mental health, psychology, rants

I didn’t even know this was a thing…

Living in Germany for seven years has taken me out of the loop regarding certain American cultural mores. Like, for instance, Halloween etiquette. Germans are catching on to Halloween, but by and large, it’s not really a thing here. I do remember years past, when Bill and I were living in the United States. We would carve a jack o’ lantern (poorly) and wait for kids in cute costumes to ring the bell and yell “trick or treat!”. When we lived on Fort Belvoir, we would get dozens of kids on Halloween! But now, if we buy candy for Halloween, we mostly end up eating it ourselves.

Anyway, a friend of mine has three sons that she worked very hard for… When I say she “worked hard”, I mean it took a lot of effort for her to get, and stay, pregnant. She finally had a son and twin boys, and she’s really into raising them. We became friends at a time when I was also hoping to become a mother. I didn’t work as hard at it as she did, though.

One of my friends’ children has autism. I don’t know how high on the spectrum the lad is, but I do see his mom posting a lot about autism and the causes associated with it. Yesterday, she posted this image.

Wow… I wouldn’t have even known what to think if someone rang my bell and had a blue pumpkin bucket.

I think I had dimly heard of the teal candy bucket for kids with food allergies. I don’t think I ever knew anything about the blue buckets for people with autism. Either way, if someone comes to my house trick or treating, of course I’m going to give them candy. I can’t imagine why someone would give a person a hard time on a night that’s supposed to be about fun. I don’t even care if it’s an adult who’s got their hand out, looking for a sweet. Who cares? I also would never fat shame someone on Halloween– I do remember a few years ago, some woman getting in the news because she handed out fat shaming letters to fat kids on Halloween instead of giving them candy. That sucks!

But again, it’s been a long time since I last was expected to pass out any candy on October 31, and many of the places we’ve lived in the States haven’t been conducive to trick or treaters, anyway. In Georgia and North Carolina, we lived way out in the boonies and didn’t have many neighbors, and we never got Halloween visitors. So this is an issue I probably would have stayed ignorant to, if not for my online friend with a child who has autism.

I probably took more interest in the above post because I also recently got into it with a woman who is mutually friended to a lady I met on the Recovery from Mormonism message board. The woman who argued with me, took offense because I disagree with banning the word “retard”. I don’t think people should be using that word as an insult, but to ban it outright is a bridge too far, in my view. It has other meanings besides the insulting one.

In the course of that argument about why she thinks the word “retard” should be forbidden, the woman told me that one of my comments was “stupid”. I took that as hugely hypocritical and ended up blocking her, because she was being offensive and wasting my time. It seems to me that if a person doesn’t want to be insulted, they shouldn’t be insulting to others. But again, she said she has autism, and maybe people with autism lack the ability to practice what they preach. I honestly don’t know. I am ignorant on that topic.

I will totally admit that I don’t know much about autism. I probably would have known more if Bill had been able to raise his older daughter, who is reportedly on the spectrum. But the fact remains, I don’t know too much about this phenomenon… only that when I was growing up, we didn’t hear about it nearly as much as we do now. I’m sure it existed, and there were probably many undiagnosed people who had it and were trying to function in a world made for neurotypical people. Things seem to have been a lot more black and white when I was a kid.

Nowadays, it seems like everyone feels like all of the people in the world should automatically change their way of thinking and doing things. Many people seem to be loudly and aggressively demanding that change. Not surprisingly, they’re being met with resistance by people who don’t like to be told what to do. I’m not saying the change isn’t necessary. It often is. But expecting everyone and everything to change on a dime is unrealistic and unfair. Aside from that, people are going to occasionally fuck up and say or do something insensitive. That’s life.

I appreciate the people who feel the need to be educators and activists on the autism issue. I don’t mind being clued in on things I don’t know about. But I am a little bit confused about some things. First off– do people want special treatment or consideration because they have a certain disability? Or do they want to be treated like everyone else is treated? It seems to me that if they want to be treated like everyone else is treated, it’s not realistic to also expect special treatment.

If someone wants to be treated like everyone else is treated, autism or other issues must be irrelevant. Declaring a need for certain considerations means that a person isn’t like everyone else is. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of respect. It simply means that the person has special needs that need to be accommodated and, in fact, they aren’t like everyone else is. What’s wrong with that, as long the differences are handled with kindness, discretion, and sensitivity?

Secondly, do people want complete privacy? Or do they want special consideration because they have a certain condition? If they want privacy, how can they expect special consideration for a medical problem? If I don’t know anything about someone’s health challenges, how can I know what their needs are? How can I address them?

Take, for instance, the exchange I had last week with the woman who argued with me over disagreeing that the word “retard” should be banned. When she responded, she immediately qualified her first statement by saying, “I have autism.”

I thought to myself, “So?” So you have autism. Does that mean I don’t get to have an opinion about this? Like I said, I don’t know much about autism, but I do know that having it doesn’t mean a person has a poor intellect. Should I have felt sorry for her for having autism? Does it give her license to speak to me in any way she pleases? Or should I treat her the way I would treat anyone who aggressively attacks my opinions?

The woman who argued with me clearly was articulate enough. Do people routinely call her “retarded”? If so, that’s definitely wrong. But she’s obviously not someone with a slow intellect anyway. Based on what little I could tell about her, she should have been capable of understanding my point without attacking me and calling me “stupid”. We should have been able to have a calm discussion without her laying into me aggressively and sarcastically. Or is that not possible with a person who has autism? I honestly don’t know. If being unable to be respectful is a feature of autism, I hope someone will tell me. But even if it is a feature, how would I even know that a random person has autism if they don’t tell me? And if I don’t know, how can I give them special consideration?

