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“Shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” When people of today, shame others over events from the past…

Back in the 80s, I used to love watching sitcoms on television. One of my favorites from those days was Alice, which, over several years, starred Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Beth Howland, Polly Holliday, Diane Ladd, and Celia Weston. A few years ago, I downloaded the entire series and watched all of the episodes. As I was watching the show, I had forgotten that Alice, along with many other TV shows from that era, wasn’t always “politically correct” by today’s standards.

I remember one episode featured cast members from The Dukes of Hazzard, which was a huge hit in the early 80s. I was still a child in the 80s, and I grew up in southern Virginia, where people proudly displayed Confederate battle flags. Consequently, when Alice originally aired in the 80s, I wasn’t shocked when an episode featured Boss Hogg and Enos, of The Dukes of Hazzard. Mel Sharples (Tayback), crotchety owner of Mel’s Diner, welcomed them by putting little Confederate battle flags on all the tables. In those days, seeing that flag was pretty common and even considered “normal”, especially in the South. I was about ten years old, anyway, and at that time, didn’t know anything about racism, or any of the issues surrounding that topic.

Yes, Enos and Boss Hogg visited Mel’s Diner.

I would later learn much more about racism, and why the Confederate flag is so offensive to many people, but I’m probably still pretty ignorant about the subject. What I know is mostly based on book learning and conversations I’ve had with people of color. I did happen to live in South Carolina when the Confederate flag was finally taken down from the top of the Statehouse dome. Because I was living on the campus at the University of South Carolina, I could actually see the flag come down from my apartment, as it was also being televised on CNN. The flag was moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it was guarded by a state trooper for some time. I believe the powers that be in South Carolina eventually removed the battle flag from the Statehouse grounds altogether, although I can’t swear to it, since I haven’t been in Columbia in years.

This certainly wouldn’t fly today… but it was considered perfectly fine in the 80s. We can’t change that by shaming people.

One thing I remember from Alice was that the character of Vera, played by Beth Howland, was famously ditzy, “dinghy”, and batty. One of Vera’s best remembered taglines was “shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” She would always say it with the appropriate level of disgust and disdain, which usually got a laugh from the studio audience. That old line is in my head this morning, as I reflect upon a shaming comment I received this morning from a complete stranger. It’s actually one of a few unpleasant interactions I’ve had with complete strangers on Facebook over the past 24 hours.

I’m in a Facebook group called “Exploring Virginia”. It’s mainly a “feel good” group in which people share beautiful photos and memories of Virginia. I spent most of my childhood and a good portion of my young adult life in Virginia. It’s my home. I was born there, and both sides of my family of origin have been there for generations. I spent my childhood riding horses, and since my discipline was “hunt seat”, that means I went on the occasional fox hunt. Virginia, being one of the original British colonies, does have a lot of traditions that are British. Some people are continuing those old traditions, even if they seem wrong now.

Yesterday, someone shared a photo from a fox hunt in Middleburg, Virginia. Middleburg is horse country. I never lived in Middleburg, but I do know that’s where a lot of really stellar hunter jumpers are born and bred. So, it stands to reason that there would be fox hunts in Middleburg. I thought it was nice that someone shared a photo from a hunt, and posted:

“I used to go on fox hunts in my youth… Was a lot of fun!”

I haven’t been fox hunting since, oh, around 1986 or so… at that time, fox hunts weren’t necessarily considered politically incorrect. They were even still legal in the United Kingdom, which banned them in 2004, because they are considered “cruel” . Fox hunting is still permitted in Northern Ireland. I believe they are still popular in Ireland, too, based on the YouTube videos I’ve seen. Anyway, it’s been many years since I last partook of that sport. In fact, I haven’t even been riding since the mid 90s, and riding used to be a huge part of my life. Seeing that fox hunting photo brought back good memories of when I spent most of my free time with my horse.

Most follow up comments to mine were friendly. Several other people also wrote that they used to enjoy fox hunting. Others just expressed appreciation for the photo, which again, wasn’t my photo. But then, this morning, I got a comment from someone who felt the need to single me out, and shame me, for fondly remembering my fox hunting days. She wrote, in direct response to my comment that hunting was fun, “not for the fox.”

