Don’t Be a Richard

The subject of Internet anonymity and resulting hatefulness it seems to inspire has been heavy in my world lately and yesterday the weight became unbearable.  Recently, Big Sister created an Instagram profile @rethinkfeminism_  to explore feminist topics inviting polite debate with the goal of growing and learning.

Yesterday this debate took a terrifying turn after she shared a meme calling for the halt of verbal abuse toward women who had procured an abortion. One follower believed this to be a death worthy action and under the cloak of cyberspace was not afraid to tell her.  Here’s what I have to say to him.

Dear Captian [sic] Richard,
You don’t know me, but we need to talk. Seems yesterday you called my daughter a monster and wished a violent death upon her, assuring her that no one would care that she had been murdered, because she voiced a political opinion that differed from yours.

I’ve posted a screen shot of your public posts below just in case your memory is hazy.

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If you were looking to land a stinger, congratulations Dick–we can drop the formalities right, given your death wish and all?–you were successful. I admit I was wounded. In my defense, I never expected anyone to hasten the death of my beautiful, brilliant, precious, loving, generous 15-year-old child so I haven’t had opportunity to prepare–to still my mind and face this event without emotion.

My first response was defensive and protective. I’m a fierce mama bear and an attack on my children is an attack on me. I would protect them to my last dying breath. But I’m working on my zen so I took some deep breaths and a step back from myself to look at you.

But I can’t see you, Richard. You are hiding in the shadows of anonymity veiled by a screenname spewing hatred. I have to wonder if you would be so brave if I knew your real name? What if I knew your address? Could you be so vicious in front of her father? In front of your Mother? What if you had to own your words before all who can see you–would you have chosen more carefully? If you are not willing to attach your identity to your words then you are not brave, lost soul, you are a coward. A coward who hurts others is nothing but a bully.

You see, Richard, I’ve been at the business of parenting hurt kids for a very long time and though I claim to be an expert on nothing, I do know a thing or two about trauma. I know that such a rageful hate could only fester in a deep dark place of sorrow and fear. Anyone who would need to lash out in such a vengeful way must be in a lot of pain. For that I’m sorry. Really, truly sorry. My wish is for us all to always and only know love. Clearly, you’ve met something else.

I don’t know how old you are, but I want to believe that you are young. Firstly, because it means that you have lots of time to have other experiences that open your mind and grow your heart and secondly, because I would feel better knowing your words are born of immaturity rather than bitterness.

Lest there be no confusion, I want you to know that I have no problem with you disagreeing with my daughter. I would fight for your right to  express your opinions even though they are very different than hers (and mine), but we need to talk about your tactics. Apparently you have strong feelings on the subject, as so many do, but you are not doing your camp any favors with the name calling and death wishes. In fact, you may just get yourself labeled a maniacal loon and then nobody will want to play with you.

And could we take a last look at the contradiction that you are. You are vehemently pro-life, but hope for the death of someone who is pro-choice. So where exactly do you jump ship? Are you only pro-life situationally, like when everyone is agreeing with you? Is there an age limit? Are their racial or cultural criteria? Is it only my daughter’s life that has no value to you? C’mon Richard I’m afraid your behavior has left me confused and I’m not exactly sure what it is you stand for.

But I don’t need to understand. My mighty daughter was unmoved by you and has already handled your transgression (and improper word use) with a grace and maturity that you might want to take note of. Peace to you, Richard. I couldn’t tell it any better than she already has.

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