family, healthcare

Instant karma’s gonna get you… UPDATED

Last night, Bill and I sat at our kitchen table, nervously watching the political headlines. We were sharing a laugh, because the other night, I got a private message from a relative who had commented on a picture I shared of our latest addition, Noyzi, the Balkan pandemic pup. He happened to be standing next to our booze cart when I took the photo and it was visible, so my relative added, “Wow, that’s quite a collection of booze, btw.”

I’m not sure how she expected me to respond to that comment. It’s true that we have a lot of booze on our booze cart, because Bill and I do like our libations. Moreover, my relative knows full well that in our family, there are a lot of drinkers, depressives, Republicans, and conservative Christians. She knows we’re not teetotalers. And how many bottles constitutes “quite a collection”, anyway? Two or three? I’d put them in a closet or a cabinet, but closets and cabinets are pretty rare in Germany unless you purchase them separately. Just having a lot of bottles of alcohol is not necessarily an indication of a problem, especially when a lot of them are still full or unopened, as is the case for us.

So, I decided to respond with a matter-of-fact “Yup. We are lushes.” I suppose if I really had wanted to be funny, I could have added this clip, for good measure. She wisely didn’t respond to my quip. I’m not sure if she was just surprised by my response, or got the message that she needed to mind her own business.

I do love my family, but this is really more me before a family gathering in which politics and religion are discussed.

I certainly don’t mean to make light of alcoholism. It’s not a laughing matter at all, and everyone in our family has been touched by alcoholism, even if most of us drink, anyway. But I think it’s rude to make pointed comments about the contents of a person’s booze cart, unless you’re complimenting it. Besides, a lot of the stuff on that cart is either a mixer or really old… or it’s a really old mixer. We have several bottles of stuff I bought about five years ago that probably need to be tossed, if only so we’ll have more space for stuff we’ll actually consume. In any case, our drinking habits are not really her business, particularly since I know she’s no angel in that department herself. At least neither Bill nor I have never been arrested or had a DUI.

So anyway, we were laughing about my relative’s comment and subsequent radio silence. Then, I decided to look up my cousin, who recently died. This relative who had been chatting with me had missed our cousin’s funeral, which had been posted on YouTube. By the way, I think that’s a great way to do funerals, even when a pandemic isn’t going on. I would not have been able to “attend” the funeral, if it hadn’t been videoed.

I thought the video was taken down, but I eventually found a link to the service and sent it my nosy relative. In the course of looking for the video, I noticed that my cousin had been journaling about her experiences with colon cancer. I decided to read her comments. The longest one was about her initial diagnosis. In her entry, she detailed how she found out that she had cancer. She mentioned that she had been experiencing pain for months, but blew it off. She had thought she was getting an ulcer, but neglected to see a doctor. Why? Because she didn’t have health insurance and was waiting for Medicare to kick in. One night, her body made it very clear to her that she was in serious trouble.

As I read her story, I felt a mixture of compassion, sorrow, empathy, and anger. Because as sad as I was to read about her diagnosis and suffering, I also couldn’t help but remember an “argument” we got into a few years ago on Facebook, when some friends and I were having a discussion about the extortionate prices of prescription drugs in the United States. I had initially written about that argument right after it happened in January 2016, when my cousin was still apparently “healthy”. She’d pissed off a bunch of my friends by lecturing us about how Big Pharma was poisoning people. We all just needed to eat right, exercise, and use essential oils. Then she proudly declared that she refused to get health insurance, opting instead to pay a fine. I thought that was crazy, and said so.

In May of last year, I found out that she’d been diagnosed with cancer and remembered that conversation from 2016 in an updated blog post. I knew that she didn’t agree with getting chemotherapy, since her parents had both had it when they got cancer. I can understand and respect that. I fully agree with people making their own healthcare decisions and living their lives. I also agree that many health conditions could be minimized or eliminated if people took better care of themselves, to the extent of their ability to do so. However, I also think it’s very irresponsible not to have health insurance if you can afford it. Nutrition, exercise, and essential oils will do little for you if you have an accident, a congenital disease or birth defect, or are just plain unlucky. And when you do need to access the healthcare system, as she eventually did, and most of us also will, your bad debt will be passed on to everyone else if you can’t pay your medical bills. And that will make healthcare cost even more across the board.

