The featured photo is a screenshot from the excellent YouTube video by Lindsay Out Loud, who expertly read this book aloud on YouTube.
Educator and father, Toby Rice, used to be the assistant principal at Gary Roads Elementary School in Hinds County, Mississippi. Today, he’s no longer employed at the school. What caused Rice to lose his job? He ran afoul of the district superintendent, Delesicia Martin, who took exception to Rice’s decision to read what she considered an “inappropriate” book to a bunch of second graders.
The trouble started on March 2, 2022. It was Read Across America week, and in honor of the annual event, approximately 240 second graders in Hinds County were to be read a book by one of the school administrators. But the administrator who was supposed to read to the kids had forgotten it was her turn to read aloud on Zoom. So Toby Rice, who has twenty years of experience as an educator, filled in at the last minute. He read Dawn McMillan’s 2012 book, “I Need a New Butt!”
Mr. Rice had read the book at a previous school where he had been principal. The father of three also read it to his own children, who counted the book as one of their favorites. The kids who heard Mr. Rice read “I Need a New Butt” in Hinds County were also delighted by the book, which is about a boy who decides he needs a new butt after seeing that his butt has a crack in it and thinking it’s broken.
Sadly, humor challenged administrators in Hinds County were offended by Price’s book choice for the literacy promotion event. Fifteen minutes after Mr. Price read the book to the kids, he was called to his principal’s office. The principal told Price that he shouldn’t have read that book and that parents would probably complain. And then, Price was told that the superintendent wanted to see Price “immediately”. According to the Washington Post:
“They kind of just let me have it,” Price said. “She said, ‘Is this the kind of thing you find funny and silly? Fart and butt and bulletproof butts?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I did until I walked in.’ ”
Two days later, Mr. Price was fired. According to the termination letter Mr. Price received from the evidently “butthurt” school superintendent, Delescia Martin, Mr. Price violated the Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics, Standards of Conduct. Below is a screenshot of the portion Mr. Price’s termination letter regarding why he was fired. The entire letter can be found here.
Regular readers know that I don’t have children. I also don’t live in Mississippi. I would not choose to live in Mississippi, because it is a place consistently placed at the BOTTOM (see what I did there) of many important “quality of life” listings. Public school education is one area where Mississippi regularly ranks at the BOTTOM. According to the US News and World Report, Mississippi is DEAD LAST in state healthcare rankings. Given that Mississippi is often placed “dead ass last” in so many “quality of life” rankings, is it any wonder that a superintendent would get sand in her undies over an educator reading a book that mentions farts and butt cracks? Of course, opinions are like assholes; everybody has one, and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks. But I am of the opinion that Mississippi is close to the “bowels” of the United States, and “shitty” news stories like this one do little to sway my views.
Something really stinks about this…
I am a big fan of “inappropriate humor”, so if I had children who attended school in Hinds County, I would probably routinely “crack” lots of jokes about butts. I mean– it’s “HINDS County”, for pity’s sake. Where else would it be so funny to read a children’s book about butts? But in all seriousness, as Mr. Rice pointed out, there are a lot of “reluctant readers” in that county. According to Data USA, there are also a lot of poor people in Hinds County. In 2019, 21.3% of the county’s residents lived at or below the poverty line. Mr. Price said that a lot of students in Hinds County rely on free or reduced price school lunches, which makes teaching literacy especially important.
Many kids LOVE funny books with inappropriate “body” humor in them. A book like “I Need a New Butt” might be just the thing a young, beginner, “reluctant reader” needs to get hooked on reading, instead of more harmful things, like drugs and alcohol. Moreover, the book is marketed for children between the ages of 6 and 10. Second graders are usually about 7 years old, so this book was written expressly for them.
It sounds to me like the administrators in Hinds County allowed their personal preferences to dictate what is, and what is not, appropriate reading material for children. This book is very popular, and is used by educators and parents all over the country and, in fact, even worldwide. Below is a video posted by The Scottish Granny, who is reading a slightly altered version of Dawn McMillan’s book titled “I Need a New Bum”.
We’re living in very serious times right now. We could all use a good laugh. Kids today have to face so many awful things– war, pandemics, political nightmares, school shootings, inflation, and the list goes on and on. Do the administrators of Hinds County really believe that reading a funny book about butts– which EVERYONE can relate to, because we all poop and fart, and the vast majority of us have cracks in our butts– is the worst thing a teacher or school administrator can do? Can Hinds County really AFFORD to lose an experienced educator who cares about children as much as Mr. Price obviously does?
Delescia Martin and her ilk may be educators, but I really think firing Mr. Price was a very shortsighted and decidedly *uneducated* decision. Now, if Mr. Price had read a book like Beavis and Butt-head’sThis Book Sucks to the children, I might be more understanding about the decision to fire him for being “inappropriate”. But lots of excellent children’s books are about universal experiences that we all face– even unpleasant or unsavory topics like pooping and farting. Remember the popular children’s book, Everyone Poops? It was marketed to children aged 0 to 3 and is highly regarded as an excellent book for teaching potty training. As a matter of fact, a quick look at Amazon shows me that there are many other children’s books about pooping available. I don’t see how Dawn McMillan’s funny book about needing a new butt because of a “crack” in it is any more scandalous than a book like “It Hurts When I Poop”, by Howard J. Bennett, MD and illustrated by M.S. (Michael) Weber. And yet, that book also gets high marks from (probably) very grateful parents who use them to teach their children about life.
