dogs, social media

The Atlantic just reran their article about spaying and neutering dogs… naturally, it brought out the outrage…

Two years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, I subscribed to The Atlantic. I did so because I kept finding myself trying to read their articles, which I noticed were often controversial. There have been a few times, in the past two years, when I have regretted subscribing. It’s usually when I see that they’re rerunning, for the umpteenth time, an article that is a few years old. This morning, they happened to rerun an article they published about how the consensus regarding spaying and neutering dogs is “quietly changing”. In 2019, writer Sarah Zhang (or her editor) wrote:

A growing body of research has documented the health risks of getting certain breeds fixed early—so why aren’t shelters changing their policies?

You can almost bet on the comments that appeared, just from people who read the tagline. There was statement after statement from people who do dog rescues, hysterically crying foul about how “irresponsible” this article is. Many dramatic diatribes were about how full the shelters are, and how so many dogs are euthanized, because not everyone spays or neuters. And because of those “irresponsible” people, everyone should be forced, locked step, into “fixing” their animals before the first heat or at six months of age, potential health risks or concerns be damned.

Bill and I have gotten all of our dogs from rescue organizations or people who do dog rescue (in Noyzi’s case). Of course we agree with spaying and neutering. BUT… I think Sarah Zhang’s article makes a lot of sense. Nowhere did she write that spaying and neutering should be abolished. What she did write was that research “suggests that spaying and neutering—especially in some large breeds when very young—are linked to certain disorders later in life.” Veterinarians are starting to question whether or not spaying and neutering every pet when they are very young is the right thing to do for animals, from a health standpoint.

However, many rescue groups and shelters are stubbornly clinging to the idea that every animal must be sterilized as young as possible. Animal welfare groups usually don’t give adopters a choice as to when or whether they will spay or neuter. And yes, before anyone comes at me, I do understand why they have that rule. They are trying to control the pet population, which is not a bad goal at all. My issue is when anyone has an objection or takes a contrary position to that idea, things get uncivilized in a hurry. And if you read the Facebook comments on this story, many of which come from people who didn’t bother to read the article, you find that people can be downright nasty and rigid about this subject. There are very few topics in which total rigidity works. Early animal castration, in my view, is a topic that might benefit from further reflection.

I live in Germany, and vets in Germany don’t spay or neuter animals until they’re about a year old. I am in Italy right now, and I have seen many, many dogs who are still intact. Yes, there are animal shelters and rescue groups in Europe, but there isn’t the huge problem, at least in western Europe, of stray dogs that we have in the United States. And so, mindsets are different here. In Norway, spaying and neutering is not even allowed unless there is a medical reason to do it. Or, at least that was the rule until very recently. Norway is hardly a barbarian country. Of course, life is different there than it is in the U.S. People tend to be less selfish and more community minded, which I think is common across the continent. There are also fewer people and fewer pets as a whole. But anyway, my point is, the American viewpoint isn’t the only one worth considering. Sometimes, it does make sense to listen to other voices from different places.

But, just as face masks have become a political issue, so has the idea of getting an animal spayed or neutered… or not. And God forbid an American admit to wanting to purchase a purebred dog from a breeder, even if the breeder is “responsible” and knowledgable. Some Americans will judge people mercilessly for that, too. Again, in Europe, many people purchase dogs from breeders. There is nothing wrong with it. Of course, breeders in Europe tend to know what they are doing and have to show their competence. I know that’s not true in the United States. What I think is a shame, though, is that so many people feel that they have to force their views on other people, claiming that if someone’s opinion doesn’t follow the status quo, the opinion is “wrong”. Opinions are just that–opinions. Everybody has them, and it might do us some good to hear those other opinions sometimes.

I guess what really struck me about the comments on The Atlantic’s article is that so many of them were downright abusive. There was sarcasm aplenty, and just rude, uncalled for, uncivilized statements made that served no purpose whatsoever. It makes me think that most people are assholes. No wonder I’ve become such a recluse.

