musings

I did it…

I wrote lyrics to a song called “Three Chords and the Truth”. But now I think maybe I want to change the melody. Maybe I might even make the song all mine, rather than just a parody of someone else’s song. For that, I’m going to need some more time and technique.

I learned a new guitar skill today. It’s a technique that involves the blues. Unfortunately, my hands are still too small and my fingers aren’t very flexible or dexterous yet. I’m still working on it. Learning to play guitar is very satisfying on many levels, although I’ve kind of been neglecting my vocals. Maybe I’ll work on those today, too. The more I work on music, the less time I have to sit and think about what’s wrong with the world.

Bill had to go into work again today, mainly because the Internet is still sucking pretty hard. It’s hard for both of us to work on the Net right now. I don’t know what’s going on with our ISP. Maybe they’re needing to do some upgrades. Anyway, we had a package waiting at the post office, so it’s just as well that he went in.

Not much else has happened today. I spent several hours washing the linens, took Arran for a walk, ran into a lady walking her horses, and did some writing on my travel blog. The writing and laundry took up the morning. I’m glad we went to the Eifel, although we probably aren’t interesting enough for most people to follow, especially in the midst of COVID-19. I’m finding that I don’t have much desire to go through the rigamarole required to visit a museum or some other indoor place, especially when not that many people seem to appreciate my efforts. For now, it’s probably better to blog mostly for myself. I do like to go back and read some of my memories, especially of many of the trips we’ve taken. I wish I were a blogger when we were in Germany the first time. We had some epic times when we were here from 2007-09.

I may take some time to do some music this afternoon… then try to finish my latest book so I can review it. Maybe I’ll think about where we can take our next long weekend, although I have a feeling we’ll be going to Stuttgart next, rather than a place we haven’t yet been. It’s way past time for us to see the dentist.

I guess the one thing I can mention is that SingSnap is about to launch a new Web site, since Adobe Flash is about to be obsolete. I’m not sure I’m going to like it. The Beta version is already available and I don’t like the layout much. People are also bitching about some policy changes that were made toward those who don’t choose to pay for a membership. It doesn’t affect me, since I am a paying member, although I have found that I’m kind of losing interest in the site. It could be because now I’m getting to the point at which I can accompany myself and maybe even play songs I never could before.

If anything good comes from a pandemic, it’s that I finally decided to pick up a guitar and learn how to play it. Now, I just need to learn how to play it well, so I rely less on karaoke and kind-hearted people to accompany me.

I do wonder, though… this is something that has crossed my mind a lot. Do people think it’s wrong to stay home? Do people think it’s wrong to stay home because of face mask requirements? Am I selfish for not going out and gamely supporting the economy? I don’t know. God help anyone who says anything anti-mask, though. Apparently, that’s what’s going to save humanity.

For the record… although I do comply with the mask requirements, I personally don’t think they do a lot of good. They make people feel better. Someone in RfM posted a rant about how they went to get ice cream. The girl who waited on them was wearing a mask and a face shield, but apparently neglected to wash her hands before serving ice cream or wear gloves. She touched her mask and her visor, prepared the ice cream, vanilla with almonds, and then “smooshed” it into the cup with her bare, unwashed hands.

The poster said nothing at the time, but was upset. S/he felt the ice cream was now contaminated. Maybe it was, although probably not by COVID-19, which I don’t think is a food borne pathogen… And, to be sure, it would not have been acceptable to “smoosh” the ice cream with bare hands even before the pandemic struck. But it just brought to mind the fact that a lot of people would not have noticed. They would have noticed her wearing the mask and the shield because it was obvious. But how many people actually watch when food handlers prepare food? That’s mostly why I’m not all that sold on the masks. Most people are simply not conscious of being scrupulous at all times. People get tired and careless, or they fall into old habits. The person who is dutifully wearing a mask might not have changed it in weeks. Or they might have been behind the counter picking their nose… You just don’t know.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for right now. Maybe I’ll be back if I get inspired, but I think I’d rather play guitar.

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social media

Noise I don’t need in my life right now.

In praise of “real friends”…

Last night, just before I went to bed, I read yet another derisive status update by someone I don’t know particularly well. This guy, famously or infamously known as “newnamenoah” on YouTube, has over 4000 “friends” on Facebook. People tend to love him or hate him. I’ve always mostly thought he was interesting and entertaining, with big brass balls. Here was a guy who invaded LDS temples with pinhole cameras and recorded “secret” ordinances, then posted them on YouTube.

There’s no telling how many people newnamenoah, aka Mike, has helped with his videos. He’s probably pissed off just as many people by ruining the “mystery” of the LDS temples. He’s been arrested for trespassing, too. I followed his antics for a few years, but had no personal dealings with him. I often thought he was funny, especially when he dealt with self-righteous people who wanted to tell him what to do. I had respect for his “work”, although lots of people were angry at him for exposing something they considered “sacred”.

But coronavirus has changed things. Some things have changed for the better. Some have changed for the worse. Some things have just plain changed. I think the virus has forced most people into a different lifestyle… things are topsy turvy, with people not knowing what they’re going to do about certain major issues like accessing childcare, going to school, caring for elderly parents, and paying their bills. I don’t know.

