book reviews, true crime

A review of Through the Glass, by Shannon Moroney… a woman’s life temporarily shattered by her ex husband’s violent crimes

When it comes to reading books, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my will to use them for reading. There was a time when I could read several books in a month. But now, as I get older, and my eyesight gets worse, it’s a struggle to finish a book in a matter of weeks. I keep trying, though, and I keep buying virtual books from Amazon, which may sit in my queue for years before I ever get around to reading them. Such is the case regarding Canadian author Shannon Moroney’s 2011 book, Through the Glass, which Amazon tells me I bought in 2018.

I don’t remember why I bought Through the Glass. It might have been a suggestive sell when I bought something else. I might have read a salacious Daily Mail article that prompted me to download it. Who knows, at this point? I’m actually glad I read it just recently, though, because I think this case out of Canada is timely, given that this week, convicted sex offender, Josh Duggar, will finally be sentenced to prison for his crimes against children.

Like many people, I look forward to seeing Duggar get his due. However, even though think his wife, Anna, was somewhat complicit in Josh Duggar’s crimes, I also have some empathy for her situation. She’s a woman in a fundamentalist Christian cult, raised to submit to her husband in all matters. With seven young children, and not much to fall back on, she seems pretty stuck. There’s also no doubt in my mind that Anna has been repeatedly victimized by Josh. As I read Shannon Moroney’s story, I couldn’t help but think of Anna, although Anna is undoubtedly in a worse situation than Shannon Moroney was. Shannon at least had a career to fall back on, and no children to support.

Who is Shannon Moroney, and why has she written a book?

In October 2005, 30 year old teacher and school guidance counselor, Shannon Moroney, married Jason Staples, the man she once thought was the love of her life. The two had met at a Kingston, Ontario soup kitchen three years earlier, where Shannon had brought some of her students to work. Jason was the head chef at the soup kitchen, and everybody loved him. He was always friendly and kind, and he had an amazing talent for art. Shannon was taken with him soon after meeting him; he seemed like the perfect guy. But there was just one thing that gave her pause. Jason Staples was a convicted murderer who was out on parole, having spent ten years in prison.

In 1988, just a few months after his 18th birthday, Jason Staples and his roommate, a 38 year old woman, had a brutal argument. The argument ended with the woman’s violent murder at Jason’s hands. Jason’s first victim was someone Jason’s very mentally ill mother and her abusive boyfriend had found, just before they moved away without him. The living situation obviously wasn’t good, though he tried to leave it before he finally snapped in what was originally deemed “adolescent rage”.

Jason later pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was given a sentence of Life-10. That meant he would spend ten years in prison, then be released on parole, which he would be on for the rest of his life, provided he did not reoffend. Jason had been a model prisoner, and the authorities believed his youth and good behavior made him a good risk for rehabilitation.

By the time Shannon met Jason, he’d already been out of prison for five years, and was doing well in the community. Jason had convinced many people that his dark impulses were in the past, and he was worthy of the second chance he was given. He even had plans to go back to school and earn a degree in art, hoping to make the most of the rest of his life. Shannon had checked out everything Jason told her about his past, and spoke to his parole officer and psychologist. She also examined his official records. Everything seemed to check out fine.

Just one month after their wedding, Shannon was writing thank you notes for wedding gifts and wondering if she was pregnant. She was staying in a Toronto area hotel for a work related trip. There was a knock at the door. When she opened it, her life changed forever. She had expected the knock to be from a colleague wanting to have breakfast. But it was a police officer, who handed her his card and said:

“I’m here about your husband,” the officer said. “Are you Jason Staples’s wife?”

Shannon nodded affirmatively, that she was Jason’s wife… of just one month. The officer told Shannon that Jason was arrested the night before, charged with sexual assault. The cop did not know many of the details of the crime, since he was a Toronto based officer, and Jason and Shannon lived in Peterborough, which was also where Jason committed his crimes. But the officer did know that Jason had called 911 himself, turned himself in, and gave a full confession to raping two women and confining them in the home he shared with Shannon. She was in total shock as she gathered her things and left the hotel room to go home, where she would face the horrifying truth. The beautiful life she had planned, to include having children, advancing in her career, and loving a man who had seemed to overcome his horrific past, had all evaporated.

Jason had kidnapped and raped two women who had come into the health food store where he worked part time. The first victim, a 46 year old woman, came into the store and Jason suddenly accosted her, held her at knife point, and sexually assaulted her. He confined her in the store’s basement. Then, a few minutes later, the second victim, who was much younger, entered the store. Jason held her at knife point, but she fought back, Jason then choked her into unconsciousness, and took her to the basement, where he sexually assaulted her. He bound both women with duct tape, then rented a van, and brought the two women to the home he shared with Shannon.

The two women bravely tried to rehumanize Jason, attempting to talk him down from his terrifying rage. Jason would switch back and forth, from monster to human. By 9:00 that evening, Jason had decided to kill himself. He procured some rope and a ladder. The women continued talking to him, trying to bring him back to his senses. Finally, at about 10:00, Jason spoke to Shannon on the phone. She was unaware that there were two bound women in her home, both of whom had been brutally raped by her husband. After the phone call, Jason went to a pay phone and called 911. He told the police who he was and what he’d done, then asked them to go to his house and help the women. Then he continued trying to formulate a suicide plan as he waited for the police to arrive. After 25 minutes, the police still hadn’t come; apparently, they thought his first call was a prank! So Jason called again. After the second call, the cops finally came. Jason ended his confession at the jailhouse, begging “Just put me away.”

As the investigation continued, Shannon learned that not only had Jason kidnapped and raped two women, but he had also installed cameras in their home, and recorded Shannon during private moments in the bathroom. So, Shannon was also one of Jason’s victims. However, because Shannon was Jason’s wife, many people assumed she was somehow complicit in his crimes. When Shannon asked if there was anything she could do to help the women who were raped, she was told that they “didn’t need to hear from Jason’s arena.” Shannon was left to pick up the pieces after Jason’s crimes, and she quickly found out that there was no support for people in her position.

