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People Before Ideologies

Another post asking people to think before they write, and yes, I will keep writing these posts as long as I see things like this on the Internet.

A woman lost her child.

You have probably heard about this story by now.  I don’t know her personally, nor did I read her blog before his death.  What I know comes from reading her posts.  He was born with severe heart problems and lived his seven weeks in the NICU.  The doctors were supposed to do his circumcision several weeks ago, but because his g-tube surgery was canceled, the circumcision (which was supposed to be performed at the same time) was canceled too.  She was able to have the circumcision at the hospital this week.  There were complications afterward, and the mother posted about them, begging readers to be gentle with her because, in retrospect, she was regretting the timing of the surgery.  She was asking for support from her community because she was scared.

He died soon after of a heart attack; the same health problem he had been battling for seven weeks due to congenital heart defects.  A group of “activists” left messages on her blog blaming her for her child’s death, and she removed the circumcision post despite the fact that the circumcision was not the cause of death according to the doctor — the only person who held the child’s full medical history.  Without knowing the child’s medical condition beyond what was recorded online, the activists took to Twitter and wrote that this loss was entirely preventable; the result of circumcision.  Amid burying their child, the one they’ve watched in the NICU for the last seven weeks, the family was met with an avalanche of nasty comments, emails, and tweets.

There are those who believe that it’s important to stick to your convictions, no matter what.  And I can respect that mindset when the convictions are turned inward.  There are, for instance, Jews — one or two generations beyond the Holocaust — who will not go to Germany.  They cannot imagine supporting with tourist dollars a country that exterminated family members.  This personal boycott may possibly affect others indirectly, but most would concur that a personal, quiet boycott mostly directly affects the boycotter.  Others may not choose this way of processing the world after the Holocaust, but avoidance is an understandable response to trauma, and if it works for them and they’re not berating me for the way I process life after the Holocaust, I think it’s a fine example of how we can live and let live.

It would, of course, be quite a different story if that same person saw an elderly German woman being robbed and not only didn’t help, but afterward told her that she deserved it for being part of that old Third Reich Germany.  Our ideologies and our convictions are only admirable insofar as they serve as a guide for how we treat other people.  I would hope, simply as a human being, that if the person in our example saw an elderly German woman being robbed, they would set aside whatever feelings they had about the country itself, and help that woman in need.  I see nothing admirable about placing ideologies before human beings.  If it were Hitler himself being robbed, that would be a different story, but in this example, I am talking about taking your ideologies over the line, from being a personal way of navigating life to being a weapon used to attack others.

This isn’t about us.  This isn’t about whether we are for or against circumcision.  Whether we think breastmilk is the bees knees or whether we think breastfeeding is disgusting.  Whether we do or do not consume high fructose corn syrup, or support the right for people to own guns or want women to have access to safe abortions.

There is a time for reasoned arguments, and there is a time to set aside our personal beliefs and reach out to another person — human to human.  And frankly, I don’t think we need to only hold ourselves to this in times of trouble.  I would love to see a time where we don’t name call, where we don’t judge people for their personal choices, where we recognize that just because a person is living a life very different from one we would choose to live that their actions don’t negate our own.  That both can exist side-by-side because we live in this wonderfully diverse world and that saying that you’re for something doesn’t mean that you’re against something.

A blogger questioned last week my role as a community builder and she’s right: this space is not welcoming of people who conduct themselves hatefully towards other people.  So, yes, if you are going to put ideologies before people, this is not the space for you.

I’m not Christian, but I’ve always loved the saying, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  And if you think something is a sin, but all means, go ahead and hate it with all of your heart.  But please don’t hate the sinners in this space, nor is it any better to go to your own space and attack a human being rather than attacking an idea.

This is not a new phenomenon, after all, Jackie DeShannon crooned in 1965, “what the world needs now is love sweet love / it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”  But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t call it out when we see people dragging another person down.  And my heart is with that family who lost their son/sibling.


