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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dear Anonymous

My post yesterday about the tragic events that transpired in Tucson on Saturday and some of the comments I have received from you provided all I really need to know about the vitriol and violent rhetoric that has dominated our cultural discourse.

You have dismissed me with remarks that attempt to make me feel that my opinions were at best uninformed at at the very least.... oh, what's the word you used?... ah, yes...."stupid".

You have chided me with statements that want me to believe that somehow I am not "tough enough" to take the reality of our world. That, if I just "walk it off" and "rub some dirt in it," I'll be able to play the game with the big boys.

You have questioned my intelligence, my theology and my sanity.

You continue to repeat your belief that "Never Retreat. Reload" is not a violent statement, apparently oblivious to the fact that repeating an untruth at ever increasing decibels does not make it true.

You can't understand how I can look at Sarah Palin's web page and see a target over the twenty districts that voted for Health Care Reform while even a blind fool can see that it's a surveyor's symbol - despite the fact that Palin's language on that page includes words like "salvo" and "fight".

You become absolutely enraged when I simply can't understand that the vitriol and violent rhetoric comes from the Left, too, even though I can show you fifty examples from the Right for every one that comes from the Left.

You don't want to hear that. You seem so desperate to defend your right to Free Speech that you can't hear my right to express my opinion and perspective which differ from yours. Which is really what the First Amendment is all about - not the right to say absolutely anything you want, even when that fans the flames of anger or, in the case of that poor, delusional soul who shot all those people in Tucson, pushes people who are emotionally and psychologically fragile deeper into the darkness of their mental illness.

You don't want to hear that there are consequences - often tragic consequences - for violent, vitriolic language and we have to hold ourselves, and others, accountable for those consequences.

Oh, and to the person who told me that I ought to "shut my filthy lesbian mouth" and that all I needed was to have you come and show me "what a real man is all about" - you have been blocked from my email and blog. I have also reported you to Google and Blogger, with a copy of your post to me.

That won't change you or your opinions - that's really not my goal, anyway - but it made be feel a bit safer.

So, as Joe Biden would say, here's the deal.

First, I want you to read the Comment Code of Conduct which appears above the box where you leave your comments. I borrowed it from (and attributed it to) Sojourners. I'll reproduce it here - just in case you missed it:
I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of this online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by the Blog Owner and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)
If you can't abide by this code, don't bother to leave a comment. If you do anyway, I will not publishing your post. Indeed, you should know that it gives me great delight to hit "delete" before I get past the second or third sentence of your post.

If you continue, I will block you and forward your comments to Google and Blogger with a formal complaint.

If you have a difficult truth to tell and are unable to leave your identity, I understand completely and I appreciate your contribution to the conversation. However, I ask that you abide by the Code of Conduct.

If you leave a questionable comment and I can't trace your identity, I will not post your comment.

In conclusion, I urge you to read "Surely Some Revelation Is at Hand" by Steve Almond, which, from my perspective, is the best I've read on this terrible tragedy.

Here's part of his analysis, which is startling in its clarity:
It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the capacity for moral self-reflection. What happens when a large and well-armed portion of our citizenry can no longer apologize? When humility becomes another form of humiliation? Their heroes exhort them: Never retreat. Reload.

The young man with the gun, in a final note to friends, put it like this:
"Please don’t be mad at me… I cannot rest"
He seemed to recognize that he was going to do wrong. But he couldn’t stop himself.

He was not merely following orders. He was attempting to construct a world in which it was bearable to live. When this became impossible, he sought to die for a noble cause.
Here's the quote I want to highlight, because it resonates with my experience of your words to me:
"The more hysterical reactions will come from those who feel themselves implicated, who fear the great con of their professions exposed. They will react with absurd rituals of denial, as if, after all their violent agitation, they are the ones being fired upon, the victims of some vast and unending conspiracy."
I wish you well, dear Anonymous. I wish you peace - that peace of God which passes all understanding.

I trust you will join me in prayers for all the victims in Tucson, for all those who died, for all those who grieve their loss, for the residents of Tucson, as well as for this nation.

Oh, I'll keep writing my opinions which express my particular perspective. You haven't stopped me. But, since we won't be talking again this is goodbye.

You may not have left your name, but I know it. We all do.

Your name is Legion.


Glenda de Kruif said...

You are a class act Elizabeth - God Bless

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Glenda.

Sandi said...

I've only recently discovered your blog, and while I was surprised by your candor in recent statements, I was also impressed. I would like to ditto Glenda's, "Thank you."

SCG said...

