complaints, disasters, healthcare, music, politics, poor judgment, rants

I’d like to propose a toast– to difficult and unpopular decisions…

This version of “Ladies Who Lunch” suits my mood today…
And so does this one…

In contrast to my bubbly mood yesterday, today I’m feeling kind of flat and bitter. I think the constant barrage of bad news is getting me down. So are mean spirited Trump supporters.

Last night, I got a comment from someone who didn’t enjoy a post I wrote in November 2020. The person wrote that I made stupid people seem smart. I checked StatCounter to see how long he or she spent on my blog. It was a grand total of about two minutes. Nevertheless, the person was moved enough to send me an insulting comment. I’ll admit, it irritated me. I did not publish the comment. I trashed it, after sending the person a very short and profane emailed response.

I actually wish I hadn’t done that. My temper got the better of me, as it sometimes does. The wine helped. I should have just ignored the comment and been grateful for the hit, especially since the person obviously doesn’t know me and was just lashing out. Next time, I’ll try to do better.

I did give some thought to turning off comments, though, just because I’m tired of dealing with the type of person who screams about personal freedom, but can’t respect my personal freedom and perfect right to express an opinion on my space. Oh well… I guess I touched a nerve. Obviously, that person isn’t very confident in their support of the orange turd if something I wrote moved them to take the time to call me “stupid”.

I’ve been reading a lot of comments about Afghanistan. A lot of people are blaming Joe Biden for what appears to have been a disastrous departure from a country the United States has occupied for twenty years. I, for one, don’t blame Mr. Biden. We were there for twenty years. At some point, we had to leave. Biden merely carried out actions initiated by Trump, whom I seem to recall wanted us out of Afghanistan last year. I suspect Biden will be a one term president, so he’s doing a lot of unpopular but necessary stuff. Like any good and caring leader, he’s making difficult and unpopular decisions. I prefer Biden’s method to Donald Trump’s “seat of the pants drunken uncle” approach to solving problems.

Leaving Afghanistan was necessary. I doubt most of the people who are armchair quarterbacking could do better, anyway. And… for the record, I KNOW Trump would not have done better. But I will concede that mistakes were definitely made, and some statements by both Trump and Biden have aged like milk. It’s very interesting to me, however, that so many Trump supporters are upset about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the heartbreaking images on video, but they still don’t give a flying fuck about the crisis at our southern border involving people who are fleeing violence and oppression in their homelands. Also, I don’t see many of those people cheering that some Afghans actually were spirited out of the country by our military. I guess a lot of those folks are fine with empathizing with people who have brown skin, as long as they come from distant countries.

The Afghanistan news was paired with news about COVID-19. My grad school alma mater, The University of South Carolina, currently has an interim president in Dr. Harris Pastides. Dr. Pastides was formerly president of the university, as well as a professor in the Arnold School of Public Health, of which I am a graduate. This morning, I read the news that he is going to require face masks in buildings. People are really pissed, even though Dr. Pastides, who is an epidemiologist by training, is eminently qualified to make this call. I read many comments from people who wished they hadn’t written a tuition check. All I can do is shake my head at the stupidity. I hate the masks, too, and would certainly hate them in South Carolina in August. BUT… since many people still refuse to get vaccinated, I can see why Dr. Pastides made this particular difficult, and unpopular, decision.

This news didn’t go over well with a lot of people. There was much non-sensical bitching going on. I think it’s very sad when you can tell a person’s political leanings by their responses to public health mandates. That being said, I do sympathize. I’m glad I am done with school, and anything else that would require me to wear a mask all day. They do legitimately suck, even if they help control the spread of sickness.

I absolutely don’t deny that masks are a pain in the ass. They’re inconvenient, unpleasant, and uncomfortable, and they need to be ditched, pronto. I won’t even insult people by saying that wearing them is “no big deal”. Obviously, to a lot of people, having to wear them is a big deal. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be putting up such a fuss. And I absolutely agree that people should have the right to express their negative opinions about the masks. In this situation, it’s more important to me that people simply cooperate and comply than have a good attitude. Having a shitty attitude is understandable, under these conditions. I’ll drink to that!

I’m also as tired as anyone is of all the virtue signaling and constant bragging about adherence to the rules. But we can’t ditch the masks until the virus is under control. And the more people protest and refuse to cooperate, the longer it’s going to take, and the crankier and bitchier I’m going to be. If that means people think I’m stupid, so be it. I think telling a truly stupid person that they’re “stupid” is also pretty stupid, isn’t it? 😉

I read that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for COVID-19. As an official Texas resident, this is relevant to me. Abbott says he feels fine for now. He’s vaccinated and is getting treatment– Regeneron, which is what Trump got last year when he got the virus. It’s designed to keep people from getting really sick. But he’s been doing his best to keep allowing Texans to spread the virus as he also denies women the right to have abortions. I look forward to voting against him in the next governor run.

