social media

“Shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” When people of today, shame others over events from the past…

Back in the 80s, I used to love watching sitcoms on television. One of my favorites from those days was Alice, which, over several years, starred Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Beth Howland, Polly Holliday, Diane Ladd, and Celia Weston. A few years ago, I downloaded the entire series and watched all of the episodes. As I was watching the show, I had forgotten that Alice, along with many other TV shows from that era, wasn’t always “politically correct” by today’s standards.

I remember one episode featured cast members from The Dukes of Hazzard, which was a huge hit in the early 80s. I was still a child in the 80s, and I grew up in southern Virginia, where people proudly displayed Confederate battle flags. Consequently, when Alice originally aired in the 80s, I wasn’t shocked when an episode featured Boss Hogg and Enos, of The Dukes of Hazzard. Mel Sharples (Tayback), crotchety owner of Mel’s Diner, welcomed them by putting little Confederate battle flags on all the tables. In those days, seeing that flag was pretty common and even considered “normal”, especially in the South. I was about ten years old, anyway, and at that time, didn’t know anything about racism, or any of the issues surrounding that topic.

Yes, Enos and Boss Hogg visited Mel’s Diner.

I would later learn much more about racism, and why the Confederate flag is so offensive to many people, but I’m probably still pretty ignorant about the subject. What I know is mostly based on book learning and conversations I’ve had with people of color. I did happen to live in South Carolina when the Confederate flag was finally taken down from the top of the Statehouse dome. Because I was living on the campus at the University of South Carolina, I could actually see the flag come down from my apartment, as it was also being televised on CNN. The flag was moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it was guarded by a state trooper for some time. I believe the powers that be in South Carolina eventually removed the battle flag from the Statehouse grounds altogether, although I can’t swear to it, since I haven’t been in Columbia in years.

This certainly wouldn’t fly today… but it was considered perfectly fine in the 80s. We can’t change that by shaming people.

One thing I remember from Alice was that the character of Vera, played by Beth Howland, was famously ditzy, “dinghy”, and batty. One of Vera’s best remembered taglines was “shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” She would always say it with the appropriate level of disgust and disdain, which usually got a laugh from the studio audience. That old line is in my head this morning, as I reflect upon a shaming comment I received this morning from a complete stranger. It’s actually one of a few unpleasant interactions I’ve had with complete strangers on Facebook over the past 24 hours.

I’m in a Facebook group called “Exploring Virginia”. It’s mainly a “feel good” group in which people share beautiful photos and memories of Virginia. I spent most of my childhood and a good portion of my young adult life in Virginia. It’s my home. I was born there, and both sides of my family of origin have been there for generations. I spent my childhood riding horses, and since my discipline was “hunt seat”, that means I went on the occasional fox hunt. Virginia, being one of the original British colonies, does have a lot of traditions that are British. Some people are continuing those old traditions, even if they seem wrong now.

Yesterday, someone shared a photo from a fox hunt in Middleburg, Virginia. Middleburg is horse country. I never lived in Middleburg, but I do know that’s where a lot of really stellar hunter jumpers are born and bred. So, it stands to reason that there would be fox hunts in Middleburg. I thought it was nice that someone shared a photo from a hunt, and posted:

“I used to go on fox hunts in my youth… Was a lot of fun!”

I haven’t been fox hunting since, oh, around 1986 or so… at that time, fox hunts weren’t necessarily considered politically incorrect. They were even still legal in the United Kingdom, which banned them in 2004, because they are considered “cruel” . Fox hunting is still permitted in Northern Ireland. I believe they are still popular in Ireland, too, based on the YouTube videos I’ve seen. Anyway, it’s been many years since I last partook of that sport. In fact, I haven’t even been riding since the mid 90s, and riding used to be a huge part of my life. Seeing that fox hunting photo brought back good memories of when I spent most of my free time with my horse.

Most follow up comments to mine were friendly. Several other people also wrote that they used to enjoy fox hunting. Others just expressed appreciation for the photo, which again, wasn’t my photo. But then, this morning, I got a comment from someone who felt the need to single me out, and shame me, for fondly remembering my fox hunting days. She wrote, in direct response to my comment that hunting was fun, “not for the fox.”

