law, politics, wingnuts

Some people really don’t think guns are a problem…

In the wake of last week’s heartbreaking school shootings, I’ve been seeing a lot of people opining about why there’s so much gun related violence in the United States. Many people, myself included, think that there are way too many guns available, they are too powerful, and they are much too easy to acquire. There are also a lot of very angry, disillusioned, mentally ill people in the United States. And since it’s easier to buy a gun than access competent mental health services, there’s a lot of violence. Too many people are being killed. Too many CHILDREN are being killed, or permanently affected, by angry young men with guns. That’s what I think, anyway.

A screenshot of The Second Amendment…

But there’s another side to this issue. There are so many other people who don’t think guns are a problem. They love to spout off that old trite saying, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And they say things like, “People have been killing each other forever.” They hold the Second Amendment near and dear to their hearts, as if the right to keep and bear arms is the most important thing in our Constitution. Many of these folks actually believe that owning guns will keep them free.

I grew up near Yorktown, Virginia, which is where victory was declared in the American Revolution. I know the origin of the Second Amendment, which was ratified December 15, 1791, along with the other nine articles of The Bill of Rights. In those days, for many reasons, owning guns made more sense. But the right to bear arms has gotten out of hand. A whole lot of innocent people are being killed, not just because there are enraged, unhinged people who go crazy and spray bullets everywhere, but because people get careless. I’ve read many heartbreaking stories about children killing or hurting themselves, or other people, because they’ve had access to someone else’s improperly stored weapon. Somehow, we never seem to learn from those stories. Americans are still crazy about their guns.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of apologists coming out against gun control. They all seem to say the same thing. The reason why people are being killed isn’t because of easy access to guns. It’s because of poor parenting. It sounds crazy as I hear it in my head, and it looks crazy as I type out those words. But there are apparently a lot of people who believe that if people would just be better parents, there would be less violence.

About twelve years ago, Bill and I lived in rural Fayetteville, Georgia. We liked living there, especially since we found a house in a remote area, where we had a lot of privacy. Not surprisingly, a lot of people near where we lived were staunch Republicans who loved their guns. I minded conservatives less in those days, so it didn’t bother me much. That was before so many other children had died, although Wikipedia tells me that even in 2010 and 2011, a whole lot of kids were killed at school by gun toting “ammosexuals”. But, the truth is, I probably just didn’t think about gun violence as much back then.

While we were living in Fayetteville, I subscribed to the local newspaper. I still get emails from that paper every week, even though we moved to Sanford, North Carolina, a similar community, in April 2011. Yesterday, I got the latest issue of The Citizen out of Georgia, and I noticed a letter to the editor written by a man who asks, “Instead of fewer guns, how about better parents?” When I saw that headline, I inwardly groaned. Yet again, just like the “Q guy” I wrote about the other day, this guy was actually blaming “bad parenting” and “lack of respect” on the extreme gun violence in the United States.

The author of the letter to the editor fears “big government”. He begins his screed by lamenting about how Democrats want to take away his guns in the name of “safety”, and fears that if he loses his guns, he will be “vulnerable” to government overreach. Once again, I have to shake my head. Does this man actually believe that the government can’t and won’t take away his guns now? Does he really think he can outgun the government? I don’t see it.

A gun might be useful to have if a wild animal invades your home. It might also be a great thing to have a gun if someone breaks into your house. But guns cannot and will not protect anyone from government overreach. If guns could do that, maybe women who don’t want to be pregnant wouldn’t have to worry about being forced to gestate, and potentially prosecuted if they miscarry. If you get caught breaking the law, and your crime is serious enough, the police will come and arrest you. Your guns won’t save you in that situation. And if the United States is successfully invaded, say, by Russia, China, or North Korea, it’s not likely that your arsenal of guns will prevent that from happening, either. Maybe you can pick off a few people, but eventually, you’ll probably run out of ammo and you’ll be saying goodbye to your guns.

Shared by a Facebook friend, some of the ludicrous issues we’re arguing about in the United States. One of my right wing former relatives shared the Clint Eastwood meme.

