complaints, language, rants

Double Repost: Fired for teaching about homophones and “Leave me alone”

I wrote these two posts in August 2014, days after we arrived in Stuttgart, Germany from Texas. I was tired, irritable, and not in the mood to argue. These posts are the end result of an argument I had on Facebook with yet another former Epinionator (explained in today’s previous post). And since these are related and I don’t want to do two reposts today, I’m combining them for those with a lot of time on their hands.

Bear in mind, both of these posts are about six years old and haven’t been edited to reflect today’s new information or current controversies. I still think getting upset over an innocuous word that just happens to sound like a racial slur is counterproductive, but I am also not in the habit of using the word “niggardly”, for precisely the reason that most people can’t properly define it and could get offended. I just think if people do use it properly, they shouldn’t automatically be branded as racist.

Yesterday, I read the very sad story of Tim Torkildson, a social media specialist at an English language learning center in Provo, Utah.  Mr. Torkildson had a blog and wrote a post about homophones, a staple of every young American child’s early language instruction.  Homophones are words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  Meet and meat are homophones; so are so, sow, and sew.  Actually, when I learned about homophones, they were called homonyms.  But then I moved to another school and encountered the other term.

One would think homophones would be a completely innocuous thing to blog about, especially if one is teaching English to non-native English speakers.  Homophones can be pretty tricky for the uninitiated.  Unfortunately, Mr. Torkildson’s blog post didn’t sit well with his boss, Clarke Woodger, owner of the Nomen Global Language Center.  Mr. Woodger allegedly fired Mr. Torkildson because he fears the blog post will associate his school with “the gay agenda”.

That’s right.  A man who owns a language center tasked with teaching English as a foreign language is afraid to teach students about homophones…  apparently, because he is afraid his potential students will think his school teaches about homosexuals.  Woodger explained to the Salt Lake Tribune that his students come from 58 countries and many have only a basic understanding of English.  If that’s true, would they even necessarily know what the word “homosexual” or the shortened euphemism “homo” means?  

I posted about this on Facebook and remarked that it reminded me of the whole “niggardly” debate.  In 1999, David Howard, who was then working as an aide for Anthony Williams, the mayor of Washington, D.C., used the word “niggardly” to describe how he would have to manage a fund’s tight budget.  The word “niggardly” means miserly or parsimonious.  It sounds a little like the infamous n-bomb, but is actually spelled differently and has absolutely no etymological relation to the word “nigger”.  Mr. Howard used the word properly and not in a racist way at all.  However, a couple of people he was working with were not familiar with the word, which has understandably fallen out of fashion.  Within ten days of using that word, David Howard was handing in his resignation to Mayor Williams, who hastily accepted it.

I remember being pretty disgusted when I heard about this situation, even though I know the word “niggardly” is not exactly a word one hears every day anymore.  I learned the word in a vocabulary lesson when I was in the 9th grade.  Moreover, even if I hadn’t, it seemed to me that a simple conversation about intent and a quick consultation with a dictionary would have cleared up the issue before it ever made the news.  Of course that didn’t happen, and it was a national case…  a very embarrassing national case, especially since the people involved were D.C. government officials who should have known better or at least conducted themselves in a more professional manner.

The controversial word properly defined. I don’t think it’s particularly wise to use it these days, but I do think people should know what it means so they won’t be offended unnecessarily.

I understand that David Howard’s choice to use the word “niggardly” instead of miserly, stingy, or parsimoniously was probably a mistake.  However, I think the bigger mistake was made by the people who ignorantly took him to task for saying something he didn’t actually say.

A very liberal and, I think, terminally guilty Facebook friend of mine took me to task for defending Howard.  He wrote:

“The word “niggardly”, which is archaic, doesn’t mean anything “miserly” doesn’t, so anyone doubling down on the use of it is actually trying to be an asshole. “Homophone” is the only word that means what it means – AND, it doesn’t resemble any offensive word, anyway.” 

Not knowing David Howard personally, I have a hard time discerning if he actually intended “to be an asshole” or just decided he wanted to use a 50 cent word to express himself.  I told my Facebook friend that it was his opinion that using that word makes someone an asshole.

He came back trying to school me with a Wikipedia article about the controversies surrounding the word “niggardly”…  It was an article I had already read, along with an excellent book by Randall Kennedy about the word “nigger”.  The incident regarding David Howard and the DC government was discussed at length in his book, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.  Kennedy, by the way, is a black, left leaning Harvard law professor (or at least he was a professor when the book was published in 2002).  While I don’t use the n-word or even the word “niggardly” myself, I have to admit it was interesting to read about the history of the word.  I would recommend Kennedy’s book to anyone who wants an interesting language lesson.

In any case, while I respect my Facebook friend’s position about not offending people by using words they might not know or that may upset others, I also believe that people have a responsibility to educate themselves about their own language.  They also have a responsibility to stop and think before they react.  Anyone who reads this blog may already know that I am not a fan of “burying language”.  Offensive words that become taboo eventually get replaced by other words that end up needing to be made taboo.  Moreover, changing the language doesn’t necessarily change a painful condition.

