expressions, lessons learned, musings, YouTube

“You should never meet your heroes…” or should you?

A couple of days ago, when I was watching the movie, Camp, I was reminded of a famous saying. “You should never meet your heroes…” ostensibly because the reality of who they are will always be a disappointment. The character, Vlad, actually says those words when he runs into his hero, Bert Hanley (played by real life musician, Don Dixon), who is rip roaring drunk. Vlad idolized Bert Hanley for being a great musician and songwriter, but he didn’t know that Hanley was a cynical drunken asshole. And he was disappointed when he found Hanley, who was supposed to be directing the camp, completely bombed. Adding insult to injury, Hanley vomits on Vlad as he tries to help him up. Real class.

I ran into that quote myself a few weeks ago on the Cruise Critic messageboard. I was reading SeaDream Yacht Club’s board and joked that I really wanted to meet a regular poster named Jim Avery. And another regular poster wisely pointed out, “You should never meet your heroes.” He’s probably right. I’ve met a few people on SeaDream cruises who were posters on the messageboard. Some of them legitimately turned out to be people I wish I’d never met. I love SeaDream cruises, but I have to admit that it’s a line that attracts a fair number of entitled twits. In all fairness, though, some of the other passengers probably think I’m a twit, too. Especially when I’m in the piano bar. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Some of the people on SeaDream probably think I’m not unlike this guy… I even have a similar physique.

I do love being on a SeaDream cruise, though. I haven’t been on one since 2013. I honestly thought we would eventually do another cruise with them, but Bill was going to be retiring in 2014, and I wasn’t sure what his employment prospects were going to be. Also, I knew that he would likely be starting a new job with limited vacation time. Then we ended up moving to Germany, and the rest is history. We have done three more Hebridean cruises, though, and Hebridean is as expensive as SeaDream is. I booked those cruises because of the themes and itineraries… and unfortunately, thanks to COVID, I’m not sure when we will be cruising again. So I will probably never meet the famous Jim Avery. I might be better off for that, since he might turn out to be a mean spirited jerk. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe I would think he’s funny and witty. I may never know.

Wonder if, when she has a quiet moment, Anna regrets being a “super fan”…

This topic comes up, in part, because Katie Joy on her YouTube channel, Without a Crystal Ball, did a video about how Anna Duggar was a “super fan” of the Duggar Family, back in the day. Katie Joy talks about how Anna admired the Duggars, having seen their public persona. She was dazzled by their images. I wonder if she now thinks the reality of being a Duggar is anywhere akin to what she imagined when she first saw Josh and his family. Especially now that it looks like Josh is going to be heading for prison soon. Maybe he’ll manage to get off, but I have a feeling he’s going to be wearing a striped uniform soon.

Then again, sometimes the opposite is true, and you should meet your antiheroes because they’re not nearly as bad as you think they are. You think someone is a real jerk, and it turns out they’re the opposite of being a jerk. Reality is often unlike what we think it is. I’ll give you a real life example.

For years, I thought Bill’s daughter was as hostile as her mother is. I was angry with her for a long time, mainly because she and her sister rejected Bill and refused to speak to him. It pissed me off that a man who is as kind and loving as Bill is, was being treated the way his daughters treated him. I was tired of people giving them a pass for that behavior.

But then Bill started talking to his daughter again, and he started to learn about what was behind that seemingly cruel behavior. And now I know I was wrong about Bill’s daughter, and fully admit that I was wrong. She’s turned out to be a very resilient and empathic person, much like her dad is. She is the very opposite of her mother. It had only seemed like she was a mean and judgmental person. The reality is, she’s not like her mother at all.

This week, Bill’s daughter wrote to Bill expressing her worry and dismay at seeing the crisis in Afghanistan. She wanted to know Bill’s thoughts on the situation. Bill explained to her that he never went to Afghanistan; he did his time in Iraq. But he has many friends and colleagues who served in Afghanistan, and they are devastated by the news. It’s heartbreaking to see that all of the time, money, effort, and lives spent on Afghanistan have seemingly gone to waste.

Bill’s daughter has decided to do what she can to help. She says she’s learned how to say “Hello” in Farsi, which is lovely, although Bill wrote back to tell her that most Afghans speak Pashto or Dari. She says that she knows that it means a lot for people to hear their language. Bill’s daughter is even putting together hygiene kits for refugees. She’s turned out to be a very good person, in spite of everything. She’s finding out that her dad and grandmother, both of whom were demonized for years by her mother, are actually excellent people who love her.

I often wonder what it’s like for Bill’s daughter now. She missed knowing Bill and his mom for most of her life. She was told many lies. Now she’s old enough to seek the truth, and she’s been brave enough to do it. I’m sure that as exhilarating as it is to know Bill again, there’s been a lot of pain. It’s not easy to find out that your mother lied to you, took advantage of you, and was completely abusive and horrible to so many other innocent people. Bill’s daughter has children of her own, and I know she wants to protect them from her mother. That’s got to be hard, especially when so many people have bought into the false story.

I have also gained more respect for Mormonism. I still don’t like the doctrine and I think it does a lot of damage to people who can’t fit into the mold. A lot of people have been harmed by people in the church. But Bill’s younger daughter managed to find good influences in the church, and some good hearted members helped her escape an abusive situation. Granted, she could have found help elsewhere, but in her case, it was the church that helped her. Going on a mission humbled her and broadened her horizons. She started to see perspectives that had been kept from her for so many years. In her case, the church actually helped her grow. It filled a need for her like the Army filled a need for Bill.

Now that I think about it, the Army has also damaged a lot of people… like those who fought or died in Afghanistan for what seems to be naught… But was it really all for naught? I read that some Afghan girls on a robotics team were rescued from Afghanistan. If not for the war in Afghanistan, would they have been rescued? Would they have ever had the chance to study robotics or be on teams that were successful in North America and Europe? What about the other girls who got the chance to go to school during our twenty years in Afghanistan? If not for the war, what would have happened to them?

