Biden, complaints, Duggars, healthcare, politicians

Scientists are worried… what else is new?

Arran let me “sleep in” until about 5:30am. I finally got up because his stomach was gurgling so much that I couldn’t ignore it. He’s been having some issues lately with his stomach and bowels. The vet reports that he has no parasites, so there must be something else going on that will probably smack us in the face soon. He was happy to eat his breakfast, though, and went back to bed. I am now wide awake, having just read more articles on the Internet that have me feeling a bit triggered.

First, I read about how the governors of Texas and Mississippi have decided to pander to their ignorant conservative base by re-opening everything and doing away with mask mandates. To be clear, I hate face masks. I have not made a secret of that. I do think it’s too early for things to go back to “normal”, though. The pandemic is definitely real, and I think this step is probably going to cause a lot of problems that no one needs.

Just because Texas no longer has a state mandate requiring face masks, that doesn’t mean individual businesses aren’t going to require people to wear them. So the onus will be on low paid workers to enforce the rules. Also consider that Texas is loaded with people who carry weapons, many of whom are a bit unhinged. I don’t have the scientific data on this, but I did used to live in Texas, in a relatively liberal part of the state. I saw a lot of crazy shit, and that was during the somewhat sane Obama era. So it’ll be interesting to see where this decision leads.

I did have a good time reading the comments, though… One person described himself as a “front line worker” who was glad to see the mandate go. He wrote that he doesn’t like wearing masks and he thinks people should be able to decide for themselves. Naturally, that upset a lot of people, who just piled on this guy. One dude cited his own experience in the military as he went after the mask free front line worker. But then it turned out the front line worker had also been in the military and got out. The first guy assumed front line guy couldn’t “hack it”. Front line guy said he was tired of being deployed to Iraq. I can’t blame him for that. Below are a few of the best comments in response to this statement:

“My heart goes out to all of the frontline workers impacted by these decisions. Their work has been hard enough. They deserve better.”

While I personally do think it’s a bad idea to re-open everything completely and live as normal, I do think it’s cool that “Mario” calmly took on all the virtue signalers and their tired arguments. I don’t understand why people feel the need to spout off the same crap when someone is obviously going against the grain. I mean, I’m sure Mario has heard that masks supposedly protect other people. I’m sure he’s heard the stupid seatbelt analogy (which, in my opinion, is truly not a good comparison). All he’s said is that he doesn’t like wearing masks and supports people’s rights to choose for themselves. For simply stating that, he gets a whole shitload of blowback, some of which was pretty embarrassing for those who swung and missed.

Why is it that so few people can simply let someone voice an opinion? Why do we have to quash comments by those who go against the grain? Is it really so dangerous for people to speak their minds? You’d think COVID-19 safety measures are akin to the Bible. Going against what the so-called experts say is akin to actual sacrilege to some people. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to stay away from people as much as possible. That’s what I do. I comply with the mask rules, but I hate them and expect that they’re temporary. But God forbid I say that out loud. I’ll get a whole load of people who are graduates of the Google School of Public Health trying to school me on COVID-19.

How is it that I, someone who has actually gone to graduate school and earned a MPH from an accredited program, can’t be on the “masks and closures forever bandwagon” with everyone else? Well… truth be told, I have a feeling that if you were to poll people with healthcare backgrounds, you might find that their personal opinions on this issue probably run the gamut. But the ones who disagree with the official opinions don’t say so, because if they do, they have to deal with backlash like that above and people questioning their competence and intelligence. So while I don’t necessarily agree with Mario’s opinions, I give him credit for having the guts to speak up and take on all of the people who feel the need to correct his opinions and quash his freedom of expression.

The truth is, even if everyone on the planet wore a mask 24/7, people would still get sick and die. And being masked up 24/7 is not a great way to live, for so many reasons. I think people really need to think seriously about that. It doesn’t mean I’m non-compliant, immature, stupid, or selfish to say that, either. But so many people have a knee jerk reaction to anyone who says something that isn’t the norm, especially when it comes to COVID-19. It’s ridiculous, and it shows a serious lack of critical thinking skills. Yes, masks are a good idea for now. But they shouldn’t be a permanent solution. That’s why I think they aren’t akin to seatbelts. And even if I’m totally wrong, I think it’s a mistake to discourage people from sharing their opinions. Information can’t evolve if everyone always says and only believes the same things. Someone has to think outside of the box for innovation to happen.

I also don’t like how people make assumptions about perfect strangers who dare to speak their minds. I don’t know Mario at all. He could be a fabulous guy. So could all the other people commenting. But we’ve gotten so accustomed to just ripping people’s heads off because we’re behind screens and can’t stand dissenting opinions. It’s alarming how uncivil people are in the Internet age.

