Ok. Its late and I can't sleep. Why? Because of an email. I try not to get into religous or political beliefs when it comes to being an agent. Again, today, I got an email from a real estate agent, where they are forwarding one of "those" emails.... you know... not just the usual spam like pictures of animals, jokes, a variety of urban legends, but the kind of political and/or religous stuff that crosses the line.
OK, its politics season, and even the REALTOR's association is sending out 'vote for this person'. I can deal with it. I expect it. I'm not talking about Politics (though, as a rule, I don't really want or need someone to force their political opinions on me... especially if they don't even know what their opinions really are).
No, I'm talking about the emails I absolutely despise... mails that spread bigotry, racism, and hatred! What kinds of mails? Well, like this one about the "Muslim Christmas Stamp" (not an urban legend, for once... but I find the message/attitude towards Muslims offensive). A few weeks ago, I got one going on about immigration... a valid political discussion, but not when the message is just another barely veiled bit of bigotry. And there are the borderline political ones... you, the "Obama is a Muslim" ones and things like that.
Try to understand, these emails go out to a long list of recipients, all on the To: line, so that everyone sees who gets the mail (one of our state senators was on the last one). At first, I suffered, feeling I am stuck deleting the mail, and hoping that other recipients do the same and more importantly, that they don't think I actually agree with the message. But then, some past experiences and some powerful influences from the past (mostly in memory) raised their hands and said "Hey, silence is acceptance. By saying and doing nothing, you are agreeing." I realized that by not responding, I was silently agreeing. I've got Muslim friends and family members. I have Hispanic friends and family members. How can I sit idly by while someone propogates a message of hate toward and about them?
So, now... I respond.
First, I check things out on www.snopes.com, to see if what the real story is. Then, I educate. (Hey, I'm a real estate agent, its my job!). For the false ones, that is easy.
For those, like the Xmas stamp one, its a bit harder. The basic issue of "is there a stamp" is true (see the snopes link). How do you, and what do you educate here? I'm not trying to push a religion or even fight a religion. I just think that the message is inappropriate (my brain is screaming a lot of less flatttering phrases)... First it lumps all Muslims into the same category as terrorists. Secondly, it messages the idea that Muslims are our enemy's (not just terrorists, see the first issue). Finally, it suggests that its wrong to recognize the holidays of Islam (because its the religion of terrorists... see previous points).
How do you even start on this one? I won't go into the details, but the quick summary is: I pointed out that not all Muslims are terrorists, and that many (my friends and family included) love America. I pointed out that the stamp in question is one of a series that recognizes and celebrates the holidays of several religions (thanks to Snopes), and I then pointed out that during the Christmas season a much more appropriate message might be one of tolerance, peace, and love... not sure it did much good. I got one person who (admitedly, nicely) disagreed with my viewpoint... apparently, some folks do believe that all Muslims are terrorists... I keep hoping that an computer virus writes these emails the first time and folks keep forwarding them out of ignorance vs. concsious choice.
So far, I'm suprised that I still get the emails. (One of them came, and actually suggested that anyone who didn't agree should not respond... that one got a response faster than any other!). But, at this point, I almost don't want them to stop coming to me. I want them to stop, don't think I want them to continue. But, I don't have much hope for that unfortunately. So, in the mean time, I can't help but think that it is a good thing I do get them, because I don't see many folks disagreeing... and at least if I get them, I can speak up as a voice of reason, tolerance, (and even love)... and show folks what it means to be a true American.
Anyway, what is my point? Well, I'm curious... do other folks find these kinds of emails offense? Do you do anything about it? Do you just ignore them? Do you actually forward these things on to others? What about as REALTORs who are supposed to uphold a higher ethical standard? Doesn't the propogating of these messages fly in the face of that standard? I sometimes wonder if the wrong person might get one of these emails and sue the agent (or worse, sue all the recipients).
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Jason Hershey, Designated Broker
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