What about the people who were born because of the war? There were romances between Afghans and Americans. Surely, there are people who exist now because we went to war, just as many people died because of the war. Those relationships help bridge understanding of the cultures. They add stories to the collective… and everyone does have a story. The war seems like it was a huge failure on many macro levels. But on micro levels, maybe it wasn’t. I’m reading about people in Afghanistan defying and protesting the Taliban, despite their fearsome reputation of being brutal in the face of defiance. Would they be doing this if not for the war? To be honest, I think Afghans are the only ones who can save their country from the Taliban. It can’t be up to any other country.

I think sometimes we get lost in what appears to be, rather than what is. It happens when we worship an image over what’s real. Or when we assume we know the truth about something when we really only have some of the information. The situation in Afghanistan looks very bad right now. I can’t deny that. But there are always other perspectives and other ways to look at things. Every new situation brings with it new opportunities. Hell… Bill’s daughter is using the situation in Afghanistan for inspiration. She’s learning a few words of a new language in hopes that maybe somehow, she can help someone. Maybe she will be an actual hero to someone, rather than a hero based on an image, reputation, or facade.

Maybe a lot of people view the United States as “heroic” on some level. And sometimes the USA is heroic. But more often, it’s comprised of fallible people who are living life as best they can. They look to their heroes for inspiration. Sometimes, that view is much better than reality is. And sometimes reality is better than we’d ever hoped or expected.

Well… I guess it’s time to wrap this up. Arran and Noyzi are breathing on me, hoping for a walk. The sun is finally out this week, so I guess I better take advantage before the weather turns shitty again. Have a happy Friday.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, expressions

“Not the sharpest knife in the drawer…”

Yesterday, The Washington Post ran an article about how the declining birthrate in the United States is going to be a problem and outlining how other countries have tried to encourage people to have babies. This isn’t the first time I’ve read about how the declining birth rate is causing concern. However, after years of hearing how overpopulated the world is and how our natural resources are dwindling, it does surprise me that now people are being encouraged to breed more. I get that it’s mainly because a steep decline in the birth rate will cause a shortage of people available to work as our population continues to age. However, I think that’s a pretty stupid and selfish reason to encourage people to have children, particularly when the world is so completely fucked.

After I read the article, I checked out a few of the comments on Facebook. Someone posted about the lunacy of encouraging people to breed and a guy named “Ken” made a crack about how we’ll have robots working in nursing homes.

God bless the people who are willing to take care of the elderly, especially if they enjoy doing it and are good at it, but it’s not right to expect people to do it if that’s not what they want to do with their lives. Moreover, the sad reality is, if a robot does become available that can do the work of caring for the elderly, chances are the robot will be made. Robots don’t have to be paid; they don’t need to take vacations or maternity leave; and they can be programmed. Companies that make money by hiring robots to do jobs humans once did will do just that, because money is more important to them than putting humans to work. Having a surplus of babies will not change that reality. It’ll just be more people to feed, clothe, educate, and find work for.

I know I should have kept scrolling, but I couldn’t help myself. I posted that the prospect of robots working in nursing homes is a dumb reason to have kids. I didn’t add this part, but I was thinking about how selfish it is to have babies with the expectation that they’ll grow up to do a specific job… like wiping my ass when I’m an old lady.

Children should be wanted and loved by their parents. They shouldn’t be born simply to fill a quota. It’s not right to expect people to have babies if they don’t want them or can’t have them. Note– I did not call Ken “dumb”, I said having babies simply for the sake of making bodies is a “dumb reason” to have children. Especially when there are families like the Duggars who are having enough babies for many single people.

“Ken” then proceeded to tell me that I’m “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, then demanded to know if I’d read the article. Uh… I ALWAYS read before I comment. So I responded, explaining to Ken that I’m definitely “sharp enough”. I criticized the idea of having babies just to boost the population– especially since there’s no telling how the people resulting from those births will turn out in the future. I also advised him not to insult total strangers.

He came back and insulted me again, claiming that I’m “ignorant” and “obtuse”, and inviting me to go visit nursing homes so I could see the true state of things. Of course he doesn’t know anything about me at all, and obviously doesn’t want to know. He just lashes out with random insults and assumptions about complete strangers. I wonder if he has any friends.

I was tempted to rip “Ken” a new one, but decided to block him instead. Because when it comes down to it, there’s no point in getting into a war of words with someone who feels the need to insult people they don’t even know. In two comments, this total stranger called me “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, “ignorant”, and “obtuse”. While I know that none of his comments about me are true, I was really inspired to rip his head off and shit down his neck. Fortunately, I realized that not only would that be unproductive, but it would also make me a hypocrite. I don’t like hypocrisy, or getting into pointless arguments with people I don’t even know. Still, I would be lying if I said his words weren’t offensive, even if I know they shouldn’t matter. They’re not personal, because he would have to know me for them to be personal. He obviously isn’t interested in knowing me or making a connection. He just wants to be rude to people who don’t agree with him.

I am grateful I had enough sense not to waste time arguing with “Ken”, who really should go out and get pregnant, since he’s so worried about the future. I wanted to ask him if he routinely responds to people with such tackiness. I guess he thinks I should have gotten pregnant a couple of times instead of wasting my time on higher education. Maybe he’s right, although if I’d had children, my life would probably be very different. Either way, arguing with him would have been a waste of time, so I decided to just block him and move on. Obviously, no one taught him any manners or regard for others, and that’s sad. But it’s not my job to give him a clue, nor should I be spreading the epidemic of incivility on the Internet.

