LDS, lessons learned, mental health, music

Turn it off!

Yesterday, after I finished my hated vacuuming chore, it was time for lunch. Bill had dressed for work, as he spent the morning teleworking and planned to go into the office for a few hours. We often have lunch together before he goes, and he was making me a sandwich. Just as he was about to bring it to me, he dropped some of it on the floor, which I had just dry vacuumed with the Dyson and cleaned with the Tineco wet/dry vacuum (a new toy I just bought).

“FUCK!” Bill yelled in a very annoyed tone of voice. “Goddammit! You just cleaned the floor! Shit!”

I don’t know why, but that little explosion of profanity just struck my funny bone so hard and I started laughing hysterically. Arran came up and cleaned the floor for me. He did a good job, too. You’d think I would have been upset about the mess and the cursing, but I actually think it’s hilarious when Bill swears. When I met him, he was a Mormon. Now he’s a heathen like me.

I asked Bill if his still devout Mormon daughter ever swears. He said no, when she feels like cussing, she starts thinking of Jesus or humming Mormon hymns. I remember hearing this the one time I met the girls. They said that whenever they have any “bad” thoughts, they sing a hymn. That supposedly squelches the “bad” impulse to use a word that some people had declared “naughty”. That brings to mind a song from The Book of Mormon, which rather brilliantly sums up how members of the LDS church “turn off” inappropriate or “bad” thoughts or impulses.

This song is so perfect… and so accurate.

Funny… I just watched the above performance of “Turn It Off” by this very talented group of young men. The song is often hilarious, yet it’s also so poignant on many levels. As they finished their number, I sat here with real tears in my eyes. I can just tell that a lot went into making this performance what it is– everything from the little movements as if they were “turning off” switches to the show stopping dance moves and solos. But the lyrics to this song are so very true for so many of us, but particularly those who are dealing with very difficult life situations that might cripple anyone else.

I remember years ago, reading a book about the late Karen Carpenter, who famously grew up in very close-knit and controlling circumstances. In every book or documentary I’ve seen about the Carpenters, I’ve heard that she had a very overbearing mother who was involved in everything Karen did. And one person who knew Karen had said that if she’d just let loose with a good “fuck you!”, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten so sick with anorexia nervosa, which ultimately led to her premature death at age 32.

Hell, I remember reading in that same book about how, after Karen made a self-titled solo album in 1979, she asked if she was allowed to swear. When she was granted permission, Karen reportedly gleefully said to the producer, Phil Ramone, “That album is fucking great!” Karen’s solo album had a disco song on it called “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind”, which is supposedly a big hit at gay bars. People go fucking nuts when it comes on. Why? Because Karen Carpenter, who was a study in putting out heartfelt, deeply emotional, very serious, and even sad songs was having fun. She was letting loose with something kind of ridiculous, and it was obviously something she enjoyed doing.

Someone cleverly set Karen’s song to clips of her when she was alive.

Unfortunately, Karen’s album never saw the light of day until 1996, when it was finally made available for sale. That was 13 years after her death. Her brother, Richard Carpenter, had been in rehab at The Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas (it’s since moved to Houston, Texas) for Quaalude abuse, while Karen was making her album. Richard had asked Karen not to do disco. He and the rest of the Carpenters’ handlers hadn’t liked Karen’s album, so they scrapped production of it. Maybe if they had let Karen spread her wings a bit– utter a few swear words and cut loose– she might not have become so ill. Or maybe she still would have. Unfortunately, the world will never know what might have happened. Still, I don’t think a hearty “fuck you” from Karen, particularly toward those who tried to squelch her authentic voice and control her, would have done her any harm.

Famed German psychiatrist, Hilde Bruch, wrote a book about anorexia nervosa called The Golden Cage. I think the idea of a “golden cage” is an excellent description of what it’s like to be oppressed, yet living in comfortable circumstances. The cage might be beautiful and comfortable– comprised of a mother’s love, an audience’s respect, or lots of money, but when it comes down to it, it’s still a cage. And while being physically comfortable is a very important part of enjoying life, being able to be one’s true self and cut loose a bit, without being pressured to “turn it off” and pretend, is a major stepping stone to true happiness. It takes a lot less effort to simply relax and be oneself, than be fake and constrained by convention, only doing what is socially acceptable and “correct”. But being too “free” can lead to some consequences, as well as lots of pressure to conform to the status quo.

I read Dr. Bruch’s book, The Golden Cage, many years ago. I wasn’t that impressed with the book, even at a time when I was fascinated by eating disorders. I found it a dull read, at best. However, I do think the title is excellent. It’s probably the best thing about the book, and I think it describes a lot of people who are kept from living their best lives because they are afraid to give up comfort and safety. The mortifying idea of upsetting the apple cart, or doing something embarrassing, “inappropriate”, or “offensive to God” keeps a lot of people from experiencing all they could… or should. Imagine what would happen if people simply allowed themselves to feel the bad things instead of crushing them down or numbing them with drugs, alcohol, or bullshit speak. I think we might have a lot more mentally healthy people and even more happiness.

In any case, I did laugh heartily at Bill’s profane outburst yesterday. I don’t always like it when he cuts loose with cursing. That will surprise some people, since I cuss like a sailor. But in my case, I don’t think it’s the cursing that bothers me as much as hearing him being angry. It reminds me of my dad.

