lessons learned, musings, Reality TV

“Raise your words, not your voice.” Ruminating on Rumi, Renee Alway, and people who have done “bad” things…

This morning, I was thinking about what today’s topic would be. I’m kind of irritated, because I had a couple of interesting ideas for today yesterday, while we were enjoying the end of the weekend. But when I woke up this morning, those ideas were no longer available. I probably should have written down the ideas, but that’s not my habit.

I did what I usually do when this happens, which was check the old version of my blog. I ran across a post about former America’s Next Top Model contestant, Renee Alway. Back in December 2014, I wrote a controversial post about Renee Alway’s 2013 arrest and conviction for a number of felonies. Around the time I posted, Renee had been sentenced to twelve years in prison. I was sad for her, even though I remember how she had behaved when she was on ANTM. She was often portrayed as a “bitch” on that show, but then she would show a really lovely side to her personality.

I thought Renee was gorgeous and had so much potential. Then she got on a bad path. I was disappointed to see her with a shaved head, wearing cuffs, shackles, and chains. That sadness and disappointment was what had motivated me to write about her. I wasn’t interested in shaming her, although some people apparently thought that’s what I was doing.

Renee was released from prison on good behavior after serving five years. But then in 2019, she was arrested again for domestic violence.

I got a ton of hits on that post, as well as a lot of comments. Some of the people who commented claimed to be Renee’s friends. I even got a comment that appeared to be from Renee herself, although I can’t confirm if it was her or someone pretending to be her. One person got so irritated by my comments that she wrote:

Renee Diane is an amazing person, she continues to teach me the most amazing aspects in life, she’s there for me like no other person has ever been… I love her with all my heart, you don’t know Renee and never will just because she’s a model and is beautiful doesn’t mean she’s not human and doesn’t bleed. We all have our story in life and deal with pain differently who are you to sit here and judge her. Walk a mile in her shoes and look into your own lives the come here and point fingers … You don’t know a thing about here keep your blog shit to yourself. If you have nothing nice to say and reflect on the world don’t say shit.

We went back and forth a few times. I finally turned that person’s post into one of my famous rants. I basically explained that people are going to have and express their opinions, particularly about public figures. When a person goes on a reality TV show, particularly if they are an adult when they make that choice, they are pretty much fair game for commentary.

What I wrote about Renee Alway really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I think it was a fairly compassionate post. Let’s face it. It IS sad when a beautiful young woman with children gets arrested and goes to prison. It’s sad on many levels. I saw Renee as a talented person with great potential. I could tell she loved her son very much when she was on ANTM. I don’t know why she chose the path she did, and I was dismayed to see that her life had taken a criminal turn. That was the main gist of the post.

But that person still got angry with me that I wrote about Renee. She basically told me to “shut up”. And my response was this:

Thanks for the comment. This is a personal blog and I have the right to write about anything I please. If that upsets you, I’d encourage you to find something to read that is more to your liking. Based on what I saw on ANTM, Renee would probably tell you the same thing. She strikes me as quite a spitfire who doesn’t let other people dictate to her what she can and can’t communicate. 

The person evidently got confused about what I meant when I wrote that my blog is “personal”. She responded thusly:

If it was personal it wouldn’t be posted online. And your right she’s definitely a spitfire and doesnt take shit from anyone or let anyone elses opinions affect her. But I’m her friend and seeing people put her on blast and talk down on her upsets me so I’m sure you understand and would do the same for your friends and ppl you love

I hear what she’s saying… really, I do. But I’m not the one who put Renee on blast. I wrote this in response:

I understand your concern, but she put herself on blast when she went on a reality TV show. In any case, this post has been here for months now and is only getting new attention because you’re commenting. I’m sorry Renee is in the situation she’s in and I hope it gets better for her, but I can’t allow random visitors to my blog to dictate what I write about. I hope you understand.

I never know how people will react to what I write. If I chose to “keep my blog shit” to myself as a means of avoiding upsetting random people, I would never publish a single post. I can’t predict how people will respond to most topics I choose, nor can I control it. I think that commenter also confused the concept of “personal” versus “private”. They aren’t really the same things. Personal means it comes from me. I can write something personal and not keep it private. Or I can keep something private that is also personal… or impersonal.