Soon, it became clear to Shannon Moroney that even though she’d had nothing to do with Jason’s criminal behavior, and was in fact a victim herself, many people were going to judge her. She would not be entitled to any assistance from victim’s advocacy groups. Though she didn’t outright lose her job at her school, she was told that she would be transferred to a different school. Her principal went as far as to ban her from even setting foot in the school, claiming that her presence there would traumatize other people.

Jason was held in protective custody, for his own safety. He had lawyers to protect his rights. No one seemed to understand that Shannon needed help and protection, too. Everyone seemed to expect her to quickly divorce Jason and move on, even though Shannon still saw the human part of him and loved him. She suffered on all levels, from professionally to medically, and few people seemed to have any empathy for her situation. She was caught in the crossfire, being associated with someone who had committed horrific crimes. And very few people seemed to understand that she was as much of a victim as the two women who were sexually assaulted by her husband. Jason never gave any indication that he needed help. She’d thought he was okay, as had everyone involved with granting him parole.

As she spoke to Jason, through the glass partition at the jail, she learned about the tragedies in his life that had led him to where he was. Jason was adopted at three months old, and raised by a woman who sexually abused him. His adoptive father died when he was very young, and his mother took up with a man who abused her, and Jason. On the night of his crimes, Jason had also overdosed on some over-the-counter substances– caffeine pills and ephedra.

Shannon Moroney is interviewed about Jason’s crimes. She appears in many YouTube videos.

Picking up the pieces…

Slowly, Shannon Moroney put her life back together. She didn’t immediately divorce Jason, although many people seemed to think she should just quickly dump him and disassociate from him. She visited him in jail, and later, prison. At the same time, she tried to figure out how to move on from the legal fiasco that enveloped her. The process of rebuilding led her to change careers, and she earned a master’s degree at East Anglia University, in Norwich, England. Jason’s crimes and the aftermath of them made her want to do victim’s advocacy, and she eventually left teaching and counseling, and became an author and public speaker. After divorcing Jason, Shannon found love again and remarried. She now appears to be thriving, but as this book illustrates, it was a tough road to get where she is today.

My thoughts

Through the Glass is a fascinating book on many levels. As an American living in Germany, I’m always interested in seeing how other countries operate. Canada has a very different legal and penal system than the United States does, so that aspect of the story alone, was fascinating for me. Canada also has a very different healthcare system than the United States does. Shannon seemed to have a lot of support from her family doctor, a woman called Sue, who would actually come to Shannon’s home to see her and went to the jail to see Jason. I can’t imagine something like that happening in the United States.

The Canadian system seems a lot more humane than the US system does, although there were plenty of inhumane aspects of Shannon’s story. While she describes a lot of insensitivity toward her situation from friends and colleagues, overall, I think the Canadian people were more understanding toward her than Americans would be. It seems to me that Americans are very quick to judge, and judge harshly, and declare people guilty by association. By Shannon’s descriptions, at least her countrymen tried to understand her ordeal on some level. They would try to put on a pretense of kindness, even if they weren’t very helpful to her, as she navigated the horrific mess left to her in the wake of Jason’s crimes.

At one point, while he was being assessed, Jason was sent to a psychiatric facility, and Shannon describes visiting him there. It was a lot more welcoming than the prison was, and Jason was treated as a patient, rather than an inmate. I found myself agreeing with Shannon’s comments about how warehousing people in prisons isn’t very helpful to society, even though Jason obviously is a danger to others and probably should be kept away from society. Still, she seems to believe that prisoners should be treated with humanity. On that point, I totally agree with her, especially since most incarcerated people will eventually get out of prison. It serves society to see to it that they have the best chance at success when they are released.

On the other hand, I’m sure I’m among a lot of readers who have trouble reconciling how long she stayed married to Jason, especially when it was clear that he would not be leaving prison for a very long time, if ever. I can understand having basic empathy for other human beings, but Jason’s crimes were truly horrific and disgusting. One woman died, and two others were left with terrible memories of being brutalized by a madman. Sometimes, Shannon seemed overly empathic toward Jason, trying to paint him as a really good man who was just misunderstood. I was glad to read when she finally divorced him, even though he has some redeeming qualities. When it comes down to it, though, Jason can’t be rehabilitated enough to be in public again.

It occurs to me that Shannon Moroney has something in common with Elizabeth Smart, in that she’s turned a horrific tragedy in her life into a way to help others. That’s admirable.

Overall

I think most people would find Shannon Moroney’s story interesting. However, some readers might be disgusted by what seems like a lack of empathy for the victims, since she does show empathy for Jason. Personally, I believe Shannon when she claims that she does have empathy for Jason’s victims. I also appreciated that she was honest about her conflicted feelings for her ex husband, Jason Staples. I think it was good that she stated her true feelings, rather than just expressing what people wanted to hear from her. But, knowing what I know about the public at large, and the black and white thinking that a lot of people have, I know some readers won’t see it the way I do. We often expect people to feel the way we think they should feel, when life isn’t always that simple.

Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, that has been waiting for be read for years. As we await Josh Duggar’s upcoming prison sentence, I will try to have some empathy for his wife, Anna, and the mess she’s in right now. It’s easy for us to see that Anna should leave Josh, but we don’t see life from her perspective. It’s not always so simple. Shannon Moroney’s story really drives home that truism, at least for me.

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controversies, ethics, healthcare, law, sex, sexism, slut shamers

The vast majority of “pro-life males” make me want to hurl!

