healthcare, law

Do you go to bloggers for advice about life and death decisions? I don’t.

Many thanks to a reader who contacted me on Facebook this morning. This person probably spared you all another rant on a topic I’ve already covered. I was considering writing about Delta Airlines’ proposal for all U.S. based airlines to share their “no fly” lists. But then I got this message, and I must admit, it left me scratching my head.

The commenter evidently didn’t want to leave a response on the blog itself. They found my official OH Facebook page and decided to leave me a somewhat well-written and, at least on the surface, reasonable response to a post I recently wrote about COVID-19. They wrote I shouldn’t be writing such “strong opinions” against the use of Ivermectin in the treatment against COVID-19, reminding me that I have a “public” audience who might be negatively affected by my comments. They reminded me that no one should claim any “definitive knowledge as yet”– I’m assuming about COVID-19– and implied that my opinion lacks a “rational basis”.

I don’t know a thing about this commenter, nor does s/he know much about me. Based on what I could see on Statcounter, this person with a very bare Facebook profile, comes from Las Vegas and read two posts over the course of about three minutes. He or she probably doesn’t know that I have a master’s degree in public health. Perhaps he or she would not be “impressed” by that. In any case, earlier in the comment, the person “informed” me that sometimes physicians prescribe drugs off-label. That’s not news to me, and in fact, I even mentioned that in the post I’m assuming was referenced in the message. That post was mostly my positive opinion about Judge Charles Cunningham of Louisville, Kentucky, who recently ruled that the wife of a COVID-19 patient could not compel hospital doctors to prescribe Ivermectin off-label to treat COVID-19.

I write that “I’m assuming”, because the commenter didn’t specifically reference a blog post in their message. Regular readers might remember that I recently took down my generic “contact” page, because I kept getting comments from people who didn’t specify the posts to which they were referencing. Statcounter is a pretty good tool, but not everyone who visits my blog shows up on it. If there isn’t an IP trail on Statcounter, and the specific post isn’t mentioned, I’m sometimes left wondering which post to address. It wasn’t the first time I got a comment with no reference, so I determined that the contact page wasn’t helpful and removed it. And now, I’m thinking the Facebook page probably isn’t helpful, either, since I’ve run into the same issue this morning.

Anyway, this person who wrote to me evidently thinks that patients or their loved ones should be able to go to court to demand that legal experts force medical experts to prescribe medications for off-label use. And the person subtly chastised me for disagreeing with that idea by posting a strongly worded opinion piece on my blog. Then, at the end of their message, they wrote this:

NO ONE should claim any definitive knowledge as yet – which defaults to each of us knows what is in our own best interests. And in a life or death situation, anyone who interferes ought to be imprisoned, or worse. Think about how you would feel if the situation were reversed, and perhaps you will avoid making such strong opinion calls, without a rational basis – you have a public audience. Who knows how much harm you could cause…. thank you…”

On the surface, I guess the above portion of the comment sounds reasonable enough. Most people would like to make their own decisions about “life or death situations”. But there’s a reason why people go to medical school to become physicians. There are good reasons why physicians must be trained and licensed before they can practice medicine and make treatment decisions for others.

I don’t go to lawyers or judges for medical treatment decisions. I go to competent healthcare professionals who have specific training and experience in treating medical issues. If I, as a competent adult, choose not to go to a healthcare professional and seek alternative care from someone else, that might be my decision and it might only harm me. Some people would probably think it unwise, but I suppose it would be my “right”. And if I had a disease that wasn’t contagious, maybe that would be okay, if ill-advised.

When it comes to COVID-19, I think we have to consider the impact one person’s decisions might have on another’s. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious and potentially deadly virus, and it seems to be getting more contagious with each new variant. There aren’t enough hospital beds to take care of all of the people who need them, to include people who have other medical problems besides COVID. Ivermectin is currently not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment against COVID. Is it being seriously studied by researchers? Probably… but at this point in time, Ivermectin is NOT currently recommended for use in treating COVID-19. That is a fact. I don’t know if Ivermectin ever will be named the key to conquering COVID-19, but at this point, it is still not recommended.

