family, LDS, mental health, Military, rants, rock stars

“Honoring” Alan Osmond’s ego and being “flavor of the month”…

Apologies in advance for this post, since I’ve written about Alan Osmond’s ego before. I’m sure some people wonder why I would write about his ego, given that he’s in his 70s now, and no longer “flavor of the month”. It’s just that I recently stumbled on a video done by his eight sons, The Osmonds 2nd Generation, and I was struck by the egotism of the lyrics in their performance… Behold!

These are Alan’s sons. They have remade Billy Joel’s song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as a partial ode to family friendly acts, as well as their dad. “He’s our dad; we’re his kids! How do you think we got this gig?”

Maybe it was a combination of finding this video, Father’s Day, and the Donny Osmond birthday video my sister sent me that has me thinking about Alan Osmond this morning. No, he’s not “flavor of the month” anymore. He hasn’t been in many years. There’s no doubt that he has musical talent, as do his sons and other family members, like Donny. Maybe that talent makes them special. Actually, I think Donny is probably the most talented of all of them, in terms of his dance ability, singing voice, and enduring cuteness even in his 60s. I genuinely enjoyed the birthday video my sister sent and was amazed by how charismatic Donny still is, many years after having been “flavor of the month”. But it seems that at least one of Donny’s brothers is still a bit conceited, and thinks of himself as more special than the rest.

As I watched the video above, listening to Alan’s sons praise their dad for realizing his “dream”, I was reminded of a rant I wrote several years ago when I ran across a YouTube video featuring Alan Osmond. He was bragging about how he was a great soldier who was too important to send to Vietnam because he was a show business performer with connections. In the video below, Alan talks about how Heavenly Father basically intervened in keeping him out of a war zone, despite his superior abilities as a soldier.

Um… wow… is he a bit self-congratulatory in this video.

The first time I watched the above video, I got pissed off. Why? Because my father went to Vietnam and suffered from PTSD for decades after he came home. I respect Alan Osmond for doing his bit as a clerk at Fort Ord. That is a valuable service to our country. But in this video, he acts like he was Rambo and was spared the war because he had a “higher calling” in show biz. That’s a bunch of crap.

My dad was forever haunted by his memories of Vietnam. Toward the end of his life, he used to have terrible nightmares. He’d jump out of bed while still sleeping, swinging his fists at imaginary assailants. One time, he hit the wall while fighting in his sleep. He damaged his middle finger so badly that there was talk that it might have to be amputated. My dad also had a serious drinking problem that was exacerbated by being at war, where booze was handed out freely. Nowadays, boozing isn’t promoted in the military like it was in my dad’s day. My dad, who came from a long line of drunks and was raised by a violent alcoholic, was a prime candidate for developing alcoholism himself. The stress of combat, along with the easy availability of booze, was devastating for him. And that devastation had ripple effects on everyone around him, as it profoundly affected him. So, when I hear Alan Osmond acting like Vietnam was a big adventure and he was this hot shot recruit who was deemed “too valuable” for combat, it smarts a bit.

My dad really suffered… and I, as his daughter, also suffered. My dad would have been a better father, husband, friend, and person if he hadn’t been an alcoholic with PTSD. My dad has been gone now for seven years, and I’m still haunted by him. I have some really good memories of him, but I also have a lot of traumatic ones. By the time he died in 2014, I had some complicated and confusing feelings about our relationship. I see all my friends sharing pictures of their dads on Father’s Day. I shared a couple of them, too. But the truth is, as much as I loved him, I didn’t like him very much. And a lot of the reason I didn’t like him was because he was abusive to me. I can’t help but wonder if he would have been less abusive if he hadn’t gone to war and come home with PTSD. I believe he would have been an alcoholic regardless, but maybe the PTSD wouldn’t have been as bad. Maybe we could have had a better relationship. I believe he had it in him to be kinder to me than he was.