People are stressed out and pissed off. Some are depressed. Many people are frustrated and worried about the future. For some folks, this is about simple survival on the most basic level. Some people are reacting by trying to exert some form of control, whether it be by haranguing rule-breakers or rebelling against the rules. It’s causing a lot of people to be ruder than they might otherwise be, although I think Mike has pretty much always been dismissive and rude to people he doesn’t respect. Fair enough.

At this point in my life, I am very fortunate. I currently live in a country where the virus has been mostly contained, and it appears that we’re going to get to stay for awhile longer. Life is not completely normal here, but it’s close. I’ve been “locked down”, but not really because I’ve had to be. I’ve mostly decided I’d rather stay away from the risks and hassles of being out and about. But I realize that’s a privilege that many people don’t have. As fortunate as I am, though, I have found that the virus has made me a lot less tolerant of things I used to brush off with relative ease.

It’s not even so much that I’m feeling upset anymore. It’s more that I just think I fell into a path that had me putting up with stuff that I shouldn’t. A lot of shit is just that– shit. It stinks and needs to be flushed.

Prior to the virus, I tolerated things that seemed important… I put up with an abusive landlady, griping all the while, yet acquiescing when I was told I didn’t have the right to complain about the shitty way she treated Bill and me. I put up with people being “mean” to me on the Internet, when really all I had to do was unfriend or block them. I wrote many words about being upset or disappointed by people I thought were better, when I really should just expect that a lot of people are jerks and don’t have regard for other people. Just let them go and be done with it. It is what it is. Bitching about it makes me feel better temporarily, but doesn’t really change anything.

I recently wrote a post called Mask-Misanthropy. I’ve noticed a lot of people hitting it lately. I don’t know why people are reading it. Are they reading it because they agree with me that people have gotten a lot less “civilized” lately? Or are they reading it, thinking I’m a clueless “Karen” (hate that term) who needs a reality check? You know what? Who fucking cares? If you read my stuff and come away with the idea that I don’t take the virus seriously, then I must conclude that reading comprehension isn’t one of your strengths. I don’t like masks and I go out of my way to avoid wearing them. But I do so by staying home most of the time. I think that’s more effective than wearing a mask, and I’m lucky enough that I can do that. When I go out, yes, I wear the mask. I hate it, but I do comply with the rules.

The main point of the Mask-Misanthropy post is that I don’t think being rude and nasty, calling people names, being insulting, and lecturing so-called “friends” is the way to get them to cooperate. I understand that people are feeling tense and frustrated. I get that they’re scared and rightfully worried about the future. I just don’t understand how cursing at and shaming “friends” is the way to make the situation better. If someone is a “friend”, doesn’t that mean you hold them in some kind of positive esteem? How is it friendly to call your friends “morons”?

That was where I was last night as I was looking at Mike’s Facebook page. He’d written a post insulting people who are “anti-mask”. It was one of many I’d seen by him on a variety of controversial topics. He basically called them “mouth breathers”. Someone on his page took him to task for name calling. He insulted her, too. Then, I guess when she decided to unfriend him, he wrote a rant on his page about how he doesn’t lose a minute of sleep over people who unfriend him (I think he might have called them morons, but I don’t care to check). In the past, when he’s done that, I’ve laughed it off. But then it occurred to me that it must matter to him on some level, because he took the time to post about it. And what he posted was just more of the same bile.

I had absolutely nothing to do with last night’s drama. Before I unfriended him, I almost never commented on Mike’s posts. I read some of them, enjoyed a few of them, but mostly they were just “noise” on my page. A lot of his posts were about what a schmuck Donald Trump is. And I agree, Trump is a schmuck– putting it very mildly. A lot of posts were about how damaging Mormonism is. And I agree, Mormonism is pretty damaging to a lot of people. Sometimes, he posted stuff about him living his best life, which was nice to see… but he also posted about being arrested when he stepped on LDS church property. But since a lot of that shit is public, I can read it whether or not we’re “friends”. And I’m getting tired of reading angry, insulting, shaming, frustrated posts by people who paint anyone who doesn’t agree with them with a broad brush and dismiss them as “stupid mouth breathers”. It’s noise I don’t need in my life right now.

As the old song goes, “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”. On the whole, I think being kind and supportive is better than being angry, derisive, and confrontational. I realize that I’m not always one to practice what I preach, but I’m working on it. I mostly try to keep my rantings to my blog, which people have to actually navigate to if they want to read. I understand the impulse to lash out at people who aren’t doing what you think they should be doing, but it seems counterintuitive to call these people “friends” if you’re going to also curse at them and call them names.

I’m finding that the stress of the coronavirus and my need for some semblance of normalcy has made me much less willing to tolerate unnecessary “noise” and drama. I’ll probably unfriend a lot more people as time goes on… or maybe, as I have been threatening, I’ll just dump Facebook altogether and become a recluse. By the way, as of yesterday, I finally lost my “orange badge of shame“. Glad it didn’t take a year.

Bill does this all the time. It drives me nuts.