What I do know is that some people are taking it upon themselves to self-medicate with the drug. Most of them don’t know what they’re doing. Some of them are getting very sick and, no doubt, taking up hospital bed space needed by people who don’t routinely take drugs intended for veterinary use. So the fact that it’s being widely touted by certain groups as a “cure” or effective treatment is, in my view, irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

Even if Ivermectin is a great drug for COVID-19, and I have not yet seen any compelling evidence that it is, it should certainly not be used by laypeople who have no experience with its use. People should not be going to their local feed and tack shop, buying up horse wormer to ward off COVID-19. That’s my opinion, of course. You can take that for whatever it’s worth.

As someone with a master’s degree in public health and actual work experience in epidemiology, I think I know how to research these things. However, I will admit that I don’t have all of the answers. I just know enough to find someone who knows more than I do and listen to what they have to say. I think that’s a pretty wise way to live life, but your mileage may vary. So far, it’s served me pretty well.

I do think it’s interesting that many people who wouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine because “it’s [wasn’t] FDA approved” (a situation that is changing) and “we don’t know the long-term effects of the vaccine”, are all into using Ivermectin off-label to treat COVID-19, which is definitely not FDA approved. We’ve seen some real and documented evidence by trusted entities that COVID vaccinated individuals are staying out of hospitals and not getting as sick as unvaccinated people are. Most of what I’ve read about Ivermectin treatment in COVID-19 cases is that people are overdosing on it and getting sick. I don’t know about you, but that makes me think that taking Ivermectin isn’t the smartest idea.

Moreover, an article by The Guardian from July 2021 reports that a “huge” study endorsing Ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment was withdrawn over ethics concerns. I will admit that I haven’t looked for anything from September that refutes this article, which basically states that a lot of medical providers were defrauded, but I do know that July wasn’t long ago. And as a run-of-the-mill blogger, I’m not going to take the time to go poring through medical journals for an opinion based blog post that gets maybe 25 hits in a day.

The person who wrote to me this morning reminded me that hospital doctors must “toe” the “party line (and it’s “toe”, not “tow”) or they’ll get fired. The person also wrote that the “ban” against Ivermectin is “politically motivated.” As I mentioned up post, this person appeared to be writing me from Las Vegas, which means he or she is residing in the United States.

They might be interested in knowing that I live in Germany, where Ivermectin is also not recommended for treatment against COVID-19, outside of a clinical trial. So, if banning Ivermectin for COVID-19 use is “politically motivated” in the United States, am I to believe that the ban is also “politically motivated” in Europe? Because Germany is not the only European country that does not recommend the use of Ivermectin for treating the coronavirus. Here’s a link from March from the European Medicines Agency, which is as official in Europe as the CDC and the FDA are in the United States. Likewise, the World Health Organization also recommends that Ivermectin only be used in clinical trial settings

In other words, Ivermectin should probably NOT be used by any old physician who is throwing everything against the wall to see if something sticks. Who knows what the motivation is behind those physicians who are touting off-label use of Ivermectin? Perhaps they are politically and financially motivated. As a matter of fact, how do I know what my commenter’s motivations are for taking the time to write to me after having spent about three minutes reading two posts on this blog? Why does it even matter to that person what my opinions about Judge Cunningham and Ivermectin use in COVID cases are?

In any case, what I really want to address in today’s post is this person’s parting shot to me.

Think about how you would feel if the situation were reversed, and perhaps you will avoid making such strong opinion calls, without a rational basis – you have a public audience. Who knows how much harm you could cause…. thank you…

So basically, the commenter seems to think that because some people might somehow construe my opinions as “medical advice”, I shouldn’t express myself on a blog because I might unintentionally cause them “harm”. Or, at least that’s what I think I’m reading. And people who read my blog are not smart enough to think for themselves and are coming to me for advice on life and death issues. Right. Does this person think the same thing about people who express opinions on social media platforms?

This is a blog. It’s not even a very popular blog. On a good day, I crack about 200 hits. The vast majority of people who read this blog are total strangers to me. Anyone who goes to a blogger for medical advice, particularly when the name of the blog is “The Overeducated HOUSEWIFE” and not “The Overeducated Physician”, is not long on common sense. Why would any sane person go to a self-proclaimed housewife for medical advice? But I guess, since this person seems to think I have so much power because of my “public audience”, I’ll put up a legal disclaimer.

If you are seriously unwell and need medical assistance, I think you should seek the advice of a competent and licensed healthcare provider in your area. You should not go to a personal blog written by a total stranger for medical advice. I would hope that notion would be common sense, but now I realize that some people need to be explicitly told. So thanks to this morning’s commenter for that. I’ll make a note of it.