I am a big fan of looking at intent, too.  You may hear someone use language that, taken at surface level, sounds offensive.  But I think it makes sense to think about what the communicator was trying to communicate before you react with offense.  As an English major in college, I read a lot of books by black writers.  The so-called n-word was rife in most of those books.  Should I have been offended?  I don’t think so… because that word served a legitimate purpose in what I was reading.  Do I think it’s smart to go around casually using controversial words that may offend people?  Generally not, though there are always exceptions to that rule.  An intelligent person looks at the situation objectively, though.  They don’t pressure a person to resign from a job over misunderstanding a word like “niggardly” and they don’t fire someone over teaching about homophones because they fear people might think they are promoting “the gay agenda” (not that I think that’s necessarily a bad thing to promote).

Of course I understand why people like my Facebook friend think it’s better to just not go there with words like “niggardly”.  It’s very easy to bury taboo words or symbols (or even words that sound like taboo words or symbols) and dismiss them as “offensive”.  It’s a lot more challenging to use your brain and determine the communicator’s intent and whether or not it’s worthwhile to be offended by their message.  I think it’s sad that more people aren’t more willing to use their brains instead of their emotions when they are expressing themselves.    

And here is the follow up post from a couple of days later in which I told the guy to “leave me alone”.

“Leave me alone…”

That’s what I ended up telling my Facebook friend yesterday, after our day long debate on whether or not it’s appropriate to use the word “niggardly”.  This guy, I’ll call him “B”, probably ought to be dropped from my friends list because, to be quite frank, I don’t really like him that much.

My disdain for B started many months before this latest incident.  I have never actually met him in person, but have had a number of online run ins with him.  We don’t tend to agree on a whole lot of issues.  He is much more liberal than I am.  That’s not the reason I don’t like him, though.  The reason I don’t like him is that he seems to think I’m stupid and treats me with condescension.

When I first “met” B on, we didn’t have that many issues.  Every once in awhile, he’d read one of my book or music reviews and leave a comment.  I remember he commented on a review I wrote about a book about military brats.  I was one and now I am married to a retired soldier, so I have also been a military wife.  For some reason, this guy seemed to think that was reason to pity me.  I remember the comment he made referenced how many times kids in military families have to move.   My experience as an Air Force brat didn’t include a lot of moving because my father retired when I was very young.  Moreover, when I was a kid, there were times I wished we would move.

Years after that, I started writing on a blog that he also writes on.  I noticed he would leave comments that on the surface seemed innocuous, but had a weird undercurrent of criticism to them.  It almost felt like he was upset that I was writing on the blog too.  I had been asked by the man who owns the blog to contribute to it, as obviously he was, too.  We have different tastes in music and different writing styles.  But I noticed at first, he would criticize my subject matter or make some comment about how I had written something.  I usually kept my few comments on his articles positive, though if I had wanted to, I probably could have been equally critical.  One time, he criticized me for writing about how to sing better online and the types of equipment you should use.  Then, many months later, he actually asked me for more information on the equipment I use when I make recordings.  Go figure.

I also noticed that a lot of times, I’d post an article and he’d post one too, within hours of my post.  He might not have written for weeks, but by God, he’d pick one of the two days when I almost always post and put new content ahead of mine.  I guess he figures that will mean more people will read his work, but based on what I’ve seen on Statcounter, it’s my articles that get more readings by people who aren’t personal friends or family members.

Because we were writing on that blog, we became Facebook friends.  And every once in awhile, I might post on a topic that he feels inclined to opine about.  That’s fine.  I want my friends to interact with me.  I don’t mind it when we disagree, either.  I just don’t like to be treated with disrespect, and that’s kinda how I felt like he was treating me.  Yesterday, he seemed bound and determined to school me on why my way of thinking is wrong.  It’s not that I didn’t understand him; I just plain disagreed with him.

He kept explaining why the word “niggardly” is rude and ought to be banned.  I kept explaining that “niggardly”, despite sounding like a racial slur, is a totally innocent word.  It honestly has absolutely no relation to the n-bomb.  It is spelled differently.  It has different etymological origins.  It’s actually a much older word that has been used a lot in literature.  And it just plain hasn’t a damn thing to do with the word “nigger”.  It just doesn’t!

Oddly enough, B kept writing that no one has been fired for using the word “niggardly”.  He was referring to my original comment that the post about the Utah homophone debacle reminded me of the “ridiculous niggardly debate” and that I wished people would check a dictionary before they resort to firing people for using words they don’t know.  Now, in B’s defense, I didn’t clearly specify that I was referring to the Utah homophone guy being fired and not David Howard, the D.C. mayor’s aide who was basically forced to resign over his use of the word in 1999.  But it was late; I was jet lagged; and frankly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.  I mean, obviously the guy teaching about homophones should not have been fired and it didn’t occur to me that someone on my friends list hated the word “niggardly” so much.

David Howard, unfortunate utterer of the word “niggardly”, also should not have lost his job, whether through firing or forced resignation (and he did eventually go back to work in a different mayoral office).  My position is that it’s hard to know how many people have been fired for using that word.  B’s is that there are apparently a bunch of right wing pundits out there who make it their business to write about such incidents.  But really, David Howard is hardly a right wing poster child.  He’s gay and worked for the D.C. government, a constituency that is over half black and consistently votes blue.    