I decided to reply to her, which I think I managed to do in a somewhat measured tone. I wrote:

“In all of the years that I hunted, I never saw any killing. We mostly chased deer, who also weren’t killed. Think trail ride while wearing fancy riding clothes. I think I saw one fox in all the times we hunted. We all said “tallyho”, and that was it.”

I understand that fox hunting is no longer considered “politically correct”, because many people consider it to be cruel. However, when I went fox hunting, I was a child growing up in rural Gloucester, Virginia, where my classmates would routinely bring rifles on school grounds so they could go hunting after school. That’s how things were in the 80s, and it was normal for me, and my classmates. Maybe fox hunting wouldn’t be considered “right” by some people today, but when I was a young horsewoman, it was perfectly fine, and part of taking riding lessons. I also competed in horse shows and went on competitive trail rides. Doing all of that helped keep me physically fit, taught me responsibility, and sportsmanship. It also kept me occupied and out of trouble. Moreover, hunting– of all kinds– was part of the culture in Gloucester.

In fact, when I was in middle school, I remember having to take a hunter safety course as part of our health and P.E. curriculum. Teachers actually taught us about how to safely handle firearms, even though I have never actually owned a weapon. Enough people in my community had guns, that the school board felt it was a good idea to teach school kids about gun safety. In light of all the gun violence in schools today, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Should I be ashamed that I took a hunter safety course, too? I don’t remember having a choice in the matter.

Anyway, the actual kind of fox hunting we did was more of a ceremonial thing. It genuinely was fun, on the mornings when it wasn’t absolutely frigid outside. It basically boiled down to people putting on breeches, long johns, black boots, turtlenecks, and coats, and riding through the woods on fall mornings. After a few spirited canters through the woods, and a few jumps over ditches, fallen tree trunks, and fences that were put up by the hunt club, the adults would pass around a flask of Jack Daniels. It seemed to be more about camaraderie than a bloody sport involving wild animals being torn apart by dogs. I never once saw that happen, but even if I did, it’s not as if people weren’t also using their guns to kill wild animals in those days, and now.

While I probably wouldn’t choose to go fox hunting now, I don’t feel offended when I see a picture of a man in hunting attire on horseback with his dogs. Hunting serves a practical purpose. Some people get their meat that way, and actually hunt because that’s partly how they feed their families. Many people are going to choose to eat meat, no matter what animal rights activists say about it.

I don’t think I should be shamed because I once enjoyed fox hunting, especially since I was a kid at the time, and nothing was ever actually killed. What’s the point of shaming someone for something like that, other than trying to make them feel like shit? I can’t change the fact that I used to fox hunt and mostly enjoyed it. It was part of growing up in rural Virginia around horses. Given that Exploring Virginia is supposed to be a “feel good” group, I think that lady’s comment was out of place. As I was writing this, some other lady gave me a “sad” reaction. Seriously? I decided to just delete my comment, because I don’t want to spend my Friday being annoyed by shamers. I’m sure that reaction was not what the group creators had in mind when they started their group.

For more reading about fox hunting in Virginia, here’s an excellent blog post by someone who describes exactly what I remember from my “hunting days”.

Cue the judgmental responses from the vegan crowd…

I’m not the only one who’s gotten shamed, though. Singer-songwriter Janis Ian shared the featured photo yesterday. Janis Ian regularly posts things that get people riled up and snarky. I like her music, and often agree with her views. She can be funny, too. But I rarely comment on her posts, mainly because I’ve noticed that she can get quite testy in responses to people and, at times, she’s a bit hypocritical. On the other hand, some of her fans are pretty obnoxious. One person commented,

“Yes! I didn’t realise that you are a vegan!”

To which Janis posted, “I’m not.”

The post then became inundated with comments from a preachy vegan who shamed those who enjoy eating meat. There were also a couple of comments about people who feed their cats a vegan diet, which I think is a cruel practice. Cats are true carnivores, and they shouldn’t be forced to be vegans because some humans think hunting is cruel. Even the ASPCA agrees. Cats hunt. It’s in their nature. No matter how many human beings think killing and eating animals is cruel, there will always be creatures who kill their food. It’s part of life.

