politics, Trump

I feel like someone poured water on the Wicked Warlock of the White House…

“Who would have thought a little girl like you would destroy my beautiful wickedness?”

Well, it’s been four days since the U.S. election and we’re still waiting for the winner to be announced. It’s beginning to look more and more like we’re about to say goodbye to the Trump era. If Trump does, in fact, lose the election, and it looks an awful lot like he will, there will be a long recovery from his disastrous stint in the White House. But it does sort of inject some hope into a year that has been very strange at best, completely heartbreaking at worst.

I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions this week. I was disgusted on Tuesday, as Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were both re-elected. I was especially disgusted to see that Mitch got another term. I think he’s worse than Lindsey Graham, even though I met Mitch’s wife once. Back in the 1990s, Elaine Chao was briefly the director of the Peace Corps, and she visited Yerevan (after she’d left the post) when I was a Volunteer. Because I lived in Yerevan, I was invited to visit the Ambassador’s house and talk to her about what we were doing. I didn’t know who she was, nor did I know who Mitch McConnell was. I didn’t care about politics in those days. What a blissful time… I remember her to be pleasant enough, although I find her husband’s politics completely disgusting.

I was also disgusted to see just how many Americans apparently don’t care about Trump’s incredibly bad behavior. They don’t care about his constant tantrums and lies, nor do they care about the way he blatantly cheats as he bleats about having his power stripped. He’s just another one of those people who thinks the rules apply to everyone but him. But still, many people I thought were basically decent, caring, kind, and fair people are willing to give Trump a pass for this obvious disrespect for the American people and the world at large. Check out this post my German friend shared:

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted his father should open an “all-out war” around the election. Even Goebbels was more polite and at least asked.

The comments on the original post by Germans are very interesting. I’m glad to see that a lot of them realize that not all Americans are for Trump. And although many more Americans still accept Trump’s disastrous behavior and catastrophic failures as a leader than I expected, in the end, it does look like the better man will prevail (not that it’s hard to be better than Donald Trump is). I truly hope Joe Biden will help mend all of the relationships Trump has done his best to destroy. Especially with Germany.

Then, someone was mean to me. It’s always upsetting to me when someone is deliberately mean. I don’t react to mean people the way I used to. Now, when someone is really blatantly rude to me, I just cut them off. It makes me sad to do that, but I don’t have time for unapologetic assholes. If someone feels emboldened enough to be blatantly horrible to me without any reason or remorse, that’s a sign that we don’t need to be in touch. So, while I’m a little sad and disappointed to say goodbye to this person, I’ve resolved to come away from that experience a better person. In this case, I also hope to become a better guitar player. I doubt he’ll even notice, anyway.

At least Kanye was gracious enough to concede.

As the week wore on, things improved. I became reacquainted with an old college friend. And then the mail in ballots were counted and it became clear that Biden got more votes, even as Trump continued to wail, threaten, and complain about corruption. If anyone knows about corruption, it’s Donald Trump… and now it’s time for him to pay the piper. But he is determined to make the process as painful, complicated, and expensive as he can, and he’s going about it all in the least dignified way possible. Really, it’s pathetic. He’s talking about calling in favors to the Supreme Court, which is now stacked with justices he selected. There’s no doubt that they will be pressured to do what he wants them to do. Hopefully, they will uphold their responsibility to be fair and impartial and follow the law. No matter what, I anticipate many weeks of a shitshow as Trump and Biden duke it out over who will lead the country.

Now it’s Saturday, and Bill is cooking our usual Saturday breakfast. Looks like the weather will be nice, although thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown lite, we probably won’t do anything. We did have a fire last night– first one of this side of 2020. The weather is finally chilly, too… Winter is coming.

