nostalgia, politics, travel

Repost: Remembering Samantha Smith… pen pal to world leaders

Here’s another repost from June 2018, a post inspired by my childhood in the 1980s. This one is about the late Samantha Smith, who made history by writing to Yuri Andropov and getting invited to visit the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Samantha was nine days younger than me, but sadly, she died in a plane crash in 1985. Little did I know, when Samantha was alive, that I, too, would one day go to what was once the Soviet Union. The 80s were an interesting time to be a kid.

I was born on June 20, 1972.  Nine days later, Samantha Smith was born.  Samantha Smith would change the world during her 13 years of life.  I’m about to turn 46 (and now I’m 49) and I’m still wondering what my purpose is. 

A few weeks ago, I suddenly remembered Samantha Smith, who was ten years old when she wrote a moving letter to former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov.  She was concerned about the threat of nuclear war.  In the early 1980s, everyone was talking about nukes and the so-called “red button”.  Like so many of her peers, Samantha was scared.  But she had guts and initiative.  So, in November 1982, she wrote:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

Sincerely,

Samantha Smith  

This was not Samantha’s first letter to a world leader.  In fact, she’d even written to another leader when she was five– Queen Elizabeth II– to express her admiration.  Samantha’s letter was printed in the Soviet paper, Pravda, but she did not receive a reply from Andropov right away.  Undaunted, Samantha wrote another letter, this time to the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States. 

Mr. Andropov was very moved by Samantha’s letter.  He wrote back to her in April 1983, affirmed that the Soviet Union did not want to wage a nuclear war, and invited her to visit the Soviet Union at a time when Americans were not often allowed to go there. 

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me – I can tell by your letter – that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out.

Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany, which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth — with those far away and those near by. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons — terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never — never — will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on Earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: ‘Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?’ We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country–neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government–want either a big or ‘little’ war.

We want peace — there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children’s camp – Artek – on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Y. Andropov

In the summer of 1983, Samantha visited Russia, where she caused quite a sensation.  She spent two weeks in Moscow as Mr. Andropov’s guest and had the opportunity to visit Artek, which was a big Soviet pioneer camp.  During the Soviet era, young children were involved in the Young Pioneers, which was a massive youth organization.  She also went to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where she was presented with many gifts.  Smith and her parents were amazed by how friendly the people were.

So many years later, I was watching Samantha Smith on old YouTube videos.  There are many comments from Russians who remembered and admired her.  She truly was a heroine to many Russians and Americans alike, although there were some skeptics out there who felt she was being used as a Soviet propaganda pawn.

When Samantha and her parents came home to Maine, they were treated to a warm welcome involving a red carpet and limousine.  Samantha was interviewed by many famous people, including Ted Koppel and Johnny Carson.  In 1985, she even tried her hand at acting when she was cast as a regular in a TV show called Lime Street

Samantha Smith interviewed by Johnny Carson.
Samantha Smith being interviewed on The Today Show, after she had become a media sensation.

Tragically, on August 25, 1985, Samantha Smith and her father, Arthur, died in a plane crash.  They were returning home on Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after having filmed a segment for Lime Street.  The pilot was attempting to land the plane when it hit some trees 4007 feet shy of the runway. The airplane crashed, killing the six passengers and two crew members aboard.  Although some in the Soviet Union thought she might have been a victim of foul play, an investigation revealed that the pilots were inexperienced and the rainy weather conditions contributed to the difficulty in landing the plane.

News story about Samantha Smith’s death.

Samantha Smith’s visit inspired goodwill all over the world, especially in the United States and Russia.  In fact, in 1986, a Soviet child named Katya Lycheva even spent time in the United States.  A 1987 storyline on The Golden Girls was even inspired by Samantha’s story, although it was ditzy Rose Nylund who wrote the letter, not a ten year old girl.

Rose’s “Letter to Gorbachev”… 

I wonder what would have become of Samantha Smith had she been able to grow up.  I wonder what she would think of our current political situation.  I think of what it was like for me, 23 years ago, moving to what was once a Soviet country and finding out that the people over there are much like we are.  She could have had a wonderful career, spreading world peace and goodwill.  Some people are never meant to grow old, yet still manage to change the world.  

When I was watching videos on YouTube last night, I also thought of Ryan White, who was another one of my contemporaries.  He contracted AIDS after having been given a tainted blood infusion to treat his hemophilia.  Ryan White was kicked out of school and harassed by his peers for having AIDS.  In those days, a lot of small minded people thought of it as a disease God sent to punish gay people.  It didn’t help that Ryan was from a small town in Indiana, where there were many ignorant people who thought he was gay simply because he had what was then considered a “gay” disease.

White went on to influence the world, even making friends with Elton John and Michael Jackson, both of whom were at his funeral when he died in April 1990.  I vividly remember watching Lukas Haas play White in a TV movie about his life.  White was himself in the film with a minor role.  So was Sarah Jessica Parker.

While we’ve come a long way in the fight against AIDS since Ryan White’s day, we’re still really struggling with world peace.  I just started reading another book about the Holocaust.  It’s a story about a Jewish Dutch woman who watched as her country was overtaken by Nazis.  I have to confess, reading her comments about what happened before Hitler completely took over gave me chills.  So much of it is familiar today.  Maybe it’s not quite as extreme now as it was in the 40s… or maybe it just doesn’t seem as extreme to me as it might to someone with brown skin, living in America’s Heartland.  The one thing that gives me hope is that the world eventually came to its senses somewhat, after World War II.  I hope it doesn’t come to war to make the powers that be in the United States regain their senses…  

Well, those are my deep thoughts for today.  The 1980s were fascinating.  I’m glad I was around to see them. 

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complaints, musings, poor judgment, YouTube

What happened to Britt?

