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Someone's Died, Let the Inane Comments Begin

Saying nothing when you have nothing nice to say isn't enough.

I got the news the same way a lot of other people did. I on Patch.

At first, it was a severe accident with multiple victims being taken to various hospitals, some in critical condition. The story was soon updated and what had been a terrible accident had become a true tragedy. A man had died, succumbing to his injuries.

At the same time as this news unfolded, I found out I knew who this man was. I didn’t know him personally, but many of my friends and others whom I know and respect did know him very well. I knew who he was because of who he was.

He was a motorcycle rider who has devoted more hours than most of us can imagine attempting to improve motorcycle safety for all riders. He devoted even more of his heart to ensuring that every soldier who was going off to war, had returned from war and had died in war they so richly deserved.

Again, I knew before it was public that he had just the day before rode nearly 400 – 400! – miles in the rain to honor a soldier who was killed in action. At the moment of his tragic death, he was on the way to a sendoff for another soldier who was being deployed.

Yet none of that mattered, at least not according to the commentators who flooded the Patch article with their speculations, accusations and blame. Some insinuated, before any details of the accident were released, that his injuries and even his death were of his own making because he chose to ride without a helmet.

From there, the speculation became ever more surreal. Questions about why the multiple victims were transported to different hospitals were addressed with a tirade on how it is the insurance companies that dictate where an accident victim is taken. Debate over whether a traffic light should be or should have already been installed at this intersection took up the attention of dozens of more posters. Whether or not this would impede traffic flow or increase safety were discussed ad naseum.

Most sickeningly of all was the response to a family member of the man who died, again bringing up the idea that his death was somehow his own fault for not wearing a helmet.

I was truly sickened to think that someone who thinks like this, thinks it is not only acceptable but right and justified to make that kind of statement to a grieving family lives somewhere nearby.

I understand human nature is to look at a tragedy and try to convince ourselves that as long as we do not do what that other person did, then we are somehow safe from suffering the same fate. It is one of the less admirable and more foolish reactions, but it is a human one.

What is not human or humane is to publicly voice those thoughts and opinions when there are so few facts known. It is going to take time for the police and authorities to reconstruct the accident and assign responsibility and perhaps blame. At this point, indeed at the point at which all these comments were made, the only known facts were that an SUV rear-ended a car that was waiting to make a left turn, causing that car to crash into a motorcycle.

All that was and still is known, at least publicly, about the driver of the SUV is that he hit the car that was stopped; that he was not wearing a seat belt, and that he was ejected from the vehicle. He sustained life-threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

The occupants of the car consisted of a family of four; mom, dad and two little children, all of whom had to be extricated from their vehicle. Thankfully, they have all survived, though the mom is still in critical condition as of this writing.

And the motorcycle driver, who was merely tooling down the road, was critically injured and succumbed to those injuries, leaving a family to mourn.

At last count, there were more than 100 – 100! - comments in the thread, and too few of them even mentioned the fact that three families are devastated. One family lost a beloved member, by all accounts a true asset to the community, and people are actually arguing over details and speculations that as time has gone by have been proven to be patently false.

It is a certain type of thinking and a certain type of, I hesitate to say person, who anonymously posts on a tragedy with the sole purpose of making their point, a point that is wholly inappropriate and in no way germaine to the fact that people are suffering, a man had died and families are still too much in shock to even begin to grieve.

Most of these families are local, and if not readers of Patch, someone they know probably is. What the posters fail to recognize is these families are going to at least hear about all this. At a time when they rightly feel the world should stop revolving because for them it has, too many members of their community are more interested in discussing whether red light cameras are nothing but a revenue generating scam, and attaching their inane conversation to the single most earth shatteringly important piece of news of their lives.

If you are insulted by my statements, I’m glad. If you identify with the type of person I’m referring to, you should be insulted and ashamed. But, I fear shame is not an emotion you will feel, as that would require a level of compassion and consideration for your fellow human beings, a level of intelligence and common decency your words show you lack.

Many people, I’ll even say most people commenting — at least those who use their real names, are not trying to cause further pain and suffering for these families. I absolutely believe there is no forethought of malice; I also believe there was insufficient forethought.

Just because you didn’t intend to do harm does not free you from the responsibility that is yours for the harm you did. You didn’t mean to, but you didn’t mean not to. Even if you go back now and delete your comments, this is cyber-space. The words will be forever out there, and the harm they have done cannot be taken back.

Those who post anonymously know that exposing your true self, your true identity, would cause you to be an object of ridicule, condemnation and ostracization by the rest of us. You may lack the common sense to not write such hateful things, but you do have enough intelligence to know this to be true; it is why you hide behind what you alone think are witty or pithy pseudonyms.

Ask any fifth-grader and they will tell you that if you don’t want people to know what you’ve said or done, you probably shouldn’t say or do it. The next time the question “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” comes up, you can honestly say no. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

JOANN July 18, 2012 at 07:08 PM
the above article by the Patch editor is amazing. NO ONE should write stuff about anyone's family member that has passed away in any way or been hurt. Especially when I have read comments on FB about this person who has been such a good person and I also know his daughter & son in law who will miss him dearly.
WilliamN July 18, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Nicely stated Denise.
The Other Christine July 19, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Hey Jeff, thanks for proving the point. You don't HAVE to make a comment about motor cycle riders! Ever see a motorcyclist texting or talking on the phone or drifting out of his lane because he's eating a salad or shaving?! Who asked you to be sorry for anybody? We're talking about a man who was sitting at an intersection. And those motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic are just as likely to crash and die as the motorcyclists who are cut off by some jerk not paying attention in a car.
stephanie July 19, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I nearly commented in this vein on the thread . But then I thought before I typed. However, I must respectfully disagree on some points. Many comments were posted before the details were given. We only knew an accident occurred at a problem intersection and that the parties were transported to 3 hospitals. Thats all that could be discussed at the time. Then the news of the fatality, injuries, and names were posted and the comments kept rolling in. Which is fine, this is a news forum. This is the place for discussion on intersections and helmet laws. In a perfect world, the Patch comments could be responsible for rallying a group that would lobby for needed change in their community. I don't mind those with good hearts that issue condolences to the family. The personal comments do humanize the story. But this isn't the guestbook for the funeral home. Unfortunately, the other side of the coin are yahoos who villify the victims. As a former auto collision investigator, I have my suspicions. But, there's no benefit to speculating. There is a benefit to discussing traffic signals, speed limits, and current laws are adequate. I don't believe it's in good taste to address the families. My jaw dropped when a mourning child was asked if her father wore a helmet. Her response was classier than they deserved. I wish there was a feature available to rate comments. It wouldn't stop the innane comments but it'd let it be known that the majority thinks the insensitive jerk is wrong.
sillyrabbittrix July 23, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Denise, I would stand up and applaud your piece if I could. This hits the nail on the head. And sadly, this is nowhere near the only situation in which tragedy strikes and people heartlessly want to discuss how the victim was at fault and other irrelevant details to the insensible suffering of others. I wish people had more tact and understood that the time and place for such drivel is not on a public forum news story about those deaths immediately after the incident. Loved ones are sure to be reading the papers and stories. Take your discussion offline to people who might actually be working on the issues you want to discuss, such as a group that might want to work on stronger helmet legislation or community awareness or traffic safety, etc. It is cruel, in my opinion, to thoughtlessly post comments that may be hurtful to those who are already suffering immensely. Talk about kicking people when they are down. Thank you, Denise!

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