controversies, lessons learned, Police, true crime, YouTube

Maryland cops mimic kindergartner’s temper tantrum with one of their own…

A few days ago, The Washington Post shared an article about two cops in Montgomery County, Maryland, who have just been part of a lawsuit stemming from their actions on January 14, 2020. A five year old boy at East Silver Spring Elementary School had a meltdown shortly after lunch. He became upset and threw a clipboard at a teacher and a fellow student. Then he ran out of the classroom, outside of the school, and toward a congested section of Silver Spring, Maryland. Having been to Silver Spring myself, I know that this is basically a suburb of Washington, DC, and there’s a lot of traffic.

School officials called the police, and officers Kevin Christmon and Dionne Holliday arrived on the scene. They quickly located the boy, who was hiding nearby. At first, the cops were pleasant toward the boy, but when he refused to cooperate with him, the police officers became very controlling and, many would say, abusive. Christmon’s voice turns stern as he demands that the boy look at him, then asks why he’s out of school. When the boy doesn’t willingly emerge from his hiding spot, Christmon grabs him by the arm and yanks him toward the other officer. The boy starts screaming “No, no, no, no…” as the police order him into the back of their squad car. By that point, an assistant principal had arrived, and managed to get the boy to calm down enough to get into the car.

Bodycam footage was released on Friday, hence the news article I read. I watched the raw footage, and I was pretty shocked by the way those “peace officers” were berating that child. According to the Washington Post, the following exchange occurred:

“I don’t wanna to go,” [the boy] said, his voice shaking and coughing.

“I don’t care!” the officer replied. “You don’t make that decision for yourself!”

Holliday spoke to the child through an open door. “Does your momma spank you?” she asked, adding, “I’m going to ask her if I can do it.”

Naturally, the harsh words and threats served to upset the boy even more. He screamed and cried. The officers described his behavior as “headstrong” and “defiant”. Christmon said that he felt his actions were justified, because the boy was being “non-compliant.” Holliday said that she threatened him to “get him to shut up.” Both officers screamed at the boy, trying to overpower his screams with their voices. At one point, Holliday “primal screams” a couple of inches from the boy’s face, which only served to cause him to scream louder.

This is a news report from March 2021 from NBC news. It was aired before the outcome of the lawsuit was revealed.

At one point, Officer Christman holds the boy down in the chair for 80 seconds. Later, Christmon puts a handcuff on the boy’s wrist and tells him that handcuffs are what people who don’t want to listen end up wearing. The cops call the boy’s mother, who later comes to the school and complains that she has trouble disciplining the child. She says she fears using corporal punishment, because she doesn’t want child protection services to take him away. Officer Holliday then advises the boy’s mother on the level of corporal punishment that will not result in his being removed from her custody. She tells the mom, “We want you to beat him… All I can tell you is to beat that ass.” At one point, Holliday also made a comment about how “animals should be crated”, adding that that’s what should happen to boys who want to “act like a little beast.” And she referred to the child as “a shepherd for the devil.”

I wasn’t originally planning to write about this case, as I’ve found that a lot of times, people involved in these situations go looking for opinions and then get angry or upset when they disagree with mine. Regular readers might recall that I recently disabled my official Facebook page for this blog because someone contacted me through Facebook with abuse, threats, and insults because they didn’t like an old blog entry I reposted. I have a feeling that this case could inspire similar attempts to berate me, simply for having and sharing an opinion.

However… against my better judgment, I’m going to write about this. My heart broke for that poor kid, even as I have empathy for the adults who were trying to deal with him. I was never as out of control as that boy was, but I do remember being very small and emotionally immature, crying and screaming, and being threatened, bullied, and hit by some of the adults in my life– particularly, my father. I don’t remember anyone ever speaking to me calmly and trying to redirect the tantrum– which is a pretty normal thing for kids to have, by the way. I remember hyperventilating and being terrified. And when I saw and heard that boy’s screams, it took me back to that place, many years in the past.