B also brought up other examples of people who used the word “niggardly” and had offended people.  Several examples came from schools and universities.  I’m guessing he meant to sway me with those examples, but one of his examples included former University of Wisconsin English major Amelia Rideau, who became upset when her English professor used the word while discussing Chaucer.  She said it sounded too much like the racial slur.  The professor then explained the meaning and origin of the word.  B claimed the professor was doing his job “badly” because he offended his student.  He also brought up the fact that the professor was being paid for his work.  Ms. Rideau went so far as to try to get that word banned from the school, a measure that I find chilling in an academic environment, especially at a public university like the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  If you can’t have a free exchange of ideas without language restrictions in a university environment, where can you have one?  

My position is that Ms. Rideau was paying for an education and should have been open to actually being educated.  She does not get to dictate what words her teacher uses, so long as he’s not using abusive or derogatory language.  The word “niggardly”, despite sounding like a slur, simply isn’t a slur.  It’s neither abusive nor derogatory.  She needed to grow up and get over herself.  Moreover, as an English major, she should have realized that many works of literature include what may be construed as objectionable language.  Read anything by Mark Twain.  Read a slave narrative.  Read any book that tackles racism and you’ll run into truly derogatory language that actually serves a purpose.  Where would the study of literature be if every English major got upset over every encounter with hurtful or racist words?

The fact is, language changes all the time.  Most people don’t use the word “niggardly” casually anymore.  But hell, if you’re in an English class, particularly if it’s college level, where you might be reading literature that includes outdated words, I think you need to be grown up enough to accept that.    

Finally, toward the end of the day, B wrote:

We agree about the “homophone” teacher, firmly — I’ve said so three times. Now four. I’ve explained, as carefully as I could, why the situations are very different. Read it in a few days when you’re not jet-lagged. I’m bored with this too.

I was pretty exasperated by this point and found his final comment a bit insulting to my intelligence.  He basically implied that jet lag was clouding my sense of reason when actually, I just didn’t agree with him and his arguments weren’t swaying my opinion.  I also never saw any indication that he respected my right to disagree with him, while I took pains to explain that my opinions are my own and not represented as facts.  So here is my response:

Good. I’m glad you’re bored with this topic. I don’t think we have a miscommunication; I think we just disagree. Please quit commenting and leave me alone.

I’m sorry it had to end this way.  I really don’t like getting annoyed with people; but I also don’t like being browbeaten by self-righteous twits who refuse to acknowledge or respect a difference of opinion.  I don’t think I was unreasonable, nor am I fighting for the right to use the word “niggardly” in my own day to day conversations.  I just think people need to be more sensible and quit taking offense at every little quirk of the English language.  That’s why I don’t participate in campaigns to ban the “r word” or the “n word” or any other word.  Context and actual intent, people!  Let’s just focus on that instead of trying to eradicate words that may or may not hurt feelings.

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modern problems, musings

Voting with your wallet…

A friend of mine shared an interesting news article out of Utah. It was about a consignment shop called Home Again, trying to enforce a new face mask policy. A sign outside of the store notified customers that they are required to don face masks before entering the establishment. A man named Mark walked in without a mask. He was asked to either put on a mask or leave. He chose to leave, and was quite pissed off about it. He told the proprietor of the business, Emily Moore, that she’d lost a customer.

My friend wondered why this is a “thing”. She thinks that people should cooperate and that will help things be more “normal.” And I agree, cooperation is probably the best way to unlock the economy. We’ll be allowed to “do more” if people follow policies set in place by our leaders.

On the article itself, I noticed the usual litany of responses from the irritated. A lot of people said Mark was arrogant and entitled. A few reminded everyone that a private business has the right to set any policies they wish. Quite a few others reminded everyone of the age old mantra, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” adding the words “no mask.” One or two others parroted the new, highly irritating slogan, “Mask it or Casket”, which is a take on the “Click it or ticket” slogan used to promote seatbelt use. Of course, it’s always been unsafe to ride in a car without a seatbelt. Being out and about without a face mask is a new “no no”. Nowadays, most everyone wears seatbelts and there are many laws requiring them. I think a lot of people worry that the face masks will soon be legally required as well, but they aren’t quite at the same level as a seatbelt. Or, at least they haven’t yet been scientifically proven to be at this writing.

Personally, as the daughter of former small business owners, I completely agree that Ms. Moore has every right to set policies for her business. Right now, it seems that many people think wearing a face mask is the prudent thing to do. I’ve read many responses from people who say that they won’t patronize businesses that don’t require customers and staff to wear face masks. Many people continue to explain their theories of how the mask works, reminding everyone that they protect others from you rather than you from them. They say it’s the “polite” and “respectful” thing to do. And, as my friend Weird Wilbur says, “That’s very fine.”

As someone with stated authority issues, as well as an advanced degree in public health, I have repeatedly opined that I don’t think most face masks are much more than a placebo, except in places where social distancing is completely impossible. They make people feel better about being in close proximity to other people. Don’t get me wrong– there is value in that. People are really on edge, psychologically, and it’s a good thing to reassure them that they don’t have to be terrified of going out into the world.