Ah abortion… yet another topic I am tired of thinking and writing about these days. And yet, it’s a topic I can’t escape, because so many people are posting and talking about the abortion issue, since the Supreme Court is considering overturning Roe v Wade. There have been so many articles written about this subject. If one pays attention to the Internet, as I do on a daily basis, it’s impossible to ignore the headlines. I suppose I could practice some self-control and not read some of this stuff, in the interest of controlling my blood pressure. But anyone who reads my blog, knows that self-control isn’t always one of my fortes.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past few weeks, is that when I read the comment sections on anything having to do with abortion, I inevitably run into the stereotypical “pro-life male” commenter. That’s a man who feels compelled to self-righteously “mansplain” to women why they think women should be forced to maintain an unintended pregnancy. They usually use loaded words and phrases like “murder”, “sanctity of life”, and “kill”, and they whine about hypothetical taxpayer funded abortions, which is NOT a thing. The Hyde Amendment of 1976– that’s 46 years ago, folks– makes public funding of abortions against federal law. But I still see comments from dumbassed “pro-life males” about how they don’t want to pay for abortions with their tax dollars.

“Pro-life males” usually take on an air of disgust, as they sanctimoniously preach about “protecting the most vulnerable”, shaming anyone who dares to question whether or not a gestating human has the right to privacy, autonomy, or self-determination. They loftily opine about how “irresponsible” and “cruel” pro-choice people are. How can a “decent” person not want to “protect the most vulnerable”? “A developing fetus can’t defend itself”, they reason; therefore, it’s up to these high and mighty males to be the white knight for these unknown beings!

I would like to know, where are these guys when those babies are born? I never see these “white knights” talking about continuing their valiant fights, “protecting the most vulnerable and innocent” by offering to pay for their care or, supporting their mothers, or even babysitting them! I’d like to ask some of them how many special needs children they’ve adopted. Hell, I’d like to ask them how many dirty diapers they’ve changed… and how many times they’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to breastfeed a crying infant. I’d like to ask them if they’ve experienced any permanent changes to their bodies and bank accounts after a baby has been born. I think we all know the answer to those questions, don’t we?

I often get queasy when I stumble across “pro-life males'” holier-than-thou screeds, which NEVER address anything more than “protecting” a developing embryo’s or fetus’s “right to life”. They never want to talk about anything other than that barest of minimums of “protecting babies”… maintaining the precious embryonic heartbeat. They don’t address whether or not the pregnant person should be granted some assistance of any kind. To read their words or hear them speak, it’s always the woman’s fault for being “slutty” and “getting herself pregnant”. I can’t remember ever reading any comments from these guys concerning providing women and children access to affordable and high quality healthcare, housing, food and medicine, child care, or education. I never see them mentioning anything about the responsibility society has toward the so-called “vulnerable and innocent” babies whose mothers were forced to give birth to them. Usually, these guys just want to lament about the “irresponsible” women and how much people who need welfare disgust them for being “lazy”.

From what I’ve seen, most “pro-life” guys just smugly want to focus on maintaining, at all costs, the heartbeat of the developing embryo, the pregnant woman’s circumstances be damned! And then, when that embryo eventually turns into, hopefully, a healthy baby, they no longer give a shit about the baby’s welfare. They never cared about the woman’s welfare, so now there are two people who are left to figure out how to get through life with so much stacked against them.

Pro-life males never seem interested in contributing money to make sure the developing fetuses are getting the best chance at starting off life on the right path. They have nothing to say about how “cruel” it is for a developing embryo or fetus to be growing inside a pregnant woman who can’t or won’t take care of her health. I never see them concerned about pregnant women’s access to competent medical care, making sure that those developing fetuses don’t suffer because their mothers aren’t healthy. In fact, most of these guys seem to lack any charitable thoughts whatsoever toward anyone but the voiceless potential babies being carried by perfect strangers. They only have negative words for them. And they usually get decidedly pissy when women tell them they shouldn’t get a say about forcing someone else to be pregnant.

God forbid anyone encourage them to do their parts in preventing unplanned pregnancies, either. They bristle at being advised to use condoms, get vasectomies, or– perish the thought— simply keeping their dicks in their pants! To hear them speak, or read their comments, one comes away with the idea that preventing pregnancy is solely up to the females. They are almost always solely focused on the so-called “trampy females” who lack self-control and have extramarital sex for “fun”. Never mind that it’s usually the men who are demanding sex or, in some sad cases, forcing women to engage in it. Never mind that sometimes, women seek abortions for reasons that are very personal or even tragic. Their narrative is that women who consider abortions are always irresponsible, selfish, and out of control.

Below are a few examples of the so-called “pro-life male”. Notice the underlying hostility, misogyny, and disgust… Poor guys. You’d think that a woman’s right to choose is a personal affront to them! “Josh” had several comments on this subject. It really seems to cause him serious butthurt that women still have the option to choose… at least for now.

Having a penis doesn’t mean you don’t get to voice your opinion. Must have missed that in the constitution, the right to murder the most vulnerable.

Abortion is the killing of another person for convenience.

A woman pointed out to “Josh” that murder is not the right term for abortion. “Josh” then proceeds to whine some more.

Anyone who wants to kill babies and let “facilities” profit from selling their organs is sick. You’d think a bunch of veterans (who were lucky enough to not be aborted) would stick up for the ones who cannot defend themselves. Men need to have a say in it, to protect the babies, especially the ones responsible for the baby.

I don’t need a uterus to be a woman these days. That being said, abortion is murder.

I could probably spend all day finding more puke-inducing shaming comments like these, almost unilaterally from males who refuse to understand why a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is none of their goddamned business. So often, I’m tempted to respond to these guys, but I know it’s a lost cause. Because they just don’t want to get it. They can’t see how having children permanently changes a woman’s life.

