They didn’t say hello. They must have been smuggling children.

The grave offense happened at a gas station: A greeting to strangers with children, and no answer.

Seriously. That was it. An acquaintance on Facebook said they asked if a young couple (with young children in the car) were moving to the area, and they didn’t respond.

This was A Grave Offense.

The vilification that followed of people whose social norms were just a LITTLE bit different should terrify you.

Betina wrote about this message thread – and some of the reactions – in detail over at One Panic Attack at a time. Take a few minutes to read her write up and then come back here, because I want to focus on something that she did not.

Despite myself (and others) pointing out that this could very easily be social anxiety, the othering and vilification started right away.

I was just trying to be nice and friendly, but apparently that is lost on the younger generation.

Some people just aren’t nice…

Stolen vehicle. Or plates?

I was going to say what [REDACTED} did…stolen vehicle, possibly running with kids. Or, they really are just rude!!

I love how “being rude” is almost an afterthought in that last one. And the mention of the kids was constantly used in a judgemental way… even if that didn’t make sense with what others were saying. (An example is coming up.)

Throughout, comments about mental health and anxiety are being completely ignored… except for one of mine. I said:

…my sweetie has two small kids. Being approached by anyone she didn’t know, no matter how friendly, would spike her anxiety and that could manifest as what looks like grumpiness.

Finally, the original poster responded to a comment about anxiety… but in a way that kept this mystery couple “othered” and morally wrong.

I could see her getting defensive or grumpy if I was calling her out for leaving her littles in the car alone while she and her husband/boyfriend were inside the store for several minutes. I was also on the other side of the pumps in my car, I didn’t walk up to them.

So the one bit of trying to understand is IMMEDIATELY undermined by a low-key dig for running in the gas station for something. (Side note: “littles” has a very specific meaning in some communities, maybe “children” would have been a better term for them to use.)

Another person chimed in:

Maybe you *should* have called her out for leaving her littles in the car while going inside. Gas stations can be scary, Everyone [sic] goes there, and the opportunities for human-traffickers at places like that are staggering. I might have been suspicious of them [the mystery couple]. If they’re from far away, maybe they brought children here to be trafficked. It’s a terrifying thought.

So rather than think it might have been social anxiety (which affects about 7% of the population) or any of the other possibilities that Betina points out, now these folks think that this couple MUST be criminals most vile.

As I wrote there:

The dissonance between “OMG A HUMAN TRAFFICKER MIGHT BE AT A GAS STATION” and “Why didn’t they talk to the stranger yelling at them from another car” is simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.

This vilification of people whose social norms are just a LITTLE bit different – the assumption that they must be criminals because they act just a LITTLE different than you – should terrify you.

Push back.

Speak up.

Resist.

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