Ironically, here in Germany, things actually are getting to be more normal. Yesterday, there was a notice in our local Facebook group that our village is going to have its first wine stand since March 2020. Bill and I loved attending the wine stands during the spring and summer of 2019. We missed them last year. It’s awesome to see that they will be returning this week, although everyone has to bring proof of vaccination, testing, or recovery from the illness. But see, what I love about Germany, is that people seem to be more community minded and cooperative. And when people work together, things are better overall. This summer, we’ve enjoyed things that we missed last year. I’m glad to be in a place where people have compassion and common sense. It means we can dine out, travel to neighboring countries, drink wine in public, and maybe take in a concert or visit a museum. Those are activities that make life worth living.

I relate… what a lovely song this is! Right down to the glasses of wine and bathrobes! These are my kind of ladies.

I suppose the return of the wine stand is reason enough for me to be less crabby. I do like “Ladies Who Lunch”, though. I may try to learn that song today. The first time I heard it was when I was taking voice lessons. An older woman was learning it and our teacher, Ron, was advising her to be more of a “bitch” as she sang it. Now that I’m a legitimately bitchy middle aged woman who lounges in caftans and enjoys cocktails, it may be time for me to give it a go. Edited to add: Here it is– your own knotty singing this song.

I completely forgot about “Ladies Who Lunch” until I saw it performed in the awesome film, Camp. I first watched Camp when we lived in Germany the first time. I downloaded it off iTunes just for shits and giggles. Now, it’s one of my guilty pleasure films, whenever I need a pick-me-up. Actually, I get a little wistful watching it, wishing I could be young again and go to a musical theater camp. Ah well. Maybe reincarnation is a thing. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to come back to this world.

Anyway… if I had any friends, maybe I would be a lady who lunches. I don’t have any friends. I just have dogs who adore me. They’re probably better company, anyway. They don’t mind that I have and express opinions, and they don’t care how profane I get. I hope the person who was offended by my “stupidity” is happy with his or her choices in life. I’m glad I’m not where they are, at least. And I hope I never encounter them again, since they think I’m so stupid. One wonders why a person would feel the need to leave a comment on such a “stupid” blog, anyway.

So here’s to making difficult and unpopular decisions. I’ll drink to that! I’ll drink to most things, especially nowadays.

This was shared by a Trump supporting friend. I am tempted to respond that I do, and I did, … and I am somewhat happier for it. I’m definitely healthier for it. But I don’t want to deal with people from my hometown who are still pining for Donald Trump. Seriously… I get being conservative, but Trump is a fucking moron.
If you haven’t seen Camp, you’re missing out.

Ooh… Edited to add! Here’s a response from Steve, the anal drip who called me stupid yesterday. He’s charming AND articulate, isn’t he? I definitely don’t think I’m the stupid one, so I think I will send his response to the round file.

Steve Jenkins6:21 AM (3 hours ago)
to me

Hey fuckhead…I was hoping one of you dumbfucks would respond…I forgot to save your site.

Since you are a fuck up, how does one fuck oneself?  I know you’re an expert even for a dumbfuck.

On Tuesday, August 17, 2021, 08:07:28 AM HST, I wrote:

Stay off my blog.

Go fuck yourself.

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healthcare, musings

I’m tired of thinking about health…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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healthcare, law

Freaking out over faltering federal mask mandates…

Well… just as I predicted last year, the time has come for governments around the world to reverse course on the pandemic. Not every government, mind you… I think I read that Australia is still pretty locked down, trying to keep COVID-19 at bay. But European countries are trying to find a way to open up a bit this summer, especially as people are finally getting vaccinated. In the United States, there was an even bigger surprise. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has stated that both fully vaccinated adults may now ditch their face masks indoors and outdoors in most situations.

This is a contrast to the advice given two weeks ago, that vaccinated adults could ditch their masks outside– and they could also potentially ditch them inside, but only if they’re with other fully vaccinated adults. Now they’re evidently saying it doesn’t matter if others aren’t also vaccinated. Masks among vaccinated people will, evidently, only be necessary at medical facilities and on public transportation, like trains, buses, and airplanes. A month ago, there was all this news about deadly new variants and how we’ll never reach herd immunity. And now, the news seems to be signaling the end, or at least a pause, in the worst part of the pandemic.