I think everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and basic respect. That means giving people the benefit of the doubt if they disagree. Just because someone doesn’t share your views, that doesn’t necessarily always mean they’re a bad person or even in need of “education”. They might just have a different perspective, and maybe it’s one you’ve never even considered. Also, opinions aren’t facts. Everyone has a right to their opinions, but they should not be presented as facts.

My favorite color happens to be blue. When I was a child, I probably would have loved to have had a blue pumpkin as my candy bucket. And my mom, who wasn’t up on all the childhood trends, even in the early 1980s, probably would have bought it for me out of sheer ignorance. I would expect that if I went door to door looking for candy on Halloween night, the people in my neighborhood wouldn’t have given me any shit about having a blue pumpkin, but not having autism or some other disorder. It would not have been their business.

The comments on the original post about the blue pumpkin got pretty heated. I noticed some people were lauding the post, but others took huge issue with it. Things got pretty wild. Have a look.

Like I said, I don’t know much about autism. My guess, based on the above comments and my recent interaction with someone claiming to be autistic, is that people with autism are very sensitive about some things. I can see that none of the people commenting above have any issues with their intellects. They are all writing coherently and correctly. But they’ve all aggressively dog piled on this woman who disagreed with them, albeit in a rude and profane way, and are now engaging in some of the behavior that they were initially denouncing. I’ve seen similar behavior in other online discussions, particularly in military circles. I find this kind of behavior disturbing, and I highly doubt much came of this discussion, other than some raised adrenaline.

It seems to me that being kinder and less antagonistic would net better results than being accusatory and insulting… Yes, the first poster was wrong to say the post was “full of shit”, and she was wrong to write “only an idiot”. But then the mob descends upon her, questioning her parenting skills, saying she’s a poor example to her child, and making sweeping assessments of a perfect stranger’s character. It seems very hypocritical to me. What would have happened if most of them had responded in a calm, kind, and understanding manner, rather than resorting to lecturing, shaming, and insults of their own? But again, maybe this is a part of autism that I don’t know anything about. People with autism get to be shaming, but other people have to be “respectful” toward them.

In any case… I think the original poster, who’s been threatened with “banning”, should bow out of that group and find one that is less hostile. It doesn’t appear that she’s very welcome there, which is a shame. Maybe she DOES need to be educated. At the same time, the folks in the autism group are certainly right to try to educate people, but there’s a way to do so that won’t be alienating. Other people have the right to their opinions, too. And it’s hard to get anywhere in a discussion when it devolves into namecalling and insults. There’s no reason in the world why people in that group should have said such personally insulting things to a total stranger, even if the original poster did initially come off as rude and offensive.

And if people don’t want to be “outed” for having autism, perhaps they shouldn’t be using it as a pass for being so hostile and insulting to other people. I get wanting to be respected. Everybody wants that. But just because a person has autism or some other issue, that doesn’t give them the right to expect special consideration and engage in hypocrisy, particularly in an online interaction. I’ve found that people often mirror back to you what you put into the world. Besides that, everyone has challenges and difficulties. I don’t have autism, but people have been mean to me, too. I try not to let it get me down for too long.

That being said… anyone who knocks on my door on Halloween is welcome to candy, regardless of their age, weight, costume, or whether or not they say “trick or treat”. Because I don’t need any more presents for my ass.

Standard
condescending twatbags, language, overly helpful people, social media

No, I’m not gonna get on the word “ban-wagon”…

In May of 2013, Bill and I were sitting at a train station in Venice, Italy. We were waiting to catch our ride to Florence on Italo, a then brand new private Italian train company. As we were waiting, we heard an announcement in Italian about a train that was significantly delayed. The pre-recorded announcement did not use the word “delay”. Instead, it included an Italian incarnation of the word “retard”, used as an adjective.

Bill turned to me and said, “Now you see… there’s an instance in which the word “retard” is used in a completely non-offensive way.”

I have never forgotten that conversation, especially as more and more “woke” types feel the need to outright ban certain words from the English language. I am all for avoiding deliberately insulting others, especially those who suffer from any kind of intellectual disabilities that are beyond their control.

However, as I realized when we were at the train station in Italy, words have many nuances, usages, and definitions. Some words are inherently offensive, and almost always used in a hurtful way. And sometimes, people deliberately take offense at the use of a “taboo” word when absolutely no harm is intended. That causes problems that could just as easily be avoided if the person would simply be more mature and stop being willfully ignorant.

It’s been many years since I last used the word “retard” in the taboo way, although I will admit that in the 1980s, it was a word that was flung around on playgrounds and school busses with the greatest of ease. It was also used in plenty of 70s and 80s era comedies, both on television and in the movies. I can think of two films off the top of my head– very popular movies that still remain popular today–in which characters use the word “retard” as an insult.

Today, those films would probably not be made with the word “retard” used as an insult, although I would not be surprised if some incarnation of the word “douche” was used in its place. Personally, I find the word “douche” offensive for several reasons, but I’m not campaigning to have it banned. In many cultures, the word “douche” just means “shower”, and is perfectly useful and non-offensive. So rather than trying to get the word “douche” banned, I simply avoid using it myself.

As a lover of language, I can’t quite bring myself to jump on the “ban-wagon” when it comes to any word, even the ones that can start riots. I never think of words as things that should ever be banned, even when they are deemed very “offensive”. Instead, I am more concerned about context and the attitude behind the use of language. And yes, that means that I think words that people routinely campaign to have struck from the language are sometimes acceptable to use in certain contexts. To avoid being offended, it’s up to people to grow up and not be deliberately obtuse. Otherwise, they’re doomed to stay butthurt.

