book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A look at Linda Gray’s The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction

Here’s an as/is repost of a book review I wrote for my original blog. It appeared on February 6, 2017. I was reminded to repost this review after watching The Love Boat, yesterday. Juliet Prowse was a guest star and they showed off her fabulous legs. I was reminded of Linda Gray, writing about her “stems”.

Lately, I’ve been watching old episodes of Dallas.  They offer a flashback to my youth, a time when I didn’t care about things like politics.  I was very young when Dallas first started airing and a young woman when it finally went off the air.  So, I guess for that reason, Dallas is a comfort.

Many people know that actress Linda Gray played a pivotal role on Dallas.  She was Sue Ellen Ewing, J.R. Ewing’s long suffering alcoholic wife.  Later, Gray starred in Models Inc., an Aaron Spelling spin off of the 90s hit Melrose Place, which was itself a spin off of Beverly Hills 90210.  Models Inc. flopped and was cancelled after one season.  But in 2012, a reboot of Dallas came along and Gray was able to be Sue Ellen again for three seasons.

I like life stories, so that’s probably why I decided to download Gray’s 2015 book, The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction.  I finally got around to reading it and finished it yesterday while in my sick bed.  It’s basically Linda Gray’s life story mixed with the odd recipe, cute anecdotes, and Gray’s self help philosophies.  I understand the book was written to commemorate Gray’s 75th birthday.  She still looks good.

I learned some new things when I read this book.  I never knew that Gray had polio when she was a child.  She spent several months in bed and almost ended up in an iron lung.  Fortunately, that treatment ultimately wasn’t indicated and Gray eventually recovered.  Gray is also the daughter of an alcoholic.  Her mother, who was apparently a very talented artist with a great sense of style, drank to numb the boredom of simply being a wife and a mother.  I’m sure growing up with an alcoholic mother gave Gray some cues as to how she should play alcoholic Sue Ellen.

There are a few anecdotes about Dallas, as well as a couple of funny stories about Larry Hagman, who was one of Gray’s dearest friends.  Gray also writes about how she came to capture the part of Sue Ellen.  Although she’d been a model and commercial actress for years, at the time she got her big break, she was married, 38 years old, and the mother of two kids rapidly approaching adolescence.  Her husband had not wanted her to work, but Gray was finding life as a housewife unfulfilling and boring.  She went against her husband’s wishes and soon became a star.  The marriage fell apart, but Gray finally found a purpose other than being a mother and a housewife.  She thrived.

I did take notice when California born and bred Gray wrote about learning how to speak like a rich woman from Dallas.  She writes that she met Dolly Parton, who told her to just emulate her.  Gray said Dolly didn’t sound “Texan”.  She asked Dolly where she was from and claims Dolly said “Georgia”.  Um…  Dolly Parton is not from Georgia!  She’s from Tennessee!  I guess Gray isn’t a fan of country music.  Gray ended up finding a voice coach who taught her some tricks.  She also hung out at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas a lot, to see how rich women from Dallas behaved.

I mostly enjoyed Gray’s book.  It looks like she wrote it herself, with no help from a ghost writer.  I think she did a fairly good job, although there are a few small snafus like the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph.  I liked that Gray came across as very normal and approachable. 

On the other hand, toward the end of the book, she offers some advice to her readers that I don’t think she herself takes.  For instance, she writes about how off putting it is when people brag.  She kind of does some bragging herself.  Not that I wouldn’t have expected her to brag somewhat; she is a famous actress who has had an unusual life.  But it does seem disingenuous when an actress tells her readers about how annoying she finds braggarts right after she writes about her “come hither” eyes and “amazing stems” (legs).  Acting is not exactly a profession for people who aren’t a little bit self-absorbed (although I am sure there are exceptions).  Self help advice from a celebrity often rings hollow anyway.  A little bit goes a long way. 

At the end of the book there are pictures.  Many of them are too small to see, at least on an iPad. 