I commented on the YouTube video about how “full of himself” Alan is. Some guy named David, who claimed to be a veteran himself, took me to task and told me to STFU. I ranted about that, too, on my old blog. Just because I am not a military veteran, that doesn’t mean I can’t make a comment about Alan Osmond’s service. I am so sick and tired of people trying to shut up people who express themselves. This attitude is especially prevalent in military circles, where it’s very common for veterans to ask anyone who says anything negative about the military if they’ve ever served. Whether or not a person has served should be irrelevant. As Americans, we should be able to express opinions about the military without someone demanding to know if we’ve ever served in the military. As someone who has been in the “military world” since birth, I certainly CAN have an opinion about it. Maybe my views about the military not as informed as Bill’s or another veteran’s would be, but it’s ridiculous and short-sighted to assume that someone who is exposed to the military world, even if they don’t wear a uniform, can’t form an opinion and express it.

If veterans who tell me to STFU really cared about real freedom and what putting on that uniform means, they would cherish the rights of people to share their views, regardless of how “offensive” they may be. I have spent my whole life around veterans, and I have tremendous respect for them and what they do. BUT– I have even more respect for veterans who understand that part of serving honorably is doing so with a pure, unselfish heart. Telling someone to STFU because you don’t think they have a right to an opinion is not particularly honorable. Why should I have more respect for someone who joined the military if they don’t have enough regard for me, as a fellow freedom loving American, to let me speak my mind?

Moreover, one can serve one’s country and NOT be a military veteran. I served my country in the Peace Corps. Others serve by being public servants or even being elected officials, although some elected officials have lost sight of being of “service” in their roles. I took the very same oath that every service member or government employee takes. Like my husband, I vowed to support and uphold the Constitution. Taking that oath as a military servicemember doesn’t make someone “special”. Peace Corps Volunteers also take that oath when they swear in, even though they don’t carry weapons or go into combat.

Someone called “Unknown” left me a comment on that old post about how I shouldn’t disparage Alan for being a clerk. The person wrote:

“There are a lot of soldiers that are on the clerk side. Without them the military would not be able to survive. So you are basically saying unless you were in a combat unit you didn’t serve. There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers that are in the offices as clerks. Doesn’t make them any less important.”

And this was my admittedly irritated response to “Unknown”, who obviously didn’t read very carefully:

It looks like you may have completely missed the point of this post.

I never said and don’t believe that clerks who serve in the military are “unimportant”. On the contrary, I have basic respect for anyone who serves, including Alan Osmond.

My point is that Alan Osmond’s comments about what he did during the Vietnam War are in poor taste. He admits that he only joined the Army because he didn’t want to go on a Mormon mission. He felt that he would have more impact for his church if he stayed home and continued performing with his brothers. So he got a connection in the entertainment business to see to it that he could stay in California and be a clerk. 

Alan Osmond was never in any actual danger, but he brags about how “awesome” his military skills were. I would think that if his skills were so excellent, it would have been more honorable for him to use them in support of his country. But his attitude seems to be that he was too “special” to do that; his job was to be a pop star so that he could spread Mormonism to the masses. 

I am fully aware that there are many “cogs in the wheel” who serve in the military. Each and every one of them has the right to be proud of their service. However, I think bragging about being a typist during the Vietnam War era, especially as you imply that God had bigger plans for you to be a singing star, is very tacky. Moreover, there is a huge difference in simply being proud of one’s service and blatantly bragging about it on YouTube. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with members of the military who serve in non-combat roles. My husband went to Iraq, but basically had a desk job. There is also nothing wrong with people in the military who never see combat, but perform important supporting roles back home. My issue with Alan Osmond is that it’s inappropriate for him to boast about what he did during the Vietnam War era when so many people, not lucky enough to have family connections, went off to war and either died or came home permanently changed for the worse.

Clear enough?

Alan Osmond on why the Osmonds’ dance moves were so “karate-esque”. Supposedly, these moves also made Alan a hot shot in military training.

Watching and hearing Alan Osmond talk about how he did his bit for the Army and apparently God saved him from the jungles of Vietnam is rather infuriating.  There were lots of loving, sensitive, talented young men drafted and sent off to Vietnam to fight in the war.  A lot of them didn’t come back, and a lot of them were never the same when they did come back.  The same has happened to plenty of people who went to Iraq and Afghanistan, though fortunately those wars have not been as personally devastating to as many people as Vietnam was. We do, at least, have more of an understanding for PTSD. There is more help available now. But it’s still such a real and scary thing that has ripple effects that extend far beyond just the person who has it. When I was a child and a teenager, and my dad would go into drunken rages and lose control of himself, I wasn’t thinking about how PTSD was making him act like that. I was internalizing the idea that he was hurting me because I was a bad person and he hated me. You see?