This morning, someone shared the below post on Facebook. If I had already had my coffee, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and ignored it. But instead, I left a response. Basically, I wrote that the word “retard” is only a slur if it’s used as an insult. There are other ways to use it that are totally neutral.

I knew I might regret leaving that comment, but the friend who shared this is usually a very understanding person. I figured she’d get what I mean. Besides, while I understand people being aggravated by insulting, demeaning language, I am aggravated by people who presume to tell me what I can or cannot say or write.

I think people should be responsible for their own use of language; most of them don’t need the language police to remind them to be “politically correct”. Frankly, I’m fed up with people who use social media as a place for that kind of soap box activism, particularly when all they’ve done is shared someone else’s viral post. Facebook was originally supposed to be fun, wasn’t it?

No, thank you, I won’t be teaching anyone that the word “retard” is worse than the word “fuck”. That’s someone’s “absolutely ridiculous” opinion… at least in MY opinion. I still get to have one, right?

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before someone came along and tried to school me about how the word “retard” is never acceptable. This person wrote that it’s no longer used by professionals and it’s outdated, etcetera, etcetera.

My response– simply because I was feeling stubborn and my verbal restraint reflex was somewhat “retarded”– was that yes, in fact, sometimes the word “retard” is perfectly acceptable and unoffensive. That word has other meanings besides the insulting one. The word “retard”, when used as a verb, means “to slow or delay”. That was how it was used at the train station in Italy. No one got offended when it was used in that way. I can think of other ways the word “retard” can be used that shouldn’t cause offense to anyone.

The person who challenged me came back and posted that she’s got autism. Actually, I believe she wrote that she’s “autistic”, and has an “autistic” child. I was a little surprised that she put it that way, since I thought the emphasis was supposed to be on the person rather than the condition. Like– I thought it was more politically correct to say, “I have autism” rather than “I’m autistic.” But I am not in that world, so I don’t know, and I wouldn’t presume to tell someone who is in that world how they should refer to themselves.

Besides, I don’t think of autism as something inherently good or bad. My husband’s older daughter is supposedly on the spectrum, but we know she is a brilliant artist and she’s proven that there’s nothing wrong with her intellect. I don’t know if she’s sorry she has autism. She no longer speaks to Bill. But, based on what I know about her, she’s got plenty of things going for her besides the condition of autism.

I responded to my friend’s friend that I was sorry that people have used the word “retard” in an offensive way, and that she is offended by its use. But I am not going to be told that I can’t use a word that I know is perfectly acceptable in many situations, simply because some group says it’s “offensive”, in and of itself. That’s wrong.

The challenger then asked me to use the word “retard” in an unoffensive way. So I wrote something along the lines of, “I see no reason to retard the development of languages by banning specific words.”

She then wrote that my answer was “stupid”. There was more to her comment, but I quit reading, because she made it clear that respectful communication and education weren’t her goals. Instead, it appeared that she wanted to disparage my intellect by referring to my answer as “stupid”. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? I guess she didn’t see the irony. She’s lecturing me about not ever using the word “retard” because it’s disrespectful and hurtful, but then she uses the word “stupid” to describe my comment and, based on her perceived tone, my intellect.

I truly didn’t want to get into a pissing match with this person, since I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. If she did know me, she might be surprised by how “not stupid” I am, at least compared to the average person. Even if she did still think I’m stupid after meeting me, that would obviously be her uninformed and incorrect opinion.

I realized, however, that my time would probably be wasted trying to continue the conversation. As I didn’t want to get into a legitimate argument, I wrote “So now you are insulting me. That’s very nice. Have a good day.”

Normally, when a person writes “Have a good day.”, that means they’re done with the discussion and are politely trying to bow out. I figure that’s a more respectful way of leaving the conversation than telling them to “fuck off” is. But, as this person says she has autism, I guess she didn’t pick up on the social cue. She came back and wrote, “Feeling insulted, huh?” then continued with more insults…

I guess, if I were going to assign an emotion to how I felt about her response, it would be “annoyed” or maybe “puzzled”. It does seem strange to be preached at by a stranger about not offending people with intellectual disabilities by calling them “retarded” (which I never did), and then, in the next breath, having that same person refer to my comment as “stupid”.

If I had written that I thought her comment was “retarded”, what would her response be? Isn’t “stupid” just as offensive as “retarded”? At least the word “retard”, even when used an insulting way, indicates a medical condition that a person can’t help. Stupid just means a person or thing is dull-witted and unintelligent, whether or not they can help being that way. I can’t think of many ways the word “stupid” could be used that isn’t negative.

I wrote something akin to, “No, I’m not ‘feeling insulted’. You’re being hypocritical, and I have other things to do. So kindly enjoy your day, and I will continue to speak and write as I please.” I truly wasn’t “insulted” by her comment, because I would have to care about her opinion to be insulted by it. But I will admit to being annoyed by her comments and her erroneous presumptions about me. Especially, since I truly didn’t attempt to insult her.

Then she wrote some sarcastic remark about how I can keep “offending” people with special needs, but at that point, I used my block button. Because I do actually have better things to do with my time today than argue with a perfect stranger about my vocabulary. Hell, cleaning the lint out of my belly button would be a better use of my time than continuing that unproductive discussion with someone whose mind is currently closed. She obviously didn’t see my point, and wasn’t going to try to see it. Instead, she was hellbent on “winning” the argument, and doing so in a disrespectful, non-empathic way. Still, she failed to convince me, so I guess she can keep fighting the good fight with someone else.

Some people might point out that I probably “asked” for this unpleasant exchange. I would agree with them that it’s mostly pointless to point out these kinds of language discrepancies among friends. A person who would share an image like the one above probably has strong feelings about the subject matter, but hasn’t thought very long and hard about them, and is just looking for likes and loves, rather than actual commentary.