It’s disturbing to watch a world leader melt down the way Trump is, kinda like the Wicked Witch of the West did. But it’s more disturbing that people with supposedly normal intelligence can’t grasp why he so badly needs to go. If he doesn’t go, I have grave concerns for the future. Everybody says that. I know many Trumpers feel the same about Biden. But in this case, we’ve already had four years of life under Trump. He may not have directly made my life worse, but his seagull leadership style has definitely affected many people who aren’t as privileged as I am. Below is a copy and paste job shared by my cousin’s ex wife… She’s obviously out to lunch on this.

People are so scared. Anyway, wasn’t it Republican George W. Bush who got us into those “endless wars with the Middle East”? And aren’t Republicans more interested in making money than treating their workers fairly? This thing confuses me.

Sigh… and the final thing that has happened this week is that an elderly close family member is very ill and on a ventilator, although not because of COVID-19. We’re a bit concerned about that, especially since it’s not so easy to get back to the United States. But with any luck, the ventilator will help more than it harms. Unfortunately, when it comes to the elderly and serious illnesses, sometimes these situations can go south rather quickly. In 2014, my dad went to the hospital with an inflamed gallbladder. Most people think of gallbladder removal as pretty straightforward. The gallbladder was successfully removed, but my dad was unable to recover from the anesthesia. That was his exit. I kind of knew it was going to happen, too, but at least I was able to see him one last time before he passed. I’m not sure that can happen this time, if it comes down to that.

Bill will be back to teleworking next week. COVID-19 is getting worse here. Fortunately, Germany is led by people who mostly care more about people than money. And although Bill works for the United States, we’re obliged to follow the host country’s rules. And that suits me fine. Germans enjoy a better lifestyle anyway.

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love, music, songs

… and cool, fresh, gender roles… My man is no knuckle dragger…

The other day, I was putting together my most recent jigsaw puzzle, listening to whatever Siri will play on the HomePod. For some reason, Siri won’t play specific albums or artists right now. Instead, I get a hodge-podged shuffle of my entire, very eclectic music library. One minute, I’m listening to opera or classic English hymns. The next minute, I hear Led Zeppelin or Rhonda Vincent. I have extremely BROAD musical tastes, and you’ll find a sample of just about everything on my iPod.

A lot of the music I have is classic stuff I grew up with, but I also have a lot of other stuff I download on a whim. Quite a lot of my downloads are what I refer to as “drunken downloads”… meaning I’m a bit lit when I decide to make a purchase. Consequently, I have a LOT of music from obscure artists. I’ll hear something I like and impulse buy. Such was the case on the day I discovered singer-songwriter Dar Williams. Fortunately, Bill doesn’t mind that I do this. In fact, he often appreciates my drunken downloads.

Such a pretty song. This is a live, solo version.

I don’t remember what day it was that I first heard her warm, comforting vocals. What I do remember was that she was singing with Alison Krauss, another singer I admire. I downloaded the song and it would occasionally come up on my shuffle. I’d think about how beautiful the melody was and how she and Alison were blending together.

Then one day, I got lit and downloaded another one of her albums, 2010’s Many Great Companions. I don’t remember why I downloaded it, and in fact, I don’t think I’ve even heard the whole thing. But there I was, a couple of days ago, listening to my HomePod and furiously finishing the 1000 piece puzzle I’d been working on for a couple of months (I had quit working on it for a few weeks). Dar Williams came on Siri, and I heard the incredibly moving song “When I Was a Boy” for the first time. It made me stop in my tracks.

I love this song… it’s deep on so many levels.

This song’s lyrics are incredibly profound to me. I went on YouTube to find a video so I could share it with friends. I noticed a lot of transgendered people had left comments on this video. The song really spoke to them, too, probably in ways I can never fathom. Of course, I am not transgendered myself, but I still really related to this. I was a tomboy as a kid, but later became more girly. I have never wanted to accept strict gender roles, though. I wasn’t one to fall into a specific role simply because I’m a woman, and I don’t necessarily expect that of other people, either.