But our relationship wasn’t always bad. Sometimes, it was lovely, and we could share positive things, such as the dance pictured above, captured at my wedding. We also often shared our mutual love for music. In 1986, my dad bought me a live cassette collection by Bruce Springsteen.  Though I don’t remember being a big Springsteen fan before I got that collection for Christmas, I used to listen to it all the time and really got into Springsteen for awhile.  One of the songs on it is a very poignant rendition of “The River”.  Bruce introduces the song by telling his own story about not going to Vietnam…  But his story is so much more respectful than Alan Osmond’s is…

Fellow former “flavor of the month”, Bruce Springsteen, is famously anti-war, but his story about Vietnam is so much more respectful than Alan Osmond’s is.

When I was practicing social work, I had a client who was a veteran. He used to tell me war stories. I always got the sense that they were probably about 90% bullshit, as was a lot of the other stuff he told me (for instance, he lied to me about having cancer). I’ve been around veterans my whole life. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of them don’t want to talk about war. Even Bill, who only spent six months in Iraq behind a desk, was affected by his time there and what he was doing. The people who actually do things that warrant receiving awards that recognize their valor don’t usually want to talk about it.

When Bill visited my parents’ home the first time, he saw that my dad, who was an Air Force officer, had earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam.  It was before Bill had ever been deployed himself.  Bill was impressed by my dad’s award, but my dad didn’t want to discuss it.  He said that the reason he got the award was “bogus”.  I have known my share of military folks.  The ones who are brave and do things to legitimately earn those awards are usually very humble about it… because a lot of times, earning those awards involves doing things that they aren’t proud of or acting heroically in situations that end up haunting them for life.    

And yet, there’s Alan Osmond talking about the “trophies” he won in basic training for being a great shot and fighting with bayonets so well because he could dance.  It kind of makes me want to puke.  If he was really that great, the military would have sent his ass to Vietnam, right?  But no… he was a typist/clerk in California for a brief time.  And he brags about it.  Apparently, the Lord wanted him safely at home in the United States so he could be an entertainer and influence people to join his church.  What self-important drivel!  And Alan didn’t appreciate being called a “draft dodger”.  He even commented on the video with more bullshit about promptings from “the spirit”.  He was special because as a Mormon, God only speaks to and protects him and his ilk.  The rest of the guys who went to Vietnam and came back damaged or dead were not special enough to be typists in California for “the cause”.

Ever since I heard that video with Alan Osmond talking about his military service during the Vietnam era, I’ve had a less than positive opinion of him as a person. But then, when I saw the video with his sons literally singing Alan’s praises in a song ripped off from Billy Joel, I wonder if they came up with the idea to honor Alan themselves. Or were they pressured to honor their father in such an egotistical and ostentatious way? Below is another video in which Alan’s sons “honor their father”, and ask the audience to do the same:

Kudos to Alan for singing with his sons. He is a talented entertainer… and obviously, his sons were taught to “honor their father”.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Alan’s sons “honor their father” so conspicuously. I remember the original Osmond Brothers honored their father similarly, even though in later years, they’ve said he was abusive and demanding to a fault. In this 2003 era documentary about being Osmond, the brothers talk about how their hopes and dreams were thwarted by the desires and needs of their family of origin.

I appreciated the candid look at the Osmonds in this documentary. However, Alan is not the only one with an ego. At the 36 minute point, Merrill brags about saving people from suicide by allowing them to pay him for a phone call during which he’s talked them out of ending their lives. In 2003, he charged $27.99. Now, he charges $50.

