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No Comment. Well, OK, If You Insist.

posted Thursday March 29th, 2012

If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me. — Dorthy Parker

Words to live by. I’ve always believed that. (Second only to Woody Allen’s, “I would never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” I actually managed to incorporate that one into my wedding vows.)

But are Parker’s words to tweet by? I’m not so sure. And that applies to Facebook and blogs — anything you can send out into the world instantaneously. I’m beginning to feel like this desire to express every thought we have every moment we are having it is an increasingly dangerous thing. (Apologies to Nora Ephron, that’s a knock-off from “When Harry Met Sally.”)

Maybe it’s not such a good idea to write this blog post, come to think of it.

Take the whole thing to the extreme and it’s like abortion. I want the freedom to do it, don’t get me wrong, but it might be wiser to use contraception (or keep it in your pants) and not get pregnant in the first place.

Sometimes it’s best to keep your opinion to yourself. Do some self-editing. Or — and I get that this is an unpopular thing to admit — often it’s best to simply say it behind someone’s back and leave it at that.

In my book, honesty is not always the best policy. Not the kind of  extreme honesty you see out there on the web, anyway.

I’m seeing it everywhere online. At work, it’s arrived in the form of a gaggle of local foodies (a word I hate, but it applies here, and yeah, I guess I do mean it as an insult) who have taken to commenting on just about every post we put up on New Times’ food blog, Chow Bella. We publish an average of 10 posts a day — that’s a lot of reading, even if you are a bored IT guy or an out-of-work chef or a hungover bartender or Mr. Mom. But these guys (and it’s all guys) have some serious stamina. They pick on Chow Bella in the reader comments section and on Twitter (sometimes literally) all day long.

It’s a little creepy.

For the most part, I do best by ignoring them, or considering it a compliment. Once in a while, I engage with them. Mostly, I’m embarrassed for them — why would you want anyone to know how much time you spend reading a food blog, let alone that you actually have the time to bother to offer your opinion (again) about whether we’ve written too much about cupcakes? Of course we’ve written too much about cupcakes.

Hey, at least I get a salary to read those cupcake posts. You’re reading them for free, dude.

Last week, I admit, I let them get to me, and I entertained thoughts of a post or even a story in the print version of the paper entitled, “The Men Who Love to Hate Chow Bella,” complete with mini-profiles, personal digs and some of their less-scintillating comments.  But to be honest, I can’t be bothered. And there’s no point. Entire articles have been devoted to the topic of how to deal with “trolls,” and the best advice is to ignore them. (Fine — but I won’t be bothered if any of them stumble on this post on my own blog.)

So what does this have to do with Down syndrome? A lot, actually. I teach a class called Mothers Who Write, and I’ve always told my students I love the class because at work I have to be (OK, get to be) a motherfucker, but at Mothers Who Write, I just get to be a mother. (Awwwwww…..)

That’s not the case on the web. It’s ugly everywhere out there, and I’ve seen some seriously nasty blogging in the parenting category, including the special needs parenting category. It comes as no surprise — unlike the Phoenix food scene, this is some truly ugly turf. Parenting is tough; parenting a special needs kid is near impossible some days. People (including me, though lately I’ve become aware of what a cliche this is) are fond of saying quipping, “If only he/she’d come with an instruction manual!”

And that’s so true. But let me tell you, you are sorely mistaken if you think you’ll find that instruction manual online. Because if you’re not careful where you look, you’ll land on some truly angry shit.

When Sophie was born, and the Down syndrome support folks came knocking (for real) I quickly learned that there are not one but two Down syndrome support groups in metropolitan Phoenix. Two Buddy Walks. Two administrations, two newsletters, you get the picture. That’s because a while back, someone couldn’t get along and broke off to form a separate support group.

Warring Down syndrome support groups. I had to laugh. The (reputedly, if you buy the stereotype) nicest people have the meanest parents! Ho ho ho, chortle chortle. Hilarious.

I was reminded of that yesterday when I stumbled upon a long conversation (really long, up to 69 comments when I saw it) on Facebook about Kelle Hampton and her forthcoming book. I wracked my brain and remembered that a couple years ago, there was a buzz on some of the Down syndrome blogs (which I have to admit I’m not as good at keeping up with as I used to be) about this woman Kelle Hampton, who’d had a baby with Down syndrome. Hampton didn’t seem any different from the rest of us, except that she had a super awesome camera (her photos are gorgeous), a very pretty face, and a great desire to market herself and her kid. (Um, guilty as charged over here on number 3, though I hope it’s for a good cause.) Her blog wasn’t really my cup of tea, and I soon forgot about it.

Now Kelle Hampton is back with a book, and a lot of other parents of kids with Down syndrome are pissed about it. It hasn’t been released yet, and I haven’t read it (I don’t plan to) but I was so taken aback by the nastiness of the debate about this woman and her book on Facebook (moderated nicely by my Facebook friend who started the string) that I googled her:

“Kelle Hampton” “Down syndrome”

Immediately, even before results came up, Google automatically added another (common) search term:

“annoying”

followed by

“hate”

Whoa. The first thing I did was stop and Google my own name and Down syndrome to make sure Google didn’t offer “annoying” for me, too. (It didn’t; I don’t have much of a following — nothing came up after “Amy Silverman” “Down syndrome”. I’m OK with that.)

I can get nasty with the best of them, I promise, but — ooof. What will happen when we have something truly important to discuss? Will anyone be around to listen?

Seems to me that someone’s devoting an awful lot of time to hating on this Kelle Hampton. I guess this is related to how Hampton is portraying people with Down syndrome for the general population, and I don’t begrudge anyone the right to express a contrary opinion — and maybe Hampton started it herself by doing something truly awful — but really, how productive is it to piss on her? How about you just don’t buy her book?

Or take all that time you’re devoting to ripping apart Kelle Hampton — and your right to rip her apart — and write your own book. For that matter, write your own food blog.

Not as easy as it looks, huh?

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

8 Responses to “No Comment. Well, OK, If You Insist.”

  1. Well said.

  2. Wow, that was a lotta stuff. Sic ‘em.

  3. Oh where have you been Amy??!!?. I’ve missed you. Ok I admit it’s been me. Way too busy these days, but that’s a good thing. Not to busy though to be one of those to have a comment or two on that thread you refer to, btw it is up to 93 as of a few minutes ago. Every now and then I have to check in to see what’s going on in the not so real world of FB. The KH is the it topic these days. In the Ds world anyway. Over on the quilting side of life it’s the copyright saga. Same comment spectrum, different names, different topic. Same lovers and haters though. It’s an epidemic I’m afraid.

  4. Ha! Agreed momma.

  5. crazy how it’s the same everywhere, huh joyce? good to hear from you! i’d love to hear more about the quilt/copyright conundrum — i can imagine….

  6. I love this. You are such an amazing writer. I read it aloud to John and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. And you crack me up! You ended it so perfectly.

  7. Couldn’t agree more. I have had to opt out of several Ds-based friendships because I couldn’t take the sniping. I just can’t get on board with someone reading a blog in order to hate on it. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. Think her (unpublished, therefore unread) book sucks? Don’t buy it. It’s especially frustrating when people who consider themselves advocates do very little advocating and instead just criticize all other portrayals of Ds.

    I love me some internet but I can’t get behind the level of nastiness that “anonymity” produces in some people.

  8. Love your honesty and your writing style.

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My Heart Can't Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome is available from Amazon and 
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