Notice what it says on the warning label. It even spells out that the mask doesn’t stop viruses. I would assume that means it doesn’t stop them coming in OR going out. It’s not a one way street.

However, there are a lot of issues with the masks that I don’t think are being adequately addressed. They can be made of any material by anyone who wants to make them. They must be properly and regularly laundered. People wearing them still need to frequently wash their hands— and that is actually one of the most important things to do, but no one polices hand washing or face touching. Many people aren’t wearing the masks properly. They touch them repeatedly, take them on and off, scratch their faces and rub their eyes, or wear them under their noses. Or the masks give them a false sense of security and they don’t stay properly distanced from people. Also, we’re dealing with viruses, which are extremely tiny. Even surgical masks have it stated on their labels that they don’t stop COVID-19. They may limit balls of saliva and mucous from entering the air, but they don’t stop aerosols or vapors. And again… there’s that frequent hand washing thing that is so much more important, anyway.

This video doesn’t have sound, but it does spell out why frequent hand washing is so incredibly important.

Despite my personal reservations about the efficacy of face masks and my fervent hope that they don’t actually become something we’re all expected to wear forever, I do understand why they’re currently being touted and required. I can see why business owners like Ms. Moore want their customers to wear them. I also support her decision, because it’s her business, and it’s her right to run it as she sees fit within the confines of the law. But I also support other people’s rights to vote with their wallets and not shop at places with policies they don’t support, regardless of how stupid their reasons may seem to other people.

For many folks, seeing the mask on someone’s face is comforting. They believe the masks will stop, or at least hinder, the spread of viruses. For others, it has the opposite effect. Some people are creeped out by the sight of masks because they can’t see people’s whole faces. Some don’t like the way the mask feels or, perhaps more importantly, how wearing it makes them feel. Some people are legitimately inconvenienced or even incapacitated by the masks. Some feel that wearing a mask is an infringement of their rights. I don’t agree that requiring a mask is an infringement of anyone’s rights, per se, but I do think people have the right to their opinions. Those who don’t agree with wearing masks have their reasons for feeling the way they do, and no one should shame them for voting with their feet… or their wallets.

It’s been interesting for me to watch the arguments from afar. I am fortunate enough to live in a place where the pandemic, for now, seems to be under control. Things are loosening up in Germany. In fact, there was even a concert at the State Theater in Wiesbaden the other day. Granted, only 200 seats in a theater that can hold 1000 people were used, and people had to wear masks into and out of the theater. They were allowed to take them off once they were seated, and people from the same households were allowed to sit together. But it was still a concert involving a maskless singer, which is a big step.

As it is when people go out to eat in Germany right now, concertgoers had to leave their contact information. That way, if someone gets sick, everyone at risk can be contacted. After a few weeks, the information will be discarded, owing to Germany’s strict privacy laws. Germans, to me, seem to be a lot more community minded than Americans are. People seem to work together for the common good, and so far, it seems like that spirit is helping them win the war against the coronavirus, at least at this point in time.

In the United States, however, it seems like chaos has reigned for weeks. People are extremely polarized and stressed out, as the new mask requirements clash with our American sense of the importance of individual liberties. I’ve noticed it a lot in the comment sections on articles about COVID-19. Someone dares to state an opinion that goes against whatever the group thinks is correct, and they get the same tired lectures. And I’m not just talking about the pro-mask wearing people. It happens on the other side of the argument, too. Sometimes, the discussions become downright uncivilized, with either side vigorously defending its position and even insulting others for having a different viewpoint.

So, as I read that article this morning, I wasn’t too surprised that it got about 300 comments. And as the story came from Utah, it seemed like people were split down the middle as to what the right approach is toward the mask policy. Some people seemed to fault the idea that Mark, the maskless man who prompted the news story, has the right not to shop at Home Again because he disagrees with their mask policy. They seemed to think he should just give up his opinions, get with the program, and “sign on for the ‘big win'”. Other people commented that they, too, would be avoiding businesses that require the mask, because they resent being told what to do, especially from a business owner who expects them to spend their hard earned money.

Personally, I don’t think the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” mantra quite works in this instance. Shirts and shoes have been required forever. The masks are a very new requirement. It takes time for people to change their views, and when it’s about something that covers faces, hinders communication and socialization, is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous (for some people) to wear, and may be of dubious value, it’s harder to sell that idea to everyone. I don’t like wearing shoes myself, but it’s definitely not safe or comfortable to walk around without them. Wearing a shirt, particularly in cold weather, is kind of a no brainer. Most people will happily comply with the shirts and shoes rules because it’s safer and more comfortable for them anyway. Not wearing a mask, though, has only been a risky endeavor for a couple of months, and masks aren’t very comfortable.

Many people hate wearing the masks. I suspect when the weather gets warmer, we’ll see a lot more rebellion against them. I noticed a popular Biergarten in Tübingen advertising their reopening, along with the mask requirements (wear them in and out, while in line, or while using the restroom). At least one person wrote that she would not come until the masks were no longer required. I’m with her, to be honest. It’s not fun to wear a mask at a Biergarten. People are going to be drinking, which means that some people will probably forget to put them on. That could lead to unpleasant altercations with staff, other patrons, or even the Polizei. No thanks. I can drink beer at home and listen to my own music. It costs less, and I don’t have to worry about finding a place to sit. I can also socialize with someone I love and hang out with my dog.