As always, I wish everyone who reads my blog continued good health and success in life. And please, if you are going to send me a Facebook private message on my OH page, do me a favor and reference the post to which you are referring. Or, even better, simply comment on the post itself. I usually provide links on the official OH page for those who don’t want to make a WordPress account.

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narcissists, psychology, true crime, videos, YouTube

Should we have all seen it coming?

Although she’s been all over the news all week, I’ve been cautiously waiting to write more about Gabrielle Petito. Even though I kind of knew deep down that the dead body found in Wyoming would probably end up belonging to her, I hesitated to state outright that she was deceased. I didn’t want to get on the bandwagon of assumptions that people often get on in cases like hers.

This is so sad. She was such a lovely young woman with her whole life ahead of her.

I also initially couldn’t bring myself to comment much on this case. So many people were offering opinions that they were very certain about. I still didn’t feel like I had enough information, although the signs were certainly there that Gabrielle Petito was a victim of abuse perpetrated by her boyfriend. Even now, in spite of the many creepy and disturbing signs that Gabby’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, is an abuser and potentially a murderer, I don’t want to make that statement outright. Because, in spite of all of the damning signs, I still don’t know for sure. I can only strongly assume, and I feel like there’s enough assuming going on right now. The truth is, a lot of this story is still pretty mysterious, especially since Mr. Laundrie is still missing. At this point, he’s still just a “person of interest”.

What I do know is that abusers come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, and flavors. So, I also hesitate to be among my friends who have been posting things like this…

While I totally agree about trying to teach children not to be abusive, I also know from personal experience that this is a lesson that EVERYONE needs to learn. And sometimes even when you try to teach it, the lesson still gets lost.

Also, sadly, I don’t think this is a lesson that can always be taught. Sometimes a parent can do their very best to teach their children right from wrong, and the kid still grows up to be an abuser. I think some people are just naturally prone to have bad intentions. I can think of a lot of families I’ve known… good, hardworking, decent folks… who have one or two people in their ranks that aren’t quite as upstanding as the rest of the family. So I don’t automatically put the actions of an abuser on the parents. It’s not always their fault.

I don’t know a thing about Brian Laundrie or his parents, so at this point, I really can’t judge the parents for what their son might have done to his girlfriend. But, the other day, I did watch the entire body cam video of the traffic stop involving Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito in Moab, Utah. The video was over an hour in length, so I can’t say I was watching it very intently. I do remember hearing how friendly and at ease Brian seemed to be with the police, even as Gabrielle was crying and clearly upset.

I wonder how the officers involved in this case feel now…

I do want to commend the cops for treating Petito and Laundrie professionally. They were especially kind to Gabby, letting her sit in air conditioning and giving her water. On the other hand, I heard the main cop, who was primarily in charge, repeatedly talking about Gabby to Brian as if they were buddies. He related his story about his own wife, who has “anxiety issues” and needs medication. I don’t think the cop’s wife’s mental health issues are necessarily relevant to this situation. It sounded to me like the officer was making some assumptions without knowing all of the facts. I can’t blame him too much for that. We all do it to some extent. I also think he truly was trying to help, which is commendable, although I think maybe he got a little too friendly with Laundrie. I wonder if the cop would have been as friendly if Laundrie and Petito weren’t young, attractive, white people.

In the wake of the video and the news about Petito’s remains being found, more people have come out to say that they saw Brian mistreating Gabby in public. But even if those people had come forward sooner, I’m not sure what could have been done. I do remember reading one account of a park ranger who told Gabby that her relationship with Brian appeared to be “toxic”. Melissa Hulls, a visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park in Utah, was among the officers who dealt with the couple when they were stopped in Utah. We don’t see much of what was said to Gabby during the stop, although I do remember hearing the officers discuss whether or not they were going to arrest her for domestic violence against Brian Laundrie. According to the link:

“I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life,” Hulls said of Petito, who was living with Laundrie and his parents in Florida prior to the trip.

“She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida,” Hulls added.