I’m not sure if the stresses of the last year have made people more insufferable and disrespectful or I’m just worn out by the stress and have a much lower tolerance. It could be a bit of both. I did catch myself feeling hopeful yesterday as my arm twinged with the slight pain of my first COVID-19 vaccine. I had a red, slightly swollen oval around the injection site– maybe two inches wide and an inch tall. My body is mounting an immune response to the vaccine, which I hope, after my second Moderna shot, will mean I can finally have some fun again. Maybe the prospect of a trip will have a good effect on my mood.

Actually, the COVID-19 news seems to be getting better, even here in Germany. Last month, there was all this doom and gloom about how no one could get vaccines, and the illness was killing people and overloading the hospitals. Angela Merkel was wanting to lock everything down indefinitely, even though we’ve been locked down in some form since November. But now, about the vaccines are finally being rolled out and there’s talk that the restrictions could be loosening soon. I am dreaming of a trip to Stuttgart to see our dentist and get a cleaning, at long last. Noyzi the rescue dog needs a test run at the boarding facility, too. I suspect in a few weeks, we’ll be able to get out of town and maybe even take a short trip to another country. I’d settle for a short trip in Germany that isn’t in Hesse.

It’s hard to learn the lesson that what other people think of you is none of your business. However, it’s also hard not to know what’s “none of your business” when people like “Ken” so freely share their negative and uninformed opinions about people they don’t even know. It bothers me that a perfect stranger feels perfectly okay calling a total stranger “dull”, “ignorant”, and “obtuse”, simply because of a disagreement. But when it comes down to it, saying those things is more revelatory of Ken’s character than my level of intelligence. He just happened to hit a raw nerve. My whole life, people have underestimated me and called me “silly”, “giddy”, “giggly”, “blonde”, or “jolly”. Then, when they eventually realize I’m not *just* those things, they give me another label– usually a negative one. My father used to say I was “arrogant”, as he added that I would never make more than minimum wage. Then he wondered why I didn’t like him very much and wasn’t interested in spending time with him.

I suppose my run in with “Ken” makes me glad that I married a man who values a woman with a brain. Bill does listen to my opinions and think I’m plenty “sharp”. So even though it stings when I run into people like “Ken”, it probably is best to just block people like him and go on with my life. What he thinks of me is none of my business. The fact is, he couldn’t be more wrong about me, and he’s not interested in learning the truth. So his opinions about my intelligence or lack thereof are irrelevant… and his opinions about the birthrate in the United States are irrelevant to me, too, especially since I’m not tasked with procreating with him. If he’s wrong about my intelligence, he’s probably wrong about a lot of other things. Moreover, he clearly doesn’t understand that there are real people behind the computer screens. The fact that he and his ilk aren’t sharp enough to get that is just one more reason why it’s better not to reproduce.

Sorry… I know this is kind of a “brently” post. I’m just fed up with a lot of stuff. I realize I’m luckier than many people are, but the older I get, the more I think that having a bunch of children is a foolhardy thing to do. Give me my rescue dogs and that’ll be fine. If that makes me “dull”, so be it. At least I haven’t spread any of my defective DNA to any unsuspecting descendants.

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complaints, expressions, Military

Military wives should really stop referring to themselves as “dependas”…

First thing’s first. I hate the term “dependa”. Although many people use the word as a shortened version of the government/military term, “dependent”, it’s actually a shortened version of an insult. At some point, years ago, some genius started referring to a certain type of military wife as a “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus”, depending on the audience. Eventually, the terms “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus” got shortened to “dependa”. And now, people use it all the time, sometimes even to define themselves.

How Urban Dictionary defines the derogatory term, “dependa”.

Last night, I read an article in The New York Times about people who are getting married and being platonic. They see marriage as a business idea, rather than a romantic one. They find someone they can trust and with whom they can share marital benefits. The person may be more of a best friend than a mate.

I thought the article was very interesting and, for some people, the idea of marrying someone for practical purposes is useful. Most people need companionship and it’s helpful to have someone share the load in terms of some of life’s bigger challenges. But then I went into the comment section and noticed one woman had mentioned people in the military and how the idea of a platonic marriage could be a boon for collecting “dependa” benefits.

I will admit, it was later in the evening and I was emboldened by evening libations, but I commented that people who disrespectfully refer to military family members/spouses as “dependas” are usually not worth listening to for long. The woman who wrote that “laughed” at me, then wrote that she is a “dependa” herself.

My response was something along the lines of, “Good for you. Maybe it’s time you stopped thinking of yourself in such a derogatory way and realized that you have value in and of yourself, rather than as just your spouse’s ‘dependent’.”

And although she “laughed” again, as did someone else, I decided not to read any other responses. I have learned my lesson with that type of person. It’s a beautiful Sunday, and I have better things to do… like pluck out and shape my own pubic hairs. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I know that some people will defend their “right” to claim the term “dependa” with great vigor, much like some people consistently vote against their own interests. My experience comes from years of observation and fruitless discussions with people who love using degrading labels like “dependa” and its more offensive cousins, “dependapotamus” and “dependasaurus”.

Eight years ago, I fell into a very contentious argument on the WTF Army Moments! Facebook page. Someone had posted a photo that said FRG (family readiness group) spouses shouldn’t try to “wear their spouse’s rank”. I completely agree with that, by the way. Spouses who aren’t themselves in the military should not try to claim their spouse’s rank and bully other spouses. Surprisingly enough, there are some people who do that. It’s offensive, tacky, and wrong.

But then I made the mistake of commenting that I think the term “dependents” is demeaning and should be phased out. Well… the negative response I got was nothing short of astonishing! You would have thought I had insulted someone’s mother or something. The group owner demanded to know why I thought the term “dependents” was demeaning. I responded it’s because spouses are competent adults, and in most marriages, adults are supposed to depend on each other. Plenty of military spouses have careers of their own and are perfectly capable of supporting themselves. While it’s true that I, personally, do depend on my husband for some things, he depends on me for things, too. Our relationship is mutually beneficial. And as an educated woman who is fully capable, I don’t think it’s right that capable adults are being called “dependents” by the military.

