lessons learned, musings, Reality TV

“Raise your words, not your voice.” Ruminating on Rumi, Renee Alway, and people who have done “bad” things…

This morning, I was thinking about what today’s topic would be. I’m kind of irritated, because I had a couple of interesting ideas for today yesterday, while we were enjoying the end of the weekend. But when I woke up this morning, those ideas were no longer available. I probably should have written down the ideas, but that’s not my habit.

I did what I usually do when this happens, which was check the old version of my blog. I ran across a post about former America’s Next Top Model contestant, Renee Alway. Back in December 2014, I wrote a controversial post about Renee Alway’s 2013 arrest and conviction for a number of felonies. Around the time I posted, Renee had been sentenced to twelve years in prison. I was sad for her, even though I remember how she had behaved when she was on ANTM. She was often portrayed as a “bitch” on that show, but then she would show a really lovely side to her personality.

I thought Renee was gorgeous and had so much potential. Then she got on a bad path. I was disappointed to see her with a shaved head, wearing cuffs, shackles, and chains. That sadness and disappointment was what had motivated me to write about her. I wasn’t interested in shaming her, although some people apparently thought that’s what I was doing.

Renee was released from prison on good behavior after serving five years. But then in 2019, she was arrested again for domestic violence.

I got a ton of hits on that post, as well as a lot of comments. Some of the people who commented claimed to be Renee’s friends. I even got a comment that appeared to be from Renee herself, although I can’t confirm if it was her or someone pretending to be her. One person got so irritated by my comments that she wrote:

Renee Diane is an amazing person, she continues to teach me the most amazing aspects in life, she’s there for me like no other person has ever been… I love her with all my heart, you don’t know Renee and never will just because she’s a model and is beautiful doesn’t mean she’s not human and doesn’t bleed. We all have our story in life and deal with pain differently who are you to sit here and judge her. Walk a mile in her shoes and look into your own lives the come here and point fingers … You don’t know a thing about here keep your blog shit to yourself. If you have nothing nice to say and reflect on the world don’t say shit.

We went back and forth a few times. I finally turned that person’s post into one of my famous rants. I basically explained that people are going to have and express their opinions, particularly about public figures. When a person goes on a reality TV show, particularly if they are an adult when they make that choice, they are pretty much fair game for commentary.

What I wrote about Renee Alway really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I think it was a fairly compassionate post. Let’s face it. It IS sad when a beautiful young woman with children gets arrested and goes to prison. It’s sad on many levels. I saw Renee as a talented person with great potential. I could tell she loved her son very much when she was on ANTM. I don’t know why she chose the path she did, and I was dismayed to see that her life had taken a criminal turn. That was the main gist of the post.

But that person still got angry with me that I wrote about Renee. She basically told me to “shut up”. And my response was this:

Thanks for the comment. This is a personal blog and I have the right to write about anything I please. If that upsets you, I’d encourage you to find something to read that is more to your liking. Based on what I saw on ANTM, Renee would probably tell you the same thing. She strikes me as quite a spitfire who doesn’t let other people dictate to her what she can and can’t communicate. 

The person evidently got confused about what I meant when I wrote that my blog is “personal”. She responded thusly:

If it was personal it wouldn’t be posted online. And your right she’s definitely a spitfire and doesnt take shit from anyone or let anyone elses opinions affect her. But I’m her friend and seeing people put her on blast and talk down on her upsets me so I’m sure you understand and would do the same for your friends and ppl you love

I hear what she’s saying… really, I do. But I’m not the one who put Renee on blast. I wrote this in response:

I understand your concern, but she put herself on blast when she went on a reality TV show. In any case, this post has been here for months now and is only getting new attention because you’re commenting. I’m sorry Renee is in the situation she’s in and I hope it gets better for her, but I can’t allow random visitors to my blog to dictate what I write about. I hope you understand.

I never know how people will react to what I write. If I chose to “keep my blog shit” to myself as a means of avoiding upsetting random people, I would never publish a single post. I can’t predict how people will respond to most topics I choose, nor can I control it. I think that commenter also confused the concept of “personal” versus “private”. They aren’t really the same things. Personal means it comes from me. I can write something personal and not keep it private. Or I can keep something private that is also personal… or impersonal.

I could keep the blog private, but there’s not much use in doing that. Why write things that no one will ever read? I understand feeling the need to respond to things that are upsetting, but I would urge people to pause and reflect for a moment before doing so. It’s not right to tell people to shut up, particularly when all they’ve done is shared an opinion or an observation. Stop and think for a minute and consider if what the person has said is really as awful as you think it is. Chances are, you’re overreacting to something that shouldn’t be that upsetting. I understand having that reaction, particularly when it’s in response to an ego blow. We all do it. But no one likes to be told to shut up, and frankly, telling people to shut up isn’t cool. Especially when you’re on their space instead of your own.