Anyway… I swore to myself that I’d quit reading so much about the masks and reading comments from the angry and unhinged among us. But it’s like watching a train wreck. People in the United States are making a huge deal about the masks… much more so than people in Germany are. Personally, I continue to stay home, much to Bill’s chagrin. He wants to go out again. But if we stay home, I don’t have to wear a mask, put on clothes, watch people not wearing masks properly, or listen to sanctimonious drivel from people who want to tell others what to do, on EITHER side of the issue. That, to me, is a better deal.


Things I’ve “learned” from Americans about life in Germany…

This week, two different people in the United States have informed me about what life is like in Germany. Both of these people are ardent Trump supporters. One lives in North Carolina and the other lives in Texas. One is a man, and the other is a woman. From my brief social media interactions with these two people, this is what I’ve “learned”…

  1. Most Germans aren’t allowed to own guns because of Hitler.
  2. Only rich Germans can own guns.
  3. Germans are envious of Americans because we can own guns.
  4. Not only can’t Germans own guns, but neither can Brazilians.

When questioned about these ideas, the man who shared them wrote this:

I’m going on what citizens of Germany are telling me. I also have friends from Brazil I have taught to shoot guns & are not allowed to own in Brazil. The highest crime rate cities such as Chicago have the strictest gun laws. It does not add up. My wife runs a gun range & has some very interesting stories from people from other countries that are very glad to be in our great country.

…look up info on any site other than Wikipedia & you will find the same information unless it’s like Joe Biden said ” we must believe truth over facts ” lol

I’m talking to two guys from Brazil that have only been here two years. I think I believe them over something on internet.

Since I am a real person who lives in Germany, I decided to interject. Germans can own guns. It’s just not as easy for them to own them as it is the average American. They have to pay a lot, and prove that they are both sane and know what they’re doing. Consequently, there’s a lot less violent crime here. But the gentleman from North Carolina wasn’t moved. He wrote this:

I like to hear from real people and not something you read on internet. How many innocent people are killed by knife or other weapons? When I was working in Mexico I had some friends there tell me only the cartel and police had guns. The common working people were not allowed ownership. The crime rate was still bad in a lot of areas. I was told from another guy from Germany that there were a lot of Muslim extremest flooding into Europe?

Um… I am a real person. I freakin’ live here. But apparently, to this guy, I’m just “something you read on internet” [sic]. Are there Muslims here? Yes… and I’ve actually seen a lot more in Wiesbaden than I did in Stuttgart. But they don’t bother me, so I don’t bother them. Most of them are not extremists. And knives can be deadly, but it’s a lot harder to kill a dozen people in minutes with knives. Incidentally, knives are also restricted here. So I wrote back to the guy and explained as much. He didn’t respond, which was wise of him.

Here are a few more things I learned:

  • 5. Muslims are overrunning the cities.
  • 6. We can’t get medical care and doctors deny our treatments.
  • 7. Crime is rampant.
  • 8. Liberals are “anti-American”.

The woman I “met” yesterday wasn’t as wise, and she and I had a brief online row until I decidedly it was pointless to continue the conversation. She says liberals are “anti-American”. She laments socialism as a non-viable way to run a country, but I saw little evidence that she knows what socialism is. In fact, I think she may have confused it with communism, which is a common error among Americans.

What’s very unfortunate to me, though, is that those who comment on socialism and communism are typically not even old enough to remember the Soviet Union or the Eastern Bloc, and most of them have never done any reading on the subject or even traveled outside of the United States. They tend to parrot what they hear others say, even if someone who is actually living the reality tries to tell them differently. The “others” they are listening to tend to be political pundits, friends, family members, and others who are spouting off stuff from a narrow perspective and limited lens. I don’t think it’s wrong to listen to other people’s opinions, but it’s probably best to balance those opinions with facts and comments from people who have actual experience.

According to this Texas resident, Germany is loaded with Muslims who are taking over all the cities and infesting them with crime. She claims no one can get medical care, and no one feels safe here. These revelations came after I explained that I like living in Germany, where healthcare is affordable and I don’t worry about being shot when I go shopping or attend a concert. These were her comments about what life is like in Germany these days… I copied and pasted, with no edits.

WOW. You are the only person in Germany that I know that feels safe. Muslims overrun the cities. Crime has skyrocketed. You probably can’t even get in to see that Dr and they have the right to deny your treatments. But true – there is not medical debt. 

I am genuinely happy that YOU are happy where you are. But again, those are YOUR opinions and YOUR experiences. 

I am SO thankful to have a former pussy grabber in office. His crimes are less than many before him and after him. We don’t need a lying politician in office. We need a business man that can’t be bought. 🇺🇸💪🏼

PS Socialism does work. Never has. Never will. It is not the governments job to care for me. It’s mine.