Two or three days passed. My post got maybe two likes, both by people who like everything regardless. I was delighted this morning to find a comment from Lisa, a wonderful musician friend, who was once my accompanist when I was studying voice and is now herself a piano professor at the university that granted me my bachelor’s degree. She posted that she loves this song, too. It’s funny, because back in the early 90s, we didn’t know each other that well. I always suspected that back in those days, she thought I was obnoxious and weird. Her husband is also a music professor. He plays saxophone brilliantly and taught me sight singing. They are very cool, talented people, but when I saw them on a daily basis, I didn’t get to know them that well. Now that we’re on Facebook, she and I have discovered that we love a lot of the same music. Sometimes, it’s uncanny how close our tastes run.

Anyway, I got so excited that someone else liked Dar Williams that I shared Dar’s video with Bill. By the time the song was over, we were both in tears, profoundly moved by the lyrics, the music, and Dar’s voice. It struck me as pretty awesome that I could sit there at the breakfast table with my husband, play him some music, and share the emotions that came from hearing it. There was something really special about relating to that song with Bill– a sense of solidarity, closeness, and mutual understanding.

There we were, discussing how complex and incredible “When I Was a Boy” is… and sharing tears because we were both so moved by it. It occurred to me how lucky I am on so many levels… to be able to share this with Bill and talk about this and anything else with him over breakfast that he made for me. And that I have so many incredible, wonderful, talented friends who share this joy with me too, even if I was weird and obnoxious… and still am. I often have a bad attitude about things. I get depressed and hopeless, and feel like I haven’t amounted to much… or I write about how some jackass was mean to me because he thinks I’m fat and ugly and my only redeeming quality is a pretty singing voice. But then I have experiences like the one Bill and I shared today, and I realize how fortunate I am.

I am so grateful I married a guy who is in touch with his feminine side and can relate to Dar Williams’ poignant lyrics about how she was “a boy” as a little girl who liked climbing trees, getting in fights, and running around topless. And how, at some point, gender roles are forced upon us. Suddenly, Dar wasn’t tough enough to walk home alone and needed help from a “nice man”, even though she’d cut her teeth on playing with boys and knew how to fight.

Conversely, Bill talked about how men are always expected to be “on”. They aren’t allowed to cry or be emotional, and how so many people think men can’t be abused simply because they are men. They are expected to fix things and solve problems, with no tears and a minimum of fuss. We’ve talked about all of this before, too. The truth is, I have a lot of “male” qualities… it mostly comes out in my language and humor. I’m probably “tougher” in some ways than Bill is, despite his Army officer history. Bill, by contrast, is more of a soft touch. He’s kind, loving, and nurturing in ways I’m not, despite my bleeding heart social work/public health/writer/musician history. I used to cry a lot more than I do now. I can’t do that anymore, for some reason. Bill, on the other hand, can cry with ease.

Life is so strange. I met Bill in a place where one is very unlikely to find a life partner. I certainly never thought I’d meet him offline, and if you’d have asked me if I would have married him back in 1999, I would have laughed incredulously. In fact, the first time he asked to meet me, I was very reluctant and scared. But then it turned out he was this wonderful guy… a wonderful, intelligent, kind, sensitive, ethical guy, who would never hesitate to support me. I thought about the type of men I was exposed to growing up. A lot of them were perfectly decent people, but they would not care about a song like “When I Was a Boy”. They wouldn’t want to discuss current events with me. And they would expect ME to cook the grits. Some of them would not appreciate my greying hair or ample figure. They wouldn’t care about my writing or my music. And they sure as HELL would not cry over a song with me, especially one about gender roles.

I remember when Bill and I were dating. My sisters warned me about marrying a military guy. More than I had, they experienced the military lifestyle as kids. They knew it meant moving a lot, and putting up with some of the obnoxious sexism that can run rampant in military communities. They figured Bill, as an Army officer from Arkansas/Texas/Tennessee (he moved more than I did, and he wasn’t a military brat), would be a “knuckle dragger”. I was warned that I shouldn’t consider marrying Bill because, I guess, they figured I couldn’t choose my own spouse. I am, after all, the youngest of four. It’s true that a lot of their fears about the military lifestyle came to pass.