We kind of see the same “father centric” dynamic in the Duggar family, as Jim Bob Duggar is repeatedly described as “someone you don’t say ‘no’ to.” Personally, I think it’s kind of egotistical for people to have so many kids. What makes a person think the world needs so many people with their DNA running around? But I know people have their reasons for having so many kids. In the Duggars’ case, it’s that they believe God is “blessing” them and not that they’re just having sex at the right time of the month and farming their babies out for their older kids to raise. At least in the Osmonds’ case, it looks like Mother Osmond raised her children.

Anyway… I’ve got no qualms about stating that Alan Osmond and his brothers clearly have talent. And, as someone who comes from a musical family, I understand the joy of sharing that gift. I’m grateful to Alan for his military service, too. He did his part, which is more than a lot of people can say. However, I would be much more impressed with him if he showed some understanding of how fortunate he was not to have had to go into combat and potentially get injured or killed, or spend the rest of his life forever traumatized by war. I’d have more respect for him if he realized how lucky his family members are that he didn’t come home in a box or permanently changed by spending time in a war zone. And while I think Alan’s sons are also very talented performers, I think they would do well to realize that their dad has a long way to go before he reaches musical genius status. Hell, I think about Sting, who has also been called “conceited” by some… but I have seen Sting perform and watched him generously share the stage with others… and even remember students he had when he was a teacher.

I can’t imagine Alan sharing a post like this…

Phew… I feel better now. Father’s Day is always an emotional time of year for me for so many reasons.

Well, it’s time to walk the dogs and get on with the rest of the day. If you made it through this rant, thanks. And please do me a favor and don’t miss the point. It’s not that I don’t respect Alan Osmond’s military service. I just think he’s an egotistical jerk. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Standard
music, musings

“A Mother for My Children”…

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I got a Homepod for Christmas. Yesterday, we spent the day listening to it. For the most part, it’s a pretty cool device, although I’m definitely going to have to figure out why the AirPlay drops out all of a sudden, even when I’ve changed screensaver settings and anything else that would encourage my computer to “time out”.

Anyway, as I was putting together the latest jigsaw puzzle– over a month in progress– a song by The Whispers came on. I’m not that familiar with The Whispers’ music. I must have downloaded a greatest hits compilation by them recently, because I heard a couple of their songs yesterday. One of them was a surprisingly upbeat number called “A Mother for My Children”. Edited to add: I see why I downloaded it now… it was for the 80s era song, “Rock Steady”. I like that one!

I think I know why the mother of his children left…

Here are the lyrics to this song:

I can’t stand to live alone
With two children and a home
When Mother’s Day comes along
They ask me where their mama’s gone

Left me here scrubbin’ floors

Never washed two dishes before
How can I tell two little boys

Your mama ain’t comin’ home no more

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
Don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

We couldn’t see eye to eye
Packed her bag, said goodbye
Didn’t care if we lived or died
The kids they always ask me why

Left us on a rainy day
Begged her but she would not stay
Said she had to go away
Gotta find someone to take her place

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find, yeah, yeah, yeah, mother for my children

I got to and I got to, I got to find a mother for my children
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no brother
Gotta find a mother for my children

Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children, yeah
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children

At first, I wasn’t really paying attention to the song. It was unfamiliar to me. But then I caught some of the words. They’re about a man whose significant other– wife or girlfriend, I don’t know– has just taken off for parts unknown. And now, this man who apparently knows nothing about child raising, cooking, cleaning, or any of the other “wifely” or “motherly” duties expected of women in the early 1970s, feels compelled to find a “replacement” for the mother of his children.

I shared the song on Facebook as a joke, mainly because it just sounded crazy to me. I don’t hear the man lamenting that his woman left him sad or lonely. I don’t hear him missing her. I don’t hear him wondering what he can do to get her back, at least into their children’s lives. Instead, I hear a danceable song about how this man has to find a “replacement” for his children’s mother. I thought it was funny, so I posted “Why doesn’t he hire a nanny?”

A friend of mine is a man who is raising his daughter alone. His wife died a few years ago of lung cancer. Their child was days away from her first birthday when she lost her mother forever. My friend has understandably been sad about losing his wife and his child’s mother. I know it’s been hard for him. He posted, “Not the same thing.”