I do think it would be a good thing if people were allowed more flexibility as to when they get their animals neutered. I do think some animals shouldn’t be “fixed”, or they should have hormone sparing procedures, such as vasectomies or ovary sparing spays. But most of all, I think more people should take a deep breath before commenting to strangers online. The world is an ugly enough place right now. There’s no need to add to the nastiness, which usually won’t be responded to constructively, anyway. There are good reasons why some people would rather wait before they get their pets snipped. It’s time more people got out of the rigid thinking about this subject, and others, and considered other perspectives and viewpoints. Maybe they might learn something new.

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communication, complaints, Military, rants, social media

“Educate yourself!” Most of us would be wise to follow our own advice…

The featured photo is a meme that was posted by a popular veteran’s page on Facebook.

Happy President’s Day, everybody. We had a boring weekend at home, as is par for the course in these pandemic times. In ordinary times, we would have gone away for the weekend, but I’m actually glad we didn’t do that. The weather has been downright crappy. This weekend was cold, windy, and rainy. There was some sun on Saturday, but the temperatures weren’t very pleasant. And since Germany still has COVID measures going on, that makes me not want to go out. I don’t enjoy being indoors with a FFP2 mask strapped to my face and people watching my every move to make sure I follow the rules.

Does that sound paranoid? It probably does… but this is an attitude I’ve noticed over the past couple of years. People are watching. I generally do follow the rules, but I don’t like the feeling of being surveilled by strangers. My desire to go out and see the world isn’t strong enough to deal with that kind of scrutiny, so I just stay home.

I spent several hours yesterday creating a new “AM Gold” playlist for my music library. I downloaded quite a number of albums and spent some money I probably shouldn’t have. But, as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, ordinarily we would have gone out of town and spent the money anyway. We will be taking a trip next week to see our dentist in Stuttgart, then we’ll go spend the weekend in France. Hopefully, the weather will be somewhat better for that. I hope the COVID rules will be less onerous in France, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

We’ve come to a turning point in the pandemic, as was inevitable when this shitshow started in March 2020. Even cautious Germans are discussing dropping some of the rules. As of March 20, which would mark the second anniversary of the plague, most COVID restrictions are set to be rescinded. Masks are still going to be required, which I know makes a lot of people happy because they feel safer when people wear masks. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I hate the masks with a passion and will be delighted to see them go. But I generally follow the rules, so all I do is complain and avoid being in situations where masks are needed. Other people are much bolder about their rebellion, which sometimes leads to trouble.

Yesterday, I noticed a thread on Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. He wrote a very kind and caring post about how he hopes those who haven’t been vaccinated will get the shot(s), because pretty soon, it will be every person for themselves. I appreciated Wil’s thoughts on this. I think he’s reasonable and well-informed.

I wish all famous people were this decent.

Not surprisingly, Wil got a few rude comments about how this is all a conspiracy to make money for politicians and “Big Pharma”. I was impressed by Wil’s reasonable and calm responses to the people who pushed back against his rational thoughts on the vaccines. And there were also comments from the other side of the spectrum. Several people lamented about how no one cares about them or their lives because they are immunocompromised. They are legitimately scared that when the rules are rescinded, their lives will be in danger.

On one level, I can sympathize with people who are immunocompromised. It is scary to think that soon there could be a “free for all”. However, on another level, I want to tell them that this is the way it’s always been. It’s really every person for themselves. For two years, people have lived with rules that have upended lives and caused significant problems. Some people have died during the pandemic, not because they got the virus, but because they suffered from mental health issues or delayed necessary healthcare. Or they’ve been in accidents or been victims of crimes. The sad reality is, life is about risks. COVID presents another one of many risks that we all face every day.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to go on living with these rules and restrictions indefinitely. I also don’t think it’s realistic to assume that the whole world is going to get on the same page when it comes to their behaviors regarding the pandemic. Politics and religions, as well as cultural mores and personal needs, play into how a person behaves. I know that some people will choose to wear face masks for the rest of their lives. I don’t think there should be any issue with that. It doesn’t hurt you or me if someone chooses to wear a mask. On the other hand, other people will not want to do that. I think that should be okay, too.