I read today that Mr. Price has retained a lawyer and will be fighting to get his job back. There is an appeal hearing scheduled for March 21, and a GoFundMe campaigned has raised over $100,000 to help Mr. Price plead his case to get reinstated. Above is one grandmother’s post on Gary Roads Elementary School’s Facebook page. Obviously, a lot of parents and grandparents are concerned and involved; quite a few of them would like to see the assistant principal be rehired. I would certainly hope that other school districts have taken notice of this case, especially if they need an experienced and dedicated educator who obviously knows and cares what children like. My many teacher friends tell me that teaching has been especially difficult lately, and a lot of well-trained and talented people are leaving the profession or not going into teaching at all. I’ll ask again. Can Hinds County really afford to lose Mr. Price?
Between this story and the one involving McMinn County in Tennessee and their stupid decision to ban the excellent book, Maus, I’m actually feeling kind of glad I don’t have any children to worry about. But I do have stepgrandchildren now, I really hope the education administrators in the United States remove their heads from their asses before younger daughter’s children begin their educational careers. And I’m also glad that I, myself, grew up in a less ridiculous time. I feel like a lot of people in the United States could collectively use a mental enema.
There are so many things I could write about this morning. Like, for instance, I read that Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend and fellow sex pest, has been convicted. She was facing six charges, and was convicted of five of them, including: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She now faces up to 65 years in prison. Her sentencing date has not yet been announced, and her attorneys vow to appeal. That’s what they all say, of course…
I don’t take any particular delight when anyone gets convicted of a crime and faces a long stint in prison, but I do think justice has been served in this case, just as I did when Josh Duggar was found guilty. People who endanger others, particularly when there’s violence or coercion involved, and particularly when the crimes involve preying on vulnerable people, should go to prison. They should be removed from society so that law abiding citizens are less at risk. But, of course, that’s not saying a whole lot in the United States these days.
Anyway, suffice to say, I think it’s right that Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty. I think she should be treated humanely, as I hope all prisoners are, but I believe it’s correct to send her to prison for what she did. I hope Donald Trump is next.
Yesterday afternoon, I watched America’s Broken Dream, a 2012 French documentary that was posted on YouTube. The documentary, which was presented in English, was about homeless people in the United States as of about ten years ago. It was a bit depressing, on many levels, to watch it, especially given what has happened since 2012. Several families were interviewed– people who were homeless or “half homeless”, living in cheap motels. All of the stories were compelling, although it was the last family that really caught my attention.
Toward the end of this documentary, a young couple with two adorable little daughters is profiled. The mom, Amber Carter, is in California with her girls, presumably because California, as a “blue” state, offers better social safety nets for poor people. Dad, Daniel Carter, is in Kentucky, working manual jobs to support his young family.
At one point, Daniel comes to California to see his wife and their little girls. I am struck by how much he seems to love the kids, and his wife. Amber is shown trying to fill out job applications, but finds it impossible because she has two tiny kids to look after. I was wondering what she would do with the girls if she did get hired. I know from my days as a MSW student that decent child care is not cheap, always available, or widely accessible to everyone.
It looked like things might be improving for the young family. I had some hope that they might recover. But then Daniel Carter is arrested in Kentucky for striking and killing his neighbor, a man named Christopher Mitchell, with a hatchet. Carter maintains that Mitchell was drunk and had attacked him. He claims that he hit the guy in the head with a hatchet in self-defense.
Carter did plead guilty to fleeing and evading the police, and resisting arrest. But somehow, there wasn’t enough evidence to try Carter for the murder of Christopher Mitchell. He was released after serving 135 days in jail, time he was already credited for when he faced the judge. Another blog, titled Liar Catchers, has this article about Daniel Carter. Christopher Mitchell’s family was “furious” that Carter got away with killing their relative, especially since it wasn’t the first time he had killed someone.
I don’t believe it was mentioned in the documentary that Daniel Carter also did some time as a juvenile in Florida for killing his Uncle Jack Carter with a knife, back in the early 00s. Carter spent 19 months locked up in jail, but was later acquitted of first degree murder charges stemming from the July 2002 stabbing death of his uncle. In that case, Carter also claimed self-defense, as his uncle reportedly had come to his home to help discipline him. Daniel Carter, who was fifteen years old at the time, claimed his uncle had gone into a rage, and he had attacked him with a rusty knife to protect himself. Jack Carter was stabbed ten times, with one wound to the neck that proved to be fatal.
Many people found it hard to believe that Carter got off in that case, too. One witness said that she’d never seen Jack Carter behave in a violent way and people were shocked that his nephew, Daniel Carter, wasn’t convicted. I’m sure that prior case could not be considered when Daniel Carter fatally wounded another man in Kentucky, but it does seem eerie that he killed two men in similar ways and got away with it both times.