I’m having some trouble coming up with a fresh topic this morning. I’m not sure why that is… Maybe it’s because I don’t want to write about what’s really on my mind today. Let’s face it. Things are kind of dark these days. It’s especially depressing to read all of the embarrassingly unscientific whining I’ve seen from people I used to think were really smart. But anyway, today’s post is kind of on two themes that are sort of loosely connected. I am all for freedom of expression and airing of opinions. Sometimes they lead to deep thinking and good conversations. And sometimes, they lead to head shaking and scratching.

For instance, there’s a guy I knew in school who went to an excellent university and went on to become an architect. Obviously, science and math are strengths of his. But yesterday, he shared a post about how Southwest Airlines’ pilots deliberately called in sick as a protest to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Um… I don’t think so.

I did consult Snopes about this post. Snopes says this is bullshit. Stop and think about it for a moment. A whole lot of people in the airline industry were laid off in 2020. Now, things are opening up again, and airlines, like a lot of other would-be employers, are scrambling to hire people. Moreover, SWAPA, the union for Southwest Airlines’ pilots, had this to say…

Hmm…

I find it particularly interesting that the author of the first post I screenshot cites that “80% of Southwest’s pilots are ex-military” (in my experience, there’s no such thing– that indoctrination doesn’t wash out in most people). Anyone who has served in the military knows that when you join up, Uncle Sam owns your ass, and you WILL be taking any and all vaccines that are required, unless you have a damned good and mostly medically based reason not to. That’s just how it is. Those who refuse the vaccine will likely end up discharged or they’ll get a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand, or GOMOR, which is usually a career killer.

At least for part of any servicemember’s time in the military, there will be indoctrination and a temporary loss of freedom. It’s hard for me to understand how so many people in the military are so politically conservative, when their jobs basically require them to submit to the government and all of its requirements for service– everything from staying at the right weight and health standards, to not mouthing off at your boss, to going wherever in the world Uncle Sam sends you (and sometimes your family).

Aside from that, the military offers quite a few programs that, if you think about it, are pretty socialist… especially if you happen to live on a military installation. Maybe a few pilots or staff members are striking over vaccine mandates, but I don’t think this is a widespread thing… and even if it is, the writing is pretty much on the wall worldwide. The vast majority of people are most likely going to have to be vaccinated if they want to be employed.

My husband has had to prove he’s gotten the vaccine, as have all of his co-workers. His company even stated that anyone who doesn’t want to get vaccinated will have a tough time moving to another company, because all of the contractors are requiring that employees get the vaccine. Why? Because the government is also requiring it. The U.S. government is my husband’s company’s client, and they want everyone to get the shot(s). So everyone is either getting vaccinated, or looking for new work.

I know that’s not what some people want to hear, but it’s the way of the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I suspect that if COVID-19 isn’t under control soon, people who refuse to cooperate may find themselves in the same situation that many people who don’t cooperate with tuberculosis vaccines and treatments are in… basically detained, so they can’t spread their sickness to everyone else.

Someone else I know shared this post…

This lady’s mom was my chemistry teacher. She also taught my sister. Apparently, my friend and her mom, a science teacher, are against the vaccines, even though they evidently complied.

My friend had COVID-19, and posted that it was horrible for her. She writes that she had to go to the ER more than once. And yet she evidently thinks that the vaccines are solely about making money. I am as skeptical about the motives of Big Pharma as a lot of people are, but so far, the vaccines have been offered to the general public (at least in the USA) for free. Yes, the pharmaceutical companies are charging governments for the vaccines. Someone has to pay the cost of employing scientists and the materials that go into making the vaccines. And I also agree that natural immunity certainly has its place… although when it comes to COVID, people didn’t have natural immunity, which is why so many have gotten very sick and/or died.

I might have been alright with taking my chances with COVID-19 before the Delta variant came along. At this point, count me among those who are glad there’s a vaccine.

Anyway… on with the title of this post. I promise, the first paragraphs relate to it.

Three years ago, before all of this COVID crap started, people were mostly talking about Brett Kavanaugh, who is now a Supreme Court Justice. I was one who was against his confirmation, mainly because I didn’t think he was worthy of the job. Donald Trump was talking about how “scary” it was to be a man in 2018. In response, a singer-songwriter named Lynzy Lab wrote a cute song called “A Scary Time”.

She’s got a point.

Somehow, I found a woman named Britt’s response to Lynzy Lab’s ditty. Britt was young and pretty, and she made a video on YouTube about how Lynzy Lab’s song was mostly fallacious. Her overall point was that all of the things Lynzy claimed she can’t do because she’s a woman were, in fact, things she could do if she wanted to. Britt did allow that some of the things Lynzy sang about were things that might be riskier for a woman to do, like walk alone at night. But yes, if Lyzny really wanted to, she could walk alone and likely wouldn’t be accosted.

Of course, we all know that when it comes to doing things like walking alone at night or leaving a drink unattended or getting a little drunk, women are statistically at a higher risk of being victimized. Lynzy was simply pointing out that Donald Trump and his ilk had no business complaining about being “scared” to be men, when guys like Brock Turner can rape an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster, get sentenced to just six months in jail, and then be released before the six months had passed!

I noted in my post about this subject that Judge Kavanaugh was outed for being a drunken boor in high school and college, but he still gets to be a Supreme Court Justice. He has a sweet gig for the rest of his life, even though there’s compelling evidence that he has hurt women in the past. It’s not such a scary time for Kavanaugh…

And Donald Trump, who is a well-known and admitted abuser of women, got to be the President of the United States for four regrettable years! People STILL want him to be president, even though he has publicly stated that he admires dictators and would happily kiss, caress, and grab beautiful women by the pussy, because he’s entitled as a “star”. Not such a scary time for him, either, is it?