Mental health is very important. There’s no point in staying physically healthy if your mind is so fucked up with depression and anxiety that you can’t enjoy your life. It’s already stressful enough reading the news every day, listening to Donald Trump speak, and realizing just how much he has fucked up the world. I don’t need the extra noise in the form of angry accusations, constant insults, and non-stop political rants. If I wanted that, I could watch Fox News.

Given that he has over 4000 friends, I doubt Mike will miss me anyway. On the other hand, having tons of friends isn’t a guarantee that unfriending won’t be wounding to some folks. Last month, I got blocked by a guy I unfriended because I didn’t want to read so much about politics. Since we didn’t actually know each other offline and we almost never engaged, I figured he wouldn’t care– although I did know he had a “friend tracker”. Boy, was I wrong! He sent me a PM, apologizing if it was something he said. Then he got all pissed off when I explained that the constant barrage of negativity was causing me mental stress. Guess he wasn’t really a friend, after all. Ditto for the woman who blocked me when I unfriended her for the same reason. I can’t say that I mind being blocked by either of them. It’s not like we were actually friendly.

A real friend wouldn’t want to cause me stress, strife, or anguish. Instead, they would wish me well. A real friend wouldn’t call me stupid, clueless, moronic, or a mouth breather. No one has really done that to me personally, but when I see things addressed to a group as a whole, it turns into an insult that includes everyone who reads or hears it. And I just don’t need it. No one does.

I often like to say good things can come out of almost any situation. Maybe one thing that will come out of the coronavirus is that it will help me streamline who I allow into my life. Real friends are rare and valuable. I’ll do my best to keep them, since I’m lucky enough to have some of them– a few are even people I have never met offline. Fake friends on Facebook are just noises I don’t need in my life. I’m going to learn to let them go sooner rather than later.

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condescending twatbags, modern problems, social media

“Calm down. Have some dip.”

Listen to George.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been giving more thought to ditching Facebook. With each passing day, it becomes more and more of an attractive option to me. I think dumping Facebook would spare me a lot of aggravation. On the other hand, I worry that without Facebook, I’ll be bored. I never really got into Twitter, although I do have an account there. I don’t use Instagram at all, and am not wanting to start. But Facebook is becoming more and more of a problem for me, even though I know if I quit using it, there would be a handful people I would miss. And I mean, out of just over 400 friends, I would probably miss about 25 or 30 of them. The rest, I really could take or leave.

Yesterday, as I carefully hid post after virtue signaling post about the importance of wearing face masks, I was prompted to do a Google search. It was because yet another one of my “friends” posted the “wear a damn mask” meme. I wrote a few days ago that I find that phrase very off putting and rude. I don’t think that’s an expression that true friends would use toward each other. When I see it written, I imagine someone snarling at me. Maybe it’s because I’m an old fart now, but being snarled at isn’t appealing. I mean, I hope at some point, someone besides Bill will show me basic respect… although maybe that’s a lost cause. Figures Generation X would get screwed like that. We were all taught some basic home training, but by the time we got old, that all went out the window.

Anyway, my friend posted “wear a damn mask”, which irritated me, if only because I know she’s bright enough to come up with something of her own that is clever, rather than passing around yet another stale platitude originally stated by a politician. If you search “wear a damn mask”, you will find many results by people who have co-opted that cliche for their own news articles and blog posts, and that annoys me even more. So I headed to Google and typed, “I hate wear a damn mask”. It actually pains me to write that here, since it’s not grammatically correct. But I didn’t want results for “I hate wearing a damn mask”, which is already a given. I wanted to know if other people out in Google land are as annoyed by the phrase “wear a damn mask” as I am.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, although I did stumble across a very clever and entertaining article on a site called Damage. It’s apparently a magazine that seeks and actually pays writers for content. A writer named Amber A’Lee Frost wrote a very witty post called “I’m Not Wearing a Mask”. That’s probably a great title, since it will beg people to click it. A whole lot of people are full of righteous indignation and sanctimony about non-mask wearers. They’re calling them “selfish”, “thoughtless”, “reckless”, “stupid”, and even “murderous“.

Amber A’Lee Frost wrote about checking her email and being relieved to find one from Banana Republic, telling her she is to wear earth tones this summer. It was a shred of normalcy that reminded her that summer would, indeed, happen this year. The world wasn’t and isn’t about to end. Like me, Frost is sick of the fucking ads for “cute masks“, another topic I have bitched about on this blog. And, like me, she is writing about cooperating for the common good, which I have been doing, but not liking. These two paragraphs very nicely nailed how I feel:

I do wear a mask (so congratulations if you made it this far into the essay without calling the cops on me), and I hate it. I’m aware that not liking the masks is neither an original nor productive sentiment, but it doesn’t hurt anyone to admit it either, so it would stand to reason that it is an appropriate and healthy thing to feel and to say. And so…

I hate The Masks. I hate wearing them, I hate seeing other people wearing them, I hate seeing the discarded ones all over the ground. I fucking hate them. I feel like I live in an open-air hospital, or a particularly cosmopolitan leper colony. I miss human faces very badly, and I hate the sensation of being trapped in a breathing swamp of my own self, as each damp exhale rolls back onto my face.

