fight or flight

According to physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon, “animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing. This response was later recognized as the first stage of a general adaptation syndrome that regulates stress responses among vertebrates and other organisms.” (thanks Wikipedia)

I’m fortunate to have had only one physical encounter that might count as a threat, about 17 years ago. I was walking along with friends one Saturday night, in the heart of Adams Morgan (a neighborhood in Washington DC). The sidewalk was crowded and I ended up a few paces behind my two friends as we approached an intersection. Some guy, stoned out of his mind, tried to grab the gold necklace right off my neck. I yelled “Get off!” and pushed him away. I got away from him so fast, my friends could barely believe it had happened at all. I remember that feeling so clearly.

This was me then.

And it was me last night, in the safety of my own home, sitting on the couch next to my husband as we watched the series finale of “The Closer.” Except I wasn’t “safe.” I was on facebook.

Remember my neighbor, who shares some of my political views? Yesterday she shared an article I had posted about Romney’s and Ryan’s awkwardly positioned views on the capital gains tax.

Another neighbor and friend (with whom I do not share political views nor political articles on facebook) responded rather quickly, calling the article “slander” and reminding the posting neighbor (or the world?) not to “canonize” the “Teleprompter” President. He responds to most political things in this manner, and I’ve learned to accept that. He was respectful, if maybe a little inaccurate and off-topic.

But then another person–the one responsible for most of the rage I described here–posted. She demanded to see the President’s birth certificate, his college papers and records, and said that anybody who is offended about not seeing more of Romney’s tax returns is buying into class warfare and has a compromised “sense of discernment and reasoning.”

I thought for a split second that she was trying to be funny, but then, minutes later, she directed her next post at me. She said, “@MYNAMEINALLCAPS! Wisconsin Weeps? LOL!” and then went on about why Wisconsin really should be weeping, given how much money Romney and Ryan had raised in just a couple of days and how the President had barely anybody come to his recent event.

She had clicked on my name from my friend’s original article share. Not being my facebook “friend,” she could only see things I’ve made public on my page, which includes timeline cover photos. One was an image of mourners of victims of the Sikh temple shooting. You may have seen one on the news: people held illuminated letters spelling “Wisconsin Weeps.”

I am embarrassed even to describe how I felt. Suffice it to say that my husband I were watching our favorite show and I literally could not hear what was going on, I could not think, and I could not move, except to put the iPad under a throw pillow.

I looked at my husband as he sipped from his glass of wine and munched on popcorn. I felt so off-kilter I was afraid if he looked at me he’d think I needed an ambulance. But he did look at me, and apparently I looked fine.

So I took a deep breath, and posted.  ‎”@Name, you don’t know me and do not have access to my profile, so I’ll forgive you for your statement above. That photo was taken of mourners in the aftermath of the mass murder at a Sikh temple 20 miles from where I grew up, at a temple some of my friends attend.”

She deleted her post, and posted “My apologies, [my name, not in all caps].”

She sent me a private message too: “I’m not on your fb page. True. However, when [my neighbor/friend] forwards things from your fb page, those who read or click on what she posts can see certain things on your page. It wasn’t my intention to offend you personally, however when she posted the info about Paul Ryan from your fb page and I clicked on it, I saw the “Wisconsin Weeps” which looked like something you posted about Paul Ryan. Thus the comment. My apologies for your loss.”

Now, I wanted desperately to respond again, to “engage,” as my husband (after I showed him all this stuff) warns me not to do. I wanted to say, “The photo is clearly dated August 6 and Ryan was named VP pick August 11, and what you should apologize for is not my loss, but for jumping to conclusions to suit your purposes.”

I typed it all in the message window. I was soooo close to clicking “send.”

My husband shook his head, waved his hand, smiled at me.

I deleted it all.

My neighbor later sent me a message, apologizing on her cousin’s behalf. Apparently this cousin does this to her a lot, and it drives her crazy. My poor neighbor. I responded to her immediately: “It’s okay. Don’t give it a second thought.”

And then I asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee or lunch.

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