I probably could have done without the self help sections, with the exception of Gray’s life “principles”, which were cleverly conceived and included funny anecdotes.  She also includes a couple of recipes– one for a conditioner she uses on her hair and another for some kind of meat pie she made for her kids, which doesn’t seem to jibe with her advice to eat clean.

I give this book 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.  It’s not bad, and parts are interesting and enjoyable.  But self help advice usually puts me off, anyway.

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Duggars, Reality TV, religion

The Duggars are… done?

I woke up to the news that TLC is finally canceling the Duggars. That means no more Counting On. No more sneaky attempts by Jim Bob and his wife, Michelle, to get on camera and hijack what was supposed to be a reality show about his adult children who haven’t committed crimes. No more babies being born on toilets. No more contrived honeymoons to foreign countries, where the whole storyline centers around how “different” the Duggars are. No more over the top baby gender reveals. It’s about time.

What took them so long?

To be honest, the Duggars have been on TV for an astonishingly long time… and it’s high time they hightailed it off into the sunset. Even if Josh Duggar wasn’t a notorious sex pest, the Duggar time in the spotlight of reality TV should have been over some time ago. I quit watching their show several years ago, not necessarily because of Josh, but because it had become really boring. It was a lot of lathering, rinsing, and repeating. I’m sure a lot of the people on the show– Boob’s children and their spouses– who evidently weren’t even being paid for their work– will be glad to be able to do their own things off camera.

My guess is that Jeremy and Jinger will be glad to be done with the show. Now he can work on becoming the next Joel Osteen.

I read that Josh’s child pornography trial has also been postponed. It was supposed to begin on July 6th, but now it’s slated to start in late November. I guess that will be enough time for him to be around to see his seventh child being born. With any luck, he won’t have time to impregnate Anna again before he goes to trial and likely ends up in prison. Another baby is the last thing Anna would need. But I would not put it past Josh to try to make one more baby… Someone as narcissistic as he is no doubt thinks the world needs more of his progeny running around.

I’m sure Jim Boob is now thinking of new ways to be rich and famous, as he looks for experts to help his son beat his child porn charges. Even if Josh doesn’t go to prison– and I think he will, but I’ve learned never to “count on” what seems obvious– I suspect his life may be pretty much over. His reputation is ruined. There are some people in the fundie Christian world who might manage to overlook his past, but a whole lot of other people will never be able to forgive and forget what he’s been accused of doing, even in the highly unlikely event that he’s proven innocent.

I feel badly for Josh’s kids. Those poor souls never had a choice. It won’t be easy for them, growing up in the fundie Christian cult with their father locked up in prison. They will always be associated with him, no matter what. They probably love their dad, despite what he’s allegedly done and what he’s openly admitted to doing.

See this smirk? He probably isn’t hurting like his loved ones are.

I think this is something that a lot of people don’t think about in these situations… that predators may be the worst sorts of people, but there’s usually someone out there who loves them anyway. I’m sure Josh’s mother loves him. It looks like Jim Bob does, too. And he has a wife who is standing by him, and all those kids… The rest of the world may think he’s just the lowest form of turd, but there are people in his life who don’t see him the way others do. And those people are going to suffer for this. They’ll probably suffer more than Josh will. Josh doesn’t seem to be taking this very seriously. See the above pic for evidence.

I guess this Duggar situation is one reason why I’m not so tough on the Plath family, another large family that has been profiled on TLC. I mentioned the Plaths on Facebook yesterday, and someone mentioned how “cruel” the parents are to their kids. Honestly, I watched all of the episodes over the past couple of days. I didn’t come away with that much disdain for Kim and Barry Plath. I mean, sure, I don’t agree with their parenting decisions. I think Kim seems a bit closed off emotionally. Barry is a bit smarmy. But I don’t see them nearly as controlling or egregiously offensive as the Duggars often are. And at least Kim has an excuse. She grew up with the chaos of an alcoholic single mom and later lost a child to a terrible accident.