Not surprisingly, the boy in this story had nightmares in the wee hours of the next morning. He woke up at 3:00am and cried to his mother, saying that he was afraid the police were going to shoot him. The mother filed a complaint with the police department and later sued. Her suit was settled out of court for $275,000, which according to Dr. Todd Grande, who also analyzed this case, the boy will get when he’s an adult.

I liked what Dr. Grande had to say about this case. He’s very astute.

Dr. Grande notes that the police, who are trained to “take control” of a crime situation, lost control in dealing with this child. Cops, as I have observed from watching many Bodycam videos on YouTube, are used to being able to get as physical as they need to with non-compliant adults. But this is a five year old child, so obviously, it would not have been appropriate for them to wrestle him to the ground, put him in handcuffs, and Taser the shit out of him. Instead, they tried to act like “stern adults” and browbeat the child into submission with screaming, yelling, threats, and insults. But, as we can all see, that technique only made things a lot worse.

Christmon later said, having watched the video footage, “Honestly, after looking at this, we should have dropped him off and left,”

I agree. Because it’s clear that these two officers don’t have much expertise in talking to children, and their methods were abusive and inappropriate for a young child. I believe that, even though I have worked with children myself, and I know that dealing with them can be frustrating. Kids don’t have the same situational awareness that adults have, and they often lack self-control. This child, who apparently has a record of acting out in school and at home, needed someone with more experience dealing with troubled children. From what I saw in the video footage, it appeared that the cops weren’t behaving much better than the boy was. However, the boy has his age and maturity level as an excuse.

The two officers did face discipline for the way they handled this case. Officer Christmon was suspended for almost two weeks. Officer Holliday got four weeks’ suspension. Both suspensions occurred without pay. The officers were also administratively charged with a number of infractions, including neglect of duty and failure to be courteous.  The police officers agreed with the punishments, did their penance, and the matter was closed. Both remain employed as police officers today.

Many people seemed to think that these two cops should be fired for their bad conduct, especially since it’s cost the county $275,000. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. It does sound to me like the officers recognize that they did wrong, and handled the situation poorly. They seem amenable to learning from the incident and doing a better job in the future. I’m not a big fan of canceling people’s livelihoods for one mistake, even when it’s a whopper like this one. In this case, the boy suffered significant mental distress that he’ll probably remember from now on. But no one was physically injured or killed, and it does sound like some learning happened.

I am not a fan of “beating children”, as most of my regular readers probably know. I had a teacher in the 80s who employed corporal punishment. He once carried it out on me, in front of my entire class of peers. Forty plus years later, I still haven’t forgotten it, and it still really pisses me off to think about it. That punishment was inappropriate. I also had a father whose methods of discipline involved force, yelling, insults, and physical abuse. He’s been dead for eight years, and I still have bad feelings toward him. That kind of “discipline” doesn’t teach anything but fear, and tends to make things much worse. Sadly, some school districts in the United States still use corporal punishment. At this writing, 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools, although happily, my home state of Virginia no longer does. The state of Missouri has just now brought the method back to schools, reportedly at the request of some parents. 

I understand that inflicting physical pain on someone who is out of control with emotion can sometimes “shock” them into compliance, especially when they are young children. However, in my experience, relying on that method of discipline leads to laziness on the part of the adult, and is ultimately disrespectful to the child, who is a human being and worthy of basic respect. We would never advocate for a husband slapping or spanking his wife when he became angry with or frustrated by her behavior. Many people would consider that “domestic violence.” And yet, a lot of people think it’s perfectly fine for a much larger human being to terrorize a child with threats of being hit or beaten, personal insults and comparisons to animals, and screaming and yelling. I promise, yelling and screaming at children doesn’t tend to inspire them to calm down and be quiet.

Police officers have a very difficult job, dealing with dangerous people who carry weapons. This was a case of a small child, obviously unarmed, and clearly much smaller and weaker than the cops were. The level of control the officers tried to inflict on the child was inappropriate, and clearly, very abusive. The boy wasn’t a threat to them. He was simply having a tantrum, which young kids often do. It seems to me the appropriate thing for the cops to do in this case was simply to see that the boy got back to school safely. And then, they should have allowed a professional who has much more experience working with children handle the boy’s meltdown. I don’t know if either of these cops have children, but their conduct offers a glimpse at how their children could be disciplined. It’s disturbing that one of the officers advocated for “beating” the child, even if she meant it in the vernacular. It’s really not a good look.