This is Daniel Carter. Pensacola natives might remember him as the boy who murdered his Uncle Jack Carter back in 2002. Though he stabbed his uncle over 10 times with a machete, cutting his throat and nearly severing one of his arms in the process, he was found not guilty of the crime. Why? I’ll never know. Jack’s sister, (Daniel’s mother), had called Jack over to the house that night to help her discipline Daniel, a troubled teen, whom she was unable to control. After the brutal murder of Jack Carter, members of the community, led by his mother Cindy, rallied around Daniel, who was only 15 at the time. Community members even held a fundraiser for Daniel’s defense at Bamboo Willie’s. They got him a renowned child advocacy attorney, who went on to paint a picture of a poor, abused teen, who feared for his life when he took a machete and stabbed his uncle over 10 times that night. When Daniel was release from jail after the trial, people rejoiced that he had won his freedom back. After all, poor Daniel didn’t mean to kill his uncle when he stabbed him repeatedly.
Let’s fast forward to 2012. Daniel now lives in Kentucky. And in Kentucky, after a dispute with his landlord, (who apparently had a pointed stick in his hand), Daniel proceeded to take a hatchet, (yes, a HATCHET) and plant in right in the center of his landlord’s forehead, killing him. Believe it or not, Daniel was released from jail. Self defense again. In any case, the reason I am posting this is because Daniel is a Pensacola native, and I have no idea where he is now, but it’s defintely possible that he could be back here. If you ever happen to see him and have a disagreement with him, I would advise you to RUN. Whatever you do, DO NOT confront this man. He obvioulsy has a temper, and his history shows he is very dangerous!
On a side note, the last time I saw Jack was about a week before he passed away. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so we exchanged hugs, and sat down to catch up over a drink. He was beaming. Smiling ear to ear. He told me he was inlove. He told me he never thought “this kind of happiness was possible”. And he told me that for the first time in a long time, he was excited about the future, not just going through the motions of the day to day routine. He was happy to be alive
And a few days later, he was gone. Rest in Peace, Jack. You are not forgotten.
One woman commented that she had been married to Daniel Carter. She wrote that he had conned her and her mother, and he was a very violent person. She expressed gratitude that they didn’t manage to have children together. I guess she must have been married to him before he was married to Amber, the woman who was portrayed as his wife in the documentary, as well as the mother to his two adorable little girls. If you click on the link directly above, you can read the comments about Daniel Carter and people who know him.
I didn’t know anything at all about this couple or the true crimes that were connected with them when I was watching the documentary. From what I could see on the video, Amber Carter was a good and attentive mom, even though she and her girls were living in their old car. It’s certainly not a crime to be poor. I was also struck by Daniel. He seemed to be a friendly, charismatic person. I could see how he charmed people, as he was well-spoken and seemed to work hard, and loved his daughters very much.
It just goes to show you that friendly, charming, well-spoken people really can be hiding monstrous characteristics under the surface. In the documentary, his boss says that Daniel Carter has an “amazing work ethic” and that his little girls are all he talks about. To hear him tell it, Daniel is a fine young man and dedicated provider to his family. I truly enjoyed watching him interact with his daughters, who really seemed to love him. He seemed to love them right back. I was genuinely saddened when the announcer in the documentary talked about Daniel’s arrest. The Carters seemed like they might somehow make it– or, at least it seemed like they were trying to get out of the hole they were in.
I got curious about Amber Carter, so I looked her up. Sadly, it appears that she might also have some serious legal problems. In September 2021, a woman named Amber Carter, who roughly matches the age and description of the Amber Carter in the documentary, was wanted by the police in Jones County, Mississippi. She was accused of “giving birth to a child who tested positive for methamphetamine” and was to face one count of felony child abuse. According to this article, Amber Carter was captured about a week after the news reported about her. She is, at this writing, listed on the inmate roster in Jones County, Mississippi.
As I was searching for more information about the recent charges against Amber Carter, I also ran across another item from May 2018, which appeared to involve the same woman– again, for giving birth to a baby who tested positive for cocaine and meth. If this is the same Amber, that means she’s had at least two more children who have been born into deplorable circumstances and are likely in foster care now.
While it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the Amber Carter who was wanted in Mississippi is the same Amber Carter in the documentary, it does make me sad that it could be, and probably is, her. The Amber in the documentary genuinely seemed to be a good mom, although it could be she was only like that when the cameras were rolling. I suppose I can understand how a person in the situation Amber and the other people profiled in the documentary might fall into drug abuse, but it really does seem like a terrible shame.
Although there seems to be an age discrepancy between the documentary Amber and the Amber in the above mug shot, I do think they are one and the same. The documentary was released in 2012, but 2008 was when the recession was really bad. I think it’s very likely that the footage was filmed in the years prior to 2012, and if that’s the case, then the ages for Amber in the documentary and Amber in the mug shot line up perfectly. Also, there is a very strong physical resemblance.