In one episode, Kim Plath mentioned that as a child of an alcoholic, she’d learned to “manage her emotions”. I know what she writes of, although I wasn’t very successful at that myself. She also mentioned being a partier in college, driving drunk and, by the grace of God, not getting in any accidents. I think it’s possible that if she hadn’t quit drinking, she would have ended up like her mother. Many children of alcoholics become alcoholics, marry them, or turn into control freaks. I’ve also witnessed in my own family people trading alcohol for something else. In Kim’s case, maybe it was religion. I have a cousin who quit drinking and turned into a gun toting, right-wing, Christian zealot. I can barely stand to talk to him anymore, and he used to be one of my favorite relatives. He’s become so smug and self-righteous. I’ll bet he’d love a flag like the one pictured below.

A screenshot of a Trump rally going on this week. Some people still think Trump is the president.

I watched the Plaths over the past couple of days. Unlike a lot of viewers, I feel like I saw both sides of the situation. Most of the kids were complaining about how tough the parents were on them, not educating them and preparing them for the world. But from what I see, the kids are doing quite well. Not a single one of them is a skid row drunk or drug addict. They all appear to be employed beyond the TLC show, launching their own lives as they see fit, and not being forced to work for the family business, as the Duggar children seem to be. Once they become 18, they are encouraged to get out and live life. I think that’s healthier than what we see with the Duggars, with all the adult kids living close by, often in properties owned by Jim Bob. Those who buck the system get ostracized by Boob. In the Plath family, it looks like the children are deciding to go “no contact”. Also… Boob protects his sex pest son, Josh, but doesn’t protect one of Josh’s victims, Jill. That’s way fucked up.

Now… in saying all of this, I’m not trying to be a Plath booster. Again– I see issues from both sides. I can understand why Kim Plath wouldn’t want her youngest children around people who seem hostile toward her. She’s still their mom, and she has to live with them. The youngest kids are not old enough to be kicked out of the house, as Micah and Moriah have been. And again, while I don’t agree with the fundie lifestyle, I do think parents should be allowed to raise their children the way they want to, as long as there’s no egregious abuse involved. And, of course, we all need to remember that if the Plaths weren’t a bit dysfunctional, they wouldn’t be on TV. If Kim Plath was an awesome mom who shits sunshine and flowers, they wouldn’t have a show. People tune in to see the strife. So we should all remember that… that dysfunction and apparent “cruelty” is what keeps people watching and the money rolling.

And I can also understand why Ethan and Olivia were hurt when they were told they couldn’t be around Ethan’s siblings unsupervised. It’s hurtful to have your parents not trust you, especially when you haven’t done anything criminal. Ethan and Olivia are just evolving into “regular” people. The Plath parents would do well to realize that this is going to happen with all of the children as they grow up. The vast majority of them are probably not going to follow the same path their parents have. That’s part of growing up– making your own choices. On another note, I also empathize with Olivia feeling disliked by Kim. I don’t think Bill’s stepmother likes me very much, even though I’m not nearly as abusive as Ex is. On the other hand, lots of people don’t like me… I figure that’s their problem.

For whatever it’s worth, Kim does seem to have a lovely relationship with her daughter, Lydia. Lydia, seems to be the type of person who goes along to get along. Personally, I think she’s my favorite on that show. I think she’s the prettiest, too. She just seems so kind and caring, as well as naturally beautiful. She’s probably the Jana Duggar of the Plath family. 😉 Seems like every large family has at least one person who is ultra responsible and mature. It’s usually the oldest who’s like that, but I think Ethan appears to be a lot less mature than his sister, Lydia, is… and she’s several years younger than Ethan is.

Anyway… I wouldn’t be broken-hearted if the Plaths have another season, although I don’t see them going on for years, as the Duggars have. I wouldn’t want them to do that. I think they’re wise enough not to try to do that, although I could be wrong.