On the other hand, I do get annoyed when some busybody presumes to correct my language. I’m an adult, and fully responsible for what I say and do. If I say something egregiously obnoxious or offensive, it may be appropriate to call me out for that. But I don’t really need my friends to pre-emptively instruct me on the proper way to use language.

Moreover, I think my opinions matter as much as anyone else’s do. I’ve spent my life being told that my thoughts and feelings don’t matter, so I tend to be strong-willed and argumentative about these things, now that I am an adult. I realize it’s hard to be assertive about such things without still inadvertently offending people. Such is life.

I do get irritated when people try to tell me how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking. I think it’s disrespectful to try to read people’s minds, especially when they’re strangers. Maybe I would be happier if I just “let it go”, but I think that people who are able to do that often don’t think about much more other than what’s right in front of them.

Either that, or they’re like that Japanese monk Bill and I ran into a few years ago, who just radiated peace, serenity, and calmness. I have seen very few people like that in my lifetime. I would actually LOVE to be like that monk… although I realize I am ASSUMING he is actually as calm as he appeared. For all I know, he’s got a hot temper.

Perhaps today I will go out of my way to use the word “retard” in non-offensive ways. Of course, around here, most people speak German and don’t speak to me, anyway, so that effort might be lost on them. Also… when it comes to grammar policing, all bets are off.

Standard
family, modern problems, politics

Nothing says “I love you” like a thirteen year old falsely attributed email forward…

I still have a bit of writer’s block today… Well, maybe I don’t have writer’s block per se. There’s a lot I could write about. I just don’t feel like getting into what’s on everyone’s minds right now. I would rather complain about something else. Today’s topic is not as much of a problem as it once was. In some ways it’s a relief. In other ways, it’s kinda sad. The title of today’s post is recycled, but the content is mostly fresh.

I grew up with a large, extended family on my dad’s side. I have three sisters, and we all have the same parents. My sisters are much older than I am, though, so in some ways, they seemed more like my aunts. My father had eight brothers and sisters, and seven of them made it to adulthood. My aunts and uncles each had either 2 or 4 children, so there are 22 grandchildren– 11 males and 11 females.

When I was growing up, I thought I had a really awesome family. And, I guess I do… except for the fact that I feel like I no longer belong. Looking back on it, though, I realize that I probably never really belonged. I used to fight with my younger cousins a lot. Now that we’re adults, I’ve found that I’m a lot more liberal than most of my family members are. I didn’t used to be this way. I used to identify as a Republican. I now realize that was because I didn’t know a thing about politics or politicians. I simply voted the way my family and a lot of my friends did. It took leaving the nest to find my own views. And it’s taken several more years for me to have the conviction and confidence to defend my opinions. Sadly, I think that’s taken a toll on some of my relationships.

At least I’m not getting so many of these anymore. Even my more enlightened family members sometimes sent these.

Today’s blog post title was originally used on a post I wrote in 2016 about certain members of my extended family mindlessly sending me falsely attributed emails that parroted their conservative views. On the original post, I wrote about how one of my favorite relatives, now sadly deceased, had sent me an email supposedly written by the late Andy Rooney. I grew up watching Mr. Rooney on 60 Minutes. He was famously cranky, curmudgeonly, and witty. Sometimes, he had controversial opinions. Still, I couldn’t believe that Andy Rooney would have written an email that espoused the racist views in the email sent to me by my relatives. I checked Snopes, and sure enough, my hunch was correct.

In my 2016 post, I wrote that I was sad for a couple of reasons that I had received that forwarded email. Rooney was a talented writer and expressed himself gracefully.  Would he have really written something along the lines of “It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid and smack their little ass when necessary and say ‘NO.’?” And even if Andy Rooney had written the email and did agree with its sentiments, why on earth would people in my family think I would appreciate or agree with that tripe? I figured they must not know me very well. I wrote:

I could sit here and dissect that email forward for its very hateful messages.  Instead, I’m just going to make a comment to the people who actually know me and follow this blog (or the other two).  First of all, I am not a political conservative.  I don’t agree with a lot of conservative views.  I am probably more of a centrist than anything else.  While I am generally not a fan of political correctness being forced down people’s throats and I place a high value on the freedom of expression, I also appreciate civility and empathy.  I try really hard not to be cruel to people, even when I feel angry enough to be cruel.  While I would never say that I’m a bleeding heart liberal, neither am I a crusty conservative.  And I would never align myself with the attitude presented in the email forward I received last night.

What really surprises me is that the people who forwarded that email to me are a couple of my favorite relatives.  They have always been good to me… probably even better to me than my own parents ever were.  They are genuinely kind to everyone.  I hesitate to send a negative response to them, even in a loving tone, because despite hating the constant forwarded emails, I do love them very much and don’t want to offend them, even though they’ve offended me.  I respect them as my elders and as people who helped make me who I am. 

I ended my post wondering what I should do. I didn’t want to be offensive, but that email was offensive to me. It didn’t speak to me. And while I’m sure I could have crafted a kind response to them and a request not to mindlessly forward conservative political bullshit to me, I’m not sure that would have been received in a spirit of fun or goodwill. I wrote this in my 2016 post:

Part of me thinks it’s easiest to just ignore and delete the emails.  Another part of me feels like I should say something about them.  I’m torn between not wanting to upset people and feeling like I need to call bullshit.  I wonder if it’s worth the hassle and if my saying anything would change anything.  It’s not that I don’t want to hear from my family members.  It’s just that 99.9% of the forwards, even if they aren’t hateful and racist, are just plain useless and/or stupid.