That being said, I totally agree that factory farming is horrible, and too many of us eat way too much meat. But a holier than thou exchange on Facebook with a complete stranger about veganism isn’t going to make me change my diet, nor do I think the complete stranger really cares. I think it’s more about them feeling superior and more “evolved” than other people.

Personally, I truly admire vegans, but I don’t think I could be a vegan. I might be able to be a vegetarian, if I really desired to make that change. But I will tell you one thing… being preachy and judgmental is not going to make me want to join the vegan cause.

When it comes to animal rights, there are varying degrees on what some people think should be reality. Some animal rights activists, for instance, don’t think humans should even have pets. I’d love to know what they think we should do with all of the dogs and cats and horses who depend on their relationships with humans for their survival. You can’t tell me that my dogs don’t love Bill and me, either. I refuse to feel guilty and ashamed for loving my pets, who also eat meat.

I guess what it comes down to is that everybody has an opinion. In a just world, people would respect other people’s rights to express their opinions without resorting to shaming or climbing up on a moral high horse.

And finally…

Yesterday, I got shamed for “not being fertile”. Some guy in a discussion about abortion commented that he thinks that since half of a developing fetus’s DNA belongs to the father, the father should be allowed to force the mother to gestate. It’s as if this guy thinks of the fetus as his property, even though it’s not developing in his body.

I wrote that it’s too bad that MALES aren’t the ones whose health and life are on the line. And the guy responded by saying “most men prefer women who are fertile.” That struck me as a totally stupid comment. I actually laughed out loud. I considered offering a snarky rebuttal, but then decided that the guy’s comment was so incredibly dumb that it was better to block him. I don’t want to have anything to do with an asshole like that. 😉

But seriously… on so many levels, that comment was very offensive. First off, how does he know about my fertility, or lack thereof? I don’t look old in my photo. Secondly, why is he speaking for all men? And thirdly, it’s those kinds of misogynistic comments that make a lot of women not want to have anything to do with men. I can totally understand why my cousin decided to conceive using donor sperm, rather than being involved with a man. For one thing, she’s a lesbian. For another, so many men are just assholes. I truly hope that no fertile woman lets that dude get within fifty yards of her vagina.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I need to get off of Facebook.

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Military, modern problems, social media

Your shit stinks too…

I didn’t post any fresh content yesterday because I didn’t have anything on my mind that I was just burning to write about. Ever since I moved my blog from Blogspot, I’ve decided it’s better to post quality content over quantity. I realize that some readers may not think the content is necessarily better on this blog. I used to post less about politics and more about Mormonism and steplife issues than I do now. I no longer need to write as much about either of those topics, so I have noticed some formerly loyal readers have moved on. Some people used to like reading my posts about true crime. I do still write about that, but not as often. Maybe it’s because the president is a criminal and writing about him is kind of like writing about true crime, too.

As time passes, priorities change. Right now, I’m fixated more on politics than I’ve ever been. I used to not care at all about politics. Donald Trump changed that. I often like to say that good things can come out of almost every situation. Maybe one thing Trump has done is make people less complacent about their leadership. As people are less complacent about leadership, they also become more vocal about other issues.

Last night, I saw an article on Military Times about how Iraq War veteran Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md. introduced a proposal to ban the display of the Confederate battle flag on all Department of Defense sites. Exceptions would be made for museum exhibits, state-approved license plates and grave sites of Confederate soldiers. However, the ban would include military work spaces, break rooms, living quarters, bumper stickers and personal apparel. Disobeying the order could lead to disciplinary action.

This measure comes up as the Marine Corps recently banned the display of the Confederate Battle flag. The Marine Corps’ decision was actually fresh news in April of this year, but it’s recently come up again as the Army has not followed suit. Ten Army installations are named after Confederate generals and many servicemembers, particularly those who are from southern states, identify the “rebel flag” as a symbol of regional pride and their heritage.