I decided to reply to her, which I think I managed to do in a somewhat measured tone. I wrote:

“In all of the years that I hunted, I never saw any killing. We mostly chased deer, who also weren’t killed. Think trail ride while wearing fancy riding clothes. I think I saw one fox in all the times we hunted. We all said “tallyho”, and that was it.”

I understand that fox hunting is no longer considered “politically correct”, because many people consider it to be cruel. However, when I went fox hunting, I was a child growing up in rural Gloucester, Virginia, where my classmates would routinely bring rifles on school grounds so they could go hunting after school. That’s how things were in the 80s, and it was normal for me, and my classmates. Maybe fox hunting wouldn’t be considered “right” by some people today, but when I was a young horsewoman, it was perfectly fine, and part of taking riding lessons. I also competed in horse shows and went on competitive trail rides. Doing all of that helped keep me physically fit, taught me responsibility, and sportsmanship. It also kept me occupied and out of trouble. Moreover, hunting– of all kinds– was part of the culture in Gloucester.

In fact, when I was in middle school, I remember having to take a hunter safety course as part of our health and P.E. curriculum. Teachers actually taught us about how to safely handle firearms, even though I have never actually owned a weapon. Enough people in my community had guns, that the school board felt it was a good idea to teach school kids about gun safety. In light of all the gun violence in schools today, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Should I be ashamed that I took a hunter safety course, too? I don’t remember having a choice in the matter.

Anyway, the actual kind of fox hunting we did was more of a ceremonial thing. It genuinely was fun, on the mornings when it wasn’t absolutely frigid outside. It basically boiled down to people putting on breeches, long johns, black boots, turtlenecks, and coats, and riding through the woods on fall mornings. After a few spirited canters through the woods, and a few jumps over ditches, fallen tree trunks, and fences that were put up by the hunt club, the adults would pass around a flask of Jack Daniels. It seemed to be more about camaraderie than a bloody sport involving wild animals being torn apart by dogs. I never once saw that happen, but even if I did, it’s not as if people weren’t also using their guns to kill wild animals in those days, and now.

While I probably wouldn’t choose to go fox hunting now, I don’t feel offended when I see a picture of a man in hunting attire on horseback with his dogs. Hunting serves a practical purpose. Some people get their meat that way, and actually hunt because that’s partly how they feed their families. Many people are going to choose to eat meat, no matter what animal rights activists say about it.

I don’t think I should be shamed because I once enjoyed fox hunting, especially since I was a kid at the time, and nothing was ever actually killed. What’s the point of shaming someone for something like that, other than trying to make them feel like shit? I can’t change the fact that I used to fox hunt and mostly enjoyed it. It was part of growing up in rural Virginia around horses. Given that Exploring Virginia is supposed to be a “feel good” group, I think that lady’s comment was out of place. As I was writing this, some other lady gave me a “sad” reaction. Seriously? I decided to just delete my comment, because I don’t want to spend my Friday being annoyed by shamers. I’m sure that reaction was not what the group creators had in mind when they started their group.

For more reading about fox hunting in Virginia, here’s an excellent blog post by someone who describes exactly what I remember from my “hunting days”.

Cue the judgmental responses from the vegan crowd…

I’m not the only one who’s gotten shamed, though. Singer-songwriter Janis Ian shared the featured photo yesterday. Janis Ian regularly posts things that get people riled up and snarky. I like her music, and often agree with her views. She can be funny, too. But I rarely comment on her posts, mainly because I’ve noticed that she can get quite testy in responses to people and, at times, she’s a bit hypocritical. On the other hand, some of her fans are pretty obnoxious. One person commented,

“Yes! I didn’t realise that you are a vegan!”

To which Janis posted, “I’m not.”

The post then became inundated with comments from a preachy vegan who shamed those who enjoy eating meat. There were also a couple of comments about people who feed their cats a vegan diet, which I think is a cruel practice. Cats are true carnivores, and they shouldn’t be forced to be vegans because some humans think hunting is cruel. Even the ASPCA agrees. Cats hunt. It’s in their nature. No matter how many human beings think killing and eating animals is cruel, there will always be creatures who kill their food. It’s part of life.