Yes. YES! Especially the part about feeling like living in an “open-air hospital”, although fortunately, so far, people in Germany aren’t quite that gung ho yet. Most people around here only wear the masks indoors or on public transportation.

I enjoyed the rest of Frost’s essay very much. She has a way with words, and some of her comments were very funny to me, while still being oddly poignant. For instance, Frost writes about how children during the World War II era wore gas masks that looked like Mickey Mouse. The beloved mouse styled gas mask was designed by the U.S. Army and was supposed to be comforting to children as they wore the masks to protect themselves from deadly mustard gas. But the “cute” design only served to make the masks look weirdly menacing and dystopian. Like me, Frost finds the current trend of “cute” face masks upsetting, creepy, depressing, and when it comes down to it, repulsive. She writes, “the new market of boutique facemasks repulses me far more than any makeshift from a bandana or scarf, or the cold medicality of the N95 respirator. But make no mistake; they all suck.” I completely agree!

I showed the article to Bill, who also found it a good read. So I shared it on Facebook, and got some good comments. One friend even recognized the post as a great perspective on this whole pandemic thing, particularly involving people who are reacting in an extreme way. I completely understand how serious the pandemic is. I’ve been saying so from the get go. But that doesn’t mean I am willing to wear a face mask 24/7 for the rest of my life. I expect these measures to be temporary, just as they have been in the past when there’s been a war involving poisonous gases as weapons or a pandemic going on. In those days, we didn’t have social media, though, so we weren’t all subjected to everyone else’s views on how people should be coping or reacting to this current reality.

A friend didn’t like Amber A’Lee Frost’s post. She wrote that it was just as annoying as all the preachy virtue signaling posts by the pro mask brigade, and it’s just another form of virtue signaling. I advised her not to read articles she doesn’t like. She then implied that the fact that she’d read the post was my fault, since I had enjoyed it and was enlightened by it. In other words, she thought she’d like it, since I had. And, I guess, since she didn’t like it, I somehow “let her down”.

To be honest, I was kind of non-plussed by this response. I have over 400 Facebook friends. I should probably have far fewer, but that’s beside the point. How can I possibly be expected to know what will or won’t please or enlighten my friends? I didn’t realize it was my duty to entertain them on my Facebook page. I liked Amber A’Lee Frost’s essay, and I think that should be good enough, at least when it comes to deciding what to share on MY page. I can’t please everybody, nor can I know what will appeal to everybody. It’s not like she didn’t know by the title of the piece– “I’m Not Wearing a Mask”– that the post was going to be about face masks. Moreover, most blogs are full of virtue signaling. God knows, mine is!

Amber A’Lee Frost’s post is the first and only one I’ve seen so far that accurately addresses how I’ve been feeling. I’ve been struggling to convey the same thoughts in my blog that she did so well in her essay. I’ve not been as successful. I was delighted to read how she’d put the experience of living in this new reality. It was funny, witty, and easy to read, but it was also startlingly accurate to me. We know that the masks are necessary for now, but we don’t have to like it. And saying out loud or posting that we don’t like it and don’t want it to go on forever doesn’t make us bad or irresponsible people.

Just as I was recovering from that altercation, I ran across a news article about Joe Biden and his thoughts on mask wearing. The CBS News headline states, “Biden says he’d use executive powers to force Americans to wear masks in public”. That headline makes me worry. We don’t need a politician acting like Trump, only from the other side of the political spectrum. Trump has been using a lot of forceful, obnoxious, rights ignoring language. I don’t want to see or hear that from Joe Biden. I want him to be sensible and a good role model. I want him to consider all viewpoints and do what is best for the country in a moderate way. I am not looking for Trump behavior, only with a liberal bent. The word “force” is not a good one to use in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. America is supposed to be about freedom. There is nothing “free” about the word “force”, and it won’t win over reluctant Trump supporters who don’t like the orange menace, but like “leftism” even less.

In the course of our discussion about that thread, someone brought up seatbelts and how long it took to convince people to wear them. And yes, I DO remember quite well. In fact, I always hated seatbelts when I was a kid. I didn’t consistently have to wear them, which was probably one of the problems. The other problem was that they were uncomfortable, confining, and restrictive, and, in fact, weren’t really that safe. Seatbelts in the 1970s were not at all like seatbelts of 2020. Today’s seatbelts are a lot more functional and comfortable, even with the added shoulder belt in the back seat that we didn’t have in the 1980s.

But– I still don’t see wearing a mask as the same as wearing a seatbelt. It’s always been unsafe to ride in a car unrestrained. That was true even before seatbelts were invented. Face masks, on the other hand, are a very new thing for the vast majority of people and, until very recently, it was not considered unsafe to walk around in public without one. For most people with normal immune systems, it truly wasn’t unsafe.

It takes time and evidence for people to change their opinions and habits. Trying to force people to change, berating and insulting them, and not using common sense is not the best way to change hearts and minds about an issue. All you have to do to know this is look at some of the failed public health campaigns of the past… and present, really.