I remember all too well crying like Gabby in the calm, assured faces of abusers. They made it seem like I was the “crazy” one. For a long time, I felt like I was crazy. And then, when no one else was watching– or the only other witness was a “flying monkey”– the abusers would go off on a rage. I can also see a red flag in Melissa Hulls’ statement about how Gabby was afraid to be away from Brian. Abusive people like to isolate their victims. They get to the point at which they don’t think they can function on their own. That’s how the abuser wants it to be, because then the victim will always be there to take more abuse.

In the end, the cops decided not to file charges against Petito. Even if they had arrested her, I’m not sure if the outcome would have been any different in the long run. But the fact that Gabby might have been arrested is another wrinkle in this situation. Oftentimes, people who are being abused don’t want to ask for help because if they do fight back, there is a chance that they will be the ones who end up in cuffs. My husband was abused by his ex wife in just about every possible way. He never reported her behavior to the police because he knew that it was just as likely that he’d wind up in trouble. She also had him convinced that everything was his fault. In the above police body cam video, you can hear Gabby talking about how she’d made Brian angry.

Hulls adds that when the stop was made, the police officers really did think it was a mental health situation caused by the two of them being together for too long, living in austere conditions. They had no reason to believe at the time that either party was truly in any danger. More than once, I heard the police refer to Gabrielle’s diminutive size compared to Brian’s, although Brian was the one with visible injuries. And Brian was very calm and friendly, while Gabby was crying and distraught. I think it’s important for people to remember that police officers aren’t necessarily mental health experts. Their job is to assess whether or not crimes are committed and enforce the laws. But clearly, Melissa Hulls got a bad feeling about Brian Laundrie.

Another couple from Louisiana, who happened to be vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming when Gabby and Brian were passing through, remember witnessing a “commotion” at a restaurant. Nina Angelo, and her boyfriend, Matt England, saw Gabby and Brian leaving The Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant on August 27th. Brian was reportedly clearly agitated and angry, going in and out of the restaurant and being abusive toward the wait staff and hostess. The waitress who took care of Gabby and Brian also experienced abuse from Brian and was very shaken. Later that same day, Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, received a strange text that supposedly came from Gabby. It was the last communication she got from her daughter.

Later, on August 29th, a couple in Wyoming gave Brian a ride. They said he offered to pay $200 for the ride, even before he got in their car. The couple said Brian told them Gabby was at the van, working on her blog. But when it turned out the couple was going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, rather than Jackson, Brian allegedly became “very agitated” and asked them to stop the car. He got out of the vehicle near Jackson Dam, less than 30 minutes after they’d picked him up.

These signs that are surfacing now tell us that maybe people should have done more. I think it’s hard to take action in a case that doesn’t seem cut and dry. We’re taught to mind our own business and give people the benefit of the doubt… and there’s also the very real risk that the abuser will turn on those who intervene. There were a few people who did try to do something.

On August 12, someone called the police to report a domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie. In the 911 call, the caller says “We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl… Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.” Another bystander named Chris reported to the police that he saw Gabby and Brian fighting in Utah. He heard Gabby say something along the lines of “Why do you have to be so mean?” He also saw Gabby punching Brian in the arm and the face, trying to take a cell phone from him. He described their interaction as “aggressive.” Below is a video by the Body Language Guy, who analyzes Laundrie’s body language.

Jesus Enrique Rosas is convinced that Gabby was a victim of abuse.

And yet, even though all of this was going on, no one was willing or able to intervene in time to stop Gabrielle Petito’s murder. The autopsy does confirm that she was killed in a homicide. It certainly looks very much like Brian Laundrie had something to do with it. In fact, it looks like he had everything to do with it. I will be very surprised if it turns out he’s innocent. But until I know that for sure, I hesitate to say he’s asbolutely guilty of murder, because we haven’t heard the whole story yet. What I do think is clear is that he regularly abused his girlfriend and, whether or not she “gave as good as she got”, she’s the one who is definitely dead.

Of course, at this point, it looks like Brian might possibly also be deceased. He has somehow disappeared in Florida, and officials there have brought in deep divers and special equipment to see if he’s somewhere at the bottom of an alligator and snake infested swamp or something. The mystery continues.

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education, law, mental health, music, narcissists, psychology

Repost: The clarinetist who dodged a bullet…

This is a repost from June 2018. I am working on finishing reading a book that I want to review. Maybe I’ll be able to do it today. Maybe not. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting story. It appears here mostly as/is, with a couple of new videos added.