I had a dream about my dad this morning… I dreamt I had decided to go to a nice hotel in my hometown (which probably doesn’t actually exist), sit in the bar, and drink. Then, I decided to stay the night. But I remembered thinking that I should call my dad to tell him and maybe even ask permission! Even in my dream, I knew that I shouldn’t have to ask permission. I remembered thinking to myself that I was a 48 year old woman, and if I wanted to stay the night, I could… and I didn’t have to have anyone’s approval. I even remember thinking that they were going to charge me for the room, anyway, so I didn’t have to go home (my parents’ home that I grew up in). My thrifty dad wouldn’t have wanted me to waste the money, either. Still, I was hesitant, even though the hotel was an oasis of mask free people enjoying life.

When I woke up, I realized that my dad is dead and I was in my own bed, and, when my dad was alive, I had actually said the word “fuck” in front of him. He almost knocked me into the next week when I did so, but that was also the time in which I told him that if he ever laid a finger on me again, I’d have him arrested. And I realized that I became a lot more contented when I started realizing that not being liked by everyone isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s freeing as hell not to have to worry about what other people think of me, even if I do sometimes fall back into that habit. I figure, if people don’t like me for who I am, they won’t like the fake version of me, either. And really, it’s not my problem if they don’t like me. It’s more their loss than mine… or, if you prefer, “it’s not me; it’s them.” As long as a person isn’t trying to be cruel or hateful or doing something obviously harmful to others, I think they should be allowed to be who they are, even if they cuss in the process. Being authentic is what makes people unique and interesting… and free.

Bill is one of the kindest, gentlest, most genuinely decent people I’ve ever known. He’s always a gentleman, and would never intentionally hurt anyone, unless it was a matter of life and death for himself or someone he loved. But even he sometimes has to go off with a little cussing spree. I’m glad that no one was ever able to turn him into someone who feels compelled to “turn it off” like a light switch. Or, if he ever did feel that way, he’s learned to break the switch.

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Biden, complaints, Duggars, healthcare, politicians

Scientists are worried… what else is new?

Arran let me “sleep in” until about 5:30am. I finally got up because his stomach was gurgling so much that I couldn’t ignore it. He’s been having some issues lately with his stomach and bowels. The vet reports that he has no parasites, so there must be something else going on that will probably smack us in the face soon. He was happy to eat his breakfast, though, and went back to bed. I am now wide awake, having just read more articles on the Internet that have me feeling a bit triggered.

First, I read about how the governors of Texas and Mississippi have decided to pander to their ignorant conservative base by re-opening everything and doing away with mask mandates. To be clear, I hate face masks. I have not made a secret of that. I do think it’s too early for things to go back to “normal”, though. The pandemic is definitely real, and I think this step is probably going to cause a lot of problems that no one needs.

Just because Texas no longer has a state mandate requiring face masks, that doesn’t mean individual businesses aren’t going to require people to wear them. So the onus will be on low paid workers to enforce the rules. Also consider that Texas is loaded with people who carry weapons, many of whom are a bit unhinged. I don’t have the scientific data on this, but I did used to live in Texas, in a relatively liberal part of the state. I saw a lot of crazy shit, and that was during the somewhat sane Obama era. So it’ll be interesting to see where this decision leads.

I did have a good time reading the comments, though… One person described himself as a “front line worker” who was glad to see the mandate go. He wrote that he doesn’t like wearing masks and he thinks people should be able to decide for themselves. Naturally, that upset a lot of people, who just piled on this guy. One dude cited his own experience in the military as he went after the mask free front line worker. But then it turned out the front line worker had also been in the military and got out. The first guy assumed front line guy couldn’t “hack it”. Front line guy said he was tired of being deployed to Iraq. I can’t blame him for that. Below are a few of the best comments in response to this statement:

“My heart goes out to all of the frontline workers impacted by these decisions. Their work has been hard enough. They deserve better.”

While I personally do think it’s a bad idea to re-open everything completely and live as normal, I do think it’s cool that “Mario” calmly took on all the virtue signalers and their tired arguments. I don’t understand why people feel the need to spout off the same crap when someone is obviously going against the grain. I mean, I’m sure Mario has heard that masks supposedly protect other people. I’m sure he’s heard the stupid seatbelt analogy (which, in my opinion, is truly not a good comparison). All he’s said is that he doesn’t like wearing masks and supports people’s rights to choose for themselves. For simply stating that, he gets a whole shitload of blowback, some of which was pretty embarrassing for those who swung and missed.

Why is it that so few people can simply let someone voice an opinion? Why do we have to quash comments by those who go against the grain? Is it really so dangerous for people to speak their minds? You’d think COVID-19 safety measures are akin to the Bible. Going against what the so-called experts say is akin to actual sacrilege to some people. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to stay away from people as much as possible. That’s what I do. I comply with the mask rules, but I hate them and expect that they’re temporary. But God forbid I say that out loud. I’ll get a whole load of people who are graduates of the Google School of Public Health trying to school me on COVID-19.

