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Michelle Turnberg, Published August 21 2011

Turnberg: Own up to your comments

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Unknown

Think about that statement. It’s easy to pass judgment on someone we don’t know. However, assuming is not the same as knowing. It amazes me how quick some people assume and judge. I probably see and hear it more often working in media, but listen to conversations around you. You’ll hear it every day.

My best friend told me: “Some people just aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy.” Indeed, many people are “happiest” when bringing others down. Don’t believe me? Listen to callers on talk radio, or take a look at the comments section of the online version of The Forum, where negativity is viral.

As a journalist, I am all for freedom of speech and being able to speak one’s mind. However, I believe comments ought to be attached to a name. Using an anonymous “username” is cowardly. It’s easy to talk about others when you don’t attach your remarks to your identity. It’s disturbing to see how anonymity causes people to gleefully indulge their dark sides. And how sad is it that so many people are willing to toss mud when they don’t know the truth?

I welcome feedback and suggestions. If you have ideas for this column or wish to offer a comment, good or bad, feel free to contact me by email or on Facebook. I will not read comments without a legitimate name, so speak your mind but stand by what you say.

An email I received helps me put things in perspective:

“Lord, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mom or dad who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with their children.

“Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

“Remind us that the scary-looking bum begging for money in the same spot every day (‘who really ought to get a job’) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

“Help us to remember the old couple walking annoyingly slowly through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

“Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.”

Not a bad way to go through life. Grandma Turnberg always told us “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change for the world? That said, if you choose to be negative, sign your name.

Turnberg writes a Sunday column for The Forum.