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The Art of Communication…

February 10, 2012

What an interesting 48 hours it has been.   What started off as a mediocre (at best), mildly insensitive comment (Made by yours truly, of course), turned into a barrage of hate mail, death threats and wishes of horrifying, unspeakable tragedies to be visited upon my children.  Ultimately, to be capped off with a rare showing of maturity and honest communication, leading to a little enlightenment.  Let me start at the beginning:

As many of you already know, I spend inordinate amounts of time patronizing “ThePhinsider.com” a website devoted entirely to my beloved Miami Dolphins.  99.9% of the time, the conversation centers around the team and the NFL as a whole.  It’s basically a virtual sports bar filled with thousands of like-minded football fans.  As such, the conversations can,at times, shift around to typical sports bar chit-chat (I.E chicks, sexual innuendo, locker room ball busting).  Anyway, early Wednesday morning, the author that runs the sight posted a short article regarding a College that Dan Marino is helping to develop specifically for learning disabled kids (You can probably already get a sense of where this is going).  In the comments section of that post, I made a remark that got this ball rolling.  In an effort to give you the entire picture, I am going to transcribe the comment below, verbatim:

“I hear they already hired their first professor…

It’s this guy, and he will be teaching “Advanced Glass Sorting”…”

(Of course, “this guy” is a link to a YouTube video of the old commercial for the Association for Retarded Citizens, highlighting a disabled guy working in a recycling factory sorting glass.)

24 hours later,  I received multiple e-mails, a couple making death threats, all spewing hatred in my direction.  The highlight was this one here, again, copy and pasted for accuracy: (Be warned: If profanity offends you, skip ahead.  This reads like it was written by someone with Tourette’s who just hit their thumb with a hammer)

“DEAR COCK SUCKING DICKHEAD:
I hope you have a disabled kid some day you prick.  I hope someday you take your kids to gymnastics and one of them breaks their neck and is in a wheelchair…then maybe you won’t have to bitch about taking them.  I hope your other kid has a stroke and is developmentally disabled and your dream of your kid going to college is CRUSHED.  Someday then, maybe some really awesome nice rich guy will start a college for disabled kids and your dream will be renewed for a short time….until you go to the college and apply and they say: “HEY, AREN”T YOU THAT FUCKING ASSHOLE WHO COMMENTED ON A WEB PAGE THAT DEVELOPMENTALLY KIDS SHOULD DO GLASS SORTING?!   FUCK YOU!!!”
I hope someday you and your wife have to search for schools who will take your two handicapped kids and one of you has to quit your job because they need a care giver and everywhere you go people stare at you and your kids.

KARMA IS A BITCH YOU FUCK. 

Mom of a CDLS kid.  FUCK OFF AND DIE.”

(Names have been deleted to protect the illiterate.)

Now go back and read the original comment that spawned this response.  Doesn’t it seem just a touch, um, out-of-balance?  Granted, my comment was insensitive, and comically, not my best work.  However, was it really all that harmful?  The comment didn’t promote violence, or segregation of disabled kids.  It didn’t wish any harm to anyone, nor single anyone specifically out.  I didn’t criticize or diminish the project Marino has undertaken, nor the people this will benefit, or their families.  Yet it is met with multiple personal attacks against my children?  You wanna hope for my death?  Fine, you certainly aren’t the first.  But now you are going to wish paralysis on innocent children you’ve never met?  And I am the deranged one?

Now, the last line of the e-mail intrigued me, so I did a little research on CDLS.  (Website here) And hooofah! That woman has every right to be pissed as shit, just not at me.  If you are religious, be pissed at God, if you aren’t, blame, I dunno, Darwin?  But to take out all of your life’s frustrations on a guys children because he made a mildly cold-hearted crack is completely irrational, and limits the sympathy I might otherwise have for your situation.  But we will get back to this in a moment.

I also received another message from a woman who was almost as angry and emotional, and only slightly less detailed in her hopes for me and my kids.  If you care to read them, they are all under the comments section of my last post from a few days ago entitled “Am I Weird?”  After some back and forth, her being angry, me being snarky and sarcastic (Can you believe it?), she posted a comment that rationally and calmly explained her position on what I had originally said, and even apologized for aiming her comments at my children.  Can you imagine that?  A human being who can calmly acknowledge that her emotions carried her away, apologize and lucidly and intelligently state her case.  I was stunned.  NOW we were communicating.

