It’s 2018. The annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game brings together the top 21st century stars of The Great American Pastime. Among the National League’s pitching staff is Josh Hader, relief hurler for the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s his first appearance in the mid-season celebration of the game, a landmark in the young athlete’s career and, quite literally, a dream come true.
The day of the game, some viciously eager opportunist locates and highlights a series of sarcastic racist and homophobic tweets Hader sent out six years prior, when he was 17. While his fellow players closed ranks and defended him as a friend and teammate, Hader had to issue a public apology and leave social media. Perhaps as a result of his public humiliation, Hader pitched poorly in his first All-Star Game appearance.
Whoever ratted out Hader’s adolescent uttering and tainted his big night never stepped forward publicly.
Fast forward to the spring of 2021. Cricketer Ollie Robinson is bowling over his sport as an addition to the English test squad. Again, a series of racist and sexist tweets resurfaces from about a decade ago when Robinson was 19. The result? Public derision and suspension after just one match for the national team.
While there is no indication the now 27-year-old athlete still holds any of those juvenile views he glibly tossed around as a teen, someone sees fit to shame him amid his sudden success. When he should be enjoying the heights of well-earned advancement, he must shy away from public life.
The crusading champion of social justice who chose to rat out Robinson remained in the darkest hole available.
So, those of us who do our best to live our lives in peace, working to survive and reaching out to improve ourselves day to day, now face these twisted armies of trolls (in this case, doubly defined in internet slang as online trouble makers and in the real world as lonely and hideous denizens of darkness). They scour the social media records of the accomplished and prominent, maintaining a cancerous inventory of expressed indiscretions from younger days.
Probably thumb-typed during the hormone-clouded grind of adolescence, these ill-fated missives often contain some politically disavowed blurt of vitriol or a term or two that simply cannot allow their letters to arrange themselves in order, lest the great enlightened target the speaker for cancellation.
Put more reasonably, folks make foolish statements when they’re kids. Unfortunately, the infinite recording ability of social media allows those clumsy remarks to live forever under the day’s chatter – waiting for some morally blind mole to dig them up and put them to work without conscience or remorse.
In truth, a buck-toothed rodent is an incorrect bestial analogy. A vulture stands in much better: Imagine the ugly, ever-vigilant creature in its arid wastelands – sitting up on buzzing power lines, watching the living below. It waits for one of the human beings working through the challenges of their lives to misstep, stumble and fall by stating some censored sin. The scavenger then swoops down, claws extended, seizing on the lapse in judgement – even if it’s a ghost of childish words long since passed. It picks the bones of human error with enough noise that the world takes rueful note – flying away before anyone can identify their work.
I long to interrogate this sort of parasite. You’ll forgive me if I take this opportunity to address such a snake directly here, even if the accused is an imaginary avatar for these venomous predators. There’s a bold, entitled cruelty to this brand of self-righteous, gleeful assault, and there are a number of assumptions I can make about the attacker:
- As a child, you were the lonely, nasty student who couldn’t wait to tattle on your peers. Maybe you thought belittling them would elevate you. Perhaps you believed it would bring you closer to the teachers and somehow give you a taste of their authority. All it did was further alienate you from the other children and generate pity from those you sought to impress.
- You are a programmed, lock-step, partisan ideologue. You never question or analyze whatever version of social justice or civil rights you show to the world with such unrelenting bloodlust. If this was Munich of 1938, you’d be wearing a brown shirt. If it was Hollywood of the 1950s, you’d sit at McCarthy’s side. Like so many empty minds cluttering this world, you’ve been told what to think without learning how to think.
- You believe you’re somehow above similar judgement. You dwell in the delusion that you never said anything in the past you might regret as you mature – if you actually manage that feat. That’s sad, because our mutual ability to make a mess of our affairs brings us together to share tales of how we endure the results.
- You steep in the deadly sin of envy. You are wracked with jealousy of those who found greater professional success and a higher standard of living. You long to tear them down – as long as you don’t have to take any public responsibility for doing so.
- Finally, you’re devoid of that precious human gift of forgiveness. You live from one hour to the next looking to inflect public embarrassment on people you don’t know. It never enters your miserable head that you could let it go and allow someone’s long lost errors to remain dead.
Even with all these observations, I’m left with questions: What do you gain by seizing on another human being’s past indiscretions? Do you use some delusion of ‘raising awareness’ to justify or excuse your snitching? Isn’t it exhausting to scour social media to inventory so many channels, hoping to mine the little poisonous shards you like to stab under fingernails? When you find a festering piece of aging refuse that can damage another person’s life, have you no grasp of human frailty…no remnant of compassion?
I assume the notion of social justice or activism that drives you to mount your anonymous public assassinations is somehow based on the highest intentions of understanding, tolerance, love and equality. Can you explain how revealing someone’s silly slips of the online tongue from years ago serves that? Can you explain how your cruelty and the pain you cause honors any of the values your concept of justice serves?
Your backstabbing isn’t about peace, love and understanding. It’s about prejudice, rage and your decision that, if you can’t be satisfied in life, no one can. You’re a nasty little poacher, hunting more successful fellows in the bleak hope they you can hang their happiness like a fetid pelt on your empty wall.
Find something else to do with what life you have left.
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