I noticed one sanctimonious comment by a guy on Wil’s post who wrote he has a “needle phobia”, but still managed to get vaccinated. Someone else added, “I would tell anyone with a needle phobia to consider how many needles they’ll be subjected to if they are hospitalized because of COVID.” To those two people, I would say that neither of them understand phobias. The first person probably doesn’t have a legitimate “needle phobia”. The second person clearly doesn’t understand what it really means to have a phobia. People who have a phobia have an irrational fear, and even downright terror, of something that doesn’t ordinarily cause people to be scared.

For instance, I have a phobia of mushrooms. No amount of telling me how delicious they are, or how their flesh feels like a rubber ball, or how they are beautiful or cute, will make me want to see them, touch them, smell them, or eat them. I freeze up when I’m confronted by mushrooms. I know it’s ridiculous and irrational. That’s what makes it a phobia. Trying to scare people who have needle phobias, with mean spirited comments about what they will face if they are hospitalized, isn’t helpful. All it does is scare them even more, and it shows a stunning lack of compassion, as well as great ignorance. People have laughed at me for my whole life for having a phobia. I wish I could help it, but I can’t. Fortunately, avoiding mushrooms due to a phobia is not a life or death issue, as avoiding the vaccines might be.

One attitude that I’ve gotten really tired of is the constant need to shame people and discount their opinions. I’m not saying it’s wrong to express disagreement with someone. I’m saying that I’ve gotten tired of the derisive and downright rude responses people have toward each other– people they don’t even know– simply because they disagree. It’s on both sides of the pandemic issue. I don’t think it’s helpful, for instance, when someone writes a negative opinion about, say, vaccines, and a stranger posts a GIF of a crying toddler. Someone did that to me at the beginning of the pandemic. My response was to tell her to knock it off. That shit doesn’t help, and it’s rude and disrespectful. I won’t be having a dialogue with someone who does stuff like that. It doesn’t change hearts or minds, either. All it does is cause people to double down on their opinions.

This image is a false equivalency that really isn’t helpful.

Above is a photo that appeared on VoteVets, which is a left leaning Facebook page for people in the US military community. I know what the intent of sharing this was, but I don’t think these kinds of snarky, shaming posts are helpful. I also don’t think there’s any comparison between the two situations. One photo involves an adult person who presumably chose to join the military for whatever reason. Another involves a person who needs to go shopping for essentials. Everybody has to shop, and some people legitimately have good reasons why they have difficulties wearing face masks. Not everyone is suitable for military service or would willingly make the choice to serve. Moreover, I think it’s tasteless to use servicemembers to guilt monger others.

Sure enough, there were plenty of shitty comments posted about this image, with very few people changing their minds. It was just an echo chamber of negativity, wasted time arguing with people with diametrically opposed opinions, and plenty of virtue signaling thrown in for good measure. Actually, I’ve come to expect that in a lot of groups or pages devoted to the military community. Disrespect toward others seems to be a guiding principle, as long as there isn’t rank involved. It’s like they take out having to salute their leaders online, directing their rudeness toward perfect strangers. I’m so glad Bill isn’t like that.

Just a few days ago, there was an excellent editorial in The Local Germany written by someone who thinks Germany should be more tolerant toward people who can’t wear masks. The author cited his friend, an artist with autism and severe sensory issues that cause debilitating physical symptoms when she wears a mask. The artist lives in Britain, where people can get medical exemptions to wearing masks. Here in Germany, her experience was mostly very negative and unnecessarily nasty. Zero tolerance policies often lead to innocent people being punished, or people getting punished when they shouldn’t be, due to unforeseen circumstances. Since the article is behind a paywall, here are a few snippets:

What I think is especially sad is that whenever someone expresses an opinion, he or she is liable to be personally attacked by someone they don’t know. This is someone who doesn’t know a thing about the person they are insulting. They don’t know or care why someone has the opinion they have, nor do they care about the person they are insulting. They just spew aggression and insults. I know this is borne out of frustration and fear, not to mention the very real fatigue that comes with daily bad news about the rogue virus that keeps mutating and making people sick and/or killing them.