I remember last year, when all of this shit started, I told Bill that eventually, the government would be asking people to venture out again. They would do it because the economy would be in a shambles. I also predicted that many people would not want to venture out. They would be too shell-shocked and traumatized by all of the COVID-19 doom porn, even with all of the safety precautions in place. Sure enough, based on the comments I read on The New York Times piece I linked above, that is what has come to pass. Governments are now saying they want to reopen things– New York City has even made a plea for tourists to return. In Europe, governments are trying to find ways to open up to tourists so they can make money. Vaccines are supposedly working pretty well, although new COVID-19 variants are also coming out all the time. The face masks are a downer, and allowing people to dispense with them if they get the shot(s) is one way to encourage vaccine cooperation.

The funny thing is, all year I’ve been reading indignant comments from pro-mask people about how science changes, and that’s why in early March of 2020, we were all being told NOT to buy face masks by the U.S. Surgeon General, and then that advice had changed within weeks. Now, since the CDC is saying that vaccinated people will be able to enjoy some freedom, many of the same people who were once extolling the virtues of science and scientists, are now bitching about how it’s too soon to loosen face masking and allowing people to unmask will be a disastrous decision.

Quite a few people seem to think this rule relaxation was done purely for political reasons. Many people have expressed that they believe unvaccinated “anti-maskers” will use this new guidance as a reason to flout the rules. So many people, who had once praised Dr. Fauci and the CDC, are now saying that the decision to relax the mask rules is a terrible, unscientific idea that spells DOOM for everyone. And, perhaps rightfully so, people are saying that people have no honor, and there will be no way to enforce people to keep taking precautions until they have been vaccinated. Fake vaccination cards are already becoming a problem, and the conspiracy theorists worry that the vaccines have chips in them that will invade their privacy (seriously?).

What happened to all of the respect for scientists? All of a sudden, because the rules have abruptly changed, just as they did last year, the scientists are wrong and simply pandering to politicians? And now, all of the people who, a couple of months ago, were liberally quoting and religiously following the scientists, are saying they are going to rely on their own common sense? Isn’t that the same behavior they were shaming the “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers” for doing? Also, again, I notice that the “experts” all seem to be saying different things… which means that everybody has to decide for themselves which one is correct, and which course of action will suit them best. Sounds a lot like life, to me.

Here’s what I think about those so-called “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers”. First off, many of those people never followed the rules anyway, so it’s doubtful that this rule change will affect them. I mean… if they get sick from COVID-19, they’ll get sick. Some won’t get very sick. Some will die. That’s how it’s been all year. Lots of people are commenting that, despite being vaccinated, they will keep wearing a mask so they “won’t be mistaken for a Republican” or “to make other people feel better”– that is, the ones who are comforted by the sight of someone whose face they can’t see fully. Others, who have children that can’t yet be vaccinated, are saying they are going to keep wearing a mask for that reason, even though last year so many people were saying that the masks are intended to protect other people, and not the wearer. Now they’re saying that the masks also protect the wearer, which is probably what they should have said from the beginning. But see? The information is constantly changing, isn’t it?

Personally, I don’t find seeing everyone in face masks comforting. They are a constant reminder of how fucked up things are, how lonely I am (especially when my half vaccinated husband has to travel on business for weeks on end), and how I don’t enjoy this lifestyle at all. That’s just how I feel about it, though… and the person who IS comforted by face masks also has a right to their feelings and opinions about this issue. Fortunately, it’s not like face masks have been outlawed, so they are free to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Given how many people in the USA were completely uncooperative regarding COVID-19 safety mandates anyway, I don’t think much is going to change in the wake of this new guidance.

Sadly, what it will boil down to is money… and the fact that the safety rules are very expensive in terms of the economy. Lots of people cheer when they read stories about anti-maskers being arrested, fined, jailed, or banned from services like airlines. But all of those measures cost money. Banning someone from an airline for not wearing a face mask often doesn’t just mean that one person is banned– it also means their immediate family will be effectively banned, even if they weren’t officially so by their airline, as will any loyal extended family members and friends who happen to be on their side of the issue. That could add up to a lot of missed revenue that affects people other than the folks running the airlines… it also might affect hotels, restaurants, tour operators, taxi drivers, and even retailers that sell travel gear. If I wanted to, I could probably sit here for an hour and think of all of the people that are potentially affected when someone gets banned for life from flying.