I just read an infuriating story on the New York Times.  Eric Ambramovitz, a gifted clarinet player from Canada, was just awarded $375,000 Canadian dollars from a lawsuit he filed against his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lee.  Why?  Because she crushed his dream and cost him two years of a promising music career.

In 2013, Ambramovitz and Lee were dating.  Both were music students and Abramovitz had dreams of studying under Yehuda Gilad at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California.  But the manipulative and sneaky Ms. Lee did not want her beau of a few months to leave Canada.  So when Abramovitz received the rare, all expenses paid, highly prestigious acceptance to study under Gilad, who only takes on one or two new students per year, Lee intercepted the email, impersonated her ex boyfriend, and turned down the offer.  Then, she sent a fake email to Ambrovitz, indicating that he had not been accepted to study under Gilad at the conservatory.  Instead, he could attend the University of Southern California with a $5000 scholarship, which Lee knew would not be enough.  Abramovitz could not come up with the rest of the $50,000+ tuition charged at USC. 

Lee and Ambramovitz eventually broke up and Ambramovitz finished his bachelor’s degree in music at McGill University in Montreal.  Then in 2016, he traveled to Los Angeles to re-audition for Professor Gilad.  But Gilad was confused, because he remembered that Ambramovitz had already auditioned and turned down the chance to study with him.

It was at that point when Eric Ambramovitz came to the sickening realization that his ex girlfriend had committed some major league relationship fuckery.  He asked Mr. Gilad about the email he had received from “giladyehuda09”.  Gilad said that was not his email address.  At that point, Ambramovitz filed a police report.  Just an aside here, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to file a police report if I had been victimized in this way, but now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.  What Ms. Lee did was akin to identity theft.

This man has some serious musical chops! He is definitely no Squidward.

Fortunately, Ambramovitz won acceptance to the University of Southern California, where Mr. Gilad also teaches.  He completed a two year certificate, not on scholarship, and studied under the professor part time.  Professor Gilad testified in court that Ambramovitz made excellent progress studying under him.  However, Ms. Lee’s dishonest hijinks cost the gifted clarinetist two years of his career, as well as missed professional opportunities.  According to the article, 80 percent of clarinetists in North American orchestras consist of Gilad’s former students.

But he survived… and it didn’t crush his spirit.

Ms. Lee did not respond to the lawsuit and had no lawyer listed in the suit.  It’s doubtful that Ambramovitz will ever see any of the money he was awarded.  He has, however, found success as a professional clarinetist.  He just got a job working for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra after having previously worked with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. 

A few things come to mind after having read about this case.  First off, I’m amazed that Ms. Lee had access to her ex boyfriend’s email account.  I wonder why Ambramovitz wasn’t able to log into some kind of school account to see what his admittance status was.  Seems like when I applied to graduate school at USC, I had an account that showed what documents I still needed to submit.  That was in 1999.  I guess that’s not how they do things at all schools.  I see from another article (a much more complete one) that Ms. Lee also did the same thing with Mr. Abramovitz’s successful application to Julliard.

Not only is he insanely talented, but he’s also quite generous with sharing his gifts. I’m so glad he got out of that toxic relationship. He also seems like a really nice person.

I guess it just goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone.  According to another article about this case, Ms. Lee moved fast.  Within a month of their first date, Ambramovitz was staying at her apartment almost full time.  He let her use his laptop and she obviously had access to his passwords.  Actually, if she’s got cluster B tendencies, this makes perfect sense.  They tend to overwhelm their victims with whirlwind romances.  Then, once the poor victim is hooked, cluster B, high conflict types turn into horrible people.   

I’m glad Ambramovitz broke up with that miserable woman.  What an awful thing she did to him!  I hope karma kicks her ass.  But… at least he didn’t marry her.  This kind of sabotaging behavior is what Bill experienced firsthand when he was married to his ex wife.  I liken being in a relationship with someone like that to being chained to a dead tree.  A dead tree might eventually rot enough so a victim can escape, but it could take years of soul crushing before that happens.

Bill suffered damage to his career, his relations with his family, and his finances before he was finally able to break away from his psycho cluster B ex.  While Ambramovitz’s situation is heartbreaking on many levels, at least his story has a happy ending…  as does Bill’s.  Not everyone is so lucky.

