complaints, musings, poor judgment, true crime

What would you have Skylar Mack do?

I know I can and should write about how today is the very last day Trump will be called “president”. Or, at least he has to wait four years before he runs again, which I hope will never happen. I do have some thoughts on Trump’s departure from the White House. I also realize that things aren’t going to noticeably improve for awhile. It takes time for the stench of big business to clear, just as I’m sure it takes time for the stench of Donald Trump’s farts and shits to dissipate. We will have some wild news days for some time to come.

A screenshot of a funny image making the rounds today. Kudos to Portuguese cartoonist, Vasco Gargalo for this awesome image. Here’s a page for him.

However… although I could write about Trump’s departure, I want to address something else on my mind. It has to do with mean people and mean comments.

Last night, I got a drive by visit from some butthurt guy from Charleston, West Virginia. I’m not sure what he was doing on my blog. I don’t know for certain, but my guess is that he’s a Trumper who is upset that his orange leader is departing Washington, DC and wants to lash out at strangers. Or maybe he’s not a Trumper. Maybe he’s just an asshole who likes leaving rude comments to people he doesn’t know who happen to have a different viewpoint than he does.

Anyway… this guy, name of Marty, hit my post about Skylar Mack, the 18 year old young woman who was arrested in the Cayman Islands and spent about six or seven weeks in jail. Not the one I wrote yesterday, but the one I wrote last month.

In his post, Marty wrote some choice words about what an entitled jerk he thinks Skylar Mack is… then he called me a SJW, as well as a few other things. I could tell by my statcounter report that Marty had spent a total of about four minutes on my blog, and felt compelled to spew his nastiness at me, a perfect stranger, simply because he doesn’t agree with the views I express on my personal blog.

I did not publish his comment. In fact, after skimming it, I deleted it. And if he comes back here and leaves me another shitty comment, I will ban him. Maybe some people think that’s harsh or a violation of his right to freedom of expression, but this space isn’t a democracy. I pay a lot of money to host my blog. It’s my space. And while I used to let people pretty much write whatever they wanted, I’ve decided that I’m not going to do that anymore. Life is too short. If you want to be rude and nasty, go post somewhere else. I will not allow it here.

Speaking of Skylar Mack. I noticed similarly nasty spew written about her on the news sites. Many people, the vast majority of whom have never met Skylar Mack, are calling her a selfish, entitled, spoiled brat. They laugh at her apology, and even the fact that she admits she deserved to go to jail. Last night, I left a supportive comment for her, writing that I hoped she’d learned something from her experience and could move on with her life. I got a response from some woman who feels sure that Skylar didn’t learn anything but how to run to mommy for help.

Skylar Mack speaks out.

I responded that I felt like that wasn’t a fair assessment of Skylar Mack at all. I highly doubt that woman has ever met Skylar. Granted, I never have, either, but I’ve read that she’s 18 years old and a junior in college. If that’s true, she must have done some things right. I don’t approve of her choice to go to the Cayman Islands and then break quarantine. It was a stupid mistake. But she’s paid for her mistake, and now it’s time to let her redeem herself in peace.

The lady came back and said that I only feel this way because Skylar’s name is “Skylar”. In other words, she assumes, not ever having met me or knowing a single thing about me, that I am only being supportive because Skylar Mack is a pretty White woman. That’s not true at all. It doesn’t matter a whit to me that Skylar is a pretty White woman. I wouldn’t think locking her in a cell for months on end for her crime would be appropriate no matter what she looked like or what her name was.

I don’t think locking people up is appropriate in all circumstances. I think it’s done far too often in the United States, particularly for non-violent crimes. Skylar was jailed in the Cayman Islands, but I’m pretty sure that time behind bars was very unpleasant for her. I doubt she’ll forget it anytime soon. And I think the reduced punishment she received was fair and just, particularly since her initial punishment didn’t involve jail time at all and was reassessed by someone wanting to make an example out of her.