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education, religion, true crime

Louisiana Christian school leader gets arrested for “cruelty to juveniles”…

It always amazes me when I read or hear about certain “Christians” and their brand of Christianity. Some of them are capable of astonishing cruelty, particularly toward children. I have mentioned before that I was raised Christian myself, and the version of Jesus Christ I was taught about was a kind, compassionate, forgiving, wise, and loving leader. And yet, in today’s world, so many “Christians”, particularly among men, turn out to be mean-spirited, unforgiving, hateful, and cruel.

This seems to be an inappropriate reaction.

This morning, I read the story of 60 year old John Raymond, who worked at the headmaster of Lakeside Christian Academy in Slidell, Louisiana. On March 18, 2022, Mr. Raymond reportedly decided to use packing tape to tape the mouths of three 13 year old male students who were sent to him for discipline due to their alleged “excessive talking” in class.

According to a police report, Mr. Raymond wrapped the packing tape around the children’s heads, then sent them back to class for about 45 minutes. Another administrator, apparently uncomfortable with Raymond’s unorthodox punishment method, decided to remove the tape. Because the tape was wrapped around the children’s heads, scissors were required to remove it properly. The students stated that they had trouble breathing and the removal process was painful. I’m sure that getting the tape out of their hair hurt, because as we all know, adhesive sticks to things. If this happened the way it’s been reported, the kids probably lost some hair during the process.

What’s he got to smile about?

Mr. Raymond smiled for his mug shot, which can be seen on the Facebook post I linked. He’s also posted a lengthy “personal statement” with “facts” on the school’s Web site. According to his statement, the incident actually happened on March 17th, and involved five students. Raymond writes that the teacher was in tears, and threatened to terminate her employment, due to the students’ “disruptive” behavior. The students’ behavior had been problematic on many occasions in the past, and Mr. Raymond writes that he has had to “address” the class many times. Raymond writes that he gave the students the option of either calling their parents and suspending them from school, or wearing the tape on their mouths to “learn” how to be quiet in class.

Raymond explains that he didn’t wrap the tape around the children’s heads, nor was their breathing affected in any way. He claims that he asked them if they could breathe properly, and if they were in any pain. According to Raymond, the students did not indicate that they were in any distress; in fact, he claims they could have simply pulled off the strip of tape by themselves. Also, according to the headmaster, the tape was on their mouths for no longer than ten minutes, rather than the 45 minutes claimed in the students’ version of the story. Two weeks later, Mr. Raymond was arrested, when three of the students’ parents called to report the punishment to the police. The other two students have been attending school as usual.

Now… I don’t know exactly where the truth lies. It probably rests somewhere in the middle of this wild tale. It does seem crazy to me, however, that Mr. Raymond felt that taping the children’s mouths was a good idea in this day and age. Public humiliation of children is never a good look, nor would I say that it’s a particularly “Christlike” thing to do. It seems to me that the best course of action would have been to simply call the children’s parents, because obviously, they were going to get involved, anyway. Did Mr. Raymond really think that all of the parents of these kids were going to think his brand of punishment was appropriate? Now he’s being held criminally liable. I would not be surprised if there’s a lawsuit, too.

Honestly, shouldn’t the parents be notified if their children are causing so much disruption that a teacher is threatening to quit her job? This is a private school, yes? So why tolerate repeated disruptions in the first place? Disruptive kids don’t have to go to a private school. It’s supposed to be a privilege. I don’t condone allowing students to bully their teachers, but I do think that if students are so lacking in discipline that they make their teachers cry, their parents should be involved. And if the parents can’t effectively address the problem, then maybe they should find an alternative solution to educating their children. It isn’t fair to the other students to allow disruptive students to interrupt class. But in no case do I think it should be up to a principal, headmaster, or teacher to use physical punishments on students. It’s not their place.