It’s true that our healthcare system is really screwed up and extremely overpriced. Health insurance is also very expensive. But we have to do something in order to make the necessary changes, and the Affordable Care Act, as screwed up as it is, is at least a step in a direction of some sort. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. I live in a country where healthcare doesn’t bankrupt people. It’s pretty damned nice!

I think if we had lawmakers who were actually concerned about serving the people instead of making names for themselves, lining their pockets, and staying in power, we might be well on our way to healthcare that everyone can access and afford when they need it. I get that conservatives don’t like it when the government taxes them or regulates businesses (which is what healthcare has become), but it’s gotten way out of hand in the United States. There’s a lot of greed in healthcare and it’s causing huge problems, particularly as people are dying of COVID-19 and healthcare providers and systems are being stretched to their limits.

Last night, I read about how my cousin had let her disease go unchecked for at least six months because she didn’t have health insurance and was waiting for Medicare to kick in. The dramatic event that led her to her sick role had occurred in May of 2019, but she’d had Medicare coverage since late October 2018. As of May of 2019, she’d experienced severe abdominal pain for over six months. Still, she’d ignored it, dismissing the pain as a potential ulcer until she was passing bright red blood rectally in the wee hours of the morning.

I’m actually surprised that my cousin agreed with using Medicare, since she was a proud Republican and a Trump supporter, and a lot of Republicans seem to think Medicare is a socialist idea. If she had seen a doctor right when the pain started, would she have survived 2020? Would she have had another Christmas and New Year’s with her family? Would she have made it to her 70s and been there to see her grandchildren come of age? We’ll never know, but I suspect that she would have had a much better quality of life and a more favorable outcome if she’d been able to see, and pay for, a doctor much sooner than she did.

Both of my cousin’s parents died of different forms of cancer. I can understand that she probably feared a diagnosis of cancer even more than most people do. She’d seen her parents go through chemotherapy years ago, and she no doubt knew what that experience would mean for her. But I’m still flabbergasted by what happened in her situation, and she felt entitled to criticize my conversation with friends about the need for reasonably priced prescription drugs and healthcare for Americans. In the end, she turned out to be a bit of a hypocrite who probably could have stayed around a bit longer if she’d had better access to affordable care and availed herself of it in a timely manner. I’m truly sorry that she died, and wish it hadn’t happened the way it did… and I hope she is in a “better place”. She wrote this in that first entry of her journal:

A lot of people who upon hearing the diagnosis “You’ve got cancer” recall being horror stricken, bowled over, in a crisis and while these are words no one ever wants to hear, I simply recall wondering, “Lord, how do you plan to use this?” 

I’m sure if any of my family members read this, they might be offended. But I hope they’ll stop for a second and consider our relative’s words. “Lord, how do you plan to use this”… and realize that perhaps her case is an invitation to re-examine their ideas about politics, particularly regarding healthcare. We all need it, and it ought to be available, accessible, and affordable to everyone. And I wish my cousin had been able to do that for herself and her family, whom I know are all missing her very much.

And… to my other nosy relatives who want to comment on my booze cart, this post should serve as a reminder that I’m not 12 anymore.

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social media, true crime

Two guys walk into a bar…

I may catch some shit for writing today’s post, but this story is a good example as to why I think that sometimes the court of public opinion gets things very wrong. If you’re a regular reader, you may already know that I am not a fan of mob justice, particularly for people who armchair quarterback from home and have nothing to do with a specific case. I think that can have a devastating effect on justice and fairness, something that everyone should be entitled to, especially in the United States. Anyway, here goes… putting on my flame retardant suit now.

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, 65 year old Donald Lewinski and 80 year old Rocco Sapienza were both visiting Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca, New York. Both men were said to be regulars at the establishment, although it’s not clear if they knew each other before their deadly meeting a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Lewinski is now being charged with the negligent homicide of Mr. Sapienza. Why? Because Mr. Sapienza, who was said to be very friendly, but not one who was afraid to confront people he thought needed calling out, chastised Mr. Lewinski for not wearing a face mask. The headline about this incident in The New York Times is “80-Year-Old Is Killed After Asking Bar Patron to Wear Mask”. Naturally, people are responding to that headline with much vitriol toward Mr. Lewinski. Some are labeling him a cold blooded murderer and calling for him to spend much longer in prison than the four years he could face if he is convicted.