Anyway… moving on, because I’ve written about this ad nauseam and I’m tired of it.

The next article I want to comment on is about how scientists are concerned that there hasn’t been a COVID-19 baby boom. Apparently, experts expected that there would be a big increase in babies born thanks to the lockdowns. That didn’t happen. In December 2020, which was nine months after the lockdowns began, health departments in the United States reported a 7% drop in births. And this is causing upset, because of our aging population. From the article:

“We need to have enough working-age people to carry the load of these seniors, who deserve their retirement, they deserve all their entitlements, and they’re gonna live out another 30 years. Nobody in the history of the globe has had so many older people to deal with.”

Okay… first off, when I was getting my MPH, I heard about our “aging population”. I distinctly remember hearing that when smoking fell out of fashion, it put a strain on our healthcare system. People were living longer and developing more chronic diseases. That was causing them to use the healthcare system more, which ran up costs and crowded the hospitals. Yes, it’s a good thing overall that people are smoking less, but now we have a new problem. I finished my MPH in 2002, so it wasn’t that long ago…

Now, it’s 2021, and we have a public health crisis. It won’t be the last one. However, I’ve been hearing for YEARS how overpopulated the Earth is, and how we don’t have enough resources for everyone. I have also seen how shitty things are getting… from global warming and the ensuing natural disasters, to the lack of social justice, to children being forced to go to school at home to avoid a deadly virus. Why in the hell would any sane person want to have a bunch of kids now– sane being the operative word?

I am 48 years old, and I paid off my student loans in 2018. I have yet to own my own home. Imagine if I’d had children and they were trying to launch at a time when there’s massive unemployment and disease. When I was a young person, I could always go work in a restaurant or service industry if I needed to make some money. Right now, people in the restaurant and service industries are hurting because there aren’t any jobs for them during a pandemic. A lot of those jobs depend on tips. If no one is allowed to go out to eat, there go the tips. And I’m sure finding a job is very difficult right now. People go back to school to avoid shitty job markets, run up bills and take out loans… and then they graduate to this shit and wind up financially ruined.

I am fortunate that my mom and Bill’s mom are both very independent. I have friends who are not only trying to raise kids and pay off their student loans, but are also having to support their elderly parents. Children and the elderly are also groups of people who need supervision, and that costs money, too. Both childcare and senior care are very expensive. So I don’t blame people for not reproducing. I always wanted children, but in retrospect, it’s probably a blessing that I never had any kids.

I mentioned this in the Duggar Family News group, and someone basically responded to me with what I quoted above. Not having enough babies means there will eventually be no one to take care of the “old folks”. Well, pardon me, but I think that’s a really stupid reason to have kids… just so there are people around to take care of the elderly. People should have kids because they want to be parents and are up to doing the job of raising them well and providing for them. They shouldn’t have kids just in case one or more of them might want to work in healthcare. That’s ridiculous. Moreover, we all have to die. Maybe we should rethink saving lives at all costs. Dying isn’t the worst thing to happen to a person.

I think there’s little to worry about, though. Justin Duggar just got married. He’s 18, and his wife, Claire, is 20. They’ll probably start popping out kids soon. His siblings, likewise, are pairing up and popping out babies. Yes, those kids are going to grow up Quiverfull, but maybe some will break out of the fundie cult and be “normal”. Anyway… all of this makes me think I might want to look again at buying longterm care insurance. But even then, chances are, I’ll be alone when I’m an old woman… if the virus doesn’t get me first.

Joe Biden has stated that doing away with mask mandates is “Neanderthal thinking”. I think that’s a poor choice of words, given how many of us have close ties to Neanderthals. I found this out thanks to 23andMe. He might want to rethink disparaging the Neanderthals… they’re probably craftier than the average Trump supporting Texan.

Standard
business, complaints, money

It’s really not that simple, cuz– or, my husband invested in me and it paid off.

Yesterday, I ran across the below political cartoon. It was shared by my very conservative cousin from Georgia. Actually, he’s from Virginia like I am, but he’s lived in Georgia for decades. Anyway…

This is a rather simplistic cartoon. I was tempted to leave him a comment, but decided not to, since his sister is being memorialized today.

Full disclosure. I have actually paid off my student loans. They were paid off about nine years early, back in 2018. I was originally scheduled to be finished to be finished paying in 2027. I made paying the student loans off a priority, and I am fortunate enough to be married to an extremely kind, generous, and cooperative man who was alright with helping me (a whole lot) in my quest to lose this obligation that hung over my head for so many years.

