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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lessons learned, musings, Reality TV

“Raise your words, not your voice.” Ruminating on Rumi, Renee Alway, and people who have done “bad” things…

This morning, I was thinking about what today’s topic would be. I’m kind of irritated, because I had a couple of interesting ideas for today yesterday, while we were enjoying the end of the weekend. But when I woke up this morning, those ideas were no longer available. I probably should have written down the ideas, but that’s not my habit.

I did what I usually do when this happens, which was check the old version of my blog. I ran across a post about former America’s Next Top Model contestant, Renee Alway. Back in December 2014, I wrote a controversial post about Renee Alway’s 2013 arrest and conviction for a number of felonies. Around the time I posted, Renee had been sentenced to twelve years in prison. I was sad for her, even though I remember how she had behaved when she was on ANTM. She was often portrayed as a “bitch” on that show, but then she would show a really lovely side to her personality.

I thought Renee was gorgeous and had so much potential. Then she got on a bad path. I was disappointed to see her with a shaved head, wearing cuffs, shackles, and chains. That sadness and disappointment was what had motivated me to write about her. I wasn’t interested in shaming her, although some people apparently thought that’s what I was doing.

Renee was released from prison on good behavior after serving five years. But then in 2019, she was arrested again for domestic violence.

I got a ton of hits on that post, as well as a lot of comments. Some of the people who commented claimed to be Renee’s friends. I even got a comment that appeared to be from Renee herself, although I can’t confirm if it was her or someone pretending to be her. One person got so irritated by my comments that she wrote:

Renee Diane is an amazing person, she continues to teach me the most amazing aspects in life, she’s there for me like no other person has ever been… I love her with all my heart, you don’t know Renee and never will just because she’s a model and is beautiful doesn’t mean she’s not human and doesn’t bleed. We all have our story in life and deal with pain differently who are you to sit here and judge her. Walk a mile in her shoes and look into your own lives the come here and point fingers … You don’t know a thing about here keep your blog shit to yourself. If you have nothing nice to say and reflect on the world don’t say shit.

We went back and forth a few times. I finally turned that person’s post into one of my famous rants. I basically explained that people are going to have and express their opinions, particularly about public figures. When a person goes on a reality TV show, particularly if they are an adult when they make that choice, they are pretty much fair game for commentary.

What I wrote about Renee Alway really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I think it was a fairly compassionate post. Let’s face it. It IS sad when a beautiful young woman with children gets arrested and goes to prison. It’s sad on many levels. I saw Renee as a talented person with great potential. I could tell she loved her son very much when she was on ANTM. I don’t know why she chose the path she did, and I was dismayed to see that her life had taken a criminal turn. That was the main gist of the post.

But that person still got angry with me that I wrote about Renee. She basically told me to “shut up”. And my response was this:

Thanks for the comment. This is a personal blog and I have the right to write about anything I please. If that upsets you, I’d encourage you to find something to read that is more to your liking. Based on what I saw on ANTM, Renee would probably tell you the same thing. She strikes me as quite a spitfire who doesn’t let other people dictate to her what she can and can’t communicate. 

The person evidently got confused about what I meant when I wrote that my blog is “personal”. She responded thusly:

If it was personal it wouldn’t be posted online. And your right she’s definitely a spitfire and doesnt take shit from anyone or let anyone elses opinions affect her. But I’m her friend and seeing people put her on blast and talk down on her upsets me so I’m sure you understand and would do the same for your friends and ppl you love

I hear what she’s saying… really, I do. But I’m not the one who put Renee on blast. I wrote this in response:

I understand your concern, but she put herself on blast when she went on a reality TV show. In any case, this post has been here for months now and is only getting new attention because you’re commenting. I’m sorry Renee is in the situation she’s in and I hope it gets better for her, but I can’t allow random visitors to my blog to dictate what I write about. I hope you understand.

I never know how people will react to what I write. If I chose to “keep my blog shit” to myself as a means of avoiding upsetting random people, I would never publish a single post. I can’t predict how people will respond to most topics I choose, nor can I control it. I think that commenter also confused the concept of “personal” versus “private”. They aren’t really the same things. Personal means it comes from me. I can write something personal and not keep it private. Or I can keep something private that is also personal… or impersonal.

