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Henry is the type of old family friend who we all grew up calling uncle.
He recently found me on Facebook. And, boy, he is a sharer. Last week he shared a meme that said “GOD, GUNS, TRUMP.” Okay, I thought. I don’t agree, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Shortly after, he shared a post calling Alexandria Ocasio Cortez a stupid b*tch. That got me scrolling, tumbling down a rabbit hole of crooked Hillary articles, abortion shaming, sexism, and racism directed at immigrants.
And so then I thought, how can it be that I love this man?
He is family to me. When something needs to be painted, moved, or fixed, he’s there. If someone is hurt, he’s the first to pick them up—he is one of those people so full of helpfulness that you inevitably feel guilty for asking him to help yet again. Never in 30 years have I seen him act inappropriately, or say anything hurtful toward anyone, regardless of belief, sex, or race. If you’d asked me his political or religious beliefs, before he friended me on Facebook, I would have shrugged and said, “dunno.”
The only indication of the man I thought I knew in this Facebook wall of hate was a quote used as his cover photo that read: “Never say mean words out of anger. Your anger will pass. But your mean words can scar a person for life. So, use kind words or be silent.”
I almost laughed at the irony. I do not know how to reconcile these two people any more than someone visiting his Facebook could reconcile that quote with the onslaught of bullsh*t to follow. On the one hand, I’ve loved him for all of my life; on the other, last night he posted a meme that read: “It hurts the poor Muslim’s feelings? Well, whoopty doo…this ain’t Arabia meathead.”
Maybe this is a problem with Facebook, I thought. It just brings out the nastiest sides of people. Instead of being in disagreement with someone, you’re anti-something or pro-something. You’re 100 percent all in or you’re dog food.
That must be it.
I did not grow up in the time of Facebook. I did not make Facebook friends with Henry and stalk him in advance to make sure we agreed on everything. And this has resulted in me having to answer some hard questions to myself: Would I be friends with someone new if I saw this vitriol on their Facebook beforehand? No.
Yet, will I confront him? I don’t know. And, I don’t know how.
Does this make me a hypocrite? Yes, it likely does.
Which begged the real question for me: Is this a delusion of love? Does love make us see the best in people, or just make it easier to excuse the worst?
This is the world we live in today—the next generation will be aligning their social circles based on Facebook shares and tweets and likes and claps, but your family will always be your family, so I hope that before they do, they remember: Never write words out of anger. Your anger will pass. But your mean words can scar a person for life.
So, use kind words or be silent.
And, also, educate yourself.
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