My mother had saved some money for me to attend Longwood University (then Longwood College), and I also worked during the summers. I still left my undergraduate career with Stafford loans, some subsidized and some unsubsidized. I think I borrowed about $10-$12K, but I’m not altogether sure of the total amount. I remember my parents were thrilled when I got the financial aid during my junior year. It was, and still is, a state supported school, but the price of attending rose significantly when I was attending in the 1990s. That school is also in a rural part of Virginia, where jobs in town were relatively scarce, and employers didn’t want to hire people who weren’t staying there year round. I didn’t qualify for enough work study to make that a viable option for me at the college.

Nevertheless, when it was time to graduate, I attended the mandatory video session during which I was reminded that I had taken out loans and they would need to be repaid. And after graduation, I paid every month on time and in full, although again, it was with help from others that I was able to do that. I was lucky enough to be living at home rent free.

After my first year post graduation, I joined the Peace Corps. In those days, it was possible to defer student loans. I did defer, but also arranged to send $30 per month of my readjustment allowance (then about $200 a month, I think) to defray the cost of interest on the unsubsidized loans. When I finished my service, I worked for a couple of years and paid on my loans– I think it was about $125 a month.

Two years after I came home from Armenia, I decided to attend graduate school. Because I would be going to graduate school, I was again able to defer my student loans. I was also able to take out more loans, which I did. Although I attended the University of South Carolina, which was out of state for me, after my first semester, I was able to land a job as a graduate assistant at South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). That gig didn’t pay well, but it did reduce my tuition to about 20% of the IN STATE rate– a HUGE savings. I also had a part time job on weekends and some evenings. Still, I needed loans, and when all was said and done, I graduated with two more degrees and five figures of debt, courtesy of my Stafford and Perkins loans.

About two months after I graduated from the University of South Carolina, I decided to consolidate my loans. Doing that took me out of my “grace” period, but locked in a 3.75% interest rate. I’m not sure what today’s rates are, but I bet they aren’t that low. I’ll also bet that today’s students, particularly during the pandemic, don’t have as much ease in finding well paying jobs, which even twenty years ago wasn’t that easy. Anyway, when all was said and done, I had borrowed $57,000 for all of my education– that’s for all three degrees. Even in the early 00s, that wasn’t too bad for all I managed to get. But it was still a lot of money for me. I wasn’t sure how I would repay it, even though I had fully intended and expected to find a good job.

Well… as you can see, I didn’t set any records on fire in the employment world. As I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, I was very fortunate in that I met and married Bill, who is an unusually empathetic and cooperative person. And once we were married, he was willing to help me pay for my loans. I started off paying $180 a month, which pretty much only covered interest and a tiny amount of the principal. At the time, we didn’t have much extra money because Bill was paying child support for three children and recovering from the financial disasters wrought during his first marriage. I was also trying to find work, but was unsuccessful.

I paid that same paltry amount for five years, until Bill went to Iraq and got a temporary salary boost. While he was deployed to Iraq, I used the extra money to pay off his credit cards in full. I also started paying extra toward my student loans. It wasn’t much at first– just $20 a month. Within six months, I was a full payment ahead. Slowly but surely, I added more money to the extra I was paying. It got to the point at which I started getting letters from my creditor telling me I didn’t need to pay. But I kept paying more and more until I was years ahead of schedule. And in 2018, when I was down to owing about $2000, I paid it off in one fell swoop. Put this in perspective– even after years of paying more toward my loans than I had to, when we moved to Germany in 2014, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. By 2018, I owed nothing.

It seems crazy that I was able to do this. Looking back on it, it seems highly unlikely that I could have, if things had been any different than they were. If I hadn’t married Bill (who had a pretty checkered financial history– common sense should have told me not to marry him– in this case, I’m glad my heart won over my brain)… If I had had children (expensive even if they’re completely healthy)… If we had gone through infertility treatment or pursued adoption… If my parents hadn’t been self-sufficient… If we hadn’t stayed healthy… If Bill hadn’t been able to stay well-employed… If we’d had huge legal fees due to Bill’s ex wife and kids… If we had bought a home… If I had gone to a more expensive school… If I had dropped out or took longer than scheduled… If I had had a higher interest rate… If I had borrowed from private lenders… I also made a determination that I would pay off those student loans first, because they can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy and I didn’t want to have them hanging over my head if disaster struck.