Shit went down after that. I got accused of trying to “lord” my education over the women in the group. There was a tidal wave of insults, sarcasm, profanity, and sweeping assumptions about my character and life experiences.  First, I was told that my education and experience mean nothing.  That I’m the same as everyone else (Gosh, I sure hope not, judging by the moronic responses of some of them).  Next, I was accused of being, “gasp”, a liberal (horrors)!  When I explained that I don’t define myself as conservative or liberal and really couldn’t see where my politics come into this conversation, I was accused of not being experienced about military life.  

The fact that I get health insurance from the government was repeatedly brought up as to why I’m a “dependent”.  That’s funny.  For over two years after I got married, I paid for my own health insurance.  I reluctantly gave it up when it became clear that the constant moving we’d be doing would make hanging on to it difficult and needlessly expensive.  When I explained that I’ve been around military folks my whole life, first as an Air Force brat and then as an Army wife, the group owner claimed that I would never see life as it really is in the military because I’m “just a dependent”.  At that point, I told the rabid person who kept attacking me that she needed to make up her mind.  I mean, am I “just like every other military spouse” regardless of my education or am I someone hopelessly lost in an “ivory tower” and clueless about military life?  Someone else added that the term “dependent” is a “fucking IRS term”.  It is, but the IRS does not automatically consider spouses dependents, so that point was moot.

I should add that this isn’t an earth shattering issue for me. I know it will never change in my lifetime, and I’m not going to be sending any letters to Joe Biden or Congress, or anything like that. I just think the mindset that all spouses are “dependents” is antiquated, demoralizing, and yes, kind of demeaning. Particularly since it’s also devolved into the “dependa” insult. I don’t understand why people would laugh at me or begrudge me for thinking that. Why can’t we just respect someone’s differing opinion without immediately resorting to insults and character assassinations?

The woman I encountered last night openly calls herself a “dependa”. She may have a very healthy self-esteem. She probably hasn’t given the term much thought. But I have thought about it a lot over the years, mainly because I have the time and energy to do so. When a military wife calls herself a “dependa”, she’s basically lumping herself in with a class of women who are assumed to be fat, uneducated, fertile slobs who are perpetually pregnant, sit on their asses all day, eat bon bons, watch daytime TV, and blow their husband’s paychecks on makeup or Coach bags. They are rumored to have married simply for Tricare benefits and have a tendency to try to “wear their husband’s rank”. And again– it’s almost always women/wives who are called “dependas”, even though many female servicemembers are married to men.

In all my years of living around military folks– first as a “brat” (another term that has come under fire, although not one I have an issue with, personally) and then as a “spouse”– I have run into very few true examples of the “dependa” stereotype. A lot of the women who marry into the military lifestyle are very strong, capable, independent, creative and smart people. Quite a few have been to college or even graduate school, and some– gasp– even have good jobs while they raise children! And then there are also wives who don’t work for money, but do a lot of volunteer work, or homeschool their children… or whatever. How they spend their time or resources is really no one else’s business, anyway, is it? That’s between the married couple, not some random person observing them at AAFES or the commissary.

There are several social media groups that are dedicated to shaming and making fun of so-called “dependas”. While it may seem like good, clean fun to take part in these groups, the fact is, sometimes they do things that are pretty questionable and have real consequences for others. For example, a few years ago, I read an article about a military wife whose Facebook photos were ripped off from her personal page and shared in a Facebook group, where perfect strangers proceeded to make fun of them. I seem to remember in one situation, a plus sized wife was wearing a bikini and dared to post it on her Facebook page. That bikini pic ended up on Dear Dependa, where people were having a field day laughing about them. In another situation, a family’s photos were stolen and posted, where they were ridiculed. Some of the pictures included children.

It later came to light that the person who had stolen the photos was an Army colonel and he had to be asked and later threatened with legal action to take down the photos. Here he was– a man entrusted to lead troops, serve as an example to younger, less experienced servicemembers, and make sure missions are accomplished– and he’s hunting the personal Facebook pages of military spouses, copying photos that aren’t his, and sharing them to Facebook groups, where they can be ridiculed. No wonder so many civilians think the military is full of braindead, uneducated thugs who get off on killing people. That’s not the actual case, by the way… I know plenty of smart, decent people in the military. But guys like that colonel, who engage in online bullying and harassment, don’t do a lot for the military’s image. How can a person like that be entrusted to be a good leader, responsible for expensive equipment and the lives of so many people?

While I know I won’t change anything by writing this post about why I think the term “dependent” and its derogatory bastardizations “dependapotamus”, “dependasaurus”, and “dependa” ought to go, I do think it’s sad that some people think it’s okay to refer to themselves in that way. I doubt many people think about it for long. I doubt the woman I ran into last night would have liked it if I had said something like, “So basically, you think of yourself as just a fat, unemployed, lazy, perpetually pregnant woman who leeches off her husband’s paycheck? Kudos to you for being able to read, at least.” Because, when she refers to herself as a “dependa”, she’s basically saying that the people who make fun of “dependas” should think of her in that way. Like it or not, “dependa” is a shortened version of insulting terms. It’s kind of like referring to oneself as a “bitch” or a “bastard” or something worse.

I want to ask some of these people what a so-called “dependa” could do to make themselves respectable…  Would they qualify as fellow human beings worthy of a modicum of regard if they lost some weight and got jobs at AAFES?  What about someone like me?  I am now a retiree’s wife.  Many would say I’m fat.  I don’t have a regularly paying job, but I write blogs and earn some money from that endeavor.  Am I worthy of respect?  Or would they call me a “dependa” simply because of my lifestyle? 