Now… I do think some good can come out of this past year of COVID-19 hell. Perhaps employers will rethink some of their more destructive policies, like encouraging workers to come into an office setting when they’re sick. Maybe working from home will become an even more viable solution for companies, which could mean that more children are raised by their actual parents instead of at a day care. Maybe there will be less vehicular congestion and accompanying air pollution, too, since people can roll out of bed and walk ten feet to their “office” instead of sitting in traffic for hours every day. And maybe airlines will stop cramming people into seats like sardines… although I would be VERY surprised if that happens.

I do think wearing the mask is a good idea if one is sick. Judging by the slow cold and flu season, they are helpful in that regard. However… I don’t think the enforced mask fashion is a sustainable concept. I’m glad to see it going. I hope it stays gone, although I’m not going to hold my breath. Fortunately, thanks to the vaccine and staying the fuck away from people (which is really the best way to avoid getting sick from a virus), it’s still possible for me to hold my breath.

Standard
condescending twatbags, healthcare, overly helpful people

Asshole detectors…

Yesterday, I read an article on The Atlantic entitled “Are Outdoor Mask Mandates Still Necessary?” Written by Derek Thompson, this piece was exactly what it sounds like… an article about whether or not people should be forced to wear face masks when they are outside. Here in Germany, we aren’t obligated to wear a mask outdoors if we can “socially distance”. I have noticed that despite the rather anal retentive and uptight rule following stereotype that seems to dog the German people, folks here are not too jazzed about wearing masks 24/7. I never see people wearing them when I’m walking my dogs through the neighborhood, although people do wear them at bus stops because it’s required.

Thompson included statements from respected public health experts from around the world, explaining why the zero tolerance/100% enforcement attitude could backfire in getting people to comply with the rules. Thompson wrote:

Requiring that people always wear masks when they leave home, and especially in places with low levels of viral transmission, is overkill. As mentioned, the coronavirus disperses outside, posing little risk to people who are walking alone or even swiftly passing by strangers. In fact, almost all of the documented cases of outdoor transmission have involved long conversations, or face-to-face yelling. The risk calculation changes if you’re standing in a crowd: Some uneven evidence suggests that the Black Lives Matter protests last summer increased local infections. But that’s an easy carve-out. States can end blanket mandates and still recommend outdoor masking by anyone experiencing symptoms, or in crowds. (Extended conversations pose their own risk, but when people are vaccinated, the odds of viral transmission are probably somewhere between microscopic and nonexistent.)

Outdoor mask mandates might also turn people off from obeying better rules. “Given the very low risk of transmission outdoors, I think outdoor mask use, from a public-health perspective, seems arbitrary,” Muge Cevik, an infectious-disease and virology expert at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, told The Washington Post. “I think it affects the public’s trust and willingness to engage in much higher-yield interventions. We want people to be much more vigilant in indoor spaces.”

Makes sense to me. If I’m alone in the woods or swiftly passing someone on my walking route, I don’t think wearing a mask is as important as it would be if I was in a huge crowd of people who are shouting. Also, there are quite a lot of people who just plain resent being “nannied” and “nagged” by others. If we let people exercise their free will in less risky areas, they may be more willing to cooperate when they’re indoors. And yes, to me, it makes more sense to wear a mask when indoors with strangers than it does out on the street, when you can be far enough away from people not to risk sharing germs.

Thompson continues:

Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, spoke with several male mask skeptics last year for a piece in The Atlantic. When she explained that masking wasn’t as important outdoors, the men became more amenable to wearing them indoors. By connecting rules to reasons, she got them to see the value of covering their nose and mouth when it actually mattered. Last week, Marcus told me that she’s baffled by the notion that the best way to get people to wear masks inside is to mandate that everybody wear one when they’re alone outside. “We don’t recommend condom use when people are enjoying themselves alone to get them to wear condoms with their sexual partners,” she said.

The argument that outdoor mask mandates create a warm and fuzzy feeling of social solidarity confuses a personal definition of etiquette (“I think my mask makes everybody feel safe”) with a public defense of population-wide laws (“everybody should wear a mask everywhere, because it’s the only way to make everybody feel safe). Masks send all sorts of messages to all sorts of different people. To some, they’re beacons of safety; to others, they’re signs of imperious government overreach. As Marcus argued, mandating a public-health tool that’s not needed can drive away people who might otherwise be on board with more important interventions. “I think there’s a proportion of the population that believes restrictions will last indefinitely,” Marcus said, “and they are probably one of the hardest groups to keep engaged in public-health efforts.”