I have heard people say that when you get a forwarded email from someone, you should take it as a sign they were thinking of you.  If that’s true, how am I supposed to take it when I get an email that really doesn’t connect with my beliefs or world view at all?  And it’s not even something my relative wrote from the heart– it’s ripped off crap written by some anonymous identity thieving hack.  If I had received an original email from a family member that contained the same sentiments in the so-called Andy Rooney hack job, I probably still wouldn’t appreciate it much.  But at least I’d know the email was somewhat original and written for me.  I would at least have a sign that the family member was communicating with me personally and not just poking me with rehashed crap that has already been spread to the masses.  What the hell is the point of forwarding shit that has been forwarded ad nauseam for over a decade and identified as not being authentic?

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve been trained to be “nice”. I grew up with a father who believed in “smacking my ‘little’ ass” whenever he felt it was warranted. Of course, when he did that, he was usually angry and sometimes intoxicated. So his judgment about whether or not physical discipline was required was probably a bit skewed. The end result was that when my father died in 2014, I was kind of ambivalent. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t miss him very much, even though I thought I loved him when he was alive.

Yesterday, Bill and I were talking about his dad, who died last November. I never got a chance to know my father-in-law well. I saw him in person a handful of times. I always thought he was a nice man, albeit a little bit simple. I say “simple”, but that doesn’t mean I think he was “simple-minded”. He was just not one to fuss with complexities. He had a tendency to be nice to a fault, and he let people steamroll him… to include Bill’s ex wife. He didn’t know Bill that well, because he and Bill’s mom divorced when Bill was very young. Bill visited his dad, but due to the nature of visitation, it was hard for them to bond or have a relationship in which there was more than a “vacation” mindset. Then Bill’s mom moved to Arizona and later, Texas, while Bill’s dad lived in Tennessee. So that made it even harder for them to really bond.

Bill missed his father’s funeral, thanks to COVID-19. He did manage to tell him he loved him, thanks to Skype. Bill’s dad’s last words were a request for Bill to be kind to his wife, Bill’s stepmother. The one thing Bill’s dad said to me, during the few times I met him, was that Bill had exceeded his expectations. He said that he hadn’t thought Bill was tough enough to be in the Army. But Bill had proven him wrong. I think he meant it as an expression of pride, but it was actually kind of a backhanded compliment. But at least Bill’s dad wasn’t a believer in physical violence to get his point across, as my father was. I wish they had known each other better before time ran out.

Ain’t it the truth… and it sometimes takes awhile before people get the message.

Nowadays, I don’t get those forwards from my relatives. What ended up happening is that another relative went way too far. And I got really mad and cussed him out. It happened in February 2017, when Bill and I were vacationing in France. My uncle sent a pro Trump/Pence forward to me. Feeling a bit saucy, and more than a little fed up by the constant political bullshit, I sent a polite response. Seriously, it initially WAS polite. I simply wrote back that I wasn’t impressed with either Trump or Pence and thought they both needed to go. In a blog post from that time, I wrote this:

My uncle came back and accused me of being a “nut case”.  He said that in two years, I’ll be “cheering” for Trump.  He assumes I voted for Hillary Clinton.  I didn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, but I would much prefer her to Trump.  At least she’s competent and knows enough not to act like a goddamn psychopath on Twitter. 

So anyway, being called a nutcase by my uncle pissed me the fuck right off.  So I wrote back to him and said, “No, Ed, I really will not [be cheering].  You need to stop sending me this crap.  Unless you want a verbal ass kicking, you’ll take me off your email list.” 

My sister saw what I wrote and said, “Oh no, now you’ve done it.”  I explained to her that I’m rapidly reaching a point at which I am about to disassociate with people who resort to mean spirited personal insults over politics, even if it’s a family member.  She implored me to calm down, probably realizing that since I live overseas and don’t miss anyone, it would be all too easy for me to simply drop out of the family fold altogether.

He responded and once again called me crazy.  He also said “GET OVER IT!”  Just like that.

I wonder, does he really expect me to just “get over it”?  He knows where I come from.  I have a lot of the same qualities he has.  In fact, being outspoken is what makes me a family member of his. 

Anyway… I wrote back and said, “Ed, I’m warning you.  Leave me alone.  Stop sending me political bullshit.”

He may write back today, after he’s had a few belts.  If he does, I will probably shred him.

As I recall, Ed did send me a few more political emails, but there were fewer of them. And now I don’t get so many anymore, partly because some of the worst offenders are now dead. And partly because I finally got angry and told the still living ones to knock it off. But now I don’t really hear much from them anymore…

Yesterday, I told Bill that I still love my family, but I don’t feel like I can go home again. I don’t think I want to spend a holiday with them like I used to, when I was younger and more pliant. The political forwards weren’t always bad, though. Sometimes, they inspired me to be creative. My uncle sent me the below forwarded poem back in January 2018. Try not to gag (even though of COURSE I honor our vets– I am married to one).

Re: Fwd: Fw: A TERRIFIC POEM /Our Vets.

Iā€™m honored to have the opportunity to pass this well-written poem along.

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”

PLEASE,
If you are proud of our Vets, then pass this on.

I was so tired of my uncle’s conservative political forwards that I decided to rewrite this “well-written” poem… I don’t remember if I sent it to him. I probably didn’t, since I was trained to be “nice”.

He was getting old and senile
And his mind was failing fast,
Uncle Ed sat by his computer,
Sending emails from the past.
 
Of politicians he agreed with
And decisions they had made,
Of their exploits within Washington;
Slashing Social Security and Medicaid.
 
And ‘tho to some of his relatives
Ed’s emails were mostly bunk,
They resolved to just ignore them
Cuz’ they figured he was drunk.
 