Ah, no matter.  I know I am worthy of respect.  Those who don’t want to give it to me aren’t worth the worry. And those who disrespect themselves by calling themselves “dependa” probably aren’t worth the worry, either. Particularly, when they don’t realize that they’re making things harder for themselves by seeing themselves in that way and emboldening bullies in the military community.

It IS true in my case that people who regularly use that term are not worth listening to for more than a minute. They’re usually the type of people who can’t stand smart, accomplished, intelligent, and articulate women, and they would just prefer it if anyone who doesn’t have a penis just shuts up and does what she’s told. I’m serious. There are some truly vile, misogynistic, abusive people in the military culture, and they don’t care about anyone or anything but themselves, despite the military “esprit de corps” ethos they are supposed to follow. They may seem alright on the surface, but once you spend any time talking to them, you find out they have little to no regard for anyone– particularly women.

And so, when a woman calls herself a “dependa” and actually defends her “right” to refer to herself in such a way, all I can do is shake my head in dismay. I just think it’s sad. Surely, she’s better than the “dependa” stereotype. Or, I would hope so… I would at least hope that, deep down, she thought of herself in kinder, more flattering terms. I would really hope she has more self-respect. The vast majority of military wives truly are worthy of, at the very least, self-respect and dignity. If you don’t have respect for yourself, it’s hard to ask others to have respect for you. Just something to think about… especially if you’re a military wife reading today’s post.

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disasters, expressions

Choosing the harder right over the easier wrong…

As a new week begins here in the land of perpetual lockdowns, my mind is on a heartbreaking opinion piece I just read in The Washington Post. A public health nurse practitioner, writer, and former Army Captain named Jackie Munn wrote about how her parents both contracted COVID-19 a few months ago. Munn’s father, a 28 year Army veteran, had tried to care for his ailing wife, Julie Anne Oeser, while he was himself ill. Unfortunately, Ms. Oeser’s condition deteriorated and she had to go to the hospital. She had initially resisted going, fearing that she wouldn’t come home. Sadly, she was right. On January 26, 2021, as many people were getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations, Julie Anne Oeser died. Her family stood around her bedside. She had spent 11 days in the intensive care unit, battling the novel coronavirus.

Jackie Munn is understandably very angry that she’s lost her mother, who was 62 years old and had “few preexisting conditions.” She writes that her family had “done its part” to fight COVID-19. Munn’s sisters, Jess and Jenn, are also in healthcare. Jenn works as an emergency room nurse in a hospital east of Los Angeles, California. Jess is a medical laboratory scientist at a Kansas City area hospital. Their parents had taken the pandemic seriously and followed all precautions, to include social distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing face masks. Both planned to be vaccinated, although Ms. Oeser died before she was able to take that step.

Jackie Munn writes, “…as a West Point graduate and combat veteran, I was taught that good leaders chose the harder right over the easier wrong.” She acknowledges that her father and older sister, both veterans like her, and been trained to do things that might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but serve the common good. And she’s understandably pissed off that so many Americans, many of whom were egged on by our former leader, Trump, have decided not to “do their part” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Birx speaks about the vaccines now available.

Munn blames Trump, of course, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx, who was herself an Army colonel and had been part of the COVID-19 task force in the Trump administration. She served as the COVID-19 Response Coordinator for Trump’s White House. Birx was recently in the news admitting that many COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if people had taken the virus more seriously and Trump had been a more responsible leader. I remember watching Deborah Birx on video, looking visibly uncomfortable as Trump spoke about COVID-19. She knew the truth, but unlike her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, she did not feel that she could say it out loud. She’s said that she had many “uncomfortable” discussions with Trump. My guess is that he threatened her.

She didn’t feel empowered to speak out during Trump’s reign. She says she should have been more outspoken.
These folks felt “muzzled” by Trump. Dr. Birx says that after the first 100,000 deaths, the subsequent carnage wrought by the virus could have been prevented.

Although I haven’t yet been personally affected by COVID-19, my heart goes out to Jackie Munn and the rest of her family. And yet, I also have some empathy for Dr. Birx. It’s easy for people to say she should have done more. They aren’t in the position she was in, and they weren’t directly dealing with a man like Trump, threatening, bullying, and browbeating them into doing his bidding. I can’t help but realize that Trump is a malignant narcissist, and if you’ve never had to deal with such a person, you have no idea how difficult it is not to bend to their will. They can be extremely convincing, even if they aren’t the U.S. POTUS… and when they are someone as powerful as Trump was, with many minions ready to carry out his wishes, it seems like an impossible situation to be in.

I don’t blame Dr. Birx for deciding to retire. I think it’s a shame that all of the legitimately good work she’s done over the course of her career, to include work in mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS, is going to be tarnished by her unfortunate connection with Trump. I think she was in a no win situation. I can see why it was so hard for her to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong,” even if doing so might have saved lives.

Naturally, I had to read the comments on Jackie Munn’s piece. It was a lot of the same polarized crap we’ve been reading for over a year now. Many people– I’d say maybe 85%– had nothing but condolences and commiseration to add to Munn’s piece. It really is a sad read, and it resonates with a lot of people. A few other people were obviously ignorant pro-Trump trolls, who are clearly belligerent and selfish. But I also noticed a few people whom I thought made sense being called “trolls” or angrily shouted down by the masses. Here are a couple of examples:

Those of you who “know” me, know that I’m not a fan of group think or echo chamber comments. So many people seem to want to pat themselves on the backs for doing the “right” thing, for the good of everyone else. I’ve seen so many self-congratulatory and outright pious comments from people who claim they have done everything correctly and figuratively spit on everyone they assume isn’t toeing the line created by the likes of Dr. Fauci. Don’t get me wrong. I admire Dr. Fauci’s work, and I think he’s a very smart man who knows what he’s talking about. He definitely knows a hell of a lot more than the average Internet user. I also agree that people should do their parts to control the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more rational discussion, rather than chastising and insulting perfect strangers online.