And I also liked that Thompson considered that not everyone has the same reality. A lot of people– myself included– are lucky enough to have backyards or balconies. But many more people are not so fortunate. In our previous house, we lived next to a large naturepark. But we didn’t have balconies or a yard with a functional fence, where we could let the dogs out free. The fence at our last house was more of a decoration, and would not have allowed us to safely sit outside with the dogs untethered. I know a lot of other people in Germany simply live in flats with no private spaces at all. As Thompson says:

Finally, mandating outdoor masks and closing public areas makes a show of “taking the virus seriously” while doing nothing to reduce indoor spread, in a way that often hurts the less fortunate. To deal with its COVID-19 spike, for example, the Canadian province of Ontario instituted a stay-at-home order and closed many parks and playgrounds. “These policies are made by people who have yards,” Marcus said. “If you live in an apartment building and have no yard, and are required to wear masks at all times outdoors, you never get to be maskless outside. And then, where do people gather maskless to socialize? Inside their homes”—where the risk of transmission is higher.

I thought Thompson’s article was fair and balanced, and the information within it was reasonable. I especially appreciated the comments from Julia Marcus, who came right out and said that there are people (like me) who worry that the mask mandates will turn into an indefinite rule. Allowing for some easing of the rules outside gives people hope that we won’t have to tolerate these rules forever, and that will make it easier to keep being vigilant. A lot of us just PLAIN don’t want to live this way for the rest of our lives, and we resent other people insisting that this is the way it HAS to be from now on. The fact is, many people feel that this is NOT how it should be. We should be working hard on a solution that makes mask wearing obsolete for most people. Or, at least that’s my opinion… but it seems like more and more people, especially in the United States, feel like only one opinion is the correct one. Anyone who disagrees is automatically an “asshole.”

One thing I take comfort in, at least here in Germany, is that it’s pretty obvious to me that people here are not going to accept being forced to wear face masks forever. In fact, I have noticed that even rule loving Germans are starting to rebel. There have been more protests lately, especially as Angela Merkel has pressed for stricter lockdowns. People are really getting tired of the crisis and they’re becoming more apathetic and lax.

I know there are people in some countries that are forced to wear veils whenever they are outside, but the rest of the world isn’t the Islamic world, where those kinds of oppressive rules are okay. And Thompson then ends with this uplifting conclusion:

Hyper-neuroticism is a mitzvah during a pandemic. But we really don’t have to live like this forever, and it’s okay for more people to say so. We can learn to look at a well-populated beach and not see a gross failure of human morality. We can see somebody unmasked in a park and not think, I guess that one doesn’t believe in science. We can walk down an uncrowded street with a mask, or without a mask, or with a mask sort of hanging from our chin, and just not really worry about it. We can reduce unnecessary private anxiety and unhelpful public shame by thinking for a few seconds about how the coronavirus actually works and how to finally end the pandemic. Let’s tell people the truth and trust that they can take it. Let’s plan for the end of outdoor mask mandates.

BRAVO! And let that be the FIRST step in eventually ending ALL mask mandates, because COVID-19 will be under control, like most infectious diseases usually become after time passes and science advances. Or, at least that’s what I think we should be aiming for. That’s what makes the masks different from seatbelts, which I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of, at least in my lifetime.

I felt pretty good as I read Derek Thompson’s article. But as I finished reading about how there’s a weird dichotomy between hyper-neurotic mask police types and vehement anti-maskers, I had sinking feeling that there would be tons of comments left on the magazine’s Facebook page. Sure enough, I was right. So many people, clearly folks who didn’t bother to read, left comments regarding this article. And one person wrote that non-maskers are his personal form of an “asshole detector”. Behold:

At this point I think of them less as masks and more as asshole detectors. Even if the chances are small, it’s the very least you can do for your fellow man. How damned privileged is our society that this is a hot button issue? If it happens to save even a few extra lives, it’s worth it. Buck up buttercups.

Seriously, dude? I think YOU are an asshole for taking this attitude toward your fellow man, especially as you pat yourself on the back for being so “considerate” as you judge people you don’t even know. And I think people who comment on things they haven’t read are assholes, adding unnecessary and uninformed noise that everybody else has to wade through.

and…

I live in southern Georgia and literally no one wears masks in stores, etc. All asshole behavior. I literally got into a verbal argument with a man that refused to stand on the 6 ft marker on floor in grocery store check out line. No mask. Even the clerk was like, “Sir, stand back!” It’s like the non-maskers get off on being a bully.

Why get in an argument with someone? Just get away from them. Arguing with a stranger is “asshole behavior” too, isn’t it?