My planned career, that I worked so hard to train for and spent so much time and money on, went down the toilet. I have also seen a lot of people who fit the description of military guys that they knew, and if I had married one of them, I would probably be divorced today. And marrying a divorced guy with kids, particularly one whose ex wife is as batshit crazy as Bill’s ex is, is certainly a risky endeavor. But looking back on all the years that have so quickly passed, I realize that I could not have custom ordered a better partner for myself. I did just fine in choosing Bill, and I am so very grateful I took the plunge and met him offline… and married him despite all of the well-meaning advice to the contrary that I shouldn’t.

So… I love that man, and I love that we can share Dar Williams, and the emotional tears that came from her incredibly poignant music. I don’t know how it is that I got so lucky finding Bill in a chat room back in 1999. But I’m so glad I did… and I’m so grateful to friends like Lisa, who share a love for the same music, too. I’m also grateful that I went to Longwood University, which was not my first choice school. It was there that I was encouraged to study music, and there that I met Lisa and her husband… and twenty-six years later, I’m still remembered. That is amazing! I must be doing something right.

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psychology

German style toxic passive aggression…

Part of the reason I moved my almost nine year old blog to a new site is an indirect consequence of passive aggression. It’s been on my mind lately, as Bill and I reflect on the four years we spent living near Stuttgart, dealing with the frankly toxic effects of people who refuse to clear the air in a direct way. It’s hard to live in a situation in which a person is obviously angry, but refuses to confront that anger constructively.

What is “passive aggression”.

Most people are passive aggressive sometimes. There are times when it doesn’t feel “safe” to be directly confrontational, so angry feelings are pushed beneath the surface. Sometimes, being passive aggressive is a matter of self-preservation. For instance, when I was growing up, I was often very angry with my father. However, I learned very early not to confront him directly, since it would often lead to painful physical and emotional consequences. So I would often seethe when he was around… anger festered, and I must admit, it’s still an issue today, almost five years after his death. In fact, I would even venture to guess that some of my problems stem from unresolved issues with my father, who often treated me with contempt and disdain. I was rarely allowed to address my issues with him and I almost never got validation when I did address them. The end result is that I have a lot of baggage and very little tolerance for people who show me disrespect.

I think “German” style passive aggression, is kind of different than “garden variety” passive aggression. I think it comes from German culture, which gives it a particularly nasty quality. I’ve noticed it a lot during this stint in Germany. This week, I read about two true crime cases that illustrate it quite well. The first case took place in Fischbach, a hamlet near Kaiserslautern. A lot of Americans live near there, since there is an Army installation close by. An American woman, now living in the United States, had rented out her house to other Americans. Prior to renting out her home, she hired gardener Bernhard Graumann to design a garden for her.

Evidently, the homeowner didn’t like Graumann’s work. They had a dispute. Graumann was angry enough that he booby trapped the woman’s carport with a log that had a bomb within it. The landlady moved back to the States before the trap harmed her. Fortunately, the trap was found before anyone else was hurt; presumably, that would have been the innocent American tenants who were living there. Police determined that if the log had detonated, it would have destroyed a wood stove. They detonated the explosive in a safe way, so no one was harmed. However, other people who had dealings with Graumann were not so lucky.

In Otterberg, a woman and her small child were injured by a similar device left to be discovered by an unlucky person. A 64 year old physician in Enkenbach-Alsenborn died last Friday when he touched a booby trap. Police believe that these incidents were also perpetrated by Graumann, who is now himself dead as of last Sunday. The cause of his death is currently unknown. Police are saying that Graumann purposely made these booby traps to deliberately hurt or kill people with whom he had issues. He’d leave them in places where they might or might not be discovered, completely taking his victims by surprise and injuring or even killing innocent people in the interim.