After I finished watching the documentary, I happened across a guest opinion essay in The New York Times about a woman who had once owned a home and horses. She was raised in Palo Alto, California by successful parents, and went to college and studied journalism. Lori Teresa Yearwood once had it all– including her own business. But a series of misfortunes and subsequent mental health challenges plunged her into homelessness. She spent two years on the streets, where she was sexually assaulted multiple times.
Yearwood went to several hospitals via ambulance after the assaults. She was so traumatized that she couldn’t speak, so hospital administrators did not know she was homeless– or, so they claim. As she was getting back on her feet again, with the help of Utah-based non-profit organization, Journey of Hope and an accountant she knew from her days as a business owner, Yearwood discovered just how outrageously expensive being homeless is. People don’t realize that homeless people often incur debts because they get arrested and fined. Yearwood also had huge hospital and ambulance bills, due to visiting the facilities after she was assaulted and locked in a storage shed for two days.
Fortunately, once she was functioning again, Yearwood was able to advocate for herself. She’s now back to working as a reporter. She got the huge medical bills dismissed, after she explained to the hospital administrators that she would be reporting about how they treated her. From the opinion piece, Yearwood wrote:
A public relations official responded that while in the hospital’s care, I refused to speak, so staff members didn’t know I was homeless. I explained that I had not refused to speak; I had been traumatized and had gone essentially mute for two years. By this time in my renewed journalism career, I had obtained my medical records, so I showed the hospital administrators some of the doctors’ notes about me. The next email from the hospital was swift: “Upon reviewing your account, we have decided to honor your claim of being homeless at the time of service and wrote off the remaining balance.”
I asked the hospital administrators if they were going to respond to the harm they had caused by ruining my credit: the stress and sleepless nights, the fact that I could no longer qualify for low interest rates on mortgages. The spokesman apologized but said, “All I can do is make it right going forward.”
Lori Teresa Yearwood is one of the lucky ones. I know it’s hard to climb out of poverty. I remember when Bill and I were first married, we weren’t impoverished, but it sure felt that way. I seriously thought we’d never get out of debt. It took years to do it, but I had my eye on the prize, and we were very fortunate in many ways. Moving to Germany, for instance, was a great move for our finances. But not everyone can do what we did… and many people are burdened by having children to raise.
I look at Amber Carter and I suspect that years of living as she was depicted in the America’s Broken Dream documentary wore her down on many levels. I’m sure that using drugs and having unprotected sex were two escapes for her that made life temporarily more pleasant. But those decisions ultimately made her personal situation much worse, and they also made things worse for her innocent children. She joins so many Americans who are incarcerated, and will find it so much harder to function once they are released.
As for Yearwood, I think she makes an excellent point that Americans need to pay more attention to treating mental health issues. Yearwood was doing great until the 2008 recession hit, she had credit problems that led to foreclosure, the Oregon house she was renting burned down, her dog died, and then, in 2014, she had a mental health breakdown that made it impossible to continue operating her business. When she was slowly recovering in 2017, she was fortunate enough to run into people who coaxed her toward rejoining society. She writes:
Nonprofit employees who work with the homeless should be trained in how to interact with people who have experienced trauma. Otherwise, they may inadvertently shame their clients for being hesitant to return to an economic system that has already penalized and punished them. A classic symptom of trauma is avoiding the source of that trauma.
As I was emerging from homelessness, I trusted very few people. I needed what advocates call a soft handoff. I would never have considered going to a group trying to help me unless someone I trusted had referred me and would go with me. My initial soft handoff was arranged by Shannon Cox, a former police officer and the founder of Journey of Hope. She took me to lunch and drove me to the hospitals to pick up all the records that I had no idea I was going to need to later protect myself financially.
Now, Yearwood is able to advocate for herself and others, but if not for people who cared enough to help her, she might still be on the street. She might still be at risk of sexual assault and falling into illegal drug use to escape the despair. Maybe she might be in a position similar to Amber Carter’s, although thankfully, there probably wouldn’t be any innocent children involved.
The America’s Broken Dream documentary also profiles other families– people who had jobs and homes, and their children, who were forced to live in cheap motels and worry about being picked up by child protective services. I might have to see if any of those people managed to pull themselves out of homelessness. I know it’s hard, though, because as Yearwood points out, it’s very expensive to be poor. A lot of people have no idea. And there but by the grace of God go any of us, unfortunately.
Documentaries like America’s Broken Dream scare the hell out of me, and make me so grateful for what I have… and for Bill, who works so hard to provide for us. But, I swear, every time I read a news article about financial ruin– something that Bill has already survived when he was with his ex wife– I want to start another bank account. It really is hard getting by in America if you don’t have the right skills, enough support, and luck.
Here’s a repost from March 24, 2018. I am reposting it as I think about what I want today’s fresh content to be.I will also repost an earlier post about the video below, in particular.
Today’s post is taken from a direct quote that was included in a 1970s era film made at Brigham Young University called “The Fat Fighters”.
I was reminded of this film this morning as I read a news story by The New York Times about America’s worsening obesity epidemic. I really shouldn’t read the comments on these articles because they regularly piss me off. So many people have simple “explanations” as to why Americans are so fat. But it seems to me that if the problem is so simple, so must be the solution, right? If that were true, then people would simply eat less, choose higher quality food, exercise more, and weigh less. Simple, right? But I don’t think it is a simple problem.