Everybody’s situation is different. Yes, paying back loans is an obligation. However, I think today’s students have gotten a pretty raw deal. For one thing, even if a person chooses to attend a state supported college, states are not contributing as much money to higher education as they once did. That’s been the case for years. I remember one year when I was still at UofSC, tuition went up 15% because the state didn’t contribute as much. Tuition never seems to go down, either. For another thing, college has been vastly oversold, making degrees less valuable than they might have been. Not everyone should attend college. Some people aren’t ready to go. Some people aren’t academically inclined and should pursue a field that is more technical. But college should not just be reserved for the privileged who are lucky enough to be able to afford it due to the circumstances of their birth. It should be a place where academically talented people can go to build their skills in whatever field they want to pursue.

One of the comments I noticed on my cousin’s post was about how some degrees are “worthless”. It always bothers me when people scoff at any academic field. Maybe you don’t think a degree in women’s studies is useful, but it’s useful enough that people who have studied it have been able to get jobs teaching it, researching it, writing books about it, or even making fun of it. I know many people think the arts are “worthless” pursuits. I heartily disagree with that. I was friends with many music majors when I was in school. They were among some of the most talented, hardworking people I knew in college. They had to be hard workers, since they took so many one credit courses that met three times a week. Moreover, the arts make the world a better place to be. And ditto to those who think English is a worthless degree. Being able to write, think critically, read carefully, and speak the language coherently are vital skills that are lacking in many people. If you don’t believe me, hang out on social media for awhile.

I also think people should be careful when they dismiss the pursuit of certain occupations as a waste of time. Everyone is unique, and we all have different skills and talents. One could argue with me that I should have studied accounting because it’s a well-paying field. But I am not good with numbers and I’m not particularly detail oriented. I would have struggled in an accounting degree program and probably would have hated the job. That would have made me a mediocre and probably unsuccessful accountant. And that would also make me a lot less employable. I am, however, really good at music and writing. I would stand a much better chance of being gainfully and successfully employed in jobs that use those skills and talents, even if there aren’t as many lucrative jobs. The world doesn’t need any more shitty accountants. And maybe the world doesn’t any more writers or singers… but at least I do those things reasonably well and enjoy the work. Those skills and the personal qualities affiliated with them can also transfer to other jobs.

I will agree, however, that too many people choose to go to college when it’s not a suitable choice for them. And there are cheaper ways to get a degree, too. A lot of people are overly concerned about going to “prestigious” schools, when a state supported school or even community college would suit them fine. Lots of people get college education through the military. That’s what Bill did– all three of his degrees came from private schools and were mostly paid for through scholarships and his G.I. Bill. He even has some money left of his G.I. Bill. These are topics that are worth discussing, especially with people still in high school. BUT– I also think the government should take steps to reduce the cost of college and relieve some of the debt burdens on young people.

I am 48 years old. I finished paying student loans in 2018. I expected to be paying until I was in my 50s. I don’t have any children. One of my parents is dead, but the other is in her 80s. She is, thankfully, reasonably healthy and very self-sufficient, and I also have sisters. But what if I was having to pay my loans, support children, and pay for a nursing home for my mom? What if I also had a mortgage to pay? What if I also had a chronic health issue that wasn’t covered by health insurance? What if I didn’t have health insurance? Or… what if I had a financial setback that led to being late on a bunch of bills? When Bill and I first got married, he was recovering from foreclosure and bankruptcy brought on by his ex wife’s irresponsible spending and his failure to take control of his finances. It took years of effort to climb out of that hole. It took a lot of work. Fortunately, we weren’t distracted by the misfortunes that befall so many people. We were VERY lucky. I was especially lucky. I hit the husband lottery.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that it’s not as simple as borrowing money and paying it back. Yes, I agree that repaying loans is a responsibility. But the cost of education should not be so heavy that young people are saddled with debts that make it difficult or impossible for them to ever get out from under the burden. And we need to do a better job of teaching young people about alternatives to college and encouraging them to take them. There should be no stigma toward those who choose a different path.

This morning, as Bill and I were talking about this, I looked at our investments, which I started doing on a very small scale back in 2012. I think I initially invested about $1000. Well, that amount has grown almost 50 times– before long, we will have investments that will total in value as much as that initial consolidated loan was in 2002. Without me, Bill wouldn’t have that money, because it never occurred to him to invest. He knew nothing about it and had neither the time nor inclination to learn. So I like to think of that as paying him back somehow… although he says that having me around is payment enough. See? I hit the husband jackpot! 😉 Perhaps I should think of it as Bill investing in me and getting a return.

P.S.– I made another song…

This is dedicated to the three relatives who are gone… and those who have been kind enough to help us grieve.

Standard
psychology, rants

For shame!