I could keep the blog private, but there’s not much use in doing that. Why write things that no one will ever read? I understand feeling the need to respond to things that are upsetting, but I would urge people to pause and reflect for a moment before doing so. It’s not right to tell people to shut up, particularly when all they’ve done is shared an opinion or an observation. Stop and think for a minute and consider if what the person has said is really as awful as you think it is. Chances are, you’re overreacting to something that shouldn’t be that upsetting. I understand having that reaction, particularly when it’s in response to an ego blow. We all do it. But no one likes to be told to shut up, and frankly, telling people to shut up isn’t cool. Especially when you’re on their space instead of your own.

One commenter wrote this about Renee:

The season Renee was on was one of the ones I watched. I found her to be arrogant, manipulative and despicable. She wasn’t a good person. You managed to find the good side, however, which is to your credit. 
Renee actually ended up with two kids when she was arrested and gave birth to a third after that. She had been addicted and committing a strong of burglaries, eventually armed when she did so. 

In her prison interview, she admits to being a person whose character had defects. She said that she thinks people watching the show saw exactly who she was and that she had problems with her character. At least that admission is a good start. But it’s funny that she has “friends” on here denying what she herself has admitted and screaming at someone who wrote a compassionate post about what happened to her. 

Right… and what I wrote was not nearly as “mean” as what the person above wrote. I think her comments are valid, even if they do seem harsh. It’s good to show grace toward people, but it’s also good to keep your eyes open about who people are.

So anyway… on to Rumi, and his connection to Renee Alway, who was born hundreds of years after his death. In my response post, I found a meme attributed to the Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was born in the year 1207 in present day Afghanistan. His parents were native Persian speakers. He grew up to become a sage, whose influence spread around the Middle East and transcended borders and ethnicities. He died in 1273 at age 66 in what is now Konya, Turkey.

When I was writing my response post to Renee’s friend who told me to “shut up”, I found today’s featured photo, which is a famous Rumi quote. I thought it was very relevant. The quote is:

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

In other words, yelling at someone is not likely to make a whit of difference. You might feel better doing it in the short term, but it’s not likely to inspire cooperation or compliance. If you have an argument or contrary view, try presenting it in a civilized way. Take the time to reason. Frame your comments in a way that is constructive, instead of destructive. Don’t just react with emotion. Think about why you’re reacting the way you are before you say something. It’s fine to feel offended by an ego blow, but you’ll get further in changing someone’s perspective if you approach them with basic respect for their dignity.

In my response post, I wrote “If you “yell” at me, I’ll cross my arms and stop listening because I will simply assume you’re an asshole.  I don’t listen to assholes because that’s where shit comes from.” I had to laugh at that because it’s true. Shit is basically thought of as unpleasant, stinky, and worthless. On the other hand, shit DOES make the flowers grow. Most everything has a purpose of some sort. Most everything has at least something good about it. If you stop and think long enough about it, you can probably come up with something good about almost anything.

For example, a lot of people dislike Donald Trump. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I can’t stand the man. But– I can legitimately state that some good things came from Trump’s time as president. For instance, I have noticed that many people have become much less complacent about voting than they once were. They are no longer okay with skipping elections, because they’ve seen what not voting can lead to. Or– if they support Trump– they realize that their votes will make a difference. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum one falls on, I think it’s a very good thing to exercise the right to vote. It’s a very valuable right in a civilized society to be able to make one’s voice heard. So, in my opinion, making people more aware of the right to vote and impressing upon them how important voting is is a good thing Trump did. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s a contemptible asshole. But he isn’t 100% bad, either. Almost no one is.

I can even extend this thought to people like Josh Duggar. I don’t like Josh Duggar. I think he’s a massive creep who has done terrible things. However, I don’t think he’s the worst person there ever was, and I recognize that there are people in the world who love him, in spite of his criminal behavior. I also realize that he’s got six kids and one on the way who would not be here if not for him. I don’t know a thing about Josh’s children, but I’m assuming that they have the potential to be good people. They don’t have to turn out like Josh has. And they would not be here or who they are if not for their father. At this point, they probably love their dad and, if they’re aware of what’s going on, may feel scared and upset that he may soon be going to prison for a long time. So I have some compassion for them, too… and that leads me to have some compassion for Josh, in spite of how terrible his actions have been.

Because I have compassion, I can’t support mistreating people who have done bad things. I think they should be punished, and some need to be permanently taken out of society because they will harm others. But I don’t support deliberately making them miserable, torturing them, or harming them. I do understand the sentiment of feeling like you want to hurt or kill someone who’s done you wrong. I even express it at times when I am angry. But the reality is, I don’t want to see people being hurt, even if they’ve hurt others. I mainly think it’s only appropriate to hurt or kill someone when it’s done in self-defense.