I read comment after comment from people claiming that “good food” is cheap and easy to prepare. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that, as long as you have everything you need to make food and you have the time, energy, and know how to prepare it. Many Americans work very long hours for low pay. If they are fortunate enough to have work, they will have to work long and hard to make enough money to pay their bills. If they work ten or twelve hours a day at two jobs, they might be exhausted when they get home. And that’s if they are only supporting themselves. A lot of people who work long hours also have families to tend.
Many Americans don’t necessarily have the ability to shop for whole foods, transport them, prepare them, or cook them. Some people also don’t have access to the tools they’d need to make that good, wholesome food. It takes money to buy pots, pans, electricity to run the oven and refrigerator, gas to buy the fuel to get to a store, or pay for a fare on public transportation. Although, a lot of Americans have access to adequate housing and transportation, not everyone does. So those people do what they can to survive. Many times that means eating a chemical laden hot dog or microwaved burrito from 7 Eleven instead of a bowl of homemade vegetable soup.
Okay… so what if you’re like most Americans and you do own a car? You do live in housing that has kitchen facilities. You live in a town where there are several good supermarkets and, hey, you even have the Internet, so you can order groceries online. You still have to have the time and energy to make that “good food”. I happen to like cooking and Bill and I enjoy a lifestyle that affords us the ability to eat well, if we choose. We do try to keep most junk food out of the house, although we love beer and wine, which is not exactly dietetic.
The point I’m trying to make is that the problem of obesity seems really simple. It seems like it has a simple cause and a simple solution. However, if you think about it for longer than a minute, the problem becomes less simple. If the problem really were that simple, we would have solved it by now.
I once lived in a country where poor people weren’t generally fat. Those people didn’t eat a lot of meat because they couldn’t afford it. Indeed, being a little bit heavy meant that you had more money. It wasn’t necessarily fashionable, but it made a statement about your income. In that country, though, people didn’t work constantly like they do in the United States. They spent time with their families and friends and ate with them. The lifestyle was very different there. You wouldn’t see poor people eating candy bars or cake because those items were expensive. It was actually cheaper to buy an apple, especially if it was in season.
In the United States, poor people are more likely to be fat than wealthy people. Why? Because the food that is most available to them is cheap, filling, and of poorer quality. And some of those people eat fattening, sugary, salty foods because it temporarily makes them feel better. They gain weight and lose more status… and people make judgments and comments about them based on preconceived notions. And God help you if you happen to be both poor and obese. This was one comment made on the New York Times Facebook post about America’s rising obesity problem.
It is VERY true eating healthier is more expensive. Poor people are also more prone to addiction and food is the most common addiction.
Well… I don’t know that I’d make a comment like that. The truth is, people are poor for many reasons. Poverty is also a very complex issue with no simple solutions. Some poor people are addicts. Some are not. It just depends.
As for the title of this post, I think perhaps what the narrator meant is that overweight people might be dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible about food and eating. I would hope he wasn’t saying that overweight people are those things in general. However, he did actually say that– he said that overweight people have several character defects and he didn’t qualify his statement as only pertaining to their eating habits. So basically, he was perpetuating the idea that overweight people are lower quality human beings who don’t deserve to be as well-regarded as thinner people usually are.
Another comment I noticed came from a woman who, I’m sure, thinks she’s a “thinker”. She posted that in the long run, broccoli is “cheaper” than a cheeseburger because it will lead to fewer healthcare costs. However, if you have to force yourself to eat broccoli because you can barely stand the taste of it, how likely will you actually benefit from choosing to eat it over a burger? What are the odds that you might buy that broccoli and then let it rot in your fridge? And… what if you eat nothing but broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and then still get sick or catastrophically injured somehow? Eating “good” food may promote better health and lower healthcare costs, but it’s not a guarantee.
Personally, I’ve decided to just relax and enjoy life as much as possible. I don’t trouble myself with what other people are eating. I don’t worry about how their habits will affect my medical bills. I don’t blame fat people for all of the wrongs in the world, nor do I give much thought to shaming them. Life is difficult and complex, and there is no magic bullet. I think there are too many people out there who feel inclined to judge and assume what’s wrong or missing in another person’s life. But even as I write that, I understand that we all do it to an extent. I do it, too.
Sigh… I really need to stop reading comments on articles. But then, if I did that, I might be writing fewer blog posts.
Apologies in advance for this disjointed rant. I have a lot on my mind, and it’s coming out in heaves today. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think that a lot of people who identify with conservative values are actual morons without consciences or souls. It’s probably because, as usual, I’ve spent too much time looking at the news.
A few days ago, I noticed that my former college professor answered a question on Facebook about whether or not she would accept a ticket to see Bill Cosby perform. She answered “no”. Just as I was about to click off the page, I noticed that my cousin responded. This cousin shares a Facebook account with his wife, so I’m not sure which person actually wrote the comment. Friends, I was a bit sickened by it. He or she wrote that Bill Cosby is “past his prime”, but was good in concert back in the day. And Cosby had engaged in some “negativity” some time back, but is otherwise a good entertainer.