I guess the one thing these guys all have in common is that they’re all privileged white men with access to money and political connections. And at no time in U.S. history has it been “scary” for privileged white people (especially the ones with penises). That includes people like the ones I posted about above, who feel quite free to lament the COVID-19 vaccines because they think the pandemic is a bunch of hooey. These are people who, statistically speaking, will probably fare better if they’re wrong about COVID. They’re more likely to be able to access medical treatment and have adequate support as they recover. Although sadly, even some of those who are privileged are still dying of the virus.

So anyway, about the YouTuber named Britt. I initially didn’t want to listen to her video in October 2018, because I disagreed with her, and found her singularly unlikable. But back then, I was glad I heard her out, because some of her comments, at least on the surface, made some sense. I used to be more like her when I was much younger. Or, at least I had similar political views, even if I wasn’t as camera ready. What can I say? I grew up in a small, southern town in Virginia, and the vast majority of people there are southern conservatives. Most of them are basically good people, but they have deeply ingrained views about politics and religion, and they don’t trust alternative perspectives. They see no reason to change their views, which to me, now seem pretty limited. I will admit, though, that there was a time when I was with my southern conservative friends and neighbors. It took getting out of that environment to change my perspectives.

This morning, I noticed that Britt’s rebuttal to Lynzy’s song was no longer available, so I visited Britt’s channel. I see that even though she still has over 83,000 subscribers, she currently only has three videos available to the public, with about 16 more that are now private. All three public videos are basically about how women have unrealistic expectations about dating. She also doesn’t like fat acceptance, and she evidently thinks women in America need to stop embracing body positivity when they’re “fat”.

I disagree with Britt’s take on overweight women, and how she apparently conflates body positivity/fat acceptance with feminism and being “unattractive” (see today’s featured photo, which appears on Britt’s channel). But I will agree that obesity can exacerbate health problems and can cause or worsen a lot of mental health issues. People should try to be as healthy as possible, and for a lot of people, that means that weight loss is a very desirable thing (as is vaccination). I just don’t like the way Britt presents her message, which is just offensive, snarky, and shitty. I can see that Britt is very young and pretty, at least circa 2016, and I remember she was still young and pretty when she made her video about Lynzy Lab, back in 2018. I seem to recall she was in college at that point. I wonder how Britt will feel when she’s a bit older and life kicks her in the ass a few times.

I also wonder where the rest of her videos went. Obviously, she was once a very popular v-logger. She has a link to Instagram, too. But I see that her Instagram is now completely defunct. What happened? Maybe she migrated to Parler? Maybe she got sick or fat? Maybe she ended up with COVID? Hard to tell… but I do remember that back in 2018, she stated that Democrats need to be “voted out” of office. Why? So we can have more misogynistic, power hungry creeps like Donald Trump running things?

I don’t disagree that sometimes feminists and, in fact, people on the left, go a little too far. Personally, I’m much more of a political moderate than a liberal. I don’t embrace all liberal concepts. I do, however, believe that compassion is severely lacking in today’s society. I think Britt’s content lacks compassion and understanding, and while I can see that she was popular before her channel’s content got so severely reduced, I notice that many of her followers are spewing the same mean spirited and unkind things she says.

I remember being young and cocky. I agree that a lot of young people, at least until today’s current weirdness, were probably a bit “soft”. On the other hand, I think we should try to be kinder and more understanding to each other, whenever possible. A lot of people are hurting… even, and maybe even especially, young people like Britt, who appear to have everything to live for. Just this morning, I read about how the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has canceled classes today, because one person on campus committed suicide and another attempted it. Things are looking bleak for many people.

Britt probably ought to thank a feminist for the fact that she was able to go to college, and can now publicly present her conservative, feminist shaming, and fat shaming opinions on social media. If Trump and his ilk had their ways, women would be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, listening to Trump supporting guys like Reid Baer singing songs like this to them…

Jesus Christ!

I will close this post the same way I closed the last one I wrote about this particular YouTuber…

I hope Britt wakes up and smells the “covfefe” soon… (but maybe she has, since most of her videos are either private or gone…)

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Ex, mental health, narcissists

This sentiment really resonates with me right now…

Last night, an online friend and I were chatting on Facebook instant messenger. We had started conversing on my Facebook page, offering our thoughts about the new abortion law in Texas. I had mentioned that I hate Donald Trump for his part in this… and for many other reasons. And yes, I know Trump didn’t act alone. He had a lot of help from Mitch McConnell and other MAGA asshats who just want to keep people trapped in poverty as they hypocritically lecture them about morals. But basically, Trump is the face of a lot of really horrible people who only care about themselves and everybody else can just go to Hell. That is basically the very essence of narcissism.

Yep… that’s about right. People with money will always be able to get abortions if they want or need them.

My friend had basically said that she doesn’t care about Trump enough to hate him. She sees him like she’d see a scorpion. It’s his nature to be cruel. He can’t help himself. So she doesn’t expend the energy to hate him. I, on the other hand, am not like that by nature. People irk me and I react to them more than I should. And before I knew it, our conversation had segued from Trump to Ex. I wrote:

I understand that mindset [of not caring enough about Trump to hate him]. I just can’t help myself. But there are people I dislike as much or more than Trump, like the Ex. Every time I try to feel compassion for her, remembering that she’s mentally ill, I am reminded that she stole from her own children, sexually abused my husband, and turns people close to her into her slaves. I just really hate narcissists.

I explained that I believe my husband’s ex wife is a narcissist. But I also think she is mentally ill. I’m not the only one. She has been diagnosed by professionals. But she’s also just a very manipulative, selfish, shitty person who has done real harm to others. Unfortunately, some good people are still struck in her sphere. There’s not much we can do for them until they help themselves. It’s an awful feeling to watch good people who are trapped, and haven’t figured out that they need to help themselves… or even that there are people who would gladly help them to help themselves. But, as they say, it is what it is.

