Sorry in advance for those who are tired of this topic. I’m still working it out in my head. Also, please excuse me for taking so long to get to the point. 😉
A few days ago, I was working on my latest jigsaw puzzle. I had the music going, and a song came on that I think was by Paul Thorn. I can’t tell you which one it was, though, because I have a habit of downloading whole albums by artists I like, or even when I just hear a song I like. I don’t always get around to listening to the whole thing, like I used to when I was younger and poorer. I remember, when I was a kid, I would save my pennies for albums and listen to the whole thing over and over again, until I had the whole thing memorized. Nowadays, there’s just so much out there that I like, I don’t do that anymore.
In fact, just this morning, I was looking at songs by Stephen Bishop. I had heard his original version of the song, “Separate Lives”, which was made famous in the mid 1980s by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, who sang it for the film, White Nights. I was contemplating buying a live EP by Stephen Bishop, even though I already have a different live album by him. Then I noticed the Alan Parsons Project also had a song called “Separate Lives”. I have always liked the Alan Parsons Project… I’m nerdy like that, and I’m a bonafide child of the 80s. I ended up listening to a snippet, and liked what I heard, so I downloaded that. I’m now listening to that album. And I also bought an obscure early 90s album called The Law, which one of my college roommates had. I liked it back then, and it just popped into my head. So I bought that, too. I’m probably a record company’s wet dream of a customer. I’ll buy albums at the drop of a hat. It’s a good thing I gave up my obsession with horses, or Bill and I might legitimately be in the poorhouse.
I am a recent admirer of Paul Thorn’s music. I discovered him when someone made a hilarious YouTube video using his funny song, “It’s a Great Day to Whup Somebody’s Ass”, speeding it up so it sounded like Paul was on helium. I found the original version and loved it. Next thing I knew, I was downloading shitloads of Paul Thorn’s music. His song, “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love” was very comforting to me in 2014, when I lost my dad rather suddenly. I was listening to my iPod on the way to my home state of Virginia, and that song, which I had never heard before came on… and I could really relate to it on so many levels.
I know Paul Thorn is the son of a Pentecostal preacher. He grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and was not allowed to listen to rock and roll when he was growing up. He had to hide the two records he did own– one by Huey Lewis and the other by Elton John. It’s not surprising that some of his songs are about faith issues, even though his own career has involved rock and roll, and until recently, booze. Thorn has evidently given up the sauce… something for which I heartily congratulate him.
So anyway, this song came on, and it sounded like it was an indictment against lawsuits. I thought it was a song by Paul Thorn, but I could be wrong. I’m trying to find it now, but I haven’t been successful. I should have “Shazamed” it. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could do a topic search in my music library and find the song that way? I probably could do that, but lack the technical expertise to figure out how. The song got me to thinking, though. I have heard that Christians shouldn’t sue each other. But what if the lawsuit is for a good cause?
I am rather nominally a Christian myself. I was raised to be Christian, but I don’t go to church anymore. Even if lawsuits weren’t considered a “Christian” thing to do, I don’t think that would be a reason not to engage in litigation. I do think that people should only sue someone as a last resort. I don’t think lawsuits should only be about money, either.
One of the reasons my husband sued our former landlady was because we knew she courted junior members of the military– young, inexperienced couples who might not have the time or resources to hold her accountable. She was very proud of hosting several American families in her rental house, and according to her, they were all “perfect” tenants. Except for us, that is. She said we were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had.
Now, we aren’t perfect people by any stretch of the imagination. But we do pay rent on time– early, actually– and we don’t throw wild parties, get in fights with each other or the neighbors, purposely destroy things, or complain a lot. I may not be a great housekeeper, but I do keep a basically sanitary home. She made us sound like we were total pigs. And although she accused us of being irresponsible slobs who were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had, I noticed that she never once asked us to move out of the house. She never claimed Eigenbedarf (needing the house for herself or her family). In fact, we have many emails in which she thanked Bill for paying her promptly and for being so “considerate”, which he certainly is. Although I had plenty of reason to complain about her many unplanned intrusions, I rarely did, at least in the beginning. It was only after she became verbally abusive toward me in my own home that I became really angry.
How is it, then, that she justified keeping our deposit, only begrudgingly giving us 20% back when Bill insisted? How is it that she clearly broke German laws, and we were the shitty ones? The money she kept, we could afford to lose. But there was a time when her decision to keep our money would have been financially devastating to us. I couldn’t help but notice that she appeared to prefer a certain type of tenant. Her place was priced reasonably for the Stuttgart area, although until we moved to Wiesbaden, it was one of the most expensive rentals we’d ever lived in. It was more than what we paid for housing in Texas and Georgia, though we lucked into a fairly cheap place in North Carolina. None of those landlords had problems with us, either. She was the only landlord that ever dared to rip off our deposit in such an egregious way.