Against my better judgment, I kept reading this man’s rationale as to why he must be allowed to keep his guns, even though so many innocent children have been killed by them. And I have to say, I found his reasons why gun violence is such a huge problem to be pretty offensive. He says that “liberals” who are “woke” and obsessed with inflicting “socialism” on the United States are the reason why people are killing each other. He thinks religion– specifically Christianity– and strict parenting can solve this problem. I wonder how the parents of the dead children in Uvalde would feel reading this letter, which basically blames THEM, for the fact that an 18 year old kid was able to buy a rifle on his birthday and shoot up their school.

I’m reminded of what I used to hear when I was a small child, and hated wearing seatbelts in the car. I still hate seatbelts, mind you, but I do wear them. If I don’t, Bill turns into Pat Boone. 😉 But anyway, my childlike logic back then was that I knew my parents were “safe drivers”. After all, they always wore their seatbelts, even if they didn’t often make me wear one. I don’t remember my mom ever being in an accident. My dad was in a car accident, back in 1979, but he never was again after that. So, being a kid with so much vast life experience, I figured I had nothing to fear. But later, when I married Bill, he said “I could be the safest and best driver on the road, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a nut out there on the road who could ruin our day.”

Seems to me, the same logic applies to “good guys with guns”. You could be the safest and most conscientious person in the whole world, when it comes to firearms. You could be the best and most attentive parent, too, and teach your child to always be respectful, courteous, and kind. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be nuts out there who could ruin your day, because THEY aren’t safe, conscientious, or attentive.

Speaking of cars… I see on the above letter to the editor, people have left comments. One person wrote this:

Do you know what the common denominator to any shooting is? Guns.

And sure enough, someone argued that people kill people. They wrote:

Do you know what else is a common denominator? An idiot or idiots who make the choice to take out their anger in a horrible way and take human lives. That denominator is also the reason for the Wisconsin car massacre where a deranged black man drove through a mostly white parade crowd and killed multiple people. Should we take cars away to prevent this from happening again?

Ah yes… the “people kill each other with cars” argument. Well, let’s analyze that for a moment, shall we? In order to be legally allowed to drive a car, one has to be properly licensed. Getting a license requires training and testing, being old enough, and registering with one’s local Department of Motor Vehicles (there’s that darned government overreach again). Why do we have those rules? Because they promote safety and accountability. Automobile manufacturers are also required to install safety features in their cars. Drivers are required to have liability insurance, in case of an accident or negligence that hurts someone else. And if you get caught driving under the influence of a substance, even if you don’t actually hurt or kill anyone, you can get in serious trouble.

It’s true that people can be killed in creative ways, such as the one described in the above comment. Hell, twenty-one years ago, thousands of people were killed when lunatics took over four airplanes and deliberately crashed them into buildings. And you know what? After 9/11, laws changed worldwide, so that such a tragedy might never happen again. So why can’t we do something about the gun violence in the United States? Why should almost any “idiot” over age 18, who can’t even legally buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes, have the ability to buy a gun? Especially guns that can kill twenty-one people– nineteen of them, innocent children– in a matter of minutes?

I love this man’s work, but wouldn’t it be much better if he could use his talents on something else? Children should NOT BE DYING in the numbers they currently are, all because of our “right to keep and bear arms”.

I would imagine that most of the parents of the children killed in Uvalde, Texas, last week, were good parents, doing the best they could. But being good parents didn’t save their children from a gun toting madman. Maybe Salvador Ramos should have had better parents, but he didn’t. Besides, plenty of people have had “bad parents” and not gone on shooting sprees. Simply having had bad parenting is NOT why people kill. I seem to remember Sue Klebold, Dylan Klebold’s mother, being, by all accounts, a good parent. I even saw her interviewed in a documentary, during which she described what it’s like to be the mother of a school shooter. She came across as a warm, caring, conscientious woman. But her son still teamed up with Eric Harris at Columbine High School in April 1999 to shoot and kill 15 people and injure 21 others. They certainly didn’t resort to that kind of horrific violence simply because their parents failed to raise them properly.