There were more comments like that, along with the usual chorus of people writing things like “just wear the damn mask”, which I find pretty offensive, myself. I don’t think it helps compliance when you swear at people. In fact, people who swear at perfect strangers are probably assholes, right? I actually feel like telling them to go fuck themselves, but because I’m a lady, I don’t do that. 😉 Instead, I just think it to myself… and if I get angry enough, I vent about it in my blog.

I mean, I do wear a mask if I have to. But I go out of my way not to be in situations where I have to wear a mask, or deal with assholes who take it upon themselves to determine what perfect strangers are or are not doing as “asshole detectors”. Here’s one that made me laugh…

But it doesn’t matter. Wear the mask. It’s not an inconvenience in any way. It’s the least difficult thing that has ever been asked of us to do collectively. Articles like this only lend credence to selfish, broken people. Wear the mask until the pandemic is over. Simple. And until then, STFU.

Dude… to some people, it truly IS an inconvenience. You may not think it is, but they do– and they get an opinion and a vote, too! And telling someone to STFU, sorry, is also “asshole behavior”. You don’t get to tell people to STFU, simply because you claim to agree with the opinions of “experts” and you assume they don’t. There are all kinds of people out there who really are experts, and most of them have more balanced, fair, informed, and sensible opinions than yours. This lady had a sensible comment, in my opinion…

As a biologist, I can confirm that masking while outside was only suggested if you would be less than six feet from others (the transmission distance for errant coughs, sneezes or loud talking); it was never required by science to mask all the time outside. I carry or wear it and put up/on as I approach others on a path etc. ps I would warn against dining inside until one is vaccinated: the author’s point about the indoors being highest risk is valid.

And this guy also has reasonable thoughts, in my view…

I agree with this. The problem with outdoor mask mandates with fines for noncompliance is it becomes something law enforcement can selectively enforce. Look at what Miami was doing. They passed an ordinance that said everyone had to wear a mask at all times indoors or outdoors even when social distancing is possible. Miami police basically set up mask traps and stood outside supermarkets just waiting for people to come out of the store and take the mask off or wear it under their nose so they could ticket them. A woman was walking through an empty parking lot without a mask and was ticketed. Someone was in a barbershop and pulled his mask down for a few seconds to take a drink of water and a police officer happened to be walking by and that person was ticketed. I think a reasonable person would agree that this enforcement was overreach. I get the seriousness of the virus, but you have to give people a little breathing room. If a person is walking in an empty parking lot or on a back residential street and is not wearing a mask, but has a mask with them in case he or she comes to a situation where he or she can’t socially distance, then I don’t see the problem.

Sounds to me like Miami has found a great way to fill its coffers by oppressively fining people over mask wearing. Glad I don’t live there, especially as hot as it gets.

It baffles me that so many people have gone to such extremes on this issue. It should be perfectly okay to hate wearing a face mask. It should be okay to say it out loud, and hope for the mandates to end at some point. It should be alright to expect and fervently hope that we’ll get to a point at which this nightmare is either ended or mitigated. Otherwise, why go on living? I HATE living this way, and I don’t have it as bad as a whole lot of people do. Telling people that they don’t have the right to their feelings is toxic, and labeling them as “assholes” because you make assumptions about their character based on their masking habits is extremely limiting and offensive. Obviously, people who feel this way about other people are assholes themselves. Are there really people out there who think the whole world should be expected to accept living like this from now on? It blows my mind! As long as people are complying, what’s it to you, anyway?

I particularly love it when people compare mask wearing to wearing a seatbelt, or they compare going outside maskless with drunk or reckless driving. It’s absolute lunacy. I think, if seeing someone’s bare face outside in a sparsely populated area makes you compare them to drunk drivers or reckless people, you should simply do your best to avoid them. That’s what I do when I see someone on the road who drives erratically. I let them go ahead and get away from them. I don’t fan the flames by flipping them off or cursing at them through my window. Doing that in Germany can get you a pretty stiff fine, actually. It’s against the law to insult people or shoot the bird at them. Seems like doing one’s best to avoid problems is the better way to get through life. But… that’s just me.

Sigh… I really think Derek Thompson’s article is a good one. It gave me hope to read it. And, if people had taken the time to read it, they’d find that he consulted “experts” before he shared his thoughts. He’s quoted a Harvard educated epidemiologist, for Christ’s sakes, yet so many people feel the need to claim that Thompson is being “irresponsible” by giving people hope that things will get better! I would certainly listen to Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School talking about COVID-19 and mask wearing than I would some jerk commenting on The Atlantic’s Facebook page.