Skylar Mack can’t help who she is. She can’t help that she was named Skylar, and was born White. She can’t help that she has a supportive family who did what they could to help her. You know what? If she was my daughter, I’d do the same damned thing. I would be angry at her for making a poor decision and would definitely voice my strong disapproval of her choices. I certainly would not have bankrolled her trip. But if she was my daughter and she got in trouble in another country, you bet your ass I’d do whatever I could to help her. I think most decent parents would. I don’t blame Skylar Mack’s family for reaching out for help. I would do it, too, for a friend or a loved one.

Then I asked the lady, who was still challenging me, what she would have Skylar Mack do. Does she honestly think another month or two of her sitting in jail would have made more of an impression on her? How about a year? Should Skylar be forced to wear a hair shirt or self-flagellate? Should she kill herself or be beheaded? Exactly what punishment, in this person’s view, would be sufficient? And what makes her think she’s qualified to judge? Would she want that for herself if she made a mistake and landed in jail? I would also strongly caution her to never say never. All too often, “never” turns out to be a famous last word.

While I might agree that people of color typically get treated differently by law enforcement– that is, much more harshly– than White people do, I don’t think the solution to fixing that issue is to treat White people worse. I think the solution is to treat everyone with more respect, fairness, and kindness. We all make mistakes, particularly when we’re young, inexperienced, and impulsive. It’s not effective to be cruel and abusive. The goal of punishment should be correction and reform, not breaking people down so they can’t recover.

If it later turns out that Skylar didn’t learn from this experience and goes on to commit more crimes, I might change my mind about her. I’m sure I’ll be less inclined to give her a pass for bad behavior. But at this point, I truly hope she can move on from this and get back on the right path. I think she got the point, and no, it doesn’t matter to me that she’s a pretty White woman and apparently privileged. She’s a human being, and I think she should be given basic respect and consideration for that.

I feel that all people should get basic respect for being human. I am inclined to forgive Skylar Mack for making a mistake. I think I should be able to state that without someone making assumptions about the type of person I am, making fun of me, or leaving me mean or insulting comments. And again, leaving me a rude comment here will result in nothing more than laughter, deletion, and banning. I ain’t got the time for it.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, maybe I’ll be back later for one last Trump post. Or maybe not… today might be a good day to make some music.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, mental health, poor judgment, social media

How about a little compassion?

This morning, we woke up to the first significant snow we’ve seen since 2017. I think we got one dusting last year, and the year before that. The other years we’ve been in Germany, there’s always been at least one or two good snows. I remember back in 2015, we got snow and it hung around for over a month. But the last couple of years, it’s been unusually warm. I remember when we lived in Germany the first time, I wouldn’t dream of going outside without a jacket. Now, I can get by the whole winter without donning my down coat. Or, at least I’ve been able to over the past few years.

Noyzi loves the snow. We let him out for his morning whizz and he was galloping all over the yard. Arran is less enthused about snow, but even he seemed to enjoy the pretty white blanket. I don’t know how long it will hang around. It was cold yesterday, but it feels a bit warmer today, despite all the white stuff. Bill was going to go into work, but he’s going to telework this morning because of the white dumpage. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of it melts by tonight, though.

Now… about today’s title. I read a sad story about an elderly couple from Jackson, Michigan who both caught COVID-19, got very sick, and died at the very same minute on November 24, just two days before Thanksgiving. Patricia and Leslie McWaters were reportedly inseparable. Married for 47 years and aged 78 and 75 respectively, they did everything together, even when it was time to exit this life.

Like the rest of us, this couple got tired of being locked down. They decided to go out to eat in a restaurant where people weren’t wearing masks and were freely walking among the tables. Boom… they got sick with COVID-19. Now, they’re dead.

It was a bittersweet story to read. Patricia McWaters had been an operating room nurse. Her husband, Leslie, had been a truck driver. They raised children together, and Patricia was known as “the boss”. Leslie was famous for his one-liners. They were much beloved by their family and friends.