How is it that I, someone who has actually gone to graduate school and earned a MPH from an accredited program, can’t be on the “masks and closures forever bandwagon” with everyone else? Well… truth be told, I have a feeling that if you were to poll people with healthcare backgrounds, you might find that their personal opinions on this issue probably run the gamut. But the ones who disagree with the official opinions don’t say so, because if they do, they have to deal with backlash like that above and people questioning their competence and intelligence. So while I don’t necessarily agree with Mario’s opinions, I give him credit for having the guts to speak up and take on all of the people who feel the need to correct his opinions and quash his freedom of expression.

The truth is, even if everyone on the planet wore a mask 24/7, people would still get sick and die. And being masked up 24/7 is not a great way to live, for so many reasons. I think people really need to think seriously about that. It doesn’t mean I’m non-compliant, immature, stupid, or selfish to say that, either. But so many people have a knee jerk reaction to anyone who says something that isn’t the norm, especially when it comes to COVID-19. It’s ridiculous, and it shows a serious lack of critical thinking skills. Yes, masks are a good idea for now. But they shouldn’t be a permanent solution. That’s why I think they aren’t akin to seatbelts. And even if I’m totally wrong, I think it’s a mistake to discourage people from sharing their opinions. Information can’t evolve if everyone always says and only believes the same things. Someone has to think outside of the box for innovation to happen.

I also don’t like how people make assumptions about perfect strangers who dare to speak their minds. I don’t know Mario at all. He could be a fabulous guy. So could all the other people commenting. But we’ve gotten so accustomed to just ripping people’s heads off because we’re behind screens and can’t stand dissenting opinions. It’s alarming how uncivil people are in the Internet age.

Anyway… moving on, because I’ve written about this ad nauseam and I’m tired of it.

The next article I want to comment on is about how scientists are concerned that there hasn’t been a COVID-19 baby boom. Apparently, experts expected that there would be a big increase in babies born thanks to the lockdowns. That didn’t happen. In December 2020, which was nine months after the lockdowns began, health departments in the United States reported a 7% drop in births. And this is causing upset, because of our aging population. From the article:

“We need to have enough working-age people to carry the load of these seniors, who deserve their retirement, they deserve all their entitlements, and they’re gonna live out another 30 years. Nobody in the history of the globe has had so many older people to deal with.”

Okay… first off, when I was getting my MPH, I heard about our “aging population”. I distinctly remember hearing that when smoking fell out of fashion, it put a strain on our healthcare system. People were living longer and developing more chronic diseases. That was causing them to use the healthcare system more, which ran up costs and crowded the hospitals. Yes, it’s a good thing overall that people are smoking less, but now we have a new problem. I finished my MPH in 2002, so it wasn’t that long ago…

Now, it’s 2021, and we have a public health crisis. It won’t be the last one. However, I’ve been hearing for YEARS how overpopulated the Earth is, and how we don’t have enough resources for everyone. I have also seen how shitty things are getting… from global warming and the ensuing natural disasters, to the lack of social justice, to children being forced to go to school at home to avoid a deadly virus. Why in the hell would any sane person want to have a bunch of kids now– sane being the operative word?

I am 48 years old, and I paid off my student loans in 2018. I have yet to own my own home. Imagine if I’d had children and they were trying to launch at a time when there’s massive unemployment and disease. When I was a young person, I could always go work in a restaurant or service industry if I needed to make some money. Right now, people in the restaurant and service industries are hurting because there aren’t any jobs for them during a pandemic. A lot of those jobs depend on tips. If no one is allowed to go out to eat, there go the tips. And I’m sure finding a job is very difficult right now. People go back to school to avoid shitty job markets, run up bills and take out loans… and then they graduate to this shit and wind up financially ruined.

I am fortunate that my mom and Bill’s mom are both very independent. I have friends who are not only trying to raise kids and pay off their student loans, but are also having to support their elderly parents. Children and the elderly are also groups of people who need supervision, and that costs money, too. Both childcare and senior care are very expensive. So I don’t blame people for not reproducing. I always wanted children, but in retrospect, it’s probably a blessing that I never had any kids.

I mentioned this in the Duggar Family News group, and someone basically responded to me with what I quoted above. Not having enough babies means there will eventually be no one to take care of the “old folks”. Well, pardon me, but I think that’s a really stupid reason to have kids… just so there are people around to take care of the elderly. People should have kids because they want to be parents and are up to doing the job of raising them well and providing for them. They shouldn’t have kids just in case one or more of them might want to work in healthcare. That’s ridiculous. Moreover, we all have to die. Maybe we should rethink saving lives at all costs. Dying isn’t the worst thing to happen to a person.

I think there’s little to worry about, though. Justin Duggar just got married. He’s 18, and his wife, Claire, is 20. They’ll probably start popping out kids soon. His siblings, likewise, are pairing up and popping out babies. Yes, those kids are going to grow up Quiverfull, but maybe some will break out of the fundie cult and be “normal”. Anyway… all of this makes me think I might want to look again at buying longterm care insurance. But even then, chances are, I’ll be alone when I’m an old woman… if the virus doesn’t get me first.

Joe Biden has stated that doing away with mask mandates is “Neanderthal thinking”. I think that’s a poor choice of words, given how many of us have close ties to Neanderthals. I found this out thanks to 23andMe. He might want to rethink disparaging the Neanderthals… they’re probably craftier than the average Trump supporting Texan.