Being on reality TV is probably a bit like gambling. It’s best to quit while you’re ahead. The Duggars should have been done years ago. They should have been done before 2015, when revelations about what a creep Josh is initially came to light. But no… Jim Bob had to keep the money, fame, and attention whoring going, and now he and Michelle and the rest of the clan are going to pay a terrible price as they likely watch their eldest trudge off to prison in cuffs and shackles. I think that’s probably the most appropriate thing to happen… but it does make me sad to see it. It makes me sad to see anyone being sent to prison, even if they absolutely deserve it. I think languishing behind bars is a terrible fate, particularly for those who have any potential whatsoever. That doesn’t mean I sympathize with Josh. It means that I know he’s a human being, despite his habit of doing terrible things. And I do empathize with all of those who love him and will be watching as he faces justice. Especially, his children... who have all of my sympathy.

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true crime, Virginia

Repost: The Colonial Parkway murders… and a near miss on the Parkway for me…

I am planning to write some fresh content today, but I wanted to repost this piece I wrote on March 23, 2015. It’s here “as/is”. I think it will be interesting to people who know the Williamsburg/Yorktown/Gloucester areas in Virginia, as well as those who knew me when I was young.

Today’s post is inspired by an article I just read in the Huffington Post…  The featured photo is a picture from the National Park Service of the Parkway in spring…

I have mentioned before that I grew up in Gloucester, Virginia, not too far from Williamsburg and Yorktown.  I spent much of my young life traveling on what is known as the Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile stretch of scenic road between Yorktown and Jamestown.  As a kid, I’d ride with my mom on the Parkway to get to Williamsburg.  We often went there to go shopping or stop by the Naval Weapons Station, which used to have a small commissary my mom favored over the larger ones at Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base.  It’s a beautiful drive.  I actually enjoyed making that drive when I was younger and had jobs in Williamsburg, though sometimes I would take an alternate route just to shake things up a bit.

I grew up in the 1980s.  During that time period, there was a series of murders that took place on the Colonial Parkway.  The first one happened in 1986, when I was fourteen years old.  The two victims, 27 year old Cathleen Marian Thomas, and 21 year old Rebecca Ann Dowski were last seen hanging out in a computer lab with friends at the College of William and Mary.  Three days later, a jogger on the Colonial Parkway spotted Thomas’s car on the edge of an embankment.  The women had been strangled and their throats were cut.  The killer was never found.

As time passed, there were more murders.  I’m not going to detail them in this blog post because you can read the article I linked for more accurate information than I can possibly offer.  I will mention one other pair that were killed because I remember them the best.  On April 9, 1988 20 year old Richard “Keith” Call and 18 year old Cassandra Lee Hailey went out on their first date.  They were both students at what is now Christopher Newport University.  They disappeared after that fateful first date and haven’t been seen since.  They are presumed to have been victims of the Colonial Parkway killer.

I believe Keith Call was from Gloucester, so I remember hearing more about him and Cassandra Hailey than the other victims.  I remember seeing the posters asking for information about their whereabouts.  That same year in Gloucester, a teenager named Laurie Ann Powell was also reported as missing.  She was a graduate of my high school and was last seen alive on March 8, 1988.  She was found in the James River April 2, 1988.  I remember there were posters on the walls at my school about her, too.  I remember reading her “senior will” in the Dukes Dispatch school newspaper and thinking how eerie it was.  She had written this memorial to her high school days, not knowing that she wouldn’t have many days beyond high school.  I never knew her because she was a few years ahead of me.  Over twenty-five years later, the murders still haven’t been solved.  The killer(s) must either be dead or locked up somewhere, since as of around 1989, the murders seem to have stopped.

It never occurred to me to be afraid to drive on the Colonial Parkway.  I did it all the time.  I remember having a job in Williamsburg and my boss– a woman I couldn’t stand and who likewise couldn’t stand me– used to scold me for driving that way to work.  Coming from Gloucester and needing to get to the part of Williamsburg where I was working, the Colonial Parkway was the quickest and easiest route.  And again, it was (and still is) a very lovely drive.  Fortunately, I never broke down on it, though I did end up in a very scary situation once that involved the Parkway.

