controversies, music, religion

I didn’t know “Mary, Did You Know” offends some people…

Most people who know me well, know that I am very passionate about music. I love all different kinds, from classical to country to R&B. I have an enormous music library with songs from almost every genre you can think of. Even though I’m not a very religious person, I have a lot of religious music in my catalog. That catalog includes a large number of different interpretations of religious songs, many of which are usually enjoyed during the Christmas holidays. Music helps keep me sane, and before I was married to Bill, it kept me company.

Back in the fall of 1990, when I first started attending what was then Longwood College, I took a voice class for my degree. The class was taught by an adjunct professor named Ann Ory Brown, who also taught at the University of Richmond. Because my parents were involved in music in my hometown, Ms. Brown knew my dad. Her mother was once a concert pianist, and Ms. Brown’s mother directed some locally run choral groups that counted my dad as a member. I, of course, did not know these people at all. I was mostly uninvolved in music when I was growing up, mainly because I didn’t want to do what my parents were doing. But then I took Ms. Brown’s voice class, and she told me I should consider studying voice privately with her. I ended up taking private lessons from her for three semesters, until she stopped teaching at Longwood.

At one point during our time together, Ms. Brown gave me a copy of a Kathleen Battle CD. I don’t remember why she chose to give it to me instead of one of her other students. I remember a voice major who was in my studio actually asked me to give it to her, instead. I chose not to do that, and fell in love with Kathleen Battle’s beautiful, distinctive, crystalline voice. I started collecting Battle’s music, and sometime in the late 1990s, I acquired a Christmas CD she made with a classical guitarist named Christopher Parkening. On that album, there was a song called “Mary, Did You Know.”

Ahh… so pretty.

This was the very first version of “Mary, Did You Know” that I ever heard. I thought the melody was very pretty, especially coupled with Parkening’s intricate guitar playing. It never occurred to me to be offended by the lyrics of this song. I didn’t know anything about the songwriters, Mark Lowry, who wrote the words in 1984, and Buddy Green who wrote the music in 1991. I just enjoyed the music for what it was to me– peaceful and appealing. The whole album, Angels’ Glory, was just relaxing and good for studying, which I was doing at the time, as I was a graduate student when I first bought it.

Some time later, I came across another version of “Mary, Did You Know” done by The Isaacs, who are known for performing bluegrass, gospel, and spiritual music. I love Sonya Isaac’s voice, and she does a gorgeous rendition of “Mary, Did You Know” with her family members– mom, Lily, sister Becky, and brother, Ben. Lily’s ex husband and the father of Sonya, Becky, and Ben, Joe, was a member of the band until 1998, after he and Lily divorced. Last year, The Isaacs were invited to become members of the Grand Ole Opry.

According to Wikipedia, Lily Isaacs’ parents were Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors; she was born two years after they were liberated from a concentration camp and two years later, they moved to New York City, where Lily’s musical talent soon became evident. She got her first recording contract in 1958, when she was just ten or eleven years old. In 1970, Lily married Joe Isaacs, and they became Christians after Joe’s brother died in a car accident. Their group exclusively performs bluegrass gospel music.

A live version of The Isaacs’ rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?”

There have been many different interpretations of this song, done by a huge gamut of performers. Kenny Rogers did a version with Wynonna. Dolly Parton has also sung it.

A more pop country version of this song…
And the grande dame of goodness, Dolly Parton, has also sung it.

And so has CeeLo Green!

It’s a long way from his big hit, “Fuck You”.

By now you can see, this song has been recorded to great success by MANY fine musicians, coming from an array of different racial and musical backgrounds, and even representing a broad array of genders and sexual orientations.

Clay Aiken has sung it…

Most of the performers have sung this song earnestly, with great emotion and warmth. While I can’t say that this particular Christmas song is my favorite, I have generally enjoyed most of the versions I’ve heard. It never occurred to me to be affronted by this song. Until last night, that is… when I ran across a very active post on Father Nathan Monk’s Facebook page.

Yikes!

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I’m really getting sick of people trying to tell people what should or should not offend them. I’m no fan of mansplaining, which regular readers of my blog will probably notice, but honestly, I have never thought of the lyrics to “Mary, Did You Know” as offensive in any way. I certainly never thought of them as “mansplaining”! Maybe it’s because the versions with which I am most familiar are sung by women! To me, the lyrics express wonderment and awe. They aren’t about trying to school Mary, the mother of Jesus, about how special her baby is. I’m quite sure Mary knew very well. It probably started with that whole immaculate conception thing, followed by her talk with the Angel Gabriel, and the Magnificat. It’s the regular rank and file people who didn’t know about Jesus… and to me, it would make sense for them to ask Mary if she knew. In the song, Mary doesn’t answer. I picture her smiling serenely and nodding, not getting pissed off and offended that a man would ask such questions. I think Mary would be above being offended by mansplaining. 😉

As one might imagine, Father Nathan Monk’s post blew up, with many people opining. Quite a few people heartily agreed with Father Nathan Monk and Jezebel Henny (aka Ally Henny) that this song is “offensive”. Ally Henny, herself, also weighed in, clarifying that the tweet originated in 2019, and that Lowry deleted the tweet without apology.

Does Lowry owe anyone an apology? Maybe he was offended, too, for people trashing and misinterpreting his song.

I totally understand that when someone puts something creative out there– be it a song, artwork, a film, or even a blog post, they invite criticism. I’ve gotten some pretty salty remarks on things I’ve written. In fact, until quite recently, I used to occasionally get nasty comments via this blog’s now defunct Facebook page. I disabled the page because I was tired of getting abuse for simply expressing myself. I don’t mind having respectful dialogues with people who might disagree with me, but I don’t feel like I should have to abide threats, rudeness, or disrespect. Maybe Lowry’s retort to Henny was a bit snarky and rude, but he’s human. I’m sure he was annoyed that she reduced his song to simple “mansplaining”. I would be, too. Like any human, prick him and he’ll bleed. I saw many people referring to Henny as a scholar, and I’m sure she has an impressive intellect, even if I didn’t necessarily discern it in her tweet. I had never heard of her before last night, though. I’m sure Mark Lowry hadn’t, either, when he retorted to her criticism. Maybe he didn’t know he was supposed to be deferential to her. He probably made that comment off the cuff in a flash of irritation. By most people’s standards, his song is an enormous success. I can’t blame him for responding with annoyance, even if it’s not the best look.

