Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sticks and Stones

Several events of the last week - most notably the exchange that I have had with Joseph Fromm and others - have made me think about name calling. Some questioned my quoting of Shakespeare in regard to Joe's writing; such critics feel that I am calling him a name. I don't know that this is quite true, for I am simply calling attention to the fact that he is a blogger in name only and that what he does is cut-and-paste the material written by others and post it to his website with some tag attached to it. On occasion he offers commentary, but generally it's just material cut and quoted to present whatever angle he wishes to highlight at that moment.

I will say, though, that Fromm has been a good sport. He doesn't devolve into ad hominem attacks and does exhibit a strength of character and a spirit of generosity that I very much appreciate. I wish he would engage a bit more, as I feel like I'm doing all of the talking, but at least he is not cruel.

The same, though, cannot be said for others.

Some of my students saw fit to post comments to Joseph's website. I wish they had not done this, although I do appreciate their efforts to 'defend' their teacher. No defense, students, is needed: in these matters, I'm something of the aggressor. Nevertheless, one of the comments posted reads (I quote it because it doesn't bother me in the slightest):



I re-post this comment for a simple reason: Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. See, those things that you learn in kindergarten really do come in handy!

What I appreciate most about the post is that it is done Anonymously. That is, there is some man or woman out there who is so convinced s/he knows me and is able to post such a comment, yet must hide behind a veil of secrecy. Such a person is so convinced of the truth that....darkness and anonymity are to be preferred to the light. 

Thank goodness for John's Gospel:

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:20-21)

Earlier in my life, I might have been really offended or embarrassed by this type of comment. Today, battle scarred and with an increasingly thick skin, I think it is simply a sad symptom of human sinfulness: rather than engaging a person, or asking him to clarify or explicate his beliefs, you simply launch a scurrilous personal attack. Don't address the ideas you dislike or the opinion with which you disagree...just label and then dismiss.

Persons who post things as I have listed are nothing more than fearful cowards. They think that by insinuation or intimidation they will silence those they scorn. They are bullies who are lashing out of a deep sense of insecurity and helplessness. They are deserving of pity and prayer, but little else.

I have, once in my blogging career, posted something anonymously and I regretted it. For that reason, it is my custom that if I am going to say anything, then I will sign my name to it and stand behind it. I simply cannot take seriously the comments made by cowards posting anonymously, although I am somewhat grateful that this particular comment has given me something to blog about after a few days of silence.

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that when you go to post something online in response to something you've read that there is another human being who will be reading it. We get so caught up in being able to respond immediately that we forget that what we say, and how we say it, carry consequences. Things that one would never dream of saying publicly become infinitely easier to post anonymously. Perhaps blogger should create a program that makes it so that you have to 're-affirm' one's decision to post a comment after an hour, giving people time to think about what was written and whether s/he wants it posted.
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