That being said, I totally agree that factory farming is horrible, and too many of us eat way too much meat. But a holier than thou exchange on Facebook with a complete stranger about veganism isn’t going to make me change my diet, nor do I think the complete stranger really cares. I think it’s more about them feeling superior and more “evolved” than other people.

Personally, I truly admire vegans, but I don’t think I could be a vegan. I might be able to be a vegetarian, if I really desired to make that change. But I will tell you one thing… being preachy and judgmental is not going to make me want to join the vegan cause.

When it comes to animal rights, there are varying degrees on what some people think should be reality. Some animal rights activists, for instance, don’t think humans should even have pets. I’d love to know what they think we should do with all of the dogs and cats and horses who depend on their relationships with humans for their survival. You can’t tell me that my dogs don’t love Bill and me, either. I refuse to feel guilty and ashamed for loving my pets, who also eat meat.

I guess what it comes down to is that everybody has an opinion. In a just world, people would respect other people’s rights to express their opinions without resorting to shaming or climbing up on a moral high horse.

And finally…

Yesterday, I got shamed for “not being fertile”. Some guy in a discussion about abortion commented that he thinks that since half of a developing fetus’s DNA belongs to the father, the father should be allowed to force the mother to gestate. It’s as if this guy thinks of the fetus as his property, even though it’s not developing in his body.

I wrote that it’s too bad that MALES aren’t the ones whose health and life are on the line. And the guy responded by saying “most men prefer women who are fertile.” That struck me as a totally stupid comment. I actually laughed out loud. I considered offering a snarky rebuttal, but then decided that the guy’s comment was so incredibly dumb that it was better to block him. I don’t want to have anything to do with an asshole like that. 😉

But seriously… on so many levels, that comment was very offensive. First off, how does he know about my fertility, or lack thereof? I don’t look old in my photo. Secondly, why is he speaking for all men? And thirdly, it’s those kinds of misogynistic comments that make a lot of women not want to have anything to do with men. I can totally understand why my cousin decided to conceive using donor sperm, rather than being involved with a man. For one thing, she’s a lesbian. For another, so many men are just assholes. I truly hope that no fertile woman lets that dude get within fifty yards of her vagina.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I need to get off of Facebook.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, language, LDS

“Triggering” things you shouldn’t say, according to ivory tower “intellectuals”…

Last night and this morning, Bill and I have enjoyed a stimulating discussion, partly inspired by an article I read in The Atlantic yesterday, and partly inspired by my being “triggered” by something that popped up in my Facebook memories. The article in The Atlantic was entitled “Even Trigger Warning Is Now Off Limits”. It was written by John McWhorter, a man who doesn’t mind that people are now being encouraged to refer to everyone as “they”, rather than referring to them by their apparent gender. McWhorter is fine with replacing gender specific words like “actress” and “waitress” with “actor” or “server” or maybe “waitron”. But he stops short at forbidding terms like “trigger warning”, “walk-in”, “insane” or “dumb”, all of which are now deemed “oppressive” by some people.

Mood music for this post. I must offer a “trigger warning” though, for those who don’t like profanity.

Brandeis University’s Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center (PARC) has taken the time to compose a list of “oppressive language” terms that need to be replaced by the considerate and “woke” among us. And McWhorter, who clearly thinks of himself as a thoughtful and considerate person, has taken issue with some of the words on the list. As I read his article yesterday, I let out a big groan and said, “That’s ridiculous.”

Then I started ranting to Bill about how it’s unreasonable to expect people to completely change their way of speaking– the way they’ve been speaking and writing since birth– just to appear to be more “sensitive” to supposedly oppressed people. What right do these “woke” types have to pressure people into changing their language, as if they are the authority on what is, and what is not, respectful? What about people doing the best they can to show consideration for each other?

I’m all for being respectful and kind to others, and if someone tells me they’d rather I refer to them with different pronouns or adjectives, I’m happy to try to oblige. But some of this stuff is just plain lunacy. PARC is hoping people will, for instance, stop using terms like “triggered” (because of gun violence), “rule of thumb” (because of an old British law that permitted husbands to beat their wives, as long as the implement used was narrower than one’s thumb), or “freshman” (first year student is supposedly less offensive). They don’t like the term “walk-in”, because not everyone is able to walk, nor do they like “crazy” or “insane”, because those words might offend people who have psychological problems.