I was pretty flabbergasted. So I commented, “You’re referring to dozens of cases of drugging and raping women as ‘negativity’?” I didn’t add this, but I should have also written, “And Cosby ADMITTED to doing this, too. He’s out of prison on a ‘technicality’.”
I can hardly believe I’m related to this guy. Well… actually, I guess I can believe it. I remember overhearing him tell a nasty story to another cousin when I was six years old. He and the other cousin, also male, were several years older than I was. Still, they made it seem like a funny story, so I repeated it to two younger cousins and got in trouble with my aunt, who gave me a tongue lashing I haven’t forgotten. Later, she apologized to me, explaining that her kids were very young and “didn’t know what to do with that”. Um… neither did I! I was six years old! And I had overheard a story being told by my cousin, who apparently thinks Bill Cosby’s habit of drugging and raping women is plain “negativity”! And he’s also a proud Trump supporter, who blithely ignores Trump’s disgusting record of treating other people like shit and, like Cosby, abusing women for his own vile gratification.
This morning, I read an article in The Atlantic from March 2021 about how a lot of relationships haven’t survived the Trump era. I’m sad to say, it’s true in my case, too. There are family members I used to love seeing with whom I no longer have contact. It’s not necessarily my doing, either. A lot of them have cut off contact with me because I think Donald Trump is a poisonous man. Somehow, they fail to see that Trump is a liar, thief, and a cheat, while they bitch and moan about people “abusing” unemployment insurance and welfare benefits. I’ve got news for them. Trump doesn’t pay his fair share. He hires cronies to screw over honest businesspeople while he harasses and molests women. Read Micheal Cohen’s book, Disloyal. Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who spent time in prison due to his business with the former POTUS, writes about how he would strong arm and screw over businesspeople on Trump’s behalf.
Meanwhile, your garden variety Republican is under the delusion that people who are getting unemployment insurance and welfare benefits just stay on those programs forever. Newsflash– they DON’T. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF– also known as “welfare”) is just that– TEMPORARY. And that has been the law since 1997! Granted, state leaders are allowed latitude in how they run TANF, but the program was designed to strongly encourage recipients to look for work or engage in training to prepare them for work. Recipients have to show proof that they are job hunting or getting training in order to receive temporary benefits. And that money is generally not enough to live on for long.
I ran across the above post this morning because another friend had answered the question. My friend answered “no”, he doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t taken a job due to unemployment insurance. He lives in Virginia, where payments are notoriously low. Just under his response was a rant from some guy who said he “knows people” who aren’t working because it will interfere with their housing allowance or “food stamps” (SNAP) eligibility. And then he wrote that there should be “time limits” on aid. I had to respond. As I pointed out, “welfare” does have time limits imposed– it was five years or 60 months (federal guidelines) or less (depending on the state), last time I checked. But so does unemployment insurance. When Bill retired from the Army in 2014, he got unemployment for a month. The money he got was based on what he’d paid into the system, and he had to show that he was applying for jobs. When he got a job offer, he had to return a payment he received, which wasn’t really much money.
I’ve read a lot of comments from conservatives who have bought into the “welfare queen” myth, thanks to a 1970s era story perpetuated by former President Ronald Reagan and like minded folks. They spread a tale about people who took advantage of social safety nets, which caused some people to believe in a stereotype about poor people being lazy and bilking the system. It seems to me that the whole “welfare queen” story was news because it’s not that common. Are there people who game the system? Yes, of course. I ran into a couple of them during my brief time as a social worker. But I doubt most people enjoy using benefits like SNAP cards, especially when busybodies are judging them for what’s in their grocery store buggy and watching how they pay for such items. Also, SNAP cards can’t be used for just anything at the store. Seems to me, most people would rather have the cash to buy things they want and need. Yes, some people are truly lazy, but I don’t think it’s as common as some people claim. Moreover, it’s actually expensive to be poor.
I get wanting to see people working and paying their own way. I understand that it’s distressing to be going to work every day when someone appears to be living off of the system. But what I want to ask these folks is, why is it any of your business? Do you know these so-called welfare cheats and unemployment abusers personally? Are you aware of their story? Do you have knowledge of their characters, or have any idea about their family situations? My guess is that you don’t– because why would you be “friends” with someone you think is a lazy cheat? If you were friends with them, maybe you’d understand more about why it appears that they’re “getting over”. Maybe you’d realize that, in fact, most of them aren’t getting over. Anyone who has ever worked has paid into “the system”, which exists so that people have somewhere to turn when they fall on hard times. The assistance we offer in the United States isn’t really that much, either.