But… I’ve got news for those who think this COVID-19 lifestyle should go on forever. People die every day for a huge variety of reasons. Since March 20, 2020, I have lost three family members and a dear friend. Three of the four of them were pretty young to be dying, but not a single one of them died of COVID-19. COVID is just one of many risks that we face every day. A person who wants to go back to a more normal lifestyle isn’t a bad person for wanting that after two years of lockdowns, face masks, and limited travel. Yes, it would be great if every single person on the planet had 100 percent regard and consideration for other people, but unfortunately, that isn’t the way of the world. I wish it was, but it’s not. So instead of fretting about what’s going to happen when mask and vaccine mandates go away, I think it might be more prudent to take the steps that will mitigate risks and hope for the best.

There are always going to be people who think it’s too early to relax the rules. There will always be at least one person who will say the pandemic isn’t over yet. They probably won’t even be wrong. I commend those who are committed to being disciplined, as long as it makes them happy to be that way. I don’t think it’s right to condemn other people who choose a different path. This simply can’t go on forever, and there’s never going to be a situation in which everyone will be satisfied. That’s because we all have opinions, and those opinions are shaped by our own perspectives. If you want people to respect your views, you should probably try to respect theirs, even if you think they are dead wrong. I strongly doubt that we’ll ever have a situation in which everyone agrees. Part of living in a free society is having the ability to disagree.

I know it’s a pipe dream that people will be nicer about disagreements. I sure wish it weren’t so, though. For all of those who are screaming “educate yourself”, I would like to say that they should follow their own advice. Stop and think about it for a moment. Maybe that person does have a valid point. Either way, you probably don’t have to be an asshole to them… at least not at first. I know it’s easier said that done. So often, I’ve been tempted to leave a snarky or rude comment for someone. Then I’ll approach with more respect. Finally, I usually just delete my comment, because unfortunately, I’ve found that commenting on social media is just a waste of time. That’s mainly why I blog.

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condescending twatbags, language, overly helpful people, social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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healthcare, musings

I’m tired of thinking about health…

A few days ago, I got drawn into a rather unpleasant online argument on Toytown Germany. Someone had started a thread about how healthcare providers in Germany are dishonest. Lots of people were lamenting about how dentists are crooks, and how privately insured patients get fleeced by physicians. Meanwhile, publicly insured people are treated with apathy.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with German healthcare providers myself, although I do know of some Americans who have chosen to have major illnesses treated by German doctors instead of the American ones at Landstuhl. I know someone whose wife got colon cancer and was treated with relative apathy by the military docs. She contacted doctors in Wiesbaden and they were quick to see and treat her. Now, she’s in remission.

Bill and I love our German dentist in Stuttgart. We haven’t seen him in two years, but he’s still the best dentist either of us has ever had. He is a hybrid, of sorts… Mom was German and Dad was American, so he knows both cultures. We’re hoping to see him soon for cleanings we desperately need, now that we’re vaccinated. But I can understand that some people have had bad experiences with German healthcare providers.

There was one person, though, who was crowing about how great American healthcare is. Frankly, I don’t see it. I mean, if you have access to great health insurance or you have money, sure… but for the rank and file person who isn’t insured or wealthy, I don’t think American healthcare is that great. For one thing, it’s very expensive, and you don’t know what you’ll have to pay, because prices aren’t regulated. I know of a couple of people who have gone bankrupt after having had car accidents or other unexpected medical emergencies, even if they have insurance coverage. There are many horror stories online about people who have faced financial ruin after hospital stays, particularly when the stays were due to emergencies.

Some people have looked abroad for their needs to be met. I know someone who had a whole mouthful of dental implants done in Costa Rica, because she couldn’t afford the six figures she was quoted in the States. I know someone else who went to Mexico for a Lapband procedure for the same reason; she paid a fraction of the cost of what that procedure would have run her in the United States. Of course, going abroad for healthcare can be risky and results differ. My friend who went to Costa Rica is very satisfied with the result. The one who went to Mexico later developed a life threatening infection that her health insurance wouldn’t cover, because she had the Lapband operation done in Mexico by a physician who wasn’t in network. And because the infection, while certainly in need of urgent treatment, was related to an uncovered procedure done in Mexico, my friend had to pay out of pocket to get the necessary antibiotics and related medical care to cure it.

