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A Facebook comment should not bother me this much…

February 11, 2020, 11:11 AM

Recently, I commented on a post on the Facebook page for WHSV, the local ABC affiliate for Harrisonburg, Virginia, and got some unusual feedback.  The original post was for an article about Trump’s participation in the “March for Life“, an anti-choice demonstration held annually in DC on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Before I continue, though, it seems worthwhile to explain my stance on the matter of abortion.  My stance is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.  But ultimately, it’s not my call.  What other people do with their bodies is their business, and it doesn’t affect me.

I also believe that abortion is more or less a settled matter, but that it has value for the GOP as a campaign issue.  In other words, the Republican Party will talk a big game about it, but ultimately, no one is going to ban abortion.  Ever.  Why ban it and settle the matter decisively in your favor, when you can bring it up as a campaign issue every election cycle and raise money and get people to vote based on it?  To actually ban abortion would be to kill the golden goose, and also hand a massive fundraising opportunity to the Democrats.  Maybe I’m a bit cynical about the whole thing, but I imagine that if they were really going to act on that issue, they would have done it by now, during the various periods where the GOP has controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.  That they haven’t done that tells me that they are not interested in settling it.

All that said, in response to the article, I said the following:

"It's an election year, so Trump is trying to gin up his base. I imagine that Trump actually doesn't give two shits about the issue of abortion, because Trump is only interested in himself."

Basically, for all of the aforementioned, I have no reason to think that Trump appeared for any other reason than to stump as part of his reelection campaign.  I really don’t think that he is all that concerned about it, except that these people tend to reliably vote Republican, and so he’s shoring up his base.

Now, to put it nicely, the comments on the WHSV Facebook page are, for the most part, a toxic cesspool.  You tend to get a lot of ignorant right-wingers responding based on emotion.  Reasonable comments are relatively few and far between.  So I kind of expect a wacko response written out of emotion whenever I comment.  In this case, my comment garnered one response:

"so you know the president personally and have discussed his views on life?!? WOW! KUDOS to you for really talking with a person before assuming what their motive is for saying something."

This is a pretty typical ignorant right-winger response rooted in emotion that I might get on a WHSV post.  It attacks the commenter rather than the substance of the comment, and is written in a relatively rude tone.

The problem with this particular comment was who it came from: this person was my eighth grade science teacher back in 1994-1995.  Now, in all fairness, I don’t think that she realized who was making the comment – thus why I blurred her name and photo in the screenshot.  We’re friends on Facebook, and I have no doubt that Facebook served this comment up to her because of our friends connection, saw a comment that is not stroking Trump’s ego, and responded, likely missing the name of who was commenting entirely.

The only thing that I could think of when I saw this was, “Come on, I know that you’re better than this.”  After all, this is my former teacher, and I respected them.  This sort of behavior caused me to lose respect for them, and I didn’t like that.  I knew that she could handle herself better than this, with her having worked with eighth graders all day for many years.  I also know that if I ever spoke to her (or any other teacher) like that in school, I would be in the office for being disrespectful in short order, and no one would question that result.  Same goes the other way around.  Don’t be disrespectful, no matter who it is.

I think that not every teacher realizes that to the vast majority of their students, they will always be the teacher, even outside of school, and even after they retire from teaching.  They will always be Mrs. So-and-So, no matter how old we get or how much time has passed.  My posts about fifth grade and seventh grade exemplify that, as I refer to the teachers involved as “Mrs. Bradley” and “Mr. Wade” consistently in their respective posts.  The same went for this teacher.  They will always be Mrs. Last Name to me, even though it’s been almost 25 years since I was her student.  To do otherwise would feel awkward, even at 38.  Mom has asked some of her now-grown former students to call her “Jane” instead of “Mrs. Schumin”, but I don’t know if I could necessarily do that if one of my old teachers asked that of me.  I think it might feel too awkward for me, even if we are all adults now.

It also makes me a bit disappointed in a response that this teacher gave when someone asked her something to do with politics.  I don’t remember the specific question, but she basically punted, stating, “I am a registered independent.”  I didn’t think much of it at the time, not knowing at the time how Virginia’s specific implementation of voting worked.  I now know that Virginia does not have party registration, and primaries are open.  So you can’t be a registered anything in Virginia, because they don’t collect that information from anyone.  You come in, and you pick the party ballot of your choice at the voting site.  In other words, the answer was, at best, a half-truth.  It’s true that there is no party registration, so everyone is “independent” in Virginia by default.  But you’re also not registered that way.  I get not wanting to engage in a political discussion with a bunch of 13-year-olds during what should be instructional time, but the question should have been avoided entirely.  Though I admit that “I am a registered independent” sounds a lot better than “I am a flaming right-winger”.

I was also not too surprised to learn that she was a right-winger, though, because considering how red of an area Augusta County is, I figured as much just going off of the odds.  Augusta County is one of those areas where you just assume that everyone is a Republican until you are informed otherwise.

All in all, this was a frustrating experience.  I don’t like losing some respect for people that I used to look up to.  I get that they’re people, too, and that teaching is just their job, but still…