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overly helpful people, rants

I was right…

Remember last week, when I wrote about the guy in Santee, California who went to his local grocery store while donning a KKK-esque hood and mask? In my post about him, I hypothesized that he was simply pissed off about having to wear a mask and decided to protest while still “technically” following the rules. Personally, I think his hood looks a lot like a dunce cap.

According to multiple news stories that were circulating yesterday, it looks like my assumption of what he was trying to do was correct. After he was questioned by local authorities about his decision to dress like a Klansman, the guy explained that he was angry about being told that he must wear a face mask in public, so he decided to rebel against the rules while still technically abiding by them. He told the police that the hood he wore was not intended to be a racial statement, saying “It was a mask, and it was stupid.” So the San Diego Sheriff’s Department has declined to press charges against him at this time.

I haven’t taken the time to look for many reactions to this decision. I’m sure a lot of people are still angry about it and think this guy should go to jail for wearing that hood to the grocery store. However, the Constitution still protects free speech, even speech that is considered hateful. According to the article I linked, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department offered this statement:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has said that ‘[s]peech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate,'”

And, as distasteful as the man’s actions are, I am relieved to hear that he hasn’t been arrested. I think too many people are locked up as it is, particularly for non-violent crimes. This is a stressful time for everyone, and I completely understand why many people are frustrated, confused, scared, and angry by this “new normal”. I actually shudder to call it that. I hope this face mask requirement doesn’t become normal for the rest of my life, because I hate it. I also hate the “hall monitor” attitude and borderline hysteria it’s brought out in a lot of people, on either side of the argument.

Moreover, I think banning or restricting any facet of free speech or expression is a slippery slope that can lead to disastrous consequences. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with people facing consequences for making hateful statements, but I would not want to see actual laws passed to restrict speech or expression. As a writer, that would be deadly to my craft. (and I fully understand that some of my readers don’t take what I do seriously and don’t think of me as a writer… that’s fine with me, although I think some of you need to get a life)

Anyway… what that guy did was probably less horrible than what some other people are doing in the wake of being required to cover their mouths and noses. At least in his case, no one was injured and there was no property damaged. This morning, I read about two men trying to shop at a California Target store without face masks. A security guard tried to insist that they wear masks and they got into a fight with him, resulting in the guard’s left arm being broken. The maskless men are now facing felony battery charges.

I read another story this morning about a maskless guy at a 7 Eleven in Oakland Hills, California who become violent when he was asked to wear a mask. The 7 Eleven clerks refused to serve him and he stormed out of the store, kicking and shattering the glass door.

A Family Dollar security guard was fatally shot in Flint, Michigan, because he told a customer that her child needed to wear a face mask. The customer yelled at the guard, spat at him, and drove off. Twenty minutes later, the woman’s husband and adult son came to the store, confronted the security guard, and the adult son pulled out a weapon and killed the security guard.

There have been other incidences of violence… really too many to list in this post, although you can follow the link and find more stories of people losing their shit over what they deem government official overreach. It’s definitely distressing to see people toting their guns to state capitals, threatening and screaming at officials, and protesting against the face mask rules. I am certainly not a fan of the masks, and have stated more than once that I have my doubts that they are that effective. Nevertheless, I would never become violent over having to wear them, nor do I not comply with the rule. I simply stay home as much as possible. I figure nobody wants or needs to see me, anyway.

I feel very grateful to be in Germany for this crisis. Germans, from what I’ve seen so far, are pretty sensible about this situation. And even if sometimes Germans as a whole can be confrontational, they aren’t typically violent here. Even if someone came to blows over face masks, there are a lot fewer guns here anyway.

Americans are losing their damned minds on both sides of this debate. A couple of days ago, I read a very interesting op-ed about social distancing shamers. Personally, I agreed very much with what Amanda Hess wrote in her editorial for The New York Times. Against my better judgment, I read some of the comments for that piece. Granted, many people commenting are New Yorkers, and New York City, while being a very densely populated place, has also been hard hit by the virus. I can understand why many people there are “hardasses” about the masks. On the other hand, people don’t like being ordered around by busybodies, and the presence of the deadly coronavirus doesn’t change that.

As I was reading the comments for that post last night, I kept seeing the same shrill toned sentiments by a few people who defended their shaming and policing, claiming that the shaming will “save lives”. Personally, I disagree. In my experience, shaming doesn’t usually inspire people to want to comply with demands, particularly when the shaming comes from some shrill voiced pest. That technique probably works better in cultures in Asia, where people are much more community minded. Western cultures tend to value individualism and personal freedoms more, and people don’t like being told what to do, even by their leaders.

I don’t know about you, but when someone tries to shame me, my first emotions are almost always irritation and anger, not a desire to comply. But I’m reasonable enough that I do usually think about what the other person is saying and consider whether or not it has merit. Maybe I’ll change my behavior, but it’s more than likely I won’t. Why? Because I’m a competent adult who can think for herself. I’m more likely to tell the shamer to fuck off. At the very least, they’ll get a serious load of my bitch face, which I’m told by some is pretty devastating. (ha ha ha)

I wouldn’t dream of going up to someone I don’t know and berating them for not doing what I think they should be doing. For all I know, they have a good reason for not following the rules and their reasons probably aren’t any of my business. It’s not my place to call them out unless they’re doing something that directly affects me. If it’s something very serious, illegal, or dangerous, in most situations, I’ll call the police or someone else who has been designated as an authority figure. Otherwise, I’ll just give them a wide berth and go on about my business.

