Last night on Facebook, I noticed a post on a page titled, “Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee”:

What was she so upset about?

The owner of a small family business, Cider Flats Apple Orchard, had posted:

Followed by:

Then:

And finally:

In response to those two little words, “China Virus”, online hordes descended upon the little orchard’s social media pages, uploading photos of dung, garbage and rotten fruit to its Google reviews, while plastering every Facebook post with crude memes and vitriol, drowning out the genuine five-star reviews and appreciative comments of local customers.

Instead of having a civil discussion with the owner over her political views or choice of words, they tampered with the business itself: someone moved the orchard’s Google Map marker to the middle of a lake; another tried to change its category to “waste management facility”; and others claimed they had found mould, rot or worms in the produce.

21-year-old Wilson Gavin, who killed himself early this year after a barrage of online hatemail for protesting Drag Queen Storytime, once observed:

“As a conservative you are just subjected to an unending barrage of vitriol, and hatred, and of the nastiest comments imaginable.”

For people who preach “tolerance” and “love”, these keyboard warriors spewed intense hate, commenting that they had reported the orchard to the authorities and hoped it would soon close down. One said that she would share the “racist” posts to all her teachers’ groups. I shudder to think that those entrusted with moulding the minds of the young would leap into this horrible fray. Is this the way to model respect? Joining an online mob fuelled by pure emotion?

Even if the orchard owners were racist — which I am sure they are not: the Chinese Communist Party is not a race, but a dangerous political party which actively oppresses ethnic and religious minorities; in fact, China, like Russia and India, is comprised of a multitude of various ethnicities — is this the way to eradicate racism? Is this even a proportional response to racism — unrelenting harassment and wanton destruction of a family’s livelihood over a perceived slight?

The owner never said “Chinese are not welcome”. She said to her detractors, “You will be welcome, different opinion and all.” In response, someone uploaded a fake photo of her family with pumpkins adorned with “KKK” and swastikas. (Ironically, the swastika is an ancient Indo-European religious symbol, representing the abundance of creation in traditional Chinese spirituality.)

Daryl Davis, a blues musician, took the time throughout 30 years to sit down and have a friendly chat with 200 Klansmen over a drink or a meal. He said,

“That began to chip away at their ideology because when two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting. It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence. If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy — it doesn’t have to be about race, it could be about anything… you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you’re forming a relationship and as you build about that relationship, you’re forming a friendship. That’s what would happen. I didn’t convert anybody. They saw the light and converted themselves.”

When I made a comment standing up for the orchard, saying, “I am Chinese and I support you!” someone replied saying that I had to be a bot. She had looked at my profile and could not imagine that a person could be both conservative and environmentally-minded, Chinese and Christian, and not actually offended by the phrase “China Virus” (do you know any Spaniards offended by “Spanish Flu”?). In the end, she dismissed my opinion as irrelevant. Funnily, the majority who took umbrage at my defence were not even Chinese, while my Chinese friends across the globe joined in support of the beleaguered orchard.

As the Hungarian-Australian writer Akos Balogh notes:

“The victim mentality distorts our view of reality. When we adopt a victim mentality, we tend to see things through a negative lens… We lose our perspective on reality.”

If people are taught to see hatred and oppression everywhere, they will find hatred and oppression where it is not meant. Then, if they are not taught how to love their enemies as human beings with equal dignity to themselves, they will hate and oppress the purported offender to a degree way beyond the initial remark.

People who go out of their way to bully and sabotage a small business from behind the safety of a screen are cowards. It takes courage and humility to engage face to face with someone you disagree with. How many of these offended souls would take the opportunity to accept the orchard owner’s invitation to visit, and actually get to know her and her family?

In the end, it is their own dignity that is diminished with the outpouring of spite; it is they who lose out on the beautiful fruits of genuine, civil discourse. To the orchard owner, may you live long and prosper.

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Jean Seah is a social media manager, disability carer, freelance writer, managing editor of The Daily Declaration and chief editor of the American...