Mark Lowry’s version of Mary, “Did You Know” with help from Guy Penrod and David Phelps.

I don’t think Mark Lowry sings his song like a mansplainer would. There’s no hint of condescension when he sings… just wonderment, reverence, and awe. The above interpretation is a bit dramatic, and that could possibly annoy some people, who might think it’s too over the top. Others will find it uplifting and inspiring, as Lowry tries to convey the miracles Jesus will deliver during his brief lifetime. There is no accounting for taste. One of the lovely things about being human is that we can each have our own perspective and our own preferences. Many people love “Mary, Did You Know?” and would never see anything about this song as “offensive”, no matter how many supposedly more evolved people tell them their opinions are somehow “wrong”.

Bear in mind that Mark Lowry is also a Christian comedian. In addition to “Mary, Did You Know”, Lowry also wrote and sang a song called “Hyperactivity”. Someone on Father Nathan Monk’s post was upset about that one, too, claiming he was “making fun” of neurodivergent children. I had not heard of “Hyperactivity” until last night. To me, the song sounds like Lowry wrote this song about himself, not all neurodivergent children. It’s supposed to be funny. Not everyone will find it funny, which is the nature of comedy. Personally, I think “Hyperactivity” is kind of an annoying song, but I can see why some people like it. I wouldn’t presume to tell them they shouldn’t enjoy Mark Lowry’s song about hyperactivity, even if it sounds, to me, like he’s trying to copy Weird Al Yankovic.

Interesting song.

Here’s one about overeating… Weird Al had “Eat It”. Mark Lowry has “I Can Eat it All”.

This doesn’t offend me, but some people probably think of it as fat shaming.

I am a big fan of personal expression, particularly when it’s politically incorrect. I think people should be allowed to speak their minds, even if I might not always like to hear or read what they have to say. Some of it might offend me. I might even take a vow not to use certain language myself. For example, I refuse to call someone a “karen” or a “dependa”. I don’t use the term “douche” as an insult, just as many people don’t use the n-word or the word “retard”. I think it’s important to allow freedom of speech and expression. That does also apply to criticism, of course. I just wish people would stop insisting that others share their views, because that’s how we end up with dangerous megalomaniacal people like Donald Trump in the White House.

There’s a large contingent of people in the United States who like Trump, because he freely says what they’re thinking, but feel too intimidated to say out loud. They’re so enthralled with hearing Trump stand up for the “conservative values” that some sanctimonious people are trying to quickly bury, that they excuse and ignore the really awful things he says and does. Then they show up and vote for him at the polls, and the rest of us are stuck with him and his toxic brand of fascist “leadership”. I think if some of the “woke brigade” took things down a notch, lightened up a bit, and showed some respect for other people’s differing values, they would get further in changing hearts and minds. People don’t like to be lectured or shamed.

Anyway… getting back to Father Nathan Monk’s post… I noticed this comment just now and was left a little bit puzzled…

What was racist about Mark Lowry’s comment? I saw no reference to race in what he posted. However, I did see a lot of people making presumptions about him based on what he posted. All I can see that he wrote was “I wasn’t asking you.” Is that a racist comment? Did I miss something?
Wow. I think some of these comments are pretty offensive. Especially the one about Lowry being “in the closet”. It doesn’t seem like a very “woke” thing to say.

I can see that a lot of people commenting on this thread don’t like Mark Lowry’s music or comedy. I see that some people, like me, didn’t even know who he was until they read the above thread. Now they’re describing him as “execrable”, “in the closet”, and “a turd” in a thread about how he “mansplains” to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It’s very strange to me, because some people are quoting the Bible and demonstrate actual knowledge of theology when they present their arguments. Others have just resorted to character assassination and name calling, having only been exposed to ONE song by the man. I am not a big consumer of contemporary Christian music or comedy. I only know what I like. And I sure as hell don’t need other people telling me that I’m wrong for enjoying what I like. I would feel a bit nervous, though, to add too many comments to this thread, lest someone call ME “execrable” for daring to disagree with them. 😉

Actually, I DID leave a couple of comments. It was to a well reasoned dissenter’s observation. Behold:

Yeah… this is pretty much my view of “Mary, Did You Know?”. I have no problem with people criticizing the song, but when people resort to personal insults toward the songwriter, they lose out on the moral high ground they’re clearly trying to take.

One woman wrote the below comment, which I think is pretty respectful. I mostly liked her take, but I was disappointed when she seemed to doubt herself for liking the song. There’s nothing wrong with “checking” oneself, but this response read a bit like a disclaimer. She’s not wrong to wonder if the lyrics come across as mansplaining when they’re sung by a female singer like Dolly Parton or Kathleen Battle, who is not only female, but is also Black. Would I call either of them “mansplaining”? Would I question their choices to sing this song? Neither of them are slouches when it comes to making music, that’s for damned sure!

What an interesting discussion!

I always hear the song from the viewpoint of a mother. I could personally not imagine all of the joys, trials and tribulations my sons would experience and bring me as their mother. I thought about how a theoretical mother of god could not possibly conceive of her future either, even knowing what the score was upfront.

Then again, I can be a little naive about intentions. And yet again, my demographic has me pretty experienced in receiving mansplaining.

I also didn’t know that Dolly Parton did a version. She is pretty much a feminine divine voice IMHO so even though she isn’t the male composer, I would have to hear it differently from her.

But “I didn’t ask?” Humph. When you put art in the world that’s what you risk: criticism and interpretation.

Another person, a guy calling himself a “musician”, wrote this derogatory comment:

Mostly, that song just sucks. As a musician, that is among the WORST and least fun, festive, or even touching or emotional Christmas songs. It’s just a boring list of stuff Jesus did with a weak contextual premise. If little kids don’t like it, and/or it doesn’t touch you emotionally, it’s trash.