Mental healthcare services in the United States are given very little coverage, even though conditions like depression and anxiety can cause physical health issues and impact the quality of life. They can also cause people to do drastic things that lead to tragedies. But try to get broad coverage for a mental health issue in the States. It’s not easy, particularly if inpatient care is indicated.

For another thing, the United States doesn’t actually rate that highly when compared to systems in other countries. If you look at the United States when compared to, say, France or Italy, or even Germany (which also isn’t that high ranking, but is better than the USA). you’ll find that it isn’t even ranked in the top 30 of 196 countries. A lot goes into determining what makes a great system, of course. Researchers look at factors such as infant mortality, life expectancy, the number of qualified medical providers available, mortality and morbidity, and how long patients manage to avoid being readmitted to hospitals after they’re released. Researchers also look at affordability, accessibility, and availability.

The United States certainly has a lot of excellent hospitals and some great doctors. But there are also many areas where healthcare coverage is poor, such as remote and rural locales. Some of those areas rely on telemedicine in order to help people meet their needs. Some healthcare facilities are also very poor, as are some providers. And then, there’s that pesky issue of people not being able to access healthcare because they simply can’t afford it. Those people are often the ones who end up going to the emergency room for routine care. It’s like doing your grocery shopping at a 7 Eleven.

So anyway, I pointed this out to the American healthcare system cheerleader. She came back to me with a rather nasty tone that didn’t suggest to me that discussing the issue further with her would be productive. So I signed off– inviting her to do her. It was kind of a snarky retort, but I just didn’t have the energy to get into it with a stranger over this subject, even though it’s something I know a little about, having studied it formally. Then, come to find out, she’s not even AMERICAN! She comes from Britain! And she fucking lives in Cologne! Maybe she has real experience with the US system, but I doubt she’s ever had to seek healthcare in a rural area of the United States. I could tell, though, that she wasn’t interested in another perspective, and frankly I just didn’t feel like going around with her. So I fucked off, although I did have a brief private conversation with someone else from that thread. She was kind and civil, so that wasn’t a bad thing.

Lately, I’ve found that I just don’t have the patience to engage with people online, particularly when they’re strangers. Maybe it’s me, but it just seems like a lot of people are just nasty lately. It could have to do with how on edge we’ve been, thanks to COVID-19 and the lifestyle restrictions it’s led to. Or, it could be because people have lost the ability to be civilized, thanks to being behind computer screens too much. It could also be a combination of both conditions. Whatever the issue is, however, I’ve found that I’m just not interested in discussing it anymore. I don’t want to talk or hear about most things related to health… or really, the pandemic.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t want to engage with people about other subjects, either. This morning, I ran across an article about Andrew Yang and New York City’s carriage horses and how so many people are divided about it. Personally, I think the people who are claiming the carriage horses are being abused are overstating things a bit. I’ve also realized that most of the people with opinions about the horses don’t actually know anything about horses, or the people who work with them. Here’s a good, balanced read about the issue.

I read so many comments from people saying the carriage horses should just be retired and sent to a farm somewhere. I just want to ask these people how they would feel if, one day, some well-meaning but ignorant person told them that they shouldn’t be doing their job anymore because it’s “cruel”. Suddenly, they lose their purpose… but how many people can afford to keep horses as mere pets? And is a life consigned to being sent out to pasture really as good as it seems? I spent a lot of time with horses earlier in my life. They like having jobs, particularly when they’ve been bred to do something. Also, some people who keep horses shouldn’t be keeping horses… like– I would rather see a horse pulling a carriage in New York City than wind up on a farm owned by a hoarder.

A lot of the folks who complain about the carriage horses don’t realize that unwanted horses are sometimes auctioned off and bought by people who send them to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. It’s currently illegal to slaughter horses for meat in the United States. So the kill buyers will send them beyond the borders on long haul trucks, where they don’t get rest, proper food, or water; then they die a horrible death. Since they are companion animals, they aren’t even really suitable to be turned into food, either. I started to write about that this morning, but decided I just didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to get into it with the uninformed, and frankly it’s a depressing subject. So I clicked off the article and practiced guitar, instead.