I have been living in Germany now for almost eight years. It was never our intention to live here for so long. In some ways, I miss “home”. I haven’t seen my family in a very long time. But I have to admit, I am very grateful that I can live in a safe country with “socialist” laws (eyeroll). Why? Because I never feel the need to worry about people like Salvador Ramos killing me while I’m out and about at the weekend market. I like that Europeans have more respect for communities as a whole, and I don’t agree that having the right to carry a gun makes me “freer”. I certainly don’t think that owning a pistol will save me from “government overreach”. Dammit, I’m really tired of reading the bullshit “thoughts and prayers” apologetics from ignorant conservative people who don’t see the forest for the trees. Guns are a huge problem. We really need to fix it.

And telling people they just need to be “better parents” is about as effective as pissing in the wind.

Standard
condescending twatbags, politicians, politics, poor judgment, religion

Jesus* Guns *Babies… and Jenna Ryan on the loose.

Against my better judgment, I’ve been watching the news to see how our favorite delusional insurrectionist has been doing in the big house. Of course, I’m referring to Jenna Ryan, who swore up and down last year that she would NOT be going to prison for her part in the January 6th insurrection. She said it was because she had white skin, blonde hair, and a good job. But the judge wasn’t impressed, and off Jenna went to the jug for sixty days. She turned herself in to authorities just before Christmas and did her time. And now she’s out, and apparently hasn’t learned a goddamned thing. She went straight back to Twitter and resumed sharing ridiculous conspiracy theories and insulting people.

She’s back in business.

Not that I care about that too much. She’s kind of entertaining in her delusions. Obviously, her time at Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas, was wasted. I took a peek at her Twitter feed last night. Today, I see she’s posted a video statement. She clearly has no regrets about what she did. In fact, she says she ate a lot of bologna sandwiches, watched a lot of movies, read the Bible and other books, and only lost about ten pounds. She has reiterated that she was convicted of a misdemeanor charge and isn’t a felon, nor has she lost her right to vote. The judge had to make an example out of her, and now she’s ready for her “beautiful life” to resume.

I see she went to a minimum security facility, which I have heard aren’t too terrible. Prison is never fun, but a minimum security lockup isn’t too bad compared to more secure prisons. I guess, given what she actually did, it was appropriate for her to go to a minimum security prison. She has no shame, though, and is matching ugly comments on Twitter with her own insults.

Oh, good Lord…
But wait a minute. I thought it wasn’t so bad. She was “tortured”? With what? Nonstop Lifetime movies?

We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks as Jenna recovers from her brief stint in the federal, minimum security, pokey. She certainly is an interesting person on many different levels.

And now on to another topic…

Earlier this morning, I read about one of Georgia’s Republican candidates for governor. The woman I discovered, Kandiss Taylor, is getting dragged on Twitter on account of her ridiculous campaign slogan. According to her Web site, Taylor has a doctoral degree. But she couldn’t come up with a better campaign slogan than this:

She sure has her priorities straight.

She thinks she can save Georgia with religion (Christianity, I presume), guns, and forcing people to birth. Sigh… I almost wish I still lived in Georgia so I could vote for her opponent. At least she’s pretty, right? That will probably account for something to someone.

Wikipedia says Taylor got most of her degrees in Georgia, except for the Ph.D, which she got from Pat Robertson’s very own Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I know a couple of people who went to Regent University, but since I grew up in the shadow of Pat Robertson’s empire, I am not all that impressed with people who would choose to attend that school. I mean, I’m sure there are really smart people there, and I’m sure some folks choose that school for convenience sake. I used to know a flamboyantly gay man who planned to get a master’s degree from Liberty University, because he could do the work online. Unfortunately, he died before he could put that plan into action. But personally, I would probably have more regard for someone who went to the University of Georgia or Emory University… or a similarly storied school. In any case, I don’t know that Taylor’s slogan is a good ad for the quality of education offered at Regent. But again, she makes a bold and simple statement, which probably really appeals to her base. I’m sure a lot of Georgians would respond to this simple list of her priorities. Yeah. It’s very simple.