Who is this chick hanging out with in Dallas who has experienced all of this? I’ve been in Germany for five years. So far, I’ve marveled at the quality and affordability of medical and veterinary care we’ve accessed here. It’s true that dental care is expensive, but it’s top quality. And we have never had problems getting appointments, nor have we had a doctor deny care.

Is there crime? Yes, of course. But it’s not typically violent crime of the scale that has become commonplace in the United States. And I have seen no evidence of Muslims overrunning the cities, either. They are more visible in some areas, but as long as they aren’t breaking the law, I don’t see why their religious beliefs should concern me. I may not agree with what they believe, just like I don’t like Mormonism, but as long as they’re peaceful, I feel like we should live and let live.

I will admit that my response to this lady was a bit snarky because, frankly, she pissed me off. These were my comments.

Umm… no, I am not the only one who feels safe. That is nonsense.  😀 Are there Muslims here? Yes, there are. But they do not “overrun” the cities. On the contrary, most of them are perfectly decent people. Is there crime here? Yes, of course.  But the crime here doesn’t result in multiple innocent people being killed. As for medical care, it’s excellent and affordable. You clearly have no idea what you’re writing about. Too bad.

As for MY opinions and MY experiences, I feel quite free to share them, since A. is my friend, too. Freedom of expression and opinion is a very American value, or have you forgotten? At least when I write about Europe, I write from a place of personal experience rather than reading too much right wing propaganda.  

And I think it’s very sad that you like having a rapist in the White House… that’s all I’m going to say about that. Your standards are clearly very low.

So she came back with this.

Thats what I’m trying to communicate with you. That your neighbors are having difference experiences than you are. 

I’m so glad you are sharing them! I never asked you not to! I’m not writing from a place of propaganda. Do you know me and my experiences? 

Awkward. Hope you didn’t vote for Bill Clinton!! 😳

(They always trot out Bill Clinton when they assume that, just because I think Trump is a scumbag, I am also a Clinton fan. News flash– I’m NOT. Although I think both Clintons are way more competent and appropriate White House occupants than Trump could ever be.)

Actually, I did not vote for either of the Clintons, not that it’s any of your business. My neighbors are Germans. They seem pretty happy with life over here.

Most of the Americans I know are also pretty content over here, too. You are writing from your ass.

But she wasn’t going to give up telling me how life is in Germany. So she wrote this:

And now we have reverted to name calling. Alright! Thanks for the “intellectual conversation!”

Where did I namecall? I wrote that she was writing from her ass and didn’t know what she was writing of, because it’s very clear that she doesn’t have personal experience to back up her opinions. There is a difference between calling someone a derogatory name and criticizing an action. I didn’t call her a name. I criticized her for sharing other people’s uninformed opinions as facts. She responded by making a snarky crack about “intellectual conversation”. Well, it takes two to tango, right?

Then she came back and made a comment about how I don’t speak for Germany. So I wrote this:

But you wrote that I was the only person you know who feels safe in Germany. I am telling you that I know a lot of people who feel safe here. How is that “speaking for Germany”? I don’t speak for anyone but myself. You are the second person this week who has told me how things are in other countries when it’s clear that you don’t have any personal experience. Even if I only listed my husband as someone else who feels safe in Germany, that would still be more than one person, right?  

I like living here. I feel fortunate to be here. Doesn’t mean I don’t love America, but living in other countries has given me a new perspective and changed my mind about a lot of things. And truly, I don’t worry about being shot when I go shopping or attend a concert. I don’t worry about going bankrupt if I need healthcare. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good… even if there are a lot of Muslims here. They’ve never bothered me, so I don’t bother them.

At this point, other people were glomming onto the conversation, most of whom are even more liberal than I am. Truth be told, I don’t think I am that liberal. I am for having someone run the country who isn’t solely about alienating our allies and enriching himself. I don’t care if it’s a Republican, a Democrat, or a third party, as long as he or she is competent and cares about other people. A friend who works with people from Europe basically backed up my comments, so I closed with this:

As for sex offenders in the White House, I think it’s wrong. I didn’t support either of the Clintons. I don’t support Trump. I would like to see us elect someone who could get a security clearance if they were a “normal” person instead of a reality show star/celebrity who has no experience and cares only about himself. Trump never should have been allowed to run. He is a disaster, in my opinion, of course. Anyway… I will let A’s other friends continue with this. I’ve got to go wash my hair.

Washing one’s hair is code for, “I’m out of this unproductive conversation. I’ve got pubic hair that needs to be frosted.” Frosting my bush is about as productive as trying to have a conversation with a Trump supporter. I get that he’s the Republican incumbent and people feel like they need to support him, but for Christ’s sake, he truly doesn’t give a flying fuck about you. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even care about his wife. He raped the first one and cheated on numbers one and two. And it’s plain that Melania can barely stand to be near him. Half the population is female; why aren’t females more concerned that an admitted sex offender who brags about grabbing women by their private parts is occupying our White House? There wasn’t another person in the United States available who could serve as the president and keep his hands to himself?

But our Kool-Aid drinking fan who doesn’t want to hear about my real life experiences IN GERMANY had to have the last word… So here it is:

I dont think you are reading my posts. I said YOU DONT SPEAK FOR GERMANY and I DONT SPEAK FOR AMERICA. There are millions of people in both places with different opinions than ours. So. No. I didn’t tell you how things are in that country. I said that there are other people who don’t have the same thoughts you do. 