Um… lots of bonafide and highly accomplished musicians would totally disagree with the above comment. And plenty of people are “touched” emotionally by “Mary, Did You Know”? Does the fact that the above musician isn’t moved by the song negate other people’s experiences listening to it and overall opinions of it? I don’t think so. And there are a lot of songs I might think of as “trash”, but that’s just MY opinion. I only get one vote, even though I am pretty musical myself. 😉

This whole controversy reminds me a bit of the huge uproar a few years ago about the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” In the wake of the “Me Too” movement, people were saying that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” promotes date rape. I wrote a blog post about my annoyance about that, since “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written decades ago, during an era when it was considered improper for women to stay unchaperoned with men. The song was written by Frank Loesser and his ex wife Lynn, meant to be a “parlor song” for entertaining their dinner party guests. It has nothing to do with date rape. But people sure want to project their modern sensibilities on classic songs and “cancel” them. Is the world really a “better” place without so-called “rapey” songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” polluting the airwaves? I don’t think so. I think the world is a better place when people consider context, original intent, and history, and stop trying to impose 2022 values on songs that were written decades ago. Even “Mary, Did You Know” is a pretty old song. It’s 38 years old! And the world was very different in 1984, right?

If people don’t like certain songs, they have choices they can freely make. They can choose not to listen to it, sing it, or buy albums that have it on the playlist. They can listen to and promote songs that are more to their tastes. They can even express why they don’t like it and invite a dialogue. Or, hey, here’s a novel thought– they can try to write their own, more “appropriate” song! But please don’t tell ME that I shouldn’t like a song because of how YOU interpret it. I’ll try my best to show you the same level of respect for your individual opinions and taste. And please don’t try to qualify yourself as a “musician” and declare someone else’s song as “trash”. Lots of musicians, most of whom are more famous, successful, and acclaimed than you will EVER be, completely disagree with your assessment.

I’m getting real tired of people– especially total strangers– insisting that there’s only one way to look at something. I’m tired of people telling me to “stop” doing something because they don’t approve, or that I should do something because it’s the “right” thing to do. I’m over being told how and what to think, especially by people who claim that their freedoms are being infringed upon. This happens on both sides of the political spectrum, and it’s time more thinking people spoke up about it. If we really live in a free society, then people should be allowed to create things freely without fear of being canceled. Yes, it’s fine to criticize creative pursuits, but when you resort to personal insults and character assassinations, you risk falling off that moral high horse and landing at the bottom of the pit with the rest of the lowlifes. I’m just saying.

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communication, musings, social media

Dining on fresh food for thought, and not “incorrecting” people…

I woke up this morning to an interesting post by Father Nathan Monk, a dyslexic former priest and author who has an impressive following on Facebook. This is what he wrote:

I think this makes a lot of sense.

Naturally, the above post attracted a lot of feedback. Many people made points that I thought were entirely valid, even if they didn’t agree with Father Nathan Monk. Some people protested that abortion is always a terrible thing, but a private decision that is sometimes necessary to make for one’s own well being. Some were on Father Nathan Monk’s side, and congratulated him for his words of wisdom on an experience that he will never personally face. Still others pointed out that the word “abortion” has wrongly been turned into a bad word that needs euphemistic language to get around the taboo with which it is associated.

Personally, I agree with Father Nathan Monk that abortion isn’t a dirty word. I’ve even written about that topic in this blog. But I also agree with people who have emotional responses to the term. Some people have no emotional connection to abortions. They don’t see it as anything other than a medical procedure. While many people associate abortion with tragedy, others have experienced immense relief after having one. Some have experienced gratitude that the procedure was available to them when they needed it. Reactions to the abortion experience run the gamut. No one’s reaction is “wrong”, because everyone has their own story.

As it so often happens in comment sections on Facebook, some people got on a soapbox, and the topic segued a bit into discussion about other societal issues. As the discussion developed, I noticed some tension. Some people took issue with other people’s opinions and felt the need to “correct” them. I especially noticed it when someone used a term that another person found objectionable. More than a few of them responded to other posters with condescension, hostility, and criticism, rather than measured consideration. I noticed that many people chimed in on comments that were directed to other people, and they often did so with a certain haughtiness. And some went into ass kissing mode, although overall, I agree with what this person wrote…

Dearest Father Nathan Monk I totally support your comments.

Furthermore, I know you are a gifted wordsmith but for a moment I’m going to take full on offense at the cretin level witlessness of the individual who took it upon themselves to *correct* your wording.

Dear Sir or Ma’am I suggest that you desist lecturing a published author on their use of words. You can take your insulting remarks and trot right off the end of that short dock over yonder. Yeah that sketchy one that’s probably going to dump you right back into the swamp of self-righteousness that you seemed to have crawled out of at some point.

Sheesh people. Give it a rest with the gatekeeping.

Alrighty. I’m done.

Carry on my friend. And my deepest apologies if I’ve crossed a line.

After the above comment was made, someone else wrote this:

On a related note, I saw a stand up comedian a few months ago give a great response to unwelcome corrections:

“Thank you for incorrecting me”

Apparently, that quote was from comedian, Steve Hofstetter. I have never heard of Mr. Hofstetter, but maybe I need to look him up and see if I find the rest of his observations so astute. People do have a tendency to “correct” other people when they disagree with them. I think there’s a certain arrogance in assuming that one’s perspective is absolutely the only “right” one. As I mentioned up post, everybody has a story, and those stories can affect how people view things that aren’t cut and dried. It’s a barrier to communication, and ultimately, learning new things, when people come at others aggressively for saying something they assume is wrong, or just “politically incorrect”.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Years ago, I was part of an online messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. In that group, I sometimes used to post about how Mormonism had affected our step situation. It was a valid issue, as within Mormonism, there is a strong emphasis on spreading the faith and encouraging people within a family of maintaining their common belief system. For example, Mormons typically exclude non believers from their weddings, which usually take place in a temple (though some have civil weddings and then do the religious ordinance later). Mormon temples are only open to people who have “temple recommends”. The only exception is when a new temple is opened, and there’s an “open house”, which is for a set period of time. So, the fact that my husband’s daughters were converted and raised LDS, and Bill had left the faith, was a legitimate issue within the family.