One commenter wrote this about Renee:

The season Renee was on was one of the ones I watched. I found her to be arrogant, manipulative and despicable. She wasn’t a good person. You managed to find the good side, however, which is to your credit. 
Renee actually ended up with two kids when she was arrested and gave birth to a third after that. She had been addicted and committing a strong of burglaries, eventually armed when she did so. 

In her prison interview, she admits to being a person whose character had defects. She said that she thinks people watching the show saw exactly who she was and that she had problems with her character. At least that admission is a good start. But it’s funny that she has “friends” on here denying what she herself has admitted and screaming at someone who wrote a compassionate post about what happened to her. 

Right… and what I wrote was not nearly as “mean” as what the person above wrote. I think her comments are valid, even if they do seem harsh. It’s good to show grace toward people, but it’s also good to keep your eyes open about who people are.

So anyway… on to Rumi, and his connection to Renee Alway, who was born hundreds of years after his death. In my response post, I found a meme attributed to the Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was born in the year 1207 in present day Afghanistan. His parents were native Persian speakers. He grew up to become a sage, whose influence spread around the Middle East and transcended borders and ethnicities. He died in 1273 at age 66 in what is now Konya, Turkey.

When I was writing my response post to Renee’s friend who told me to “shut up”, I found today’s featured photo, which is a famous Rumi quote. I thought it was very relevant. The quote is:

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

In other words, yelling at someone is not likely to make a whit of difference. You might feel better doing it in the short term, but it’s not likely to inspire cooperation or compliance. If you have an argument or contrary view, try presenting it in a civilized way. Take the time to reason. Frame your comments in a way that is constructive, instead of destructive. Don’t just react with emotion. Think about why you’re reacting the way you are before you say something. It’s fine to feel offended by an ego blow, but you’ll get further in changing someone’s perspective if you approach them with basic respect for their dignity.

In my response post, I wrote “If you “yell” at me, I’ll cross my arms and stop listening because I will simply assume you’re an asshole.  I don’t listen to assholes because that’s where shit comes from.” I had to laugh at that because it’s true. Shit is basically thought of as unpleasant, stinky, and worthless. On the other hand, shit DOES make the flowers grow. Most everything has a purpose of some sort. Most everything has at least something good about it. If you stop and think long enough about it, you can probably come up with something good about almost anything.

For example, a lot of people dislike Donald Trump. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I can’t stand the man. But– I can legitimately state that some good things came from Trump’s time as president. For instance, I have noticed that many people have become much less complacent about voting than they once were. They are no longer okay with skipping elections, because they’ve seen what not voting can lead to. Or– if they support Trump– they realize that their votes will make a difference. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum one falls on, I think it’s a very good thing to exercise the right to vote. It’s a very valuable right in a civilized society to be able to make one’s voice heard. So, in my opinion, making people more aware of the right to vote and impressing upon them how important voting is is a good thing Trump did. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s a contemptible asshole. But he isn’t 100% bad, either. Almost no one is.

I can even extend this thought to people like Josh Duggar. I don’t like Josh Duggar. I think he’s a massive creep who has done terrible things. However, I don’t think he’s the worst person there ever was, and I recognize that there are people in the world who love him, in spite of his criminal behavior. I also realize that he’s got six kids and one on the way who would not be here if not for him. I don’t know a thing about Josh’s children, but I’m assuming that they have the potential to be good people. They don’t have to turn out like Josh has. And they would not be here or who they are if not for their father. At this point, they probably love their dad and, if they’re aware of what’s going on, may feel scared and upset that he may soon be going to prison for a long time. So I have some compassion for them, too… and that leads me to have some compassion for Josh, in spite of how terrible his actions have been.

Because I have compassion, I can’t support mistreating people who have done bad things. I think they should be punished, and some need to be permanently taken out of society because they will harm others. But I don’t support deliberately making them miserable, torturing them, or harming them. I do understand the sentiment of feeling like you want to hurt or kill someone who’s done you wrong. I even express it at times when I am angry. But the reality is, I don’t want to see people being hurt, even if they’ve hurt others. I mainly think it’s only appropriate to hurt or kill someone when it’s done in self-defense.

Most commenters on this video don’t think Ghislaine should be treated decently. I disagree.

I recently watched a video about the conditions Ghislaine Maxwell is dealing with as she awaits her trial regarding her alleged sex trafficking crimes. In the video, Maxwell’s lawyer explains that Maxwell is in a living hell. While I do think she needs to be confined because she is a potential flight risk, I can understand why she’s complaining about her conditions in jail. But there were so many comments from people indicating that they had no compassion for her and she deserves to be treated cruelly. I can’t agree with that. She’s still a sentient human being. Being cruel to people who have done wrong doesn’t change them for the better. It makes them worse. I don’t want Ghislaine Maxwell to be worse than she is. I want her to be a better person. So I think she should be treated humanely.