As it turns out, the entire article and comments section from the Phinsider article had been picked up and posted on the home page of “Autism Speaks”!, unbeknownst to me.  Autism Speaks is a powerful political lobby for Autism research.  Now let me say this:  That obviously changes some things here.  While I won’t apologize for the comment, as I still think it was a harmless joke, I can admit that I would NEVER have posted it if I knew that was going to be published outside of an NFL fansite.  I may be an asshole, and I certainly have some issues with the Autism lobby, as I have pointed out on this very site, but obviously even I would not throw a joke like that out there if I knew it would be front and center on the Autism Speaks website.  My defense, and you can choose to accept it or not, is that I was comfortable making the comment in the environment that it originated in.  I am appreciative to the woman who had the maturity to engage in an open discussion, and allow me to show her where I am coming from, and explain things from her perspective.

Here is the point:  How many situations like this spiral into ugly situations because we react to things emotionally, and without logic and reasoning?  Multiple people told me about the horrible things they would like to see happen to me and my family, but all it took was one person to rationally explain herself, and allow me to shed a little light on where I was coming from to begin to diffuse, at least between she and I, what was just minutes earlier an ugly situation.  Maybe if we would stop and think every once in a while BEFORE we react, and actually listen to someone else’s point-of-view, we would see that not everything is black and white.

And to the PC crowd:  Sometimes a joke is just a joke.  My comment was, at worst, worthy of a snicker and an eye roll.  If you really read the comment, I mean really read it, you would see that it was, while immature, really pretty harmless and wouldn’t rationally make anyone feel badly about themselves.  My guess is that the authors of the hate mail I received didn’t really spend one second thinking about what was said.  They just reacted.  It’s a dangerous thing to do.  Much more dangerous than what some idiot said on a football website somewhere.  And as far as my “karma” catching up with me:  I am a lifelong Dolphins fan.  Isn’t that enough punishment?

7 Comments
  1. Jennifer Walsh permalink

    I think it takes a pretty big person to seriously reflect on the last 48 hours and put into writing your thoughts, intentions, and owning up to the consequences (both intended and unintended). What started out as a dividing exchange between you and I, actually ended up bringing “two worlds” together. I know I learned a lot about how NOT to communicate and showing some restraint about reacting before learning all the facts. And I think you certainly came out of this misunderstanding a more aware (and dare I say) “sensitive” person. And that, like you said, is when real communication happens. Thanks for posting this. I am sure many parents of the special needs community appreciate your honesty and attempts to bridge the gap.

  2. Colin permalink

    Holy shit. I don’t check the site for like a week and all this happens. Good for you Jennifer that may have been the most reasonable, adult conclusion to a situation like that I’ve ever seen. Everyone seems to have a huge set of balls instead of brains on the internet so this is good to see.

  3. Hunter permalink

    jets still suck ;-)>

  4. Jimbo111 permalink

    That’s why I left the site, there are some preferred ones who can post any vile, personal attack they please with no repercussions, and others who make a mild comment and are banned. Further, no matter what many post, they are attacked and ridiculed to no end. I had enough, it was no longer fun or enlightening. I’ll drop in and do some reading, but I’m done posting at that site.

    • For the record, I read your fanshot before it was yanked and I thought it was absolutely harmless. (And I thought the ad yo were referring to was a little weird myself.)

  5. How do the people who reacted so viscerally to your comment know that your children will and always will be healthy? Any moment in my life that has been horrifying has always been made better by humor-albeit self-directed. Disability exists on a ginormous continuum, ranging from mildly socially retarded to full on total care, and inability to function at any level. You, or I may actually exist on that continuum. And you know what makes me feel better about that? It’s laughing about it. If that takes form in a totally inappropriate yet context appropriate locker room joke, or me making a deranged comment about needing to slit my wrists to feel better while suffering from PPD then we should be allowed that privilege. We lived in a pretty fucked up world, where the suffering of the innocent occurs on a minutes by minute basis. If all you do is think about that then you’ll be wanting to slit your own wrists as well. It is a cliche, but laughter is the best medicine.

  6. Just this morning I shared a picture that suggested ADHD kids are easily distracted. It is true they are. This picture was humorous, but not insulting. I was slammed by three different mothers of ADHD children. They viciously attacked me and one of them unfriended me.

    It was very similar to your situation. it was a light hearted joke. Each of these women have laughed at other jokes pointed at other people, but called me names when it hit close to home. They failed to see their hypocrisy.

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