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Dear People Of The Comments Section: Please Be Kind Or Kindly Zip Your Lips

I love the comments sections of online articles. Drama and snark. Outrage and memes. It’s all incredibly entertaining. Watching a shitstorm comments thread run off the rails into a comedic train wreck of delightful memes feeds my troll soul.

But last week was brutal, and there was nothing comedic about it. I watched people stoop to a new low. They verbally tore apart a widow with kids for using Medicaid.

That’s right. A widow with three kids. Why don’t we walk through some of those delightful comments together?

“But she is choosing to milk the system. Its her choice to not work. By not working, she qualifies for medicaid. Time to go back to the working world and leave those programs for those who truly need it!”

So, let me get this straight. A bereaved mother writes an article about losing her husband to a long-term illness, and this person’s first response is that she’s “milking the system”?

***

“Exactly!! She needed it to get on her feet.. not to stay off her feet. Lazy ass broad”

Uh, huh. This particular commenter also admitted to utilizing Medicaid herself before her thread vanished. But apparently, a widow is a “lazy ass broad” for not going back to work immediately after the funeral. Wow. Just wow. Got it.

“Her kids are in school. What does she do all day? Go to work!”

“What does she do all day?” Well, according to the original article, she is “working hard to try to build a career that will one day, God willing, allow [her] family to buy affordable private insurance” as well as taking her three children to counseling appointments to help them grieve the loss of their father, and transitioning them into a new school. But why should she try to maximize her job potential? And how dare she prioritize her family after a devastating loss, right?  Shame on her.

***

“There comes a point where you need to quit using kids as an excuse and get off your ass and get a job like people in the real world. Do you think I love hearing my 3 yr old cry for me and beg to go with me to work? Hell no! But I have bills so I work. I don’t try to milk the system for it.”

Oh, good. Another “milk the system” comment from someone who didn’t read the article. It clearly states that this woman and her husband both worked and contributed to Medicaid through payroll taxes before she chose to stay at home with her children.

After a medical disaster, terminal diagnosis, and death shattered this family’s financial stability, they went on Medicaid because they couldn’t afford the outrageous COBRA premium. Isn’t that why Medicaid is there? What’s the criteria to use Medicaid without invoking internet wrath? Because apparently qualifying for it (after paying into the system for decades) isn’t enough.

There were many more comments like these, and I do not get it. I don’t understand why anyone would verbally kick someone who’s at the lowest point in their life. That’s not just brutal. That’s dumpster fire brutal. As in, let’s just set the internet on fire and start over — because there’s no spark of human compassion left.

You may respond: “But she put herself out there with her article. It’s the internet. What do you expect?”

Maybe that’s the problem. Low expectations of human decency pave the path to cruelty.

Is cruelty easier than kindness? When did we lose the art of civil discourse over different opinions? Wishing someone would go “drink bleach” isn’t “free speech.” And calling a widow a “moocher” isn’t “having a different opinion.”

It is mean. It is vicious. It is wrong. And we can be better than this.

So, guess what? If you can’t enjoy your “right to free speech” without name-calling or personal attacks, then please follow the immortal words of Dr. Evil:  ZIP IT.

You heard me. Zip It. Here’s a visual aid:

imgflip.com

I don’t care what your political affiliation is. It’s happening on both sides. If you can’t make your point without insults, then for the love of tacos, please just stop typing. Visit www.zipit.com because this conversation is over, and you have lost.

If you disagree with me or hold a different point of view than I do, that’s fine. Really. I will chat with you and try to understand why your feelings on a subject are different from mine. And I know this is possible because I’ve had truly enlightening conversations with people from across the political aisle. It didn’t always change my mind, but it gave me more understanding.

Isn’t that something all of us need? To understand people who view the world differently than we do.

This is my promise to you: If you come to me with an opposing point of view but a civil tone, I will not call you a name. I will not scream type at you in all caps. I will not dismiss your stories because I haven’t personally experienced them. I will not expect you to conform to my worldview.

I will really listen to you. I will remember that the sum of your life experiences shaped your perspective. I will respect that I may not change your mind, and that’s okay. I will be satisfied by each of us truly hearing one another and learning about the “other” side.

I will remember that both of us are human beings who love and laugh and cry. I will remember that life can be hard and we all do our best with the cards we’ve been dealt. I will wish you and your family a good life after we part ways. I will be grateful that you gave me the chance to see the world through the lens of your different perspective.

And then, maybe, just maybe, you and I can walk away from an internet conversation better people, simply because we stopped to listen and really hear each other. Crazy, right?

What a world that would be to have a positive experience on the internet.

Because we are better than this. And our children deserve better role models.

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