There was a Mormon woman in the group who used to get very offended when I dared to bring up this topic. She insisted that I was being disrespectful to her. She claimed that I “misunderstood” and was confused by her religion, and that my “negative” comments were destructive to her. She was not receptive to “hearing” what I was trying to communicate. Instead, she focused on what she thought was my “bashing” her religious beliefs. In short, she basically labeled me a bigot, because I said something negative about her religion that she found offensive. She wasn’t willing to see it from my perspective. She just wanted me to shut up and color.

Honestly, I don’t give a shit what people’s personal religious beliefs are. It’s when your beliefs affect other people’s lives that I have a problem. The fact the Ex had decided to convert to Mormonism and raised Bill’s children LDS was a real problem that affected us, because Bill and I aren’t LDS. To be fair, I don’t think Ex is LDS anymore, either. But, back when the girls were still kids, the fact that they were LDS caused issues, because their perfectly good father was portrayed as “less worthy” simply because he didn’t have the same religious beliefs they had. It didn’t even have to be Mormonism that caused this problem. The girls could have been raised Orthodox Jewish or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness, and that could have been an issue. I was simply trying to point that out, and being specific about how the LDS religion caused steplife issues for us. This should have been okay in an online support group for second wives and stepmothers, but instead, it was a “taboo topic” that I was strongly discouraged from discussing because one person found it “offensive”.

For the most part, I think people should be heard, even if they say something that seems “wrong” on the surface. And if someone does say something that seems “wrong”, it would be really excellent if more people would simply take a deep breath and hear them out… or at least try to respond with civility, instead of rudeness and snark. Being self-righteous and condescending is not how you win hearts and minds. And if you’re not trying to possibly change someone’s perspective, what’s the point of making a comment? Especially if you’re so insufferable that they block you.

A few days ago, I made a comment to someone about how most Americans have no idea of what we tolerate. They haven’t lived anywhere else, and they’ve been fed a bunch of horseshit about how “great” America is. I wrote that if more Americans experienced living in Europe, they might be outraged by what is normal here, and not normal in the United States. I was going to specify Germany, but I realized that there are a lot of countries in Europe that offer affordable healthcare, childcare, and education. As it was Facebook, I didn’t want to make a list, because that would make my comment too long and convoluted.

I then got a somewhat hostile comment from someone in the Czech Republic, who groused about how Europe isn’t so great, because medical care in her country isn’t “good”. I hadn’t addressed this person, but she chimed in on my comment to someone else, so I explained further. I don’t think I did so in a condescending way. I simply explained where I was coming from, and she came back with swear words and rudeness, as if I had insulted her intelligence. Her point was that not all European nations are created equally. My immediate reaction was “duh”, but that’s not what I wrote. Instead, I posted that I had originally considered writing only about Germany, but realized that much of the continent is similar and I didn’t feel the need to type out the countries for a Facebook post. I added that I did that because I didn’t want to wind up in a rude exchange with a stranger. Then I finished with, “but I see that’s happened, anyway. Have a nice day.” I was surprised she didn’t come back with more snark. I probably shocked her by calling her out for being unnecessarily offensive.

One of the things I really love about my husband is that we can have conversations about anything. He’s thoughtful and considerate, and he hears what I have to say as I flesh out a thought. He doesn’t react with indignation, or break out the red pen, wanting to “correct” my opinions. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he’s always willing to listen. I think we’re both better off because of that. We learn new things, and dine on fresh food for thought. Just as a new food can be exciting and interesting, so can a considering new perspective. But it’s hard to access that “fresh food for thought”, if you are preoccupied with correcting someone else for their opinions that don’t align with your own.

Now, when it comes to abortion, I can certainly understand why many people find it a sad and abhorrent thing. I understand why some people, having had an ectopic pregnancy that necessitated termination, can’t bear to think of that action as having an abortion, even if that is technically what happened. But I can also see how someone might find abortion liberating and even exhilarating. Father Nathan Monk’s post spells out how it can be a huge relief for someone to have an abortion. It should be okay for people to be honest about their feelings without fear of being shamed. We should be encouraging respectful communication, rather than trying to squelch things we don’t want to hear or read. Imagine how much more interesting life would be, if we could consider things that are “taboo” without feeling ashamed or threatened with censure.

I imagine that we might even have fewer Trump supporters if more people could stop themselves from being holier than thou toward others. I suspect that a lot of people like Trump because he’s not “PC” and doesn’t insist that people be “PC”. I think a lot of people like it when a loudmouth jerk like Trump says what they’re thinking, without any shame or hesitation whatsoever. This isn’t to say that I think people should be going around being deliberately offensive, but more that people might not be so compelled to be deliberately offensive if they felt heard and understood, even if the other person disagrees. A basic level of respect can be a great lubricant for productive discussion and– dare I say it?– a broader perspective on life, a keener intellect, and a more interesting existence outside of an echo chamber.

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condescending twatbags, Military, overly helpful people, sexism, social media

“Virginia Military Institute routinely turns out bullies and domestic abusers…”

Here’s another post for the “stupid shit I learned in the comment section of a newspaper” file. I got so fired up after an exchange I had in the comment section, that I just had to write another blog post today. So here I am, venting my spleen. If you came here to read this and then straighten me out, just know that I agree with you that it’s bullshit that VMI turns out abusers. My father, uncle, and several cousins are VMI graduates. At least two of my aunts and an uncle were employed there for many years. I know about the culture at VMI. I am also an Air Force brat and former Army wife… although my husband still works for the Army, so I’m still in the culture.

Apparently, I’ve been living in the Twilight Zone, though… unaware of what REALLY goes on in the military and at military colleges. Why? Because I didn’t condemn a photo shared by the Washington Post in an article about the 25th anniversary of allowing women to attend. I will admit the photo is shocking. I have run out of free articles, so I can’t unlock this one for my readers, but if you click the link, you can see the alarming photo. It’s a picture of 18 year old Megan Smith of Colorado, who was one of 30 brave young women who matriculated at VMI in 1997, when it first admitted women. She’s tiny, and surrounded by several large young men who are screaming at her. This is a scene that has played out at VMI since 1839. My father went through it, as did my uncle, and at least four cousins. Most of them went on to serve as officers in the military, although my dad was the only one to stay in long enough to retire with full benefits.