I could keep the blog private, but there’s not much use in doing that. Why write things that no one will ever read? I understand feeling the need to respond to things that are upsetting, but I would urge people to pause and reflect for a moment before doing so. It’s not right to tell people to shut up, particularly when all they’ve done is shared an opinion or an observation. Stop and think for a minute and consider if what the person has said is really as awful as you think it is. Chances are, you’re overreacting to something that shouldn’t be that upsetting. I understand having that reaction, particularly when it’s in response to an ego blow. We all do it. But no one likes to be told to shut up, and frankly, telling people to shut up isn’t cool. Especially when you’re on their space instead of your own.

One commenter wrote this about Renee:

The season Renee was on was one of the ones I watched. I found her to be arrogant, manipulative and despicable. She wasn’t a good person. You managed to find the good side, however, which is to your credit. 
Renee actually ended up with two kids when she was arrested and gave birth to a third after that. She had been addicted and committing a strong of burglaries, eventually armed when she did so. 

In her prison interview, she admits to being a person whose character had defects. She said that she thinks people watching the show saw exactly who she was and that she had problems with her character. At least that admission is a good start. But it’s funny that she has “friends” on here denying what she herself has admitted and screaming at someone who wrote a compassionate post about what happened to her. 

Right… and what I wrote was not nearly as “mean” as what the person above wrote. I think her comments are valid, even if they do seem harsh. It’s good to show grace toward people, but it’s also good to keep your eyes open about who people are.

So anyway… on to Rumi, and his connection to Renee Alway, who was born hundreds of years after his death. In my response post, I found a meme attributed to the Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was born in the year 1207 in present day Afghanistan. His parents were native Persian speakers. He grew up to become a sage, whose influence spread around the Middle East and transcended borders and ethnicities. He died in 1273 at age 66 in what is now Konya, Turkey.

When I was writing my response post to Renee’s friend who told me to “shut up”, I found today’s featured photo, which is a famous Rumi quote. I thought it was very relevant. The quote is:

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

In other words, yelling at someone is not likely to make a whit of difference. You might feel better doing it in the short term, but it’s not likely to inspire cooperation or compliance. If you have an argument or contrary view, try presenting it in a civilized way. Take the time to reason. Frame your comments in a way that is constructive, instead of destructive. Don’t just react with emotion. Think about why you’re reacting the way you are before you say something. It’s fine to feel offended by an ego blow, but you’ll get further in changing someone’s perspective if you approach them with basic respect for their dignity.

In my response post, I wrote “If you “yell” at me, I’ll cross my arms and stop listening because I will simply assume you’re an asshole.  I don’t listen to assholes because that’s where shit comes from.” I had to laugh at that because it’s true. Shit is basically thought of as unpleasant, stinky, and worthless. On the other hand, shit DOES make the flowers grow. Most everything has a purpose of some sort. Most everything has at least something good about it. If you stop and think long enough about it, you can probably come up with something good about almost anything.

For example, a lot of people dislike Donald Trump. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I can’t stand the man. But– I can legitimately state that some good things came from Trump’s time as president. For instance, I have noticed that many people have become much less complacent about voting than they once were. They are no longer okay with skipping elections, because they’ve seen what not voting can lead to. Or– if they support Trump– they realize that their votes will make a difference. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum one falls on, I think it’s a very good thing to exercise the right to vote. It’s a very valuable right in a civilized society to be able to make one’s voice heard. So, in my opinion, making people more aware of the right to vote and impressing upon them how important voting is is a good thing Trump did. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s a contemptible asshole. But he isn’t 100% bad, either. Almost no one is.

I can even extend this thought to people like Josh Duggar. I don’t like Josh Duggar. I think he’s a massive creep who has done terrible things. However, I don’t think he’s the worst person there ever was, and I recognize that there are people in the world who love him, in spite of his criminal behavior. I also realize that he’s got six kids and one on the way who would not be here if not for him. I don’t know a thing about Josh’s children, but I’m assuming that they have the potential to be good people. They don’t have to turn out like Josh has. And they would not be here or who they are if not for their father. At this point, they probably love their dad and, if they’re aware of what’s going on, may feel scared and upset that he may soon be going to prison for a long time. So I have some compassion for them, too… and that leads me to have some compassion for Josh, in spite of how terrible his actions have been.

Because I have compassion, I can’t support mistreating people who have done bad things. I think they should be punished, and some need to be permanently taken out of society because they will harm others. But I don’t support deliberately making them miserable, torturing them, or harming them. I do understand the sentiment of feeling like you want to hurt or kill someone who’s done you wrong. I even express it at times when I am angry. But the reality is, I don’t want to see people being hurt, even if they’ve hurt others. I mainly think it’s only appropriate to hurt or kill someone when it’s done in self-defense.