I dunno…

But she may very well win. After all, Georgians seem to like Marjorie Taylor Greene, right? It’s not like the state has very high standards when it comes to its elected officials. Taylor is also promising to paint Georgia “Taylor Red”… don’t tell James Taylor that! Personally, I hope the Democrats mop the floor with her. The last thing we need is more guns. I’m sure Jesus would agree. And sorry, but unless Taylor has a feasible plan for supporting the women and babies who will suffer due to her aggressively pro life stance, I don’t wanna hear about how much she loves babies. Babies have needs. So do their parents– especially the people gestating them. I want to hear politicians talk about how they will help the mothers before they champion forcing more babies into existence. But I will admit that Kandiss is pretty in red. It kind of brings to mind The Handmaid’s Tale.

Hmm… I don’t think I’m impressed. Reminds me of Melania’s “Be Best” campaign…

Well, we’ll see. Which reminds me. It might not be a bad idea to get cracking on ordering absentee ballots. Because dammit, I need to vote.

Standard
business, condescending twatbags, law

Protesting by pettily paying past employee with pennies doesn’t pay off for Peachtree City peckerhead…

Hi ho, everybody. I’m a little late blogging today. I’ve been watching Call the Midwife and hanging out with the dogs. As you can see by today’s title, the letter for the day is, once again, “P”. But it doesn’t stand for prance, and pad, and punch, and puss.

I did decide to come check on my computer this afternoon, and I happened to read a news article on The New York Times about a guy from Peachtree City, Georgia, who got sued by the Department of Labor for a tacky little stunt he played with a former employee’s final paycheck.

Here’s more on this story, for those who would rather watch than read.

Last March, Miles Walker, owner of A OK Walker Autoworks in Peachtree City, was apparently upset that his former employee, Andreas Flaten, expected to be paid the $915 Walker owed him for his final paycheck. Flaten called the Department of Labor to complain that he hadn’t been paid, so the agency contacted Mr. Walker, who initially claimed that the check hadn’t made it to the mail. Later, he outright refused to pay, but then changed his mind, and paid Mr. Flaten by dumping over five hundred pounds of sticky, oily pennies on Flaten’s driveway.

It took Flaten and his girlfriend, Olivia Oxley, several hours to clean up the mess. A wheelbarrow was a casualty, as the heavy weight of the pennies caused the wheelbarrow’s tires to go flat. You can see a video of the pennies on Oxley’s Instagram.

What a jackass!

Walker, ever the belligerent jerk, also left a copy of Flaten’s paycheck with an expletive scrawled across it– according to the above video, he wrote “Fuck you” (confirmed in the screen shot above). Charming.

Oxley wrote the following unedited comment on her Instagram post about this cute little stunt:

ox_isms

My boyfriends last paycheck delivered at the end of the driveway in pennies….at 8pm on a Friday. His last day was in November. 

First things first, when he quit he gave a written resignation letter complete with a two weeks notice. After Miles Walker of AOK Walker auto works continued to be the asshole he is and make a normal workday hell, making unnecessary comments about my boyfriends daughter and just be an all around dick, that 2 weeks turned into 5 days. My boyfriend respectfully delivered his uniforms washed and in a box comeplete with another letter as to why he was leaving early. Fast forward 3 months and he was refusing to send out the last paycheck claiming damages to the shop. Once the word “lawyer” was introduced, this is what he did. 

1. We can’t even get all the pennies up because they’re covered in some type of oil. 
2. Who the hell knows how were going to get them out of the driveway, up into the car, out of the car again, and into a bank or coin star. And that’s if we can even do that because they’re covered in oil. 
.
I’m not sure what’s worse…the fact that this man is so miserable he can’t accept an employee leaving because he’s the biggest asshole I’ve seriously ever met, or the fact that he went through THAT much effort to get $915 worth of HEAVYYY pennies just to say ‘fuck you’. I mean….couldn’t he have just pissed on the check or something?…..

