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 a dissertation and successfully defended, 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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musings, politics, tragedies

Death of a “friendship”…

I came across an argument between two friends yesterday, as I was hanging out in the backyard, drinking wine. One of my friends is a Trump supporter. The other, who until yesterday was friends with my Trump supporting friend, is a Biden supporter.

My Trump supporting friend, I’ll call Mary, had posted a negative opinion article about Joe Biden. It was up for awhile before the other friend, I’ll call Sherry, showed up and left what was initially a hesitant, yet respectful comment. Sherry basically wrote that while she generally respects Mary very much, she didn’t understand why Mary doesn’t support Mr. Biden. Sherry correctly pointed out that Trump has been accused of sexual assault by many women.

A rather testy exchange developed. I could see that the two women were starting to get angry with each other. Then Mary pointed out that under Obama, eleven missionaries contracted Ebola and had to be treated. Sherry, obviously flabbergasted that Mary would bring that up when so many people are dying of COVID-19, then asked Mary if she was a “fucking idiot”? Naturally, that really offended Mary, and she shut down the conversation. I can’t blame her for doing that, although personally, I agree with Sherry that the Ebola situation under Obama really pales in comparison to the disastrous way the coronavirus is being handled by Trump.

I’ve noticed that when these exchanges happen and someone gets unfriended on Facebook or blocked, the participants later kind of dust off their hands and say something along the lines of, “the trash just took itself out”. I do that myself, although there’s usually a small tinge of sorrow that I lost a “friend”, even if that person wasn’t really a friend. It just highlights how very fragile relationships have become in the age of social media and online communication.

This is just one very recent example of how people who used to be “friends” and or “loved ones” are being pulled apart by our heated politics. Some readers might recall I actually got blocked by someone last week after she started a fight on my page over Donald Trump. I wasn’t even the one who was taking her to task. And yes, after it happened and the person blocked me, I also quipped that the trash took itself out.

It’s a shame that relationships are so easily destroyed over something like politics. But we probably should know better since religion and politics, while often very interesting topics of discussion, are also the subjects one tends to avoid in polite company. That was always the advice given for cocktail parties. Never bring up religion or politics, because there will surely be a row. Of course, when people go to cocktail parties, they often drink. Tongues loosen and some things are said that shouldn’t be. I suppose it’s the same on Facebook, but the relationships are even more fragile because when you’re not looking at someone’s face and seeing their non verbal communication cues, you’re more likely to unload something you shouldn’t.

I don’t know Sherry as well as I know Mary, although I am “friends” with both. I “met” them both online on a messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. My observation about Sherry is that she’s very intelligent, but has a bit of a temper. Mary is older and seems very wise about a lot of things, but she also has a temper. Politically speaking, I align more with Sherry because I despise Trump and I’m pissed off at the Republican party for foisting his brand of craziness on the world. I’m pissed off enough that I don’t think I will ever vote red again.

But– I also agree with Mary that it’s not cool to go on other people’s Facebook pages, lose your temper, and cuss people out or call them names. I may not agree with Mary’s choice for a presidential candidate, but I know for a fact that she’s not a “fucking idiot”. I think it’s too bad that Sherry had to go there, even though I understand her frustration. I don’t know what all was involved in that exchange, other than exhaustion and stress over who is going to lead the United States come January 2021. But it’s a shame when people break up relationships over politics.

I myself lost a good friend– one I knew offline– over Mitt Romney back in 2008. At the time, I really was concerned about Romney winning the White House. In retrospect, I realize that he would have done a much better job than Trump has done. I still am not a Mitt fan, but I don’t think he’s as bad as I once did. And I’m sorry I lost a friendship over Mitt… although if I recall correctly, I was more pissed off by the disrespectful way my former friend was treating me than his political opinions. If he were to approach me today, I would be happy to speak to him. Sadly, I think the ship has sailed forever.

I don’t know how well Mary and Sherry knew each other offline. They live in different parts of the United States, so it’s likely that they only interacted virtually. I don’t know if they were ever close friends, although Sherry did start off by saying she “respected” Mary very much. It didn’t take long, though, before the respect went out the window and Sherry was asking Mary if she was a “fucking idiot”.

I really try to respect people’s rights to their own opinions. I may not always succeed in avoiding calling people out over these things, but in my heart, I do think people must have the right to make choices. It’s frustrating to see people I respect championing a man whom I personally think is very dangerous to democracy and the overall security of the world. It’s hard not to get angry sometimes when people keep trying to prop up Trump as being better than he is. But I also believe that everyone has different perspectives and they don’t generally form in a vacuum.

