come onto my Facebook page and shame me. That someone I knew would have the gall to tell me in so many words that I should be ashamed of my son’s actions, and that (said by a total stranger this time) my parenting skills are substandard.
Yes – I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Where have you been the last ten years? Hello, ever heard of trolls? Hello, this is what people have been complaining about the internet forever!” But still, when it happens to you – it feels like a punch in the stomach, and it lingers and it seethes there until you respond and escalate the problem – or just delete it entirely, which is what I finally did.
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel better after deleting the thread. Not really. A lot of my friends saw the humor I tried to convey. After all, I agree with the majority of my real friends who spoke up. How do we respect an administration that disrespects us? The act of dissent is patriotic if the government can no longer be trusted to serve the people. On some level, I AM proud of my son for acting on his beliefs (although I would prefer that he did it in a more diplomatic way).
My friend Courtney mentioned before the election that she was very troubled by the state of online correspondence. She said we absolutely need to start talking to each other face to face once again.
I’ve said before that I love social media, but when it comes to controversial subjects like politics, social justice, or religion, I agree that it’s better to discuss face to face. Why? It’s obviously so easy to insult someone you can’t see. Talking to someone face to face forces you to behave yourself, to act with civility, to use a normal mode of discussion.
Still, if people simply cannot resist posting their opposing views on the internet – especially with strangers, or people you’ve not known in years, why not ask yourself a few questions before posting: Would you say this if you were standing right here in front of me? What are you trying to accomplish by saying this? Do you think that labeling me as part of a group you call “liberal fucktards” going to make me listen (or read further)?
I do ask myself that question a lot these days…what am I trying to accomplish? More often than not, I ask myself before I write, before I speak, and before I act, because now more than ever, it seems that whatever I do will have these everlasting consequences that I never even imagined.
I will say this to all of my “critics:” I don’t equate tipping off someone’s hat as “assault.” I’m not ashamed of my son’s actions. I don’t have a double-standard of freedom of expression. I recognize that both sides have their opinions, and neither side has any trouble expressing it, and we’ve seen that constantly in videos, soundbites and posts over the last year.
Sidenote: Why are supporters of the current administration still so angry? They got what they wanted, didn’t they? Or is it not enough? Is it that they cannot handle the fact there are those of us who disagree – and for good reason? Is this the America they want—where no one questions anything that the government does?
Ultimately, I was picturing my 13-year old son tipping off someone’s hat, and scurrying away…I thought it was funny. A simple act of rebellion – one of which all of us can remember in our own 13-year-old selves. I wanted to share it with my friends.