communication, complaints, controversies, modern problems, social media, true crime

Sometimes it’s okay to complain…

Yesterday, I wrote a couple of posts that were kind of on the same theme. I wrote the first one for this blog. It was about how surprisingly hateful some people are about Brittney Griner being released from a Russian prison, while Paul Whelan stays in custody. Griner, who endured ten months of incarceration in Russia, was sent to San Antonio for medical treatment before she goes home to her wife in Phoenix, Arizona. Many, many people are apparently pissed off about this. They’d rather Brittney rot in a freezing cold Russian prison, where she’s too tall for a regular bed and her hands are too big for the usual labor of sewing. Most of these folks who are so salty toward Griner, and to Joe Biden for helping her, also claim to be Christians.

If you ask these people why they’re angry about Brittney Griner’s release, they’ll tell you it’s because she disrespected the flag by taking a knee during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. They think she hates her country, and for that reason, she should endure years of inhumane conditions in a prison behind the borders of our biggest enemy. I suspect they also don’t like Brittney because she’s not like they are. She’s 6’9″ tall. She’s Black and queer, and has a deep speaking voice. She uses marijuana. Deep down, people who espouse that much hatred are terrified by people who are different. They see Brittney as an immoral freak, and they want her banished for it. They also seem to think that she has no right to complain about racism. They tell her, “America– love it or leave it.” If something is wrong, you have no right to gripe. Because in their eyes, she’s less than they are.

Of course, Brittney has already shown us that she’s definitely NOT like the the people who want her to suffer. That’s a good thing. We need fewer people in our country who can’t embrace diversity. And we need fewer people who want to silence those who have legitimate concerns about the way things are going in the United States for anyone who isn’t a Christian, white, conservative male with a gun.

The other post I wrote yesterday was about how Bill and I complained about bad service we got at a wine shop in France. That entry was inspired by the reactions I got in a Facebook wine group I run. I posted about that experience because it was about wine shopping. The reactions I got initially blamed Bill and me for our bad experience. No one said it outright, but I got the sense that some people thought maybe I was being a “karen” (for lack of a better word). Somehow, ever since the term “karen” became popular, people seem to think that anytime someone complains, particularly if it’s a middle-aged, white woman of means, they’re acting like an entitled whiner.

In response to my post, I got some not so subtle chastising about my so-called lack of cultural sensitivity, lack of language skills (because I took Spanish instead of French when I was in school), and overall bad attitude. Another person assumed I had somehow “misunderstood” what had happened. They wanted to excuse the salesperson for serving straight up bad service, with generous side orders of disdain and disrespect. All we were trying to do was spend some money on local wines. For our efforts, we got the wrong wines, and egregiously rude treatment.

Then, when we complained, we got even more rude treatment, dismissing, discounting, and blame. I guess we shouldn’t have said anything? What really astonished me, though, was that the American people who were blaming ME for my bad experience were people who have never met me and don’t know the first thing about me. Why would they assume it was my fault that I had the misfortune of doing business with someone with a very obvious STANK attitude? All I did was go into a wine shop for a few minutes because I wanted to buy wine. Isn’t that what the wine shop is for?

I think it’s because in America, we’re quite fond of pushing toxic positivity. We discourage people from being negative, even if they have every right to complain. We like to blame the victim, even in situations that are egregiously unjust or horrific. Brittney Griner was arrested at the airport for having a small amount of hashish oil and vape cartridges in her luggage. Yes, it was against Russian law to have those items in her luggage, but it’s not like anyone was killed. I also highly doubt that the people who felt the nine years in prison was a just sentence would say the same thing if it was them or a loved one who got such a sentence, even in the United States. Mention harsh penalties, though, and you’re no doubt going to hear “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Some people seem to think that if you do something wrong, no punishment is too harsh… especially if you’re different and dare to speak up about things.

This morning over breakfast, I was reading about the world’s most “welcoming” countries, in terms of which countries will allow visa free visitors from the most nations. Singapore was mentioned as a very “welcoming” country. I’m sure Singapore is a beautiful place with kind and interesting citizens. But when I think of Singapore, I can’t help but remember the 1994 case of Michael P. Fay, and how he wound up getting four strikes with a rattan cane for vandalizing cars and stealing road signs. When he committed his crimes, Michael Fay was 18 years old and had moved to Singapore to live with his mother and stepfather.

I remember, during Fay’s fifteen minutes of fame, a lot of people were saying that Fay had asked for the caning, which was originally set to six strokes. He also got four months in jail and had to pay about S$3500 (Singapore dollars). The United States government intervened in that case, too, and Fay wound up getting only four strikes of the cane, which caused bleeding and scarring on his buttocks. Then he was deported, and when he got home, he promptly got into more legal trouble.