The headline implies that Mr. Sapienza simply asked Mr. Lewinksi to wear a mask, and he responded by viciously shoving him, intending to hurt, or even kill him. I was skeptical that this incident went down the way the headline implied. And, in fairness to the The New York Times, the actual article, which I am sure a lot of people didn’t bother to read, is a lot more impartial than the headline is. There are also other articles from reputable, but more local, sources available that present a very different perspective than what was reported in The New York Times. Having read several articles about this altercation, I have concluded that this is what really happened.

These two guys visited their favorite watering hole. Both are older men, probably a bit set in their ways and not interested in hearing other people’s opinions on how they should be behaving in public.

Mr. Lewinski’s son was playing music outside of the bar. The band was set up in the parking lot, and they happened to be playing in the parking spot that Mr. Sapienza usually used. This tidbit of information was not in the Times’ article, but it was in an article by Local 12, a news station in the West Seneca area. So… Mr. Sapienza was already annoyed that his parking spot was usurped by Lewinski’s son’s band. It’s unclear whether or not the band knew that was Sapienza’s parking spot, or if he was somehow officially entitled to park there.

The New York Times article also fails to mention that Mr. Lewinski did have a neck gaiter and though he did frequently forget to pull it up, perhaps because he was drinking or “caught up in the thrill”, according to his lawyer, Barry Covert, “when asked to put his mask on, [he] did so readily.”

Apparently, Lewinski kept coming in and out of the bar to fetch rounds of drinks. When he came into the bar, he repeatedly forgot to pull the gaiter up over his nose and mouth. Also according to Lewinski’s lawyer, “[Sapienza] was disgruntled that he could hear the music inside, and he was unhappy that my client and other people were bringing tables and chairs from inside the bar outside to the patrons who were enjoying the band out in the parking lot.”

Mr. Sapienza, who had reportedly served as a Marine and had a “boisterous” personality that would “fill up a room”, eventually decided that enough was enough. Sapienza was also said to be “protective” of the staff at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill and was well-liked at the establishment. I have a feeling that Sapienza might have thought of the bar as “his place” and it probably irritated him that Lewinski and his son’s band were upsetting the order of things.

According to video footage, Lewinski was speaking to the bar owner for a moment and Sapienza, donning a face mask, decided to take it upon himself to confront Mr. Lewinski about his failure to be diligent about wearing a mask. There was no audio to the video, but John J. Flynn, the Erie County district attorney, says that “out of the blue”, Mr. Lewinski two hand shoved Mr. Sapienza, who fell backwards. His left arm knocked over a bar stool as his head hit the floor. Sapienza immediately lost consciousness and suffered a seizure. He was taken to a hospital, where he underwent brain surgery and died several days later.

Lewinski, who supposedly had made “lewd” comments to the staff, immediately paid his bill and left right after Sapienza hit the floor. I can’t say I blame him for that, but maybe that was also the wrong thing to do.

In my opinion, this incident sounds like a terrible accident. It’s certainly not murder, although many outraged comments indicate that it is. I don’t believe that Donald Lewinski showed up at that bar intending to kill someone. He probably just wanted to have a good time, listen to his son play music and enjoy some adult beverages.

If Lewinski had tackled Mr. Sapienza and repeatedly beat him about the head and shoulders in a clear effort to kill him, that would be murder. There has to be deliberate intent to kill for a killing to be called murder. It sounds to me like Lewinski pushed the man to get him out of his face, and that was it. He clearly didn’t intend to kill him. Mr. Sapienza’s accident was simply the unfortunate result of their confrontation, which Sapienza initiated. I don’t think Lewinski needs to be put away for the rest of his life for that. Some people would even call what he did self-defense, although I’m not sure the situation called for self-defense. But again– they were in a bar and there were likely distorted perceptions at play caused by boozing.

Could Lewinski have been better about wearing a face mask? Sure. But consider that less than a year ago, no one was wearing masks in bars or socially distancing. Some people are having a harder time adjusting to this new requirement than others are. And while I’m not absolutely certain that the parties involved in this incident were drinking alcohol, I’m going to assume that they were. They were there for “hours”, and there’s no telling how much they drank before the altercation occurred. In fact, I would also wonder if alcohol could have had an effect on Mr. Sapienza’s body that exacerbated the effects of the blunt trauma to his head.