The battle flag issue also coincides with the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been raging for the past few weeks as people have been protesting police brutality toward people of color as well as the general issue of racism that still pervades American culture so many years after the Civil War ended. There have been lots of protests and riots, but I’ve also noticed some good conversations amid ridiculous displays of false bravado. I’m sure a lot of people reading this post have seen the pictures of St. Louis lawyer Mark McCloskey and his wife, Patricia, in their bare feet as they brandished weapons outside of their historic mansion. McCloskey claims that he and his wife were frightened for their lives as they pointed loaded weapons at about 500 protesters on their way to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house.

I only know what I’ve read in the news and seen in pictures. For all I know, Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey really were terrified for their lives. However, if the crowd was really that huge, it seems like the McCloskeys’ two guns wouldn’t be enough to stave them off for long if the crowd actually threatened them with violence. If it came down to it, maybe the McCloskeys would have managed to pick off a few people before they were overcome by the huge mass of people. Moreover, in the photos I’ve seen, the McCloskeys don’t look especially frightened. They look angry and aggressive. But I will grant that I wasn’t there and I’m not them, so what they were actually feeling and experiencing, I don’t know.

After I read the Military Times article, I read some of the Facebook comments. I noticed one posted by a German woman. I knew she was German by her first name, Hannelore, but she also identified herself as such when she rather smugly pointed out that Germans are doing better because Nazi symbols such as the swastika are illegal to display in Germany (unless it’s part of an art exhibit or civic education).

I have noticed this self-congratulatory attitude quite often among many Europeans, but especially Germans. They are quite proud of themselves for confronting their past history and trying to make amends. And I would be the first to congratulate them for doing that. I do think it’s admirable that Germans are not afraid to express their shame regarding their not so distant Nazi past. However, just because they’ve banned Nazi symbols, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem with racism in Germany. Moreover, I have actually seen the Confederate flag displayed in parts of Europe. So far, I’ve seen it in Italy, Ireland, and Germany. In fact, there’s a Harley-Davidson themed bar in the very next village that has recently had a “rebel flag” prominently displayed.

This flag is in the village next to where we live here in Germany. Harley-Davidson is an American brand, but this flag is flying here on German land. Or, at least it was a year ago. I haven’t recently checked to see if it still is.

So I pointed this out to Hannelore, who came back at me with vehement defensiveness. She pointed out that it’s not illegal to display the rebel flag in Germany. That may be so– and, in fact, it’s not illegal in the United States to display the rebel flag or swastikas, though that may soon change in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, even in America, if you display one of those symbols, it says something about you. I wouldn’t say most Americans would be alright with a business displaying a swastika, whether or not it’s “legal”. And although I do recall seeing businesses in the Deep South flying the rebel flag, nowadays it’s not a particularly smart business move.

Another German woman piped up, claiming that the Confederate flags were brought to Germany by American G.I.s. But even if that’s true, it’s not like Germans don’t have access to the Internet. It’s not like the owner of the Harley-Davidson garage in Wallau, who is mostly likely German or a resident of the European Union, doesn’t have access to information about the Confederate flag and what it stands for… or what it means to many, especially black, Americans.

I remember this ad from 1981 very well. It aired all the time when I was about 9 years old. Funny thing is, the actors who played Bo and Luke Duke weren’t even from the South.
And one from 1982…

I don’t think less of Germany or Germans because I’ve seen the Confederate battle flag displayed here. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to Europeans as it does to Americans. They don’t have the same history with that flag that Americans have, just as many Americans don’t have the same history with the swastika that Germans have. Moreover, it really hasn’t been that long that the Confederate flag was that controversial. I grew up in the southern United States seeing that flag everywhere, not just in my neighborhood and at school, but also on television.

When I was a child, one of the most popular shows on prime time television was The Dukes of Hazzard, which featured a 1969 Dodge Charger with a rebel flag on the roof dubbed “The General Lee”. The show was so popular that there were toys, games, and other merchandise sold everywhere– I remember having a Dukes of Hazzard TV tray (exactly like the one pictured) and a board game based on the show. I seem to remember McDonald’s even had Dukes of Hazzard themed Happy Meals for sale. The 1980s may seem like ages ago to younger people, but I remember that time well, and I’m still under 50.