Megan Smith is now married, and works as a European Patent lawyer in the South of France, near Marseilles. She was extensively interviewed for the article, and several photos were included of her during her time at VMI. I didn’t get the sense that she blamed VMI for any trauma. In fact, she outright stated that everyone was being treated in the same way. I’m sure some of her male Brother Rats were not much bigger than she was, either, and they were getting screamed at, too. I would also bet that learning how to deal with high pressure verbal confrontations has served her well in her law career.

I don’t think I would have enjoyed VMI myself. Personally, I don’t like being screamed at or berated. I would consider it verbal abuse. But that’s me… and I know that many people who have gone through VMI came out of it absolutely LOVING the school. My dad worshiped VMI. He was tickled pink that I got married there, even though Bill isn’t himself a graduate. Thousands of people went through exactly what Megan Smith went through at VMI. Many thousands more have endured the same treatment in basic training for one of the services or at other military colleges. Or… maybe they’ve gotten it in other training. I’ll bet many a physician has gone through their share of abuse during their internships. For some people, it’s a rite of passage. For others, it’s traumatizing. But isn’t it nice to be able to choose which path one wishes to take?

Well, some guy named Kent decided to take me on. He claimed that the type of training at VMI attracts psychopaths and abusers, and then sanctimoniously lectured me about how just because it’s “tradition”, that doesn’t mean it’s not damaging. I will agree. To some people, Hell Week and being on the Rat Line probably is traumatizing and damaging. But that’s not everyone. If you think about it, my two years in the Peace Corps might have traumatized some people. I grew from it, but others might not have been able to hack it. Not everyone is cut out for the Peace Corps. Not everyone is made for military life. It is what it is.

When I didn’t agree with Kent, he started to mansplain, which immediately turned me off. I can’t stand people who try to lecture me, especially when they make assumptions about who I am, what I know, and how I think. So I told him I didn’t appreciate him trying to tell me what I do and don’t know, especially since we’re strangers. Then I advised him to have a good day. Most people would naturally take that to mean the conversation is over, but not Kent. He came back with two more paragraphs of the same drivel. So I wrote, “I said I was done. You are not very respectful yourself, are you?” (In fact, I would call it abuse)

He came back with another two or three paragraphs that were rude, dismissive, and insulting, complete with sarcasm and lecturing. I guess he didn’t realize that as he was lecturing me about abuse, he had become rather abusive himself. So I blocked him.

Then I got a comment from a woman named Sherry, who told me that abuse always comes from the military. I told her she was wrong. Then she laugh reacted and wrote, “You must have never been in an abusive relationship.” That comment was surprising. It was if she almost would have hoped I had been abused by Bill. Like, it’s a negative that I have a good marriage! And no, I haven’t been involved in domestic violence at his hands, but he was in a domestic violence situation with his ex wife, and she was the aggressor. She was NOT in the military. He’s not the only one, either. He’s known people in the military who were abused by a spouse who wasn’t serving. I didn’t respond to her comment, other than to ask her not to make assumptions about people she doesn’t know.

Then I got another comment from someone named Diana, who also felt I needed schooling. She was basically respectful, but once again, I failed to understand why so many people seemed to NEED to correct my opinion. As if being browbeaten and harassed by a stranger in the comment section of a newspaper is going to make me “see the light” somehow. She lectured me about herd mentality, and how it leads to abuse, after I had already bid her, too, a good day.

So I came back and wrote that I think the VAST majority of people commenting on that article didn’t read it, because it’s behind a paywall. They are reacting to a shocking photo. Most of them have zero experience with the school. I am writing as someone whose uncle actually renovated the barracks for the women in 1997, as he was in charge of the physical plant at the time. No, I didn’t attend VMI, but I have many relatives who either worked there or went there. And I have firsthand experience with the school and its graduates. I would not pay to go to VMI. It’s not for me. BUT– I did go to Longwood University, a coed school, where I experienced unwelcome and inappropriate interactions with people sometimes. But you know what? I have experienced that multiple times in multiple situations. Unfortunately as much as we’d like it not to be so, sometimes abuse is part of life. And part of life is learning how to deal with it and move on.

I also explained to Diana that I have both a MSW and a MPH, so I know something about abuse. I don’t need her to explain it to me, nor does she need to tell me about “herd mentality”. I just wanted to make a simple comment as someone with some applicable ties to the school. My comment doesn’t give people license to preach at me, diagnose me, or make erroneous assumptions about my life experiences.

No one is forced to go to VMI or any of the other military colleges. No one is forced to stay there if they hate it. No one is forced to join the military or be a police officer or do any other job they don’t like. Frankly, I think that learning how to cope in stressful situations is a good thing. At least if someone goes too far at VMI, something can be done about it.

Moreover, that exchange really, once again, reminds me why Donald Trump got elected. People don’t like to be lectured by people who don’t know what they’re talking about… or make assumptions that you don’t know what YOU’RE talking about. My father was a VMI grad, and he was a veteran. And yes, he was abusive to me at times. But I think he would have been that way regardless. In fact, I was telling Bill that I think that if my dad hadn’t joined the Air Force, he would have been worse. My dad’s drinking and abuse didn’t get especially bad until he was in business for himself, facing the stress of making enough money every month to keep the business going. Granted, the PTSD he suffered in Vietnam didn’t help, either. But he also had PTSD from being raised by an abusive alcoholic. That wouldn’t have changed if he had gone to a regular college and stayed a civilian (not that he necessarily could have in the Vietnam era).

Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if everyone felt compelled to say the same thing as their neighbor says? Or think the way their neighbor thinks? I don’t think any of my comments were that out of line. They were based on a lifetime of actual experience with people who legitimately know VMI intimately, and my own personal experiences, not just a news story and a shocking photo. It makes me sad that people feel like they need to correct other people’s opinions and make assumptions about them, especially when they are total strangers. I just wanted to leave a comment, for Christ’s sake. But I guess that’s another lesson that it’s better to keep quiet, lest you get sucked into stupidity.

