Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Learning Experience

Just the other day I was ridiculing the President for lecturing us how his treatment of the arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white Cambridge police officer was a teachable moment. It seemed to me that he hadn't learned about his own racism. But, as often happens, I did something to humble myself and provide my own learning experience.

Yesterday was a day finally home from much travel. I was back among friends both in person and via the internet. I'd been able to personally check on my mother and I'd been talking about my trips, politics and concerns myself and others had about problems large and small. I became comfortable and relaxed. In so doing, I forgot where I was and in responding to a question thoughtlessly mentioned something about a friend. It matters not at all that it wasn't something of which that person should be ashamed, nothing at all that was illegal, that it was in a place not widely known or among other trustworthy folks who knew. What matters was that it was a matter about which I had tacitly agreed not to speak. It certainly gave me an opportunity for an introspective examination.

It is a gut-wrenching thing to dissappoint a friend and I should know better. I had the first lesson at age 4, Christmas 1959. Mom asked me if I was excited about Christmas and I said that I was and she should be too because we'd gotten her stockings for Christmas. The rapid, unanimous, unmistakable disapproval by all the gathered relatives of this disclosure of a "secret" made an impression on me that I've never forgotten. Until the next time I forgot myself I did very well. My parents never heard what happened at school, bad or good, and I have no close friends from that period of my life. I simply didn't speak to anyone about anything of consequence outside of studies or work.

The second time was sometime after I was in service. Military service creates bonds between people who either have entered service because they have much in common or come to that point during their service. This tends to relax the normal barriers to personal conversation. One day one fellow looked a bit down and I asked why. He told me that his mother had died but he wasn't going home because he wouldn't get home in time for the funeral and he'd likely be recycled (go to the next class) if he took the time to go home. Later, somebody asked me why he seemed so down and I said, "you would be too if your mother had died." Of course, word spread throughout the class. After everyone had expressed their condolences he came to me more than a bit upset that I'd betrayed his confidence. The point was reinforced.

I should do well to remember this. Everything posted can be mined for information which could leave somebody vulnerable. That another has posted something about themselves doesn't give me leave to bring it to the attention of others or confirm it to them.

In a broader sense, we might do well to be more circumspect in our postings. Each of us has different concerns among which are family, work, and friends. There is no need to feel that one is acquiescing to a life of fear while maintaining some discipline in posting content. Remember that you are responsible for what you say.
If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees. Khalil Gibran
The wise man has long ears and a short tongue.

I hope that I have learned my lesson.

Links:
- The coming-out stories of anonymous bloggers

1 comment:

TrueBlueSam said...

Don't be too hard on yourself; we all do/say things we regret. Learning from these moments improves us for the future. I make my posts so my young nephews and nieces can look at my blog safely. The parents have been warned about letting the youngsters click to other blogs where I like to go for news, politics, etc.