Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Foot, Meet Mouth (Revised)

Regular readers of this blog know that for an atheist, I am relatively open about my identity. I have put up pictures of myself recently, though I think only one of them is clear enough to recognize me from, and several of my posts describe my immediate neighborhood. When one blogs about sensitive topics like religion and politics, there is always a risk that someone might be offended and angered enough to go beyond writing nasty comments in the comments section and possibly seeking you out if they happen to live in close geographical proximity to you. And it is an unfortunate truth that we live in a world where people have been harrassed or even killed for expressing opinions critical of religious beliefs.

So it was that a couple of days ago, someone named Sue posted a comment to one of my posts asking if she saw me walking down a street in my neighborhood this past Sunday. I did not know who Sue was, and her question did not offer any context as to why she believed it was me she saw, so my suspicions kicked in. In my feverish imagination, I feared that if I told her yes and it turned out that she (or a he pretending to be a she) was someone who lived near by who had issues with me because of my blog posts, it could lead to the person knowing which house I lived in. Regretfully, rather than just replying by asking her why she thought it was me and how she knew me, my response to her veered a little too heavy towards the paranoid side.

To my shock and surprise, Sue replied that she went to high school with me and that she had found my blog when she came across the post I did about my high school classmate and other acquaintances of mine who died on 9/11. It was clear from her comments that she was offended and taken aback by what I wrote in response to her intial question.

I was greatly dismayed that I behaved in such a fashion to someone with whom I was acquainted with many years earlier and I spent the rest of the day and evening on Monday trying to recall any of my high school classmates named Sue. Then during the evening, one name did pop into my head.

Since I did not know if Sue would ever return to my blog to see my apology, I felt I had to make some effort to try and locate her to let her know how sorry I was. It is a quirk of my personality that whenever I make a mistake I feel compelled to go to great lengths to correct it or atone for it.

And lo and behold, the power of Google pointed me to a web site where she had posted some comments and which also contained an e-mail address for her. (And as an aside, how easy it is for people to find out our personal information on the Web is another issue altogether.) Her post was about 5 or 6 years old, so I did not know if it was an e-mail address that she even still used, but I figured it was worth a shot. So I sent the e-mail and then anxiously checked my inbox all afternoon yesterday to see if I got either a response or an undeliverable message. Just before leaving work to go pick up my kids, I checked my inbox again, and lo and behold, not only did she e-mail me back, but I had correctly guessed who she was.

As I wrote earlier regarding this in comments that have since been deleted, this has been an important learning experience for me. Great harm can be done when people leap to conclusions based on incomplete information and behave rashly rather than take the time to think and reflect first.

So in conclusion, I again wish to express my most deep felt apology to you Sue, and I dedicate this song to you. All the best,


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