PARC wants the word “slave” to go out of style. Instead, we should say “enslaved person”, because it puts the person first and recognizes that the condition of slavery was imposed on a person, and shouldn’t be used to define them. And they also claim it’s wrong to refer to “African-Americans”. Instead, we should refer to them as “Black” (with a capital B) because the term African-American can be interpreted as “othering”– as in not recognizing that a dark skinned person who has never been to Africa may not want to be grouped in such a way.

But doesn’t it also hinder communication to take the time to worry about such things to excess? Why should we assume that a person will be offended? Isn’t that kind of presumptuous, in and of itself?

Personally, I don’t like the trend of capitalizing the word “Black”, but not doing the same for the word “White”… because I think people should try to think in terms of equality as much as possible, even if equality is still a long ways off. We’ll never get there if we’re granting special conditions to certain groups… not that I expect to see true equality in my lifetime. I appreciate that the Washington Post does capitalize both “Black” and “White”. I wish The New York Times would do the same. No one can help what racial group they were born into, so no group should be granted special deference. If you’re gonna capitalize the word “Black”, you should do the same for all racial groups, as far as I’m concerned. I realize that some people may feel the need to try to “correct” my opinions about this, but I doubt my mind will change. Maybe I’m just too old and rigid. 😉

The African-American designation, in my opinion, really never should have been in style. I have always resisted it. When I was growing up, Black people were referred to as “black”. But then that became problematic, because some folks felt that the term black was offensive, since the shade black sometimes has negative connotations. For instance, if you watch old movies, the good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black. So, back in the 90s, it was considered better to refer to Black people as “African-American”, even if they had never been to the continent or, in fact, weren’t American. And it also didn’t take into account that there are people from Africa who are not dark skinned. Actually, according to the intellectuals at Brandeis, it’s also wrong to generically refer to “people of color” when one is referring to specific groups. I’ll be sure to make a note of that.

The people at PARC also want you to stop saying “Long time no see” or “No can do”. Why? Because those two expressions are “broken English” that originated from making fun of non-English speakers. I think that’s interesting, but I also think it’s ridiculous for people to be seriously offended by those expressions. Not when there are people who don’t have enough to eat, adequate healthcare, or a roof over their heads. Overly politically correct people are not much fun to be around or talk to, in my experience. They’re usually too busy being focused on the language used and its style, rather than the substance of what is actually said and the overall context. That means the politically correct among us usually miss the point.

Frankly, I would love to see the end of the word “douche” used in a pejorative way. In many parts of the world, a douche is a shower… and even in the United States, a douche is really a box of cleanser used mostly by women on a certain part of their body. To me, it’s illogical to call someone a douche, so I refuse to do it. Some people hate it when someone says something “sucks”, which was originally an offensive sexual expression that really only applied to women and gay men. Of course, so many people use the words “douche” and “sucks”, that they are now kind of removed from their original meanings. The same could be said in reverse about words like “faggot”. In some parts of the world, a faggot is a sausage or a bundle of sticks. A fag is a slang term for cigarette. But a group of Americans have deemed that word “offensive” and “taboo”, so we can’t use it… or the word “retard”, for that matter, even though “retard” is a perfectly useful word when it’s not being used as an insult that refers to a person’s intelligence level or lack thereof.

I don’t have a problem with the concept of being more thoughtful and kind about one’s language. However, I do have concerns that too much emphasis on language policing can have a chilling effect on communication and the sharing of ideas. I think people should be encouraged to communicate. Yes, they should also be encouraged to be kind and sensitive about offensive language as much as possible, but it’s more important that they talk, even if what is said is uncomfortable. Effective communication leads to mutual understanding and, hopefully, ultimately some respect.

I read some of the Facebook comments about how PARC may be overdoing it in the politically correct language police arena. Quite a few people seemed to have the same impression I did, which was pretty much a big sigh and rolling of the eyes. It takes time and effort to change language. Some people will resist it, because it’s annoying to have someone– particularly if they’re young and academic– correcting language one has been using since toddlerhood. Moreover, Brandeis University is a famously liberal school in Massachusetts. The thought police residing there don’t represent all people from around the world. I’m aware that there are groups in the United States and Europe who think it’s important to stop referring to people as “he” or “she”, but I also know that there are many people who are simply focused on survival. The last thing they give a fuck about is whether or not someone is offended by gender specific pronoun use. There are also a lot of languages that have feminine and masculine words as features of the language itself. It would be a hell of a chore to change those constructs simply to make politically correct people happier.