Police set up a hotline to find out if other people had problems with Graumann in personal or professional relationships. Sure enough, over 100 references have been recorded, some of which is information about Graumann’s life and some which regard personal conflicts people had with Graumann, a man many described as “withdrawn”. Graumann, who was 59 years old when he died and was a member of a medieval club where he worked with “black powder”, was married and had two grown children, one of whom is now a police officer. The son who is a cop is not working on this particular case.

The second case I read about is even more sinister. In the northern German city of SchloƟ Holte-Stukenbrock, a 23 year old man fell into a persistent vegetative state after ingesting high levels of mercury. Investigators were at a loss as they tried to determine how the man had fallen ill.

Another man, who had worked with the 23 year old on the same shift, also got sick and visited a doctor at least five times, complaining of mysterious symptoms. He was later found to have severe kidney damage. A third man, Klaus Radke, went to the police after several instances of noticing a brownish substance in his sandwich he’d brought from home. Hidden cameras were finally installed in the break room where these three men had worked. That’s when they discovered their colleague, Klaus O., was poisoning them.

Why was Klaus O. poisoning his co-workers’ food? Well, it wasn’t because he was necessarily angry with them personally. A psychiatrist who interviewed him explained that Klaus O. was “interested in watching the effects of poisons on his victims’ health”. Klaus O. had his own home lab, which included lead, cadmium and mercury. Klaus Radke, whose sharp eyes had noticed the “brownish substance” on his sandwiches, had brought one to the police for sampling. Lab tests discovered over 71,000 micrograms of lead within it. The police later discovered that Klaus O. had ordered more poisons online just before he was arrested. Investigators also found extremely high levels of mercury on the man’s property.

What caused Klaus O. to so callously harm his co-workers, with whom he’d apparently had no real or obvious conflicts? It’s hard to say definitively, although the court did hear testimony from Klaus O.’s estranged siblings and other family members. They described his upbringing, which was evidently traumatic and marred by poverty. Was this the reason why Klaus O. felt the need to strike out at innocent people by surreptitiously poisoning their food? Maybe… or maybe he’s just a sociopath who would have turned out this way regardless.

Many people are uncomfortable with openly expressing hostility. It’s as if being angry and expressing that emotion is some kind of sin. But anger is a very natural and normal emotion. Sometimes it’s even a motivating and constructive feeling. Bottling it up is unhealthy. On the other hand, expressing it can also be hurtful. I moved my blog, in part, because I was openly expressing anger that was making other people uncomfortable and they were confronting me in a way that was making the situation worse.

Germany is different than the United States is. Things are done by the book. I now live in a country where a person can be sued for verbally insulting another person and flipping someone the bird in traffic can lead to a very expensive fine. I am not German, so I don’t know what they learn when they are growing up in this society where it’s illegal to be insulting. However, knowing how challenging and frustrating life can be, particularly when you must deal with people with whom you don’t mesh, I can see how the habit of being passive aggressive could develop in a place where venting openly can lead to the courtroom. On the other hand, in the United States, expressing anger and engaging in conflict sometimes leads to violence. Here, people insist on civility… at least on the surface. In the United States, civility is less important and, I think, that sometimes leads to real tragedies.

I notice a lot of jokes about German passive aggression. In fact, just Googling it led me to this humorous blog post written by a fellow expat who has observed it. I have also noticed that Germans are also openly aggressive in some situations. If you do something that isn’t “right”, you can expect to be yelled at by someone. It’s happened to me more than once. This is a very “rules oriented” society, and people are very open about telling you when you’ve messed up. But if they stay angry with you, you might start noticing little subtle things that eventually become less subtle.

A good example of German passive aggression spotted in a public toilet. The sign requests that users not throw things on the floor and to use the toilet brush. The handwritten part beneath it requests that the people cleaning the toilets do something about the stench.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love living in Germany and I have developed a real affection for most German people. I’ve made friends here and there’s a lot to love about the German lifestyle. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the German style of passive aggression. I find it maddening.

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