Yes, there are MANY women who are delighted to become mothers. But becoming a mother comes with huge costs… and so few of these “pro-life males” seem to care about that. I never see them offering to support women who are pregnant and need help. They very rarely express compassion, empathy, or kindness. It’s all about how the woman who has an abortion is a “murderer”. And then, they seem to think she should be sent to rot in prison. Gee… that’s good for society, isn’t it? Taking a woman out of the workforce to waste her life sitting behind bars. Especially if the woman has other children who need her. Those other kids are better off in foster care, right? /sarcasm

I have never cheered for abortion. I certainly don’t think it’s the ideal solution. I would prefer that people who don’t want to be pregnant simply avoid getting pregnant. However, I also don’t think I have the right to dictate to someone else what they should or should not be doing with their bodies. Of course I would prefer that unintended pregnancies due to “irresponsible behavior” didn’t happen. I would also prefer that women were never raped, have severe health issues, abandoned by the men who impregnated them, or experienced any of the other negative situations that would lead them to consider abortion.

I determined long ago that the circumstances surrounding how and why someone gets pregnant, and why they might want to terminate a pregnancy, is none of my business. Abortion is healthcare, and it should be private. I don’t need to know why “Josh” in the above comment might need to have his prostate removed someday, even if it means he can no longer pleasure the hypothetical woman (or man) in his life. What’s important is that he might need to have his prostate removed for health reasons that are not my business. The same thing goes for an already born woman who decides that she needs to have an abortion. It’s her health on the line. Her health and well-being should always come before that of a potential human’s taking up residence in her womb. After all, if she’s not healthy, neither will be the developing fetus.

I know that I have no right to tell someone abortion is only okay under certain circumstances. It’s true that developing fetuses have nothing to do with the circumstances of how or why they exist. They are “innocent”. But if abortion is truly “murder”, then how can there ever be a situation in which murder is “okay”? I would say abortion is less murder than “self-defense”. The woman is defending herself against negative outcomes of being pregnant, which can include everything from financial difficulties, to poorer health, to being forced to maintain a relationship with an abuser, to death itself. I never see these insufferable “pro-life males”, who lecture everyone about the “sanctity of life”, offering any solutions for the women who find themselves in difficult or impossible situations caused by pregnancy. Instead, they want to dehumanize the women by labeling them, criticizing their choices, and refusing to offer any help to them whatsoever. They can’t even spare a kind word of encouragement or understanding. It’s just non-stop slut shaming and willful ignorance about the conditions would drive someone to terminate a pregnancy.

I don’t think most of the “pro-life males” give a rat’s patootie about “saving babies”. The vast majority of them, from what I can tell, vote Republican. Besides forcing women to birth, they are also for gun rights and cutting welfare benefits. They don’t agree with healthcare for everyone. They don’t want to pay higher taxes so that vulnerable people can get a better quality of life. I never hear these guys talk about helping babies and children with special needs, who may or may not grow up to be adults with special needs. There’s nary a peep about making sure that the babies, born to the women who aren’t prepared to be mothers, are loved and cared for, so that they can get the best start in their lives. Nope. It’s all about blaming the woman– the woman, who CAN’T get pregnant without the man’s input, and will have to deal with just about everything that comes with making babies.

“Pro-life males” don’t seem to consider that their part of literal babymaking only lasts for a couple of minutes. Instead, they whine about having to pay child support or not getting a say as to whether or not a pregnancy continues. Or they equate paying a couple hundred bucks a month in child support to a 50/50 contribution. I wonder if those guys would take a job gestating a baby, especially since at this writing, the other parent isn’t legally compelled to offer any support to the pregnant woman. I wonder if, after the baby is born, those “pro-life males” would take a couple hundred bucks a month to raise the baby… if raising a child was just about dollars and cents, that is. My guess is that most of them would not be happy with that pay scale, especially since it also potentially means fewer job opportunities and promotions.

How is it that in 2022, we still have so many clueless, sexist, mansplaining, slut shaming, men in the world who have no concept of why so many women see abortion as a human right? Why do so many men not realize that there’s a huge price to be paid for making women gestate babies they don’t want? How come so many of them forget that every woman was once a developing fetus– something that they claim they want to “protect” at all costs? Why don’t they care more about people who have already been born and are struggling? Why are they so focused on everyone but the person doing the actual work?

I have never met anyone who is “pro-abortion”. Almost every case I’ve heard of involving abortion has been about someone making a very difficult decision. It’s a decision that doesn’t require mean comments from guys like “Josh”, who will NEVER be in that situation himself. What Josh and his ilk should do, is take a moment to muster some empathy. Any man who labels women as “murderers” for looking out for themselves– just as most men do– should never request sexual gratification from a woman. I hope Josh is a virgin. I hope he STAYS a virgin. Clearly, he’s not mature enough to handle the realities of what can happen when people have sex.

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musings

“Us vs. them…” a statement on the state of things…

Well, once again, it’s Friday. Bill is coming home today after having been gone for the past few days. I started reading Maus yesterday, after having read about the uproar the book is causing in the United States. I’m about five chapters in so far, and I can already see why it won a Pulitzer Prize. I’ve never been a big comic book person and it never would have occurred to me to read a graphic novel before I heard of Maus. And yet, the drawings and dialogue, which author Art Spiegelman has so cleverly created, have really drawn me in. I forced myself to stop reading last night, because I was afraid I’d get too emotional and have trouble sleeping. I think it helps that Art Spiegelman was influenced by Mad Magazine, which was one of my favorite magazines when I was growing up.

Of course, I also started another book on my Kindle app that is potentially equally upsetting. But I don’t find the subject matter of the e-book quite as horrifying as I do the subject of the Holocaust, which disturbs me on many levels. And it’s mainly because I now live in the country that perpetrated those horrors, as I watch my own country go down a similarly destructive path. I only hope that some day, the United States will heal in the ways Germany has, complete with citizens taking full responsibility for the attitude of disdain and hatred people have for each other and the damage that attitude does.