I’ve also noticed that some people think the masks must be on at all times, even if social distancing is entirely possible. The rules I’ve seen have specified that the masks are to be worn when social distancing isn’t possible– that means you can’t stay more than six feet apart from someone else. Some people have taken it upon themselves to shame people even if they’re totally able to be more than six feet away from others. They insist that they have the right because they’re “scared”. That seems like a very imbalanced view caused by hysteria. I, for one, don’t want hysterical people dictating what I can and can’t do, especially when their hysteria is entirely based on their own emotions. I prefer taking direction from people who aren’t hysterical and make rules based on science and facts, rather than fear.

In some of the comments on that article, people were relating stories about being screamed at for not wearing a mask in public when they were nowhere near anyone else. In one story, the shamer, confident in her “moral highground”, came up to a guy and started yelling at him, but she had her mask pulled down as she was doing it. The guy she was yelling at was not near anyone else and he was minding his own business. But she still felt entitled to yell at him because she was scared and was obviously feeling emboldened by her fear.

A year or two ago, people were calling out folks for being confrontational. Remember Barbecue Becky and Permit Patty? These were white women who felt okay about confronting people about what they were doing in public. And folks were all up in arms about that, mainly because the people being shamed were people of color and calling the police on people of color can be very dangerous or even deadly. People took it out on them by smearing them online and making them go viral.

But now, the same people who were angry about the confrontations of two years ago, are now okay with confronting people who don’t want to wear masks, even though the masks are probably much more about making other people feel better psychologically than actually controlling the spread of the virus. I suppose there’s value in placating the scared among us, but I hope it’s not something that will be expected for the rest of our lives. It’s bad enough that the virus has taken away people who were too young to die, and things that are wonderful like travel, good health, eating in restaurants, listening to choirs, brass bands, and woodwinds, and visiting friends and relatives in person. Do we have to turn into oppressive, insufferable assholes, too?

Like I said… I personally don’t really think the masks are that helpful, and while some people are comforted by seeing people wearing them, they give me the creeps. So I simply stay home. That way, not only do I avoid most people who can make me sick, I also avoid people who feel the need to lecture and harass others… as well as those who would resort to violence over being asked to wear a mask. I also don’t have to be reminded of how sad and hopeless life feels right now. I may change my mind as time goes on… and I feel very lucky that I’m not in the United States, where so many people do have guns, short tempers, and the unshakable idea that they’re in the right.

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musings

Offensive fashion statements… or, who was that hooded, masked man?

As Patrick Starfish would say, “Good morning, Krusty Krew.” This morning, in contrast to yesterday morning, I am actually itching to write something of substance. Before I get cranked up with today’s post, I want to thank those of you who took the time to listen to my musical offerings yesterday. I truly appreciate it when anyone listens and comments on my recordings. I don’t put them out there very often because I hate making videos and I never know how they’re going to be received. But it does bring me great joy to sing songs and share them with others. So if you took the time to click on my channel, thank you very much. It means a lot to me, even though I did lose one subscriber on YouTube (bwahahahaha!). It’s okay. I’ll stay humble and stick to my day job.

Now, on with today’s controversial topic, which I hope readers will read and consider with an open mind.

Yesterday evening, I came across two news articles that caused me to react in different ways. After thinking about both of these issues, I realize that they’re two pieces of the same “puzzle” that faces everyone on the planet today. The first article that upset me was in the Washington Post. It was a piece by Robin Givhan about how face masks are “here to stay” and have now become a fashion accessory which may, very soon, become as essential as undergarments. Givhan writes:

Fashion always finds a way. Human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate, to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so the face mask — once purely functional, once perceived as an exotic accessory — has evolved at breakneck speed into something more.

It’s more essential because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans wear a mask when interacting with others. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also a more complicated cultural proposition. And, of course, the face mask is political because both the president and the vice president have refused to wear one on highly public occasions and because some protesters have insinuated that masks are un-American.

As the country moves toward reopening, masks are assuredly part of our future. And in some ways, their evolution is the perfect encapsulation of how much life has changed in a blink of an eye — and how challenging, both intellectually and emotionally, it will be for us to go forward.

I have written in previous pieces about how, personally, I don’t like seeing face masks being normalized and turning into fashion statements. I realize that I can’t stop them from evolving in such a way. Some people like wearing them and feel safer with them with them on. However, count me among those who have no desire to be mandated to wear a face mask for the rest of my life. In fact, I don’t even like that the masks are being pushed on everyone via peer pressure. I would hate to see them become like seatbelts, which most everyone is compelled to wear nowadays.

When I was a child, seatbelts were entirely optional. I have many memories of riding without them in those days, lying in cargo areas in my dad’s many vans or riding in the back of pick up trucks. At one time, my dad had a Volkswagen pop top camper, which had a bar across the ceiling that we had to push to get the camper top to go up. I used to swing on that bar like a monkey when I was a kid. It was very unsafe and unthinkable today, but great fun back then. I don’t regret the experience of swinging on that bar as we cruised down the interstates.

