I still have a bit of writer’s block today… Well, maybe I don’t have writer’s block per se. There’s a lot I could write about. I just don’t feel like getting into what’s on everyone’s minds right now. I would rather complain about something else. Today’s topic is not as much of a problem as it once was. In some ways it’s a relief. In other ways, it’s kinda sad. The title of today’s post is recycled, but the content is mostly fresh.
I grew up with a large, extended family on my dad’s side. I have three sisters, and we all have the same parents. My sisters are much older than I am, though, so in some ways, they seemed more like my aunts. My father had eight brothers and sisters, and seven of them made it to adulthood. My aunts and uncles each had either 2 or 4 children, so there are 22 grandchildren– 11 males and 11 females.
When I was growing up, I thought I had a really awesome family. And, I guess I do… except for the fact that I feel like I no longer belong. Looking back on it, though, I realize that I probably never really belonged. I used to fight with my younger cousins a lot. Now that we’re adults, I’ve found that I’m a lot more liberal than most of my family members are. I didn’t used to be this way. I used to identify as a Republican. I now realize that was because I didn’t know a thing about politics or politicians. I simply voted the way my family and a lot of my friends did. It took leaving the nest to find my own views. And it’s taken several more years for me to have the conviction and confidence to defend my opinions. Sadly, I think that’s taken a toll on some of my relationships.
Today’s blog post title was originally used on a post I wrote in 2016 about certain members of my extended family mindlessly sending me falsely attributed emails that parroted their conservative views. On the original post, I wrote about how one of my favorite relatives, now sadly deceased, had sent me an email supposedly written by the late Andy Rooney. I grew up watching Mr. Rooney on 60 Minutes. He was famously cranky, curmudgeonly, and witty. Sometimes, he had controversial opinions. Still, I couldn’t believe that Andy Rooney would have written an email that espoused the racist views in the email sent to me by my relatives. I checked Snopes, and sure enough, my hunch was correct.
In my 2016 post, I wrote that I was sad for a couple of reasons that I had received that forwarded email. Rooney was a talented writer and expressed himself gracefully. Would he have really written something along the lines of “It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid and smack their little ass when necessary and say ‘NO.’?” And even if Andy Rooney had written the email and did agree with its sentiments, why on earth would people in my family think I would appreciate or agree with that tripe? I figured they must not know me very well. I wrote:
I could sit here and dissect that email forward for its very hateful messages. Instead, I’m just going to make a comment to the people who actually know me and follow this blog (or the other two). First of all, I am not a political conservative. I don’t agree with a lot of conservative views. I am probably more of a centrist than anything else. While I am generally not a fan of political correctness being forced down people’s throats and I place a high value on the freedom of expression, I also appreciate civility and empathy. I try really hard not to be cruel to people, even when I feel angry enough to be cruel. While I would never say that I’m a bleeding heart liberal, neither am I a crusty conservative. And I would never align myself with the attitude presented in the email forward I received last night.
What really surprises me is that the people who forwarded that email to me are a couple of my favorite relatives. They have always been good to me… probably even better to me than my own parents ever were. They are genuinely kind to everyone. I hesitate to send a negative response to them, even in a loving tone, because despite hating the constant forwarded emails, I do love them very much and don’t want to offend them, even though they’ve offended me. I respect them as my elders and as people who helped make me who I am.
I ended my post wondering what I should do. I didn’t want to be offensive, but that email was offensive to me. It didn’t speak to me. And while I’m sure I could have crafted a kind response to them and a request not to mindlessly forward conservative political bullshit to me, I’m not sure that would have been received in a spirit of fun or goodwill. I wrote this in my 2016 post:
Part of me thinks it’s easiest to just ignore and delete the emails. Another part of me feels like I should say something about them. I’m torn between not wanting to upset people and feeling like I need to call bullshit. I wonder if it’s worth the hassle and if my saying anything would change anything. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from my family members. It’s just that 99.9% of the forwards, even if they aren’t hateful and racist, are just plain useless and/or stupid.