I don’t think Brittney Griner is going to do what Michael P. Fay did, once she’s been released from the hospital. Moreover, I don’t think Brittney’s initial crime was of the same magnitude as Fay’s was. What Griner did ultimately didn’t harm anyone. Fay and his friends actually did significant harm to other people’s property, costing them money and inconveniencing them. Personally, I thought the caning was barbaric, and it obviously didn’t teach Fay anything. But Griner’s punishment was much worse, and not only did she endure inhumane conditions, but her own countrymen are hurling abuse at her. I wonder if they’d be this vicious if Brittney Griner was a straight, white woman with conservative proclivities.

Besides being male and Caucasian, Michael Fay had something going for him that Brittney didn’t. He committed his crimes at a time when social media didn’t exist, and the Internet was only just getting started. He also became infamous at a time when our country was less polarized and weird. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me. I do remember though, at the time of Michael P. Fay’s crime, some people were calling him a spoiled brat. But they weren’t gleeful about the prospect of his ass being literally shredded by the caustic strikes of a rattan cane. They weren’t calling for him to rot in a foreign hellhole. They weren’t telling him he had no right to complain.

Sometimes, things are just plain wrong. Sometimes, they’re flat out terrible. People should always have the right to point out the bad things, because that’s how things get better. Keeping silent when there’s been an injustice sends a message that everything’s okay. Sometimes a complaint might seem “silly”. I’m sure some people in my wine group thought I was posting about a first world problem. I’ll admit that getting the wrong wine isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things… although I mainly wrote that post because my wine group is pretty dead lately. Brittney Griner’s situation is, of course, much more serious. Before she went to Russia to play basketball, she had the gall to “take a knee” against racism. She had the nerve to speak up and be noticed, and point out that America isn’t all that great and needs improvement. For that, there are people who literally think she should be suffer for years. I’ll bet that a lot of those folks, fine upstanding Christians that they are, also secretly hope she dies. That’s how warm and tender these supposed “Christ loving” people are…

Anyway… I suppose I’ve gone on long enough. I feel inspired to do a little music today, so I think I’ll sign off and get to work on that. Have a great Saturday… and embrace your inner “karen” if you are so inclined and a situation merits it.

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Neighbors

HOAs can be heartless…

Fifteen year old Collin Clabaugh has had a rough time of things lately. In late December 2018, at 14 years old, he was forced to move from his home in California to his grandparents’ home in Prescott, Arizona. His mother was very ill and hospitalized and his father was busy trying to take care of her. Then, in February of 2019, Collin’s mom, Bonnie, succumbed to organ failure due to medications she was taking. Two weeks after that, Collin’s father, Clay, killed himself. He couldn’t bear to go on without his wife. Collin has been living with his grandmother, Melodie Passmore, and her husband, Randy, at The Gardens at Willow Creek ever since.

Now, Collin and his grandmother are the subject of worldwide news coverage because the members of the homeowner’s association at The Gardens at Willow Creek have demanded that Collin move out by June 30, 2020. Why? Because Collin is under 19, the minimum age to reside in the senior living community where his grandparents had bought their home four years ago. The Gardens at Willow Creek is an age restricted community for people over age 55. Someone complained about Collin’s presence, prompting the HOA board to send Mrs. Passmore a strongly worded legal letter.

I dunno… sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

I hosted a lively Facebook discussion about this situation yesterday. A couple of people pointed out that legal documents must have teeth, otherwise they can be violated. I fully appreciate that point, although I also think there are extraordinary situations in which rules should be bent. Personally, I think a teenager who has nowhere else to go other than foster care after losing both parents to early death is in an extraordinary situation. There’s no way the Passmores could have foreseen that their grandson would be orphaned when they purchased their home. According to Mrs. Passmore’s Facebook post about this incident, they bought there because they could afford the house and liked it, not because they necessarily cared about living in a childfree community.

I did read in an article yesterday, that thanks to all of the furore over this situation, the HOA seems to want to try to reach a workable solution with the Passmores. I hope they do come to a resolution, since moving would be a true hardship for this family. The Passmores are in their 70s and no doubt expected that this would be the last home they’d ever need to buy. They’ve also spent a lot of money fixing up their home to their liking. Unfortunately, I suspect they’ll end up having to move, but maybe they’ll find a better place with conditions they can live with. Sometimes moving to a new home can be a blessing. It certainly has been for us on multiple occasions.

I hope that when Bill and I finally end our global adventures, we are able to buy a home in a rural area without having to deal with a homeowner’s association full of busybodies. I do understand why some people like them. They want to make sure their neighbors have to respect their rights and can’t do things that affect property values. But why purchase a home if you have a group of people telling you who can live there, how many pets you can have, what you can grow in your yard, and what color you can paint the shutters? If you don’t obey the covenants, which are sometimes enforced in an arbitrary manner, you can end up getting fined, in legal trouble, or even find yourself in foreclosure. In that situation, I would rather rent. That way, if the HOA or the landlord get too uppity, intrusive, or controlling, moving is much easier to do.