ETA: September 2021… I may have to write some about Gabby Petito later. Unfortunately, her story didn’t have a happy ending. Also… fun fact– many years ago, I played clarinet myself. But I did not have a gift for it.

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book reviews, dogs

Repost: Review of The Dog Lived (and So Will I)…

I just found two more lumps on Arran. They’re probably mast cell tumors. This has been an ongoing problem with Arran, who got his first one in 2015 and had another one removed in January. Zane also had MCTs before he finally graduated to lymphoma and passed away in 2019. Anyway, I am reminded of a book I read in December 2016 to keep my hopes up. I’m reposting it for those who might find it useful. It appears as/is.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been processing the news that my sweet beagle, Zane, has mast cell cancer.  My other dog, Arran, also had a mast cell tumor removed and there’s been no recurrence so far.  I’m not sure we’ll be as lucky with Zane.  I have a lot of anxiety about my dogs and life in general.  When I’m faced with a problem like this, I usually go hunting for information.  In my quest for information, I ran across a book called The Dog Lived (and So Will I): A Memoir.

Written by twice divorced California lawyer Teresa Rhyne, this is a book about a dog named Seamus who had an aggressive mast cell tumor.  The dog eventually recovered from the tumor.  Then Teresa found a lump in her breast that was cancerous.  Rhyne turned her odyssey into a successful blog and then wrote her book, which was originally published in 2012.  I will admit that I decided to download the book because I was looking for a hopeful story.  In Rhyne’s book, I did find some hope.  

At the beginning of the book, Rhyne is coming back from a trip to Ireland, where she’d gone to see relatives.  She had just been through her second divorce and lost her two dogs within months of each other.  She’s overwhelmed and depressed, but looks amazing.  Rhyne explains that when the chips are down, she ups her personal grooming.  It’s like an armor she wears to help her bring her “A game”.

Rhyne has an irreverent sense of humor and writes about how much she enjoyed her Irish relatives tendency to use the f word liberally.  When she met Seamus, a dog who seemed to need her as much as she needed him, she was reminded of her irreverent relatives.  Although Seamus proves to be a challenge to train, they become a pair.  And then Rhyne starts a new relationship with a man named Chris, twelve years her junior.

This book is part dog story and part love story, with a healthy sprinkling of medical and veterinary drama thrown in.  Rhyne adds her interesting sense of humor and the compelling stories of how she and her dog both battled cancer and annoying doctors, and both survived.  It’s probably just the kind of book I should be reading right now.  Thanks to Rhyne’s way with words, I managed to get through this book quickly and effortlessly.  I related to her story and admire how she’s turned her experiences into a new career.  After the success of her first book, Rhyne wrote another.  She now does public speaking and continues to rescue dogs.

As for us and our situation with Zane, I’m not really sure what’s going to happen.  His tumor was not as aggressive as Seamus’s was.  We live in a different country and Zane is a bit older and grayer.  At this point, I’m more inclined to work hard to give him a great quality of life rather than put him through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy.

I have to admit, though, that reading about Seamus was inspiring.  Rhyne’s story about her breast cancer was also interesting, even if it left me checking my boobs.  I was impressed the most by Rhyne’s loyal and long suffering boyfriend, Chris, who was apparently Teresa’s rock.  To be honest, Rhyne comes across as somewhat self-absorbed, although I figure she’s also pretty genuine.  I’d much rather deal with someone genuine but somewhat unlikable over someone who’s fake.

Anyway… I would recommend The Dog Lived (and So Will I) to interested readers.  I give it four stars out of five.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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condescending twatbags, language, overly helpful people, social media

No, I’m not gonna get on the word “ban-wagon”…

In May of 2013, Bill and I were sitting at a train station in Venice, Italy. We were waiting to catch our ride to Florence on Italo, a then brand new private Italian train company. As we were waiting, we heard an announcement in Italian about a train that was significantly delayed. The pre-recorded announcement did not use the word “delay”. Instead, it included an Italian incarnation of the word “retard”, used as an adjective.

Bill turned to me and said, “Now you see… there’s an instance in which the word “retard” is used in a completely non-offensive way.”

I have never forgotten that conversation, especially as more and more “woke” types feel the need to outright ban certain words from the English language. I am all for avoiding deliberately insulting others, especially those who suffer from any kind of intellectual disabilities that are beyond their control.