MILES WALKER @ AOK WALKER AUTOWORKS in peachtree city. 
PLEASE SHARE WITH ANYONE. Bring him down. No one like that deserves to have successful business. ☺️

Walker later claimed that Flaten was a “bad employee”. I guess he needed to prove to everyone that he’s also a “bad boss”, with an abusive temper and spiteful nature. He wrote on his shop’s Web site:

“What started out as a gotcha to a subpar ex-employee, sure got a lot of press,” the message said. “Let us just say that maybe he stole? Maybe he killed a dog? Maybe he killed a cat? Maybe he was lazy? Maybe he was a butcher?”

Well, Mr. Walker has now gotten his, as the Department of Labor is now suing him, for the defamatory comment about Mr. Flaten, for retaliating against Flaten for calling the Department of Labor, for failing to pay overtime wages, and for failing to keep adequate and accurate records of employees’ pay rates and work hours. The suit seeks $36,971 in back wages and damages for at least eight employees, besides Mr. Flaten.

When he was contacted by the press for his comments about the lawsuit, Flaten called it a “pleasant surprise”, and said “I am happy to see justice is being served. At first, I thought he pretty much got away with it.”

As for the pennies, they were eventually picked up by Coinstar, cleaned off, and counted. Coinstar presented Mr. Flaten with paper currency in an amount close to the $915 he was owed by his petty prick of a former boss. As an added note, we have Coinstar in Germany; our former local Real store had one. But we haven’t found one up here, and we sure could use one. We have so many coins in Germany!

I remember reading about this incident when it happened, and it made me recall the jerks I have encountered in my lifetime. Most of my bosses treated me with basic professionalism, with a couple of exceptions. I do love to read stories about petty jerks getting paid back for being shitty to other people, though. I would have been pissed if I were in Andreas Flaten’s shoes.

Incidentally, I know Peachtree City. Bill and I briefly lived in Fayetteville, Georgia, which is near there, after our first stint in Germany. I liked the area, but I can also see how something like this was liable to happen. What a shame. Given the way this guy treated his former employee, I think I would be avoiding giving A OK Walker Autoworks my business. I think Miles Walker is about to get exactly what he deserves, delivered by the long arm of the law. Hopefully, so will the unfortunate people who used to work for him.

Karma can be quite the bitch, so think twice about being petty by paying with pennies if you’re a boss… And as for Mr. Walker, I think his ex employees are giving him a hearty “fuck you right back!”

Standard
law, racism, true crime

Chasing and finally catching justice for Ahmaud Arbery…

I remember being horrified as I first read about Ahmaud Arbery’s last moments on this planet. The 25 year old Black man was out running in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. He was unarmed, and made the unfortunate decision to pass through Satilla Shores, where he would eventually encounter the three White men who ended his life. Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, chased Arbery in their vehicles. Unlike Arbery, two of his pursuers were armed. The two McMichaels had weapons and rode in a vehicle together as they chased the young man who was out for a run. Bryan brought his camera, which he used to video the confrontation. In light of what happened yesterday, I’m sure Bryan wishes he’d left the camera at home.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer in Brunswick, had initiated the chase when he saw Ahmaud Arbery run past his house. He had wrongly suspected Arbery of burglary or theft in Satilla Shores and decided to take it upon himself to make a “citizen’s arrest”, bringing along a .357 Magnum pistol revolver. Travis joined his father, toting a shotgun. Bryan inexplicably decided independently to join in the chase, but hadn’t known if Arbery had done anything illegal.

Although Arbery had, on several occasions, entered an under-construction house with no doors in the neighborhood, there was never any evidence of theft, according to security camera footage. Travis McMichael had made a call to 911 about a week and a half before Arbery’s final run. He reported that Arbery was breaking into the unfinished house. Moreover, according to The Toronto Star, Arbery’s relatives were known to local law enforcement.