I’m about to veer off topic a little bit, since this incident has nothing to do with the Parkway murders.  It does have to do with a sleazy person, though, who scared the shit out of me while driving on the Colonial Parkway.

From late September 1997 until mid August 1999, I lived with my parents in Gloucester County.  I was fresh from the Peace Corps and dealing with some rather serious depression and anxiety issues.  Because my father was an alcoholic and we didn’t get along, I needed support.  At my mother’s suggestion, I started attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings in Williamsburg.

The meetings were held every Wednesday night at a large Methodist church near the College of William and Mary.  I looked forward to attending the meetings because most of the people who regularly showed up were nice folks and it was helpful to talk with them.  One of the guys in it actually hooked me up with the therapist who helped me get over depression.  Because he had issues with depression and ADD, this guy knew all the shrinks in the Williamsburg area and said Dr. Coe was the best.  I have long since lost touch with the guy who recommended Dr. Coe, but Dr. Coe is now my friend rather than my shrink.  At the very least, I will always be grateful to ACOA for that connection.  

There was a guy named Peter who used to attend the ACOA meetings.  Peter lived in Surry, which is a community not far from Williamsburg, but in order to get there efficiently, he had to take a ferry across the James River.  He was a swarthy guy with dark curly hair and luminous hazel-brown eyes.  I don’t know what his ethnicity was, but I would guess he was of Italian or Greek descent.  Perhaps he had gypsy blood.  He wasn’t bad looking, but my initial impressions of him were not positive. 

I didn’t like Peter.  He used to make fun of me and harass me during the meetings.  I didn’t think he liked me; but in retrospect, he must have thought I was somewhat attractive.  His way of showing his “attraction” was to be annoying, snarky, and critical.  One time, he looked in the front seat of my car at some books I had picked up at the library.  One of the books I had borrowed was called Sex For Dummies.  He thought that was funny and felt the need to make rude comments about it.

After awhile, he either became less obnoxious or I got used to him.  For awhile, I didn’t dislike him as much as I had.  I even started bantering with him.  Though he had a lot of baggage owing to being raised by an alcoholic, he would tell us interesting stories about his plans to build a house out of straw.  Eventually, he hooked up with some woman and they had a baby girl, though they never got married.  I remember one night, they came to the restaurant where I was working and had dessert on the terrace.  I think I even waited on them.

In August 1999, I went to grad school.  I came back home for fall break.  A male friend of mine from college was in Williamsburg for a teacher’s conference, so we made plans to get together.  It was a Wednesday night, which was also the night of ACOA meetings.  I decided to stop by and see old friends I knew from that group, then meet my old college friend at his hotel room. 

Well, it turned out that night, ACOA was cancelled.  Since I no longer lived in the area, I didn’t know.  Peter also didn’t get the message.  He showed up at the church and we sat around and talked for awhile.  He made a comment about how “good” I was looking.  I had lost a lot of weight working at a restaurant in Williamsburg and hadn’t yet had time to regain it at school.  He asked me if I wanted to go see his baby. 

In retrospect, I should have said no.  My friend was waiting for me and, honestly, I didn’t even like Peter that much.  But we were getting along and, for whatever reason, I was curious about his baby.  I guess I also didn’t want to be rude.  He and his girlfriend had broken up, but she allowed him liberal visitation.  He called her and said he was coming over to see the baby and she agreed.

I stupidly let Peter drive me in his truck rather than following him in my own car.  We went to the ex girlfriend’s house and saw the baby.  The ex girlfriend was noticeably tense and seemed upset with Peter.  I seem to remember her telling him he was a jerk.  I paid little mind to it.  The baby was really cute and I was entertained by watching Peter thrill her by holding her up high and twirling her around.  The baby seemed to enjoy Peter’s roller coaster moves and responded by smiling and laughing.  She had Peter’s eyes and coloring.  She has probably grown up to be very exotic looking.

