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Yesterday, a fire service friend sent me a screenshot of a public comment posted to Facebook by a former career firefighter in the region. The man is also a long-time volunteer. This firefighter is a Facebook “friend”, but I’m not sure I know him. The comment was under a post on another firefighter’s page sharing the news of yesterday’s California synagogue shooting that left one person dead and three wounded. Here’s what it said: “Somebody try to Jew them down?”
The comment remained posted for quite a while, staying up even after another person tagged me in a later comment, along with the acronym SMACSS (Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome, a STATter911 invention). The original comment was eventually taken down. Since then I’ve been quite torn over how to react.
If you know me well, you probably know I am difficult to offend. Some see it as weakness. I’m apparently missing the outrage gene. I also have a sense of humor that allows me to laugh at some rather sick stuff. In this case, the comment didn’t offend me, but it also didn’t make me laugh. I’m sure the guy who wrote it thought it was hilarious.
My reaction is just extreme disappointment. Disappointment we live in an era that someone–particularly a firefighter–feels comfortable enough to post this with his name attached for all the world to see just moments after people are killed in a synagogue.
For those who don’t see this comment as problematic, let’s put this in perspective by bringing up another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. This firefighter “friend” happens to have body ink honoring the 343 FDNY firefighters killed on 9/11. What would his or your reaction have been if immediately after the towers fell someone posted what they thought was a joking comment that played off common stereotypes about firefighters? … I thought so.
My initial reaction was to help this guy get his hilarious message out to a wider audience by sharing it on my Facebook page and Twitter feed with his name attached. There are people continuing to encourage me to out him. To be honest, the main reasons I haven’t done so are I don’t want to deal with the BS surrounding such an action and really don’t want to thrust myself in the middle of this guy’s story or drama. It also seemed to be a quite vindictive way to handle this ugliness and I am trying hard not to be that person.
At the same time, it’s nagging at me that his comment shouldn’t be ignored. Ignoring it just makes others believe there’s nothing wrong here. That this ugliness, along with shootings in synagogues, mosques and churches, is just the status quo.
While pondering my reaction, I checked this firefighter’s social media accounts. Was there anything blatantly anti-Semitic or other messages of hate posted by this guy? If there was, I didn’t discover it.
What I did find were the usual memes and other messages of a guy who believes the sole purpose of politics and social media pages are to make the heads explode of those whose views differ from his. It’s a common philosophy in today’s polarized world. Middle ground and compromise are usually seen–like my missing outrage gene—as weakness.
If I were to buy into the scorched-earth philosophy of this firefighter (and many, many people of various political leanings) I would be posting his name and lighting him up all over social media, maybe even with memes showing his picture and how stupid his comments really look. Yes, I could take him down a peg or two. Considering my religion, I guess I would then be able to say, “I Jewed him down”.
That doesn’t interest me. I wish him no harm. What I wish, is for him to wake up to the divisive rhetoric he buys into. By all means, stand up for your beliefs and politics, whatever they are. Just understand it can be done without demonizing those who don’t feel the way you do.
That brings me to my biggest worry about all of this. While I’m reasonably certain this firefighter isn’t dangerous and may not even be anti-Semitic, we live in a time where there are not only people who like to figuratively see people’s heads explode, but too many, like yesterday’s shooter, who take it literally.
(Two important notes: If you know his name, please don’t use the comments section of this website or my Facebook pages to identify the firefighter. Also, if the firefighter’s comments somehow end up in the news, it’s likely I will follow my normal protocol and post that story on STATter911.)