Like, is anyone really convinced that only providing sexual abstinence education to teenagers helps fix our nation’s issues with teen pregnancy? Look at where the teen pregnancy problems are the worst and you’ll easily find the answer to that question. Ditto for promoting condom use to prevent HIV infection. In the 1980s, public health experts were threatened with a withdrawal of federal funding if they made any health promotion materials that implied that homosexual behavior is acceptable. It also ignored the fact that condoms blocked what most gay men enjoy most about sex– physical contact and sensations. Consequently, a lot of homosexuals ignored advice to use condoms to protect themselves against the virus that causes AIDS. A lot of time and money was wasted, and the pandemic continued until scientists finally started finding ways to effectively treat the virus and condom manufacturers started making products that addressed what their customers were looking for in a sexual experience.

Someone decided to take me to task on that issue, too. I was bombarded with links to articles about the coronavirus in such a way that I couldn’t possibly read or respond to every link in a timely manner. Frankly, I found that approach insulting because I can Google with the best of ’em. The person told me they once were paid to do online research. Well, guess what? So was I! And I actually earned an advanced degree in public health and worked in epidemiology, so I’m not exactly a slouch myself when it comes to research, particularly in the field of public health and healthcare policy, another area in which I used to work. But really, I didn’t want to talk about research. I wanted to talk about common sense.

What has me especially concerned is that a whole lot of people– a lot of them people lucky enough to be on or beyond the edge of elderly, who have been fortunate enough to enjoy long, productive lives of relative normalcy– are pleading with young people to give up the prospect of living a “normal” life themselves. They are acting as if we should all simply accept that the virus is here to stay and we should grin and bear the prospect that we’ll be uncomfortable and inconvenienced by it for the rest of our lives. Some of them sound like this is how they think it’s going to be from now on, and the rest of us should simply relax and be okay with it.

Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that I’m NOT okay with it. I do not want to wear a mask from now on. I will wear one for now, out of respect for the common good, but I expect the masks to be a TEMPORARY measure. I am not willing to give up seeing people smile, hugging and kissing, eating good food and drinking fine wines in restaurants, listening to people play saxophone on street corners or hearing choirs sing in churches, feeling cool breezes on my face, wearing pretty lipstick, or hearing people speak unmuffled in public. I am not going to just sit still and accept that as my future without complaint.

Feeling this way doesn’t make me crazy or irresponsible or in need of a lecture. It’s COMMON SENSE. I hope and expect that scientists will find a way to arrest or treat this virus, the same way science has handled prior pandemics. So yes, I will cooperate with the mask requirements for now, although I’d rather simply stay home, and I suspect that pretty soon, that will be an issue because it will affect the economy. But I absolutely expect that I won’t be putting up with this shit for the rest of my life. I would hope other people feel the same way. And I would also hope that before they go off on someone for complaining about the masks and rightfully saying that wearing them sucks, people would use common sense.

Wearing a face mask sucks. I doubt that many people really enjoy it. Admitting that it sucks isn’t a bad thing. It serves as motivation to make disease prevention more practical and comfortable for everyone. People who say the masks suck and admit to hating wearing them aren’t necessarily in need or a lecture or an intervention. They aren’t even necessarily non-compliant. And I’m getting tired of thinking this and posting it only in my blog as I quietly hide, ignore, or scroll past posts and stale memes about the importance of face masks because I don’t want to be harassed by my so-called “friends” who apparently think I’m stupid and need a clue.

I get it. Many people think face masks are important and should be mandatory. Most of your friends either get it, or won’t be convinced. Hitting us over the head repeatedly with the same message isn’t going to do much more than piss us off… and, in my case, make me think about ditching Facebook altogether– although I mostly think I might do it because I’m pissed off about being falsely accused of posting “hate speech” on Facebook and not being able to complain about it to a real person. That is lame as hell, and it tells me that Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk have way too much power in my life.

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poor judgment, social media

We shouldn’t “love to hate” people…

At the risk of sounding like I’m telling people what to do, I feel compelled to write a post about a news story I was alerted to last night. Amber Lynn Gilles of San Diego recently decided to visit a Starbucks. She was not wearing a face mask, even though the masks were required.

San Diego County issued a notice as of May 1, requiring residents to wear face coverings in most public settings, including when visiting a store or getting food at a restaurant. The rule does offer exemptions for those with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Gilles implied that she is medically exempt from wearing a mask, but she didn’t explain why. Perhaps she doesn’t actually have a medical condition preventing her from wearing a mask. Or maybe she simply feels it’s no one else’s business.

In any case, Lenin Gutierrez, the barista who tried to serve Ms. Gilles, asked her if she had a mask. Gilles said she didn’t. So Lenin said he couldn’t serve her.

Gilles’ response was to flip off Lenin, “curse up a storm”, take Lenin’s picture, threaten to report him to corporate, and complain about him on Facebook. This was her now deleted post:

“Meet lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.”

To be sure, this was not Amber Lynn’s finest day. I don’t condone her behavior at all. She sounds very much like an asshole. Other people thought so too, and her post quickly backfired. She got all kinds of hate, and yes, lots of people calling her a “Karen”, which if you know this blog, you know I don’t like. But what was most troubling to me was that Gilles got death threats. It struck me as completely hypocritical and ridiculous, especially since the face masks are supposed to help preserve life.

