“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”
Edgar Allen Poe’s Montresor used a cask of Amontillado to exact revenge. But I, devoid of anything so exotic, had to settle on unfriending a guy on Facebook. I’d never done that before. I just hide someone I find disagreeable, or even ignore them. Who cares?
But when it gets out of hand, it gets out of hand.
It started a few years ago with his emails of Far Right memes–Obama birtherism, Clintons and hidden crimes, Muslims secretly instituting Sharia law–that sort of thing. He found them (a) amusing, (b) profound, or (c) both. Then the pro-Donald Trump crap started coming, which fell into the same categories.
As a rule, I try not to give a shit. Sure, these memes were based on falsehoods or lies. Yeah, they were meant to inflame. On the whole, I just thought, Really? “Based on this bizarre meme replete with misspellings and poor grammar, I will totally change my mind,” said no one, ever. The email headings and openers were in two or more smarmy fonts in colors such as magenta or aqua blue and often in all caps, so they were easy to delete without reading them and getting upset.
I made sure he knew my convictions were far different than his and called him out a couple of times, politely, when I found something over the top. I probably should have cut him off, but I didn’t. What the hell. An old man with a hard-wired point of view, he’d never change anyway. Besides, unlikely as it was, you never know when you might learn something, right? And aren’t we supposed to transcend mere conviction and look for common ground?
At some point, Fate intervened and crashed his computer. He lost much of his contact information, including mine. Yay! A few weeks ago, though, he asked me for my email address–“I have some really interesting things I want to show you–” and I gave it to him. Okay, I knew what was coming, but why not tolerate the old SOB?
He is an old man, a World War II veteran. He can be really funny. And he’s smart, a holder of several patents, a long career in both engineering and marketing, and so on. In person, he is a pleasant and engaging fellow with interesting life experiences and observations.
Then came a series of anti-Muslim screeds, all containing rank falsehoods roundly debunked by Snopes, Politifact, and other such sites, which, of course, I pointed out. I asked him to stop, that I found these personally offensive, that I had Muslim friends and family in Istanbul. Some of the stuff he was sending, I told him, was as hurtful as his calling my nephews and niece, who have an African-American father, by a racial slur. No matter.
Then, this one came: “I‘m not a bible thumpin’ Christian, but I do believe in God, heaven, hell, the Golden Rule and the 10 Commandments. Were supposed to be a Nation that has complete freedom of religion…….we certainly condone Muslims even tho they preach death to non-belivers, lying to their enemy’s and treat women like pond scum………but taking away our right to pray in school is unconscionable! Remember this when you go to vote!” A bizarre “poem” entitled “The New Lord’s Prayer,” purportedly written by a 15-year-old high school student in Minnesota, accompanied the rant. A three-minute Google search proved the letter to be a fake.
But the part about Muslims preaching death to non-believers and treating women like pond scum really irritated me, and I let him know it, along with every other recipient in the chain. That said, I also took it as an opportunity to engage, to pass along some informative tracts on Islam, the context behind the medieval Koran writings, its similarity to the Old Testament in that regard, and so on.
One result was a back-and-forth with on of the recipients, who claimed to be a business person with years of experience in the Islamic world. Okay, so our politics were different, but it was a polite and the exchange useful. However, he ended one of his letters with, “When they try to force those beliefs on others, particularly me, I will exercise my 2nd amendment rights!”
So much for reasoned discourse.
Okay, screw it, I said to myself. This is going nowhere. I’m gone.
Then, this email:
“With our somewhat stupid view of political correctness these days, some will probably find this offensive. But I believe in laughing at everything………..it will keep you alive longer. And I find this funny. I also thought Amos and Andy, Step n’ fetchit’ and a host of others were funny…….but I guess that’s another life. You can’t ignor (sic) something and it will go away!
“Subject: FW: Breaking News
“Al Sharpton reported today that Walt Disney’s new film called “Jet Black,” the African-American version of “Snow White” has been canceled. All of the 7 dwarfs: Dealer, Stealer, Mugger, Forger, Drive By, Homeboy, and Shank have refused to sing “Hi Ho” because they say it offends black prostitutes.
They also say they damn sure have no intention of singing, ‘It’s off to work we go‘.”
A real screamer, no?
Does tolerance and open-mindedness require you to bend when someone throws something at you that’s so offensive, so horrible that you can’t think of anything else the next few hours? Days later, I can’t get it out of my mind that someone could be so vile, so depraved as to send such trash out into the email-o-sphere and think it was funny, let alone just okay.
Constantly plagued with self-doubt, as I tend to be, I waited overnight before responding. Good thing, maybe, because I tempered the profanity-laced invective I’d readied for the guy and let him know how offended I was and that I wanted nothing further to do with him. Ever. I blocked him on social media and blocked his emails. Not as good as walling him up, ala the Poe story, but this is 2019, when Amontillado is rare and hidden niches in wine cellars rather hard to find.
He also has an email chain who probably thought the meme was ha-ha-ha hysterical-funny, and everyone in the chain has their own chain who has their own chain and so on.
I’m not over it.
This is the country we live in.