Now… as a sensible adult, I understand why all U.S. states and many developed countries require people to wear seatbelts. New Hampshire, the one seatbelt law hold out, currently doesn’t require seatbelt use for adults, but does require people under age 17 to wear them. It also looks like New Hampshire will soon require seatbelt use for everyone. However, generally speaking, I am opposed to “nanny” laws in principal. I think people should wear seatbelts because it’s the smart thing to do, not because they might get a ticket. I also wear one because if I don’t, my husband turns into Pat Boone.

I have seen face masks being compared to seatbelts. I don’t think they’re the quite same thing. Riding in a car without a seatbelt has always been inherently dangerous. Being in public without a face mask has not. Moreover, facial expression is a big component in effective communication and identification. A lot of things can’t be feasibly done in public if a person is wearing a mask… things that bring joy, like eating, drinking, lip reading, and smoking (although smoking is not something that brings me joy) or playing woodwind instruments or horns. Although speaking and singing are possible while wearing a mask, they aren’t as easy to do. Breathing isn’t as easy to do while wearing a mask, either.

I imagine that when summer is fully upon us, people who don’t routinely wear masks will realize what being forced to wear one at all times could mean. The thought of it really depresses me, especially since there is still some debate as to how helpful the masks really are. Face masks in 90 degree weather sound like a recipe for a lot of sweat, smelling of one’s own bad breath, and possible tan lines, not to mention kind of a creepy dystopian feel to society in which we won’t be allowed to see each other’s smiles in every day society.

I was a bit perturbed after reading Givhan’s article about how masks are becoming a fashion statement, especially since so many people commenting seem to be all for it being a permanent fixture. I don’t think a lot of people have thought about it very deeply. I intend to resist that trend as much as possible and only wear masks when I absolutely have to in order to avoid harassment or legal trouble. I posted about it on Facebook and my friend Sara, who is a nurse at the Mayo Clinic and has to wear a mask all day, fully agreed with me that wearing masks full time should be a no go. Especially since the coronavirus epidemic hasn’t been an issue for that long. Some people are now pushing for laws… and I know that I’m not the only one upset about the prospect of face masks being as necessary as underwear. In fact, another article drove home the idea that requiring face coverings at all times could be a very slippery slope.

Just before I was about to go to bed, I noticed a news item posted by a friend in California. A man in Santee, California went into a grocery store wearing a white, cone shaped hood. The San Diego Union-Tribune referred to the hood as a “KKK hood”, which it probably was. However, the man was not identified by name by the newspaper. In fact, other than a picture of the guy demonstrating his choice to wear the hood, along with shorts, t-shirt, and shoes, not much information about the man was provided at all.

I shared the article on Facebook, and a few friends automatically labeled the guy a racist. And, to be honest, he probably IS a racist. However, there is no way to know for sure. I suspect the guy wore the mask to make a point about the requirement to wear face masks. The rules are pretty broad right now. Your nose and mouth are supposed to be covered. The white hood accomplishes that. Because a hateful group of racists have co-opted the white, cone shaped hood into a symbol that immediately identifies one as a white supremacist, it’s taboo to wear a hood that looks like that in public. This guy chose to wear one anyway. He technically followed the rules by covering his face and mouth, but he did so in a way that was sure to offend other people.

I brought up the fact that since I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve noticed the Confederate battle flag being flown or otherwise displayed in various places here. When I’ve shared my observations with American friends, they almost always react with shock and dismay. To many Americans, the Confederate battle flag (which was actually only one of many used by Confederates during the Civil War) is ALWAYS a racist display. I grew up in the South and saw that flag all the time while growing up. Hell, when I was in South Carolina going to graduate school, there was a Confederate battle flag on top of the Statehouse. It was later relocated to the grounds of the Statehouse, where it stayed for years before it was finally put away for good. Yes, many people see that flag as a racist symbol, but others still insist that it’s about southern pride and a spirit of rebellion.

I once had an Italian Facebook friend. I guess we’re technically still friends, but he left Facebook last year, claiming that people didn’t want to engage in healthy debates with him. I’m sorry he left, especially since we have lost touch. Although he could be very obnoxious and even kind of mean at times, I liked the perspective he presented. He is an intelligent and articulate guy, and I miss getting his input on some topics. One time, he explained why it’s not really uncommon to see the Confederate battle flag displayed in Italy. That flag doesn’t have the same connotations to many Europeans as it does to Americans. A lot of people in Europe see that flag as only a symbol of southern rebellion. In fact, there’s a Harley Davidson garage located not two kilometers near where we live, and they proudly fly the Confederate battle flag. I’ve also seen it on a cab driver’s bumper in Ireland. To many Europeans, it doesn’t stand for racism like it does in the United States.

While the white hood and, especially, the swastika are definitely taboo in Europe, as they are in the United States, I would imagine that those symbols, when taken to a place where they have no meaning at all, would not inspire outrage. When it comes down to it, they’re just symbols, and they only have the meaning that people give them. Personally, I think we should pay more attention to the racist attitudes that actual people have rather than the symbols used to promote those attitudes. It’s also not lost on me that when those symbols are presented, they identify those who have those sentiments. That makes it much easier to choose not to associate with them… although a lot of them are simply ignorant, and their ignorance doesn’t necessarily make them horrible people. At least not in my opinion.