As Germany is about to enter yet another partial lockdown, I’ve been looking for more ways to occupy my time. I decided to hang out in a Facebook group devoted to fellow graduates of Longwood College. I specify Longwood College because that was the name of the school when I attended. It is now known as Longwood University, and it’s changed quite a lot since my day. Those of us who were Longwood students before all of the insane building projects like to hang out there and reminisce about the old days.

Things have been pretty slow in that group lately, save for the frequent posts by one guy who has managed to sell Longwood College swag. Someone complained about the frequent sales posts. She said the group wasn’t intended to be a sales site. I have to admit, she’s right. But it’s not entirely the seller’s fault, since people did want him to start selling the Longwood College branded merchandise. He supposedly went through a lengthy licensing procedure in order to get permission to sell the stuff.

Now… I don’t actually care too much about the sales postings. It’s easy for me to scroll past them. But I did agree that things in the group had gotten kind of dull. A couple of months ago, I started a thread about Erin McCay George, a woman who used to be the editor of the college’s newspaper, The Rotunda. She ended up murdering her husband for insurance money and is now in prison. She also wrote a book about what it’s like to be in prison. For several days, that was a hot thread. No one seemed to take any issue with it.

Yesterday, I started a more innocuous thread about the State Theater’s roof collapsing during the spring semester of 1994. But then I remembered another “true crime” case involving a fellow alum. The trouble was, the case was about a man who is in prison for viewing child pornography. Although no one seemed to have a problem with chatting about a female murderer who is in prison, it somehow felt potentially icky to bring up the case about the guy who’s in prison for viewing kiddie porn.

People asked me to “spill the tea” about the case, so before I posted the details, I wrote that the crime was pretty yucky. I didn’t mind sharing what I know about it, but I advised anyone who had an issue with it to say so. No one did. In fact, I got more pleas to “spill the tea”, so I did. Bear in mind that this case is over ten years old and was all over the news in Texas back in 2009, 2010, and in 2016. In fact, one can even read very interesting legal documents about the case online. They are readily available to everyone. I also wrote about the case on my old blog.

So, without naming the guy explicitly, I wrote about the case in this group. Then I provided a link to a FindLaw article about his case. Sure enough, I got a shaming comment from someone who was “disgusted” that I would open that can of worms. I wrote that was why I posted a warning as the initial post. The story of the crime was in the comments. She could have scrolled past. She chose not to.

She pressed on that I shouldn’t have shared the story and implied that I should be ashamed of myself. My response was, “Why? No one had a problem with my post about Erin George, who MURDERED someone.” At least in this case, no one died.

Then someone else joked that no one should tell me anything “personal”. And I wrote that this was a news story that was covered extensively in Texas. It wasn’t confidential information. Moreover, I didn’t even write the guy’s name, although I did share a link about the case. It would be one thing if this was something secret, rather than just taboo. But it wasn’t a secret, nor was it even new news. Some people are interested in true crime. I certainly am.

Even if this case was not about someone I knew of in college, I would have found it very interesting, mainly due to the way he got caught. Basically, he hired someone to house/dog sit and did not lock down his computer. She helped herself to the computer, claiming that she was trying to rip music from one of his CDs (which investigators later found no evidence of her doing). She found his stash of child pornography and then went to the police. Granted, this happened in 2009, but it’s still amazing to me that someone with a habit like that one wouldn’t be more careful.

Some people in the group were grateful that I shared the story, salacious as it was. The one woman who “shamed” me eventually got swept up in trading insults with one of the more vociferous posters– the one who had complained about the many sales posts. Meanwhile, I was left perplexed that she’d tried to make me feel small for sharing a story about a ten year old news item. Yes, it was a negative story about an alum, but I did take the time to warn those who didn’t want to read it. And why should the shamer feel she has the right to dictate what people post about if something is not explicitly against the group’s rules? Just like I have explained in response to complaints about my blog, I can’t know what will or won’t offend individual people. I suspect more people were interested in the story– again well reported in the news– than upset by it.

I ended up explaining once again that I knew that some might not think the story about the pedophile was an appropriate post, but if someone who only wants to read positive posts doesn’t heed an explicit warning that a topic might be icky, that’s kind of on them. Even on this blog, I post explicit warnings when I’m about to get raw, raunchy, or inappropriate. Those who were offended by the post after reading the warning need to take responsibility for themselves. Moreover, I don’t understand why it’s okay to post about a murderer, but not a pedophile. No, it’s not a happy topic, but I explained that it wouldn’t be. She had a choice to avoid the topic entirely, but instead decided to call me out.