Gregory McMichael did have a past with Arbery, as McMichael had been an investigator for Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office from 1995 until his retirement in May 2019. When he was in high school, Arbery was sentenced to five years probation as a first offender on charges of carrying a weapon on campus and several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He was convicted of probation violation in 2018 after he was charged with shoplifting. McMichael had been involved with the case, and was instrumental in getting Arbery’s probation revoked.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, had asked that the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Roger Barnhill, recuse himself from the case. This was because Barnhill’s son was a prosecutor who had worked with Gregory McMichael in a previous court case involving Ahmaud Arbery. It was very fortunate that Cooper Jones had made that request, particularly since she hadn’t known that McMichael and Barnhill had any ties to her son’s legal past. She simply hadn’t wanted Barnhill on the case because his son worked for the Brunswick district attorney’s office. If Barnhill hadn’t recused himself, Cooper Jones’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, said, “the case would’ve been no billed to a grand jury and the McMichaels would’ve gotten away with murder.”

Barnhill had written in his letter of recusal that Arbery and his family had been in trouble with the law in Brunswick, and that his older brother was incarcerated. One of Arbery’s cousins also had a past with the police department. To those revelations, attorney Lee Merritt said:

“This speaks to the wider issue of mass incarceration. If Black people have any kind of criminal record, somehow that justifies their murder.”

But talk to some people in the community, and they will swear up and down that a person with a rap sheet deserves to be killed if they’re caught doing something illegal. Especially if the person with a rap sheet is not White. Sure enough, it took 74 days before the three men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud Arbery were finally arrested and charged with murder. The local prosecutor was friends with Gregory McMichael and did not want to bring charges against the men. So yes, the men were brought to justice, but it could have easily gone the other way.

Justice is served.

The trial took place in Brunswick, but every Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge recused themselves from the case. Consequently, Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley presided over the trial. Yesterday, I watched as Judge Walmsley read the verdicts for the three men who claimed “self-defense” when they decided to pursue and kill Ahmaud Arbery. I’m not sure why these guys thought Arbery didn’t have the right to defend himself when he was confronted by three men, two of whom had weapons.

Travis McMichael was pronounced guilty of all charges. Gregory McMichael was pronounced guilty of all but one charge of malice murder. William “Roddie” Bryan was pronounced guilty of felony murder (3 counts), aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony (1 count each). These were just the charges brought against them by the state of Georgia. There are still federal charges pending against the three men.

Not a happy day for these guys. They will probably not see the light of day as free men again. Bryan looks like he’s about to burst into tears as the judge announces the verdict.

I am impressed by Judge Walmsley. He handled this case very soberly, professionally, and fairly. I think his conduct starkly contrasts that of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who was reportedly more brash and quirky in the way he ran Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent trial in Wisconsin. The result of Rittenhouse’s trial was much less lauded by the public, as Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges. Of course, these two cases have to do with race relations, but they aren’t really that similar. It still surprised me that Ahmaud Arbery’s case in Georgia seemed to end much more fairly than Kyle Rittenhouse’s case did in Wisconsin. Personally, I think Rittenhouse was acquitted because the prosecutor was too ambitious about the level of charges against Rittenhouse. I do think Rittenhouse should have gotten some prison time.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have no doubt that Ahmaud Arbery’s family is giving thanks that the men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud will have to pay for their crimes. Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, let out a celebratory whoop when the first guilty verdict was read. He now says that he and his family can move forward. Maybe this is a sign of some progress in our country.

This video was key evidence that got three men convicted. It was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, who probably wishes he’d minded his own business on that February day last year.

I don’t take any delight in seeing people locked up in prison, but I do think prison is necessary and just for violent crimes, especially those done out of hate. There is no excuse for the way these men hunted down Arbery and killed him. I do have some compassion for the loved ones of the incarcerated, even though I do think they belong in prison. Prison is tough on families, and Gregory McMichael’s wife is going to see her husband and her son go away, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m sure that is heartbreaking for her. But I also think that justice is finally being done. The McMichaels and Mr. Bryan should not have taken the law into their own hands.

If anything good has come out of this incident, it’s that some very old and bad laws have now been stricken from Georgia’s books. According to The New York Times:

…the trial of [Arbery’s] accused killers also brought up issues of policing — although in this case, it involved questions about private citizens and their rights to detain people who they believe to be breaking the law.