1 Kerry { 10.10.10 at 7:14 am }

I can’t fathom why someone would deliberately want to kick someone while they’re down. It’s things like this I will never understand. You are so right. There’s a time for respectable debate, but never a time to for hate.

2 HereWeGoAJen { 10.10.10 at 8:56 am }

I’ve seen this story around and I’ve been horrified at what those people are doing to a grieving family. Not only that, but the fact that they don’t even know the whole story and are manipulating the facts to suit their agenda.

Lovely post, Mel.

3 mrs spock { 10.10.10 at 9:14 am }

Ditto to everything you said. This family is grieving- have some humanity.

4 BigP's Heather { 10.10.10 at 9:46 am }

I wish there was never a need for a post like this.

5 DeterminedDory { 10.10.10 at 9:53 am }

What a beautiful, important, post. Thanks Mel.

6 a { 10.10.10 at 9:59 am }

Two thumbs up!

At the very least, use good manners when dealing with other people.

7 Heather { 10.10.10 at 10:45 am }

Amen sister! And very well put. Thank you.

8 N { 10.10.10 at 10:47 am }

I’m always so thankful when you post things like this, because you are able to put the thoughts that are in my head into intelligible, beautiful sentences. I never ever understand why people treat each other so poorly. Thank you.

9 Chris { 10.10.10 at 10:55 am }

Amen, Sister!

10 Mic @ IF Crossroads { 10.10.10 at 11:00 am }

It breaks my heart to think that people are blaming that poor mother for her son’s death. People are so cruel. This is just another form of bullying … which is finally the media attention it deserves. Unfortunately it seems to be at the expense of those who have suffered.

11 luna { 10.10.10 at 11:01 am }

beautifully said.

and you are right of course. “we live in this wonderfully diverse world and that saying that you’re for something doesn’t mean that you’re against something.”

12 LJ { 10.10.10 at 11:08 am }

I get having passions, and even shouting about those passions, but a line was not only crossed, but obliterated here. On what planet is it acceptable behavior to go into someone else’s home and accuse them of murdering their child? It’s horrifying, and I’m glad you called attention to it.

13 Rachel { 10.10.10 at 11:18 am }

You’ve got to be kidding me. Sigh. This is what makes me want to crawl back into the hole I’ve been living in the past week and a half. Bullying seems so much easier for people to do online. Thank you for another perfect post against it.

14 Lacie { 10.10.10 at 11:18 am }

I am so disappointed, but certainly not surprised that this happened. How very sad. This is a great post, Mel. It’s a really important one. This community is here so that we can lift each other up and surround each other with love. My heart is also with this grieving mother and her family.

15 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.10.10 at 12:18 pm }

Such behavior puts the hate-commenters in the same camp as Fred Phelps & Co.

16 Illanare { 10.10.10 at 1:44 pm }

A beautifully worded post. Thank you.

17 Lut C. { 10.10.10 at 2:58 pm }

My stomach turned at reading what happened to that family. The internet can be a very hateful place.
My thoughts go out to them.

If reaching out is too much to ask, then refraining from talking would be a good start.

18 Biz { 10.10.10 at 3:04 pm }

Beautiful and so important.


19 devon { 10.10.10 at 3:27 pm }

I’ll never understand how people can be so cruel to eachother, my heart breaks for that family-

20 Kristen { 10.10.10 at 3:55 pm }

ugh. sometimes the amount of hate in this world is just overwheleming.

21 meghan { 10.10.10 at 4:07 pm }

I must have been under a rock lately because I hadn’t heard of this story. But your recap of it astounds and angers me. I feel that extremists on any topic are taking over a larger portion of the population. Maybe the internet, facebook, tweeting, etc just makes it seem that way. But the biggest part about these extremists is that they are unable to see the big picture. True, I haven’t read any more about this family than what you posted here but, this is not about circumsion at all, its about a grieving family

22 mash { 10.10.10 at 4:57 pm }

Good grief. Are people out of their frikking minds to say something like that to a grieving mother. Some people will just go to any lengths to be “right” about something. Without taking even a moment to think how they are “being”. I wonder if it makes them sleep better? Feel happier and more contented with their lives? I doubt it somehow.