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complaints, controversies, healthcare, law, modern problems

Well… most of us knew this sad and scary day was coming…

I wasn’t surprised yesterday when I read the news about Roe v. Wade, and how six out of nine Supreme Court Justices voted to overturn the landmark decision that has allowed American women to legally access abortions since 1973. I was about to include the word “safely” in my previous sentence, but decided against it. Because truthfully, accessing abortion in the United States hasn’t been safe in years.

I can remember as far back as the 1990s, hearing and reading about doctors who provided abortions being murdered by gun toting, right wing zealots. I can remember hearing and reading about women having to face throngs of protesters when they visited Planned Parenthood, even if their visit was simply to get gynecological care or treatment for a yeast infection. I’ve read more than a few stories about parents who bravely sought late term abortions of their very much wanted developing fetuses due to a medical catastrophe, only to be confronted by some intrusive asshole holding up a sign and pictures of mutilated fetuses, screaming at them for “murdering” their child.

So many times, the people who presume to tell strangers what reproductive choices are appropriate for their lives have no ideas about how to care for babies that are born to people who aren’t ready to be parents. Their usual stock answer is to put the baby up for adoption… but that conveniently ignores the fact that there are many thousands of older children languishing in foster care, waiting for some pro-life person to give them a home. Those who want to adopt, often prefer to adopt babies… preferably babies that are completely healthy. They also don’t pay any mind to the fact that giving up a baby is very traumatic, and many times, the baby is given up only because of finances.

People who regularly read my blog may know that I like to read advice columns. Recently, I read a post written by a mother whose daughter gave up her baby girl for adoption. Years later, the daughter who “chose life” yearned to have a relationship with her long, lost child. The young woman wanted nothing to do with her birth mother, and this was crushing to her– as well as her mom, who had written for advice. I remember reading the comments left, most of which were pretty shaming toward the birth mom. People wrote things like, “What did she expect?” and “This is what happens when you abandon your baby and give it up for adoption!” and “Birth mom is just going to have to suck it up.” With that kind of judgment from the masses, is it any wonder that so many pregnant folks who don’t want to be pregnant would opt for abortion? At least with an abortion, there’s no wondering… and no one has to know or judge.

People who are against abortion also tend to be against welfare, and they never hesitate to condemn anyone who seeks help when they need it. They are usually against universal healthcare, mandatory leave for new parents, and requiring birth control to be covered by health insurance. Hell, they are also against having to have health insurance! And by God, many of them are just fine with people owning as many weapons as they want to own, no matter how deadly they are.

Then there’s the other side of the abortion spectrum. What about all of the developing embryos that were created by people who dearly want to be parents? Those embryos, which to most of the pro-lifers should be considered full fledged babies, are usually discarded when people have had as many babies as they want to have. But now that states can determine what constitutes personhood, there could be a real issue with procedures such as IVF. I’ve often thought about the many children who have been killed in schools by crazed young men with guns. How many of those children were conceived with help from a reproductive specialist? How many of them represented years of dashed hopes, massive money spent, and dramatic upheavals, only to be gunned down in a classroom? We can’t seem to do anything about the gun nuts, but we can sure as shit force people to gestate, even if it might threaten their well-being… or even their lives.

I saw many people opining about this decision. Most of the people I know are heartbroken, angry, and vowing to vote blue. Some of my friends still have friends who are happy that women are now going to be forced to gestate. A lot of the people who don’t have a problem with the Supreme Court’s decision are men, or women who are beyond their reproductive years. It always makes me cringe when I read a comment from a conservative white man who has no empathy for women. It usually doesn’t take long before they make a comment about women’s “personal responsibility” and birth control. They’re often pretty clueless about how to access birth control and what it takes to get it– and afford it. They don’t ever think about the number of rape and incest cases that never get reported, and assume that people who are pregnant and don’t want to be got that way because they were “irresponsible”. I often see and hear them saying things like, “She made her bed. She needs to lie in it.” Really… they think babies ought to be punishment! Like– if a woman has a baby she isn’t ready to raise, that will teach her to keep her legs closed. Well… isn’t that disgusting?

They never think about the times females are in situations in which they are pressured to have sex. The female might not have wanted sex, but she likes the guy she’s with… and HE wants sex. But he doesn’t want to bother with a condom… or the one he’s had in his wallet for over two years has a tiny hole in it. The types of people who blame women and want to “teach them a lesson” by forcing them to birth never think about that scenario. And if you point out to them that all pregnancies are caused by men, they want to argue about it and slut shame.

And then there are the people who say that this ruling hasn’t made abortion illegal, it’s only put the decision back into domain of the states. That conveniently ignores the fact that there are many states that have had trigger laws on the books for ages, just waiting for Roe v. Wade to be overturned so abortion can be made illegal immediately. And there will be other states that will rush to push through legislation that stops abortion, forcing the women with means to go to other places to get what they need (or want), overloading those states’ or countries’ systems. And the women without means will suffer and possibly even die.

Yesterday, I commented to a man who made a statement about how this decision hadn’t made abortion illegal, and was only shifting the responsibility to the states. A woman responded that those who want abortion can “always go to another state”. As if that’s the easiest thing in the world for a teenager with no money or transportation to do… But then she ended her comment by asking me if I wasn’t glad my mom hadn’t aborted me. I had to laugh at that, and I took great joy in telling her in very blunt terms that no, I AM NOT GLAD my mom didn’t abort me. I explained that if she had aborted me, I would not have been any the wiser. Developing embryos are oblivious. They have no concept of life or death, right or wrong, heaven or hell, or anything else. And if she had aborted me, we both would have been spared significant pain.

I was born in 1972, and abortion wasn’t legal everywhere at that time. Even if it had been legal in Virginia in 1972, I doubt my mom would have had one. My father wouldn’t have wanted her to do that because he was a conservative, white, southern male, and I think he liked the idea of being the father of four. But he wasn’t the one doing most of the work of child raising, and to be frank, my mom was not very good at the job. I had to hear many times about how upset she was about being pregnant with me, how obnoxious I was, and how her friends didn’t want to go anywhere with her because of me. And you know, all of that might have been true… but it’s not the sort of thing any parent should be telling a child. I heard it repeatedly, not just from her, but also from my siblings. In fact, when she’d get annoyed with me, my mom would even say “Where did you come from?!”