Those rights in Georgia were spelled out in a controversial Civil War-era statute that was significantly weakened by state lawmakers in direct response to the outrage over the Arbery killing. Lawmakers also passed Georgia’s first-ever hate crimes law as a result of the incident.

All of that set up a remarkable kind of trial in which the defendants claimed they were not guilty based in part on an old law that their actions helped to dismantle. At the same time, they were not charged under the new Georgia hate crimes law., though all three have also been indicted under the federal hate crimes statute.

Maybe the new legislation against hate crimes will mean that Ahmaud Arbery’s death won’t be entirely in vain.

Incidentally, Bill and I have been to Brunswick, Georgia. We went there in October 2009 to pick up my car, which was brand new and had just been shipped from Germany. I remember it to be a very weird town, mainly due to the strange taxi driver who picked us up at the tiny airport there. He was an old guy who drove like a maniac and scared the wits out of Bill. Bill ended up complaining about the dude at the hotel where we stayed– an Embassy Suites that was connected to the mall, which apparently didn’t even have an ATM.

The manager of the hotel actually refunded the cost of our stay because Bill noticed that the hotel had a shuttle and it wasn’t mentioned on their Web site. He had If we had known the hotel had a shuttle, we could have been spared the wacko taxi ride with the sketchy guy who had to be paid in cash and drove us to a bank. We never went back to Brunswick, although the beach area was kind of appealing. I think if we ship our cars next time we move to the States, we’ll have them delivered in Charleston. It may cost more, but it’ll be a lot less weird.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. I think our holiday will mostly be a normal day, albeit with Bill off. He just vacuumed for me, which is a real treat.

Standard
book reviews

A review of Yes You Can! Have a Second Life After 60

This review also appears on my travel blog.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had downloaded the book my former Peace Corps colleague, Loretta Land, published in 2019. I spent a good portion of today reading it, finally finishing it a little while ago. Loretta’s book, Yes You Can! Have a Second Life After 60, appears to have been self-published in 2019. Loretta died in January of this year, so she evidently just made it under the wire to fulfill her goal of writing a book. I remember back in 1995, when we first met as trainees for Peace Corps Armenia, Loretta told me she was going to write a book about her experience. Little did I know that after our service ended, Loretta would go on to work in Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ghana, and China.

Loretta’s overseas adventures began in Armenia, when she decided she wanted to be a Peace Corps Small Business Volunteer (SEAD). Originally, she’d planned to go to Fiji when she was 63 years old. This was because she figured she could do her two years, then come home eligible for Social Security. But she writes that God had other plans for her, and she, along with 31 others of us, got the chance to come to Armenia instead, two years sooner than she’d planned. As she mentions frequently in her book, God’s plans don’t always line up with ours.

Loretta Land was the eldest member of our Peace Corps group, A3. We were the third group to come to Armenia and probably the first group that didn’t run into a significant number of problems. Loretta explains that A1, the first group, had arrived in Armenia in the dead of winter and things were not quite up to speed. A lot of people in that group either quit or found jobs. A2 was a smaller group that arrived just as the first group was finishing up. Likewise, that group endured a lot of hardships. Quite a few people quit or found jobs. Our group arrived when things were still pretty tough in Armenia, even in the capital city, Yerevan, but logistics had worked out enough that things were pretty livable. We did have a few people quit and/or get medically separated, and one woman decided to marry her host brother rather than serve (she never swore in). But, by and large, our group was pretty resilient and most of us did our two years.

I didn’t get to know Loretta as well as I would have liked. We both lived in Yerevan, but she lived on the other side of town. I always had great respect for her, as she was always so kind, productive, and caring. I admired how she had decided to come to Armenia and be of service to the people there. And boy, was she of great service to the people. I was very impressed with all she managed to do while she was a Volunteer, as well as afterwards. She came back to Armenia to work on a couple of occasions, and I guess found that she preferred living abroad in developing countries rather than working in the States. She did have a three month stint working in Americorps (formerly called VISTA), but ended up resigning from that and coming back to the former Soviet Union.