I got this game for Christmas one year. I don’t remember playing it more than once or twice. Looks like Ideal didn’t include the stars and bars on top of the General Lee.

I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. I had an apartment on campus and could see the Statehouse from my window. In 1999, when I began my studies there, the Confederate flag still flew on the Statehouse dome. I watched from my window and on CNN as the flag was finally lowered on July 1, 2000, only to be moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it remained until just five years ago. Republican Governor Nikki Haley ordered it moved to a museum after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot up a church in Charleston, killing nine black church members. As of July 10, 2020, it will have been just five years since the flag was moved… and the United States still has a state that includes the battle flag on its state flag, although it looks like Mississippi has finally decided to change their state flag to one that is more acceptable for modern times. Georgia also used to have a Confederate symbol on its state flag, but that changed in 2001.

I also remember that when I was in graduate school, Maurice’s Piggie Park, a South Carolina barbecue chain restaurant, had Confederate flags in front of its locations. I believe Maurice Bessinger has died since I left South Carolina and his descendants have taken down the flags. But I didn’t finish grad school until 2002. That’s still less than twenty years ago.

An episode of Alice that aired in the 1980s. Boss Hogge and Enos of The Dukes of Hazzard paid a visit to Mel’s Diner, which was decked out with little Confederate flags.

Many people are changing their hearts and minds about the prominent display of racist symbols like monuments and flags, but meaningful change takes time. Some people will never change their minds, and we’ll just have to wait until they pass on to the next existence. The United States is also a much younger country than Germany is. It’s only existed for a mere few hundred years, and there are bound to be “growing pains”. Germany has a much longer history and has already had a lot of growing pains. Moreover, while Germans don’t display the swastika because of their deep shame regarding Hitler’s era, the fact that some Germans embrace the Confederate battle flag tells me that they’re not necessarily any “better” than Americans are. However, to their credit, they do seem to be willing to check themselves when their hypocrisy is pointed out.

Hannelore and I managed to end our discussion on a friendly note, especially when I told her that I’m grateful to be in Germany, especially right now. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity to experience living abroad. I have really loved living here, and have made some friends and memories I hope will last for many years to come. But racism is a worldwide problem. It’s not just a U.S. problem. And just because swastikas are banned in Germany, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem with race based hatred here.

I told a German friend about my conversation with Hannelore and another German lady last night, and how they claimed that the battle flag was introduced by American G.I.s. My German friend, who is a research superstar, provided me with a link to a German news article about how the Confederate flag is being embraced in East Germany, particularly by bikers and truckers. There’s a great love of 19th century North American culture in the east… and there are no American G.I.s posted there. They love cowboys, line dancing, and yes, some of them love the Confederate flag, which is less of a cowboy thing from out west than it is a southern thing. I think sometimes Germans forget how huge the United States is. Yes, Texas is considered a southern state, but it’s a different kind of southern, particularly as you head west, into the newer part of the country.

When we lived in Germany the first time, there was even a (laughable) American style restaurant near where we lived, which featured the German interpretation of American style Old West food and decor. It was once called Sitting Bull, but when we were there, it was known as “Buffalo Bill’s Saloon”. That restaurant eventually closed down, but I seem to remember there were two flags flying in front of it. One was a German flag… the other was American, I think. Bill used to get very upset every time he saw it, because it was extremely threadbare and worn. As a Soldier, he wanted to retire it properly. We ate there once or twice and it didn’t necessarily satisfy our cravings for American style barbecue. But it was fun seeing the western style decor. I don’t remember if it included Confederate flags, although it does seem that some Germans think the Confederate flag is an Old West thing. It’s really more of a southeastern US thing, which isn’t necessarily cowboy land.

Anyway… I’d really like to see people focus on being less hateful and judgmental all the way around. I think that significant progress toward equality can’t come until people have honest discussions with each other and learn to be more accepting of visible differences while also understanding that, underneath it all, we really aren’t as different from each other as we think we are. We’re all made of the same stuff, and when it comes down to it, your shit stinks just as badly as mine does.

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