If being young and dumb was a crime, we’d all be serving life sentences.

I was running for re-election and I predicted a tough race, not like the previous year’s landslide victory. (In which I ran unopposed.) The year was 1999 and eighth grade class secretary was a coveted position.

I could always depend on my dad for a good brainstorming session, so I explained that I would actually have to campaign this year and I needed a really good idea. Something creative. Something catchy. Something funny. After just a few minutes of pitching ideas back and forth, the “Vote for Farrah or DIE” campaign was born. We immediately gathered posterboard, wrote “Vote for Farrah or DIE” in large letters, with red ink dripping like blood on the word “DIE”. We commended each other for our collective brilliance. Then I arrived at school the next day to hang my beautiful campaign posters in the hallways.

Recreation of the original poster.
Recreation of the original poster.

I did not win.

Around that time, I also got into the habit of keeping a list of wrongdoers. If someone did something I disagreed with, instead of expressing my dissent, I would just look at them sternly, point and say, “You. You are going on my list.” Then I would open my notework and add the person’s full name to my rather lengthy list of people that ticked me off at one time or another. The wrongdoing was rarely anything serious, it was more along with the lines of, “Dashboard Confessional lyrics don’t speak to your heart? You are going on my list.” I crossed names off the list once they redeemed themselves. (“Thank you for letting me copy your geometry homework. I am taking you off the list.”) I was just kind of a weird kid with a dry sense of humor beyond my years.

Luckily for me, because it was 1999, the worst thing that happened is that I lost the class secretary election. To my knowledge, no student ever actually felt threatened. No parents complained. The police were not called. The FBI did not get involved. Which is great because I was never a violent person who meant harm to anyone, I was just… 14.

Locally, a teen was watching the horror movie The Purge and joked with his friends tweeting, “Who’s trying get a Louisville Purge started with me?” That was it. The media began reporting this as an actual threat. The local police force said they were taking the threats seriously. The FBI got involved. Citizens began to collectively lose their shit, planned to leave work early, cancel previous plans and hunker down in their homes to prepare for mask-wearing, machete-carrying lunatics to roam the streets. The incident got national attention, 80,000 people turned into the local police scanner awaiting certain anarchy and #louisvillepurge was the #1 trending topic on Twitter, when there was a lot of other important, real stuff going on in the world. Despite the frequent prank calls of giraffes being let loose and violent incidents, the “purge” didn’t happen. Because the purge is not real.

Many people called for the teen to be punished, including suggesting charging the teen with “terroristic threatening” since businesses suffered, events were canceled and the whole thing scared the piss out of local citizens. The issue is, there was no real, probable threat the kid made. It was just a kid being dumb, because he’s a kid. mike-brown

Depending on your preferred news source, you may have an image in your mind of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was recently killed in Ferguson, Mo. Like most kids his age, Michael had a wide variety of photos in his Facebook profile ripe for the pillaging. Some outlets chose to post the photos of Brown flipping the bird to the camera instead of the recent graduation photos of Brown in his cap and gown. Each individual photo alone tells a different narrative. After some photos were posted I saw the comments– “See. He’s not that innocent.”

But none of us are, are we?

I took a look at my own Facebook pictures and wondered what narrative they could tell on their own. Would someone choose a photo of me with my newborn son, a wedding photo or maybe an old photo of me volunteering at a camp for children with cancer? Or would they choose one of the numerous (numerous) photos of me drinking alcohol, shooting a gun or generally looking ridiculous? And these are the photos that made the cut after all the relatives joined and employers began routinely checking Facebook. These are the photos I didn’t delete. badphotos

Unless you’re maybe Jill Duggar, I’ll bet you did something stupid when you were young. I’ll bet somewhere there’s documented proof of you doing something stupid. I’ll bet I can find a slightly incriminating photo in the hundreds of photos you have on Facebook, right now.

I know that photo doesn’t tell the whole story. I know the photo would be taken out of context and would portray someone you’re not. You know that.

Remember that.

2 thoughts on “If being young and dumb was a crime, we’d all be serving life sentences.

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