I have heard people say that when you get a forwarded email from someone, you should take it as a sign they were thinking of you. If that’s true, how am I supposed to take it when I get an email that really doesn’t connect with my beliefs or world view at all? And it’s not even something my relative wrote from the heart– it’s ripped off crap written by some anonymous identity thieving hack. If I had received an original email from a family member that contained the same sentiments in the so-called Andy Rooney hack job, I probably still wouldn’t appreciate it much. But at least I’d know the email was somewhat original and written for me. I would at least have a sign that the family member was communicating with me personally and not just poking me with rehashed crap that has already been spread to the masses. What the hell is the point of forwarding shit that has been forwarded ad nauseam for over a decade and identified as not being authentic?
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve been trained to be “nice”. I grew up with a father who believed in “smacking my ‘little’ ass” whenever he felt it was warranted. Of course, when he did that, he was usually angry and sometimes intoxicated. So his judgment about whether or not physical discipline was required was probably a bit skewed. The end result was that when my father died in 2014, I was kind of ambivalent. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t miss him very much, even though I thought I loved him when he was alive.
Yesterday, Bill and I were talking about his dad, who died last November. I never got a chance to know my father-in-law well. I saw him in person a handful of times. I always thought he was a nice man, albeit a little bit simple. I say “simple”, but that doesn’t mean I think he was “simple-minded”. He was just not one to fuss with complexities. He had a tendency to be nice to a fault, and he let people steamroll him… to include Bill’s ex wife. He didn’t know Bill that well, because he and Bill’s mom divorced when Bill was very young. Bill visited his dad, but due to the nature of visitation, it was hard for them to bond or have a relationship in which there was more than a “vacation” mindset. Then Bill’s mom moved to Arizona and later, Texas, while Bill’s dad lived in Tennessee. So that made it even harder for them to really bond.
Bill missed his father’s funeral, thanks to COVID-19. He did manage to tell him he loved him, thanks to Skype. Bill’s dad’s last words were a request for Bill to be kind to his wife, Bill’s stepmother. The one thing Bill’s dad said to me, during the few times I met him, was that Bill had exceeded his expectations. He said that he hadn’t thought Bill was tough enough to be in the Army. But Bill had proven him wrong. I think he meant it as an expression of pride, but it was actually kind of a backhanded compliment. But at least Bill’s dad wasn’t a believer in physical violence to get his point across, as my father was. I wish they had known each other better before time ran out.
Nowadays, I don’t get those forwards from my relatives. What ended up happening is that another relative went way too far. And I got really mad and cussed him out. It happened in February 2017, when Bill and I were vacationing in France. My uncle sent a pro Trump/Pence forward to me. Feeling a bit saucy, and more than a little fed up by the constant political bullshit, I sent a polite response. Seriously, it initially WAS polite. I simply wrote back that I wasn’t impressed with either Trump or Pence and thought they both needed to go. In a blog post from that time, I wrote this:
My uncle came back and accused me of being a “nut case”. He said that in two years, I’ll be “cheering” for Trump. He assumes I voted for Hillary Clinton. I didn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, but I would much prefer her to Trump. At least she’s competent and knows enough not to act like a goddamn psychopath on Twitter.
So anyway, being called a nutcase by my uncle pissed me the fuck right off. So I wrote back to him and said, “No, Ed, I really will not [be cheering]. You need to stop sending me this crap. Unless you want a verbal ass kicking, you’ll take me off your email list.”
My sister saw what I wrote and said, “Oh no, now you’ve done it.” I explained to her that I’m rapidly reaching a point at which I am about to disassociate with people who resort to mean spirited personal insults over politics, even if it’s a family member. She implored me to calm down, probably realizing that since I live overseas and don’t miss anyone, it would be all too easy for me to simply drop out of the family fold altogether.
He responded and once again called me crazy. He also said “GET OVER IT!” Just like that.
I wonder, does he really expect me to just “get over it”? He knows where I come from. I have a lot of the same qualities he has. In fact, being outspoken is what makes me a family member of his.
Anyway… I wrote back and said, “Ed, I’m warning you. Leave me alone. Stop sending me political bullshit.”