So then, once Bill and I were done with our conversation last night, we went to bed. I woke up this morning to look at my Facebook memories. This time of year is actually kind of historically shitty for me, as July is a month in which I’ve endured a number of setbacks. In different years, July has been the month during which I lost my dad and my grandmother (the only grandparent I ever really knew personally). It’s also been a time of year when we’ve had to move, or gotten terminal diagnoses for beloved pets of ours. I probably shouldn’t look at Facebook memories in the month of July… but anyway, I did look this morning, and was immediately “triggered” (there’s that forbidden term again).

One year ago, I posted this:

“Why do people send memes via PM? Especially without comment?”

I don’t like getting PMs from people unless the PM is regarding something important. I find PMs distracting and annoying. Historically, I’ve gotten abusive or obnoxious messages from strangers via PM. If it were up to me, I’d turn off that feature or open it only to certain people.

But anyway, what happened was that a year ago, I was complaining about face masks. It wasn’t that I wasn’t following the rules. I have never not worn a face mask when one was required. I was simply complaining about them on my Facebook page. If you read last year’s blog posts, you’ll find that I bitched a LOT about masks, which apparently led some people to think I needed “re-education” on this matter. For the record, I don’t. I have a master’s degree in public health and am quite well aware of science. Science told me to STAY HOME and away from other people, which is what I did. So far, it’s successfully kept me well. I’m also fully vaccinated and, even though Germany is finally opening up, I still stay pretty socially distanced, mainly because people annoy me.

A person– supposedly a friend– passive aggressively sent me a meme about wearing face masks and how selfish “anti” maskers are. She didn’t comment on the meme. She just passed it along to me via PM, leaving me to wonder how I should take it. Was she trying to share a funny meme with me, or was it a dig? Frankly, the fact that she sent it without comment pissed me off, so I posted about it. Another “friend”, whom I promptly unfriended that day, continued the passive aggressive trend by leaving a cryptic comment and “laughing” at me. This “friend” left the impression that she and her meme forwarding pal had been talking amongst themselves about what was on my page. And instead of actually acting like friends and addressing it directly with me, felt the need to send me their passive aggressive crap via PM.

A year ago, I was pretty much fed up with everything, so I was happy to remove a lot of people from my social media. Seems odd to me that such evolved people wouldn’t have taken it upon themselves to spare me the trouble by unfriending me themselves, since they didn’t like what I had to say, and didn’t want to talk to me about it. And yes, I did rant about it. I’m childish that way.

I see in last year’s post, I ranted about how the woman I unfriended also used to give me shit because she was offended by my comments about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I suspect she assumes I’m a bigot because I don’t like the LDS church. But instead of talking to me about why I have these opinions and hearing what I have to say, she just dismisses me as a “bigot”.

I have what I think are very good reasons for my negative opinions about the church. And my feelings are about the church and its doctrines and practices, not so much the specific members within it. My opinions were also not formed in a vacuum. I didn’t just decide that I “hate” Mormons… and I don’t actually hate them, by the way. I just have a problem with the way many of them behave, particularly when someone decides it’s no longer for them and they want to leave the faith. I also realize that Mormons aren’t the only ones who do this. They just happen to be the specific group who affected me personally.

I don’t like that Ex used the LDS religion in her parental alienation campaign against Bill. While the church may not specifically encourage divorced people to engage in alienation, many of its practices do encourage it to happen. It doesn’t take a genius to see it. Non members can’t, for instance, see their faithful children get married in the temple. People have gotten custody agreements amended over whether or not a parent takes their child to church. People– including children– have even killed or been killed over this issue.

The fact that LDS teachings and practices can easily be used in parental alienation tactics is one reason why I don’t like the religion. I should be allowed to say that, especially since what I’m saying is based in reality. I’m not picketing or writing letters to get Mormonism outlawed. I still respect everyone’s rights to believe whatever they want in terms of religion. But I should have the right to say that I don’t like Mormonism without someone automatically making negative judgments about my character. Have the basic decency to actually listen to and consider what I have to say before you decide that about me– especially if you’re going to lecture me about being respectful and considerate toward others.

