One of the most valuable parental assets, one of the most prized parental
possessions, is being held in high esteem by your children: having them look up
to you, hold you in high regard.
It takes years to earn that esteem, and
is the product of many different elements, including treating them fairly,
treating one’s spouse with respect, earning a livelihood honorably, and
generally behaving like a mensch.
Many are the reasons to live an upright
life, my father taught me in a life lesson I will impart to my own kids, not the
least to ensure that those whom you love continue to respect and look up to you.
Many as well are the brakes on committing indiscretions, none the more powerful
than losing the esteem of those whose esteem actually matters.
that message ringing in my ears, I recently briefly debated whether to share the
following tweet with my children: “@HerbKeinon,” tweeted one Nunzio Amitrano,
“you disgusting misleading piece of s**t.”
Whoa, was my first thought as
that tweet mugged me from my computer screen. Obviously it’s no pleasure seeing
your name in such a context. My second thought: should I share this with the
Parents naturally want their children to hear good things about them, not
abuse. How many people, even believers in “full disclosure,” run home from work,
sit around the macaroni at dinner, and – after asking how their children’s days
were – blurt out: “My boss told me today I was as worthless as a worm, and all
my colleagues agreed.”
No, that’s not what builds you up in your kids’
Then why show them a vicious tweet from someone I don’t know and
whose words mean nothing? Simply because I wanted their advice on how to
WHAT ANGERED the gentle Nunzio, someone obviously consumed by
hatred for Israel, was a tweet I posted just after Lina Mahoul won The Voice
contest last Saturday night.
“Israel chooses Israeli-Arab as The Voice
winner, couple weeks after crowning a black Miss Israel. What a racist country,”
I’m guessing Amitrano disagreed.
Obviously this is not
the first time I have received unfavorable reader reviews. It comes with the
territory. You’re not going to please everybody. But this time the
stark vulgarity irritated me.
In the old days, criticism would take the
form of letters sent to the office. Most of those letters were signed,
however, meaning the censure was tempered a bit, and ad hominem denigration less
prevalent. People are not going to call you a “son of a dog” if they have to
sign their name to it.
As technology advanced, however, the criticism
morphed into angry talkbacks on the Internet. At first I was intrigued by the
immediacy of talkbacks. Write an article, see it online, and then – poof –
within minutes readers can respond. I was intrigued, until some of the feedback
One of the structural problems with talkbacks is their
anonymity, and anonymity breeds nastiness. I find the people who praise me in
talkbacks, even if anonymous, very insightful. But the nasty folks, I think they
are morons (see, I’ve picked up the talkback lingo).
times I have found even the insulting talkbacks useful – they help me fend off
complaints from my children about my political leanings.
A couple of my
kids, bless ‘em, think I am too far to the Left. To convince them otherwise, to
try to talk them into actually letting me speak at one of their B’nei Akiva
activities, I collect those talkbacks accusing me of being a right-wing fanatic.
It helps me build up my bonafides with the children.
And then along came
Twitter. Twitter created a whole new dimension. Some of the tweets, or
responses to some of my own tweets, are signed, which means the tone should be
less vile. However, unlike talkbacks, tweets are not moderated, which therefore
enables them to be extremely vile.
Also, unlike talkbacks (which I now
seldom read because I refuse to wade through one ad hominem attack by a
talkbacker against another until I get to the attacks on me) responses to my
tweets just kind of appear magically on my computer where I can see
Thus I saw Amitrano’s tweet.
MY FIRST instinct to his
invective was to fire back in kind. What am I, a potted plant?
And this, indeed,
is one of the dangers and pitfalls of email and Twitter – it is all too
instantaneous and rapid fire. You get something on email, or see something on
Twitter, and the reflex is to shoot back. There is no time to let the anger
cool, to proverbially “sleep on it.” But if you fire back on email, what you
fire back in anger is out there – can be forwarded and re-forwarded, and
re-forwarded ad infinitum – and can never be recalled.
Which is why when
I get something that angers me, I generally ask The Wife’s counsel before
responding. But this time she was sleeping, so I turned to the
“Curse him back,” said my middle son Skippy, just out of high
school and before the army. “You don’t have to put up with that.”
oldest son, out of the army and in college, took a more measured
“Leave it,” The Lad counseled, sounding like his mother. “Don’t
be bothered. Why get into it with someone who you don’t know? It doesn’t matter.
Forget about it.”
Wise advice... but still. I was curious about my
heckler, so I looked at his Twitter account to get a feel for the
Amitrano, it appears, lives in London, and follows 43 people and
organizations, among them Iran’s PressTV, the co-founder of the Electronic
Intifada, and British MP George Galloway, that oh-so liberal and enlightened MP
who stomped out of a debate at Oxford recently because an Israeli had the gall
to get up and debate him.
But the kicker: Amitrano also follows the Dalai
I chuckled seeing the tranquil Dalai Lama’s face among those
Amitrano follows. “I notice you follow the Dalai Lama,” I thought, composing a
tweet in my mind. “Well done – I see you’ve successfully internalized his
That tweet I never sent. No, I was going to be
mature, I was going to rise above the name calling, I was going to listen to The
Lad and be better than all that. Besides, why suffice with just a 140-character
tweet, when I could respond to dear Nunzio in an entire column instead.