As I have read on Facebook post after Facebook post for the past few weeks, wearing a mask is the “kind” and “considerate” thing to do. If you wear one, you are showing regard for other people and their health. Well… if that’s how people really feel– that all people’s lives are important, and we should be doing our best to preserve them and show our regard for others– why would we cheer about Amber Lynn Gilles getting death threats?

Gilles doesn’t sound like a very pleasant person. She wrote on Facebook that “Masks are stupid and so are the people wearing them.” According to the Washington Post article I linked, Gilles has also expressed her contempt for masks in prior posts and suggests that people who wear them are “not thinking clearly”. The 35 year old mother of three has also been described as an “anti-vaxxer”. She was quoted as saying, “It starts with coffee but it ends with digital certificates and forced vaccinations.”

Mmm’kay then… it sounds to me like Gilles is very frightened about something. Perhaps that is what led to her outburst. Maybe she’s feeling “caution fatigued“, as I know I am these days. I know I’ve been feeling anxious and depressed and, at times, angry about what’s happened this year. I feel kind of robbed, even though I probably don’t have the right to feel that way. I am admittedly a very privileged person who enjoys the good fortune of being able to stay home and avoid these kinds of altercations. However, I still feel angry and depressed, whether or not people think I have that right. It is what it is.

Coronavirus is scary, and many people are fearful of what is going to happen in the immediate future. A lot of times, fear is expressed as anger. Anger makes people feel powerful and strong. Fear makes them feel weak and powerless. I’ve seen this reaction in dogs many times… wonderful, sweet, loving pets reduced to snarling and lashing out with their teeth because they’re scared and feel the need to defend themselves. I don’t think humans are necessarily that different. I’ll bet Amber isn’t always profane and hostile. Most people aren’t.

I don’t know what led Amber Lynn Gilles to this point in her life. I’d like to think, though, that she’s not a totally terrible person. This incident amounts to just a few minutes of her life. In my experience, most people are not completely horrible, nor are they completely wonderful. Most people have good days and bad days. I would not want to see a person’s life ruined over a few bad moments caught on video or social media. I would not want Amber Lynn Gilles to kill herself or be murdered over something like this. I think people who send death threats should be prosecuted.

Someone on the Washington Post wrote this comment, with which I completely agreed:

Yeah… it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for recklessly avoiding wearing a mask when your response is wishing for them to die.

I suspect that the people who are reacting in this way, whether they’re refusing to wear a mask or being hateful to people who refuse to wear masks, are doing so because they’re scared and feel like they’ve lost control. They feel good “going off” on someone, not realizing that reacting to other human beings with hatred is no better than the initial bad behavior that prompted the hateful response. Lest anyone call me a hypocrite, I’ll even admit that I should try harder not to be mean spirited, too. Sometimes I vent with anger, although I mostly try to keep it somewhat private. Especially now. I try to do better, although it’s a daily struggle.

The good news is that Lenin Gutierrez is now being rewarded for the few minutes of meanness Amber Lynn Gilles sent his way. Matt Cowan, who doesn’t know him or Amber Lynn Gilles, decided to set up a GoFundMe account for him, inviting people to give him tips. At this writing, his tip fund is over $58,000, and Gutierrez, who sounds like a genuinely good person, says he’s going to use the money to teach dance to children.

I have often stated that I think good things can come out of almost any situation. As unpleasant as Amber Lynn Gilles’ behavior was, if you think about it, it may ultimately change many lives. If Gutierrez makes good on his plans to teach dance, he will no doubt do a lot of good for a lot of young people who could use some good in their lives. If Amber Lynn hadn’t been so hostile and insulting to Lenin Gutierrez, he might just keep on being a barista, serving the people Gilles calls “sheep”. But now he’s being singled out as a mensch, getting handsomely rewarded for doing his job and being cool. So, if anything, that was something good that came out of Amber Lynn Gilles’ outburst. Maybe Lenin Gutierrez will have the chance to fulfill a dream that will bear wonderful fruit for other people.

There are people I strongly dislike, and I am sure quite a few people strongly dislike me, too. But almost everyone I’ve encountered has had a positive aspect to them. Even Bill’s ex wife, who is someone I admittedly despise, has done me a solid. If she hadn’t been such a terrible wife to Bill and divorced him, I might still be single, and he might still be in a less ideal marriage. So, I am grateful to her for that… and I’m sure if I thought about it, I might even think of other reasons to be grateful to her.

I strongly dislike our former landlady for being immature, disrespectful, and trying to rip us off. But I am grateful that I got to live in a nice community in a beautiful area for a few years. I have good memories of our time there, even if the way we’ve parted hasn’t been good. But even leaving that situation on bad terms has a positive side, since I am also learning from that experience. That will only make me wiser, which is a good thing.