I also know that this particular former online “friend” has issues with Scientology, which is also considered to be a religion by some people. She was fine with criticizing Scientologists, openly claiming that their beliefs are “nuts”. But she doesn’t want to hear criticism of Mormonism because it’s more “mainstream”, and she thinks that criticizing religion is “disrespectful”, even if there are some legitimately fucked up things about said religion that people are discouraged from openly discussing, for fear of alienating or offending them. And she assumed that she was more evolved and “woke” than I am, simply because she believes she’s more open to religion than I am.

I highly doubt this woman knows nearly as much, or has as much personal experience, with the fallout of leaving Mormonism as Bill and I do. It would be one thing if I had simply decided not to like the LDS church without knowing anything at all about it. But I know a lot about Mormonism, and my feelings about it are based on things I’ve personally seen and experienced.

I’ve actually spent years studying the church, and I know many members and ex-members. My opinions weren’t formed out of ignorance. But this former online acquaintance treated me like an ignorant person and didn’t bother to hear me out. Instead, she lectured, shamed, and engaged in passive aggression. That’s not how a friend behaves. Moreover, if she had taken the time to have a serious discussion with me, rather than just assuming I’m a bigot, she might find that my opinions make some sense. Or she might not… but at least she would have granted me the consideration of trying to make my case without just dismissing me as ignorant, inconsiderate, and ill-mannered.

I’ve found that the older I get, the less time and interest I have in engaging with people who want to tell me how to think, what to say, or how I should behave. If the snarky chick from last year had enough respect for me to hear and respect the reasons why I feel the way I do about Mormonism, maybe she’d understand me better. Maybe she might have even found and been a real friend, rather than someone who lurks and stirs up shit on other people’s social media accounts, and then acts holier than thou about showing “respect” for people’s religious beliefs and COVID etiquette. I find her behavior to be hypocritical, at the very least.

The bottom line is, people should certainly try to communicate with each other. We should listen to each other and show as much respect as we can muster, whenever possible. But respect is a two way street. Being overly concerned about certain so-called “outdated language” being offensive to other people is as much of a barrier to communication as being overtly offensive is. Sure, it’s ineffective to swear at people, because they’ll just tune out your diatribe. But I think it’s also ineffective to nitpick at what people say, calling their words offensive when it’s clear that no offense was actually intended. I think it’s important to listen to what a person is actually saying before dismissing what they say as “offensive”, “bigoted”, or “ignorant.” In other words, some woke people aren’t really that woke, if you know what I mean.

As for the existence of ivory tower intellectual infested PARC, I’m sure if my hero George Carlin was still alive, he’d be having a field day with that. As one Facebook commenter wrote yesterday, “That’s absurd. Fuck those people.” Ah, what the hell… here’s George. I know I’ve shared it before, but it bears repeating.

God, I miss him.
And more on cultural crapola…
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communication, racism

Getting a grip with the “super woke”…

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this morning. My mind was a bit fuzzy after having been awakened at 4:00am by Arran, the barfing beagle. Actually, all he did was retch a bit. He was hungry, so Bill fed him and all was well. I was annoyed, though, because the retching woke me from a pleasant dream. And when I woke up and got out of bed, I wasn’t as “woke” as I could have been. 😉

I started reading The Washington Post, as usual, and sure enough, found myself a topic. It came from an article about Vietnamese tenants in Manhattan who received an official letter from a city worker addressing them as “Chin Chong”. Included with the article was a photo of the correspondence– a window envelope with the words “Chin Chong” visible.

Apparently, this all started when an older White man came to check on the heating and water at Duc Pham’s New York City apartment. Pham said he seemed “polite and professional”, and took down the floor and apartment number but did not ask for names. Last week, Pham’s roommate woke him to show him a follow up letter sent by the city addressed to “CHIN CHONG”. Pham and his roommates are all Vietnamese.

So Pham did what everyone seems to do nowadays when they get offended. He posted the offending correspondence on social media. That action led the city housing authority to issue an apology. Further, an employee was suspended without pay, and the authority has launched an investigation into the matter. Given the recent uptick in racism against Asians in the United States, to include racially based attacks on Asian citizens, scapegoating Asians for the pandemic, and the deadly shootings at three Asian-run spas in the Atlanta area, this case is especially newsworthy and troubling.