I will happily tell people why I dislike Donald Trump and would never vote for him. I just hope I never lose my temper and call a “friend” a name that debases them… This political season has been brutal. I’ve lost “friends” and “loved ones” to Trump’s politics. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get them back again. But maybe the ones who stick around are the ones I should pay more attention to, anyway.

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rants

We can’t stay locked down forever…

Yesterday, I read an opinion piece on CNN by a man named Ed Adler. It was about COVID-19. Adler is over 60 years old, and he’s upset because people are speaking and writing of “culling” the weak and vulnerable and opening up the world for the good of everyone else. In his piece on CNN, Adler wrote:

…we will not be back to normal for a long, long time. Others will venture out. My son (26) and daughter (22) will surely risk the threat of infection and try to resume some normalcy. But for older folks and those with pre-existing conditions, our isolation must be ongoing. We will be the last to resume activity and continue our lives.

And while we wait, we can hear the echoes of those who care little about our vulnerability. One example: As the virus swept across the US, a city official in Antioch, California, said Covid-19 should be allowed to run its course, even if elderly and homeless people die. Ken Turnage, chairman of the city’s planning commission, posted on Facebook that the country needed to adopt a “Herd Mentality” that “allows the sick, the old, the injured to meet its natural course in nature.”

Mr. Adler writes that Turnage later deleted the Facebook post, but refused to resign or retract his comments. He was later removed from his role as chairman of Antioch’s city planning commission when city council members voted unanimously to strip him of his “powers”.

Adler points out that not everyone expresses themselves in the way Turnage did, but many people still have the attitude that elderly and immunocompromised people are expendable and should sacrifice themselves for the sake of others during this pandemic. As one of those who is at a higher risk of dying from a COVID-19 infection, Adler appeals to people to be considerate toward folks like him. He laments that the world is permanently changed and he will never again be able to enjoy the New York City that he loves. He adds:

In a society that has always honored and been oddly enamored of youth and the young, it is not surprising that older folks are deemed disposable by some. But I’m in my 60s and I’m still vibrant. I enjoy working with clients to help them achieve their goals. I’d like to be around to see my kids’ marriages and continue to help mentor their careers. I want to hold grandchildren and play with Walter, my grand-dog.

As I read Mr. Adler’s piece, I felt pangs of sympathy for him. But then I noticed this, posted near his byline:

Editor’s Note: Ed Adler is a partner in a global strategic communications firm. He spent 36 years at Time Warner, many of them as head of the company’s corporate communications. The opinions expressed here are his own.

So Mr. Adler has had a long, productive career at Time Warner, and I’m assuming, has enjoyed a mostly “normal” pre-pandemic life. He’s had children, and given that he wishes to help mentor them in their careers, they are still on good terms with him. He’s not ready to die. He wants to hold his future grandchildren and play with his “grand-dog”. That’s all totally understandable. But what about the young people of today who haven’t had the chance to do any of the things that Mr. Adler has done? What about the new high school graduates who are wondering if they’ll ever be able to find work or attend college in the fall? What about the new college graduates who are struggling with unprecedented unemployment rates? What about their lives?

This sketch from The Oatmeal recently came up in my Facebook memories. I had to laugh, since even though 2016 seemed like a shitty year, 2020 is proving to be much shittier for a lot of people…

How about the children who are halfway through their school years and are now scared to go outside because of what they’ve heard about COVID-19? Young people growing up right now have been robbed of some very significant milestones that Mr. Adler probably got to enjoy when he was their ages. They aren’t the first youngsters who have missed out on prom or traditional graduation ceremonies. Certainly older generations have struggled with finding employment fresh out of high school or college, too. But those situations are usually caused by something like a recession or going to war. They aren’t typically caused by a global pandemic from which there is no practical escape.

How about the people who are forced to shelter at home with partners who abuse them? Should those people stay locked down so that people over 60 can live longer? What about the people who struggle with depression and anxiety and can’t get the help they need due to being asked to stay home? How about the people who will get sick and die of something other than COVID-19 because they don’t want to risk going to the hospital? What about the young families struggling to support themselves, or people on the verge of adulthood waiting for their independent lives to begin?