Does “God” feel the same way about Confederate battle flags and white hoods made of cloth?
Isn’t this a blip? My father was a proud flag carrying conservative, but he never hesitated to wear ugly clothes inspired by the American flag. I think Americans should probably think longer and harder about this issue.

Back when football player Colin Kaepernick was regularly in the news for “taking a knee”during the “Star Spangled Banner” to protest racism, a lot of conservatives were upset because they saw his actions as disrespecting the American flag. Curiously enough, “God”, the popular Facebook page, even referred to the American flag as a “piece of cloth” and the national anthem as just a song. I remember blogging about this subject, and to make my point, I included the photo below.

I am not at all condoning the actions of the “very fine people”. However, one could argue that the Confederate battle flag and, in fact, other symbols made of fabric, such as white, cone shaped hoods, are also just “pieces of cloth”, as “God” claims the American flag is.

So anyway… all of this led me to conclude that the guy who walked into the grocery store in his white hood is possibly more of a pissed off Trump supporter, rather than a flat out racist. He’s pissed off because he resents government overreach, and he sees having to wear a face mask at the grocery store as a violation of his personal liberties. He may also be pissed because Trump may very well (hopefully) get his ass kicked during the elections this November, and that may mean more left swinging laws. Remember, Trump and Pence don’t willingly wear masks, either, and Trump has gone as far as to encourage citizens to rise up against their state governments and demand that restrictions be lifted so life can get back to “normal”.

So instead of grudgingly wearing a regular face mask like a good citizen would, he decided to cover his face in a different way. He wore a white, cone-shaped hood, which to many people is an extremely horrifying symbol of racism and hatred. He made a lot of people very uncomfortable. However, he wasn’t violent and didn’t physically hurt anyone, and after being asked repeatedly to remove the hood (and probably what was his nose and mouth covering), he did comply. He paid for his items and left the store without incident, although local law enforcement is “looking into the matter”. Santee, California reportedly has a “checkered past” when it comes to racism, and its mayor has gone on record to denounce the hooded shopper’s actions.

It occurred to me that ultimately, the white cone hat guy was expressing himself. Granted, he was expressing hatred, disrespect, and disdain, which are ugly, antisocial expressions. But when it came down to it, he was expressing himself, which in the United States, he still has the right to do. Then I thought about it some more. Judging by the photo in the news article, I’m about 99.9% certain this dude probably is a racist on some level. But– is it possible he wasn’t? What if he was just a smart assed troll trying to rile people up? What if he was from another country and wasn’t aware that the hood would offend (highly unlikely, but technically possible)? Maybe someone paid him to wear the cone shaped hood on a dare? Not knowing anything about the guy, I can’t know for sure what his story is, although I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume he’s a racist. Or maybe he’s just a frustrated, pissed off American making his feelings known in the most offensive way he can think of, not unlike when Melania Trump wore her “I really don’t care, do U?” jacket. I am certainly not condoning that the man chose that way to express himself… but I can see how that explanation could be a possibility.

The fact that the man wore the offensive KKK-esque hood into the store, technically complying with the order that he cover his mouth and nose, may seem like a bad thing. But, as I sat at the breakfast table talking about this with Bill, I concluded that his actions were not necessarily such a bad thing overall. Because it’s getting people thinking and talking about this issue. If face masks do become the law for the foreseeable future, people are probably going to have to come up with some guidelines. The guidelines aren’t going to suit everyone, and it may take some time to come to a consensus. By then, maybe a vaccine will be created and we can move beyond this pandemic without forcing another nanny law on the populace.

The first article I referenced in this post is about how the face masks are becoming “fashion”. Well, fashion is frequently distasteful. That’s part of the reason fashion is a thing, just like any art is. Art isn’t always beautiful or simple. Sometimes, it’s ugly and offensive. And if we want to mandate face masks for people, we should probably be prepared for those who will use their masks to make their feelings known through offensive fashion statements. I know a lot of people got a kick out of Mindy Vincent, the lady in Utah who made a face mask out of cloth that had penises on it. Plenty of people found that funny, especially when she told people that if they could tell her face mask has penises on it, they were too close. But other people, no doubt, were offended by it. Mindy Vincent has been selling the masks and has reportedly donated a lot of money to charity. That’s probably a good thing, depending on the charity. Some people would probably criticize her for that, too… or for the charity she’s chosen to donate to. The nice thing about America is that we can still have these thoughts and discussions… at least for now.

It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the hood wearing guy and whether or not his stunt will have any legal repercussions, especially if we do have to wear the fucking face masks from now on.

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Trump

Don’t get a nosebleed on that high horse you’re riding…

A couple of days ago, the world was notified that notoriously obnoxious radio host Rush Limbaugh has lung cancer. I must admit, my first thought was, “Finally, something will put a stop to that wind bag.” Then, after a few minutes, it occurred to me that it’s not cool to wish cancer on people, abhorrent as they may be. Personally, I don’t wish cancer or any other disease on people who haven’t personally injured me or someone I love. However, I completely understand why so many people dislike Rush Limbaugh and are not sorry, or are even happy, to see him with a cancer diagnosis. I don’t judge them for feeling the way they do. A lot of them think it’s proof of karma.

