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Journalist Sarah Jeong was recently named to the New York Times Editorial Board, and since that announcement, her past provocative tweets (for example: “#CancelWhitePeople”) have made the news. She said she’d been attacked online repeatedly by racists and misogynists and had used obnoxious tweets as a way of “counter-trolling” the trolls.

This reminds me of the time I overheard one of my son’s friends using a racial epithet. I barged into the room and reiterated my house rules. “Listen. I don’t care if you guys use expletives when you’re in the heat of a video game. But here in this house, there are three words I never want to hear. The ‘F’ word (pejorative for a gay person). The ‘R’ word (pejorative for an intellectually disabled person). The ‘N’ word (pejorative for an African American.) Those words are only ever used to hurt. They’re weapons. If I hear you use them once, twice, I’ll warn you. Three times, you’re out of here. That’s your first warning, son.”

The boy was instantly remorseful and told me that he was just kidding. He’d meant no harm. My son said, “It’s okay Ma, he was just trolling. Everybody knew he didn’t mean it.”

That was my first exposure to Troll Culture. A kind of over-the-top, so-outrageous-it-should-be-obvious-I’m-joking way of interacting. The Columbia Journalism Review explores the trend through the lens of “the largest fault line within journalism today: the one between journalists who have grown up on the internet, and the media organizations who haven’t.” (Please note: the article contains offensive language.)

At the end of the day, when you troll people – even if somebody trolled you first – you’re still a troll. Using the tactics of those who want to disparage or even destroy you makes you no better than they are.

Fashions come and go, so maybe it will become fashionable again to take the high road. Instead of rolling around in the mud with our detractors, we’ll decide clean living is much better for the soul – and for the world at large.

Once upon a time, Charlotte and Renee took a trip to Nantucket. No, this isn’t the beginning of some risqué limerick.  Check your gutter-brain at the door, please.  This is a prayer blog!

But back to our tale.  They’d been old friends since before Charlotte’s marriage to Evil Harold.  Even prior to Renee’s twenty-year relationship with a singer in a Zydeco band who loved her daughter like his own.

Something went awry on this particular trip and they had a falling-out.  When they got back to central Jersey, word of the ballistic blow-out spread like wildfire.

Then the cold war began.  They refused to be in the same room with each other.  We started to have to see them in shifts.  Charlotte at brunch on Sunday at the Cajun place; Renee at the corner bar for cocktails later that same night.

“You won’t believe what that witch did to me,” Charlotte said in a theatrical stage whisper.  “Girl, let me tell you all the dirt….” And she did.  She told her version of events, all right.  To me, to all our friends, to the UPS guy, to the cashier at the market.  She told the world how she’d been wronged, in graphic detail and colorful language.  At the end of her spiel, you’d have thought Renee was evil incarnate.

By contrast, Renee said this. “In order to keep both of our reputations sterling, I will not be commenting on the matter.”  This is a true story, and that is what my friend said, verbatim.  The only thing I’ve changed is the names to protect the innocent, the guilty, the dramatic and the diplomatic.

I guess I’ll never know the truth of what happened on the trip, but I’m inclined to believe Renee, since she was so circumspect.  I’m sure there was an argument and they’re both strong-willed, so I know words were said.

Making a mistake is excusable.  Handling the aftermath can be combustible.  Here’s to taking the high road even when others try to drive you off the road and out of their lives.  No matter how much dirt they try to throw on you, it’s up to you to keep your own karma clean.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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