Let me ask you this. If you had a family and were receiving benefits, would you really want to take a job at McDonald’s just so you could be earning your own money? Stop and think about it for a minute. Yes, you’re making your own money, which might be paid to you in debit cards that you have to pay a fee to access. But let’s say the money you make is less than what you’d get from welfare. How long can you afford to work for minimum wage? And why the fuck would you? In that situation, doesn’t it make more sense to get trained for work that pays better, or to search for a job with a higher hourly rate? What if you have children? What do you do with the children when you’re working at McDonald’s, which many people think should strictly be a minimum wage job? Do you pay a babysitter to watch the kids while you work at McDonald’s? How can a person get ahead that way?
I’ve often heard people complaining about folks who drive “nice” cars or have “expensive” cell phones, but turn up at food banks. The people want to know why the nice car driver or cell phone user doesn’t sell their “luxury items” so he or she can buy food. What if the car or the phone was paid for during better times? Why would someone sell their means of transportation or communication, if it’s been paid for? Isn’t it easier to find work if one has transportation or access to WiFi? Especially if the car also serves as shelter? Now, I get that owning a car or a cell phone requires money, and if someone is between jobs for a really long time, selling the car or the phone might make sense. But you probably don’t know that person’s story. Their need for food at a food bank may be very temporary. Why does it matter to you, anyway? You don’t know that person’s story, or the obstacles he or she is facing. You should know your own story, though, and you should worry about yourself.
And finally… yesterday, I read a couple of disturbing news stories about how Republicans are turning COVID “vaccine hesitancy” into outright hostility. Of all of the bullshit I’ve read about conservative “thinking”, I think this has got to be the most ridiculous, tragic, and demented. Why in the holy fuck are COVID vaccines being politicized? My God– this virus has killed millions of people WORLDWIDE! It’s not a fucking political issue! It’s a public health issue! And in areas where people are being vaccinated, the rates of COVID infections are decreasing. The fact that so many Republicans are spewing this bullshit about how vaccines are part of a socialist agenda is just unconscionable. It just isn’t true! But, according to The Washington Post, some Republicans are spewing lots of grade A tough guy bullshit. From the article I linked:
The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump, on a par with assertions that the last election was stolen and the assault on the U.S. Capitol was overblown.
Appearing at CPAC, lawmakers like Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) took aim at Biden’s push for “door-to-door” vaccine outreach, framing efforts to boost inoculations as a creeping menace from big government.
“We’re here to tell government, we don’t want your benefits, we don’t want your welfare, don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie,” Boebert said, referring to Biden’s top medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, her voice rising as she paced the stage and shook her finger. “You leave us the hell alone!”
“We don’t control conservative media figures so far as I know — at least I don’t,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said in an interview on Wednesday. “That being said, I think it’s an enormous error for anyone to suggest that we shouldn’t be taking vaccines. Look, the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic.”
Yes, it’s moronic! I completely agree, Mitt. Things will not get back to any semblance of “normal” until we get COVID-19 better under control. This is why so many people were out of work in the first fucking place! This is why we’re having a problem with inflation, as supply and demand for certain products was interrupted because people couldn’t work. Why? Because of the deadly virus! However, during our unique COVID-19 crisis, people had the time to stop and think about how completely insane the American system is. Now, some of them are demanding some changes. I say, good on them! We should be demanding work that pays enough for people support themselves. We should be demanding access to benefits that makes living healthier and happier for everyone. People should NOT be going into onerous debt because they went to college or had the misfortune of getting sick or hurt. We shouldn’t have multi-billionaires paying workers minimum wage for demeaning work while they make plans to blast off into space as tourists. It’s sheer lunacy, and yes, it’s MORONIC!
Through it all, many Republicans decry abortion. They say that people who have abortions have no regard for the “sanctity of life”. But they don’t want to do anything to help people who have unintended pregnancies. They don’t want employers to have to provide birth control access in health insurance policies. Their answer is to tell people not to have sex, which we all know is a policy that doesn’t work for most (it DID work for me, but my situation isn’t the norm). Tell me… why would you want to bring an innocent baby into a world where he or she can look forward to low pay, high cost of living, onerous debts, shitty employers who treat their workers like robots, deadly viruses that people don’t want to work together to arrest, and old white men in charge who literally don’t give a damn about anything but money and “pussy”? I tell you what. I don’t think the world looks so great right now. We’ve got natural disasters out the wazoo, worldwide– here in Germany, over 50 people have lost their lives because of flooding attributed to global warming, something else conservatives don’t want to talk about or fix.
So yes… I think you should worry about yourselves. Conservatives have made it plain that in today’s world, it’s every person for themselves. They don’t care about you and yours. They sure don’t seem to want to lend a hand toward making the world better for everyone. And, as much as I always wanted to have children of my own, I’m grateful that my particular line of ancestry is going to die with me. It seems to me that many conservatives are interested in money and power, and they haven’t realized that we’re all connected. What good does money do you if there’s nothing to buy because people aren’t working? What good does money do if you can’t find someone to help you clean up after a flood because so many people have died of COVID-19 and the workers who exist are already engaged?
We need to worry about ourselves and have more forbearance toward others– but we also need to realize that we’re all in this together and we could all stand a bit more humanity. So instead of judging the person you think is “getting over”, why not pay attention to your own situation and do your part to make things better? And whatever you do, don’t make excuses for creepy predators and cheats like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. It makes you look like an asshole.