He may write back today, after he’s had a few belts. If he does, I will probably shred him.
As I recall, Ed did send me a few more political emails, but there were fewer of them. And now I don’t get so many anymore, partly because some of the worst offenders are now dead. And partly because I finally got angry and told the still living ones to knock it off. But now I don’t really hear much from them anymore…
Yesterday, I told Bill that I still love my family, but I don’t feel like I can go home again. I don’t think I want to spend a holiday with them like I used to, when I was younger and more pliant. The political forwards weren’t always bad, though. Sometimes, they inspired me to be creative. My uncle sent me the below forwarded poem back in January 2018. Try not to gag (even though of COURSE I honor our vets– I am married to one).
Re: Fwd: Fw: A TERRIFIC POEM /Our Vets.
I’m honored to have the opportunity to pass this well-written poem along.
He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.
And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.
He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.
When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?
Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.
He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”
If you are proud of our Vets, then pass this on.
I was so tired of my uncle’s conservative political forwards that I decided to rewrite this “well-written” poem… I don’t remember if I sent it to him. I probably didn’t, since I was trained to be “nice”.
He was getting old and senile
And his mind was failing fast,
Uncle Ed sat by his computer,
Sending emails from the past.
Of politicians he agreed with
And decisions they had made,
Of their exploits within Washington;
Slashing Social Security and Medicaid.
And ‘tho to some of his relatives
Ed’s emails were mostly bunk,
They resolved to just ignore them
Cuz’ they figured he was drunk.
Sometimes the emails are racist
and often they offend,
And my mood’s a little poorer
when Uncle Ed hits “send”.
He’s worked and raised a family,
And managed his travails;
Yet on the day he passes,
I’ll only recall his emails.
Although I’ve always loved him,
his children, and his wife.
I tire of his political bullshit;
which often causes strife.
For many politicians are selfish,
And people think they’re fake,
Others forecast their passing,
And the policies they’ll make.
The media tells how their choices
Badly affect the old and the young,
And the way they screw the veterans
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
An uncle who sends political emails
And disturbs his fellow man?
Or the ordinary housewife
Whose nerves are worn and frayed,
Fighting hard to still the impulse
that make her words cut like blades?
The hapless housewife’s stipend
And the style in which she lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the lack of a shit she gives.
About her uncle’s politics,
Republican and all,
His insights regarding morality,
And how America will fall.
It is not the lowly relative
With patience, grace, and poise,
Who wins respect and gratitude
When her drunken uncle annoys.
Should she find herself angry,
The latest missive on her screen,
Wouldn’t she like to respond,
To his ever-venting spleen?
Or would she just sit quietly
Again holding her piece,
As her dad, Ed’s big brother Bill,
Taught Ed’s very clever niece.
She’s just a common cousin,
Daughter, sister, niece, and female,
But her life is worth just enough–
To receive masses of forwarded email.
For when old men are online,
In the darkest hours of the night,
One never knows what bullshit
They’ll send via kilobyte.
She cannot block his postings
And he will not volunteer,
To stop forwarding ridiculous emails,
That won’t inspire cheer…
Perhaps in a simple reprimand
her response will someday be:
“I’M TIRED OF YOUR FORWARDS.
STOP SENDING THAT CRAP TO ME.”
If you are sick of mindless email forwards full of conservative politics, then pass this on.
Maybe it’s kind of mean to be rewriting this classic piece of poetry that so touched my uncle’s heart. However, I think I’ve historically generally been pretty patient with him. At the time I posted this, I asked him to stop sending me this shit a year prior, and yet he persisted. I might as well have a little fun with it. After all, a gift for words is something passed down from his side of the family. It’s like being related to a bunch of southern styled Archie Bunkers.
Ah well… We’ll see if and when I ever go home again. Maybe I’m better off over here with Bill. Maybe it’s a lucky thing that I see things more clearly now than I used to, even if my eyes get more myopic and astigmatic by the day. It’s probably true that you can never really go home again. And sometimes, even your relatives don’t really know you.