You ARE the only person I have spoken with that feels safe in Germany. Many of my friends have moved to America to escape Germany. That doesn’t mean I am trying to belittle your experience. We are BOTH pointing out the same thing – that different people have different opinions and experiences in the same countries. 🙈

AGAIN – I am very glad that you feel happy and safe!! I feel happy and safe in America. That doesn’t me me wrong and you right. That makes me an individual with the right to express my own experiences.

(Notice that as she crows about her “right to express [her] own experiences”, she insults and “shouts” at those who try to express theirs. I also think she missed my point entirely, but I have a low melting point when it comes to strangers on the Internet who have tunnel vision. I’m not spending all day trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced. It’s a waste of time.)

Here’s a tip. When people type in all caps at me, I stop reading. There is no need to shout. Ditto for those who use multiple exclamation points, especially when they can’t spell, form actual sentences, or use proper punctuation. Resorting to all caps and multiple exclamation points is rude, and a poor communication style. Throughout the thread, this lady was constantly complaining about people responding to her as if she is “an idiot” (her word, not mine). Respectful communication is a two way street. Don’t want me to think you’re an idiot? Don’t respond to me like one.

I would not be surprised if she’s heard from one or two right wingers who honestly didn’t like Germany. My guess is that they are military folks who wanted their Sunday football, Sunday shopping, and right to carry their weapons in public. I know there are servicemembers who hate living in Europe because they can’t have free access to their guns at all times without cutting through a lot of expensive red tape. I also know wives of servicemembers who don’t feel safe because they can’t carry their guns with them to the Lidl. In America, I can see why someone would want to pack heat in public, but it’s simply unnecessary here.

I would rather live in a place where I don’t have to worry about some lunatic spraying crowds with gunfire simply because he’s mad at the world. I like living in a country where I don’t have to worry about going bankrupt when I get sick, and I don’t have to avoid seeking justice because I can’t afford to hire a lawyer. I like being in a place where hard working, intelligent students can go to university without being saddled with onerous debts that take the rest of their lives to pay off.

I think we should have some safety nets for people who fall on hard times and need temporary help… or permanent help, if the situation calls for it. Not everyone has family and friends to lend a hand. We make a big deal about suicide and abortion prevention, but we don’t make it easy for people to choose life when they are faced with extremely tough choices. I think we should provide more for people who are in trouble and need help. I think it’s worth paying more in taxes to get those things, although I think affordable healthcare is a much more pressing issue than affordable higher education is. If those aren’t American values, I think they should be… and I say that as an American who, at least for now, still has the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

I think Germans and people from other countries can teach Americans a whole hell of a lot. The arrogance and ignorance of some of my countrymen is astounding, embarrassing, and profoundly tragic. This lady was slightly more articulate than the man from North Carolina was, but neither of them seems to understand that if Donald Trump weren’t a celebrity billionaire who bought off the Republican party, he could not have so much have gotten a low level security clearance. And yet we trust him with the codes to our nuclear weapons. It’s astonishing how truly blind some people can be.


Losing friends over “dumb memes”…

Although I might lose friends for writing this post, I’m not one of the people who lost friends yesterday over patriotic or unpatriotic Facebook postings. For once, I stayed well out of controversial territory yesterday. Although my initial impressions of Leipzig were kind of lukewarm, the city quickly grew on me. I cried twice yesterday, both times because I was overwhelmed by music and sights that moved my senses.

The first time I cried was largely due to simply being overwhelmed by the beauty of Bach being played expertly by live buskers outside of the church where he served as the Thomaskantor for 27 years. One thing I absolutely love about living in Europe is the number of talented musicians who share their passions with people on the street. Quite often, their music moves me to tears. Bill and I joke that we become “verklempt” over things of beauty. I’ve seen him melt into tears over art exhibits or, more commonly, beautiful cathedrals. Give us a cathedral where someone is playing music or a choir is singing well, and we’ll both end up crying for different reasons.

The second time I cried was for somewhat sadder reasons. We were enjoying the Leipziger Weinfest, which fortunately happens to be going on all this weekend. A duo was playing music. I happened to notice a beautiful young family. Mom was pregnant and clearly would be delivering a baby very soon. Dad was taking care of their toddler aged son, who was obviously enchanted by the music. I watched them dancing together, father and son, as mom stood by, looking on adoringly. I realized that I’m 47 years old and I won’t ever have what that family has. I thought I had mostly come to terms with that, and have even realized it might be for the best. It still makes me sad sometimes to realize that a significant life experience that most people take for granted won’t be part of my history. In fact, when I die, the mold will be broken. Some people are grateful for that.

Add in the fact that we were drinking wine and Bill’s younger daughter will be having her daughter any day now… and, in fact, I would not be surprised if she’s already given birth. Bill Skyped with her on July 3rd. She was scheduled to be induced on the 9th, but she was already having contractions. If she had her baby yesterday, and it’s possible that she did, the baby will share birthdays with her Aunt Brigid, Bill’s older daughter who still doesn’t speak to him. Maybe the baby will hang on until the 7th and be Bill’s best birthday present, as he turns 55.