I know a lot of people might not think this kind of punishment is a big deal. Personally, I am against teachers publicly humiliating kids or using “physical” means to discipline them. Back in 1980s era Virginia, I had a teacher who publicly paddled children in front of their peers. It happened to me once, and although I don’t remember the “paddling” to be painful, I do remember how very upsetting and traumatizing it was. In fact, when I think about that incident 40 years later, it still really pisses me off. I wish my parents had cared more that a man took it upon himself to paddle their nine year old daughter in front of other nine year olds. It certainly didn’t teach me “discipline”.

I don’t know what the laws are in Louisiana that pertain to how kids can be disciplined in school. It wouldn’t surprise me if corporal punishment is still okay down there (ETA: actually, this issue just came up in Louisiana and yes, corporal punishment is still allowed). However, from what I’ve read, most places where corporal punishment is allowed require parental consent. Moreover, psychological studies show that corporal punishment isn’t helpful or effective in getting children to change their behaviors. It does, however, teach them that might beats right, and authority figures are to be feared, rather than respected. There is a big difference between fear and respect.

Another fun fact about Mr. Raymond is that he was once a contestant on the reality show, Survivor. There are many telling Facebook comments by people who live in the community Lakeside Christian Academy serves. He appears to be a rather controversial figure who has a lot of local power. Many people seem to think he’s a real jerk. In any case, it always amazes me when I hear a so-called Christian say they “love” someone, but then they use pain, humiliation, and fear to teach them right from wrong. That’s not the way Jesus Christ would have handled a situation like this. Or, at least, the version of Christ that I learned about in my mainstream Presbyterian church when I was growing up, would not have handled a disciplinary situation in this way.

Isn’t it insane that an assistant principal in Mississippi gets fired for reading an awesome children’s book about butts to kids in school, but this “headmaster” in Louisiana is allowed to tape children’s mouths? I don’t envy the parents of today. Our schools are truly a mess.

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family, modern problems, politics

Nothing says “I love you” like a thirteen year old falsely attributed email forward…

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.

At least I’m not getting so many of these anymore. Even my more enlightened family members sometimes sent these.

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.

Ain’t it the truth… and it sometimes takes awhile before people get the message.

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.”

PLEASE,
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.”

PLEASE…
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.

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book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Going My Own Way by Gary Crosby…

Here’s a repost of a review I wrote on January 2, 2015 about Gary Crosby’s tell all book on growing up as Bing Crosby’s son, Going My Own Way. It appears here as/is.

For years, I heard about the controversial book the late Gary Crosby, eldest son of the late Bing Crosby, wrote about his parents.  The book, entitled Going My Own Way, was published in 1983 and was considered a “scathing” account of the reality of what it was like to grow up the son of a big Hollywood star who portrayed himself as the consummate family man.  I am a little too young for Bing Crosby, though I do remember the duet he did with David Bowie back in the 70s…

A classic Christmas duet circa 1977…

I didn’t actually see the Christmas special that spawned this version of “The Little Drummer Boy”, but over the years, the video has been replayed during the holiday season.  I also remember Mary Crosby, Bing’s daughter, who played Kristin Shepard on Dallas and was credited with shooting J.R. Ewing.  Aside from that, I only heard about Bing… and Bill has told me that a few years after Gary Crosby’s book came out, the late Phil Hartman, who was then on Saturday Night Live, did a spoof about how when Bing’s sons misbehaved, they needed to go have a “talk” in the library.

I was curious about the book and the cultural references to it, so I decided to purchase a used copy.  I recently finished reading Going My Own Way and, I must admit, it was very interesting.  As “scathing” memoirs go, I didn’t think it was all that bad.  Gary Crosby was Bing Crosby’s eldest son with his first wife, Dixie Lee.  He grew up in a huge house in Hollywood, surrounded by servants, many of whom were black.  Crosby’s mother was a strict disciplinarian and a serious alcoholic who relied on an Irish nurse named Georgie to keep Gary and his brothers, Phil, Denny, and Lindsay, in line. 