I had to quit reading the comments when I realized I’d started rooting for the people who were gamely taking on all of the arrogant lecturing and blaming done by those who are all about everyone being forced to do the “right” things. I am not a fan of forcing people to do right, especially when people take a black and white, zero tolerance view. There are always situations that require exceptions to the rules, and the people who require exceptions should have a chance to be heard without being screamed down by others. I don’t like to be the devil’s advocate myself, because I find dealing with the deluge of irritating comments from graduates of the Google School of Public Health too tiresome and ultimately pointless. But I do secretly cheer on those who take on these folks. Most of us can Google. Not all of us are going to come to the same conclusions. That should be okay. People should be allowed to share their thoughts and opinions if they want to, and the ones who make some sense should have their thoughts respectfully considered, even if their conclusions are eventually rejected.

I’m getting especially “prickly” when I see some all knower write something like “You do know that…” or “Pretty sure that…” or “And your medical/public health degree is from…” or “What about seatbelts and helmets…” I don’t think the COVID-19 situation is akin to the other safety measures enforced by law. Ms. Munn is obviously gutted that her mother has died. I can’t blame her for that. I don’t blame her for trying to place responsibility on other people, either. It’s only natural. But even if everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing, there’s a chance her mother still would have gotten sick. There may have been far less of chance, but the chance still existed.

Not everyone is going to get onboard with the new rules. Some people never will, no matter what we do. There’s a good chance those people won’t spread COVID-19, despite breaking the rules. On the other hand there’s a good chance they will. We don’t know who passed the virus to Jackie Munn’s mom, but we do know that it’s an extremely contagious bug, and even if someone does everything right, as Ms. Munn’s mom presumably did, people are still going to get sick, and some people are still going to die. Hopefully, with the advent of the new vaccines, those numbers will drop significantly.

I think it’s useless to point the finger at random people who aren’t doing what they’re told. Those people have their reasons for not cooperating. Maybe you and I think their reasons are stupid, but they obviously think they’re right. And unless we stop and talk to them and actually listen respectfully to what they have to say, they probably won’t cooperate, even if they’re dead wrong. How many random strangers are going to change their habits just because someone insulted them and left an angry comment? On the other hand, if we engage with them from a place of respect and decency, maybe we can come to a meeting of the minds. Maybe then, more people will “choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”

A few days ago, I got into a minor scuffle with some woman from Australia. Well, actually, she tried to start a scuffle with me. I ignored her, which probably pissed her off. Anyway, what happened was, I had read an article about a type of dermatitis that is being caused by mask wearing. Many people are getting perioral dermatitis and mistaking it for acne. The condition doesn’t clear up when they use acne remedies, and they have painful reactions, as their sensitive skin is abraded by constantly wearing the masks.

A woman posted that she was dealing with this condition herself. Thatโ€™s when Tiffany from Australia responded that she’s owned a medical practice for twenty years, has to wear masks, and just sucks it up and drives on. The original poster came back and reiterated that the dermatitis was actually very painful. Tiffany still had no empathy for her. She wrote that she has the dermatitis too, but she still does her part and masks up. Here’s a cookie, Tiffany.

Enjoy.

I was a bit disgusted by Tiffany’s lack of regard for this woman and her valid complaint. So I wrote, “You made a choice to go into healthcare, where masks are required. Most of the rest of us didn’t. It’s not nice to discount other people’s legitimate problems.” Several people agreed with me, and I got quite a few likes for that comment… not that I needed the likes. They just told me that I wasn’t the only one who found Tiffany’s “suck it up and drive on” attitude annoying.

Next thing I knew, I got a message that Tiffany wanted to “connect” with me. I discovered her message maybe an hour or so after that exchange. I had a feeling she was going to blast me privately. I didn’t read her whole message, but saw enough of it to know that she felt I had no right to call her out for her virtue signaling and she was telling me off in my PMs. The end of her message was, “Cat got your tongue?”

If had responded, I might have said, “I didn’t even realize you had messaged me until I saw my phone. I don’t get those notifications on an iPad. Moreover, your decision to PM me doesn’t require me to answer you. If you want to address me, you can do it publicly and respectfully. Otherwise, I have nothing more to say to you.” What I really would have liked to have said to her, and anyone else who PMs me uninvited and is abusive is, “We don’t know each other, so piss off!” In the end, I chose to ignore her completely, which probably left her feeling like the wind was let out of her sails.

I wonder how many people would like to get in on the discussion and have valid perspectives to add, but choose not to because of bullies like Tiffany who want to call them “babies” or tell them to get over themselves. Likewise, while I completely understand Jackie Munn’s anger, frustration, and outrage that she lost her mother at age 62, I don’t think issuing a blanket blame toward anyone who isn’t doing what she thinks they should be doing is productive. Would she be just as angry if her mom had gotten the flu and died? How about if her mom had had an accident? Would she have felt better if many more people were wearing masks and her mom still died of COVID-19? It’s possible that could have happened, too. The bottom line is, the situation Jackie Munn is in is terrible, and it seems unfair. But we’re in a pandemic, and people are going to die, just as they die in wars and other catastrophes. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t horrible and tragic– but unfortunately, blaming the world for her mom’s death isn’t going to bring her back from the dead.

Now… to wrap this up and get on with my day…

A few days ago, I wrote a protected post about a situation we’re in right now. It’s going to require some tough choices that may make things temporarily worse before they’re better. Or, they could make things permanently worse. And yet, Bill and I both know that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s something we should have done a long time ago. I was thinking of that situation when I read Jackie Munn’s words– the lesson she learned at West Point– “choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.” It’s so easy to turn a blind eye and let people get away with doing bad things. But in the long run, it can cost dearly.