My friend was skeptical that Ex is mentally ill. She asked me some questions about Ex, and why I believe that besides being a shitty person, she’s also got legitimate issues with mental illness. Some of it may be organic. Some may have been brought on by abuse and trauma. Some may be because she’s just a nasty person. I explained that I believe a person can be mentally ill, and they can also simply be mean. The two conditions are not mutually exclusive.

Then I PM’d my friend with some sensitive information that clarified things a bit. I didn’t go into specifics of what happened, because the specifics don’t matter. What mattered was that a few years ago, I might have simply excused Ex for being “sick” with mental illness. I can’t excuse her anymore, though, because she has done some things that are just beyond the pale and, I know they aren’t due to mental illness. In fact, she often uses mental illness as a crutch, excusing herself for being a shitty person. I didn’t find out about the personal stuff until a few years ago. When I did find out about what happened, I was absolutely livid. It forever changed my opinion about Ex– not that it was ever very high– and made me conclude that she’s plainly damaged beyond repair.

More wisdom.

The conversation with my friend continued, and she eventually took my word that Ex is probably both mentally ill, and a terrible person. But she’s not as bad as she could have been. Believe me, I have realized that she could have done more to make our lives hell. She’s no longer a threat to me personally, but she’s still a threat to Bill’s daughters and the family members who aren’t clued in to what kind of a person she is.

Personally, I am at a point at which I don’t really care much about Ex. I might feel about her the way my friend feels about Donald Trump. I might see her as a reptile who just hurts people because it’s in her nature to do that. But then Bill talks to his daughter, who isn’t quite ready to go no contact. If she goes no contact, there’s a good chance she will pay a dear price. She may lose contact with other family members, for instance. So Ex remains a topic of conversation, even though personally, I could probably move on from caring or talking about her at all.

And then, I noticed something posted by another friend. I don’t know this friend as well… but what I do know is that she’s been going through something with a narcissist. She’s been posting nothing but quotes about narcissism lately. I mostly don’t notice her posts, because I’m not big on posting quotes and memes without explaining the context. But every once in awhile, she posts a gem. Last night, she posted the below image.

This sentiment really resonates with me right now.

For most of my life, I have been trained to tolerate dysfunction. I’ve been conditioned to ignore bad behavior and be “nice” at all costs, so as not to upset the apple cart. I’m not as good at ignoring bad behavior as some people are. I do have a bit of a temper, and I will lose it when people go too far. Sometimes, when I feel like I can’t be assertive, I’ll be passive aggressive, which isn’t a good solution. But, for the most part, I do try to avoid conflict, and sometimes I give people too much power. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and will sometimes excuse them when they shouldn’t be excused. Or, I simply put up with bad stuff from people when I should let it, and them, go.

We’re living in some incredible times. The past five years have been awesomely hard for many people. Bill and I have been mostly fortunate, mostly because we haven’t been living in the United States. But we have been watching the turmoil from afar, and that has been very stressful and worrisome. I’ve found that living in Germany has given me some empathy for people who have come to America from countries where there’s a lot of strife. Bill and I are not in Germany illegally, but it’s still not our home. We love living over here, and we’re not in a hurry to leave. But we still have friends and family who are dealing with the strife as we look on from abroad.

Living in another country has its challenges, although things are pretty good for us. I’m not stupid enough to compare the United States with Afghanistan or El Salvador or Syria or Honduras… or any other place where things are just horrifying. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision is plenty horrifying, though… and it takes energy to process it and what it might mean for the future. Why should I let some low level idiot who is up to no good upset me? Especially when there really are much bigger fish to fry? They don’t care about me. Why should I care about them?

I don’t have the energy or stamina to put up with people who deliberately cause chaos, especially if I don’t have an investment in them, and especially when the chaos is over something really petty or insignificant. At this point in my life, I don’t have a lot invested in most other people. It’s probably because I do live in another country. I haven’t seen most of my family since 2014. I haven’t seen friends in that long, either. The ones I’ve made in Germany, by and large, aren’t real friends. They are friendly for a short amount of time, then disappear. So why should I tolerate any disrespect from them? Why should I let them upset me?

Of course, it’s probably in my nature to get upset. Just like I can’t see Donald Trump as a mere scorpion, I can’t help but be irritated by people who go out of their way to be manipulative, disrespectful, or just plain mean. I react more than I should, but lately, I’ve been trying to learn to let things go. I’ve been making a concerted effort not to get into it with people… especially people I don’t know. People who don’t care at all about me aren’t worth the tears. Peace is important, and I am as entitled to it as anyone is. So, instead of addressing stuff that I know will turn into something dramatic, I just quietly take out the trash.

As I was telling my friend last night, there are some people in the world that want to deny you your vote. Yes, some people literally want to deny you your vote in political matters, but I’m also talking about your vote in interpersonal situations. Like, for instance, when Ex unilaterally decided to have Christmas at my in-laws’ house, and demanded that I show up there for two days of hell during the biggest holiday of the year. She never asked me what I thought of the plan. I was simply expected to show up and shut up, forfeiting my right to enjoy Christmas.

Well… I realized then that I had a vote. I had a right to vote “no” to her Christmas plan, and stay home. Yes, there was a price to be paid for voting that way. She decided to punish everybody else for my choice. On the other hand, those people– most of whom were adults– almost chose to accept her “punishment” and disrespect. What they really should have done was tell her to fuck off and kick her out of their lives. It’s hard to do that when kids are involved… I know that. But, even in that situation, there were choices that could have been made. Bill had the right to take the Ex to court, for instance. Or, the in-laws could have told her and #3 to get a hotel room. Or they could have refused to host her little drama altogether. In some way, they could have REFUSED to tolerate her bullshit and just plain not shown up or stuck around for it.

I’m sorry if this post doesn’t make sense. It makes sense to me. As I have said before, I think the universe often gives us multiple chances to learn valuable lessons. This is one of those times. I got a lesson last week, as a matter of fact.