Sometimes the emails are racist
and often they offend,
And my mood’s a little poorer
when Uncle Ed hits “send”.

He’s worked and raised a family,
And managed his travails;
Yet on the day he passes,
I’ll only recall his emails.
 
Although I’ve always loved him,
his children, and his wife.
I tire of his political bullshit;
which often causes strife.

For many politicians are selfish,
And people think they’re fake,
Others forecast their passing,
And the policies they’ll make.
 
The media tells how their choices
Badly affect the old and the young,
And the way they screw the veterans
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
 
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
An uncle who sends political emails
And disturbs his fellow man?
 
Or the ordinary housewife
Whose nerves are worn and frayed,
Fighting hard to still the impulse
that make her words cut like blades?
 
The hapless housewife’s stipend
And the style in which she lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the lack of a shit she gives.
 
About her uncle’s politics,
Republican and all,
His insights regarding morality,
And how America will fall.
 
It is not the lowly relative
With patience, grace, and poise,
Who wins respect and gratitude
When her drunken uncle annoys.
 
Should she find herself angry,
The latest missive on her screen,
Wouldn’t she like to respond,
To his ever-venting spleen?
 
Or would she just sit quietly
Again holding her piece,
As her dad, Ed’s big brother Bill,
Taught Ed’s very clever niece.
 
She’s just a common cousin,
Daughter, sister, niece, and female,
But her life is worth just enough–
To receive masses of forwarded email.
 
For when old men are online,
In the darkest hours of the night,
One never knows what bullshit
They’ll send via kilobyte.

She cannot block his postings
And he will not volunteer,
To stop forwarding ridiculous emails,
That won’t inspire cheer…

Perhaps in a simple reprimand
her response will someday be:
“I’M TIRED OF YOUR FORWARDS.
STOP SENDING THAT CRAP TO ME.”

PLEASE…
If you are sick of mindless email forwards full of conservative politics, then pass this on.

Maybe it’s kind of mean to be rewriting this classic piece of poetry that so touched my uncle’s heart.  However, I think I’ve historically generally been pretty patient with him. At the time I posted this, I asked him to stop sending me this shit a year prior, and yet he persisted.  I might as well have a little fun with it.  After all, a gift for words is something passed down from his side of the family. It’s like being related to a bunch of southern styled Archie Bunkers.

Ah well… We’ll see if and when I ever go home again. Maybe I’m better off over here with Bill. Maybe it’s a lucky thing that I see things more clearly now than I used to, even if my eyes get more myopic and astigmatic by the day. It’s probably true that you can never really go home again. And sometimes, even your relatives don’t really know you.

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music, musings, psychology, stupid people

“I wanna pull on your coat about something…”

Go ahead, Tom… pull on my coat about something.

Back in the summer of 1993, I was employed as the cook at a Presbyterian church camp in Virginia. I had a small kitchen staff, which included three teenaged guys who washed dishes for me. Two of the guys lived in West Virginia; the other lived in North Carolina. One of the guys, a British citizen whose stepfather worked in Maryland, even though they lived in West Virginia, had really awesome taste in music. He made me a mix tape, which he sent to me at my college in Virginia. One of the songs on the mix tape was Tom Waits’ hilarious song, “Emotional Weather Report”. It was my first exposure to Mr. Waits. Below is the version that was on my tape. In it, Tom Waits says, “I wanna pull on your coat about something.” He means he wants to tell you about something on his mind.

What did it take for Tom Waits to come up with this? The mind boggles.

Just like Tom Waits in 1975, I wanna pull on your coat about something. Yesterday, I wrote about the song “Ladies Who Lunch”, which is a great Stephen Sondheim number from the show Company. I learned to sing it, inspired by some hate mail I got from a guy named Steven Jenkins. Ol’ Steve left me a rude comment, implying that I’m “stupid”. He didn’t like my negative opinions about Donald Trump and apparently felt compelled to tell me so.

I decided to send him a very short emailed response in which I advised him to stay off my blog and go fuck himself. He wrote back, and admitted that he was overjoyed that I had tossed him a bone. His email was full of the word “fuck” and more insults. I’m assuming he thought that would offend me. Obviously, he doesn’t know me at all. Moreover, in reading the guy’s message, it occurred to me that I definitely wasn’t the stupid one. He actually asked me how one fucks themselves. I would have figured a guy like him would be an expert at that, but maybe the lack of stimulation is what gave him such a “charming” personality and expansive vocabulary.

Anyway… I was focused on learning my new song, and I think I was quite successful with it. Not that it matters to anyone but me, of course… I just derived a lot of pleasure from trying the song, complete with bitchy overtones. It occurred to me that I probably would have been good at playing bitchy women if I had been a musical theater enthusiast when I was younger. Then I watched the movie, Camp, which is a great sleeper film and features a bunch of young people with enormous talent, including Anna Kendrick, Caitlyn Van Zandt, and Sasha Allen. Every time I watch it, I get choked up, and yesterday was no exception.

As I was watching Camp, ol’ Steve visited again, this time hanging around for a bit longer. He tried to post another comment on my blog. To be honest, I didn’t read it, although I did notice that there were many curse words in it, as well as insults… and more dogged, embarrassing, and reverent devotion to Donald Trump. Once again, I realized that I’m clearly not the stupid one in this situation. And it’s obvious that ‘ol Steve is in serious need of attention and validation, or something… Poor guy.

As I banned Steve from commenting and trashed his message, I pondered the situation. I ended up with a lot of questions. What motivates a person to send hateful comments to a blogger? What is his motivation for trying to engage me? We obviously have nothing in common. He likes Trump, and has the verbal skills of an intellectually disabled chipmunk. Was he thinking that I would approve his comment? Was he thinking I would even read it? Does Steve have anything in his life besides an Internet connection?