Anyway… if you read all of this blog post and don’t think it’s an “asshole detector”, I thank you. I really think these hyper-vigilant, hyper-neurotic, nagging mask cheerleaders are how we wind up with right wing nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and straight up narcissistic creeps like Donald Trump in charge. There needs to be balance in all things… and that includes mask mandates. But maybe I’m just an asshole who needs to STFU. If you honestly think that about me, I hope you will take it as a cue to find someone else’s blog to read. 😉

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law, musings, psychology

I don’t think curfews are the best idea…

Even though I never left the house yesterday, it turned out to be a somewhat action packed day. Bill bought himself a butterscotch yellow Fender Telecaster electric guitar. I was kind of active on social media, even wishing for marijuana at one point. To be truthful, I have only had exposure to cannabis for recreational purposes a few times. My first time getting stoned occurred on my 43rd birthday, when we visited Haarlem, a town close to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I tried it a couple more times before we came back to Germany. I enjoyed the experience, and since COVID-19 is a stressful thing, I think I would enjoy having some pot again right now. But I don’t want it badly enough to go looking for it.

Then I read an article in The New York Times about the curfews that are being imposed in different cities around the world. After reading the article, I determined that I don’t think the curfews are a good idea. I’ll get to why in just a moment. First, as you must have already guessed, I read the comments. I noticed many people commenting probably didn’t bother reading the article. That’s not surprising, since after a few freebies per month, The New York Times puts up a paywall. Most people don’t seem to think that journalists should be paid for their work, so they refuse to pay for a subscription. But they still read the headlines and opine, and sometimes they make uninformed comments.

I responded to one person’s comment. What I wrote wasn’t stupid, derisive, or disrespectful. But then some yahoo comes along and laughs at me, then writes, “C’mon dude. That’s your rationale?” Then he wrote more to someone else, indicating that they should be grateful for curfews and lockdowns, since that will “fix” the COVID-19 situation.

My response to the random yahoo was that, actually, my comment came from content in the article. I asked him if he’d read it. Then I commented that I’m not a “dude”. About twenty minutes later, I found myself inexplicably pissed off… and before anyone decides to tell me I’m too sensitive, I know I should ignore the comments. But I’ve been pent up for weeks now. Germany has had a “lite lockdown” going on since November, and things have been significantly stricter recently. It’s wearing on my nerves. And sometimes, I just feel the need to lash out a bit. I try to keep my lashing out to my blog, which most people only read if they’re actually interested, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Anyway, against my better judgment, I followed up my comment with another asking the random yahoo why he feels it’s necessary to laugh at comments from people he doesn’t even know. Granted, a lot of people went to the “Google School of Public Health” and pop off their theories based on what they’ve read in the news and their own opinions. It’s always funny to me when someone asks a stranger for their credentials in a comment section, asking where they got their MD or PhD in epidemiology. How do they know the person they’re demanding credentials from isn’t actually qualified?

In my case, I legitimately do have a master’s degree in public health. I did not concentrate in epidemiology; my focus was health administration and policy. But I did used to work as a graduate assistant for the Bureau of Epidemiology in South Carolina. In that job, I did learn a thing or two about disease tracking and transmission. I also took courses in epidemiology and health promotion.

I also have a master’s degree in macro social work, so I know something about social problems, community development, and crisis intervention. I earned both degrees in 2002. They were awarded by fully accredited programs at the University of South Carolina. As I was reading the article about the curfews, it occurred to me that if I had actually pursued the path I was on when I met Bill, this COVID-19 situation could be a treasure trove of relevant work for someone like me. The average person doesn’t know this about me, though. I’m just a “dude” who posts something they think is “stupid”.

So why do I think the curfews are kind of a bad idea? For one thing, it’s because the COVID-19 virus spreads more when people are indoors. And the virus doesn’t care if you are indoors with your family. If one of them picks up the virus while out and about and brings it home, chances are good that everyone in the house is going to get sick. For more on that reality, here’s another New York Times article about a family in Los Angeles who share a tiny one bedroom apartment. Grandma got sick first, so she locked herself in the one bedroom, while everybody else slept in the living room. Sure enough, they all got sick too. Most people aren’t going to practice social distancing and masking in their own homes. If we’re lucky, they’re washing their hands, but that’s not a given, either.