Last week, I got involved in some petty dramas that upset me quite a bit more than they should have. I was upset and frustrated, when I should have been enjoying the Black Forest, which was genuinely beautiful. The people who were causing the strife weren’t people I’m close to or care about. I was simply indulging them and giving them a lot more air time than they deserved. I’ve done that for too many people… Ex included. The vast majority of people are simply not worth the consideration.

I don’t like blocking, unfriending, or even unfollowing people… and I mostly don’t like it when people do that to me (although there are times when it was actually a mutual decision… they just acted first). But– I realize we all have our limits, and X amount of energy. The older you get, the more you realize that time and energy are precious. So it makes sense to spend those valuable commodities on people and issues that truly deserve them.

People like “Dick”, the wine group saboteur, Ex, Trump, and any number of other people with whom I can’t reasonably collaborate or cooperate, simply aren’t worth my time, energy, or attention. They don’t appreciate the sacrifice. And so, today I’m going to try to make a concentrated effort to kick those people out of my life as much as possible. I already feel a lot better having dumped a few of those folks… kind of like I did this morning, purging yesterday’s shit from my system.

And now… Noyzi and Arran are telling me it’s time for a walk. So I’m off to blow off some steam. Hope you have a good Friday… and as my friend Wilbur sings, “Don’t let life chew the sweet out of you.”

“Itty bitty problems” aren’t worth the stress. This song is non-sensical, but it makes me laugh.

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complaints, politics, rants, stupid people, tragedies, work

You should worry about yourself…

Apologies in advance for this disjointed rant. I have a lot on my mind, and it’s coming out in heaves today. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think that a lot of people who identify with conservative values are actual morons without consciences or souls. It’s probably because, as usual, I’ve spent too much time looking at the news.

A few days ago, I noticed that my former college professor answered a question on Facebook about whether or not she would accept a ticket to see Bill Cosby perform. She answered “no”. Just as I was about to click off the page, I noticed that my cousin responded. This cousin shares a Facebook account with his wife, so I’m not sure which person actually wrote the comment. Friends, I was a bit sickened by it. He or she wrote that Bill Cosby is “past his prime”, but was good in concert back in the day. And Cosby had engaged in some “negativity” some time back, but is otherwise a good entertainer.

I was pretty flabbergasted. So I commented, “You’re referring to dozens of cases of drugging and raping women as ‘negativity’?” I didn’t add this, but I should have also written, “And Cosby ADMITTED to doing this, too. He’s out of prison on a ‘technicality’.”

I can hardly believe I’m related to this guy. Well… actually, I guess I can believe it. I remember overhearing him tell a nasty story to another cousin when I was six years old. He and the other cousin, also male, were several years older than I was. Still, they made it seem like a funny story, so I repeated it to two younger cousins and got in trouble with my aunt, who gave me a tongue lashing I haven’t forgotten. Later, she apologized to me, explaining that her kids were very young and “didn’t know what to do with that”. Um… neither did I! I was six years old! And I had overheard a story being told by my cousin, who apparently thinks Bill Cosby’s habit of drugging and raping women is plain “negativity”! And he’s also a proud Trump supporter, who blithely ignores Trump’s disgusting record of treating other people like shit and, like Cosby, abusing women for his own vile gratification.

This morning, I read an article in The Atlantic from March 2021 about how a lot of relationships haven’t survived the Trump era. I’m sad to say, it’s true in my case, too. There are family members I used to love seeing with whom I no longer have contact. It’s not necessarily my doing, either. A lot of them have cut off contact with me because I think Donald Trump is a poisonous man. Somehow, they fail to see that Trump is a liar, thief, and a cheat, while they bitch and moan about people “abusing” unemployment insurance and welfare benefits. I’ve got news for them. Trump doesn’t pay his fair share. He hires cronies to screw over honest businesspeople while he harasses and molests women. Read Micheal Cohen’s book, Disloyal. Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who spent time in prison due to his business with the former POTUS, writes about how he would strong arm and screw over businesspeople on Trump’s behalf.

Meanwhile, your garden variety Republican is under the delusion that people who are getting unemployment insurance and welfare benefits just stay on those programs forever. Newsflash– they DON’T. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF– also known as “welfare”) is just that– TEMPORARY. And that has been the law since 1997! Granted, state leaders are allowed latitude in how they run TANF, but the program was designed to strongly encourage recipients to look for work or engage in training to prepare them for work. Recipients have to show proof that they are job hunting or getting training in order to receive temporary benefits. And that money is generally not enough to live on for long.

I ran across the above post this morning because another friend had answered the question. My friend answered “no”, he doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t taken a job due to unemployment insurance. He lives in Virginia, where payments are notoriously low. Just under his response was a rant from some guy who said he “knows people” who aren’t working because it will interfere with their housing allowance or “food stamps” (SNAP) eligibility. And then he wrote that there should be “time limits” on aid. I had to respond. As I pointed out, “welfare” does have time limits imposed– it was five years or 60 months (federal guidelines) or less (depending on the state), last time I checked. But so does unemployment insurance. When Bill retired from the Army in 2014, he got unemployment for a month. The money he got was based on what he’d paid into the system, and he had to show that he was applying for jobs. When he got a job offer, he had to return a payment he received, which wasn’t really much money.

I’ve read a lot of comments from conservatives who have bought into the “welfare queen” myth, thanks to a 1970s era story perpetuated by former President Ronald Reagan and like minded folks. They spread a tale about people who took advantage of social safety nets, which caused some people to believe in a stereotype about poor people being lazy and bilking the system. It seems to me that the whole “welfare queen” story was news because it’s not that common. Are there people who game the system? Yes, of course. I ran into a couple of them during my brief time as a social worker. But I doubt most people enjoy using benefits like SNAP cards, especially when busybodies are judging them for what’s in their grocery store buggy and watching how they pay for such items. Also, SNAP cards can’t be used for just anything at the store. Seems to me, most people would rather have the cash to buy things they want and need. Yes, some people are truly lazy, but I don’t think it’s as common as some people claim. Moreover, it’s actually expensive to be poor.

