It began, like so many terrible things, as a Facebook comment thread. I know, I know. You can't tell me, because I already know.
I made a pro-gun control post on my own page. Gun control. Own page. Keep that in mind; it's the "Marley was dead to begin with" portion of my tale. My old friend, let's call him Dan, strongly disagreed with gun control. I knew Dan from 20 years ago, when we were both spoken word performers at the Nuyorican in Manhattan (I know, I know. You can't tell me, because I already know.) Anyway, Dan had moved away from New York and at some point he became the kind of person who speaks fondly of Sarah Palin. We change.
Anyway, the discussion went on and on. It lasted more than a day - I would go away, do other things, assuming it would just peter out the way these arguments do. But sooner or later, he'd be back at it. And he kept flying off the topic, hitting all the NRA talking points. He was posting from every website that sold gas masks and gold bars. And he was bringing in God, the Nazis, and abortion. Especially abortion. "How can you talk about dying kids, when every day in America we kill so many more, because..." You get the idea.
I pointed out that he wasn't addressing the issue. He didn't care. I don't like blocking people who disagree with me, but he wouldn't stay with the subject. I should have just shut it down. But I didn't. I tried mocking his crazy grab bag of right-wing issues:
And the abortion doctors in the Democratic party are in charge of the fluoridation program that's being run out of the mosque at Ground Zero!... Of course the fluoridation program is only cover for the REAL story, which is the insertion of a secret Muslim strike force at the highest echelons of the federal government to take over after the Rapture comes and the Beast of the Apocalypse reveals himself to be... a reanimated Vince Foster!
Then I got to the point:
You want to engage me on abortion.. but I ain't playing... I'm totally going to give $5 to NARAL for every off-topic abortion post you put down starting now.
It seemed perfect. You think abortion kills people. If you keep shooting your mouth off, I'm going to increase my support for that horrible thing. You gain nothing except the satisfaction of hijacking a Facebook comment thread. You do harm to a cause you say you believe in. You say it's about saving lives. How could anyone continue? He posted some video he found. The thumbnail showed a fetus.
Is it more important to you to spout crazy, or to save the babies? Because I am writing the check today. Seriously. I'm a feminist. How much do you want to pay NARAL?
But he just kept posting those damn videos. $10. $20. It didn't matter to him. I told him he wasn't really pro-life, that he was just "pro-winning-the-comment-war." I wanted to make that clear. On some level I honestly thought that would, in the end, dissuade him. I knew I should quit, but I couldn't. I was like a dog with a severed deer leg. It seemed so unfair. We're not going to talk about your issue until we talk about mine, and I'm just going to outshout you. I told him that when we got to $50 I would make this public. I would go ask for money elsewhere. I'd try to raise funds.
Yes, I was clearly insane. But I couldn't get over the fact that he claimed to be a pro-lifer - so much so, that I couldn't have a discussion about a completely unrelated issue without him taking it over. He was a bully about it. He was sure he was right, but he didn't mind raising money for pro-choice groups just so he could continue to comment.
The dollars keep coming, but not so strangely, the answer to why it is ok to kill a child in the womb does not.
$40. Because. This post. Is about. The 2nd. Fucking. Amendment.
We got to $45. There was a long pause - maybe because he was away from his computer. By this point I was sitting at my screen just waiting. How far would it really go?
Please, I wrote, don't come to your senses now.
And he didn't. At $50 I blocked him, called my wife, and told her I wanted to make a donation to a pro-choice group, because of something that happened to me on Facebook. She made a sound halfway between a chuckle and a sigh, and asked to speak to the kids.
I learned several obvious lessons. You probably already know them, but they bear repeating:
- Anti-abortion people are less concerned with saving lives than they are with winning arguments on the internet. They are sure they are good and right, and they love that feeling. It makes them odious. It's one thing to try to transform this country into a Handmaid's Tale-type dystopia. But you don't have to be rude about it.
- Facebook helps you stay in touch with people you shouldn't, and it helps you discover the worst person you can possibly be.
- I need more supervision.
I'm going to keep track of how much money we raise. I think it will send a message to the Dans of the world.