Like his wife, Bing Crosby was also a very strict disciplinarian who strongly believed in employing corporal punishment, strict rules, and verbal abuse to control his sons.  Crosby writes that it was difficult for him to have friends because his parents were so strict.  It wasn’t often that he was allowed to bring friends over or go to friends’ houses.  Crosby’s parents were quick to remind their sons that they were not special simply because they were Bing Crosby’s sons.  Though they were educated at private schools, they were not treated differently and didn’t hang out with Hollywood types.  Indeed,  from the time the boys were eleven until they were adults, each summer Bing Crosby sent them to work at a ranch he owned.  They learned how to herd cattle and make hay bales alongside men of much more modest means.  Crosby writes that he hated the ranch work because his father forced him to do it, though he might have enjoyed it a lot more if he’d been the one who chose to go. 

Gary Crosby had a weight problem when he was growing up.  His backside was wide, which caused his father to refer to him as “bucket butt” or “satchel ass”.  According to Gary, Bing would even call his son these names in public, particularly in front of Bing’s friends.  Bing Crosby ordered his son to lose weight and would force him to endure weigh ins.  If he didn’t lose weight, Gary would get a whipping.   Bing used a belt that had metal studs in it and would beat his boys until they bled.  At the first drop of blood, the beating would stop.  Gary writes that he used to hope he’d bleed early.  

Bing Crosby and Gary Crosby perform together…

When Gary became a teenager, he had a strict curfew and would often have to leave social events early in order to appease his father, who would not hesitate to use a belt and verbal abuse to get his point across.  It wasn’t until Gary was 18 years old and had finally had enough that the whippings stopped.  By that time, his father had traded the belt for a cane.  I must admit, reading that part of the book resonated with me.  I had a similar experience with my own father, who was also a proponent of physical punishment and last struck me when I was almost 21 years old.  My father was also one to use verbal abuse…  indeed, reading about some of Crosby’s experiences rang very true to me, since my dad did a lot of the same things to a milder extent.  Crosby also writes about his father’s penchant for womanizing and drinking, as well as holding gifts over his sons’ heads in order to control them.  Gary Crosby had his own issues with alcohol and drugs, which he writes about in the book.  He also was one to get in fist fights when the mood struck.

Crosby uses a lot of slang and filthy language in his memoir.  Personally, I wasn’t offended by it.  In fact, the slang sort of gave the book a 50s nuance, which makes sense, since Crosby was born in the 30s and would have been a young person in the 50s.  I liked that he included photos, which helped me put faces to his stories.  I also got the sense that despite the abuse, he did love his parents, especially his mother.  He even writes a message to his other siblings, products of Bing Crosby’s second marriage to Kathryn Crosby, that the father he knew was not the same man as the father who raised them.  And Crosby even admits that his father passed along musical talent to him and the ranch work gave him useful skills outside of show business.  As one who has a perverse interest in Pat Boone’s career, I liked that Gary Crosby also writes about what it was like to work with Boone.  Apparently, Crosby thought Boone was a nice guy and easy to work with, despite his love of “clean livin’.”  Pat Boone, as we all know, is also a big believer in spankings.

Gary and Bing sing with Frank Jr.

Gary Crosby’s mother died in 1952 of ovarian cancer.  At the time of Dixie Lee’s passing, Gary was studying at Stanford University, where he wasn’t a particularly good student.  I was moved by how he described his father’s pained reaction to his mother’s deteriorating condition.  Yes, he writes a lot about how “the old man” abused him and his brothers, but he also somehow manages to give his father a human face.  That’s why I say the memoir wasn’t that scathing.  Yes, it was probably shocking to those who grew up with Bing Crosby and loved his music, but as someone who also grew up with an alcoholic and occasionally abusive father, I thought Gary Crosby was just being honest.  I think back in the 80s, when this book was originally published, corporal punishment and verbal abuse were much more accepted as normal parenting than they are now.  While I think sometimes Americans are going a little too far in the other direction with how they are parenting their children, as someone who experienced growing up with an alcoholic, I feel like Gary Crosby was very truthful in his account.  He was not just a whiner.   