I get wanting to see people working and paying their own way. I understand that it’s distressing to be going to work every day when someone appears to be living off of the system. But what I want to ask these folks is, why is it any of your business? Do you know these so-called welfare cheats and unemployment abusers personally? Are you aware of their story? Do you have knowledge of their characters, or have any idea about their family situations? My guess is that you don’t– because why would you be “friends” with someone you think is a lazy cheat? If you were friends with them, maybe you’d understand more about why it appears that they’re “getting over”. Maybe you’d realize that, in fact, most of them aren’t getting over. Anyone who has ever worked has paid into “the system”, which exists so that people have somewhere to turn when they fall on hard times. The assistance we offer in the United States isn’t really that much, either.

Let me ask you this. If you had a family and were receiving benefits, would you really want to take a job at McDonald’s just so you could be earning your own money? Stop and think about it for a minute. Yes, you’re making your own money, which might be paid to you in debit cards that you have to pay a fee to access. But let’s say the money you make is less than what you’d get from welfare. How long can you afford to work for minimum wage? And why the fuck would you? In that situation, doesn’t it make more sense to get trained for work that pays better, or to search for a job with a higher hourly rate? What if you have children? What do you do with the children when you’re working at McDonald’s, which many people think should strictly be a minimum wage job? Do you pay a babysitter to watch the kids while you work at McDonald’s? How can a person get ahead that way?

I’ve often heard people complaining about folks who drive “nice” cars or have “expensive” cell phones, but turn up at food banks. The people want to know why the nice car driver or cell phone user doesn’t sell their “luxury items” so he or she can buy food. What if the car or the phone was paid for during better times? Why would someone sell their means of transportation or communication, if it’s been paid for? Isn’t it easier to find work if one has transportation or access to WiFi? Especially if the car also serves as shelter? Now, I get that owning a car or a cell phone requires money, and if someone is between jobs for a really long time, selling the car or the phone might make sense. But you probably don’t know that person’s story. Their need for food at a food bank may be very temporary. Why does it matter to you, anyway? You don’t know that person’s story, or the obstacles he or she is facing. You should know your own story, though, and you should worry about yourself.

And finally… yesterday, I read a couple of disturbing news stories about how Republicans are turning COVID “vaccine hesitancy” into outright hostility. Of all of the bullshit I’ve read about conservative “thinking”, I think this has got to be the most ridiculous, tragic, and demented. Why in the holy fuck are COVID vaccines being politicized? My God– this virus has killed millions of people WORLDWIDE! It’s not a fucking political issue! It’s a public health issue! And in areas where people are being vaccinated, the rates of COVID infections are decreasing. The fact that so many Republicans are spewing this bullshit about how vaccines are part of a socialist agenda is just unconscionable. It just isn’t true! But, according to The Washington Post, some Republicans are spewing lots of grade A tough guy bullshit. From the article I linked:

The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump, on a par with assertions that the last election was stolen and the assault on the U.S. Capitol was overblown.

Appearing at CPAC, lawmakers like Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) took aim at Biden’s push for “door-to-door” vaccine outreach, framing efforts to boost inoculations as a creeping menace from big government.

“We’re here to tell government, we don’t want your benefits, we don’t want your welfare, don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie,” Boebert said, referring to Biden’s top medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, her voice rising as she paced the stage and shook her finger. “You leave us the hell alone!”

However, I do take comfort in seeing that Mitt Romney, a man I dreaded seeing run for president, has said that we need to stop politicizing the COVID vaccines. It’s nice to know that not all Republicans are like Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebart. From The New York Times:

“We don’t control conservative media figures so far as I know — at least I don’t,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said in an interview on Wednesday. “That being said, I think it’s an enormous error for anyone to suggest that we shouldn’t be taking vaccines. Look, the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic.

Yes, it’s moronic! I completely agree, Mitt. Things will not get back to any semblance of “normal” until we get COVID-19 better under control. This is why so many people were out of work in the first fucking place! This is why we’re having a problem with inflation, as supply and demand for certain products was interrupted because people couldn’t work. Why? Because of the deadly virus! However, during our unique COVID-19 crisis, people had the time to stop and think about how completely insane the American system is. Now, some of them are demanding some changes. I say, good on them! We should be demanding work that pays enough for people support themselves. We should be demanding access to benefits that makes living healthier and happier for everyone. People should NOT be going into onerous debt because they went to college or had the misfortune of getting sick or hurt. We shouldn’t have multi-billionaires paying workers minimum wage for demeaning work while they make plans to blast off into space as tourists. It’s sheer lunacy, and yes, it’s MORONIC!

I love Amazon… but you gotta admit, the working conditions are insane and, frankly, cruel. Why do we accept this?

Through it all, many Republicans decry abortion. They say that people who have abortions have no regard for the “sanctity of life”. But they don’t want to do anything to help people who have unintended pregnancies. They don’t want employers to have to provide birth control access in health insurance policies. Their answer is to tell people not to have sex, which we all know is a policy that doesn’t work for most (it DID work for me, but my situation isn’t the norm). Tell me… why would you want to bring an innocent baby into a world where he or she can look forward to low pay, high cost of living, onerous debts, shitty employers who treat their workers like robots, deadly viruses that people don’t want to work together to arrest, and old white men in charge who literally don’t give a damn about anything but money and “pussy”? I tell you what. I don’t think the world looks so great right now. We’ve got natural disasters out the wazoo, worldwide– here in Germany, over 50 people have lost their lives because of flooding attributed to global warming, something else conservatives don’t want to talk about or fix.