However, as I realized when we were at the train station in Italy, words have many nuances, usages, and definitions. Some words are inherently offensive, and almost always used in a hurtful way. And sometimes, people deliberately take offense at the use of a “taboo” word when absolutely no harm is intended. That causes problems that could just as easily be avoided if the person would simply be more mature and stop being willfully ignorant.

It’s been many years since I last used the word “retard” in the taboo way, although I will admit that in the 1980s, it was a word that was flung around on playgrounds and school busses with the greatest of ease. It was also used in plenty of 70s and 80s era comedies, both on television and in the movies. I can think of two films off the top of my head– very popular movies that still remain popular today–in which characters use the word “retard” as an insult.

Today, those films would probably not be made with the word “retard” used as an insult, although I would not be surprised if some incarnation of the word “douche” was used in its place. Personally, I find the word “douche” offensive for several reasons, but I’m not campaigning to have it banned. In many cultures, the word “douche” just means “shower”, and is perfectly useful and non-offensive. So rather than trying to get the word “douche” banned, I simply avoid using it myself.

As a lover of language, I can’t quite bring myself to jump on the “ban-wagon” when it comes to any word, even the ones that can start riots. I never think of words as things that should ever be banned, even when they are deemed very “offensive”. Instead, I am more concerned about context and the attitude behind the use of language. And yes, that means that I think words that people routinely campaign to have struck from the language are sometimes acceptable to use in certain contexts. To avoid being offended, it’s up to people to grow up and not be deliberately obtuse. Otherwise, they’re doomed to stay butthurt.

This morning, someone shared the below post on Facebook. If I had already had my coffee, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and ignored it. But instead, I left a response. Basically, I wrote that the word “retard” is only a slur if it’s used as an insult. There are other ways to use it that are totally neutral.

I knew I might regret leaving that comment, but the friend who shared this is usually a very understanding person. I figured she’d get what I mean. Besides, while I understand people being aggravated by insulting, demeaning language, I am aggravated by people who presume to tell me what I can or cannot say or write.

I think people should be responsible for their own use of language; most of them don’t need the language police to remind them to be “politically correct”. Frankly, I’m fed up with people who use social media as a place for that kind of soap box activism, particularly when all they’ve done is shared someone else’s viral post. Facebook was originally supposed to be fun, wasn’t it?

No, thank you, I won’t be teaching anyone that the word “retard” is worse than the word “fuck”. That’s someone’s “absolutely ridiculous” opinion… at least in MY opinion. I still get to have one, right?

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before someone came along and tried to school me about how the word “retard” is never acceptable. This person wrote that it’s no longer used by professionals and it’s outdated, etcetera, etcetera.

My response– simply because I was feeling stubborn and my verbal restraint reflex was somewhat “retarded”– was that yes, in fact, sometimes the word “retard” is perfectly acceptable and unoffensive. That word has other meanings besides the insulting one. The word “retard”, when used as a verb, means “to slow or delay”. That was how it was used at the train station in Italy. No one got offended when it was used in that way. I can think of other ways the word “retard” can be used that shouldn’t cause offense to anyone.

The person who challenged me came back and posted that she’s got autism. Actually, I believe she wrote that she’s “autistic”, and has an “autistic” child. I was a little surprised that she put it that way, since I thought the emphasis was supposed to be on the person rather than the condition. Like– I thought it was more politically correct to say, “I have autism” rather than “I’m autistic.” But I am not in that world, so I don’t know, and I wouldn’t presume to tell someone who is in that world how they should refer to themselves.

Besides, I don’t think of autism as something inherently good or bad. My husband’s older daughter is supposedly on the spectrum, but we know she is a brilliant artist and she’s proven that there’s nothing wrong with her intellect. I don’t know if she’s sorry she has autism. She no longer speaks to Bill. But, based on what I know about her, she’s got plenty of things going for her besides the condition of autism.

I responded to my friend’s friend that I was sorry that people have used the word “retard” in an offensive way, and that she is offended by its use. But I am not going to be told that I can’t use a word that I know is perfectly acceptable in many situations, simply because some group says it’s “offensive”, in and of itself. That’s wrong.

The challenger then asked me to use the word “retard” in an unoffensive way. So I wrote something along the lines of, “I see no reason to retard the development of languages by banning specific words.”