Most commenters on this video don’t think Ghislaine should be treated decently. I disagree.

I recently watched a video about the conditions Ghislaine Maxwell is dealing with as she awaits her trial regarding her alleged sex trafficking crimes. In the video, Maxwell’s lawyer explains that Maxwell is in a living hell. While I do think she needs to be confined because she is a potential flight risk, I can understand why she’s complaining about her conditions in jail. But there were so many comments from people indicating that they had no compassion for her and she deserves to be treated cruelly. I can’t agree with that. She’s still a sentient human being. Being cruel to people who have done wrong doesn’t change them for the better. It makes them worse. I don’t want Ghislaine Maxwell to be worse than she is. I want her to be a better person. So I think she should be treated humanely.

I think all people should be treated with humanity, whenever possible. And I write this realizing that I’m sometimes a hypocrite when I get angry… I sometimes express anger in a way that seems contrary to the idea of compassion. But I’m telling you that deep down, despite being angry, I don’t support hurting people or making them suffer unnecessarily. That includes Bill’s ex wife, whom I legitimately despise. I mainly want her to stay out of my life and am content with letting her destructive actions lead to natural consequences. I would also hope people would show compassion to me, so I do try to show it to others. I can be compassionate and still think a person should be held accountable… or even have some contempt for them.

Anyway… I don’t know what Renee Alway is up to now. I think it’s troubling that she turned to crime. I suspect she suffered abuse in her past and is dealing with it in a way that isn’t helpful. When I saw her on ANTM, I really did think she was gorgeous and talented. I rooted for her and hoped she’d win. I wish things had turned out differently and she didn’t succumb to criminal behavior. But I realize Renee has friends… and some of those friends can’t bear to see her criticized. I do understand wanting to protect your friends, but screaming at me to be quiet doesn’t help your case. It just draws attention to that which you claim is damaging. So, as Rumi says, “raise your words, not voice.” If you want something to grow– like flowers or food– you have to nourish and nurture it. In other words, be constructive, not destructive. And try to have kindness and compassion toward people, especially if you want them to return that sentiment to you.

Standard
complaints, modern problems

The obligatory disclaimer…

I have noticed in recent years, that people are becoming less willing to make a statement without adding a qualifying disclaimer. This trend has become especially noticeable in the wake of the pandemic. Someone shares a fun experience they had with friends, for instance, and they add “but we were all masked and ‘socially distanced’, of course!” Or, say someone goes on a vacation and shares pictures, adding “these were all taken before COVID-19”. There are other examples that don’t involve the virus, but since that’s on most everyone’s minds these days, they’re the examples that stand out the most to me.

To be honest, I find these “disclaimers” irritating, although I understand why people add them. It’s because they don’t want someone to get the wrong idea and leave a nasty comment. Or they don’t want to come off as irresponsible or uncaring. The most expedient way to avoid being dressed down by a busybody is to preemptively state the conditions that led to situation that may somehow seem wrong or illegal.

Because I can be contrary and stubborn, I sometimes feel the need to buck this trend. I say “sometimes”, because there are times when I do add a disclaimer, particularly when I’m blogging. Sometimes I write about things that might be distressing or triggering, or I’m in an especially foul mood and have included more profanity in a post than usual. At that point, you might find a disclaimer that warns you to move on from my blog if you can’t deal with it. Despite what some people seem to think, I really don’t want to offend people.

But when it’s someone who’s on Facebook or Twitter, and they’ve shared a photo with friends at the beach, sitting at a cafe, or riding in the car, where not everyone is behaving “safely”, I must admit it’s annoying to read a preemptive disclaimer. And it’s annoying not so much because the person posted the explanation, but more because there’s always one in every crowd– that person who feels the need to take people to task for simply living their lives. Sometimes, the buttinsky is nice about calling the person out, but in many cases they’re rude, and have jumped to conclusions.

Last October, Jason Aldean got a bunch of shit for posting a picture of his family at Walt Disney World. The singer and his wife, Brittany, took their son Memphis, and daughters, Kendyl, Keeley, and Navy to the park to have some pandemic style fun. Aldean captioned the photo with “There is Nothing like seeing ur kids faces when u walk in that place.” Frankly, I am a lot more annoyed by the poorly constructed sentence than the maskless faces that appeared in the photo.