I really think that Maus is deemed “inappropriate”, not because of the word “God damn” and the prospect of young people looking at mice in the nude, but because most young people are not stupid, and some of them will connect the dots. No, I don’t think it’s gotten to the point at which people are being hauled to camps, starved, and gassed, but I think it’s important to remember that the Holocaust didn’t start that way, either. It started with the “us vs. them” attitude, and a charismatic leader who cast blame on people he deemed “undesirable”. Right under the noses of otherwise decent people, he made it okay to be hateful and cruel, simply due to who people were and their life’s circumstances. It eventually got to the point at which people thought of “them” as non-human.

I think the pandemic kind of adds to this phenomenon. There’s just so much disrespect across the board nowadays. People are fed up with the constant rules, restrictions, sickness, and death. That fatigue crosses over into other things… Not that the rudeness didn’t exist before COVID-19, but it’s gotten much worse. I’ve noticed that if you aren’t squarely on one side of the issue, people assume you’re on the side that isn’t theirs, rather than assuming that maybe you’re in the middle. And they seem to think that makes it okay to attack.

Last night, I was reading about the Maus controversy, and the arguments being presented on both sides were stated in ways that were anything but friendly. One very vociferous man… or, as vociferous as a person can be on the Internet, was insisting that taking Maus out of the curriculum was the right thing to do, since it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for all audiences. Anytime someone argued with him, he basically accused them of being “obtuse” or “stupid”, even if their arguments were intelligent and reasoned. He doggedly took on all comers, too. I didn’t respond to the man myself, since he was just like so many other people I’ve run into– strangers who forget that there are people behind the posts to which he was responding. I don’t enjoy arguing with people I actually know, so I knew I wasn’t wanting to argue with that guy. But I did notice that he had a “Red Wave” vote Republican sign on his profile… which automatically makes me wonder if maybe he wasn’t just projecting.

This level of “disdain” doesn’t just come from conservatives, though. There don’t seem to be many “good guys” who are just moderate and normal, and want things to be fair for everyone. Or, maybe there are people like that, but they are staying quiet. I try to write about these things myself, because I think more people need to read a more centrist view. Before Donald Trump came in and wreaked havoc on the Republican Party, I used to think some of the conservative ideals made good sense. But now, it’s being run by a bunch of religious zealots who think it’s “Christlike” to carry weapons and force people to give birth.

Likewise, I don’t like how liberals try to cram their ideals down everyone’s gullets, self-righteously preaching to anyone who isn’t completely on their bandwagon, and arrogantly acting like they’re superior to those who aren’t “woke”. It takes time to change people’s views, even when the views are considered politically incorrect. A person who has politically incorrect views may not be all bad, though. Sometimes, people evolve. I don’t think it’s helpful to unilaterally condemn people… although both sides of the political spectrum are certainly guilty of that practice.

I admire people who are civil. I wish I were more civil myself. I try to be, and I think I’ve made progress over the past 25 years or so, but I still have a temper and strong sense of what I consider to be right and wrong. Like, for instance, a more civilized person might be more magnanimous toward my husband’s ex wife. There are times when the better part of me looks at her with empathy. I truly am sorry she went through the things she did when she was a child. I wouldn’t wish that for any human being, not just because I don’t like to see people suffer, but also because I know suffering causes people to hurt others. It’s a condition that is as contagious as COVID-19.

I mentioned that I’m only five chapters into Maus, but one thing I immediately noticed was at the very beginning of the book, when Art draws himself as a boy who was left behind at the playground and is deemed a “rotten egg”. He sniffles that his friends abandoned him. His father wisely pointed out that most friends turn less friendly in times of adversity. Lock people up, treat them badly, and take away things they need for survival, or even just comfort, and you’ll soon see them turn against each other, and see each other as less than human. To a much lesser extent, we can see this “us vs. them” attitude in daily life, as each side is convinced that the other wants to take over and make things worse for them. In fairness, though, I can see why each side feels that way. I just happen to lean more toward the left right now, mainly because I truly believe Donald Trump and his most rabid followers are very dangerous people.

But maybe these people have always been out there. I just never noticed them before, because we’ve always had people in charge who had at least a scintilla of decency. Donald Trump is probably the most shameless malignant narcissist who has ever lived in the White House. I don’t even think he believes in a lot of the ideas he pushes. He just says what riles people up. He may find that he’s awakened a beast, because I have a feeling that some of the people he’s agitated may turn on him, and not toward decency and diplomacy.

Anyway… I am just a nobody here in Germany, writing yet another post for my little read blog. I sure would like to see some sun… and it will be good to see Bill, who makes what I do worthwhile. I’ll probably get more into Maus today. If you haven’t read it yourself, I recommend picking up a copy; if you can find one. Besides being very cleverly conceived, I find the interaction between Art and his father, Vladek, very moving. I’m gratified to read it. Maybe I should thank the school board in McMinn County, Tennessee for inadvertently educating me. I doubt I would have been determined to read this book if it weren’t controversial and “banned”.

Stephen King is right.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, healthcare, rants

Where is Richard Simmons when we need him?

Yesterday, I read an article in The New York Times entitled “Breaking Down the ‘Wellness-Industrial Complex,’ an Episode at a Time“. It was a surprisingly interesting and disheartening read. I wasn’t attracted to it because of the title, though. I decided to read it because of a quote that was used to draw attention to the article.

A man named Scott Cave, who lives in the Appalachian Mountains region of Virginia and has a doctorate in history, is a regular listener of the podcast, “Maintenance Phase”. The popular podcast, which has existed for about a year, is named after the concept of maintaining weight loss after a successful diet. The hosts, Aubrey Gordon, and Michael Hobbes, “spend each episode exploring what they call the “wellness-industrial complex,” debunking health fads and nutritional advice.” Gordon got started because she collects vintage diet books, and realized that a lot of them were full of ridiculous ideas that ultimately don’t work in keeping people slim and fit.