It just seems like people aren’t interested in having a civilized discussion. Everyone has opinions, and everyone thinks his or her opinions are correct, and fuck anyone with a different view. Those with an alternative viewpoint are shamed, belittled, berated, and name-called. It’s frustrating and ultimately pointless to engage with those types, so I just let them win… and let the more energetic people deal with them. I’ve got more important things to do, like scrubbing my butt crack.

I was feeling this way last year, too. This was what I posted a year ago on Facebook…

People are getting nastier lately. Three times in the last week, friends of friends who don’t know me at all have jumped down my throat for posting something they take offense to. They don’t even try to understand before they snap. Instead, it’s shoot first, ask questions later. It makes me hesitant to post comments on other people’s posts, because I can get snarky comments from so-called loved ones just as easily. I sure don’t need them from total strangers who don’t even know me.

I think it’s sad, because in my experience, most people truly aren’t bad people. If you take a minute to think before you respond with nastiness, you might end up making a friend instead making someone think you’re an asshole.

A year ago, COVID-19 was new, and there was a lot of rudeness going around on social media. It hasn’t changed much this year, although now that we’ve been vaccinated, maybe I can find something to do besides hang out online. Here’s hoping.

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condescending twatbags, rants

I don’t mind calling her “Dr. Jill Biden”. She earned it.

Last night, I read these words from a former Northwestern University lecturer by the name of Joseph Epstein.

Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? 

These words were printed in an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper with a decidedly conservative bent, but one to which I am a current subscriber. I decided to subscribe to the WSJ a few weeks ago because I wanted to read an article and had to be a paid subscriber to do so. It wasn’t the first time I had wanted to read something published by the paper, and I am a big believer in paying for journalism. I currently subscribe to six different publications, four of which are papers with long histories and storied reputations. I don’t agree with everything I’ve read in any of these papers, but I think it’s important to have access to the services they provide. Almost all media sources are biased to some degree, which is why I think it’s important to read a range. The WSJ represents one of my conservative viewpoint sources.

A conservative viewpoint is certainly what Mr. Epstein, a man with a mere B.A. provides, when he slams the future First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, for referring to herself by the honorific “Doctor”. Dr. Biden earned a Doctorate in Education, most precisely, the Ed.D., at the University of Delaware. She also holds a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, and she has been working as a teacher since Melania was a wee lass. Dr. Biden certainly has earned the right to call herself “doctor”, even if she’s never “delivered a baby”, as Mr. Epstein asserts is the only reason anyone should be calling themselves “doctor”.

Mr. Epstein brags in his windy opinion piece that he’d taught at Northwestern University for thirty years without benefit of a doctorate or any other advanced degree. He writes that he got his B.A. “in absentia”, because on graduation day, he was at Fort Hood serving in the “peacetime Army in the late 1950s”. Then he goes on to wax poetic about the worthlessness of honorary doctorates, one of which he has. Epstein writes that the president of the school that awarded him his honorary doctorate was fired in the year following the award. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Jill Biden or her considerable accomplishments, as well as the honest, valuable work she did in achieving them. But obviously, the people at the WSJ who decided Mr. Epstein’s piece was worth printing saw fit to trash the incoming first lady, who at least first became notable for things she’s done with her clothes on and her mind fully engaged.

It may be fair to note that Mr. Epstein is 83 years old, and is likely very set in his ways and his opinions. I’m sure it’s hard for him to imagine that a woman might be worthy of being called “doctor”. Hell, he’d probably rather refer to even the female medical doctors as “doctoress”, as they were called in the mid 19th century.

Interestingly enough, I once got chastised for referring to physicians as doctors by my own dentist, a man who is half German, half American. My dentist, who received his dentistry training in the United States, but has worked in Germany for decades, gave me a tutorial on who is allowed to be called “doctor” in Germany and clarified that here, a physician isn’t necessarily really the same thing as a doctor is. The female lawyer we used in our recent legal situation is referred to as “doctor”, even though in the United States, lawyers don’t typically go by that honorific. It’s because she wrote and successfully defended a dissertation, just as Dr. Biden did. But Epstein is apparently not impressed by Dr. Biden’s choice of subjects. He referred to the title of Dr. Biden’s dissertation “‘Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs’” as “unpromising”.