Gary Crosby died in 1995 of lung cancer. He was 62 at the time of his death and had married three times. You can read a chapter of Going My Own Way here. Here is an article from a 1983 issue of People magazine about Gary’s book.

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Duggars, homosexuality, politics, religion

“We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”

I remember in August 2014, Bill and I were living temporarily in an apartment in Kemnat, a suburb near Stuttgart. I spent my days hanging out with Zane and Arran, burning up because it was hot outside. The Duggars were in the news because Michelle Duggar had made a controversial political robocall to people in Arkansas. Why was she robocalling? It was because she was hoping to influence Arkansans to vote against an anti-discrimination ordinance designed to allow transgendered people to use restrooms and lockers that correspond to their gender identities.

People were calling for the Duggars to be canceled in 2014 after this call… little did they know what was coming! And yet, they’re STILL in the public eye.

This morning, today’s featured photo was in my Facebook memories. Given that Josh Duggar is currently in huge trouble with the feds for being caught receiving and possessing images of child sexual abuse, it’s pretty crazy that in 2014, Michelle Duggar was saying things like “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…” Wow… the hypocrisy is astounding!

As I waited for Bill to come home the other day, I ran across an episode of 17 Kids and Counting. In the beginning, you hear Michelle Duggar’s annoying baby voice as she lists all of her children’s names. At that point, Jennifer Duggar, born in 2007, was the youngest, and Michelle was pregnant with Jordan, who was #18 and would be born in December 2008. She would have one more live birth, when youngest child Josie was born very prematurely the following year. Then she got pregnant one last time and eventually lost that baby, Jubilee Shalom.

In the opening credits for 17 Kids and Counting, Ma and Pa Duggar talk about their “very conservative values” and how the children’s Internet access is “closely monitored.” Obviously, it wasn’t monitored that closely. And they weren’t allowed to watch TV, and yet they were ON TV.

I remember Michelle Duggar once had a good reputation as a wonderful, caring, and compassionate mother. I have never seen a lot of proof that she was a wonderful mother. On the contrary, I’ve seen evidence that her daughters are good moms, mainly because they’ve always been doing the heavy lifting of raising their siblings while their mom worked on perfecting her “baby voice”. And she used that voice to promote anti-LGBTQ propaganda while her eldest son, supposedly sheltered from the Internet, was looking at porn. Such hypocrisy!

As Bill and I were sharing coffee this morning, I was reading the Duggar Family News Facebook group. Someone had shared a link to a post from the truly creepy blog, Biblical Gender Roles about the practice of “domestic discipline” and wife spanking. I’ve written about this blog a couple of times before, most recently in July 2020, when a friend of mine shared with me a different post about “grooming one’s wife” to accept domestic discipline that came from the Biblical Gender Roles blog. I also wrote about a post that appeared in 2019 regarding marital rape— a woman’s husband wanted to have sex with her when she wasn’t interested. The blogger from Biblical Gender Roles wrote that according to the Bible it’s impossible for a married woman to be raped by her husband. And of course, my take is that marital rape is certainly possible and it can be perpetrated by either spouse. It happened to my husband when he was married to his ex wife.

Legally, rape means that a person hasn’t consented to sexual contact. It does not matter if the participants are married to each other. But fundie Christian women are taught to always be “joyfully available” to their husbands. When their husbands fall from grace, as Josh Duggar repeatedly has, the woman is liable to be blamed. Why? Because she wasn’t available enough for her husband to satisfy his sexual needs. Michelle Duggar, the same woman who, in a robocall to Arkansans said “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, told her own daughter Jill, before Jill married her husband, Derick Dillard:

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

In other words, this “wonderful mom”, Michelle Duggar, told her daughter that her body isn’t her own. It’s either going to be used by her husband for sex, or used to nourish and develop a fetus, who will either also be used as a vessel for developing new life and as a sexual plaything, or will be a user, as males apparently are in fundie Christianity. Josh Duggar grew up being taught that his wife was to be used, and she was expected to be “joyfully available” to him, on the pain of being disciplined by the head of the family. His sister Jill, on the other hand, got a very different message. She was to be “available” to her husband, whenever he wanted her. She was to submit to his will. In short, she was physically an adult, but in all other ways, she was basically expected to be like a child– seen and not heard– quiet, submissive, and available always.