Does Steve have friends? Has he a job? Has he family– a wife or husband or children or pets? I am curious. Why is he so starved for attention that he would send me abuse on my blog? In fact, I wonder how Steve even found my blog in the first place. Was he looking up rants about Donald Trump? Does he think that my reading his stupid drivel is going to change my mind or silence me? Does he think it’s impressive to worship a malignant narcissist who brags about sexually assaulting women and ripping off people?

I think the American public was duped. Before Trump was in office, he came off as almost likable. Trump had a certain comic charisma, that I think a lot of people found entertaining and refreshing. Personally, I think he should have stuck to being an entertainer. He could have indulged his massive ego and made a lot of money without revealing to the world what a revolting person he is.

Before Trump was president, I didn’t really care too much about what he said or did. But then he was president, and it was like watching a horror movie starring the world’s biggest asshole. And because he was elected, Trump has emboldened many asshole minions who want to be just like him. I can only assume that ol’ Steve is a Trump asshole acolyte who doesn’t understand that Trump wouldn’t give someone like him the time of day. Steve wouldn’t even rate a free Big Mac at the White House.

But then in 2020, the Trump era came to an end. Trump’s minions were devastated as he was forced out of the White House, despite all his cheating and threats, as well as baseless claims of election fraud. I was immensely relieved to see Trump go, although I’m afraid that there’s someone worse than him waiting in the wings. I worry that there’s someone younger, smarter, more charismatic, and better looking just waiting to fill Trump’s shoes.

Ol’ Steve found my blog and was obviously moved by my piece about how tired I am of “willfully ignorant Trump supporters.” I’m even more tired of them today than I was in November of last year, when that piece was written. For some reason, guys like ol’ Steve can’t take it when someone dares to say out loud what so many of us rational people are thinking.

To clarify, I do get people having conservative beliefs. I do understand wanting to vote for Republican candidates, even if I no longer identify as a conservative myself. I don’t understand thinking that Trump is the right person for the job. He was mostly a failure as president. Just my opinion, of course, but I know I’m not alone in thinking that… and at least for now, I still have the right to share my opinions, especially on a blog space that I paid for. And because it’s space that I paid for, I don’t have to indulge people like ol’ Steve. I don’t have to read or publish his inane comments. And I will continue to write my opinions as much as I like, even if ol’ Steve continues to email me with his silly profanity laced twaddle. I enjoy profanity. I also enjoy wit. Steve has shown me that he can deliver profanity, but I don’t think he’s very witty. And since he still worships Trump, a man who wouldn’t deign to piss on him if he was on fire, he’s clearly not very intelligent, either.

Still… I can see that ol’ Steve wants attention, and I don’t mind obliging. I get inspiration from people like Steve. If this keeps up, I might even write a song about him. Or a fiction story… I like to turn negatives into positives. When someone tries to victimize me, I tend to fight back in creative ways. Moreover, I find Steve amusing. My first reaction to his comment was irritation, but when he sent two more yesterday, I realized that he’s just pathetic.

Melania would tell Steve to “Be best.” So that’s what I’m going to do, too… Be best, Steve. Don’t engage in cyberbullying. And while you’re at it, go fuck yourself.

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complaints, disasters, healthcare, music, politics, poor judgment, rants

I’d like to propose a toast– to difficult and unpopular decisions…

This version of “Ladies Who Lunch” suits my mood today…
And so does this one…

In contrast to my bubbly mood yesterday, today I’m feeling kind of flat and bitter. I think the constant barrage of bad news is getting me down. So are mean spirited Trump supporters.

Last night, I got a comment from someone who didn’t enjoy a post I wrote in November 2020. The person wrote that I made stupid people seem smart. I checked StatCounter to see how long he or she spent on my blog. It was a grand total of about two minutes. Nevertheless, the person was moved enough to send me an insulting comment. I’ll admit, it irritated me. I did not publish the comment. I trashed it, after sending the person a very short and profane emailed response.

I actually wish I hadn’t done that. My temper got the better of me, as it sometimes does. The wine helped. I should have just ignored the comment and been grateful for the hit, especially since the person obviously doesn’t know me and was just lashing out. Next time, I’ll try to do better.

I did give some thought to turning off comments, though, just because I’m tired of dealing with the type of person who screams about personal freedom, but can’t respect my personal freedom and perfect right to express an opinion on my space. Oh well… I guess I touched a nerve. Obviously, that person isn’t very confident in their support of the orange turd if something I wrote moved them to take the time to call me “stupid”.

I’ve been reading a lot of comments about Afghanistan. A lot of people are blaming Joe Biden for what appears to have been a disastrous departure from a country the United States has occupied for twenty years. I, for one, don’t blame Mr. Biden. We were there for twenty years. At some point, we had to leave. Biden merely carried out actions initiated by Trump, whom I seem to recall wanted us out of Afghanistan last year. I suspect Biden will be a one term president, so he’s doing a lot of unpopular but necessary stuff. Like any good and caring leader, he’s making difficult and unpopular decisions. I prefer Biden’s method to Donald Trump’s “seat of the pants drunken uncle” approach to solving problems.

Leaving Afghanistan was necessary. I doubt most of the people who are armchair quarterbacking could do better, anyway. And… for the record, I KNOW Trump would not have done better. But I will concede that mistakes were definitely made, and some statements by both Trump and Biden have aged like milk. It’s very interesting to me, however, that so many Trump supporters are upset about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the heartbreaking images on video, but they still don’t give a flying fuck about the crisis at our southern border involving people who are fleeing violence and oppression in their homelands. Also, I don’t see many of those people cheering that some Afghans actually were spirited out of the country by our military. I guess a lot of those folks are fine with empathizing with people who have brown skin, as long as they come from distant countries.

