The other night, I was about to head home I heard about the bombing in Chelsea. With information scarce, Twitter was the only news source that was updating rapidly, and it was there that I stumbled across a tweet that appeared to be from our potential next president. It read:
“A bomb went off in #Chelsea tonight. We have to get tough, vigilant & smart! Got to ban all Muslims immediately! Immediately! Immediately!”
It was a pretty fucked up thing to stumble across from someone who could be your future leader. I quickly screencapped the image to show to my friends. But when I returned to his twitter page to link directly to it, the tweet was gone.
It seemed clear: he’d deleted the tweet.
What followed for the next hour was a nervous panic. I was holding something I considered to be a lightning rod for an already frightening Presidential race. Though it had always seemed that this certain politician was untouchable, this was something so… well, deplorable… that even he was trying to get away from it. And now, a screencap sitting on my phone, I had been handed something whispered to me through Spider-Man comics for years. Great power. And with it came a great responsibility.
I won’t deny I sweated a bit. I knew if I tried to spread this image or repost it, it could bring unwanted attention into my life. The center of a political firestorm is the last place I want to be; the periphery is bad enough. I don’t want to spend my time battling a troll army over incriminating tweets and the fate of the country. I want peace and quiet to talk about zombie pugs.
Shaking, I finally posted it to my Facebook wall. I didn’t condemn anyone, just saying “This guy is running for president”. I was nervous. Would I get a cease and desist? Would it go viral? Nothing I’ve ever done had gone viral. What’s it like? How would I appear to the general public? A saint or a troublemaker? I considered walking it back, maybe asking my friends to be at the forefront instead of me. It felt too big and laden with issues that have nothing to do with me. Then again, I took the screenshot because the previous sentence is a fucking lie. Someone who wants to be my president, my representative in the world, presuming racism as a certainty, riling people up with hate and bigotry… that has everything to do with me. Ignoring it is just giving it my tacit approval. And trying to ignore it has gone a long way towards preserving the bigotry and resulting social fault lines that have fucked America so hard in the last few… months?
The idea that certain Americans, certain people of certain beliefs and backgrounds aren’t invited to the conversation because “we don’t like them” is an acceptable answer makes me absolutely sick. I have usually voted less in line with what will serve my interests best, financially or otherwise, and more in line with the kind of leader I want. With the person who I think best represents what this country should be about.. And if something like this was necessary to stop someone trying to lead the country in a direction that made me nauseous…
I washed my hands. The tweet was already being shared. It had begun. Whatever came next, I would be ready for it. And even if I wasn’t, I’d weather the storm.
But as it turned out, I wouldn’t have to.
Double checking my work was never my strong suit, even less so spelling. Not surprising, then, that after being shaken by the news of the explosion, I missed one critical detail. Below is the actual screencap:
As it turns out, Denald Trump is not running for office. I removed the image, apologized for the misinformation, and that was the end of that adventure.
What’s weird is that I feel so betrayed by the whole experience. I got so caught up in the what could be that I missed what it was: just a parody account. It was race baiting at its finest, except this time the race was a political one. I wonder what would have happened if it was real. If it had gone viral. Did I overreact? Does it matter?
I don’t think so because I did my part. I shared the words I thought he said, and took them back when it turned out I was wrong. And sharing what you know – including any new information as it comes in – is you should do it. You should take responsibility for the things you believe are important, and if/when they are proven wrong, you should face it and try to learn.
Otherwise, you’re just lying to get attention. And isn’t that an awful thing to do?