After our visit with the baby, we got back in Peter’s truck.  We were chatting casually.  I was telling him about school.  I expected him to take me back to the church.  He headed for the Parkway instead.  I told him I needed to get back because my friend was waiting for me.  He said he thought maybe I could blow off my friend.  I insisted that I wanted to get back.  He said he wanted to “hold me” for awhile.       

Suddenly, my brain was crystal clear.  I somehow managed to stay cool as I insisted that he take me back to the church so I could get my car and go.  I reiterated that my friend was expecting me and would call the police if I didn’t show up.  Now, in truth, I doubt my friend would have called the cops.  He probably would have worried, but ultimately might have thought I had simply stood him up.  However, he also knew I wasn’t the kind of person to stand people up, especially him.  He was one of my best friends. 

I sternly informed Peter that if I didn’t show up for our appointment, my friend would be looking for me.  All Peter knew was that my friend was a guy.  He may have even figured my friend could beat the shit out of him.

Peter argued with me, then started lecturing me about how I let other people control me.  What was the harm in blowing off my old friend and having a little fun with him in his truck?  I thought that was a pretty rich comment, since I had made it clear that I didn’t want to be with him in the way he was suggesting.  Indeed, it was obvious he was upset because I wasn’t allowing him to control me.  Fortunately, my tone of voice convinced Peter that he needed to do what I said.  He finally took me back to my car and I will never forget the overwhelming sense of relief I felt when I was no longer in his truck with him.  I swear, I felt like I was about to shit my pants.  I was petrified.

I remember being polite to Peter as we said goodbye.  Then I went to see my friend.  I was really shaken up and upset.  We tried to go out, but I was too freaked out to enjoy the evening.  Later, I was really pissed off.  I have mentioned before that I have never been much of a dater and I don’t generally attract abusive people.  Most of the guys who have liked me are nice to a fault.  Peter didn’t like me.  He saw me as someone he could talk into fucking him.  He was a colossal asshole.

Not long after that incident, I visited friends at the restaurant where I had once worked.  I was pretty shocked when I saw Peter on the waitstaff.  He didn’t last long, though.  He came over to say hi to me.  I am sure he could see it written all over my face how much I despised him for what he tried to do.  Perhaps he didn’t have any criminal intentions toward me, but he showed extreme disrespect.  And it’s that experience, not the Parkway murders, that makes me think less of the pretty 23 mile drive.  I haven’t been to another ACOA meeting since. 

I wonder if Peter’s ex girlfriend continued to be so liberal about letting him visit their baby.  That girl is now a teenager.  Hopefully, Peter wasn’t a terrible father to her and my instincts about him were wrong.  I can’t help but feel sorry for his ex girlfriend, though.  I would hate to have a child with a man like Peter.  Clearly, he was aptly named, too.  

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communication, racism

Getting a grip with the “super woke”…

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this morning. My mind was a bit fuzzy after having been awakened at 4:00am by Arran, the barfing beagle. Actually, all he did was retch a bit. He was hungry, so Bill fed him and all was well. I was annoyed, though, because the retching woke me from a pleasant dream. And when I woke up and got out of bed, I wasn’t as “woke” as I could have been. 😉

I started reading The Washington Post, as usual, and sure enough, found myself a topic. It came from an article about Vietnamese tenants in Manhattan who received an official letter from a city worker addressing them as “Chin Chong”. Included with the article was a photo of the correspondence– a window envelope with the words “Chin Chong” visible.

Apparently, this all started when an older White man came to check on the heating and water at Duc Pham’s New York City apartment. Pham said he seemed “polite and professional”, and took down the floor and apartment number but did not ask for names. Last week, Pham’s roommate woke him to show him a follow up letter sent by the city addressed to “CHIN CHONG”. Pham and his roommates are all Vietnamese.

So Pham did what everyone seems to do nowadays when they get offended. He posted the offending correspondence on social media. That action led the city housing authority to issue an apology. Further, an employee was suspended without pay, and the authority has launched an investigation into the matter. Given the recent uptick in racism against Asians in the United States, to include racially based attacks on Asian citizens, scapegoating Asians for the pandemic, and the deadly shootings at three Asian-run spas in the Atlanta area, this case is especially newsworthy and troubling.