The Afghanistan news was paired with news about COVID-19. My grad school alma mater, The University of South Carolina, currently has an interim president in Dr. Harris Pastides. Dr. Pastides was formerly president of the university, as well as a professor in the Arnold School of Public Health, of which I am a graduate. This morning, I read the news that he is going to require face masks in buildings. People are really pissed, even though Dr. Pastides, who is an epidemiologist by training, is eminently qualified to make this call. I read many comments from people who wished they hadn’t written a tuition check. All I can do is shake my head at the stupidity. I hate the masks, too, and would certainly hate them in South Carolina in August. BUT… since many people still refuse to get vaccinated, I can see why Dr. Pastides made this particular difficult, and unpopular, decision.

This news didn’t go over well with a lot of people. There was much non-sensical bitching going on. I think it’s very sad when you can tell a person’s political leanings by their responses to public health mandates. That being said, I do sympathize. I’m glad I am done with school, and anything else that would require me to wear a mask all day. They do legitimately suck, even if they help control the spread of sickness.

I absolutely don’t deny that masks are a pain in the ass. They’re inconvenient, unpleasant, and uncomfortable, and they need to be ditched, pronto. I won’t even insult people by saying that wearing them is “no big deal”. Obviously, to a lot of people, having to wear them is a big deal. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be putting up such a fuss. And I absolutely agree that people should have the right to express their negative opinions about the masks. In this situation, it’s more important to me that people simply cooperate and comply than have a good attitude. Having a shitty attitude is understandable, under these conditions. I’ll drink to that!

I’m also as tired as anyone is of all the virtue signaling and constant bragging about adherence to the rules. But we can’t ditch the masks until the virus is under control. And the more people protest and refuse to cooperate, the longer it’s going to take, and the crankier and bitchier I’m going to be. If that means people think I’m stupid, so be it. I think telling a truly stupid person that they’re “stupid” is also pretty stupid, isn’t it? šŸ˜‰

I read that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for COVID-19. As an official Texas resident, this is relevant to me. Abbott says he feels fine for now. He’s vaccinated and is getting treatment– Regeneron, which is what Trump got last year when he got the virus. It’s designed to keep people from getting really sick. But he’s been doing his best to keep allowing Texans to spread the virus as he also denies women the right to have abortions. I look forward to voting against him in the next governor run.

Ironically, here in Germany, things actually are getting to be more normal. Yesterday, there was a notice in our local Facebook group that our village is going to have its first wine stand since March 2020. Bill and I loved attending the wine stands during the spring and summer of 2019. We missed them last year. It’s awesome to see that they will be returning this week, although everyone has to bring proof of vaccination, testing, or recovery from the illness. But see, what I love about Germany, is that people seem to be more community minded and cooperative. And when people work together, things are better overall. This summer, we’ve enjoyed things that we missed last year. I’m glad to be in a place where people have compassion and common sense. It means we can dine out, travel to neighboring countries, drink wine in public, and maybe take in a concert or visit a museum. Those are activities that make life worth living.

I relate… what a lovely song this is! Right down to the glasses of wine and bathrobes! These are my kind of ladies.

I suppose the return of the wine stand is reason enough for me to be less crabby. I do like “Ladies Who Lunch”, though. I may try to learn that song today. The first time I heard it was when I was taking voice lessons. An older woman was learning it and our teacher, Ron, was advising her to be more of a “bitch” as she sang it. Now that I’m a legitimately bitchy middle aged woman who lounges in caftans and enjoys cocktails, it may be time for me to give it a go. Edited to add: Here it is– your own knotty singing this song.

I completely forgot about “Ladies Who Lunch” until I saw it performed in the awesome film, Camp. I first watched Camp when we lived in Germany the first time. I downloaded it off iTunes just for shits and giggles. Now, it’s one of my guilty pleasure films, whenever I need a pick-me-up. Actually, I get a little wistful watching it, wishing I could be young again and go to a musical theater camp. Ah well. Maybe reincarnation is a thing. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to come back to this world.

Anyway… if I had any friends, maybe I would be a lady who lunches. I don’t have any friends. I just have dogs who adore me. They’re probably better company, anyway. They don’t mind that I have and express opinions, and they don’t care how profane I get. I hope the person who was offended by my “stupidity” is happy with his or her choices in life. I’m glad I’m not where they are, at least. And I hope I never encounter them again, since they think I’m so stupid. One wonders why a person would feel the need to leave a comment on such a “stupid” blog, anyway.

So here’s to making difficult and unpopular decisions. I’ll drink to that! I’ll drink to most things, especially nowadays.

This was shared by a Trump supporting friend. I am tempted to respond that I do, and I did, … and I am somewhat happier for it. I’m definitely healthier for it. But I don’t want to deal with people from my hometown who are still pining for Donald Trump. Seriously… I get being conservative, but Trump is a fucking moron.
If you haven’t seen Camp, you’re missing out.

Ooh… Edited to add! Here’s a response from Steve, the anal drip who called me stupid yesterday. He’s charming AND articulate, isn’t he? I definitely don’t think I’m the stupid one, so I think I will send his response to the round file.

Steve Jenkins6:21 AM (3 hours ago)
to me

Hey fuckhead…I was hoping one of you dumbfucks would respond…I forgot to save your site.

Since you are a fuck up, how does one fuck oneself?  I know you’re an expert even for a dumbfuck.

On Tuesday, August 17, 2021, 08:07:28 AM HST, I wrote:

Stay off my blog.

Go fuck yourself.

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