Of course, if someone does get COVID-19, it makes sense for people to quarantine at home. But it’s a lot easier to social distance when people have the freedom to go outside, which is a lot bigger than inside spaces are. And since businesses are closed down in a lot of places anyway, particularly in places where there’s a curfew, it’s not like most people are congregating at a dance club or a bar. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to take a walk or a drive if they need to, even if it’s after 6pm? The curfew article cited one case of a woman walking her boyfriend, doggy style, and complete with a leash, with him on all fours, in Sherbrooke, a city in Quebec. Yes, they were stopped by the police and fined about $3100, which is absolutely insane. It would have been okay for her to walk a real dog, but not her boyfriend, who is much less likely to take a dump on the sidewalk. I think $3100 is an excessive fine, too, particularly when so many people can’t work.

Another reason I don’t think curfews are a good idea is because people who are locked down are more likely to be bored, depressed, drunk, or high on something. People don’t like being told what to do, even if it’s for their own good. But forcing people to adhere to a curfew could deprive them of the ability to get out of the house when someone becomes abusive. Even people who get along well might have trouble dealing with being stuck in the same house with someone for weeks on end. Imagine dealing with a violent drunk or someone who has an anger issue. An incident that might have resulted in a tongue lashing under normal circumstances might turn into something more violent or even deadly under the stress of a curfew.

Many people get frustrated and angry when they are confined, and they might turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve the stress, which will likely only make things worse. Yes, the argument could be made that leaving the house for one’s own personal safety could be considered an “essential reason”. But people who are stuck in abusive situations may still find it more difficult to leave under curfew conditions, even if they’re being threatened.

And finally, I think a lot of people already distrust the government. People are highly pissed off at government officials of all stripes. I have been reading about how public health officials, who normally don’t get too much hatred lobbed at them under regular circumstances, are being vilified in their communities. Some of them have been threatened with bodily harm or even death. Curfews make sense in situations where there’s rioting and civil unrest. But most people would prefer to be allowed to live as they see fit. Being forced inside for their “own good” may inflame people who are already highly pissed off and uncooperative. That could lead to hidden abuse behind closed doors, or it could lead to uprisings that land a lot of people in legal trouble or hospitals. And jailhouses and hospitals are not good places to be, particularly during a pandemic.

Personally, I haven’t had a problem staying home. Bill and I get along very well. He doesn’t have a violent bone in his body, despite his long military career. We have a fenced in backyard, two balconies, and plenty of space. If either of us got sick, it would not be a problem for one of us to move into the guest room in the basement. Bill can work at home as much as he needs to, and he makes enough money that we don’t have to worry about expenses… at least for now. But I’d venture to guess that most people aren’t as fortunate as we are, and this situation is causing real hardships for many people.

I imagine how I’d feel being forced into a curfew with my family of origin. My father was an alcoholic with PTSD who lashed out when he was under too much stress. When he was alive and we still lived together, we fought a lot. There were times when he occasionally got violent. I sure wouldn’t want to have to be locked down with him, if only because we didn’t always get along under normal circumstances. He could be a control freak, which didn’t sit well with my admittedly occasionally difficult personality.

There are people out there with even worse problems than alcoholism. I worry for those who are in those situations, particularly if there are children involved. People wonder how long they’re going to be expected to adhere to these oppressive new rules. I know I’ve been wondering. Sometimes, it makes me very depressed to think about it… enough that I wonder if I’d rather just find a way to check out early. I mean, Bill would miss me and so would the dogs, but I don’t have any children or a job, and plenty of people think I’m an asshole and laugh at me, or block me for reasons unknown. I’ve got to die someday, and this lifestyle genuinely sucks. I don’t know how long it will go on and what it will mean for the future. The present is already pretty shitty. Why stick around for what’s coming next?

You see? I have a pretty easy time of it, but even someone like me can easily fall into a pit of hopelessness and despair. I think about people who are dealing with joblessness, homelessness, drug and alcohol addictions, mood disorders, menopausal rage, and any of the other issues that have people on edge right now. And I think limiting a person’s liberties can cause a lot of unintended consequences. I base those concerns on my own experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained actually studying these issues. There hasn’t been a lot of research done about this specific topic because this is the first worldwide pandemic we’ve had in 100 years. Maybe that’s one of the silver linings of the pandemic. This is a perfect opportunity for some enterprising healthcare professional to do some research that will help the next time this happens. Hopefully, I will be long dead by that time.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for this snowy Sunday, which didn’t produce enough snow for the outside to be a winter wonderland, but has made the backyard more of a depressing morass of mud and soft dog crap. Tomorrow, Bill will take Arran in to have his tumor excised. Hopefully, it will go well and he’ll be okay.

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