Why anyone should care about Epstein’s opinions of Dr. Biden’s dissertation is beyond me. The man has admitted that he, himself, had never managed to earn a legitimate advanced degree. He claims that we should not be impressed by Dr. Biden’s accomplishments because the standards aren’t as rigorous as they used to be, and according to him, that’s a bad thing.

Well… as someone who worked for three solid years earning two master’s degrees, I know that there is a lot that goes into earning higher degrees. It’s not just a matter of being smart and showing up. There’s also attending and actively participating in classes, studying, writing papers, and taking exams. There’s also the task of coming up with original ideas and convincing people who are further in their academic development that you are worthy of being awarded a diploma. It takes a lot of time and effort to earn degrees at legitimate universities. There’s also the cost of attending school, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of having a personal and professional life. I worked very hard when I was in graduate school, but I didn’t have a husband or children to worry about, nor did I have an extremely demanding job. I did have jobs while I was in school, but I was not in positions that required a lot from me.

Dr. Biden, by contrast, had a lot going on in her life when she was earning her doctorate. She was awarded that degree only two years before her husband was elected Vice President of the United States. And she worked as a professor the whole time he was in office, bringing a change of clothes with her to her job so she could go from the classroom to state dinners. This woman has surely proven herself worthy of great respect, at least to people who look at her objectively and don’t consider their personal feelings about her politics or her husband’s politics.

As is my custom, I read some of the comments on the Wall Street Journal’s site. I was heartened to read that many people had the same thoughts I have regarding Epstein’s ugly opinions. But I also wasn’t surprised to read comments from butthurt Trumpers, who are no doubt very sad that their disgusting literal golden boy, Donald Trump, isn’t going to be allowed to perpetuate his misogynistic and racist agenda on the United States for another four years… or, at least he won’t if the electors, voting in the electoral college today, do their duty.

Epstein’s sneering sexist attitude toward Dr. Jill Biden reminds me an awful lot of the sexist bullshit many women, particularly those who are married to servicemembers, get in the military community. God forbid a woman wants to be educated, intelligent, and accomplished in her own right. I have run into many little men who are very threatened by the fact that I’m educated. To a lot of guys in the military community, women who have married servicemembers are just “dependas”. Dependa is short for dependapotamus– fat, uneducated, lazy women who milk their husbands for their paychecks and military benefits.

Are there women like this in the military community? If I’m honest, I would have to say that there are, just as many other types of people are represented in the military community. But “dependa types” don’t represent the normal military spouse by any stretch, and I would add that any person who tolerates “dependa” behavior– whether it be from a man or a woman– has only themselves to blame for it. If you’re female, you can’t win in that community, either, because to a lot of these guys, if a woman isn’t an actual “dependa”, she’s an uppity bitch who has gotten too big for her britches and needs to be pushed down to her place. I’ve written about this phenomenon many times over the years and can supply lots of offensive quotes from men reacting to articles written about the “dependa” stereotypes. The people who perpetuate the dependa stereotype, by and large, are also the ones who uniformly refer to Democrats with terms like “libtards” and seethe at the idea that women and minorities might deserve equal rights, equal pay, and basic respect.

What Joseph Epstein proposes is nothing new… I’ve seen it and experienced myself from the same type of person he is– small minded, easily threatened, butthurt, and rapidly becoming insignificant and obsolete. I think Joseph Epstein has a hell of a lot of nerve printing his dismissive, discounting, and diminutive comments about Jill Biden. I think his issue is mostly jealousy and bitterness. When he called Dr. Biden, a 69 year old woman, “kiddo”, he revealed just how petty and threatened he is by strong, articulate, and driven women. He should be deeply ashamed of himself. I sincerely doubt this article ever would have been run if Dr. Biden was a man.

So yes, I will call Dr. Jill Biden by her honorific. She put in the work. She earned the honor. And we need a lot more women like her to undo the damage wrought by Joseph Epstein and his ilk. I look forward to welcoming Dr. Biden, with great pleasure, to the White House next month. I think she and her husband are exactly what we need.

Today’s featured photo was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut, who expertly drew what I think Mr. Epstein is in his great novel, Breakfast of Champions.

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