I read the readers’ reactions. Quite predictably, instead of compassion and kindness, there was self-righteous comment after comment about how “stupid” and “selfish” this couple was for daring to dine out during a pandemic. I was starting to lose hope for humanity when I ran across this wise comment from a physician:

I’ll bet this doctor is a good one.

Everybody dies. Every single living being will someday pass away, and it’s quite possible that they will die because of something they did or didn’t do. There’s actually no telling how this couple got COVID-19. It’s highly possible they got it while dining at the restaurant, but it’s also possible that they didn’t. I’ve read so many stories about people getting sick and dying of this virus. I’ve read tales about people who egregiously flouted the rules and got it, as well as a few from people who did everything “right” and still got sick anyway. This virus is very insidious. I think anyone who gets it deserves empathy above everything else.

Another doctor had this to say…

A doctor who “truly wishes ill” on people? Wow. How shameful.

I feel sorry for the surviving McWaters family members because it sounds like they’re dealing with a terrible loss. Would the people commenting on this article have more compassion if this couple had died in an accident? What if they both got cancer or heart disease brought on by “bad habits”? How about if they got sick while working, rather than dining out? Would that make their causes of death more respectable? The bottom line is, they got very sick, suffered a lot, and died. Isn’t that punishment enough for them and their bereaved family members? Do we also have to heap nasty comments and callousness on top of that? Why is it necessary to be judgmental? Especially since the people the comments are directed toward are no longer with us, but their grieving family members are?

COVID fatigue is a real thing. I feel fortunate because I don’t mind staying home. I am a bit tired of seeing the same scenes every day, but I don’t mingle with people as a rule. So the social distancing thing isn’t a huge deal for me, personally. I would like to travel again and I miss eating in restaurants, but not so much that I’d take the risk of catching COVID-19 or dealing with the pain in the ass of taking precautions by wearing a mask. I’d rather simply stay home, which is what I continue to do and have the luxury of being able to do. I don’t feel like I’m suffering that much, but I also don’t feel morally superior to those who are still out in the world, doing their thing. If I weren’t living in Germany, where I am away from family and friends and don’t have to go to work, I’d probably be out among the masses, too.

But other people are having a real problem with this new lifestyle that has been forced on us this year. Some people are suffering from mental health issues. Others are just plain fed up. Plenty of others simply can’t stay home because they have to earn a living. I don’t wish illness or death on them for being human or needing to work. I also don’t wish them ill for wanting to enjoy life and having fun.

Remember, folks. There but by the grace of God (or just plain luck) go you and yours. This couple was very unlucky. When it comes down to it, they were just trying to enjoy their lives. And when you get to be in your 70s or 80s, you don’t have that much time to lose. Unfortunately, that group is the one most at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 and perishing. But they would have eventually died anyway. Everyone does. At least they were able to go out together.

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psychology, social media

“We’re at war with the virus, not each other”

Yesterday, I ran across an article in the Washington Post about “Friendsgiving”, a trendy holiday that developed pre-pandemic involving young people gathering for a potluck meal. The article was about how canceling Friendsgiving was “hitting some young people hard”.

For some reason, it seems that a lot of people have lost the ability to empathize with others. Based on the comments for the Friendsgiving article, many folks are very grouchy and heartless. Here’s a quote from the article, which I think sums up its main idea:

The coronavirus pandemic has spoiled Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving’s younger and cooler cousin famous for potluck-style meals among friends. While it is a wise public health decision to cancel Friendsgiving, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, experts worry that its absence may exacerbate loneliness among young people already isolated from classmates, separated from co-workers and longing for touchstones of burgeoning adulthood.

Nowhere in that paragraph is there any mention of people gathering anyway. I’m sure some people did get together, against all advice, but I’ll bet more people than not decided to skip it. But that’s apparently not good enough for some people. I read comment after comment from people who wrote things like “Cry me a freakin’ river” and “Get over it”. Or they pointed out that some people, like medical staff or military, have it much worse.