Cave says he listens to “Maintenance Phase” because “he appreciates the way the podcast examines and evaluates primary sources in a way that’s fun.” He also relates to some of the topics, since he himself has a weight problem. One time, “Maintenance Phase” did a show about how people who are overweight or obese are more likely to avoid seeing healthcare professionals. Cave identified with that, as once he visited an urgent care practice because he thought he’d broken his finger. He was told, “We don’t think your finger is broken. It might be, but you’re very fat, so you should probably deal with that.”

Mortified by the shaming comment about his weight, Cave ignored signs and symptoms of an autoimmune disease for a long time. He didn’t want to deal with more negative stigma about his size. So he suffered in silence with his swollen finger, and felt ashamed. That negative comment, while based in truth, dealt a terrible blow to Cave’s self-regard and trust in the medical care system.

I can relate to Cave’s reluctance to visit doctors. I haven’t seen one myself in about eleven years. In my case, it’s partly due to not wanting to be lectured about my size or my bad habits. It’s also due to some legitimate trauma I experienced at the hands of an OB-GYN who physically hurt me as she examined me, then fat shamed me.

This doctor’s pelvic exam was so painful that I cried out, and she basically told me to shut up as she stuck me with another, smaller speculum that also hurt. I bit my lip and gutted through the rest of the exam, hoping I wouldn’t pass out. I had to complete the exam so I could join the Peace Corps. Afterwards, the doctor told me I was too fat and would gain weight in Armenia. Then she basically shamed me because she wasn’t able to get a “good look down there”. She claimed I wasn’t “cooperative”. She offered me birth control, even though I was a virgin at the time. I left her office feeling completely violated, humiliated, and frankly, like I had just been assaulted.

It took twelve years for me to have another gynecological exam by a much kinder, more understanding, and professional physician’s assistant. She let me cry, and heard my explanation about why I was so upset and anxious. Then, when she did the exam, it didn’t hurt at all. I remember being so relieved that I wasn’t in pain. Then I was very angry, because the doctor who had done my first exam had hurt me without reason. I hadn’t thought to complain about her. I now wish I had.

I was so upset and stressed out during that second exam that the P.A. thought I had high blood pressure. I ended up having to visit her several more times before she was convinced that I had white coat hypertension. Sadly, we had to move out of the area. The P.A. also changed her practice, and now only works with cardiology patients. So even if we had stayed in the D.C. area, I wouldn’t have been her patient for long.

I last saw a doctor in 2010 at Bill’s insistence, because I thought my gall bladder was giving me issues. It’s probably full of stones. But the ultrasound didn’t show that the gallbladder was so inflamed that it needed to come out just then. And then we moved a bunch of times…

So no, I don’t go to doctors. I know I should, but I don’t. Aside from mycophobia (fear of mushrooms), I also have a touch of iatrophobia (fear of doctors). And I can understand why Cave doesn’t go to doctors, either. The experience is often demoralizing, expensive (for those who don’t have Tricare), and just plain awful.

As you might have guessed, after I read the article, I read some of the comments. Naturally, they were full of people who hadn’t bothered to read the article. Some were very unkind and lacking in empathy. One guy wrote that the article was “stupid” because it was full of people “making excuses”. In his comment he wrote that “all I see” are people justifying being fat. Then he added that he’d lost 100 pounds.

He got some blowback for that comment, including from yours truly. I wrote, “All I see is a guy who is a judgmental jerk. Congratulations on your weight loss. Looks like you also lost your ability to empathize.”

I got many likes for that. The original commenter came back and wrote that he DOES empathize, but Americans are all eating their way into diabetes. And I wrote that while it’s true that obesity leads to a lot of health problems, it’s not helpful to accuse people of “making excuses”, particularly if you’re a total stranger. I didn’t see any “kindness” or actual concern in his comments, only judgment. And then I wrote…

“If you truly do empathize and want to help people, you should be kinder and more empathetic. Instead of insulting and judging, you could be encouraging and enthusiastic. You could learn a lot from Richard Simmons on how to motivate people. Richard Simmons used to be fat, and like you, he lost a lot of weight. But instead of being mean to people, he encourages them. He actually CARES about them.” Of course, I wrote that taking the commenter at his word that he’s really trying to “help”. A lot of people who make comments about “personal responsibility” and concern troll the overweight are really just getting off by acting superior and being jerks.

As I wrote that comment, I couldn’t help but remember an old episode of Fame I recently watched. The character, dance teacher Lydia Grant (Debbie Allen), decides to teach an exercise class for some extra money. She thinks it’s going to be a “piece of cake”, since these were just middle aged women trying to get into a new dress. But when she teaches, using her usual demanding style, she finds that the women in the class aren’t successful. One woman in particular, name of Renee, is about to give up because Lydia is just too demanding.

But then Richard Simmons interrupts and shows Lydia how it’s done. He asks Renee if he could have this dance. Renee nods and the two proceed to work out. Richard is encouraging, enthusiastic, and kind, and Renee responds in kind. And not only does she complete the workout, but she also leaves with a big smile on her face!

Lydia says there’s no way Renee can meet her “impossible” goal of losing twelve pounds in two weeks. So Richard says, “That’s okay. Let her lose six pounds!” I think that makes a lot of sense, don’t you? There’s nothing that says Renee can’t meet part of her goal and take a bit longer to get where she wants to be.

I’m not saying I love Richard Simmons. In fact, I used to cringe when I saw his ads for Deal-A-Meal and “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”. And I laughed when I read about how he slapped some guy who mocked him at the airport. I did like his 80s era talk show, but it was always on when I was at school.

I just think that when it comes to motivating people to lose weight, Richard is onto something that actually works. Fat people are people, too. Just like everyone else, fat people want to be valued and accepted. Nobody enjoys being insulted, shamed, and judged, especially by total strangers! Moreover, nobody wants to PAY for that experience, especially when the doctor dismisses the patient and says all of their health problems are brought on by a lack of discipline and willpower. And while the commenter on the New York Times piece may actually empathize and care about others, he has a really shitty and off-putting way of showing it.