Now… when I saw the words “Chin Chong”, I knew they were offensive. But I’m just one person. As I read the comments for this article, I came across one written by a guy named Bruce, who says he’s 67 years old and has never encountered the term “Chin Chong”. He wrote:

I am not trying to start a fight here, but I am 67, I have lived in or near NYC all my life, and I have never heard this phrase, and would not have known what it referred to.

Bruce was immediately taken to task for this comment by a woman named Michele, who wrote:

…you understand that the absence of you never having heard it doesn’t in any way negate it’s existence and the experience of those it’s directed towards? You understand that this statement is an example of minimizing and a microagression, yes? Finally you understand that stating “I am not trying to start a fight” isn’t a blanket excuse to say something so utterly nonsensical in the discussion correct?

A long thread ensued in which they went back and forth with each other. Honestly, I don’t see anything in Bruce’s initial comment that indicates any kind of micro-aggression on his part. Maybe, at most, Bruce’s comment just seems obtuse. Obviously, Pham and his roommates were offended by being called “Chin Chong”. Perhaps Bruce could have Googled the term, rather than asking about it on The Washington Post. I haven’t looked yet, but I’ll bet Urban Dictionary has it defined… Actually, in Urban Dictionary, it’s “Ching Chong”, and it’s described as a pejorative used by English speakers to mock Asian languages, especially Chinese.

Okay… so it was Ting Tong vs. Ching Chong…

I’m 48 years old, at this writing, and I do remember hearing that slur used when I was a kid, both in England and the United States. Most recently, I heard it used on Little Britain, which was a British comedy show that often included skits that were kind of racist. That show aired some time ago– from 2003-07– and I read last year that the creators, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, have said they are “very sorry” for playing characters of other races. However, I don’t remember hearing that term used nearly as often as I have heard other racist epithets that will remain nameless. Moreover, I don’t know Bruce. Maybe he really hasn’t been exposed to that term. His question actually could have been innocent.

Anyway, before I knew it, I had read the whole thread. Below are the screenshots.

I won’t be surprised if someone accuses me of being a racist because I left the last comment. I don’t think what I wrote was racist. I simply don’t think that it’s necessary or helpful to attack people and make negative judgments about their characters simply based on a single comment on a news article. Granted, perhaps Bruce’s original comment was perhaps a bit “tone deaf”, but being tone deaf doesn’t make someone a racist. I gleaned a lot more about Michele from her aggressively “woke” comments than I did about Bruce. I haven’t looked at either of their profiles, but frankly, I would much rather have a conversation with Bruce than Michele, even if what she writes about him is 100 percent true… and I am not convinced that it is.

I know we’re living in challenging times. Racism is a huge problem worldwide, but especially in the United States. I understand that there are people who feel the need to “educate” others about it. A lot of them assume the mantle with gusto and go on full bore flame wars against anyone they perceive to be “insensitive” or unaware. I don’t think there is anything wrong with combatting racism. However, I do think that verbally attacking people– especially people you don’t know– is unhelpful in combatting racism.

Most people don’t like being publicly chastised or condescended to, especially when they truly meant no harm. While Michele obviously interprets Bruce’s comment as minimizing and “micro-aggressive”, to me, she comes off as openly aggressive, hostile, superior, and rude. I wouldn’t want to have a discussion with her, having witnessed that exchange. I think, if Michele’s goal is truly to defend the marginalized, she should change her approach to one that is less threatening.

I’ve mentioned this before in my blog, but I’m going to mention it again. I think there’s great value in the gentler approach. For some reason, Americans haven’t gotten the memo and feel like they have to aggressively denounce anyone who isn’t fully onboard the politically correct bandwagon. So they attack people– often total strangers– who post something that could or could not be construed as “offensive”. It’s one thing if someone posts something that is obviously belittling and nasty. It’s another, when something is only potentially so, and that could only be gauged by non-verbal cues that are simply unavailable in a written sense.