So yes… I think you should worry about yourselves. Conservatives have made it plain that in today’s world, it’s every person for themselves. They don’t care about you and yours. They sure don’t seem to want to lend a hand toward making the world better for everyone. And, as much as I always wanted to have children of my own, I’m grateful that my particular line of ancestry is going to die with me. It seems to me that many conservatives are interested in money and power, and they haven’t realized that we’re all connected. What good does money do you if there’s nothing to buy because people aren’t working? What good does money do if you can’t find someone to help you clean up after a flood because so many people have died of COVID-19 and the workers who exist are already engaged?

We need to worry about ourselves and have more forbearance toward others– but we also need to realize that we’re all in this together and we could all stand a bit more humanity. So instead of judging the person you think is “getting over”, why not pay attention to your own situation and do your part to make things better? And whatever you do, don’t make excuses for creepy predators and cheats like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. It makes you look like an asshole.

August is wise beyond her years.

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history, lessons learned, musings, politics

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it…” George Santayana

Last night, as Bill and I were enjoying the cool evening sundown in our backyard, I suddenly remembered what I had wanted to write about yesterday. Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of connections between people, events, and other things I’ve run into, like books, videos, and music. A few days ago, we had a memorial for a guy I knew in the Peace Corps. My former colleague and I served in Armenia, which has been in the news in recent years as the people there try to get the Armenian Genocide recognized by the international community. I am now living in Germany, where people have been trying to make amends for the Holocaust, which took place during World War II.

The other day, I was watching YouTube videos and happened to see one about The Holocaust. It was very well done and informative. I’ve read a lot of books about people who survived The Holocaust, and I’ve watched many videos about the experiences of people during that time. But, for some reason, this particular video made me think more about what happened than the others had. Or maybe this idea popped up because I have been talking to people I knew in Armenia, and Armenia is more on my mind than usual. It occurred to me that I’ve lived in Armenia, where people are descended from victims of genocide. And now I live in Germany, where I am surrounded by people whose ancestors had a part in committing genocide. It definitely offers a unique perspective. Or, at least I think it does.

Before I lived in Armenia, I had never heard of the Armenian Genocide. In fact, I barely knew anything about Armenia. The only reason I’d even heard of it was because my fourth grade teacher was of Armenian descent and told us a little bit about his heritage. At that time, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, so as a nine year old, I never thought I would ever get to visit there, let alone live there. My teacher did not speak about the Genocide. He told us about how Armenians were Christians and that most people’s last names end in “ian”. He said Armenians were very proud of being Christians, hence the “ian” at the end of their names. Now I know that’s factually incorrect, but it sounded good to me when I was nine.

I also remember my Armenian fourth grade teacher played Jesus Christ: Superstar for us. I didn’t hear that music again until I moved to Armenia in 1995, where it was everywhere. People in Armenia LOVED Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical. I even bought a bootleg cassette of the album and quickly became familiar with it. Andrew Lloyd Webber was very popular in the 80s and 90s, anyway, so I don’t know if Armenians always loved that show or it just became popular during their sudden independence in the 90s. Bill and I finally saw a production of it in Washington, DC in 2004.

I remember resisting this music when I was nine, but I ended up loving it when I was in Armenia.

The Armenian Genocide, which occurred from 1915-1917, resulted in the mass murder of over one million ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks. The murders were achieved through death marches into the Syrian desert and mass executions. Many Armenian women and children were forced to convert to Islam. When I was in Armenia, I worked in a school in Yerevan that was named after a famous Genocide victim and poet, Ruben Sevak. I see that it’s now an elementary school, but when I was teaching there, there were students of all ages, and I taught kids who ranged in age from 7 to 16 years old. During my first months at that school, Ruben Sevak’s daughter, Shamiram, who was then in her 80s and lived in France, came to Yerevan. She attended a party thrown for her at my school. I tried to keep up with all the toasts and got very, very drunk. That was probably the drunkest I’ve ever been in my life!

While searching for Ruben Sevak’s daughter’s name, I found this fascinating blog post about Sevak and his family. I learned that Ruben Sevak (Sevak translates to “black eyes”) was actually a pseudonym. His real name was Roupen Chilingirian, and he was born in a city called Silivri, located about 37 miles from the city now known as Istanbul, but then called Constantinople. His family was wealthy, and Ruben was well educated. He became a physician, having studied in exclusive schools, including medical school at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He met his wife in Switzerland, Helene (Jannie) Apell. Big surprise– she was from a German military family! Their respective families objected to their romantic affair, but Ruben and “Jannie” finally got married in Lausanne, and later had a religious ceremony at the Armenian Church of Paris. The young couple had a son named Levon in 1912, and then their daughter, Shamiram, was born in 1914.

Ruben Sevak became politically active, joining the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He was a prolific writer, and his works were published in literary journals and newspapers. He wrote a book of poetry in 1909. It was titled The Red Book, and the works within it recalled the Adana massacre— an event in which Armenian Christians were killed by Ottoman Muslims. He planned to write more poetry and political works in more books. He would never get the chance to fulfill that dream. Clearly, Sevak’s writings were threatening to the Ottoman Turks. He was one of the million people killed during the Armenian Genocide, having been conscripted in 1914 and serving as a military doctor in Turkey. In June 1915, Sevak was arrested, and though his wife and her parents tried valiantly to save his life, even involving the German government, their efforts would be in vain. Ruben Sevak was murdered on August 26, 1915.

If you’d like to know more about Ruben Sevak, I highly recommend following this link to the blog post I mentioned earlier. I wish I had known this story when I worked in the school named for Ruben Sevak. It actually blows my mind that I was once in the same room with one of Ruben Sevak’s direct descendants. I’m sure she’s gone now, but how amazing is it that she visited the school where I worked in 1995? What are the odds that I, an American from a small town in Virginia, would one day work in a country that was once part of a larger country that was pretty much off limits to Americans until 1991? And then I would attend a party held in honor of the daughter of a famous poet and doctor who was murdered in the Armenian Genocide? Fate is an incredible thing.