I got another comment from another person who praised the first commenter for promoting “personal responsibility”. I think personal responsibility is all well and good. But you don’t know why someone is fat. You don’t know what their story is, or if they’ve actually done anything to lose weight. What if that overweight stranger you see has actually been losing weight? What if they’re out and about for the first time in weeks because they’ve lost twenty pounds? How do you think they would feel if you lectured them about personal responsibility and admonished them to slim down? Do you think those words would motivate them to keep going? Or is it more likely that they’d get depressed, say “what’s the use?” and go out for a double cheeseburger?

Besides being cruel and rude, fat shaming people is potentially very damaging. And a person’s weight is also none of your business.

The fact that fat people have to work up the gumption to see doctors is a serious issue. I recently read a horrifying story about a 27 year old woman in Los Angeles named Amanda Lee who visited a doctor because she had lost 35 pounds, was having abdominal pain, and couldn’t eat. Instead of getting to the bottom of why Lee was losing weight and experiencing pain, the doctor said that maybe it was a good thing she was in pain and couldn’t eat. He continued the horror by saying that only being able to eat things like pureed apples was a “blessing”. And he added that she didn’t look “malnourished”. I would add that according to the photos and videos I’ve seen, she doesn’t appear to be that overweight, either. But then, it is Los Angeles. In any case, the doctor refused to do any testing on Lee, and she left his office in tears.

@mandapaints

“Maybe that’s not such a bad thing” not a time to joke.

♬ original sound – Amanda Lee

After her appointment, the mortified young woman recorded a TikTok video in her car. She was sobbing hysterically as she recounted what had happened during her appointment. Commenters encouraged her to see another doctor, so she did. That doctor did a colonoscopy on Amanda Lee and discovered a large tumor. She had surgery to remove it, and was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer!

As of June, she was receiving chemotherapy. I hope she also looks into suing that first doctor for malpractice! I’m grateful that the commenters on her video were kind, rather than fat shaming. I’m also glad she shared her story, because I think it will help a lot of people on many different levels.

Well… that about does it for today’s fresh content. We didn’t go out yesterday, so I suspect Bill will want to do something this afternoon. Enjoy your Sunday.

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condescending twatbags, mental health, overly helpful people, poor judgment

You just used that word… and I don’t think you know what it means.

A couple of days ago, I was feeling a bit angry and depressed. I was sitting here alone, reading the local news, and there was an item about Angela Merkel’s latest desires. Mrs. Merkel wants to allow the federal government in Germany to employ an “emergency brake” lockdown for all of Germany. Normally, each individual state’s leaders make decisions for how things run. But because vaccination rollout has been excruciatingly slow here, and people are continuing to get COVID-19 and overrunning the hospitals, Mrs. Merkel and some of the public health leaders in Germany feel that this is a necessary move.

Germany has been in some form of “lockdown” since early November 2020. Apparently, closing everything and trying to restrict people from being in contact with each other has not been effective in slowing down the latest COVID-19 variants. Neither has forcing everyone to wear medical grade face masks. So, as each month passes, the end of the lockdown keeps getting extended. At this point, the estimate is mid June when we can have some semblance of normalcy.

Meanwhile, I watch as my friends back home are getting vaccinated and enjoying a more “normal” life. Actually, I think things have been relatively normal in the United States since the beginning. It’s just that Americans aren’t being allowed to come to Europe willy nilly, and vice versa. I still think Germany has handled the virus a lot better than the USA has… but the incredibly slow vaccine rollout is quite disastrous. Making matters worse is the fact that Bill and I were supposed to be getting our shots by the end of May. A large shipment was sent to German military installations for that purpose. But apparently, they’re Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and the CDC has just recommended holding off on using them until they can be investigated, since several women developed rare clotting disorders after being given the shot.

I was already in a crappy mood for a lot of reasons. The main one is that Bill is gone this week and will be gone for more than half of May on business. He hasn’t been vaccinated, yet he’s allowed to travel for work purposes while I sit here alone with my thumb up my butt– not literally, you understand. And I’m also pissed off because of some recent upsetting news we got regarding a close family member. Bill and I had a private chat about those matters. I finally had to ring off, because I was tired and in a really foul mood, and I didn’t want to talk anymore.

Just as I was about to go to sleep, I got a private message from another family member. This family member is a bit older than I am, and never seems to want to let me forget it. She also seems to assume being older means always being wiser. In her case, I don’t think it does.

Private messages are annoying under most circumstances, but since it was family, I indulged my relative. I was pretty upset after having read the news about the longer lockdown, Bill’s work schedule, and the news about our family member. She wanted to know why I was so irritated, so I explained. As usual, this particular family member starting giving me unsolicited advice, forgetting a number of things… like the fact that before too much longer, I’ll be pushing 50, and I’ve actually had some training in counseling and related subjects.

She immediately started telling me what she thinks I should be doing, even though I never asked for her opinion and was really more wanting to vent than seek advice. I really would like to have someone to talk to… someone who sees me as an equal and is willing to listen, rather than just offer unsolicited suggestions. She doesn’t seem to realize that most competent people don’t want advice or suggestions; they want insight and support.

On that night, I needed a friend, not a pseudo-therapist… especially not one who seems to think I’m naive and incompetent. I know I’ll always be a “squirt” to her, but I really am a grown adult, and I eventually assured her that I AM pretty competent in most things. I’m just fed up, most of all with this fucking COVID-19 lifestyle and Bill’s constant work schedule, as well as the fact that HE can travel for marathon work trips, but we can’t have any fun. It’s making life a colossal bore, and a drag, and I’m starting to hate being here… and my life in general.

Yeah, I know that sounds a lot like pathetic whining. Maybe, to some people, that’s what it is… After all, the bills are paid; we live in a comfortable house; and for now, we have our health. But being locked down, thousands of miles from home, sucks. Telling someone who is feeling upset to “buck up” or “calm down” is not really the best solution.