Then I read about Joy Anna Forsyth’s pregnancy loss in the 20th week. Her baby girl had no heartbeat, and she was forced to deliver little Annabell Elise stillborn. While I don’t necessarily admire the Duggar family’s focus on birthing as many babies as humanly possible and trying to deny reproductive rights to women who aren’t like them, I do have empathy for Joy. I’m sure this loss was absolutely devastating for her, as it would be for most parents. So… I guess that might be why I was so emotional last night.

Once we’d decided to retire for the evening, we came back to our hotel room. I went on Facebook, and soon found two heated arguments among my friends. One friend is very conservative. Lately, she’s been more political than ever, posting memes that promote conservative ideals and getting into arguments with her more liberal contacts. Now… it’s certainly her right to post whatever she wants on Facebook. I generally don’t comment on her political posts because I mostly understand her viewpoints. There was a time when I even shared her views somewhat. I also realize that I don’t like it when I post something on Facebook and someone starts a nasty argument about it on my page. I don’t mind discussions, but I don’t enjoy arguments, especially when they devolve into personal attacks, sarcasm, and insults.

My conservative friend is, for the most part, very respectful in her discussions. Although I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of her views– at least not since I went more liberal– I do very much respect her ability to be civilized when she disagrees with others. I can easily see why she seems to think liberals are “ganging up” on people with conservative views, since she’s recently been involved in some rather contentious arguments with people who are “aggressively liberal” and insistent about pushing their views on her page. My friend has a lot of conservative friends who have her back, so the comments can get wild. Unfortunately, one of her former friends, who is also one of my friends, got nasty and personal as he commented on the meme she shared, pictured below…

My friend posted this, and a former mutual friend of ours took her to task for not respecting Colin Kaepernick’s reasons, and rights, to peaceful protest. While I don’t disagree with the more liberal view of this, I do think his comments to her were unnecessarily offensive.

For the record, while there was a time when I didn’t see what all the hoopla was over racism in the United States, my views have changed a lot. I think it’s because I left the country and stopped spending so much time around like minded people. I started opening my eyes to what happens to people of color on a regular basis. I’m not sure if things have gotten much worse recently, or I’m just a lot more aware. But while I will never know what it means to be black in America, I do think I have a lot more empathy for non-whites than I once had. Maybe it’s because I pay a lot more attention to the news than I used to. Or maybe it’s because I studied social work and spent time working with people in minority groups. I don’t want to say I’m “woke”, because I don’t really like that term. It’s more like I can’t unring the bell. I don’t see things as black and white as much as I used to. That being said… I don’t think liberals do the cause any favors when they become self-righteous, insulting, or shaming toward people who don’t share their views. It takes time for people to change and, by and large, they have to want to do it for it to be a genuine change. Trying to force someone to be tolerant is not very tolerant behavior.

Well, I left that thread without responding to it… and promptly fell into another rabbit hole. A liberal friend– someone much more liberal than I am– posted this meme.

True… but…

My liberal friend has a friend I don’t know who took exception to this meme. She posted this comment.

Thankfully things have changed….its important to remember where we came from, equally important to realize what HAS changed and stop hammering the past to death. It is not 1787 anymore.

I really didn’t find this comment offensive at all. However, other people did, and they quickly let her know. Eight comments, at least half of which were accusatory and shaming, were lobbed at this lady. At least one comment made an assumption about what this poster thinks and what kind of person she is, even though she’s evidently a complete stranger to them. Most of the other comments were outraged and rather sanctimonious in nature. I couldn’t help but imagine the poster folding her arms and walking away from the conversation. I doubt the confrontation did much good, if the intention was to “educate” and/or change hearts and minds. I wasn’t even involved in the conversation and I found it offensive, even if I don’t disagree with the posters who agreed with the meme.

I’m reminded of a discussion I was part of about 20 years ago, when I used to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. One of the regular attendees was a young woman who was learning how to do massages. She brought with her some type of clay that she used to practice her massage techniques. During the meeting, she introduced the concept of being “gentle” with applying pressure toward any approach to change. She showed us how pressing the clay forcefully with her fingers met with immediate resistance. But when she pressed into the clay gently, the clay gradually yielded and she was able to make indentations that changed its form significantly. It’s the same with muscles. Brutally pressing into muscles results in pain, resistance, and sometimes even damage. Gentle pressure yields better results, as the muscles gradually yield to the therapeutic pressure and the massage therapist can effect health promoting change.

I think the same could be said for some discussions we have with other people, particularly on social media. No one likes to be lectured to, aggressively attacked, shamed, or insulted. That is not what makes people open their minds or change their opinions. Respectful communication, empathy, listening, and being willing and able to consider other people’s views without closing one’s mind is how real conversations can happen… and sometimes maybe even real, positive change can be effected.

I think memes can be good conversation starters. Sometimes, they are thought provoking. However, memes don’t sum up real life. I think it’s a shame when a meme leads to people losing friendships. If the goal is to educate, open minds, or change perspectives, it’s best to try to be respectful and empathetic. And if you want to be respected yourself, then you should yourself act respectable.