What really irritates me about this story is that many people who are commenting on it automatically attack Donald Lewinski’s character and call him a “murderer”. It’s akin to the people who call anyone not wearing a face mask a “murderer”. It’s ridiculous hyperbole and it doesn’t serve justice.

For the record, I agree that Lewinski was absolutely wrong to shove Mr. Sapienza, although I also think that Sapienza was wrong to confront Lewinski. It was not his place to enforce the mask requirement; it was the management’s duty.

Moreover, the fact that Mr. Sapienza was 80 years old is irrelevant. I don’t know how recent the photos of Sapienza are, but he doesn’t appear to be that old. In some pictures I’ve seen, he’s wearing a dapper looking suit and a big smile– yes, he looks like a very friendly, healthy, fun loving man. I would not have guessed Sapienza was 80, and I’m sure his age never occurred to Mr. Lewinski, either. It sounds to me like he acted impulsively– he’d been drinking and was already irritated with Sapienza, as the two had exchanged “terse words” prior to the shoving incident. It’s not unusual for people to react physically when someone invades their personal space, especially when there’s booze involved.

A screen grab from a news video about this incident. He looks pretty hale and hearty to me, but I don’t know how old this picture is. To read the comments on some of the news articles about this, Mr. Sapienza was a frail , little old man. I don’t think that’s necessarily so. He does look like a great guy, though. It’s sad that he died the way he did.

Obviously, both of these men were healthy enough to sit in a bar for hours, despite their “advanced ages”. But in the age of COVID-19, it’s probably not the best idea for anyone to be hanging out in a bar, especially men over the age of 50 who might have underlying health conditions. Alcohol is a social lubricant. It causes people to behave in ways they might not have otherwise and can distort a person’s perceptions of reality. Or, it causes them to magnify behaviors, which may or may not be good. If you’re an asshole naturally, and you drink booze, you’re probably going to be an even bigger asshole when you’re drunk. Believe me, I have seen and experienced it many times. I don’t know what kind of man Donald Lewinski is, but if he was drinking, it’s possible that his frame of mind might have been in the realm of asshole on September 26th. Or, maybe he just doesn’t know his own strength.

If you’re a senior citizen and you’re concerned enough about COVID-19 that you feel compelled to confront strangers about wearing face masks, it’s probably a wiser decision to stay home. I am sure that hanging out in his favorite watering hole was a comfort for Mr. Sapienza. Maybe it helped him feel more normal in these very weird pandemic days we’re experiencing. And maybe he felt emboldened to confront another man for not wearing a face mask, because that bar felt like “his place”. But, when it comes down to it, not everyone is going to see it that way. People are on edge and pissed off– tensions are high for a lot of reasons. It’s probably not the best idea to confront people who are breaking the rules, especially in a bar. Let someone in charge do it, for your own safety. Especially if you are “at an elevated risk” for COVID-19, as Mr. Sapienza would be simply due to his age and sex. But then, maybe Mr. Sapienza was also under the influence of booze and his natural instincts were similarly magnified.

I totally get that people are fed up with those who break the rules. I also get that people resent having to wear face masks. I hate them myself, but I do wear them when they are required. And because I hate the masks, I do my best to avoid having to wear them by staying away from other people. Instead of going to bars, I stay home and drink. It’s cheaper that way, and I get to pick the music. Bars are not safe places for those hoping to avoid COVID-19. I certainly don’t condone Lewinski’s decision to push Mr. Sapienza, inadvertently causing his death, but I also don’t condone Mr. Sapienza’s decision to put himself in harm’s way by being confrontational.

It’s too bad that the press is spinning this situation to be something it’s not. People are predictably reacting without reading much more than the headline or thinking critically. So many folks are commenting that Lewinski should go to prison for the rest of his life… calling him a hardened murderer because he shoved some guy for confronting him after they had already exchanged “terse words”. I wonder if they would feel the same way if they or someone they loved were involved in a similar situation. My guess is that most of them wouldn’t. But then, it’s always “a different story” when the story is about someone else.