These were the most recent comments on the Washington Post’s article.

I don’t understand why people can’t acknowledge the pain that some people are dealing with during the pandemic. A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog post that mentioned how some young people are having trouble coping with being so isolated. People are actually committing suicide because they’ve lost hope and the will to live during the pandemic. Some people may think that’s stupid, but what right do they have to discount other people’s legitimate pain? Why not just be kind and understanding?

Is it really helpful to call someone a “snowflake” when they’re struggling? Is it really necessary to be snarky and nasty to people who feel hopeless and depressed? Would these eye rolling assholes like to see people killing themselves because they’ve lost hope? Do they like it when they experience loneliness and someone discounts their pain?

I’m sure a lot of these unsympathetic attitudes come from the fact that 2020 has been an unusually difficult year for many people. People are angry, and anger causes grumpiness and lashing out at others. I’m not immune to it myself, although I haven’t suffered as much this year as a lot of other people have. I have, however, been young, scared, anxious, lonely, depressed, and wondering if it was worthwhile to go on living. I experienced those feelings years ago, when I suffered from clinical depression. Fortunately, I had a good therapist and effective antidepressants, as well as good friends and a weekly voice class. With time and effort, I overcame depression, but I didn’t do it alone.

Today’s young people are denied even a face to face conversation or a gentle hug from a loved one. Telling them to “get over it” seems especially unkind right now. In fact, it’s cruel. And yes, I get that many people have it “worse”– but one person’s version of worse might be different than another person’s is. No one person gets to tell another person what should or should not be painful for them. How hard is it to simply acknowledge that someone is having a tough time and wishing them well?

More “get over it” comments.

I get that we’re all suffering to some extent and it’s good to be tough and upbeat in the face of difficulties. But why is it necessary to be so shitty? Are people really incapable of stopping to consider, for just a minute, that everyone has a different pain threshold? It costs nothing to be nice, and show some understanding toward other people. There’s no need to engage in “whataboutism”. Acknowledging a person’s specific struggle takes nothing away from someone who is supposedly suffering “worse”. Who really decides who’s got it “worse”, anyway? Someone who dies of COVID-19 (which they hopefully picked up innocently while fully masked and socially distanced, lest they not be worthy of any sympathy) is no better off than someone who dies of suicide caused by depression. Both people are gone and will likely be missed by others, right? Both deaths are ultimately tragic.

Depression is a real thing. It can be deadly. Being bored, lonely, and cut off from support can push someone to the brink. As President-elect Joe Biden has said, “We’re at war with the virus, not each other…” These are wise, welcome words from someone who wants to be a leader. He’s shown more leadership in two and a half weeks than Trump has shown in his entire lifetime. And I’m going to listen to Mr. Biden and have a heart for those who feel lonely, anxious, and isolated right now. Those are valid concerns.

Just be kind. Show some decency and basic humanity. If someone is feeling sad or lonely and dares to express it, don’t invalidate them by telling them to “get over it” or “stop being such a snowflake.” If you were hurting, you’d want the same consideration, wouldn’t you?

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karma, music, psychology

I’m done with mean people…

I ran into a mean person last night. This person is not someone I know personally. He’s an online acquaintance with whom I had traded comments for some time. We also worked on some musical collaborations together. He seemed like an okay person, but then last night he showed me who he really is. And now I’ve decided that I’m done with him.

Have you ever been shocked by someone’s sudden show of mean-spiritedness? And then when you look back on it, you realize that the meanness was always there? This has happened to me a few times in my life. When I was younger, I was big on giving people second chances. As I’ve aged, I’ve found that these types of people almost never change their ways, even if they apologize. Once they show you the ugly, you have to decide whether or not they’re worth the effort. I decided last night, this person was not worth the effort anymore.