Not twelve hours after the news about Rush, and Donald Trump’s subsequent decision to give him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I noticed some people posting self-righteous rants about how so many folks were “glad” to see Limbaugh so sick. Can I just say that I sort of hate this kind of behavior? Yes, I get that it’s distasteful to wish ill on others, but publicly shaming and chastising people, particularly when they are fellow adults, is also distasteful.

I honestly think a whole lot of people in the United States and around the world are just flabbergasted and exhausted by the way Donald Trump has taken over the country with his brand of narcissistic bullshit. He’s made it *cool* for people to be misogynistic and racist, and even openly hostile to anyone who isn’t a white Christian male with a conservative viewpoint. Awarding Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom completely cheapens the award, but given that the man who gave it to him has completely cheapened the office of U.S. President, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And people are also rightfully pissed off, but probably not at all surprised, that Donald Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial, simply because no witnesses were allowed to speak. In a situation like the one we’re in, it’s hard to be high-minded and lofty. And so… Limbaugh may have his medal, but at least we won’t have to hear his insulting yammering for much longer.

Let’s be real about Mr. Limbaugh. For all he’s done for radio shows and their popularity, he’s also said some really fucked up shit and stoked the fires of racism. Have a look:

I think a lot of people are just plain fed up with this. Even when W. was in charge– and he was not a popular president– I don’t remember people being as completely gobsmacked by just how fucked up everything was. Yes, people were angry about the wars he got the United States into, but there was still a basic modicum of respect shown both ways. Donald Trump has turned the job of president into a complete mockery. And when he gives Rush Limbaugh a consolation prize for having lung cancer– a prize that was once highly regarded and is now forever cheapened– it just chaps a lot of asses.

So… I don’t judge anyone for thinking it’s karmic justice for Limbaugh to have lung cancer, or even those who applaud it. Rush Limbaugh is just as vile as Trump is, and I would not shed a single tear if Trump got cancer, either. I wouldn’t. Trump wouldn’t cry for me, so why should I cry for him? To be clear, I am not necessarily happy that Limbaugh has cancer. Frankly, I don’t really care one way or the other. But I also don’t care that people are happy for the way things have turned out for Limbaugh. It’s human. And hey, he’s got a shiny new medal for his office, too.

It’s pretty obvious Rush has been blowing toxic fumes for many years now, so it stands to reason that he’d get cancer. And I don’t blame people for expressing out loud how frustrated and disgusted they are by this shitshow of a presidential administration. Personally, I am frustrated by people that I used to think were decent, good, intelligent, loving people continuing to support Trump and his band of merry shitgibbons, even in the face of all of the awful things he’s said and done for decades now. What exactly has to happen before people realize that Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself and, to a much lesser extent, those who can do something for him?

Bravo, Nancy.

You know who else I don’t judge? Nancy Pelosi. I think she’s a badass. I never paid much attention to her– or really, politics in general– until Trump got in office. In fact, I would say that might be the one GOOD thing Trump has done. He’s gotten a lot more people to care about politics and exercising their right and duty to vote. And because he’s done that, I now pay more attention to the people who want to run the country. I listen more to what they say and who surrounds them. And now, I vote in elections I might have otherwise skipped. I’ve also pretty much sworn off voting for Republicans. It would take a very special person to get me to change my mind about the Republican party. They permanently fucked up when they foisted Trump on the world.

But… when people get all up in arms about people wishing ill on Limbaugh or Trump or other world leaders– people who have great power over the rank and file– then proceed to go down the road to hell themselves, that’s when I have a good laugh…

Wow… seriously? Have a Snickers bar, bud… You are a massive hypocrite.

People have the right to their opinions. They (still) have the right to express their opinions. They’re gonna say what they’re gonna say. Even the twit who commented in the above exchange has the right to be an asshole if he wants. And the rest of us have the right to wish ill on him if he goes too far. You may not maintain respect for people who wish ill on others, and that is certainly your right. But personally, I see it as more of a very human expression of frustration myself. I’m sure there are people who read my blog and think I’m an asshole, too… simply because I can’t stand Trump and dare to say it out loud. And yes, it’s true, I probably wouldn’t cry if he dropped dead on live TV. Like I said, he would never cry for me. Of course, I don’t actually wish for Trump to drop dead while he’s in office, since that would mean we’d have Mike Pence as president, and I think he’s probably worse than Trump is.

Anyway… people are rightfully disgusted and they’re expressing themselves colorfully. I think, if the United States is really a “free” country, we should let them have their say without chastising them for their opinions or trying to squelch what they say. When someone posts a lot of shit I don’t like, I scroll by. If it’s a habit that gets on my nerves, I unfollow or unfriend. Life is short… and people are gonna say what they want, anyway. And even if they don’t say it, they’ll still think it.

Hell, why not just have a good laugh, like Lori and I did in the above exchange? There’s nothing you can do about it, and telling people to stifle themselves is not going to do anything more than cause them to look at you with a jaundiced eye. My personal belief is that the vast majority of people– with a few notable exceptions– aren’t all bad all the time. Those who want to lecture others for expressing their true feelings are almost always hypocrites. Everyone does this… On the same thread I posted above, I noticed a comment from a conservative about how “nasty” the “left” is toward Trump. This same person laughed and applauded when one of her buddies called me a “moron” because I dared to say that I didn’t think Trump’s wall was a good idea…

I will admit that I don’t always live by this myself… I am as hypocritical as anyone is. But I think these are wise words.
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