I have a problem with “shamers”. I’ve found that, so often, people who shame other people have an agenda. They have a momentary spark of self-righteous pleasure. It makes them feel better about themselves for being “above” another person. But the problem with that mindset is that as you point fingers at someone, chances are, a few fingers are pointing right back at you.

Take, for instance, last year, when a certain person sent me a private message “begging” me not to drag a mutual acquaintance through the mud on the Internet. She tried to appeal to my sense of shame in an attempt to silence me, even though Bill and I were victimized by the person she was protecting. The “certain person” who tried to shame me was very vocal about her desire to be “private” in her own life, yet she disclosed to me that she was sharing, and probably gleefully discussing, my personal business with the person she didn’t want me to “trash”. She’d write “supportive” comments to me on my blog, deleting them after she knew I’d seen them, although she didn’t delete all of them, and yes, they were used as evidence against the person whose honor she was defending. All the while, they were sitting around having a fine time reading my blog. Granted, it was a public blog, but I think she knew perfectly well that she was stirring the shit pot and being massively hypocritical. I think she was hoping that Bill and I would take the heat for shit she did and never took any responsibility for doing. And yet I’M the one who should be ashamed? I don’t think so.

In the back of my head, I knew what she was doing. But when she actually came right out and admitted it, and then tried to make ME out to be the asshole, that was just too much disrespect. I’m definitely not the one who should be ashamed about what happened. All I did was write the truth. It wasn’t a flattering look, sure, but abusive behavior rarely is. The person who was being protected tried to take advantage of us and ripped us off. We suspect she’s done it to other people who didn’t hold her accountable. We took legal action and prevailed, and we’re about to put the last nail in the coffin. Shit’s going to get even more real, as well it should. It would be a bigger shame not to address what happened and do our part to protect other people from someone else’s abusive, predatory behaviors.

Should I be ashamed for pointing out that things aren’t always rosy? Should I suffer in silence when someone treats me badly? Asking someone to be silent when they’re being abused is in itself abusive behavior. Shaming someone for being open and honest is shady behavior. I’ve had enough of that kind of treatment. I’m not going to take it anymore, especially from liars and cheats.

As for the woman in the alumni group, I have no idea what motivated her to try to shame me. She probably should know that I have no shame. I’m the same woman who made up a song called “Big Pink Dildo” to the tune of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. I’m not sure what her goal was… did she expect me to delete the thread? Apologize? I explicitly gave her warning. She could have practiced some self-control and accountability. Not everyone is a docile, genteel, “class act” like she is. What gives her the right to try to dictate what other people say and do? What gives her the right to speak for others when she chastises people for communicating things she thinks are “inappropriate”? She’s one of over 1860 people in that group. She should only speak for herself.

As for the “certain person” who tried to shame me into being silent and has stalked my blogs for years, KINDLY GO FUCK YOURSELF. Your efforts at advocacy for our mutual acquaintance made things a hell of a lot worse than they needed to be. If you had simply minded your own business and not done your level best to try to help your “friend” screw us, your “friend” would probably not be in the situation she’s in. Moreover, your intel gathering skills need lots of work. You obviously misjudged us.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is appropriate to call people out. But nine times out of ten, shaming is not about righting a wrong. It’s about one person temporarily feeling better about themselves for humiliating another person. Was the woman who called me out really upset with me for posting about a pedophile? Would she defend the pedophile’s actions? My guess is that I actually have more empathy for him than she does. The fact is, as awesome as Longwood is, there have been some pretty bad and, dare I say, fucked up things that have happened there over the years. I have never seen anyone have a problem with those topics– Erin George the murderer, the fire at Dr. Sprague’s house that killed her, the murder of Dr. Debra Kelley, her estranged husband, their daughter and her friend, and the murder of a local antiques dealer, just to name a few. We’ve discussed these things at length with no shaming. Why is a pedophile different?

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healthcare

Instant karma’s gonna get you…

Remember that old song by John Lennon? I read that he coined the term, “instant karma”. It’s supposed to reference actions taken by a person that cause harm to another that later come back to bite them in the ass. Lennon wrote a great song about it.

Wise words…

Well… what I’m about to describe may not really be “instant karma” per se. I don’t know exactly what I’d call it. You can tell me what you think it is. Here goes…

Last night, for some reason, I randomly decided to check out the Facebook page of one of my first cousins once removed. Her dad is my first cousin, since his mother and my father were siblings. As I was reading my young relative’s social media page, I noticed a post about another cousin… my relative’s aunt, and also my first cousin. I’ll call her Nell, although that’s not her name.