I’m sure, behind closed doors, Anna Duggar has been blamed for not satisfying Josh Duggar’s “needs”, causing him to fall into the dark web and view “forbidden images” of a sexual nature. But here she is, still in her early 30s and pregnant with her seventh child, another girl. Obviously, she was available to Josh, and he was fulfilling his sexual needs with her. But that wasn’t enough, and he’s evidently been indulging in illegal and immoral activities involving children. How did this happen?

I have never been impressed by either of the Duggar parents. For years, I’ve heard them both talk about how children are blessings and gifts from God. Rather than being good stewards of their children and raising them properly, Michelle Duggar basically turned into a brood animal and popped out children that were then farmed out to their sisters to raise. That’s not fair to the children at all. There was a time in history when having a huge family might have made some sense, since a lot of children died before coming of age and people had farms they needed help to run. Nowadays, I think having that many children is selfish and irresponsible. I don’t like to tell people how many children they should have, but I do think that if you’ve gotten to the point of farming out your kids to their older siblings, you’ve had too many. It’s not the job of underage children to raise their siblings.

Childhood is a brief time in a person’s life, and that’s when people should be focused on their own development and maturity. The way it’s been done in the Duggar family is that some of the children– the eldest sisters– had to grow up too fast. And yet, even when they were raising their siblings, they were still treated like children, forced to share a room and not allowed to choose what they wanted to wear or who they wanted to date or marry, in the sense that they needed Jim Bob’s permission and their husbands to be were forced to answer excessive questionnaires before Boob would give his “blessing”.

When I look at Michelle Duggar’s comment that “We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child…”, and then I see that her very first child– one of the few that she must have had the biggest part of raising– has turned out to be a sexual deviant, I can’t help but think her thoughts on protecting children are warped. She didn’t even protect her own daughters from their brother– her precious firstborn son– who took liberties with them when he was an adolescent. They didn’t get appropriate and effective help for Josh when his deviant behaviors presented themselves when he was still a child. They also didn’t get help for their daughters, who were victimized by Josh. In a sense, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar failed Josh as much as they did their daughters… and all of those innocent children in the pictures and videos found on Josh’s computer who were exploited, abused, and even murdered for the perverse pleasure of Josh and his ilk.

Josh is a MASSIVE hypocrite. Here he is speaking about religious liberties and how businesses should not be forced to pay for birth control. You can hear him talking about how birth control harms unborn children, and yet he apparently enjoys victimizing innocent children who have already been born. He sounds articulate and well-spoken here, which is probably why he got away with this for as long as he has.

Notice in the above video, there are two men speaking about birth control and how it “causes abortions” (it doesn’t). Neither of these men will ever have to do the hardest work associated with pregnancy and child bearing. And they are in religious organizations where women are taught to be “joyfully available” to them and satisfy their “needs”, even when they are “big pregnant” (as Michelle Duggar put it). They’re more concerned about unborn children than they are born children… especially the female ones who will be born to satisfy their sexual “needs”. Well… that is revolting. It really is.

From the Biblical Gender Roles blog… a woman needs her husband’s “help” to control her spending and choose the “right” friends. Based on this, it sounds like he thinks women are never much more than children.

I’m sitting here reading the Biblical Gender Roles blog again. The poster on the Duggar Family News page had linked to an article on that blog about a young wife who was being “introduced” to the concept of Christian domestic discipline. In other words, she was being spanked by her husband. But the blogger wrote an earlier post about the husband’s perspective. In that post, he referenced his earlier post about how to “groom” one’s wife to accept the man as the authority in the home. He mentions that the wife must be young and sheltered, otherwise, she will never accept being “spanked” or otherwise disciplined by her husband.