Yesterday morning, as my eyes cracked open to a windy new day, I spotted a Yahoo! news article about a pregnant black woman who’s being shamed because she’s about to have her fifth child. I was pretty dismayed to read the story, although I give the woman, Leslie Lewis, big props for basically telling her detractors to fuck off.
Okay… so she didn’t tell them that. What she did say was this:
Reminding her critics that she’s a married adult and that she and her husband work very hard, Leslie Lewis took people to task for making offensive comments about her family planning choices. She claims that this is a “people of color” issue. Lewis brings up how TLC makes millions of dollars portraying huge white families in a positive way, yet when black families have a lot of kids, there’s the assumption that the home is broken or that the family is somehow on the public dole. She even got nasty private messages from a woman who assumed she and her family were on welfare and that she should be on birth control. Lewis notes that there aren’t any reality shows about large black families.
Perhaps Leslie Lewis is right about this attitude being a significant person of color issue. As a childless white woman myself, I don’t know from personal experience. What I do know is that people are far too concerned about what women, in general, do with their bodies. I have gotten inquisitive questions and rude comments because I don’t have children. One of my friends, who has just one daughter, commented that she got a lot of crap about not giving her child a sibling. And if you’ve read this blog for any time, you already know how I feel about the abortion issue and how people stick their noses into women’s uteri. It’s definitely rude, but it’s also kind of sick. Why is another person’s family planning choices anyone else’s concern? Especially when so many people who are pro-life also think that any social welfare safety nets should be abolished.
I decided to read the comments on the Yahoo! article. I don’t do that very often on Yahoo! articles anymore, mostly because there was a time when I read them regularly and the comments would make me feel horrible about the human race. So many ignorant trolls comment on Yahoo! But this time, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised… until I came to this comment.
“No problem with large families if you can support them . . . However the minute you start asking for additional benefits and funds to help feed, educate or support them I’m out . . .pay your own way!”
Not to say that I think people who can’t afford children should have them, but life is full of surprises. Sometimes bad things happen. What does this person say when someone who had a good job and five or six kids suddenly gets laid off or very sick and needs assistance? Most people with this attitude think people who need help should turn to charities, particularly the religious based. But what if you’re not a religious person and you need help? Should you be forced to sit through a church service to get food or help paying the rent? Working people pay into the welfare system. It’s there for a reason. Anyone who has paid taxes has the right to ask for assistance if they need it. Plenty of people who need help also work and pay taxes. And if you really care about children– particularly if you think women should be forced to give birth– you should want children to get what they need to thrive, so they can grow up to be healthy and productive members of society. People need to stop judging others, especially when they don’t have all the facts about someone’s personal situation.
Birth control is expensive, requires a prescription (which means a doctor’s visit), and until recently was often not covered by health insurance. The Affordable Care Act now forces insurers to pay for at least one type of FDA approved coverage. However, our “pro-life” orange fuckwad “president” is currently trying to get this vital provision overturned. So, all of the conservatives out there who would shame a person for being pregnant and tell her she should be on birth control should probably do some thinking about what they care more about– money or their pro-life ethics. It costs a lot more to force women to birth children than it does to cover their birth control. I know… I know… poor people shouldn’t have sex, nor should they be eating cookies, steak, or shrimp… or otherwise finding any joy in their lives… /sarcasm… not until they’ve pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, right? Bullshit. Poor people deserve to enjoy life, too. Mind your own shopping buggy and your own bedroom.
Another person had this to say:
“Unfortunately 49 percent of folks in this country do not even have an extra 1000. 00 in case of an emergency. My personal opinion is to have fewer children and be able to give them more, i.e. braces, good education, college fund, etc. People with large family’s [sic] do not seem concerned for the future nearly as much. They will assume family, church, or the government will come to their aid. To me this is selfish and not responsible. This applies to all races and ethnicities.“
Okay, so you think it’s “selfish”. Sounds like a personal problem. What exactly do you expect to accomplish by sharing this opinion with someone who is already pregnant? Do you think that by telling her this, she’ll think of your opinion the next time she has sex and take appropriate precautions? Personally, I think it’s wise to have smaller families in these trying times. I always expected to have children, but now I’m glad I don’t have them. That doesn’t mean I feel the need to tell other people how large their families should be. It’s none of my business. It’s none of yours, either. As a matter of fact, I come from a large family myself, but one of my sisters and a lot of my cousins are childless. Quite a few aren’t even married, and some are even older than I am. But I have one cousin who has five beautiful kids. I’m happy for her, as it’s her choice.
Anyway, it’s clear that Leslie Lewis isn’t poor, nor does she have a bunch of “baby daddies”. She’s happy to be having her fifth child, and the baby is going to a great home with involved, hardworking parents. It looks like Ms. Lewis has a healthy family, and she and her husband are doing just fine. There’s no need for anyone to open their mouths or type a screed about their reproductive choices. In fact, just as it’s the case for anyone else, it’s no one else’s business how many children they have.
Which now brings me to the title of today’s piece, inspired by this clever BBC clip my friend Rebecca shared with me…
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