To be fair, he had been showing me his true colors for some time. I chose to ignore them because I genuinely admired his talents. But now, I’m afraid he just went too far. He probably won’t care, and may not even notice what I did. Maybe I’m wasting my time even thinking about this, let alone writing a post. But writing helps me clear my head, and I know that some people can relate. It’s as if writing this down is a way of reassuring myself that it’s okay to part ways with someone who shows you what an asshole he is.

Maybe it’s because of Trump that I’ve lost my capacity to deal with mean people anymore. Blessings to Miles Betterman for this perfect musical interlude.

I won’t lie. I was hurt at first. I actually shed a few tears, which I don’t do so often anymore. But then I swallowed the pain, poured myself a beer, and set to work banishing yet another shitty person from my life. And, I have to say, it kind of felt empowering. I should even thank this person, since I woke up feeling like recording a couple of songs. They aren’t perfect, but I think they turned out okay. And it felt good to belt out some tunes. I’d been slacking off on it, working more on guitar. I’m not nearly as good at guitar as I am vocals, but I could say that I should be grateful for the mean person simply because now I am determined to get good enough at playing guitar that I won’t need anyone to collaborate with me anymore. He reminded me of why I started learning how to play guitar. It’s so I can do what I want to, when I want to, and collaborations become a choice, rather than a necessity.

I guess that when it comes down to it, it’s important to realize that the world is full of all kinds of people. Some people are great– empathetic, kind-hearted, and decent. Some people are self-centered shitheads. It’s not a loss to lose one of the shitheads, because he or she will surely be replaced by someone who is better. And even if he or she is not replaced by someone better, life is better without any extra shitheads in it. Life is short, and there’s no need to spend it stroking someone’s fragile ego and tolerating their selfishness.

Yes, please do call…

So, although I never fail to be disappointed when someone shows me that, deep down, they’re mean and nasty, in the long run, I am always happier after I kick them out of my life. I’ll be okay this time, too. At least I have my dogs and my husband, who are never mean to me. And again, I’d like to thank Mr. Meanie, because he inspired me to create new things… alone. I wish him luck in his endeavors. Time to move on.

In other news… Pastor Paula White is in the news, spewing craziness again.

I used to watch her on TBN for fun. She’s completely psycho… and I think she’s worried about losing her job. She’s always been about the money, anyway. I remember watching her do “faith healings” and her goons almost dropped some lady.

She’s praying for a miracle. Clearly, the race can be won by either side, which is also very disappointing. Donald Trump is the Grand Poobah of shitheads, after all. Half the U.S. population doesn’t care that he’s a narcissistic cretin who cares only for himself. That’s very sad to me. But again… you can’t cure stupidity. Even if Trump wins, his very public tantrums as Joe Biden appears poise to kick him out of the White House are a big clue that he’s not worthy of being a leader of the Water Buffaloes, let alone the United States. And that’s why I sang this song for Trump this morning.

I am so fucking tired of Trump.

And then I did this other song, because I’ve been wanting to for awhile…

I would be lucky if I could go to France without worrying about the virus…

Maybe these songs aren’t as good as the originals, but I sure enjoyed singing them today. Maybe someone will enjoy listening… if not, I’ll try again another day.

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celebrities, music, politics

Poor Leland Sklar…

This morning, I’ve just watched Lee’s latest video. Yesterday, he posted about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. I haven’t had the chance to watch that video yet, but apparently, he got some really shitty comments from people who have basically told him to shut up and play music. I turned on his RBG video now, so I’m listening as I write this. Bill and I have a lunch date for later and I got up late, so I’m kind of rushing to get stuff done.

He really seems hurt.

Ever since the pandemic started, Leland Sklar, who is a world class bass guitar player, has been making videos on YouTube. He sometimes posts two or three videos a day, sharing music and awesome stories. I have discovered new music through him and thoroughly enjoyed his stories of meeting fans on the road, playing with some of my favorite musicians like James Taylor and Carole King, and seeing his adorable basset hounds. Sometimes he shows his dogs playing and howling and Arran will join in.