I truly empathize with Mr. Adler’s concerns. I think it’s awful to hear people speak of “culling” the weak. It’s a very cruel and selfish viewpoint, and it doesn’t help when the idea of pushing herd immunity and “culling the weak” is conveyed in the callous way Ken Turnage expressed it. But we can’t stay locked down forever. Life has to go on at some point. The last three months have been devastating on many levels to a lot of people. Moreover, everyone does have to die. That’s a simple part of living that we must all face. We all hope our deaths will be as “pleasant” as possible, but many people end up suffering before they die. There will no doubt be deaths caused by COVID-19 that weren’t caused by the illness, but because of other issues exacerbated by the virus and the way it’s affected living. I think consideration is a two way street.

Personally, I haven’t had any trouble isolating from people. I don’t mind staying home. Bill and I get along great, and he makes enough money to support us comfortably. But I realize that we’re extraordinarily lucky. There were times earlier in our lives that this pandemic would have destroyed us, not because of illness, but because of everything else caused by the lockdown. I remember being young and trying to launch my life. It was very hard for me then, and I didn’t have to worry about simply going outside without a mask. In those days, I made my living dealing with the public. How would I have managed with my very modest income suddenly cut off due to a pandemic?

For about 25 years, my parents ran their own business out of our home. My mom taught knitting, needlepoint, and cross stitch, and sold the supplies. She also played the organ at different churches. My dad sold art and framed pictures, but also collected retirement pay from his years as an Air Force officer. I can’t even imagine what they would have done had the pandemic struck when they were making their living as small businesspeople. As it stands now, my mom collects monthly payments for our former home from Deborah, the woman who took over the business. She worked for my dad for years. When it came time for my parents to move into an assisted living complex, my mom worked out a way for Deborah to buy the business and the house. I have no idea if the business will survive… or how it will survive. I’m just glad it’s not my problem. My mom worries, too. In fact, she even loaned Deborah her $1200 stimulus payment and told her to pay it back whenever she could. She wants Deborah’s business to survive, because she doesn’t want to repossess the house, and neither do my sisters and I.

I think about the people who depended on us paying them, too. As a teenager, I used to have a horse, and we boarded him at the barn where I took riding lessons. What would have happened to him if my parents couldn’t pay for his board? What about all of the other kids taking lessons? Horses are expensive, so if they can be employed with riding lessons, it’s a good way to keep them in good homes. What about “mom and pop” landlords who have to keep paying mortgage, but aren’t collecting rent because no one is working? How about people who cut hair for a living and now can’t make any money? And what of all the people who make their money in the travel industry? I could probably sit here for hours thinking of ways people’s lives could be ruined if society doesn’t reopen soon.

So… while I don’t agree with people talking about “culling the weak” and I can empathize with Mr. Adler’s concerns about the elderly facing the world again due to COVID-19, I also think that it’s not feasible to keep everything locked down for months on end. Besides being disastrous to the economy, it’s simply not a healthy way to live. COVID-19 is a horrible illness for those who get severe infections, but it’s not the only way to die. People can die because they’ve given up on living. Hopes and dreams can die, crushing spirits. I worry about people getting sick from a virus, but I also worry about those who will drink themselves to death, overdose on drugs, lose hope and kill themselves, or get beaten to death by an abusive partner or parent. I worry about those who will lose their homes and businesses and plunge into despair. I worry about people who will decide it’s not worthwhile to live in lockdown.

Dolly Parton offers lyrics of kindness and hope.

I’ll be honest. I’ve noticed some scary things about myself lately. I’ve pretty much lost the desire to go out. I used to love traveling. I miss it somewhat now. Life has been pretty boring. But I don’t feel like going out, now. I don’t want to deal with the hassle. I’m probably not the only one. That’s not healthy, either. There has to be more to life than just breathing. There has to be some level of acceptable risk. Three months is a long time for most people to give up “normal”. As much as I cringe when I hear about someone suggesting “culling the weak”, I also think that Mr. Adler might want to consider what younger people are missing out on… experiences that he was lucky enough to have and enjoy because he didn’t come of age in a pandemic. A lot of people may never get to enjoy working many years for one employer. Some people won’t ever get to have children or grandchildren. And some people will die, not of COVID-19, but of something related to this altered existence we have from living with the virus. They deserve some consideration and empathy, too.

Incidentally, Europe is pretty much opening up today… just in time for this weekend, which is when I will celebrate my 48th birthday. Bill says he’s planning to take me somewhere. Maybe it will rekindle my love for life outside of the house. Or maybe I’ll get sick and die. But sitting here in the house for months on end is not a good way to live. It’s time to take a chance. Besides, I have a feeling that if I don’t, Bill will eventually drag me out by the hair. He’s ready to get back to living life.

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