Stop me if you've heard this one: A Baker woman and a young boy go to Twin Hills Park and spot a few geese. Next thing you know, the woman...

Stop me if you've heard this one: A Baker woman and a young boy go to Twin Hills Park and spot a few geese. Next thing you know, the woman...

Sorry, that's no joke, after all. It really happened, and I think we all know how the story ends.

Alyssa Lyon Pack, the 20-year-old woman who taunted and kicked geese in a video that went viral in November, received a suspended 60-day sentence in the county jail and 200 hours of community service. County Judge Jim Ward also ordered her to receive psychological evaluation and take an anger management course.

The punishment, evidently, is not good enough for a number of North Okaloosa residents who expressed their ideas of more fitting consequences on

"Throw the book and bricks at her."

"Kick her every hour for 200 hours."

"(She) deserves nothing less than to be shot and (urinated) on."

This is just a sampling of hundreds of similar responses we've received since the story went viral.

At times, readers fought with each other in message threads; occasionally, the talk turned vicious enough that readers wrote directly to us requesting assistance. I had to spend a Friday night monitoring a particularly worrisome thread rife with threats toward another reader.

Being behind a keyboard has a way of making us forget familiar advice: "If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all."

After all, the one you insult online, especially on a local newspaper's website, could be the parent of your child's classmate, the person in line before you at the Publix checkout or the pink bank, or the server at your favorite restaurant.


Seriously, though, this is not how neighbors should treat each other. And yet, this type of hair-trigger response is the new normal. But remember: cool heads prevail.

It's comforting when people take the diplomatic approach.

One reader said, "Perhaps I am alone in hoping this young woman sees the error in her ways and learns to appreciate life."

It's easy to pile on amid adversity, but that just perpetuates adversity. I'm inspired when people show compassion to those who make mistakes, while not letting them off the hook for their crimes.

You'll see a number of local residents' New Year's resolutions on today's Opinion page in the print edition. (They're filling the space of our editorial cartoon, which has been on a three-week holiday hiatus. The cartoons should return in next Wednesday's edition.)

Well, my wish for North Okaloosa residents' resolutions is this: In 2014, we can disagree without being disagreeable, and that if we can't say something nice, we will choose to say nothing at all.

This doesn't mean censoring ourselves; rather, it means taking a fair, civil approach that expresses the view directly and respectfully. Debating the message and not the messenger.

Generally, it means just getting along in our small community, which is the first step toward world peace.

Happy New Year, North Okaloosa.

What's your view? Write a letter to the editor or tweet News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni @cnbeditor.