My situation doesn’t call for “toxic positivity” or invalidation, nor do I need an overly helpful person to suggest that I do things I’m already doing… like creative pursuits. My relative told me to take an online guitar course. Does she honestly think I’d be dumb enough to buy a guitar and not learn how to play it somehow? It’s like the morons who tell an infertile couple to consider adoption… as if that idea had never crossed their minds! And does she really think, as someone with advanced degrees in social work and public health, I need someone to tell me about narcissists and empaths? That would be like me telling her about her chosen field… which I will admit I know nothing about.

So anyway, all of this was the usual par for the course bullshit, when my relative dropped a bombshell. She’s been reading up on narcissists and narcissism, apparently not understanding that she’s a touch on the narcissistic side herself. She was telling me the usual spiel about narcissists, as if I had never read a single book or watched a single video about narcissism, let alone had many personal dealings with them. And then she said, “I really think you and I are empaths.

Well… I had to stifle a giggle at that. I wanted to respond truthfully, by saying “You just used that word… and I don’t think you know what it means.” Seriously. I love this relative very much… but I don’t think she has much insight into what an empath is. I also don’t think she has much personal insight as to what kind of person she is.

I think I am capable of empathy. I can definitely try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I try very hard to see all sides of a situation. But I am definitely NOT an empath… and she is even less empathic than I am. How do I know this? Because I have been on the receiving end of MANY tirades from this particular relative. I’ve known her my whole life, and I’ve seen her lose her shit many times. One time, we were in a city park in Madrid and she got very angry with me for taking too long to find a newspaper. She’d had to pee, and didn’t speak Spanish. Silly me… I though at her age and with her world experience, she would be able to handle going to the potty by herself. But no… and she totally went off on me and called me a “motherfucker”. That is NOT the behavior of an empath.

This relative also has a habit of “glomming on” without much situational awareness… and will ask favors, yet show very little consideration. Like, for instance, the time Bill and I had dinner reservations for my birthday, and she asked me to drive her to a doctor’s appointment because she was going to be on Valium. I told her about the dinner reservations, but she assured me she’d be done in time. On the way home, she wanted to stop at a restaurant for dessert. I was worried about the time, but she promised she’d get the dessert to go. Next thing I knew, we were sitting in a booth. That is NOT the behavior of an empath.

She can be very manipulative and will throw epic temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. I’ve witnessed her being rude to wait staff and store clerks, as well as men who try to be overly friendly to her in bars. And she’s also been rude to me on many occasions. When we were a lot younger, she was occasionally legitimately abusive to me. I remember being verbally and physically abused by her, before I got big enough to fight back. She is capable of being an extreme bitch when the situation calls for it. There have been times when I’ve marveled at her ability to be a bitch… and, I must admit, even admired it. She’s not one to be fucked with by anyone.

On the other hand, she’s a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor. She’s also very smart and talented. She can be contrite and sympathetic, when the mood suits. When she’s in a good mood, she’s a delight and HILARIOUS. I do love her. But an empath, she is most definitely NOT.

However, in fairness, like I said, I’m not an empath, either. And that is not a bad thing. Empaths can often end up being taken advantage of by self-centered types. I do have a big heart and am fully capable of being empathetic to people. But that does not make me an empath. That’s a good thing, though, because Bill IS an empath. I think it would be disastrous if both of us were empaths. My being less empathic is good, because it balances out his tendency to be overly forgiving and kind.

I wanted to correct my relative’s thinking, but realized that if I did, it would probably lead to an argument. She thinks she’s an empath, though, and she’s wrong. And if she really thinks she’s the type of person who is constantly thinking of others and putting their welfare before her own, she’s also a bit delusional. She is definitely not one to take on other people’s problems. I have never seen her cry over someone else’s misfortunes. If anything, I think she’s on the other side of the narcissism spectrum. One time, I described a traumatic incident she and I had to my former therapist. He actually used the term “narcissistic” to define the behavior she had displayed to me.

Truly empathic people are unique and somewhat rare. My husband is an empath, and he attracts narcissistic assholes like his ex wife and his war time boss like flies on shit. These folks can smell it on people– those who will put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. Bill will bend over backwards for almost anyone, is very slow to anger, quick to forgive, and has a “red line” that is way further down the line than mine is. He is genuinely a kind and compassionate person who almost never raises his voice and feels extreme remorse whenever he hurts anyone, even if just by accident.

Neither my relative, nor I, are like that. I will fully admit that I don’t have much regard for people who are disrespectful to me. I don’t go out of my way to be nasty, but I don’t have tons of sympathy.

I think Bill comes by empathy naturally. Both of his parents and, I suspect, his daughters are also very empathic people. They want to please others and they have overdeveloped superegos and guilt complexes. That’s why Ex runs roughshod over them so easily. Bill fully admits to this, too. It’s not that he’s spineless. It’s just that he hates to disappoint people, wants to make them happy, and genuinely feels for people. But he’s come a long way in his people pleasing ways and has become more assertive, which is something empaths must learn to do or be sucked dry.

My relative has no problem telling people off, taking legal action, or making people feel shitty. I know this, because she’s done a lot of those things to me. I haven’t been sued by her– at least not at this point– but I wouldn’t put it past her if she felt it was necessary. That is not the action of an empath!

I do think I am more empathic than she is, though… and although I could have told her to STFU the other night, I indulged her need to advise me on what she thinks I need to do. And last night, when Bill messaged me, I told him about it and we had a good laugh. Because he also knows that she’s not an empath. And he has frequently told me that he’s glad he married me instead of her… although I think it would have been funny to see how this relative would deal with his Ex, former tenant, or the land bitch from Hell. 😀 My guess is that she would not have handled any of them with much empathy.

Anyway… I wish she’d have a little more empathy for me and stop trying to give me unwanted advice. I’m not 12 anymore. And I wish Mrs. Merkel and her minions would get their acts together so we can all have our lives back.

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