Likewise, the worst thing about Facebook is knowing people from your past whom you disliked, perhaps even loathed, can find you.
You might have caught glimpses of them lurking in the shadowy FB alleyways, eyeing you from some dirty little grotto, practicing their greasy, fake smiles. Their names pop up unexpectedly on your friends' friend lists, maybe your spouse or cousin or neighbor links up with them. They worm into your circle. Sometimes you can feel the bullseye landing squarely on your back. You wait, dreading the message that might arrive. Then it comes...
About two weeks ago, my lovely wife received a friendship request from a local politician. Sure enough, just a few days later, I also received his request for Facebook friendship. Unlike other politicians whom I know only by name, this one is well known to me. Both directly and indirectly, this trolling creature has touched my life on several occasions and never left me any the better for it.
When I first met him, almost twenty years ago, I was a newspaper reporter and he was a first-time candidate for state-level public office. He sidled up to me like a snake after a meet-the-candidates forum, asked me who I was and then asked me for a favor. I forget the specific request but it doesn't matter. His manner and appearance were enough for me to know I should dislike and distrust him.
Some people require time to determine the quality of their character -- and my first impressions often have proved incorrect -- but every now and then those first impressions prove deadly accurate. In the pit of my stomach I believed this was a man not interested in serving the common good but instead simply wanting power and title. As time would prove, at least to me, he willingly and single-mindedly served as a mouthpiece for the wealthy, privileged and politically connected of his district.
One day, following a press conference at which he made a vague accusation about another public official taking a bribe to push through a public works project, I wrote an article that labeled his conduct as "mud-slinging." In all honesty, ninety-eight percent of all newspaper articles are pretty tedious to write, so when you get a chance to use a word like mud-slinging in a straight news piece, you take it. Even my editor seemed to enjoy the word enough that it made it into the headline!
Of course, as expected, the politician objected to the word appearing so prominently on the front page of our little paper, so much so that he called me at home on a Sunday to take me to task over it. Youthfully indignant, I told him: "I thought the word was appropriate. My editor thought the word was appropriate. And I am a reporter, not a public servant, and do not appreciate being called at home on a Sunday." Then I hung up.
Two years later I ended up working with his wife. The entire first year we worked together, only seven or eight doors apart from each other, she neither greeted me nor acknowledged my presence. In those two years, he had risen meteorically within the political ranks. Had he not sabotaged his own political career with unwise alliances and risked his good standing by picking the wrong side in a factional fight within his own party, he might still be in a position of power today.
I could fill a book with recollections of this man's perceived unethical behavior but I don't want to beat a dead horse -- or get sued for libel.
It's all ancient history now as I wend my way through my forties. I am more realistic, maybe jaded, less self-righteous, and I know that self-serving politicians are a dime a dozen. I'm not in any way special for having experienced this man and it never was, nor should have been, my life's calling to cut him down to size. After all, he managed that quite nicely on his own.
In fact, several people I have known who richly deserved being humbled have been getting their due, and in some cases publicly.
As the karmic wheel turns to crush their unwieldily aspirations, I should be able to calmly and serenely accept the knowledge that a life well-lived is rewarded and a life misspent is punished. However, being a poor-grade Christian, my brain rejects such nobility in favor of a fervently bitter "F--- them!" I can't help feeling that people who spend so much of their lives going out of their way to cause misery and hardship deserve it back on themselves tenfold.
Which is why, today -- tonight, in fact -- as I log in to Facebook, I know the very first thing I will do. I will pull up his friendship request and click "Ignore," wishing only that the options available for responding also included a "Go Screw" button...