Maybe if Bruce and Michele had been speaking to each other in person, she could have concluded he was being offensive by his mannerisms or tone of voice. Or maybe if they’d had a recurring dialogue online, she could have more correctly gauged whether or not he was minimizing the plight of marginalized people. But I think it’s hard to accurately make those conclusions based entirely on the written words of a perfect stranger one has only encountered once in a lifetime. I didn’t get the sense that Bruce and Michele had ever met prior to that chance encounter on The Washington Post’s Facebook page.

I’ve found that gentle probing is good for finding out someone’s true intentions before you lower the boom on them, so to speak. To further illustrate what I mean, here’s an anecdote from my past. Back in the late 1990s, I attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I went, mainly because at the time, I was living with my parents and having to deal with my alcoholic dad, with whom I often clashed.

One time, a young, attractive woman who was studying massage therapy came to the meeting with some kind of putty. When it was her turn to speak, she told us about how she was learning how to treat the tough knots that plagued her clients. The putty was used as a training tool in that endeavor. She showed us how, if she attacked the putty aggressively, it wouldn’t yield to her touch. It would be resistant and rigid. But if she gently pressed it, the putty would slowly become more malleable and she could manipulate it with much more ease. She passed the putty around so we could experience it for ourselves. Ever since that presentation, I’ve thought of that lady with the putty whenever I witness someone aggressively attacking another person in a well-meaning attempt to do “good”.

I think this was the stuff she used.

If you want a more cliched idea about effecting change, there’s always that old saying, “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.” If you’re kind, understanding, and trying to see the other person in a good light in your approach, others may be more inclined to listen to you. Most people are normal, and don’t want to be hurtful or cruel to others. If they are not normal, you will eventually find that out if you maintain contact with them. At that point, you can change your approach accordingly. For most online interactions, you probably should consider trying to be somewhat reasonable and understanding… at least at first.

On the other hand, this is also true… And who wants to attract flies anyway, except maybe frogs or spiders?

I highly doubt “Bruce” and the others in that thread who were responding to Michele learned anything new in that exchange, other than Michele is not a very nice person. I also doubt her efforts to make them more “woke” had much of a positive effect on them. Instead of focusing on what she was trying to say– which I assume was well-meaning– they were being defensive and had focused on the aggressive nature of her communication to them. She may have felt better in being so direct and condescending, but I doubt that approach led to anything good. I was uncomfortable and offended reading it, and I wasn’t even part of the conversation until the very end. I forced myself to read the whole thing, but I’ll bet a lot of people chose not to read it. We’ve got enough reasons to be hurt, offended, or irritated these days.

I was glad to see some people defending Bruce in that thread. It’s not that I don’t think his comment was a bit obtuse. It kind of was. I just don’t think launching a full blown nuclear attack against him, posting to him like he’s stupid, and assuming bad things about his character is useful, particularly when all he did was ask a question. There really is a dearth of mutual respect in our society and it’s having a serious effect on freedom of speech as well as mutual understanding. Angrily attacking people just leads to more attacks. It isn’t helpful, and doesn’t teach anyone anything. However, I also understand that people get frustrated and feel the need to vent. I just think it’s better to take out those frustrations in another venue, rather than in a public forum with perfect strangers. (which doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes slip up myself)

As for Pham and his roommates, I am truly sorry that they had that experience with the city worker. I don’t know what it’s like to be Asian American, so I can’t personally relate to what they went through. But I’m willing to hear what they have to say and offer respect and kindness the best way I know how. I think everyone is deserving of at least that level of respect until they show the world that they’re not worthy. For example, Donald Trump has pretty much lost all of my respect, but that’s because he shows so little to anyone else. When it comes down to it, Bruce’s initial comment wasn’t, on its face, offensive. A “woke” stranger assigned a motive to him and attacked him, rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt. A more gentle probe, rather than an aggressive reprimand, would have likely been more effective and educational for everyone. Or, at least that’s my take… but again, I’m only one person.

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