We figured that if she was willing to rip us off without any compunction, she would certainly do it to younger, less assertive people with less experience living in Germany. She would count on them having to leave the country and not having had the foresight to buy legal insurance. She would bet they would be too intimidated by the court system and the lack of German language proficiency most Americans have. Plus, she’s a total bully, and most people don’t enjoy confronting bullies. That’s why they can continue to be that way to other people for as long as they do.
So, although we definitely wanted to hold her accountable for ourselves, we also saw suing her as a moral obligation toward those coming after us. She may very well continue to try to rip off her tenants, but at least someone has refused to let her get away with openly breaking German tenant/landlord laws. I strongly suspect that the people before us realized that she was a dishonest person and, instead of having the integrity to deal with her themselves, they lied to us and left us holding the bag. And then, when I started to figure out what happened, they tried to shame me into silence. They wanted us to pay the price for things that happened on their watch… because I KNOW that they didn’t get the same level of scrutiny on checkout that we did… and I KNOW that the house was not as clean for us as it was when we left it, in spite of ex landlady’s claims that it was filthy.
Bill watched her carefully when they did the walkthrough. She obviously had to look pretty hard to come up with defects, although she did have the nerve to complain that we left the trashcans full, as they were when we moved in back in 2014. I wish he’d had the presence of mind to remind her that we had paid rent and Nebenkosten (other costs– eg. water, trash) for December 2018, when we weren’t even living there. We had every right to use the trash cans in November 2018. The lease was in effect until 11:59pm December 31, 2018. If she was so upset that they were dirty, she could have asked us to come back and clean them after they were dumped. She knew we weren’t leaving the country. Of course, that would have meant she needed to cooperate with us, which she plainly wasn’t willing to do.
When it became clear that she was trying to portray us as people we clearly aren’t, to the point of even falsely accusing us of theft and other illegal things, we decided that a lawsuit was in order. It brought us no joy or pleasure to sue her. In fact, I know I was very angry about having to take that step. But what choice did we have? We could sue her and pursue what was rightfully ours under the contract, or we could let her get away with what looks to me to be like her usual scam involving Americans in Germany. To me, it seemed immoral not to hold her accountable, because it would only embolden her to continue doing the same sleazy thing to other people. In that sense, I don’t think what we did was “unChristian”. She did finally end up giving us our money, but boy, was it obvious she didn’t want to do it. Months after the case was settled, she still hadn’t paid. We contacted our lawyer, who must have sent her a very strongly worded letter. And then ex landlady didn’t pay us directly. She paid the lawyer, who then gave us our money. It must have been very painful for her to do the right thing.
And then I think about so-called Christians, like the Duggar family, who have certainly used the legal system to get what they want. Four of the Duggar daughters sued over invasion of privacy when their information was leaked to the press. That case was eventually dismissed after a couple of years of wrangling. Of course, right now the legal system is having its way with their brother, Josh Duggar, who is going to have an extra couple of months cooling his heels in the Washington County jail. His lawyers successfully petitioned the court for more time before he is formally sentenced for his horrific crimes against children. I have heard that jails are a lot less comfortable than prisons are. They are set up for short term stays, which means they have less in the way of resources for inmates. But Josh probably prefers to be in Arkansas, close to his wife, Anna, who is able to talk to him by phone. Once he gets to prison, he may be less protected from harm than he is right now. But of course he’s going to have to go to prison at some point. Frankly, I think the sooner he accepts that, the better off he’ll be.
Speaking of the Duggars… there was another wedding yesterday. Jeremiah Duggar, twin to Jedidiah, who was married last April, got married to the former Hannah Wissmann in Nebraska yesterday. Some photos have already surfaced of the event, which was apparently relatively subdued for a Duggar wedding. There weren’t any weird pranks played, for instance. This was also the first wedding Josh didn’t attend, obviously. I don’t know where they will honeymoon. Since TLC isn’t paying, I guess it won’t be anywhere in Europe.
Anyway… if I ever figure out who sang the song that inspired this post or the song’s title, I’ll try to post a link and perhaps offer more commentary. Next time, I’ll be sure to Shazam. But, suffice to say, I don’t think it’s always wrong or immoral to sue someone. Sometimes, lawsuits are completely justified and, in fact, even the “right” thing to do. It’s only when they are solely about taking money for frivolous or greedy reasons that I think they’re immoral. Sometimes, filing a lawsuit is the only way to get justice. And, I know in our case, it was also about reclaiming self-respect and maintaining dignity. Turning the other cheek is a good thing to do sometimes. Other times, it’s much better to fight.
One more thing before I go… I just discovered the wonderful music of piano prodigy Ruth Slencynzska, who is 97 years old and is Rachmaninoff’s last surviving student. If you love classical music, I would highly recommend checking out her brand new album, My Life in Music. It’s gorgeous!