Playing For Time… a movie about the Holocaust that I saw on TV in the 80s.

I had heard of the Holocaust when I was growing up, but to be honest, I think it was because I had seen a made for television movie calling Playing For Time. That film aired in 1980, and my parents let me watch it, even though I was 8 years old. I remember the movie starred Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Alexander. It was about young Jewish women in a death camp who were musicians tasked with playing music for arriving prisoners and entertaining Nazi bigwigs. I’m not sure I totally understood the film as I watched it. I do remember thinking it was interesting and I never forgot it, but the horror of what it was about didn’t dawn on me until years later. And I honestly don’t remember learning about what actually went on during World War II when I was in school. Of course, that was many years ago. Maybe I’m mistaken. But it seems like there was so much that had to be covered during those years that we didn’t spend a long time talking about one specific incident in history. U.S. schools, at least in the 80s, covered world history in ninth or tenth grade, U.S. history in eleventh grade, and Government in twelfth grade. Prior to that, we had civics in eighth grade and social studies in seventh grade and below. I’m not even sure if learning about the Holocaust was considered age appropriate in those days.

Fascinating video, if you can take the subject matter.

So there I was a few days ago, watching the above video about the Holocaust, which had popped up randomly in my YouTube queue. I listened as the narrators described the conditions the Holocaust victims encountered as they arrived at Auschwitz. I tried to imagine the terror and extreme horror of it on some level. I thought to myself that I probably wouldn’t have survived, if I had been among the unfortunate people who went to Auschwitz or the other death camps. Hearing about it and seeing the footage is one thing, but actually living through that– watching friends and loved ones being marched off to be executed, freezing in filthy, inadequate clothes and shoes, starving while being worked to death, getting deathly ill or badly hurt and being forced to keep working… being treated as worse than the lowest form of life. It’s just so hard to reconcile that reality with what I’ve seen in Germany, having now spent about nine years of my life in this country. It amazes me that such decent people can be reduced to treating other human beings the way Holocaust victims were treated. I can’t imagine sinking so low… and yet so many ordinary people did.

It suddenly dawned on me that I have now lived in a country whose citizens were systematically exterminated by Ottoman Turks. And I have also lived in a country whose citizens systematically exterminated Jewish people, as well as political prisoners, Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and anyone else Hitler didn’t like. I read that Adolf Hitler was actually inspired by the Armenian Genocide when he came up with his “Final Solution”.

This is a screenshot of the text on the last link… Hitler’s justification of the Holocaust, inspired by the murder of Armenians in the Genocide.

Then I thought of our present day situation. I read that Donald Trump is being encouraged to run for president again. He “handily won” a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference. I have mentioned before that I see some similarities between Trump and Hitler. No, he’s not yet having people rounded up and sent to concentration camps to be murdered, although some people have compared the situation at the southern border of the United States to the Holocaust. I’m not sure I would go that far, as many of the people in that situation weren’t necessarily rounded up from their homes and forced to march to detention centers. And I don’t think there’s really anything that quite compares to the absolute sickness and sheer awfulness of the Holocaust. At least not yet.

Hmmm…
Worth a view.

The similarities I do see between Trump and Hitler have to do with the way both men worked a crowd, as well as some of the historical events in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and the actual things that both men say– which are things that most narcissistic types say. The narrator in the above video describes how Germans were caught up in fear, poverty, and bigotry. The public were frustrated and looking for scapegoats on which to blame Germany’s depressed economy. Hitler exploited people’s fears, humiliation, anger, and ignorance to get common citizens to accept him as the only person who could make Germany great again. Elections were suppressed, and soon Hitler became a tyrant who murdered millions of innocent people. If you listen to Trump’s speeches and compare them to Hitler’s speeches, you hear a lot of the same kind of stuff. No, they aren’t exactly alike, and they never will be. But I do see similarities that disturb me, and I am not the only one.

Another quotable idea.

I have watched from afar as people in my country have become more and more radicalized and unreasonable. I have seen a lot violence and heard a lot of disturbing rhetoric. I believe a lot of Americans think of Trump as their savior. They ignore the many disturbing signs of his extreme narcissism, as well as the obvious efforts of Republicans to suppress votes from people who won’t vote for them. People are very polarized and some have forgotten their basic sense of decency and compassion. I actually worry less that Trump will be re-elected than someone younger, smarter, more charismatic, healthier, and crueler might be waiting in the wings, ready to take over when Trump inevitably meets his end. I have noticed a lot of vocal Republicans who are rallying disenfranchised and ignorant people to support them in their quest to reclaim power.

“You don’t know me, but I’m your brother…”

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing blog posts like this one. Maybe I will end up being rounded up and killed. I’m sure the people who perished in the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust had no clue that one day, they would face the horrors they faced. But I can’t help but think of Spaniard George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” So I hope and pray that enough of my fellow Americans open their eyes and demand decency and compassion in our leadership.

If you’re supporting a politician who is beloved by the KKK or Neo-Nazi groups, you may want to re-evaluate your choices. Do you really want to be lumped in a group of people who are driven to hate and kill others? Isn’t it better if we come together in peace and moderation? Is money and power really worth more than other people’s lives? Think about it… and all of the exceptional people who have died because of extremism and the desire for power, money, racism, and religion.

Look familiar?
Trump refused to condemn the KKK. He claims to know nothing about white supremacists, and yet they all love and endorse him.
Holy shit. This man was a protestor. Trump is all about silencing the critics.
And yet, they still love Trump, despite his “condemnation” of their groups! Why is that?

So ends today’s blog sermon… Gotta take Arran and Noyzi for a walk before the rain starts again.

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