A Note To The Rude, Bitter, and Broken

Last week, I wrote about teaching my non-verbal son about danger. As is often the case, the comments almost all made me smile. I heard from others with common concerns and frustrations about their own children. They shared stories from their experiences and, by the end, I felt a little less alone.

Then, littered among them was an uncommon, but not completely unique, sentiment from someone mocking my child’s struggle. She called it “an evolutionary necessity.” I hid her comment because the others in my boat didn’t need to deal with it as it served no purpose other than to offend. Kids today might call her a troll. Back when I was a kid, we had other words for her. We still do.

Keep in mind, her profile offered a glimpse at her appearance, hobbies, and life while her comment told me all I needed to know about her personality. So, I could easily talk about how someone like her claiming evolution of mankind benefited her in some way was nothing short of self-unaware. However, that would not be true. She’s not self-unaware. She’s very self-aware of who she is and her current place in the world. She has no doubt.

trollI say this with full confidence because, I’ve had some highs and lows throughout my own life. The one thing I know for sure? Never have I ever been at my happiest, and most successful and thought to myself, “I should make fun of that stranger with special needs online.” If you take more than a second to think about it, you’ll agree. It isn’t a sign of bliss with one’s own existence. It’s a red flag of the opposite.

Keep in mind, criticism is fine. Question my parenting ability. Ask about my motivations. Hit my writing style. It’s all fair game. This was none of those things. This was a shot for the sake of taking one and, after writing for close to 20 years online, I’ve seen far worse. I have also come to accept these hidden tough guys and girls as a fact of life.

I know people often roll their eyes when someone talks about others “hiding behind a keyboard”, but that’s what this is. I say this because saying something mean to someone is only “tough” for one reason – because you risk getting punched in the face for your comment. Growing up, that was what made the big talkers so cool. They’d get up in someone’s face and spit a ton of trash, with no concern over getting pummeled for their rude approach. You might not like what they had to say, but you had to respect their courage to voice it. Those who do so online eliminate the one thing that makes big talk big.

Often, these people who take offense to “keyboard warrior” will also take offense to the notion of getting punched. Despite acting like children themselves, they will be the first ones to claim that “adults can’t just go around punching each other in the face.”

And they’re wrong.

I can totally punch someone in the face. In fact, I can do anything I want to. If you couldn’t punch someone in the face, then no one would ever get punched in the face, but it happens every day. It’s not a matter of can’t. It’s a matter of deciding won’t. It’s a matter of weighing the consequences against your actions. Is someone cutting you off in traffic worth the jailtime of a fistfight? No. Is someone walking up and insulting your special needs child worth it? Yeah. All day.

So why am I not in jail? Why do I not have a record of punching people constantly. Because no one walks up to me and does that in real life. It doesn’t happen because people, in person, often have decency. They’ve done it online though. Why? Because they can’t get punched in the face. Follow the logic?

The next natural question that people ask when I veer down this somewhat uncomfortable topic is, “Why do you care?” They point to the pointlessness of these people and their opinions. Why does it matter?

The short answer is that it doesn’t. Disrespecting my loved ones and the feelings it stirs up has nothing to do with someone else’s opinion. It has to do with defending someone I am tasked with defending who can’t defend himself. That’s just fatherhood. Whether their opinion matters or not is immaterial.

But make no mistake, it’s not about the person’s opinion. That’s not what makes me upset. It’s the realization that my child, one of the purest and most harmless people on Earth, has to share the planet with such decrepit hatred that brings me down the farthest. It’s realizing that the best people out there have to be subjected to the worst.

Some of the most beautiful human beings I have ever met have told me horror stories about interactions with some of the vilest individuals out there. It’s like a magnetic attraction. The more angelic a person is, the more the dregs of society come out of the woodwork to mar their wings with the dirt they wallow in.

I guess the point of all this is to say that I see you. Those who stand on a higher road and aim to be better every day – I see you. Those who are trying to bring them down from below their troll bridge of garbage – I see you too. At the end of the day, we should all strive to be better. Unfortunately, only some of us are, while the others are trying to drag them down to make the race to the finish line easier.

The world needs beautiful people like my son. The world also needs awful ones like the woman who mocked him from behind her computer screen. She helps us see the good in the world. I guess you can say that she is an “evolutionary necessity.”