Of course, I know that. My point is that it’s very difficult to “replace” one’s biological parent, although some people do a great job of trying. And while I know there are situations in which it makes sense to find a surrogate parent for a child who has been abandoned by death or divorce, it’s still a very serious and difficult task. So I was confused as to why the song was so upbeat and energetic. You could dance to it… sing along, even. And I figured the flippant way in which this song was conceived gave a big clue as to why his woman “had to leave”, especially since his focus isn’t on finding a partner, but a “mother” for his children. The mood of the song comes off as insensitive, like the mother of the children was really more like a nanny/cook/maid who happened to share a biological bond with the kids. If he simply needs a replacement, why not simply hire a nanny? At least she’d be getting paid for that thankless job, and when the child raising was done, she could move on to the next people.

It’s not easy parenting another person’s children. It’s not even very natural. A lot of people expect stepparents to love their stepchildren as if they had created them. I never really had the ability to bond with my stepdaughters, but I would have tried to build a good relationship with them if I’d had the chance. I might have even grown to love them as if they were my own. However, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect a new partner to love their stepchildren as much as they might love their own kids. In many ways, love is a decision and a choice, but in the most fundamental ways, true love comes from the heart. And something that comes from the heart isn’t necessarily built on choices, reasoning, or necessity. Choices and reasoning are products of the mind. Expecting love to automatically blossom between stepparents and stepchildren is very unrealistic, even if it is the desired outcome. I think that a lot of things can get in the way of that relationship, even if everyone wants it to happen. In my view, it’s more realistic to hope for peaceful co-existence among steps than a parent/child relationship.

I think anyone who goes looking for a partner simply to be a mother or father to his or her existing children is dooming their relationship to failure. Yes, it’s important that a potential stepparent have the capacity to bond to existing children. At the very least, the relationship should be civilized and respectful. In time, when the relationship blooms, maybe real love will follow. I’ve seen it many times among my friends who are stepparents. But I’ve also seen stepchildren cast aside when the stepparent has their own biological child. I’ve seen natural parents do their best to sabotage relationships between children and their ex’s new partners. I’ve seen children resist their stepparents’ attempts to bond with them, especially when they are caught in loyalty binds.

Even though “A Mother for My Children” has a good beat and somewhat decent lyrics, I think the premise behind this song is ridiculous. You have lonely children who are upset because their mother left them. Did she really leave them for good? Is there a chance Mom might be back to claim her children? Is it wise to search for a “replacement” mom if the real mother isn’t yet dead? And if you’re focused simply on finding a “mother” instead of a “partner”, do you really expect the relationship to succeed? What will you do when the boys are no longer in such dire need of a mom? Will you then kick her to the curb because though she’s a good mom, she’s not a suitable partner?

Now, in my friend’s case, I can see why he’d want to find a “mother” for his daughter. His daughter’s mom is tragically never coming back again. She’s just turned seven years old, and it won’t be long before she’s in puberty. My friend will have to find some way to teach her about the things women have to know as they get older. I know he’s uncomfortable and totally clueless about it. I also think he’s lonely and would love to have a companion. I hope he’s considering his daughter’s feelings as he looks for a new significant other, but ultimately, he needs to find someone who is suitable to be his partner first. And given his attitude lately, I think that might be a tall order.

I have another friend whose wife– mother of their four children– died of cancer. He’s recently gotten remarried, and his wife now refers to herself as the “mother” to his children. They’re all apparently okay with it, although the children are old enough to remember the woman who gave birth to them. Personally, if I were in that situation, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself the children’s mom, particularly if I hadn’t been married to their dad for very long. But it seems to work for them, and that’s great. Every case is different.

I just think it’s interesting that the songwriters of “A Mother for My Children” seem to think that this would be an attractive position for a woman to fill. When it comes down to it, being a mother to someone else’s children is a proposition that will likely fail as time passes. Real mom will probably come back at some point. Replacement mom will be pushed aside. And if she’s with the guy simply to be a “mother” to his children, the relationship will probably end very badly. Seems hardly the type of situation that would call for a catchy chorus and danceable beat. I do think this is a real situation that comes up and it’s good song material. I just think the mood for this particular song is very strange and if I were approached by this man on the hunt for a mother for his children, I would run the other way!

Standard