Well said. I don't have a lot of patience any more with anonymous comments left at my blog that are meant to attack me. I don't get many, but when I do--dang!!
In that way, I am glad that when I do share a blog entry on FB, I can see who is dissing me. And it usually isn't one of my friends, so I'm safe.
Thanks for this post. I'll be sure to call all future meanies, "Legion" before I drive them off of my comments box.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hello, friend. I much prefer comments on FB because you can't hide there.

I used to get a lot more nasty comments and trolls but that's really diminished in the last two years or so. When I do, it's usually months after I've written something. The comment comes from someone who's obviously been "trolling" for a fight. I'm such an easy target, in so many ways and on so many levels. Usually, I just hit delete and move on with my life.

Yesterday, my site meter was spinning out of control. I suspect one Troll discovered my site and then sent all his friends over for a little look see. Trolls are so easily entertained with whirly-twirly things, you know. Apparently, my site meter entertained them for hours.

I am getting less and less tolerant of anonymous posters. You are going to have to be really, really good for me to post something and not leave your name or a way to trace your identity.

Or, I'll call you Legion, and hit delete.

Just sayin'.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Ok, I'm going to say it.

Around 1984, I had an interesting experience with someone who made no bones about the fact he belonged to an organization who wore white sheets and pointy white hoods. He told me that because my grandfather's business (a route of jukeboxes, pinball machines, coin-operated pool tables, and video games) did business with a predominantly African-American bar in my hometown, we were at risk for us losing our machines in a fire, and I was at risk of "being paid a friendly visit."

I'm sorry, maybe I'm skewed by my history, but I don't see much difference between anonymous commenters, and people in white sheets and pointy hoods. Just my .02.

Jeffri Harre said...

Elizabeth, you've been "playing with the big boys" a lot longer tham most people I know. Your quiet--and sometimes not so quiet--strength continues to inspire me.

Since I can't be there in person to do this, a virtual one will have to do:


MarkBrunson said...

I have a feeling that this is likely one or two posters who are familiar with one another - these "anonymi" flurry-post all at one time - it's been happening to me for some time.

They always use the same (foul) language and expressions, express the same infantile self-obsession and false "toughness" and all post at the same time. I suspect that it is a teen or youth with an axe to grind because their allowance got cut or they didn't get the i-pod they wanted and so they suddenly know how tough the world is . . . blahblahblah.

Either way, their access to the internet is limited to times that coincide with large areas having school out and parents at work. Of course, the age doesn't mean, in this benighted land of the Tea Party, that you shouldn't be concerned with safety. If it's an adult, then they are probably raging out of impotent frustration, as they are limited to personal blogs and such extreme behavior would get them locked away.

I save mine to forward to friends in law enforcement - I wonder if they're truly unaware that IP addies can be traced from "anonymous" posts?

MarkBrunson said...

By the bye,

If the word "douche" was used, and given the contemptuous dismissal of actual rational thought, I imagine it's the same as "Charles Jones" over at Maddy's.

MarkBrunson said...

Forgive me, Elizabeth -

Christopher Johnson, a great deal more info about which has been added at Maddy's, so I have corrected my own theories regarding him.

I still believe it is the same, or related, as these assaults are occurring at the same time. It also is odd it comes at the time of the Tucson horror - one wonders if the Midwest Conservative Journal was one of the things that set off the gunman, or if it is a concerted act of aggression across the Tea Partier cabal.

Le Fou said...

You might find this comment interesting:

Is it ever right to just wind up and let someone have it with all you’ve got? That’s a question that I think has to be asked. It’s certainly possible that we’ve all become too used to unrestrained rhetoric as a form of entertainment, and people like me live right in the middle of the guilt parabola there. Most all of us are grownups and can handle extreme argument, but clearly some people are not, and obviously I’m not just talking about Jared Loughner. To see that, all you have to do is attend almost any family gathering, where once-loving relationships have been completely lost because of the overheated right-left culture war. If real family relationships are being lost to this kind of political debate, if someone on TV can reach into your living room and break up your family without knowing anything about you or even knowing that you exist, that tells us that this mechanized mass-media rhetoric has been almost unimaginably successful at dehumanizing whole classes of people.”
— The Giffords Tragedy: Is the Media Partly at Fault? | Rolling Stone Politics | Taibblog | Matt Taibbi on Politics and the Economy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - Yup, I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the Anonymous bloggers of today are the guys with White Sheets of yesterday.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jeffri - As Piglet, once said: "I didn't mean to be brave; it just happened when I panicked."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark, thank you for your passionate responses to this post. I feel like I have the big brother I never had but always wanted, who is angry that I - or anyone else - has to go through this.

There are any number of blogs and bloggers who invite - indeed, incite - violent rhetoric. You may be right about the source. I don't really care who they are. I just want them to stop. And, it would be better all around if the decision to stop would be made by them, themselves, rather than have it imposed upon them by the legal system.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bede - Someone once said to me, long ago, that "You have the perfect right to swing your arms as wildly as you wish. But, that right stops at the end of my nose."