23 loribeth { 10.10.10 at 5:11 pm }

*shudder* Well said, Mel. What kind of a world is this becoming??

24 Bea { 10.10.10 at 6:33 pm }

I also hadn’t heard the news before now, but my heart does go out to the family. As if losing a child wasn’t enough, they are being accused – and falsely at that!

It’s very true. Being against someone’s ideas, decisions, or actions or believing they have made some sort of mistake doesn’t preclude sympathy for the person themselves. It doesn’t mean you can’t offer support. This can be a difficult concept to grasp.


25 Chickenpig { 10.10.10 at 7:10 pm }

Even the rabbit Thumper knows “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” How incredibly rude and hurtful it is to go online one someone’s space and say something that is deliberately cruel and negative, no matter what the circumstances are. But when someone has lost a child? That is inconceivable.

26 Cece { 10.10.10 at 7:21 pm }

Man – some people are a$$holes. And don’t I know it. I had more than a few hateful comments on my decision not to cancel Cameron’s birthday party the day after Nora died. Honestly – I didn’t know what else to do, so we went forward. Looking back – it was the right thing – I needed to celebrate LIFE! But people said all sorts of nasty things.

My view is to each their own. Maybe people do things I personally wouldn’t do – but it’s THEIR life and THEIR choices. IF that is was they have decided, I either support it, or say nothing if it’s not what I would do. I think I would step in if what they were doing was hurtful or dangerous, but in general, I’m in the life and let live camp.

27 VA Blondie { 10.10.10 at 7:59 pm }

Beautiful post.

I saw this, and was appalled that people could be so mean to someone who had just lost a child. I do not know what this world is coming to.

28 TasIVFer { 10.10.10 at 8:01 pm }

I never understand people who think it’s a good idea to hijack someone’s grief with their own agenda.

I’m so sorry for this family’s loss.

29 stephanie { 10.10.10 at 8:10 pm }

Great post. This whole situation has been terrible. It’s the online version of picketing a funeral, complete with the hateful signs and spewing verbal bile.

30 jamie { 10.10.10 at 8:26 pm }

That sickens me!!! I hate that for people. Its awful. I get those views of IVF from people. They don’t know very much about it other than the babies aren’t created naturally and they are automatically against it. I am a Christian and I feel even if you aren’t human kindness should be a part of each and everyone of us despite our own ideologies. Its amazing how our ideologies can change when faced with certain life circumstances. I don’t hope bad things for these people who said cruel things. I pray they become more open minded and help this poor family in their grief and not hurt them. This is something infertility has taught me.

31 Jenn { 10.10.10 at 8:29 pm }

This is the first Ive heard about it. I have been regularly disgusted lately by the bullying going on everywhere and unfortunately this story doesnt surprise me. We live in a cruel world! That poor poor family.

32 tash { 10.10.10 at 9:31 pm }

Thanks so much, Mel. Here’s why this is all the more disgusting:

When a child dies, parents more often than not feel guilt. (For the record, I did not, but my circumstances were such that I was able to escape this thanks to the good fortune of simply being in the same city with one of the country’s best Children’s hospitals.) And grief is hard enough in and of itself without feeling guilty, too. It is one thing to walk through life without your child; it’s another with that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you maybe could’ve done something differently to prevent it.

To not try and abide with the parents, to not attempt to ease their guilt but to pile on and make it heavier? Is horrible and small. I feel for these parents, and I hope they can tune out this bullshit and simply listen to their doctor.

33 Kristin { 10.11.10 at 12:57 am }

You said it all so perfectly. I truly wish we were beyond needing to say this but, sadly, we aren’t.

34 S.I.F. { 10.11.10 at 1:09 am }

I just cannot believe that anyone would react to someone who had just lost their child like that. As if they aren’t already going to have enough pain and remourse?!?

I swear, I don’t understand people sometimes. This just makes me so sad…

35 Cherish { 10.11.10 at 7:36 am }

That is so horrible. People really just don’t think, and I think it’s because the internet distances them from acting like they would normally.

36 Ann { 10.11.10 at 9:03 am }

Lovely post, Mel. Please keep being a voice of reason and yes, love, on the internet.

37 onceamother { 10.11.10 at 1:12 pm }

beautifully, beautifully put.

38 onceamother { 10.11.10 at 1:17 pm }

Also, I agree with Cherish. People hiding behind their computers and spewing hate is cowardly. I am sure many of those leaving cruel comments in the blog world, would never utter them in real life. It’s almost like they do it just because they can and no one will keep them in check. There are a lot of things I feel VERY passionately about – not putting chemicals on your lawn because of the link of such chemicals to leukemia – the disease that took my daughter. That being said, if a neighbor was using chemicals on their lawn, and their child contracted leukemia, I would never EVER imply that it was somehow their fault. There is a time and a place, and that would be the time to offer support, compassion, and understanding.

39 Sue @ Laundry for Six { 10.11.10 at 1:48 pm }

Perfectly said. Absolutely.

40 Liza { 10.11.10 at 2:13 pm }

Heartbreaking. And apropos on National Coming Out Day, since had this mother not been blogging honestly about her life and choices for her family, no one would have known whether or not she chose to have her son circumsized. I hope the people who have bullied her about her choices learn to see the harm they cause, every bit as much as I hope the bullies who led so many young people to take their own lives stop engaging in such behavior and learn some compassion.

41 Cibele { 10.11.10 at 2:20 pm }

“I see nothing admirable about placing ideologies before human beings” Brilliantly said, you are a wise woman!

42 nh { 10.11.10 at 3:05 pm }

I think you’ve written a really valuable post. The internet doesn’t disconnect us, it connects us all, and therefore we must take responsibility for what we say…. and if we can’t be supportive what’s the point? Well said.

43 Nancy { 10.11.10 at 7:55 pm }

What a great post Mel. Very well thought out and written. But your posts are always like that. I am always very impressed by you.

I can’t believe what those people did to that poor family. It makes me physically sick. These people should be met only with support and love. Anything else is just simply uncalled for.

44 aisha { 10.11.10 at 10:24 pm }

I didn’t know about this but my stomach hurt reading this. I’m sad. So sad that this woman lost her dearly desired and deeply loved child and that she had to endure. . . this. . . on top of it. Sometimes I wonder if people are meaner because the internet lets us hide our faces behind a veil.

45 Sara { 10.11.10 at 10:57 pm }

Well said. I totally agree.

46 serenity { 10.12.10 at 1:58 pm }

“I see nothing admirable about placing ideologies before human beings.”

This gets to the very heart of why I am so against fundamentalism of ALL sorts. Because that’s where ideology comes before human beings.

47 Nelly { 10.12.10 at 11:26 pm }

I’ve personally had some community infertility boards slam me when I was down. The internet is somewhere people can anonymously share their story and get it all out but on the other hand, it’s a place others can cyber bully people that just are looking for a place to share their story or get answers. Sad…I hope that woman doesn’t blame herself for her child’s death and got the support she needed…

48 Kir { 10.13.10 at 10:20 am }

MY heart breaks because there is a need for a post like this, while you said it beautifully, like you always do, the reason for you having to say it is making me choke back tears.

I am determined to give the world, my fellow human a little more love…because there just isn’t enough.

thanks for the reminder.

49 Battynurse { 10.17.10 at 2:05 pm }

Beautiful post Mel. So well said.

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