I grew up feeling resented and put up with… and although I had most of everything I needed or even wanted, in terms of material goods, I wasn’t cherished much. I have often felt rejected by the people who are responsible for my being here in the first place. It’s not so bad now. I’m 50, and don’t rely on my mom anymore. My dad died 8 years ago. We clashed a lot, and I think he was often ashamed of me. There are worse things that not being born… or even dying. Anyway, whenever someone thinks they’ve burned me by asking if I’m not glad to be here myself, I always delight in telling them “no.” I think babies should be wanted and deeply cherished by their parents. I also think that ideally, babies should be raised by the people who birthed them, because even the best adoptive parents can’t erase the biological connection that children have with their parents. People want to know where they came from; if they didn’t, DNA tests wouldn’t be so wildly popular.

I noticed this morning that my response got a few likes, as well as a comment from the woman who asked me if I was not glad to be born (which I didn’t bother to read). It also got at least one angry reaction. I want to ask the angry reactor if she would have preferred it if I’d lied. People who ask such personal questions of perfect strangers should be prepared to handle the truth. I don’t feel ashamed of myself for feeling the way I do. My life hasn’t amounted to that much, in spite of my best efforts when I was younger. If I died tomorrow, my husband would be devastated… but I don’t have any descendants, and my family of origin mostly feels alienated. I live in country that isn’t really my home, and my home country is becoming a place I don’t recognize anymore. I don’t look forward to the process of dying, but I would be lying if I said that dying wouldn’t probably be a relief. Because it means I no longer have to worry about anything at all… or engage with clueless idiots who don’t understand why people are so very upset about this ruling, and what it will mean for all Americans.

Well… I probably ought to close out this rant… because I suspect some people might not like it very much and may feel the need to “correct my opinions”. And while I think that writers should be brave enough to be truthful and tackle the rough subjects, this feels pretty raw and painful. I’m glad I’m 50 now, and this ruling will have no bearing on me, personally. And I’m also glad I don’t have any children to worry about. The United States is quickly turning into a dystopian hell.

But… on the positive side, at least I’m feeling somewhat better. Second COVID test was also negative. Of course, some people want to insist that it might still be COVID, and I should test again in a week. If I’m still sick, I’ll do that. But this really feels like every cold I’ve ever had… and I have no doubt that colds still exist. I don’t understand why people seem to want me to have COVID. What difference does it make, as long as I get well? It’s not like I ever interact with people, anyway.

ETA: I forgot to add that just yesterday, Germany’s leaders struck Hitler era legislation that forbade physicians from “encouraging” abortions. Doctors were being fined thousands of euros simply for providing factual information about abortion. And it was a brainchild of Hitler and is only just now being stricken from the books. The USA needs to take a lesson from more civilized countries.

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politicians, politics, social media, true crime, Trump

“I will never be your ass monkey…”

About twenty years ago, my husband, Bill, introduced me to the genius of Joe Cartoon, when he forwarded a hilarious video his mom had sent him. She had forwarded to him “3 Drunk Flies”, which depicted three flies getting wasted on “Lite Beer” and wreaking all sorts of havoc.

Oh, my freakin’ head…

Later, Bill’s mom sent the equally hilarious classic video titled “Joe Fish”, which starred a big talking gerbil who was basically torn apart by piranhas.

This one was especially satisfying, since on the original, you could interact with the gerbil. I miss flash animation.

Then there was the hysterical Gerbil in a Bar… I know, this is pretty sick stuff, and sort of violent, but if you realize these are just cartoons, it’s a little easier to take.

The asshole gerbil is back for more encounters with assholes…

Why am I writing about Joe Cartoon today? I was actually looking for a specific video called “Gerbil Mantras”. I did find the first minute of that cartoon, but not the whole thing. In the original version of “Gerbil Mantras”, you could push buttons to hear the gerbil repeat mantras about dealing with life. My favorite of his mantras was “I will never be your ass monkey.”

I don’t know why I can’t seem to find the whole video. The first minute of it provides an okay build up, I guess, but the funniest part was hearing the gerbil say, “Blow it out your asshole.” And, of course, my favorite mantra, “I will never be your ass monkey.” Cuz I won’t, you know. 😉 For some reason, though, that version of the video doesn’t seem to exist anywhere anymore.

I hadn’t thought of Joe Cartoon in ages, until yesterday afternoon. Remember in yesterday’s post, I wrote about the $1.89 gas guy? I mentioned in that post that I dared to leave a comment that I was glad to have the “pussy grabber” out of office. I added that it puzzled me that so-called Christians would champion someone who is obviously a sexual predator. Maybe it shouldn’t puzzle me, though. There are plenty of male “religious” people who are perverts. Just off the top of my head… Warren Jeffs, Josh Duggar, Jack Schaap, Ernest Angley, Joseph Smith, and Ted Haggard… all of the aforementioned “Christian” men have been involved in highly publicized sex scandals that led to public disgrace.

But one doesn’t have to be religious to be pervy. I think it’s something that people who are drunk on power do. That’s why guys like Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, Jeffrey Epstein, Prince Andrew, and yes, our “esteemed” 45th president, Donald Trump, have all been linked to sex scandals. Some of the stories associated with the scandals are pretty heartbreaking and horrifying. These men don’t seem to understand how truly gross this behavior is, and how it indicates a lack of respect or regard for other people. I don’t believe that good leaders are predators, and for that reason, I don’t knowingly vote for sexual predators. I think the best leaders care about the people they serve and– make no mistake– being a leader should ultimately be about service, not power.

Anyway, after a few hours, one of my friend’s male Facebook friends woke up and took me to task for my statement about Trump, whom I’d referred to as “the pussy grabber”. He asked me something along the lines of if I was totally happy with the way things are going with the current administration.