Now… when I saw the words “Chin Chong”, I knew they were offensive. But I’m just one person. As I read the comments for this article, I came across one written by a guy named Bruce, who says he’s 67 years old and has never encountered the term “Chin Chong”. He wrote:

I am not trying to start a fight here, but I am 67, I have lived in or near NYC all my life, and I have never heard this phrase, and would not have known what it referred to.

Bruce was immediately taken to task for this comment by a woman named Michele, who wrote:

…you understand that the absence of you never having heard it doesn’t in any way negate it’s existence and the experience of those it’s directed towards? You understand that this statement is an example of minimizing and a microagression, yes? Finally you understand that stating “I am not trying to start a fight” isn’t a blanket excuse to say something so utterly nonsensical in the discussion correct?

A long thread ensued in which they went back and forth with each other. Honestly, I don’t see anything in Bruce’s initial comment that indicates any kind of micro-aggression on his part. Maybe, at most, Bruce’s comment just seems obtuse. Obviously, Pham and his roommates were offended by being called “Chin Chong”. Perhaps Bruce could have Googled the term, rather than asking about it on The Washington Post. I haven’t looked yet, but I’ll bet Urban Dictionary has it defined… Actually, in Urban Dictionary, it’s “Ching Chong”, and it’s described as a pejorative used by English speakers to mock Asian languages, especially Chinese.

Okay… so it was Ting Tong vs. Ching Chong…

I’m 48 years old, at this writing, and I do remember hearing that slur used when I was a kid, both in England and the United States. Most recently, I heard it used on Little Britain, which was a British comedy show that often included skits that were kind of racist. That show aired some time ago– from 2003-07– and I read last year that the creators, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, have said they are “very sorry” for playing characters of other races. However, I don’t remember hearing that term used nearly as often as I have heard other racist epithets that will remain nameless. Moreover, I don’t know Bruce. Maybe he really hasn’t been exposed to that term. His question actually could have been innocent.

Anyway, before I knew it, I had read the whole thread. Below are the screenshots.

I won’t be surprised if someone accuses me of being a racist because I left the last comment. I don’t think what I wrote was racist. I simply don’t think that it’s necessary or helpful to attack people and make negative judgments about their characters simply based on a single comment on a news article. Granted, perhaps Bruce’s original comment was perhaps a bit “tone deaf”, but being tone deaf doesn’t make someone a racist. I gleaned a lot more about Michele from her aggressively “woke” comments than I did about Bruce. I haven’t looked at either of their profiles, but frankly, I would much rather have a conversation with Bruce than Michele, even if what she writes about him is 100 percent true… and I am not convinced that it is.

I know we’re living in challenging times. Racism is a huge problem worldwide, but especially in the United States. I understand that there are people who feel the need to “educate” others about it. A lot of them assume the mantle with gusto and go on full bore flame wars against anyone they perceive to be “insensitive” or unaware. I don’t think there is anything wrong with combatting racism. However, I do think that verbally attacking people– especially people you don’t know– is unhelpful in combatting racism.

Most people don’t like being publicly chastised or condescended to, especially when they truly meant no harm. While Michele obviously interprets Bruce’s comment as minimizing and “micro-aggressive”, to me, she comes off as openly aggressive, hostile, superior, and rude. I wouldn’t want to have a discussion with her, having witnessed that exchange. I think, if Michele’s goal is truly to defend the marginalized, she should change her approach to one that is less threatening.

I’ve mentioned this before in my blog, but I’m going to mention it again. I think there’s great value in the gentler approach. For some reason, Americans haven’t gotten the memo and feel like they have to aggressively denounce anyone who isn’t fully onboard the politically correct bandwagon. So they attack people– often total strangers– who post something that could or could not be construed as “offensive”. It’s one thing if someone posts something that is obviously belittling and nasty. It’s another, when something is only potentially so, and that could only be gauged by non-verbal cues that are simply unavailable in a written sense.