I think the same applies to freedom of speech. You have the absolute right to yell, "Fire!" in a theater. But, if there is no fire, you can and will be held accountable for your actions.

That's what I tried to do in this post - to send a message that I wasn't going to just sit there and take the filth that was coming my way. And, my tolerance for anonymous posting has reached a cross roads.


Brother David said...

You go girl!

I really have to wonder if these idiots even understand where the phase "Never retreat, reload" derives. It comes from the heart of war, from the time of one shot rifles and pistols. In fact a good example of this is the historical fiction, the US movie The Patriot. One of the biggest problems with the irregular militia fighting with the Continental Army's regular troops was that the militia would fire off their one shot rifle, next their one shot pistol if they had one and then retreat for the rear of the action. They would not stand, reload and fire again. The phrase was born in the violence of men fighting.

"Sir" said...

You go Girl!

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Long ago, I think there was some assumption that the Internet could allow for some absolute "freedom" to have no-holds-barred debate in whatever language the debaters deemed appropriate. I've never been able to wrap my mind around the ultimate good that level of freedom is supposed to provide. Ideally, I would like to retain a level of curiosity about viewpoints that differ radically from mine - but the only productive conversations I've had with people whose stance differs from mine on sexuality, gun control, the free market, etc. have been in person. And the environments are generally places where no one can score "points" with a clever punch line, rhetoric, or sanctimony.

Sadly, the anonymous format fosters lack of accountability for what we say.

But I applaud your courage for putting these issues out there, keeping the lights on, and the doors open.

it's margaret said...

They hit me too. Big time. I spammed 'em. Even so, when my beloved read the nasties they left me.... well, nevermind.

I have complained to google and blogger before... it doesn't seem to make any difference.... sigh.

Glad you are standing strong --even if it is in a Piglet fashion. --it certainly didn't read that way.

Karen said...


Excellent post--as yours always are. Sorry you have had such nastyness to put up with.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dahveed - Well, my brother, the only history that seems to matter to some of these folks is the version fed to them by folks who have a particular story to tell - not history.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sir - yes, sir!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mary-C: I think part of the strategy is to shout loud enough and long enough until you sit down, cower and shut up in fear.

Not this grandmother's granddaughter.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Margaret - Justice requires vigilance and persistence. I'm in for the long haul.

Interesting thing is, I haven't gotten one - not one - anonymous comment today.

I think I made myself clear.

Oh, they'll be back. Evil has a way of doing that. But, I'll still be here after they leave. Again.

walter said...

..oooh how grateful I am At the enemies of Elizabeth and Riley :

Holy Reading Song of songs-May She kiss me with the kisses of her lips (Ref. Song of songs 1. 2) ..But because now the times are almost at the end and he does not concede to me still her presence but I see only her servants that comes and go from me, for this to You, Life Inherent of my bride-groom, I turn the prayer; I implore You because finally, having com-passionate my love, You send her to me, so that she no longer may speak to me through her servants, angels and prophets, but she herself may come and may kiss me with the kisses of her lips, in other words she may graft in my lips the Word-Soil of her lips and I may hear her speak and may see her teach. These also are indeed the kisses that Christ has given to her church, at the times of her arrival she, present in the flesh, has addressed to him-her words of faith love and peace, according to what Isaiah, being sent already before the bride, had promised and said: Nor mediator neither angel, but the own same Lord will save them.

The Time may arrive to discern: either You bid her to kiss your lips, or You bid Christ-Life Inherent At The Word of God, or You bid Holy Spirit At burning your conflict in the name of the One who keeps us centered and focused and truthful. ILove my Little Girl, ILove my Traveling Mercies, ILove my Brother-I am of Walter Vitale.

Just Splainin’.

Anonymous said...

There is no god and I, for one, am glad.
And religion is stupid.
The nut who shot that kid in AZ was a believer.
Another sign that thinking you have an Invisible Pal in the Sky makes you mental.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Nixon - As Carl Jung reportedly once said to a young student, "If I believed in the God you believe in, I'd probably be atheist, too."

Be well. Be safe. Peace to you and yours.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, the spam filter is working! Yay! Another message from another "Anonymous" was sent directly there.

It begins, "I really don't care if you print this or not." Of course you don't. It's 'anonymous'.

I don't know what galls me more: what you have to say or your arrogance in thinking that you can say anything you want as long as your identity is not revealed.

I believe you are, unwittingly, part of the problem with discourse in this country. You long for the "good old days before cable tv", yet you use the very tools of anonymity which is part of its attraction.

I was going to use one word for you: Coward. Now I have another: Phony.