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Duggars

Jill Dillard’s pina colada and the appearance of evil…

This morning, the net is abuzz with comments about Jill Duggar drinking a pina colada and looking like she’s living her best life. Many people have noticed that Mrs. Dillard did not specify whether or not the drink was “virgin”. Some have said that a virgin drink would not be served in such a fancy glass. Not being much of a fan of “virgin” drinks myself, I really don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is that Jill is a married woman well over the age of 21. She should be able to drink whatever she wants to without speculation.

But since she was once Jill Duggar, and was raised a fundamentalist Christian, everything she does is open to discussion and observation. She seems to be okay with it. In fact, she recently posted an invitation for fans to ask her questions on YouTube. Some of the people in the Duggar Family News group have proposed asking her if she plans to have more children or adopt them (which frankly, I think is no one else’s business). Even less appropriate is the question as to whether or not she had a hysterectomy.

On the other hand, she has chosen to be a public figure, and she has spoken about having as many babies as God provides. So maybe that is why people feel free to ask– and I guess Jill can decline to answer if she wants to.

It has been nice to watch Jill change since the days when she was the most obedient Duggar. I remember seeing her on TLC when she was younger, being mom to her youngest siblings and clearly Jim Bob’s favorite because she did what she was told without complaint and didn’t have a problem tattling on her siblings. I guess when she married Derick Dillard, Jill took it seriously that he would be the one she listened to most. She and Boob are apparently on the outs with each other, mainly because Derick has rebelled against doing Boob’s bidding.

I don’t really follow the Duggars’ show much anymore. I used to watch it somewhat regularly, but I quit following it when it got to be too boring. I understand that now, Boob and Michelle have made their way back on camera. I can’t stand to listen to either of them, so I don’t watch now. I don’t watch the YouTube videos, either, but I do enjoy reading the snark. And sometimes, the people in the Duggar group have good book recommendations and share interesting news articles… Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I only read Playboy for the articles, too. 😉

Anyway, I’m glad to see that Jill is doing her own thing. She’s cut her hair, gotten a nose piercing, wears pants, and even enrolled her son, Israel, in public school. She and Derick and the boys also wore face masks, which is definitely a socially responsible thing to do. I doubt Boob wears a mask for anyone. And if she really did drink a loaded pina colada, I say more power to her. Maybe more of the Duggars should enjoy adult beverages and kill the bugs up their asses.

Bill and I were talking about Jill and her pina colada this morning. Bill said she could be drinking a virgin pina colada. And maybe she was. But as an ex Mormon, Bill also knows about the importance to many religious people of “avoiding the appearance of evil.” This is why some Mormons don’t want to go to Starbucks, even to just get themselves a pastry. They don’t want other church members seeing them go into a well known coffee shop and assuming they’re drinking a forbidden beverage. Or they don’t want to drink something that looks like it could be alcoholic because they don’t want people to think they drink.

On the other hand, I know not every religious person is like this. A few years ago, I used to follow a blog written by a Mormon woman whose six year old daughter was bitten by a shark. Her husband happens to be an emergency room physician, so the girl was quickly saved. As I was watching these folks being interviewed on television, I could tell they were LDS, mainly due to what the mom was saying and wearing, and the fact that their daughter had asked to pray for the shark that bit her.

Anyway, the mom had a blog on Blogspot, so I casually followed it for awhile. I noticed she had a real flair for decorating and crafts. She once posted a picture of a table she’d set for a brunch she was giving. Of course, there was no booze served, but she did have fancy glassware that would customarily be used for, say, a martini. There’s no law that says you can’t drink a virgin beverage out of a nice glass… although I never do. 😉

Maybe Jill has decided to cut loose a bit. Good for her. It’s her life, and what’s she’s doing is not only normal, but natural. I don’t necessarily agree with Derick Dillard’s transphobic remarks on social media, but he does seem to love his wife and he encourages her to be herself and enjoy her life. So good for both of them… and I hope she makes choices that are on her terms, rather than her bully of a father’s. I also hope her brothers and sisters wise up and claim their right to live the way they want. We should all be so free.

On another note– that Mexican food looks fabulous! I miss good Mexican food, and I am PMSing big time.

Edited to add: Sure enough, it was a REAL pina colada!. Go Jill!

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