Maybe if Bruce and Michele had been speaking to each other in person, she could have concluded he was being offensive by his mannerisms or tone of voice. Or maybe if they’d had a recurring dialogue online, she could have more correctly gauged whether or not he was minimizing the plight of marginalized people. But I think it’s hard to accurately make those conclusions based entirely on the written words of a perfect stranger one has only encountered once in a lifetime. I didn’t get the sense that Bruce and Michele had ever met prior to that chance encounter on The Washington Post’s Facebook page.

I’ve found that gentle probing is good for finding out someone’s true intentions before you lower the boom on them, so to speak. To further illustrate what I mean, here’s an anecdote from my past. Back in the late 1990s, I attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I went, mainly because at the time, I was living with my parents and having to deal with my alcoholic dad, with whom I often clashed.

One time, a young, attractive woman who was studying massage therapy came to the meeting with some kind of putty. When it was her turn to speak, she told us about how she was learning how to treat the tough knots that plagued her clients. The putty was used as a training tool in that endeavor. She showed us how, if she attacked the putty aggressively, it wouldn’t yield to her touch. It would be resistant and rigid. But if she gently pressed it, the putty would slowly become more malleable and she could manipulate it with much more ease. She passed the putty around so we could experience it for ourselves. Ever since that presentation, I’ve thought of that lady with the putty whenever I witness someone aggressively attacking another person in a well-meaning attempt to do “good”.

I think this was the stuff she used.

If you want a more cliched idea about effecting change, there’s always that old saying, “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.” If you’re kind, understanding, and trying to see the other person in a good light in your approach, others may be more inclined to listen to you. Most people are normal, and don’t want to be hurtful or cruel to others. If they are not normal, you will eventually find that out if you maintain contact with them. At that point, you can change your approach accordingly. For most online interactions, you probably should consider trying to be somewhat reasonable and understanding… at least at first.

On the other hand, this is also true… And who wants to attract flies anyway, except maybe frogs or spiders?

I highly doubt “Bruce” and the others in that thread who were responding to Michele learned anything new in that exchange, other than Michele is not a very nice person. I also doubt her efforts to make them more “woke” had much of a positive effect on them. Instead of focusing on what she was trying to say– which I assume was well-meaning– they were being defensive and had focused on the aggressive nature of her communication to them. She may have felt better in being so direct and condescending, but I doubt that approach led to anything good. I was uncomfortable and offended reading it, and I wasn’t even part of the conversation until the very end. I forced myself to read the whole thing, but I’ll bet a lot of people chose not to read it. We’ve got enough reasons to be hurt, offended, or irritated these days.

I was glad to see some people defending Bruce in that thread. It’s not that I don’t think his comment was a bit obtuse. It kind of was. I just don’t think launching a full blown nuclear attack against him, posting to him like he’s stupid, and assuming bad things about his character is useful, particularly when all he did was ask a question. There really is a dearth of mutual respect in our society and it’s having a serious effect on freedom of speech as well as mutual understanding. Angrily attacking people just leads to more attacks. It isn’t helpful, and doesn’t teach anyone anything. However, I also understand that people get frustrated and feel the need to vent. I just think it’s better to take out those frustrations in another venue, rather than in a public forum with perfect strangers. (which doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes slip up myself)

As for Pham and his roommates, I am truly sorry that they had that experience with the city worker. I don’t know what it’s like to be Asian American, so I can’t personally relate to what they went through. But I’m willing to hear what they have to say and offer respect and kindness the best way I know how. I think everyone is deserving of at least that level of respect until they show the world that they’re not worthy. For example, Donald Trump has pretty much lost all of my respect, but that’s because he shows so little to anyone else. When it comes down to it, Bruce’s initial comment wasn’t, on its face, offensive. A “woke” stranger assigned a motive to him and attacked him, rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt. A more gentle probe, rather than an aggressive reprimand, would have likely been more effective and educational for everyone. Or, at least that’s my take… but again, I’m only one person.

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And just an addendum…

I saw this video today and it resonated. I’ve been subscribed to JP’s channel ever since I saw his video about veganism. I think he makes much sense regarding “political correctness”… too many of us are stuck in it and not seeing it for what it really is.

There’s a difference between being “nice” and being “kind”. Political correctness is often more “nice” than “kind”.

Wow… he gets it. He really does. It takes courage to speak out loud, to be bold, and to be kind.

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