Most commenters on this video don’t think Ghislaine should be treated decently. I disagree.

I recently watched a video about the conditions Ghislaine Maxwell is dealing with as she awaits her trial regarding her alleged sex trafficking crimes. In the video, Maxwell’s lawyer explains that Maxwell is in a living hell. While I do think she needs to be confined because she is a potential flight risk, I can understand why she’s complaining about her conditions in jail. But there were so many comments from people indicating that they had no compassion for her and she deserves to be treated cruelly. I can’t agree with that. She’s still a sentient human being. Being cruel to people who have done wrong doesn’t change them for the better. It makes them worse. I don’t want Ghislaine Maxwell to be worse than she is. I want her to be a better person. So I think she should be treated humanely.

I think all people should be treated with humanity, whenever possible. And I write this realizing that I’m sometimes a hypocrite when I get angry… I sometimes express anger in a way that seems contrary to the idea of compassion. But I’m telling you that deep down, despite being angry, I don’t support hurting people or making them suffer unnecessarily. That includes Bill’s ex wife, whom I legitimately despise. I mainly want her to stay out of my life and am content with letting her destructive actions lead to natural consequences. I would also hope people would show compassion to me, so I do try to show it to others. I can be compassionate and still think a person should be held accountable… or even have some contempt for them.

Anyway… I don’t know what Renee Alway is up to now. I think it’s troubling that she turned to crime. I suspect she suffered abuse in her past and is dealing with it in a way that isn’t helpful. When I saw her on ANTM, I really did think she was gorgeous and talented. I rooted for her and hoped she’d win. I wish things had turned out differently and she didn’t succumb to criminal behavior. But I realize Renee has friends… and some of those friends can’t bear to see her criticized. I do understand wanting to protect your friends, but screaming at me to be quiet doesn’t help your case. It just draws attention to that which you claim is damaging. So, as Rumi says, “raise your words, not voice.” If you want something to grow– like flowers or food– you have to nourish and nurture it. In other words, be constructive, not destructive. And try to have kindness and compassion toward people, especially if you want them to return that sentiment to you.

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life, by Sinead O’Connor

Until very recently, I was not one of Sinead O’Connor’s fans. I remember being in high school when she burst onto the music scene, scoring a smash hit with her cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. I was aghast by her shaved head and hauntingly beautiful blue eyes. I was astonished by her powerful, raw, emotional vocals. But, for some reason, I never bought her albums. It could be because I had little money for music in those days, so what little I did have, I spent on people I really loved listening to, like Kate Bush. I was, and still am, a Kate Bush fanatic.

Still, I watched Sinead O’Connor’s antics, which came to a head in 1992 when she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. She made huge waves when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on live TV. She immediately became a pariah and I’m not sure New Yorkers have forgiven her yet, even after all this time. Personally, when I think about all the furor that arose over Sinead’s decision to tear up that photo, all I can do is shake my head. We tolerated a sexually abusive, narcissistic, criminal moron like Donald Trump as our president for four years and people are still clamoring for him to be the president. Yet Sinead tears up a picture of the Pope, and her career goes straight down the shitter… temporarily, anyway.

Seriously? People hated Sinead O’Connor for this? It just seems so ridiculous now.

I don’t know what made me purchase Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life, which was just released on June 1st. I didn’t even own any of Sinead O’Connor’s music until I started reading her book. Well… I did own a few songs she sang on compilation albums. She did a beautiful version of “Sacrifice” by Elton John on the Two Rooms tribute album. I prefer her version to the original, actually…. and I like to sing that one myself. I also have her version of Dolly Parton’s song, “Dagger Through The Heart”, which, in her book, O’Connor writes is one of her favorite songs. She writes that after she recorded her version, Dolly wrote her a lovely thank you letter. Sinead had it framed and gave it to her beloved stepmother, Viola. That’s another reason why I like Sinead. She loves her stepmother. Also, my great grandmother’s name was Viola, although I never had the chance to know her.

Because of Sinead’s book, I have bought several of her albums and am wondering what took me so long. Sinead O’Connor is a wonderful singer and, based on her book, I think she’s a pretty marvelous person, too. She’s certainly a good storyteller, even if her writing isn’t always grammatically perfect, as a British friend pointed out when I delightedly shared one of Sinead’s anecdotes on Facebook. I like Sinead’s writing style. It’s engaging. I felt like she was sitting in a room, talking to me as if I was a friend. That’s the way I like to write, too.