Lots of fans felt the need to comment and shame, based on that picture. One lady wrote, “Wtf are your masks? Everyone is required to wear them? WTH who do you think you are? I’ll never buy your music ever!!!” she wrote.

Seriously… why would she assume Aldean wasn’t following the rules, just based on a photo? Aldean, to his credit responded with, “Chill out lady. They are in our pocket. We took them off for 5 seconds to take the pic. Believe me, Disney didn’t give us a ‘free pass’ not to wear them. We had them on all day just like everybody else.”

Aldean then wrote “just enjoy the picture” and to “stop over analyzing.” The photo and comments were deleted, but it was mentioned in the article that Aldean’s second-oldest daughter, Kendyl, was clutching a mask.

But you see? That’s exactly the behavior I mean. Celebrities, in particular, get a lot of flak for not setting the right example. So, when they do something normal, like hit a Disney park for some rest and relaxation, they have to be careful to share photos in which they appear to be following the rules. Otherwise, they get confronted by busybodies who like nothing better than taking them to task. But again– it’s the busybodies who prompt people to issue disclaimers.

Aldean obviously didn’t think he needed to explain what was normal behavior in early 2020. He probably never dreamed someone would lose their shit over his decision to take a photo without a mask. But people do, and that means people feel the need to preemptively explain themselves. Indeed, Aldean’s wife shared the same photo, but added the disclaimer “Only took masks off for pic.”

Personally, I think people should give others the benefit of the doubt. I would assume, for instance, that people who share a photo from 2021 in which no one is masked, simply took the mask off for the photo. Some people don’t want to be masked when they’re having a picture taken; they want to be able to see faces. I don’t think they should feel the need to explain themselves for having that wish. I like to assume most of the people I know are adults who are capable of living their lives without my input. I would hope they’d feel the same way about me. I shouldn’t have to don a face mask in a photo just to show everyone else how compliant I am and avoid being given a ration of shit online. Why take a smiling photo if your face is going to be covered? This isn’t America’s Next Top Model, and I don’t have a gift for “smizing”. And I don’t necessarily need someone else’s input about what I do in a photo during a pandemic.

I’ll bet Tyra Banks would love to do a face mask challenge today.

I think the other situation that calls for “disclaimers” is when parents share pictures of their kids doing something. It seems the most troublesome photos are the ones of kids in cars. Someone is always going to be scrutinizing how the kid is situated and noting whether or not he or she is properly restrained in a car seat. Or kids riding bikes without helmets or whatever safety equipment is popular… or kids staying home alone, or wearing makeup or heels or whatever. Someone is going to have some kind of comment or criticism. The poster has to either include an explanation or deal with the fallout.

I noticed the “disclaimer” habit a long time ago, but the pandemic has made that practice exponentially more common. Fortunately, I hate having my picture taken, so I almost never post photos of myself with or without a mask. And again, I spend most of my time at home, away from anyone who could post a picture of me not doing “the right thing”.

I’m finding that as time goes on, I have less and less patience for strangers and their opinions. For example, last night, a long-time friend of mine from college posted a picture of Trump with the caption “Miss me yet?” He posted that he did miss Trump. I responded that Trump is a rapist and a malignant narcissist who makes my skin crawl. A friend of his gave me a laughing emoji, which told me all I needed to know about her. I decided to block her. Maybe that seems extreme, but I realized that she obviously thinks sexual assault by men in power is funny, and therefore isn’t worthy of my attention. Donald Trump has repeatedly and freely admitted to assaulting and molesting women. He’s even BRAGGED about it, for Christ’s sake. And countless women have come forward to reveal what a depraved, dishonorable, and disgusting person he is. I believe their stories, because Trump himself has outright stated how he feels about women. I think his unabashed, public comments about how he treats women were reason enough to make him unsuitable to be president.

A woman who finds it humorous that another woman thinks Trump is repulsive for harassing women is not someone I want to get to know. That doesn’t mean I wish her ill, or anything. She could be a wonderful person. I’m sure my friend has a good reason for being friends with her. But the chances that I’ll ever meet her in person are practically nil, and she’s made it plain that she likes Trump no matter what, and doesn’t want to hear why people like me can’t stand him. So we don’t need to interact on social media. She doesn’t need to read my “hilarious” comments, and I don’t need to see her inappropriate reactions. Neither of us needs the raised blood pressure readings.