I don’t blame Amber Lynn Gilles for not liking the mask. I don’t like it, either, and I’m not convinced that it helps that much. I think that most of us will eventually be exposed to the virus, whether or not we wear masks. And some of us have already been exposed and aren’t even aware of it. I understand why so many people are angry. People are pent up, frustrated, worried, stressed out, angry, and sad. We should try to work together, but a lot of people feel like rebelling in a crisis– like the scared dog, they lash out. Some of them lash out inappropriately, like Amber Lynn Gilles, and that creates a domino effect of hatred… like the people who wish she was dead. I’m sure Amber’s children wouldn’t want their mother to die for want of a face mask and a cup of coffee. That’s preposterous.

It doesn’t help any matter when we don’t have empathy. Expressing hatred, and wishing for death on people we don’t even know, is not empathetic or civilized. It’s the wrong course of action, and ultimately will lead to our downfall. So no, I don’t wish death on Amber Lynn Gilles or her ilk. I wish her peace, which I hope will help her react with more kindness and understanding the next time she encounters someone simply trying to do their job.

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social media, Trump

Rebellion!

I woke up this morning at about 4:30am. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up early, especially this time of year. In Germany, we get a lot of sunlight in the summer– a lot more than we get in the States. The sun rises super early and doesn’t set until about 9:30 or 10:00pm. Consequently, I wake sooner than I should have to, and often end up reading the news, which makes me wake up even more.

Once again, I read more about the insane state of the world. A friend shared a couple more articles about the importance of face mask wearing. I just wrote about that yesterday, and I don’t really want to write about it again today… and yet it’s on my mind and I feel compelled. I think the masks are becoming symbolic of the overall mood we’re all in these days. A lot of people are stressed out, angry, and scared. There’s a lot of yelling and opining going on, but not much listening. People on both sides of the spectrum– whether it’s about politics or public health– are feeling fed up. It feels like the whole western world is throwing a huge temper tantrum.

Slap 2020 on this and call it done…

COVID-19 is the icing on the “shit” cake that is Donald Trump’s presidency. On the liberal side, there are many vocal cheerleaders for mask wearing. They plead, cajole, lecture, virtue signal, and when that doesn’t work, insult the non mask wearers, mostly assumed to be Trump supporters. The non mask wearers, who are often conservatives, respond defiantly and angrily. The volume level grows ever more shrill, even on social media. No one is stopping to take a deep breath and consider the other sides of the issues. Instead, many people devolve into trading personal insults, which after awhile prove challenging for even the most reasonable person to resist. And instead of being convinced to change their minds about the issues, people come away from those interactions even more stubbornly entrenched in their views.

I have not made it a secret that I am not a fan of the face masks. However, I don’t begrudge other people’s views on mask wearing. And I don’t go out in public very often at all, so I am not putting anyone at risk by not wearing a mask. I have literally only been in a public place once since March 14th. For the very brief time I was in public back in April, I did wear a mask. I hated every minute of that experience and decided I’d rather just stay home. So, until today, that’s what I have been doing. Today, I will go out, because tomorrow is my birthday, and Bill wants to take me away for the weekend. However… to be honest, I’m more nervous than excited about it. I kind of don’t want to go.

Staying home hasn’t totally shielded me from the hostility of the world. It’s my own fault for being on social media, and I have been considering getting off of it… I’ve also been thinking about making this blog private, mainly because I’m finding it harder to deal with people anymore. Many, many people, who probably aren’t really as mean they appear to be on Facebook, are coming off as unkind and unreasonable. In the last few weeks, the couple of times I have left comments for friends that weren’t the “popular” viewpoint, I have been attacked by complete strangers who have called me names, made unflattering assumptions about my character, and are not at all interested in having a civilized conversation.

This morning, I found two Facebook posts about face masks shared within the same hour by a friend. One article, inflammatorily titled “A Mask is a Stupid Hill to Die on, America“, pretty much illustrates my theory about why some people are being so stubborn. In that article by John Pavlovitz, I found the following:

Personally, I found these statements offensive… and that made me disinclined to be swayed by Mr. Pavolovitz’s impassioned writing.

First of all, I’m definitely not a narcissist. If I were a narcissist, I’d be out in public, brazenly breaking the rules and defiantly protesting the masks. But, as I wrote above, I’ve been staying home for the past three months and have gotten to the point at which an idea that used to excite me– going somewhere and staying in a hotel– actually has me feeling scared and nervous. Seeing people wearing masks doesn’t make it better. It’s just a visual reminder of what we’ve lost over the past few years.

I’m not even that afraid of getting sick. COVID-19 is pretty well controlled in Germany, and people here are very respectful in terms of doing what is necessary to control the spread of the virus. I just feel very anxious about being out and about… and that makes me feel angry and resentful. I feel like most of the things that I enjoy… things that make life worth living– have been suddenly taken away. I don’t enjoy life that much as it is, so this pandemic makes it worse. And having some blogger who doesn’t even know anything about me assume that I’m a narcissist because I’m not on the mask bandwagon is very offensive to me. I’m not inclined to change my mind after reading his piece. But I don’t think he wrote it for me, anyway. I think it was written for those who are already believers and want to cast shame on those who don’t feel the same way they do. They feel better for reading and sharing it, even if the person who wrote it really didn’t do much to change hearts and minds as much as he vented.

And secondly, I think anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Facebook knows how I feel about Donald Trump. I probably don’t need to write much more about that. I think he’s a vile scumbag who has made this situation so much worse than it really needed to be. I resent him, too.