My response was, “Nobody’s perfect, but I much prefer Biden to Trump.” Seems pretty clear to me. No, it’s not perfect. It never is. But I prefer Biden to Trump for so many reasons. The main reason I prefer him is because he seems to care about people other than himself. Even if he only cared about his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, that would still put him ahead of Trump. I am convinced that deep down, Donald Trump doesn’t give a flying shit about anyone other than himself. If he was pushed, I think he would even happily sell out his beloved daughter, Ivanka, who has wisely distanced herself from some of her father’s more outlandish claims regarding election fraud.

My answer didn’t satisfy my friend’s friend, who clearly wanted to bait me into an argument with him. I am wise to these types of people, who can’t just let someone express an opinion without trying to correct it.

When I made my comment to my old high school friend, I addressed only him. I didn’t directly call out anyone else. I know that he and I feel similarly about Donald Trump. Obviously, some of his friends felt called out, when I brought up that I think it’s crazy that so-called Christians are championing Trump. But I don’t know why they’re surprised by my opinion. Trump is not Christlike at all!

Friend’s friend decided to probe some more and wrote, “You didn’t answer my question.”

No guy, actually, I did answer. It’s pretty clear how I feel. And that’s all you’re gonna get. I left him one more response, which was “I don’t care. This is the answer I’m giving you. Take it, or leave it.”

Naturally, he tagged me again in a response that I didn’t bother to read. I figured it was another invitation to argue with him, which I’ve made it clear that I’m not interested in doing. It’s a waste of time, and raises my blood pressure. I’m no one’s ass monkey, right?

I went to bed last night, then woke up to another tag, this time from the original “$1.89 gas guy”, whom I’m sure also felt called out by my indictment of so-called Christians championing a greedy, abusive, predatory, fucking creep like Donald Trump. I didn’t read that one, either, because I knew I would feel like I had to respond. It’s pointless to respond to these folks, because all it does is entrench them further, and they are never convinced, even when evidence or proven facts are provided to them. Moreover, I don’t owe them a justification of why I feel the way I do.

Urban Dictionary’s definition of the term, ass monkey, is not what I have always understood it to be. According to Urban Dictionary, an “ass monkey” is a total idiot or a man who appears to be gay. But I like to think of Joe Cartoon’s gerbil when I think of that particular term. The gerbil may be used in obscene, non politically correct ways, but he clearly doesn’t like being used in that way. He doesn’t want to be anyone’s chump. I think getting mired in a political disagreement with strangers on someone else’s page, especially when I have no desire to engage, is the height of being an ass monkey… someone’s “fool”, used for their own pleasure, if you will. I’m not doing it. I’ve got better things to do with my time… like frosting my own pubic hair. Which, of course, I’d never actually do, but would rather do than argue with recalcitrant Trump supporters.

Times are tough for a lot of people right now. Money is very important, and I understand that many people have a lot less of it lately. But I don’t think money is the MOST important thing, when it comes to world leaders. There’s a high price to be paid for an extra $20 a week in your paycheck, even as I realize, for some people, that extra $20 is significant. I still think we should be demanding leaders who are worth following.

Someone who can’t control his sexual impulses around women is not trustworthy. Donald Trump has proven that he’s a man who won’t hear “no”, whether it’s from a woman he wants to molest, or a country who said “no, thank you” to another four years of his “leadership”. And rather than understand that he’s serving at the pleasure of free people, he wants to lie, cheat, force, and steal to stay on top. That’s NOT good leadership. So no, I would never vote for Trump, even if he ran as a Democrat. I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton, either… nor did I vote for his wife, Hillary, although I think both of the Clintons were more competent and compassionate than Trump will ever be.

“They let you do it.” What’s really sad is that people are claiming that’s “consent”. It’s not consent. A lot of people are in shock when someone does this… especially when it’s a so-called “star”.

Even if the above hot mic talk about “pussy grabbing” was just “locker room talk”, it’s an ongoing theme with Trump. He has no self-control or restraint, and that makes him dangerous. Moreover, I think we should have much higher standards when it comes to presidents and their behavior. It’s not acceptable, to most Americans, for married people to have affairs. In the US military, it’s actually a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a service member to commit adultery. That means someone in the military who has an affair can be punished under the UCMJ. As POTUS, Trump was commander in chief of the military, and yet he openly admits to having zipper problems. Why should people in the military be held to higher conduct standards than the president is?

A disturbing passage from a Vanity Fair magazine article about Trump’s vile behavior and lack of restraint.
Another snippet from The New Yorker about how Trump treated his first wife, Ivana, when he was in pain due to a “scalp reduction” procedure he’d had done by a doctor Ivana had recommended.
Yet another anecdote about Trump’s disgusting behavior toward females. This time, it was a fourteen year old girl on the receiving end.
Because she was threatened…
I defy any decent person, Christian or not, to listen to this interview and not be horrified. I find her story very credible.

Unfortunately, a lot of people have no problem with Trump’s troubling attitude regarding women. They think it’s funny that he feels entitled to “grab ’em by the pussy”, because “he’s a star”. I wonder if they’d feel the same way if it was their wife, mother, daughter, or sister Trump was talking about fingering, or forcing himself upon. Hell, he’s been trying very hard to force himself upon the American people, hasn’t he? There are just so many stories about this… and Trump himself has admitted to his attraction to “beautiful women” and his inability to control himself.

It doesn’t occur to Trump that he’s human like everyone else is, and not everyone would be flattered by his decision to grope them, as if he’s some kind of god with more rights and less responsibilities than others have. Trump obviously thinks women should be honored for him to look at them as sex objects for his own gratification. It troubles me that that so many people in the United States don’t realize that he’s not just looking at women in this way, although that would be awful enough. He’s looking at EVERYBODY as if they are objects for promoting his agenda, and his agenda is not good for the United States, or the world.

That’s MY opinion, and that’s what drives my vote. I am not obligated to defend my opinions to the “$1.89 gas guy”, especially when I know my opinions are based on sound reasons with which he will never agree. But even if they weren’t, I don’t have to engage in an argument with some random guy on Facebook. Like I said… I’m not your ass monkey. And if you don’t see why Trump’s pervy proclivities are a big problem, nothing I say or write is going to make it clearer for you. So let’s not waste each other’s time, okay?

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