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February 26, 2013

Post-Newtown Memes Still Flood Facebook

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

Kaitlin Roig, 29, who worked as a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, displayed a great amount of courage when she barricaded her classroom door with a bookshelf on that unforgettable day.

Then, she took her 14 students and crowded them into a bathroom. She refused to leave the room until a police officer shoved his ID badge under the door.

Roig is a hero to the parents whose children she saved. Some people have created Facebook (News - Alert) pages as tributes to her courage. However, others have taken advantage of those pages to promote conspiracy theories and vitriol.

After Roig sat beside Jill Biden during the State of the Union address, someone posted to one of her tribute pages. “Congratulations Kaitlin or whatever your name is. Now you're famous and got to meet the ‘President.' You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Whatever your beliefs, Newtown has inspired a national conversation about gun control. Each side of the gun control debate accuses the other of exploiting Newtown to further a political agenda. Some use Newtown to say that curbing gun availability would prevent similar tragedies. Others say that armed guards in schools are the answer.

Some lawmakers have asked Facebook to intervene and remove offensive posts and tribute pages related to Newtown. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told the Associated Press (News - Alert), “Certainly there have been many, too many, of these pages that are intimidating or harassing or exploitive.”

Most people don’t engage in hateful behavior like the person who posted on Kaitlyn Roig’s tribute page. But how many of us have seen or shared tasteless memes about either gun rights or gun control on Facebook after Newtown?

Does that meme-sharing continue the conversation in a productive way, or is it a series of careless jabs that sully the respect we should have for the victims and their loved ones?

Kaitlyn Roig deserved the honor of meeting the President. Other Newtown heroes, like the school’s principal who died trying to stop Lanza, will never have that privilege. Imagine the Newtown parents who came home that tragic day to see wrapped packages under their Christmas trees that their children would never come home to open.

The next time you think of posting a hot girl toting a gun on Facebook to show your support for gun rights, think of the people in Newtown who have lost so much. Of if you consider sharing another sarcastic Willy Wonka meme about the stupidity of gun owners, imagine how you’d feel if you’d lost your child at Sandy Hook.

Maybe Facebook doesn’t need to intervene at all. Instead, maybe many of us need to rediscover the meaning of dignity and class.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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