I was glad, at least, to see that Mr. Pavlovitz added this last bit to his post:

Note: Obviously, people with health conditions and PTSD which make wearing a mask difficult or impossible are exempt from this piece. (The rest of you know who you are.)

Even if you do have a condition that makes wearing a mask difficult or impossible, you’re still going to be confronted, harassed, and expected to explain yourself. Never mind that many people prefer not to tell strangers about their health. I mean, in the USA, doctors aren’t even allowed to discuss their patients’ health conditions with other doctors unless they get permission. But I’m expected to explain– to any stranger who confronts me and demands to know why I’m not wearing a mask– that I have asthma, or another condition that would make the mask difficult to wear. And even then, it’s not likely the other person would believe me anyway.

My Facebook friend shared another article on Market Watch about an hour after she shared John Pavlovitz’s piece. This one, entitled “Why do so many Americans refuse to wear face masks? Politics is part of it — but only part”. Against my better judgment, I read that article, too. I almost left my friend a comment, but then remembered what happened a couple of weeks ago, when I made the mistake of opining about another article she shared in which someone was being called a “Karen”… I think it was one about Amy Cooper. I also have the unpopular opinion that Amy Cooper isn’t necessarily a racist for calling the cops on birder Christian Cooper, nor do I think it’s appropriate to ruin her life over that incident. Two different people, complete strangers to me, automatically jumped down my throat because I didn’t agree with them. Since those arguments took place, I’ve seen even more evidence that Amy Cooper isn’t actually a racist so much as she’s someone with a “high conflict personality”. In other words, she’s probably kind of an asshole to everyone… not just people of color. Or so it appears from that article, anyway.

Since tomorrow is my birthday, I don’t want to get into an argument with anyone today. So I deleted what I wrote on my friend’s second article about face masks. It’s kind of a shame that I felt the need to do that, since I think the purpose of sharing news articles is to generate discussion. My thoughts were formed after reading the comments on the Market Watch’s piece linked above. The comments people left were almost all hostile and disrespectful, on either side of the argument. Again… lots of people feel fine about “loudly” sharing their views, but they aren’t at all interested in considering what the other side thinks. They’ve made up their minds, have collectively folded their arms, toughened their stances, keep parroting the same lines over and over again, and have closed their ears to anything else. So what’s the point of sharing an opinion?

That attitude is what makes people want to rebel. I could easily share some of the comments on the Market Watch piece here, but there are just so many of them, and reading them is depressing. Even the ones I agree with are stated with so much indignation and disrespect that I just don’t even want to go there.

People keep preaching about mask wearing. They have less to say about hand washing, which is even more important when it comes to arresting disease transmission. But it’s easy to see the mask, and so it seems a lot easier to enforce. It makes some people feel better when people wear them. Others, like me, are creeped out by them. We’re told to “get over it and get used to it” because “this is the new normal”. Our concerns are deemed silly or unimportant. I’ve been treated this way my whole life by my loved ones, so now, when I get the same treatment, especially from strangers on the Internet, I feel the need to either rebel or ponder how I can make a quick exit from the world.

Adding to this conflict is the fact that Americans have often been encouraged to think for themselves, do their own research, and not be “sheep”. Coronavirus has only been a worldwide issue for a few months. Even the leaders don’t know what they’re doing. Consider these two conflicting tweets from the U.S. Surgeon General, anesthesiologist Jerome Adams:

Now… this isn’t to say that the masks aren’t useful. But consider that it was only a few months ago that the Surgeon General was imploring people in all caps to “STOP BUYING MASKS”. He’s supposed to know what he’s doing. His advice completely changed in a span of three months. Remember what I wrote about seatbelts. It took YEARS to get the majority of people to wear them consistently. I suspect there will be people who will never be willing to wear the masks, just like some people still don’t buckle up in the car. For some reason, this morning when I was talking to Bill about this, I was reminded of prisoners in chains going out in the “free world” for whatever reason. They’re out in the world– but they’re wearing chains because they must. Maybe that’s why some people feel oppressed by the masks, even though they’re worn for public health reasons. People don’t like to be told they “must” do something, especially when it involves wearing something on their own bodies, even if it’s for their own or the common good. They want to rebel, no matter how many times you explain to them why you’re “right”.

I don’t see this issue as the same as “no shirt, no shoes, no service”, either. The convention to wear shirts and shoes in public has been part of the culture for many years, and besides, going without them would often be physically uncomfortable. Masks are very new, and they are uncomfortable… and they are a constant reminder of how shitty things are right now. I don’t want to wear a mask in exchange for the “privilege” of going out, especially when so many people don’t seem to be folks I’d want to be around, anyway. Seriously… people are pissed off. They are right to be pissed. The world is full of suck right now. But I have enough angst without adding to it by being around people who are angry, hostile, and demanding.

Anyway… I could write more about this topic. In fact, I have another related topic that I wanted to write about today. But our new guitars arrived yesterday, so I think I’m going to stop here and practice. At least I’m using the pandemic to pick up a new skill… and the beauty of that is that at this point, no one wants to hear me play guitar anyway.

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