Of course, there are downsides to not living with a HOA. You might have neighbors who have no respect for other people and tell you to fuck off when you ask them to turn down their music or quit putting their dilapidated cars on cinder blocks in the front yard. But then, a lot of times, you can call the police if the neighbors are violating the law. I think Bill and I were happiest with our living situations when we were in homes that were out in the country. Neighbors were some distance away, and we had lots of trees around us for privacy. In Georgia, we lived in a house way back in the woods. In the summer, we couldn’t even see our neighbors’ houses. The only people who ever rang our doorbell were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our house in North Carolina was somewhat similar, in that it was rural and quiet, although the neighbors were closer. My idea of hell is living in a subdivision with zero lots… or in a condo or apartment where I have to share walls with three or four other families. I hope we never have to live that way again, although I would never say “never”.

I don’t know where we’ll be going after we’re done in Wiesbaden, but I hope it’s a place where people have hearts that still beat. Anyway, I wish Mrs. Passmore and her grandson, Collin, luck. Hopefully, they have a sharp lawyer who can help them out with this problem. Barring that, I hope their house sells quickly and they can move somewhere where people aren’t so compassion challenged.

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celebrities, law

Grasping at straws…

Ever heard this expression? It came up this morning over breakfast. Bill and I were talking about a recent news story and he said, “I think those people are ‘grasping at straws’, trying to save themselves.”

I thought about that for a moment, then decided to look up the etymology of where that phrase came from. It turns out the expression “grasping at straws” has a number of claimed sources ranging from works published in the 1300s until the 1700s. Prior to the mid 1800s, we didn’t “clutch” at straws or “grasp” at straws. Instead, we’d “catch” at straws.

“Grasping at straws” refers to a person who is drowning and grasping at anything, including flimsy reeds, to try to rescue him or herself. It’s generally inferred that a person who is “grasping at straws” is acting in desperation and futility and will be unable to save his or herself from destruction. Below is a video prepared by an erudite British gentleman who describes what “grasping at straws” means.

Telling us how it is…

I think of Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, both of whom are currently in legal hot water because they’ve been accused of money laundering and fraud. Unlike other people involved in the so-called “Varsity Blues” case, Loughlin and Giannulli elected not to make a deal with prosecutors. They decided they didn’t want to make a deal because they were certain they would be able to convince a jury of their innocence. Lori Loughlin, after all, memorably played the ever perky “Aunt Becky” on Full House and Fuller House for years. She’s made a lot of money playing sweet, wholesome, girl next door types. It’s hard to conceive of her as a criminal.

Making a deal with the prosecutors meant Loughlin and her husband would almost definitely have to go to jail. It might have only been for a short time, given their somewhat clean legal histories. But, because they couldn’t bear the idea of going to jail, Loughlin and Giannulli have decided to take their chances with a jury trial. Now, it appears that they could do some hard time. Their situation may soon become desperate and they might now be “grasping at straws” to try to save themselves from prison.

Naturally, Hollywood has also taken an interest in this case. A made for TV movie is planned for the Lifetime network about “Varsity Blues”. I’m not surprised this is happening, given that another high profile star, Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives fame, is also involved in the scandal. It’s perfect fodder for the “television for women” network. Huffman and Loughlin won’t be playing themselves, though, because there’s a chance one or both of them might be behind bars.

When I think of someone who is about to become very desperate, Lori Loughlin and her husband both come to mind. While I don’t condone what they did, I do have some compassion for their situation. I’m sure being in an A list crowd like theirs is makes them believe that their daughters can’t succeed unless they go to an A list school like the University of Southern California. Loughlin has claimed it’s what any “caring mom” would do for her child, given the means. Huffman, on the other hand, was smart enough to see the writing on the wall, admit guilt, and take a deal.

Actually, I think caring moms would encourage their children to succeed on their own and make their own way. Loughin and Giannulli have two gorgeous daughters who were already succeeding in creating brands for themselves. Olivia Jade Giannulli has been particularly successful in her ad campaigns with major brands, although she’s lost business since her parents got caught in the scandal. One could argue that they didn’t even need to go to college. Olivia Jade has outright said she doesn’t care about school and is mainly there to appease her parents, who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college.

“I don’t really care about school.”

It’s tragic to me that this very beautiful young woman who already has a career was taking a coveted spot at a top university that a truly deserving student could have had. She doesn’t care about school, so she should drop out and let someone else take her place. I feel kind of sad for her, personally, too. It’s likely her parents are about to go to the big house, and they could be there for a very long time. That is sure to be a source of embarrassment and humiliation for her, especially since going to the university was her parents’ dream, not Olivia’s.

People tend to grasp at straws when they are faced with certain disaster. They look for anything and everything that might work to help them get out of whatever fine mess they’ve gotten themselves into. The vast majority of the time, grasping at straws is ineffective and leads to a swift drowning by the facts. It’s usually better to just face the music and work toward settling issues, rather than conjuring up harebrained schemes that aren’t likely to work. Lori Loughlin and her husband probably should have just bitten the bullet and taken a deal. On the other hand, who knows? Maybe this situation will end like O.J. Simpson’s first trial did. Maybe they’ll get away with bribing an official to get their daughters into prestigious USC. Maybe they’ll just get a slap on the wrist. But the odds are, this is not going to be pretty for them… and grasping at straws is going to get them nowhere.

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