I’m a firm believer in ‘personal responsibility.’ Whatever I say or write is a product of my intelligence or ineptitude and I bear responsibility for every word. The recent furor over the Dunkin Donuts article was not of my making, nor did I contribute in any way by passing it on but it demanded that I step up and try to be a voice of reason. As the week wore on, the original forwards, with their own hateful additions, continued. I’ve sent countless replies trying to stop them but the fires of hate and intolerance burn swiftly and out of control.
I am very proud of US&J managing editor Tim Marren for ferreting out the truth by interviewing the owner and writing an eloquent editorial column yesterday (March 1) . You can read the true story at www.lockportjournal.comand you really should take a moment to learn about the actual person who must bear the brunt of the fire. Sadly, not everyone reads the paper or the blogs or sometimes their own email. I’ve had friends send me the updated benefit version of the story and hours later forward the original trash-talking one.
I’m also a fan of Snopes.com, because I try to check every wacky, weird or worrisome forward for authenticity before passing it on. It’s an amazing collection of information and misinformation from the far reaches of cyberspace. I appealed to Snopes to help tame this runaway horse and they have pieced together a decent presentation of the facts, as well as incorporating the information from the US&J. Check it out at http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/lockport.asp
Snopes also provided links to Tim’s column and to Bill Wolcott’s wonderful coverage of the Jex funeral in Lockport. The City of Lockport and surrounding communities paid a hero’s tribute to a fallen soldier and THAT is what should be remembered. This is a community that cares, including the owner of that Lockport Dunkin Donuts. The negativity reflects on all of the kind and decent people who reach out in times of trouble. Like it or not, we are all threads in the same tapestry of life, and our true colors are brilliant when we unite in a common cause.
I feel a little better for having tried to stop the insanity here but I don’t think we can ever undo the damage done to the reputation of a local family man and business owner. I am proud of my newspaper’s efforts to find the truth, yet saddened by the 57 (yes, 57) people who chose to forward the hateful email to me and everyone in their address book. It still keeps coming. Just forwarding racist rhetoric is akin to picking up a torch to join the angry mob at a lynching or witch-burning. Extreme? Yes, I believe it is.
Whether an author, writer, journalist, or a one- fingered keyboard tapper just surfing the web and email for fun, we all bear the heavy responsibility of what we speak, write or pass on. Maybe some people will feel guilty about their hand in all this and will think twice before hitting ‘send’ the next time. We can only hope…