I often laughed at Sinead’s stories, some of which are legitimately hilarious and outrageous. Some of her other stories were very moving. Others were infuriating. Overall, I came away with the idea that Sinead O’Connor is a very complex person who feels deeply and emotes freely. And yes, she also suffers from mental illness, of which she openly admits. I would imagine that Sinead O’Connor is probably not an easy person to be around, especially when her temper is flaring. But she’s probably just as often kind of awesome… especially when she’s smoked weed. Sinead is also a big pothead, which she also freely admits.

It’s not that often that I feel compelled to share quotes from my Kindle on social media. As I read Rememberings, I found myself sharing a number of Sinead’s musings. She writes that she actually started writing her book in 2015, but then had a full hysterectomy in Ireland due to endometriosis. Apparently, the doctors in Ireland did not prescribe hormone replacement therapy for Sinead; they just sent her home with a follow up appointment and a bottle of Tylenol. Her uterus and ovaries were removed, which sent her into instant menopause. She claims that caused her to go a bit bonkers. She also writes that musicians are naturally crazy– especially if they’ve also had head injuries, which she also claims she suffered when she was a child. I don’t know if that claim is true, although I do think that most creative people are a bit eccentric and weird on some level. God knows, people have called me “weird” my whole life. Below is a gallery of some of the more interesting quotes I found in Rememberings. I particularly loved her comments about Mormon missionaries and her story about the “plump old nun” who drew a picture of a penis with huge balls. That’s the kind of story I like to tell.

Sinead O’Connor has definitely had an unconventional life, so there is truth in advertising in her book’s title. She has four children by four men, and she’s been married three times, although she only married one of her children’s fathers. Two of the men who fathered her children are still friends. The other two, she says would cross the street if they saw each other. She writes lovingly about her children… and she does seem to have great pride and affection for them. I do suspect that they’ve had their share of problems, though, because having a mentally ill parent, particularly one who is also a famous musician, is hard. But I don’t get the sense that Sinead is a narcissist, or anything. When Sinead O’Connor writes praises about her children, I don’t think she’s being fake. She openly acknowledges that they’ve had difficulties, in part, due to her career and her mental illness issues. She also suffered tremendous child abuse when she was growing up, and those traumatic experiences have no doubt affected her as an adult.

Sinead O’Connor talks about her book.

Sinead O’Connor has even had dealings with Dr. Phil, who put her in a treatment center. She was already being hospitalized when Dr. Phil stepped in, and being mentally ill, she decided to try his approach because he was “Dr. ‘fuckin’ Phil” and of course he could fix her. It turns out the people she saw at his behest were not helpful at all, and he basically exploited her for television. She says the psychiatrist at the first facility Dr. Phil sent her two offered her a fig bar, which immediately turned her off for some reason. She says fig bars are for “hippies”. It turns out the psychiatrist was a bit of a flake, and she kind of implies that Dr. Phil is in with the MAGA crowd, although he “faked” being disgusted with it. She offers a delightfully profane criticism of Donald Trump, and I wholeheartedly agree with her astute comments. She may have a mental illness, but she’s no dummy. Personally, I think Trump and Dr. Phil are cut from the same cloth.

This book also includes commentary about Sinead’s albums. She writes about her favorite songs, how she came to name her albums and songs she’s written, and why she made certain recordings. I appreciated the backstories to a lot of her music, many of which made me want to buy and listen to her songs. The other day, one of her songs came on my HomePod and I had never heard it before. It was a hilarious song called “Daddy I’m Fine”… and it just spoke to me. And I wouldn’t have heard it if I hadn’t read her book. I love that Sinead was so generous with her stories about how she created her music and the people who inspired her.

Love this.

Honestly, reading Sinead O’Connor’s book makes me want to visit Ireland again and hang out with funny people. Given that so much of my own ancestry is from Scotland, Ireland, and England, it stands to reason that I’d feel at home there. Alas, we can’t go anywhere near the UK or Ireland anytime soon, thanks to the fucking coronavirus. But I sure did enjoy reading Sinead’s book, even if she does seem oddly enamored of American culture and even American healthcare, which she seems to think is better than Irish healthcare. And maybe it is… who knows?

Anyway… I really liked Sinead O’Connor’s book, Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life. I laughed; I sighed; I remembered things; I learned things; I became inspired… especially to spend money on music. Fortunately, Bill thinks music is a good investment. I know some people think Sinead O’Connor is “crazy”. And maybe she is… but at least she’s honest about it. I like her. I recommend her book. And now, I’m going to have to find the next book and hope it entertains me as much as Sinead’s has.

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