Nell is the eldest of 22 grandchildren on my dad’s side of the family. She’s nineteen years older than I am. For a number of reasons, I don’t feel very close to her. I never have. It’s partly because she’s a lot older than I am and because of that, I never got to know her as well as my older sisters did; but it’s also because we’re very different in terms of how we view the world. Nell is a conservative Republican and very religious. I… am not.

Although I am Facebook friends with Nell’s siblings, none of them follow me, probably because I’m not religious or conservative and I swear a lot. I used to be friends with Nell, but I’m not anymore, for a few reasons. The main one is that I never got the sense that she liked me very much. Nell sings, writes songs, and plays guitar, and I always got the feeling that maybe she resented me for also being a singer. I cuss a lot, drink a lot, and don’t go to church, and it seemed like she disapproved of that. Nell and I don’t agree on a lot of things, particularly regarding politics and religion. It seemed like she’d be “nice” to me in person, but there was always an undercurrent of disapproval. After awhile, that behavior became hurtful to me, so I disassociated with her on Facebook, and I haven’t been “home” to Virginia since 2014, so it’s been awhile since I last spoke to her.

Nell’s niece, who is still one of my Facebook friends, posted that Nell had been undergoing chemotherapy. She recently got her last treatment. I don’t know exactly what kind of cancer she had, but I suspect that it might have been leukemia or something along those lines. There were comments about her platelet counts, and in the pictures, I noticed she had what looked like a port-a-cath in her chest. In some of the pictures, Nell looked a bit wan… pale, tired, and weak.

Suddenly, I remembered a Facebook incident involving her a few years ago. At that time, Nell was in her early 60s, and apparently healthy. On January 30, 2016, I posted this graphic that came from Bernie Sanders’ Facebook page. This was just as the 2016 election year was cranking up.

I commented on Facebook how unfair I think it is that Americans are forced to pay so much for prescription drugs and that our system needs to change…

We were having a good discussion on my Facebook page about drug prices and health insurance, when Nell came along and left the following comment…

So success is defined by having cheap drugs? Those 35 million Americans that take these drugs don’t realize they are dying quicker by taking them than by doing without. We’re enslaved by Big Pharma whether the price is small or great. BTW, I’m a Republican. I am 62 and don’t take any medicine.

I was a bit taken aback by the comment for a couple of reasons. First off, Nell very rarely commented on my Facebook page. I doubt she even followed it much because my views and use of colorful language probably really offended her. She once got upset with me for writing “damn”. And secondly, I honestly didn’t feel like this was a controversial topic. I mean, sure, Americans use a lot of drugs, sometimes for preventable conditions. But plenty of people use drugs for conditions that are beyond their control or because they’ve been in accidents.

I had no idea why my cousin posted her comments about being “enslaved” by Big Pharma.  I don’t really see what that has to do with the fact that necessary drugs are way overpriced.  A lot of people have to take medications, not because they’re looking for a magic pill instead of eating right and exercising, but because they have medical problems beyond their control.  And those drugs are very expensive and, for some people, unaffordable.  This is a huge problem and it needs to be addressed.

Many people can’t afford medications even if they are fortunate enough to be insured. And in 2020, our feckless president is still trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, even in the midst of a global pandemic! Nell was, and probably still is, an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump and anyone else who runs on the Republican ticket. I know her brother is, since just the other day, he shared a 2016 era piece that is complimentary of Trump as a person.

The conversation continued, with many of my friends posting “WTF” comments. The people who were commenting weren’t all liberals, either. At least one vociferous poster is very conservative politically, but needed expensive medications when she was pregnant. Fortunately, she qualified for Tricare, so they were fully covered. Another friend suffers from multiple sclerosis and needs to take expensive, life preserving drugs for the rest of her life. She worries what will happen when her husband leaves the Army this year, even though her husband is a very high ranking officer and a lawyer.

Awhile later, Nell came back and posted this…

Don’t mind me, I’m just Jenny’s off the grid organic farmer cousin. I don’t mean to be insensitive to those who really need medicine but there are drug companies and doctors who push all sorts of medicine unnecessarily. For the most part if folks would just take responsibility for their diet 3/4ths of the medicine now prescribed would not be necessary. But Medicine is big business. I live on the edge with no health care and use a lot of essential oils. I would rather pay a penalty than pump $6K a year or more into the healthcare insurance business. Call me crazy.

My response to her was this…

“As a matter of fact, I do think it’s crazy not to have health insurance.  Essential oils don’t do dick for people who have been in catastrophic accidents or are born with congenital diseases.  And if you do end up having to go to the hospital and you rack up a huge bill that you can’t pay, then everyone else has to pay for what you can’t.  That’s one of the main reasons why healthcare costs so much.  Yes, it’s true that Big Pharma is big business, but the fact is, many people need to take drugs through no fault or responsibility of their own.”