I’m truly sorry about Jackie Munn’s loss. I absolutely appreciate all she and her sisters have done to fight COVID-19. I’m going to continue doing whatever I can to stop the spread. I stay home about 90% of the time and, on the very rare occasions when I do go places, I follow the rules. But unfortunately, I also know that the virus is very contagious, and some people can and will do everything right and still get COVID-19. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s fault when this happens, and I don’t think it’s helpful to blame others. It’s just a sad fact that until more people are fully vaccinated, people are going to get very sick, and some will die.

Yes, we should do all we can to reduce the numbers and cooperate for the common good. But there will be casualties regardless, and there will be heartbroken people who will suffer tremendous losses, no matter what they do. I also realize that I may very well be among those who will lose, as Bill and I anxiously await the vaccine ourselves. May God help us all.

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complaints, expressions, healthcare

That “Karen” stigma can actually be dangerous…

Good mornin’ y’all… it’s another day here in COVID-19 paradise. As much as I would like to escape the reality of the virus, it’s pretty much impossible if you read the news. And as you know, I read the news a lot.

I did play Sims 4 yesterday. It was the first time in months. I laugh at myself now, because when I lived in Germany the first time, from 07-09, I used to waste hours playing Sims 2. It kind of makes me sick to think about it, especially since those were the heady days before the COVID-19 plague hit us. I should have been out enjoying Europe instead of living in a fantasy world. In those days, I also wasn’t on social media and was spared a lot of drama… I also didn’t blog back then. Hmm… maybe it’s time I delved back into Sims life.

Anyway, on with today’s topic. I was going to write about how COVID-19 is starting to remind me of a bizarre BDSM themed novel. I was inspired by that thought when I read about how people in China are now getting their anuses forcibly swabbed to test for COVID-19. I first learned about this new phenomenon when one of Bill’s very right wing friends mentioned it. He heard about it on the radio, but now the news is making the rounds. Apparently, the virus lives longer in the anus than the respiratory tract, so anal swabbing for the common good is becoming a thing. Isn’t that just typical? COVID-19 is a pain in the ass… literally!

But think about it… we have lockdowns, extended isolation, forced face masks, which some people think look like gags, wristbands that monitor one’s movements to make sure they quarantine, and the overall stern attitude and tendency to lecture others that many people have adopted. It is a little kinky, particularly if you’re also in a car, wearing a seatbelt. And now, we have anal swabbing too? Not to mention all the latex gloves… and if you’ve spent any time around kinky people, you know that latex is a very popular thing in certain circles. I sure hope no one invents a COVID-19 PPE suit made of latex. When you’re as fluffy as I am, latex is not your friend. I’ll bet some people have gotten spankings over not properly masking, too. In fact, I bet someone’s written a dirty story or made a porn video about it.

I could go on about the BDSMification of COVID-19. In fact, I could probably have a lot of fun with that topic. But I’m not going to go any further with that right now, which I’m sure will disappoint the many secretly kinky readers among us (seriously, I get tons of hits on my posts about kinky stuff- especially the naked spas– even got one from Baghdad today). Instead, I want to trot out one of my tired old topics… that much maligned insult, “Karen”.

I have repeatedly written about how much I despise the trend of hijacking people’s names and turning them into pejoratives. I have even been bold enough to state it out loud a few times. I often get a bunch of shit from other people, who think it’s their right to use perfectly good first names that were popular years ago to insult others. As I wrote yesterday, a lot of people refuse to think beyond the box, so they won’t consider why calling someone a “Karen” could be a really bad thing. They will simply insist that the “Karen” pejorative is here to stay and it’s their right to use it instead of coming up with something more original and clever on their own. And the end result is that now, lots of people live in fear of being labeled a “Karen”, which in the era of COVID-19 can be a deadly mistake.

Consider today’s article from Dr. James Hamblin, a medical doctor who is also a staff writer for The Atlantic. Besides being a physician, Hamblin is also a public health lecturer for Yale University’s School of Public Health. I ran across his advice column this morning as I was drinking my coffee. It was about a letter he got from a woman from Georgia with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. She writes that the lady who runs the drive in pharmacy where she picks up her medications refuses to wear a mask properly. She wants to say something to the technician, but doesn’t want to be labeled a “Karen”. She asks how she should confront this situation.

Dr. Hamblin’s response is a bit long-winded… and, in fact, annoyed me quite a bit. He writes about how masks are supposed to be a show of empathy and unity, as well as acting as a medical device. Personally, I’ve about had it with people who want to preach about empathy and unity when it comes to wearing face masks. Given what happened at our Capitol a couple of weeks ago, I think promoting mask wearing as a way of showing people how “nice” you are is kind of misguided and pathetic. I’m sure a lot of the maskless people who stormed the Capitol are perfectly nice folks when they aren’t breaking the law for Donald Trump. I really mean that. There’s no telling what gets someone so upset that they decide to storm the Capitol. Some of the protestors were clearly bad actors, but a lot of them were probably normal folks who were simply misguided and misinformed. Many Trump fans truly are basically good people. Conversely, there are lots of liberals who are legitimate jerks. Believe me; I’ve met them. I disagree with the idea that whether or not a person is wearing a mask is a direct measure of their quality as a person, and I refuse to get on that particular bandwagon.

I think people should simply wear masks to slow the spread of the disease. I prefer to leave the preachy platitudes and moral judgments about them out of it. A person can be a perfect asshole and yet wear a face mask without complaint. Or, a person can be sweet, generous, and loving, and not want to wear a mask for whatever reason. I don’t see it as having much to do with the type of person someone is… it’s just something we’re doing for now, and I can definitely do without the lectures on morality or assumptions about a person’s character. As long as the person complies with the rules, what difference does it make? And if they don’t comply, I’m more likely to just get the hell away from them, if I can.