This blogger has “mentors” who help teach these “Biblical principles” to couples who are interested. He says he vets the participants carefully, because he knows that more worldly people are “spying” on him and want to undo his work in teaching Christian couples to live by what he deems are “Biblical gender roles”. And based on what the young husband writes in the post from the gender roles blog, his wife has come to “accept” his leadership. She speaks to him “respectfully”, sticks to a budget, and I guess most importantly (to him, anyway), makes herself “available” to him sexually whenever he’s in the mood. She’d better, of course, or he’ll turn her over his knee and spank her, as if she’s a child (and personally, I don’t think spanking children is appropriate, either). How fucked up is that? The woman is a child in all ways, except physical. I am not saying the Duggars engage in these practices. I do think, however, that their collective mindset seems to be very similar to the one espoused by the guy who writes the Biblical Gender Roles blog.

More from the Biblical Gender Roles blog… where the writer explains that it’s “right” for a husband to discipline his wife for not putting out sexually, on the pain of being spanked.

Michelle Duggar, obviously, is very much in agreement that there are only males and females; they were all created by God; and that any person with “male parts” is a threat to female children. But apparently, once the females have reached physical maturity, that protection for them is no longer necessary. She unleashed her son, Josh, on Anna Duggar when he was 20 years old, knowing that he was a pervert. And she paid a lot of lip service to “monitoring” her children’s television and Internet exposure, although Josh obviously still figured out a way to get to the forbidden fruit. Maybe if she had been less “Christian”, he would have turned out to be a better person… or maybe, he was born to be this way, despite our “awesome God” who gifted the Duggars with so many children that they were obviously not equipped to raise properly on their own.

How dare Michelle Duggar try to tell Arkansas voters that she is concerned about putting the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child? Where were her concerns about her own daughters’ safety and innocence when they were growing up in her home? Where were her concerns about Josh’s future, when his deviant sexual proclivities came out? Why didn’t she help him possibly avoid falling into sins that could send him to prison? He is about to be the father of seven innocent children, but he won’t be around to take care of them. That task will fall to his long suffering wife, Anna, who has been taught that because she’s a female, she belongs to her husband and has no say over whether or not she wants to have sex! Michelle Duggar is concerned about transgendered people “victimizing” girls… but she was not at all concerned about her vile predator son victimizing her own daughters, and possibly her granddaughters, along with the children who were victimized in the images and videos that were found on Josh’s computer! And she’s all for letting the women be “childlike” in all ways, except for when it comes to giving their husbands sex. She’s even childlike in the way she speaks!

I really think our society is very sick. The Duggars are still influential to many, even though they are massive hypocrites. As recently as last year, they were still trying to get involved in politics, when their son Jed, ran for office against a woman who was clearly much more qualified than he was. He lost, thank God, but I will bet people still voted for him because he’s a white man, Christian, and a Duggar! There are still so many people, especially in the United States, who speak about their rights as “free people”. But they only want freedom for white Christian males with money. They don’t want women to have dominion over their own bodies. They don’t want people of color to have the right to live peacefully, and enjoy freedom of movement without being harassed by law enforcement. They don’t want poor people to be able to receive temporary government assistance, or children to be able to attend school without the fear of being shot. Their right to own weapons is more important than the safety of innocent people to be out and about without fearing being killed by their guns. And they want to be able to dictate to people which restrooms they can use, claiming that transgendered people are “mentally ill”, while they cover up for people like Josh Duggar and give him a platform.

I wrote about Michelle Duggar’s robocall on my original blog. In that post, I explained that homosexuality and transgendered people are not necessarily pedophiles or child molesters. At that point, we didn’t know about Josh… it was just months later that that particular bombshell dropped. One would have thought the Duggars would have been canceled, once and for all, after Josh’s hypocrisy came out. But, as my Italian friend Vittorio has pointed out, the United States is a “weird-o-rama” culture. The Duggars are oddly fascinating to many. Some of us are fascinated as we are repulsed. Others find them to be people they want to emulate. And so, they continue to people we talk about, and write about… and in some cases, make money on. I’m sure the people making YouTube videos about the Duggars are making some cash, anyway. I’m sure not.

Well… I guess I’ve rambled on long enough. Arran has just come to me, expecting a walk. So I guess I’ll close now, and take him out for a much needed constitutional. Hope everyone has a nice Monday.

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