Sadly, although I’ve known our mutual friend for over 30 years, I’m beginning to lose patience with him, too. He doesn’t have a problem voting for a man who would happily molest his sister, his niece, or a female friend of his. Thinking Trump’s terrible behavior is okay says a lot about a person’s character, or lack thereof. I made a promise to myself not to break up friendships solely due to politics. I truly do think people should vote their consciences. But my problems with Trump have little to do with his being a member of the Republican Party (which is not the Republican Party of my youth). They have to do with him being a vile, contemptible, human being who takes pleasure in degrading and debasing other people. I think people who wholeheartedly support that, politics aside, are probably folks with whom I should think twice about associating.

But for now, we’re still friends. I’m just not following him anymore.



Standard
lessons learned, politics, poor judgment

Proverbs 17:28– Melania Trump really ought to zip it.

I remember back in the early heydays of America’s Next Top Model, when original “supermodel” Janice Dickinson was a judge. She was famously rude to a lot of the contestants. But every once in awhile, she had some pearls of wisdom. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard her give– and it was either on ANTM or The Surreal Life— was to tell some mouthy chick to “zip it”. Actually, I believe her exact words were, “Zip it, bitch,” and the incident that prompted that comment was pretty toxic.

Janice told Gina to “zip it”. I’m telling Melania to “zip it”. Suddenly, I miss ANTM.

Those words sound rude and belittling, particularly when they are followed by the word, “bitch”, but in some cases, they are entirely warranted. And, rude or not, they are often excellent advice, particularly when someone can’t help but repeatedly insert their foot in their mouth. Simply “zip it, bitch”. It might be the best thing you do for yourself all day. As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Or maybe, given how cozy the Trumps have tried to get with evangelical Christians, it would be better to use the Biblical version of this notion, which comes from Proverbs 17:28.

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Melania Trump, whose turn as First Lady has been notably feeble and lackluster, had nothing to say as the riots were going on last week. But yesterday, she did issue a statement. And her statement mainly seemed to portray her as a self-identified victim of meanies and bullies. She also expressed sadness about the people whose violent and seditious actions led to their own deaths, specifically mentioning unhinged rioter Ashli Babbitt, who died as she was breaking into the Capitol, ahead of Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, who was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher, and his colleague, Howard Liebengood, who committed suicide. I suppose it is sad that people died… especially for a cause championing Melania’s husband, a man who has no regard for other people, especially when they can’t do anything for him. But for God’s sake, if you’re going to express condolences, at least mention the people who were on the right side of the law first. Ashli Babbitt, noble as she may have thought her actions were, was committing a crime when she was killed.

“I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me — from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda,”  (really Melania? I really don’t care. Do U?)

As the riots were going on, and Trump and his kids were partying and listening to Laura Branigan’s hit song, “Gloria”, Melania was reportedly taking part in a photo shoot featuring rugs. I doubt she has been paying much attention to what’s going on in the place she calls her country. In fact, her statement seems to be something she put up because she felt like she had to, and it was very tone deaf, considering that a lot of Americans are really hurting right now. But, as I pointed out, it’s not the first time Melania hasn’t given a fuck and shown it with her words, spoken or written, or her behavior.

You know, I think Melania is more than ready to leave Washington, DC, and by God, I’m ready to see her go. But as the old saying goes, she shouldn’t go away mad. She should just go away. And zip it, while she’s at it. She has nothing helpful or profound to say, and by now, no one expects much of her. She had a golden opportunity to rise to the occasion of being the First Lady and show us that, even if her husband is a scumbag, she’s got redeeming qualities. Instead, she’s playing “victim” and focusing on herself. It’s precisely why she’s not fit for the role she landed in back in 2017.

Mrs. Trump also had this to say in her parting words…

“I implore people to stop the violence, never make assumptions based on the color of a person’s skin or use differing political ideologies as a basis for aggression and viciousness… We must listen to one another, focus on what unites us, and rise above what divides us.”

Right. Well, I think Melania ought to take her own advice. But I also think she needs to zip it, focus on packing up her shit, and getting the hell out of Washington, DC. It’s time for her to leave, and let a real First Lady take over– someone who cares about other people and doing a good job for America. I’m beyond tired of the Trumps, and what little empathy I had for Melania and the position she clearly never wanted to be in has evaporated, along with my patience. I’m not impressed by Mrs. Trump’s half assed “Be Best” bullshit, and I’m more than ready for her to be a distant memory in a faraway land, even if I do think her homeland (Slovenia) is a beautiful place.

Standard