Really… most of this is just beautiful music. I really don’t think Leland Sklar said anything that earth shattering, but he sure got his share of shit for daring to memorialize a beloved liberal icon who did her damnedest to stay alive until November. She was a champion for women and minorities.

So… I have just finished listening to Lee’s tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the one that has shitty comments calling him a liberal who lives in a “bubble” in Los Angeles. He also said someone sent him a private message that was nasty. You know what Lee’s video for RBG mostly consisted of? Well, about 80% of it consisted solely of a beautiful and well-known piano piece by Claude Debussy, the majestic “Clair de Lune”, which I first heard when I was an undergraduate at what was then known as Longwood College. A music major friend who was focusing on voice and piano played it for me in one of the practice rooms. I have lost touch with the friend, but she gave me a lifelong gift when she introduced that piece to me when I was 19 years old.

I already had “Clair de Lune” on my computer, but Leland’s post inspired me to buy another album with more of Debussy’s elegant music. So, I guess he gave me a gift, and he prompted me to gift iTunes with a sale… and perhaps the artists who played that beautiful music for the recording. How is it that I could leave that tribute feeling gratified and moved, but other people were only prompted to post hateful comments?

I have occasionally gotten nasty comments myself on things I’ve written, mostly on the old blog, where I didn’t moderate comments before they could be posted. Here, I get far fewer, which is a nice thing. Not only do I moderate, but I set this blog so that Google is “discouraged” to index it. It just isn’t worth my time or sanity to deal with trolls. I can only imagine what it must be like for someone like Lee, who has millions of fans around the world. There are some truly fucked up people out there.

What really struck me about Leland’s response video, the first one in this post, is how hurt he sounds as he addresses the “haters”. He strikes me as such a kind and sensitive soul. I have never met Lee, but watching his videos make me feel like I know him somewhat. He shares so much of himself daily, and puts himself out there for anyone who’s interested. And people feel like they can say anything they want to him, emboldened by the fact that he’s a well-known musician and they are anonymous “nobodies” behind a computer screen. Of course, no one is really a “nobody”. Everyone knows someone, and if you’re known by someone, that means you exist and have some level of importance to someone. But I think sometimes people forget that there are real people behind the screen… and maybe you think you know them because you can see and hear them. But you really don’t know them as much as you might think you do…

I think writers and musicians attract a lot of people who think they really know them and what’s in their hearts. I’ve had people assume things about me, and sometimes people project a tone to my words that maybe I don’t really feel. Like, if you heard me speaking rather than just read my words, you might come away with a different idea of what I mean.

Leland Sklar is a liberal musician who lives in Los Angeles. Many people think they know what it means to be a liberal and what’s in their hearts. I have a lot of conservative relatives who equate liberals with communists who want to take away their rights. I have never met a single liberal person who advocates for communism. What I’ve seen are mostly people who champion equality, sometimes in ways that may be objectionable. I don’t agree with all liberal tenets myself. As I get older, I find that I like them more than the conservative tenets I grew up with. Living in different places has changed me. If I hadn’t had all of this exposure to different people and places, maybe I would have stayed more conservative. But then I know conservative people who have lived in many places, too, and they stick with their world views. I try not to automatically assume the worst about them simply because we disagree on politics.

I don’t understand why people can’t simply scroll past things that inspire them to post mean and insulting comments. The Internet is such a huge entity. There’s somewhere online for almost everyone. And no matter what you think of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy, there’s no need to be gleeful about her death and post rotten comments like she was a “goblin” or a “walking dead person” for two years. Some people are genuinely hurt and saddened by her passing and what it will mean for the people for whom she advocated, as well as balance to the Supreme Court. The people who are hurting have the right to grieve and express themselves without rudeness from the “peanut gallery”. What’s more, artists, writers, and musicians are here to express themselves. That’s the essence of what they do and of creativity itself. They belong to no one, and no one has the right to tell them to shut up and play, sing, color, write, or whatever else.

Now… time to get in a little guitar practice before I get dressed and head off to lunch with my sweet husband.

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