Feb 5, 2018 | 0 comments

It’s always interesting to wake up and read the comments that this column generates.  I know that some of you hate what I write; you’ve made that quite clear in your posts.  I find it intriguing to see what names or labels you want to give me.  And the personal hate you lay at my feet? Well, that is a wonderful way to start my day.

Fortunately, many more of you write to say how much you liked my column, or that it at least made you think differently about something.  Some of you who disagree with me provide a cogent counter to what I say.  By that I mean, a well-thought out rebuttal that has merit and that deserves to be posted in our comments section.  And those are usually done in a civil manner, not an insulting one.

To all of you who are respectful of what I write, thank you.

For all of you who have nothing to add to the conversation but early morning or late night “online punches,” I accept that you are part of what the Internet has created, and I accept that I can’t change the way you act. You don’t deserve replies from me, though I do occasionally provide one if I think you missed the point of my column or if you insult me with no real purpose other than to, well…insult.

You seem to think that the anonymity of the Internet allows you to say whatever you like, to anyone at all. You think it’s your “Right.”  It’s not.  Only in your head is insulting someone under the secrecy your screen name provides you, a Right.  It’s your choice to do that.  But don’t claim it as some civil liberty you’ve been granted by your home country, or by the one you live in now.

A Hyde Park Corner soapboxer.

In the 19th century (and even today), people would stand in the park on soapboxes and shout at passersby, and if they were lucky, a crowd that would gather.  Often more than not, their discourses were on political issues, though not always.  These soapbox orators were found all over the world (in London for example, there is even a “Speakers Corner” in Hyde Park that has been around since 1892).

These street preachers gave rise to the term “on a soapbox.”  And now we have different ways to be on our own personal soapboxes.  This column is sometimes (like today) my soapbox.  The Internet is the World’s soapbox.

I don’t always espouse overly controversial topics; even so, some of the replies I get to those columns are still hate-filled.  When I get attacked for some perceived injustice, and I push back, I’m called thin-skinned or get accused of trying to censor comments.  It seems that I’m required to stand here and have some people crap on me, but if I reply to their comments in defense (and never heavy-handed), then I’ve crossed some sort of line and “don’t have what it takes to be a columnist.”

But you know what?  I’m not afraid to be up on my soapbox, trying to generate serious thought among serious people.  And like the soapbox orators of the last two centuries, I am not afraid to let you see who I am.  I don’t hide behind the Internet’s obscurity.  I use my name. It’s at the top of this column.  You know who I am.  That’s what makes me different from you.  I have the guts to post who I am. You can track me down any time you want to and tell me you disagree with me.  But you don’t, because it’s easier to hide in the dark and cowardly throw out your insults through the cloud.

So much so, that I’ve had people tell me they won’t even think about leaving comments for us on CuencaHighLife.  Because they are afraid of the backlash that will be hurled at them. When haters create an environment where people are afraid to speak up, it’s censorship.  When someone can’t write a simple column without having to face a litany of personal insults from hidden figures, that’s censorship. When smart people are quieted by fear, when civility takes a backseat to hostility, when the strangers in the night make us lock up the thoughts in our heads, that’s censorship.

I won’t endorse censorship here.  From my side, or yours.  So here is my challenge to the people who choose to attack with hostility and insults rather than to offer civil discourse, use your name when you post.

Don’t hide behind what you think is your clever screen name.  Use your real name.  Tell all the readers and writers who post on CuencaHighLife who you are.  Stand up in front of everyone when you are on your soapbox.  Stop being cowardly and be brave.  If you feel so strongly about something that it makes you want to scream and yell at someone, then do it in the open.

Every week there are people who disagree with what I’ve written and who use their names publicaly to tell me so.  They get my respect.  We may never see eye to eye, but at least they believed what they said strongly enough to tell us all who they are.

If you’re not one of those people, if you feel it is your “Right” to say whatever you want, without being brave enough to use your name, then just go away.  Because what you have to say isn’t worth our time or concern.  You add nothing valuable to the conversation.

I’m not “just sayin,” I’m saying this loud and clear.

Michael Soares

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