I took a look at the Facebook comments on this post, and ran across several responses from people who do NOT want to be called “Karens” and, in fact, are so afraid of being labeled as such that they don’t say or do anything when someone is breaking the rules. I’m going to be honest and say that there are times when I don’t mind speaking up when something isn’t right. There are other times when I don’t bother. Scratch that. There are MANY times when I don’t bother. Confronting people is often exhausting and futile at best, and in the United States, it can actually be very dangerous. You never know who’s unhinged and packing heat or looking for a fight.

One woman wrote that last summer, she’d politely asked someone at the grocery store to pull up her mask so she could get around her. She claimed that at the time, she had been taking care of her father, who was then very ill and, in fact, recently passed away of Parkinson’s Disease. But, the commenter wrote that instead of politely pulling up her mask and letting the commenter get around her, the maskless woman then went ballistic and complained about her to the store manager. She claims that the maskless woman “told a bunch of lies”. The manager then called the police, who confronted the commenter as she was trying to drive away. Now, the commenter laments, her name is permanently logged on a police record, all because she’d decided to speak up at the grocery store. And, to add insult to injury, the police officer who approached her also wasn’t masked. It would seem to me that this story is one that might discourage someone from being confrontational about masks.

Lots of people were telling this lady to “lawyer up”. I thought that was funny, since people don’t seem to realize that lawyers cost lots of money, and unless there is money to be made, suing someone is a lot of stress and expense for, perhaps, not the greatest payoff. I will admit that it was satisfying for us to sue our ex landlady. She blatantly ripped us off and needed a knot jerked in her, because I suspect she’s done it to other people. But Germany’s legal system is more reasonably priced than America’s is, and you can get legal insurance here to defray the cost (although it’s still expensive). Also, I have my doubts that the commenter’s account may not have been entirely truthful. Let’s face it. When someone relates a story, it’s often embellished to put the storyteller in the best light. The situation she described made it sound like she was the only rational one involved. Maybe it happened exactly the way she reports it, but I have my doubts.

There were a lot of other responses from people who wrote that confronting people over mask wearing is not really “Karen” behavior. And I would tend to agree with that. However, enough people obviously think of being confrontational in any situation as being entitled and annoying– in short, being a “Karen”. The definition of a “Karen” is a middle-aged, usually white woman who is overly demanding and complains a lot. And given how polarized people are over face masks, and the fact that many Americans, as a whole, don’t like to be confrontational or considered high maintenance, the threat of being labeled a “Karen” could deter them from doing the “right” thing. What you consider the “right” thing to do, in this situation, depends on who you are.

It’s true that hanging around someone who isn’t masked could potentially be very dangerous, so it’s not unreasonable to speak up. On the other hand, I can also understand why many people would prefer not to. No one wants to end up on the news or YouTube for a situation like that. And even if some people don’t think speaking up about improperly worn face masks is stepping into “Karen” territory, not everyone will agree that it isn’t. Some people would prefer to avoid the temporary drama, potentially at their own peril.

I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back that in this situation, I think I would simply find a new pharmacy, or barring that, I would get my meds through the mail. Since I have Tricare insurance, getting regularly dispensed meds by mail is probably the way I’d get them regardless. It’s cheaper, and the military/government prefers to do it that way. I might, or might not, send a letter or email to the pharmacy explaining why I moved my business elsewhere. The reason I wouldn’t automatically do it is because the pandemic has been going on now for about a year and if people haven’t gotten the message about masks yet, a complaint from me probably won’t make that much of a difference. The original letter writer for The Atlantic’s article mentioned that she lived in a small town in Georgia. It does occur to me that maybe there aren’t other pharmacies. Or maybe no one in that town cares about masks. Either way, if the pharmacy tech hasn’t yet been confronted by her boss, there’s a good chance that complaining probably won’t change her behavior.

I have never used a drive in pharmacy myself. Are they like drive in tellers? If so, is the technician even in direct contact with anyone? Wouldn’t you be staying in your vehicle anyway? Is it like getting food from a fast food place? Or is it more like making a deposit at a bank? If it’s like getting food, I could see why not wearing a mask is problematic. If it’s like going to the bank, it would seem like it’s less so, since banks have drawers and/or canisters that they put the stuff into.

I agree, wearing a mask is the right thing to do in a healthcare setting, to include pharmacies, where you would be coming into contact with sick people. But it seems to me that a technician alone in a room dispensing medications maskless might be less risky than working the desk in a store, where people are coming up to pay and pick up their prescriptions perhaps without benefit of a window. I don’t know. I mean, yes, the germs can aerosol into the air and land on things, but that’s probably happening anyway.

However, I also know that many people feel better when they see others properly wearing a face mask. And conversely, many people hate the fucking things and are creeped out by them. I would imagine that in Georgia, more people are creeped out by them than not. I base that on having lived in somewhat rural Georgia for a relatively short spell. Nice people, but they don’t want to be told what to do. I can’t blame them for that, even though I’m smart enough to know that the fucking plague isn’t going to go away if we just ignore it. Personally, my solution is just to avoid people as much as possible, but I know not everyone can do that.

Anyway… this post has gone on long enough. I’m rambling like Dr. Hamblin. I’ll close by saying that I’m happy to be weathering this particular storm in Germany, where people are more sensible and there are fewer guns. And no one calls anyone “Karen” unless it’s their name… Fun fact, in Armenia, almost all Karens are men. Know why? Because in Armenia, Karen (pronounced Car-en) is a masculine name. Now you’ve learned something new and useful! Have a great day, and try to avoid being anal swabbed!

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