As I have mentioned many times, this topic is kind of in my wheelhouse, since if I had not become an Overeducated Housewife, I probably would be dealing with people caught up by this issue on a daily basis. After all, I trained to be a public health social worker. I remember how, back in 2016, I rarely posted about politics and didn’t really care about conservatives vs. liberals. My, how things have changed.

Well… as I was looking at pictures of Nell with her port-a-cath, I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever got health insurance. I wondered how she was paying for the medicine she clearly needed. And I wondered if her essential oils were much help to her when she was diagnosed. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish cancer on anyone at all… certainly not my cousin, whom I do love, even if I don’t always like her. But I do hope she wised up before she vitally needed medical treatment. Too bad the oils and the proper diet didn’t ward off cancer.

After I reminisced about my cousin’s political screed on my page, which upset a lot of my friends, I remembered her comments about the late Brittany Maynard. Remember her? Back in the fall of 2014, she was in the news because she was 29 years old, newly married, and had a brain tumor that was killing her. Rather than let the tumor take her faculties and force her to be a burden to her family, Brittany decided to commit suicide. My cousin had something to say about that, too. First, she posted a link from a popular Christian blogger named Ann Voskamp, who had posted a rebuttal to Brittany’s decision to end her life that was written by Kara Tippetts. Tippetts also had cancer and has since passed away from her illness.

Tippetts, who had stage four breast cancer, was a dedicated Christian and she asserted that by committing suicide, Maynard was robbing her friends and family the opportunity to work through Christ. She wrote:

“Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.”

I remember that Nell wrote that she felt “blessed” that she had been able to help take care of her mother during her mother’s last days. Like Brittany Maynard, Nell’s mom, who was my aunt, had an inoperable brain tumor. She received the diagnosis just after Thanksgiving 1993. I remember it because that was the last time I spoke to my aunt. She was an alum of Longwood University (although it was called the State Teacher’s College when she graduated and Longwood College when I graduated). I remember we sat and talked about the school and how much it meant to us. A few weeks later, I heard about her diagnosis. About a year after that, she was gone. I mailed my application to the Peace Corps on my way to Georgia to attend her funeral.

I didn’t know much about how that last year went for my aunt. At the time, I was 22 years old and freshly graduated from college, trying to launch into adulthood. In 2014, when Nell wrote about Brittany Maynard’s brain tumor and how wrong it was for Brittany to make the call as to when she’d be exiting her life, she insinuated that the last year was pretty bad. But Nell wrote that she had felt fortunate that she could “serve” her mother, and therefore, serve Christ. It didn’t seem to matter that perhaps her mother’s dignity was diminished or that maybe she was in great pain. Not that my aunt had expressed a desire to have a physician assisted suicide… I really don’t know. My aunt had family and friends who were willing and able to help her. I suspect Brittany did, too. But not everyone is that fortunate, and not everyone believes in God. Moreover, when a person gets to the point at which they can no longer take care of themselves physically or make their own decisions, they can and do become very burdensome to others. Not everyone has people in their lives who are willing to responsibly and compassionately take on those burdens.

I don’t remember posting my thoughts on Nell’s Facebook page. I knew it wouldn’t be received well. I had seen Nell engage in arguments with more liberal family members in person, in particular my late aunt who was once a nurse for Planned Parenthood. My aunt, like most everyone else in my family, was very conservative. However, she was pro-choice because she’d worked for Planned Parenthood and seen girls and women who needed access to abortions. She had developed empathy for their situations. She was a very opinionated and outspoken lady, too, so the discussion she had with Nell about abortion was a very lively one. I didn’t want the same to happen between Nell and me on social media.

Anyway… I don’t talk to Nell much nowadays. In fact, there are quite a few family members I quit talking to, mainly over politics and religion. I can’t bear the cognitive dissonance. I am truly sorry about Nell’s bout with cancer, although it does appear that she’s recovered for the time being. She’s lucky that she had the means to get good and effective treatment and has so many friends and family members willing to care for her and pray for her well-being. I don’t know that we’ll ever be close… I still remember the way she treated me the last time I saw our grandmother alive. She basically guarded her, as if I was a threat. In retrospect, maybe I should have reminded Nell that Granny was my relative too, and I had a right to visit with her.

Nell also has a habit of taking pictures and sending them out, even if they aren’t very flattering. She’s one of the main reasons I don’t feel very welcome around my family anymore and why I may not go back to the family homestead. But I do wish her well, and I hope she develops some perspective and empathy for people who don’t think and feel the same way she does.

 

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