She then wrote that my answer was “stupid”. There was more to her comment, but I quit reading, because she made it clear that respectful communication and education weren’t her goals. Instead, it appeared that she wanted to disparage my intellect by referring to my answer as “stupid”. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? I guess she didn’t see the irony. She’s lecturing me about not ever using the word “retard” because it’s disrespectful and hurtful, but then she uses the word “stupid” to describe my comment and, based on her perceived tone, my intellect.

I truly didn’t want to get into a pissing match with this person, since I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. If she did know me, she might be surprised by how “not stupid” I am, at least compared to the average person. Even if she did still think I’m stupid after meeting me, that would obviously be her uninformed and incorrect opinion.

I realized, however, that my time would probably be wasted trying to continue the conversation. As I didn’t want to get into a legitimate argument, I wrote “So now you are insulting me. That’s very nice. Have a good day.”

Normally, when a person writes “Have a good day.”, that means they’re done with the discussion and are politely trying to bow out. I figure that’s a more respectful way of leaving the conversation than telling them to “fuck off” is. But, as this person says she has autism, I guess she didn’t pick up on the social cue. She came back and wrote, “Feeling insulted, huh?” then continued with more insults…

I guess, if I were going to assign an emotion to how I felt about her response, it would be “annoyed” or maybe “puzzled”. It does seem strange to be preached at by a stranger about not offending people with intellectual disabilities by calling them “retarded” (which I never did), and then, in the next breath, having that same person refer to my comment as “stupid”.

If I had written that I thought her comment was “retarded”, what would her response be? Isn’t “stupid” just as offensive as “retarded”? At least the word “retard”, even when used an insulting way, indicates a medical condition that a person can’t help. Stupid just means a person or thing is dull-witted and unintelligent, whether or not they can help being that way. I can’t think of many ways the word “stupid” could be used that isn’t negative.

I wrote something akin to, “No, I’m not ‘feeling insulted’. You’re being hypocritical, and I have other things to do. So kindly enjoy your day, and I will continue to speak and write as I please.” I truly wasn’t “insulted” by her comment, because I would have to care about her opinion to be insulted by it. But I will admit to being annoyed by her comments and her erroneous presumptions about me. Especially, since I truly didn’t attempt to insult her.

Then she wrote some sarcastic remark about how I can keep “offending” people with special needs, but at that point, I used my block button. Because I do actually have better things to do with my time today than argue with a perfect stranger about my vocabulary. Hell, cleaning the lint out of my belly button would be a better use of my time than continuing that unproductive discussion with someone whose mind is currently closed. She obviously didn’t see my point, and wasn’t going to try to see it. Instead, she was hellbent on “winning” the argument, and doing so in a disrespectful, non-empathic way. Still, she failed to convince me, so I guess she can keep fighting the good fight with someone else.

Some people might point out that I probably “asked” for this unpleasant exchange. I would agree with them that it’s mostly pointless to point out these kinds of language discrepancies among friends. A person who would share an image like the one above probably has strong feelings about the subject matter, but hasn’t thought very long and hard about them, and is just looking for likes and loves, rather than actual commentary.

On the other hand, I do get annoyed when some busybody presumes to correct my language. I’m an adult, and fully responsible for what I say and do. If I say something egregiously obnoxious or offensive, it may be appropriate to call me out for that. But I don’t really need my friends to pre-emptively instruct me on the proper way to use language.

Moreover, I think my opinions matter as much as anyone else’s do. I’ve spent my life being told that my thoughts and feelings don’t matter, so I tend to be strong-willed and argumentative about these things, now that I am an adult. I realize it’s hard to be assertive about such things without still inadvertently offending people. Such is life.

I do get irritated when people try to tell me how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking. I think it’s disrespectful to try to read people’s minds, especially when they’re strangers. Maybe I would be happier if I just “let it go”, but I think that people who are able to do that often don’t think about much more other than what’s right in front of them.

Either that, or they’re like that Japanese monk Bill and I ran into a few years ago, who just radiated peace, serenity, and calmness. I have seen very few people like that in my lifetime. I would actually LOVE to be like that monk… although I realize I am ASSUMING he is actually as calm as he appeared. For all I know, he’s got a hot temper.

Perhaps today I will go out of my way to use the word “retard” in non-offensive ways. Of course, around here, most people speak German and don’t speak to me, anyway, so that effort might be lost on them. Also… when it comes to grammar policing, all bets are off.

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