Loretta’s book was fun for me to read, mainly because I knew a lot of the people in Armenia she mentioned, as well as some of the situations she writes about. However, the fact that I was in Armenia with her also presented some problems. I’m kind of a stickler about editing, and as much as I enjoyed Loretta’s book, I also think it really needed a few rounds with an editor. Because I knew a lot of the people she mentions in Armenia, I know that a number of names were misspelled, and I don’t think she did that on purpose. Any of us who were in Armenia at the time she was would know the people she mentioned.

She also got some facts incorrect. For instance, on more than one occasion, she mentions that the Soviet Union consisted of thirteen republics; it actually consisted of fifteen. I knew this, but double checked just in case. She mentions that the wife of the U.S. ambassador who served Armenia when we were there was Korean. Actually, she was Vietnamese. I double checked that fact, too. And she mentions that abortion is illegal in Armenia. This is incorrect. I actually knew several women who’d had multiple abortions, as it was the main source of birth control. I actually went to a meeting to discuss the abortion situation in Armenia. A couple of A1s who were working in Armenia had done some work on the abortion issue and we had a discussion about how rampant it was. And I also double checked that fact, too.

Large portions of Yes You Can! consist of letters and emails Loretta lovingly wrote to her children. I enjoyed reading the letters and emails, although sometimes she addressed people within them without explaining who they were. I’m sure her family members and friends know who they are, but this is a book that was being sold on Amazon and presumably read by strangers. So the lack of explanation could be a problem for those reading who didn’t actually know Loretta. She repeats herself a few times, which adds to the length of the book, which according to Kindle, is about 670 pages. An editor could have helped her pare down some redundancies and make the book shorter and easier to digest. There are lots of footnotes, too, which I sometimes found distracting and/or unnecessary. The title of the book implies that it might be a “how to” book, when it’s really a collection of stories about Loretta’s experiences overseas.

I know it sounds like I’m being very critical, and I am. But my criticisms don’t mean I didn’t like Yes You Can! I’m actually really glad I read Loretta Land’s book. She managed to accomplish so much, and she made so many lifelong friends. One thing that puzzled me, though, and I wish she were still around to explain, is why more than once, she writes “I never learned how to love.” She mentions that she went to high school at a boarding academy because she had no home to go to, although she also mentions that she was the youngest child of six. She doesn’t really explain her upbringing, nor does she explain why she says she “never learned how to love”, when it’s very obvious to me that she was a person who both loved, and was loved very much by other people.

Above all, I am just really impressed by Loretta’s bravery and her fortitude. I was in my 20s when we lived in Armenia, and I thought it was tough living there. I think Loretta’s living conditions were harsher than mine were. I didn’t have electricity much during the first year, but I did always have running water. Loretta apparently didn’t have much of either. She faced some truly frightening situations, too. At one point, early in our Peace Corps stint, Loretta was actually threatened by the Armenian Mafia. She writes of two other situations in other countries in which she was afraid for her life. I did have a couple of scary incidents myself, but none involving the Mafia!

I mentioned in yesterday’s post how grateful I am that I had the chance to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. One reason I am grateful is because I got to meet people like Loretta, who was very inspiring. I really looked up to her, and now that I’ve read about how she spent the last years of her life– serving and teaching other people– I admire her even more. She really lead a fascinating life. She mentions that one of her sons predeceased her. I’m sure the rest of her children are amazing people. I already read about her son, Andy, who is a hospice nurse and climbs mountains. A few years ago, Andy was climbing Mount Everest when there was an earthquake an an avalanche. Andy managed to survive, but not before Loretta was interviewed by the news. I later caught up with Loretta on Facebook, amazed that she looked and sounded just like I remembered her years ago.

So, despite my criticisms, I am glad I spent the money and took the time to read my former colleague’s book. It was a treat to read, but mainly because I knew her. She was a wonderful woman. I’m glad she managed to accomplish this goal she had before her time on Earth came to an end.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard