Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

In the “What Would Jesus Do the Exact Opposite Of?” category, you can file this wicked little slip of paper, left under my windshield wiper while I was at lunch.

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My car has an Obama sticker on it, because I support President Obama and a good many of his policies. I put a sticker on my car to show that support publicly. It’s my car. If you want to discuss my public statements with me, all you have to do is wait by the car. Sooner or later I’ll come back, and we can discuss anything you like. If you’re in a hurry, you’re welcome to leave a note with your email or a phone number and we can talk that way.

That’s not the way this person who identifies him- or herself as “a good Samaritan” chooses to do it. Instead he (I’m assuming he’s male) left this slip, making the joke that some knucklehead vandalized my car by putting the bumper sticker on it.

Here’s the thing.

I’m fine if you don’t agree with my support of the president — I pass by bumper stickers I don’t agree with all the time. Those people, like me, express their opinions where others can see them, and that’s just fine. But I don’t leave snide notes on their cars, because that’s bullshit. You have an opinion, express it — and stand behind it. A bumper sticker does that, even in a small way, because anybody can trace it back to you with a minimum of effort.

An anonymous note does exactly the opposite. It expresses an opinion privately — nobody could see that note, presumably, but me, and my friend who happened to be with me when I read it. More, the person who left the note cannot be traced. The note isn’t even handwritten — it’s typed and cut out of a piece of paper, meaning that someone sits around the house printing and cutting out these slips of paper just to make sure he has them available to leave on people’s windshields. Anonymously.

Let’s think about that for a minute. My bumper sticker overtly says, publicly, what I support — and what I do not support. If it has any effect, it lets everyone who sees it know: one more supporter of the president out there. If you’re wondering how many there are, there’s information for you. My support for the president may make you happy or may make you mad, but it’s public information, and as I’ve said you can wait around to talk with me about it if you like.

This note, again, does exactly the opposite. It mutters its message privately, like a threat or an obscene comment. And it offers no information: I already see lots of public expression of disagreement with the president, and I have no way of knowing whether this note comes from someone who’s publicly expressed his feelings already.

More, since I think we can fairly make the presumption that this person is not trying to change my opinion — he didn’t express himself like someone trying to convince someone — the slip of paper had only one goal: meanness. The person who left this note doesn’t want to express himself publicly; he doesn’t want to discuss matters with me. He just wants to make me feel bad.

So that’s nice. Someone walking down the street left me a note designed specifically to hurt my feelings. It’s really no different than if he had left a note saying I was ugly or smelled. He took a specific action to do nothing more than make another person feel bad.

So he’s not a very nice person, but he’s also uneducated, at least about the Bible, which in this case is ironic. Anybody who knows anything about this whole Bible business knows the story of the good Samaritan. It’s not just about someone — a Samaritan — being nice to someone else — a Jew — who’s in trouble. The Samaritans and the Jews were enemies — so the Samaritan who helped the robbed and beaten Jew was being kind and helpful to someone whom he despised, which is pretty impressive whenever you encounter it.

The person who left this note identified someone he despised — me — and left a note trying to make me worse off than I was when he found me. That’s exactly the opposite of what the good Samaritan did. And just think how proud Jesus would be of someone making actual plans — cutting slips of paper to be prepared! — to lash out at people he doesn’t like, in a way that gives them no chance to respond. That’s some full-throttle Jesus gospel, right there.

So, anyhow, I think this kind of wicked-spirited low-level viciousness thrives only in anonymity. The whole point of the anonymous note is that he said something mean to me and I have no chance to respond, so he gets to win. So I thought I’d put it out there and give the person who wrote it the opportunity to level the playing field and stand behind his words. Public anonymity occasionally allows threatened people to say things they would be punished for if they said them publicly. More often, anonymity simply allows knuckleheads to say things they’d be ashamed or — most often — lack the courage to say or do publicly. Think of most Internet comments threads — or of the un-uniformed soldiers taking over buildings in the Ukraine. Or, closer to home, of the hoods of the Klan. Anonymity occasionally enables the oppressed to speak truth. More often it simply provides cover for meanness and cowardice.

So, you — whoever left this note. Believe what you believe, support what you support. But the rest of us here are going to figure that you’re sneaking around leaving mean-spirited notes on people’s windshields for the most common of all reasons behind anonymity. Because you’re a coward.

 

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