I think all people should be treated with humanity, whenever possible. And I write this realizing that I’m sometimes a hypocrite when I get angry… I sometimes express anger in a way that seems contrary to the idea of compassion. But I’m telling you that deep down, despite being angry, I don’t support hurting people or making them suffer unnecessarily. That includes Bill’s ex wife, whom I legitimately despise. I mainly want her to stay out of my life and am content with letting her destructive actions lead to natural consequences. I would also hope people would show compassion to me, so I do try to show it to others. I can be compassionate and still think a person should be held accountable… or even have some contempt for them.

Anyway… I don’t know what Renee Alway is up to now. I think it’s troubling that she turned to crime. I suspect she suffered abuse in her past and is dealing with it in a way that isn’t helpful. When I saw her on ANTM, I really did think she was gorgeous and talented. I rooted for her and hoped she’d win. I wish things had turned out differently and she didn’t succumb to criminal behavior. But I realize Renee has friends… and some of those friends can’t bear to see her criticized. I do understand wanting to protect your friends, but screaming at me to be quiet doesn’t help your case. It just draws attention to that which you claim is damaging. So, as Rumi says, “raise your words, not voice.” If you want something to grow– like flowers or food– you have to nourish and nurture it. In other words, be constructive, not destructive. And try to have kindness and compassion toward people, especially if you want them to return that sentiment to you.

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true crime

An email I got this morning…

If you’ve been watching the news feed, you might know that the late Jeffrey Epstein’s ex girlfriend, 58 year old British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, was arrested in New Hampshire yesterday. Epstein, of course, was a notorious sexual predator who was extraordinarily wealthy. Ghislaine Maxwell was Epstein’s girlfriend, but she also is accused of recruiting a lot of his victims. Because of her part in the disgusting human sex trafficking ring he was running, Maxwell was finally picked up by the FBI. She was remanded into custody and awaits transport to answer charges in New York, where she’s been accused of helping to recruit and groom Epstein’s victims, some of whom were as young as 14 years old.

I followed this case somewhat before Epstein died of “suicide” in jail last year. Many people think Epstein was actually murdered. Maybe he was. He had very powerful friends who had a lot to lose if his real story was ever made public. He was linked to people like Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and of course, our very own orange idiot, Donald Trump. I watched all of the episodes of Filthy Rich, the Netflix documentary series about Epstein, and blogged about them. I know he was not a good man.

So, knowing that Epstein was a complete and total scumbag, imagine my surprise this morning, when I got this rather hilarious email from a “financial advisor” to Mr. Epstein:

I usually toss these kinds of emails without reading them. I just couldn’t help myself this morning. When I saw Jeffrey Epstein’s name and “charity” in the same email, I had to have a good laugh. Naturally, this email is bullshit, although it somehow made it to my main mailbox rather than the spam roundfile, where it belongs. These people trying to capitalize on greed must be enjoying some success, or they wouldn’t keep doing it. Whoever wrote this is obviously full of crap, though. Here’s a hint… pick a different dead wealthy person other than Jeffrey Epstein. Even if this was legit, I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with his filthy money.

As for Ghislaine Maxwell, she is denying any knowledge or participation in Mr. Epstein’s dirty dalliances. However, if you watch Filthy Rich, you will quickly hear the accounts of the many women who were victimized. And according to their very believable accounts, Ms. Maxwell was up to her armpits in Epstein’s sexual perversions. She was all about helping him satisfy his cravings for sex, power, and “massages”. She would win the girls over by befriending them, taking them out shopping or to the movies, and convincing them to give Epstein massages, after which they would be sexually abused and perhaps farmed out to other wealthy, powerful men.

It’s about time she was charged.

Maxwell would allegedly try to normalize the abuse by talking frankly about sex with the girls, undressing in front of them, being present when the victim was undressed, and being present when Epstein was molesting them. Reading this description of what Ghislaine Maxwell did brings back memories of my dealings with the neighborhood pervert, who, when I was about ten years old, befriended me and gave me attention that I wasn’t getting from my family. He used to show me men’s magazines and talk to me about sexual topics. I think that affected me a lot more than I realized at the time. Because I was a child, I didn’t realize that what he was doing was sexual abuse. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized just how inappropriate and wrong it was. Fortunately, in my case, there was never a graduation to the next step, which would have been totally horrifying.

When I think about what those young girls went through, because they had bad home lives, wanted to be models, or were simply hoping to make a friend, it breaks my heart. Those kinds of offenses have ripple effects that affect innocent people. For instance, because of what happened to me, my husband has to deal with some baggage that makes it harder for us to enjoy intimacy. And the women who were abused by Epstein and Maxwell and everyone else of their ilk are passing along that damage to their significant others and children, as well as their other friends and loved ones.

Anyway… I am glad Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested. I want her to get a fair trial and, if she is proven guilty, I hope she does some time. Hopefully, she won’t “commit suicide” before she’s been brought to justice. And I hope the idiot who sent the above email– probably not really named Lawrence Pierre– doesn’t manage to fool anyone with this foolishness. It’s shameful to try to rip people off, but especially when you’re doing it by appealing to greed with a criminal’s money. If anyone gets any of Epstein’s filthy lucre, it should be his many victims.

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