condescending twatbags, healthcare, law

Confusion, chaos, and crass behavior continues, as US ends mask mandates on transportation…

It’s a beautiful spring day here in lovely Wiesbaden, Germany. The sun is shining and the air is fresh, crisp, and cool. I can see my neighbors’ trees heavy with flowers. Later, when I walk my dogs, I expect to see plenty of beautiful blooms in well-tended gardens. I probably should enjoy being outside more, especially since the weather in this part of the world isn’t always as nice as it is right now. It’s always so nice to see spring arrive in Germany, since the earliest months of the year are usually pretty crappy, when it comes to the weather. Making things even nicer is that on April 2, 2022, Germany finally lifted face mask requirements and vaccine checks in many venues, although they remain on public transportation.

Because masks are still required in airports and on public transportation in Germany, Bill and I will be driving to Italy next week. Actually, we might have decided to do that anyway, since we will probably be buying wine, cheese, and other groceries and it’s easier to transport that stuff in a car than on a plane. I like road trips, as a general rule. In my opinion, one of the best things about living in Europe is having the option to drive to so many beautiful places.

My countrymen aren’t so fortunate when it comes to traveling abroad. A person in the United States can’t drive to Europe, Africa, Australia, or Asia. In fact, it’s not so easy to get from coast to coast in the United States by car. It takes awhile to drive from, say, Virginia to California, and a lot of Americans prefer to fly, because vacation days are precious in the US and flying takes less time. So yesterday’s ruling, made with a stroke from federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s pen, has caused a big ruckus among Americans. Public reaction to her decision has been decisively split. Judge Mizelle’s ruling makes it okay to forgo face masks on domestic flights, although it’s my understanding that they are still required on planes that are flying to places where the masks are still required.

Cue mass hysteria.
Something tells me that this decision is going to prompt policy changes.

Many people are hailing Judge Mizelle for setting them free from face masks on public transportation. Others are cursing her and calling her “incompetent” for allowing people to suddenly take off their masks mid flight yesterday. The facts that she’s from Florida, is somewhat young and attractive, and was appointed by Donald Trump, don’t help some people’s negative impressions of her worthiness as a judge. Some public health and medical experts are very concerned about this restoration of facial freedom the judge has bestowed upon the public. And some people are feeling more emboldened than ever to shoot the finger at people they regard as sanctimonious virtue signalers.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m liberal about a lot of things. But you may also know that I’m not a fan of face masks, even though I am a master’s level graduate of an accredited school of public health. I was never really in favor of them, even at the beginning of the pandemic. I don’t think a lot of people wear the masks properly. Here in Germany, we’ve been forced to wear heavy FFP2 masks (like N95s), but the infections continue, probably because no one is forced to cover their eyes. And so, I conclude that a lot of the masking is basically theater, although I can certainly understand why they are important in certain medical settings.

Two years ago, before we had vaccines and most people had zero immunity to the virus, I could see why they were initially necessary, even though the masks most people wore at the beginning of the pandemic were pretty useless. As the variants have become milder, and fewer people seem to be getting quite so sick and dying, I can see why the masks are being phased out. For the most part, I think it’s time. It’s been two years, and while I’m sure there are some people who would love to see everyone masked forever, that’s not a very realistic goal.

Many people legitimately hate the masks because they can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. They do cause legitimate problems for some people, particularly those who suffer from anxiety, are hard of hearing, or have sensory processing disorders. They aren’t a good long time solution, in my opinion, because they are so polarizing, and because they hinder communication. Even if face masks were the best idea ever, it would take some time for people to accept them as normal. I am old enough to remember when a lot of Americans didn’t voluntarily wear seatbelts in their cars. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that they became normal for most people. At least that was how it was in the United States. In most countries in Europe, mandatory use of seatbelts for all passengers has been the rule for a lot longer, and fines are pretty stiff for non-compliance. But even a lot of Europeans are over the masks.

I still live in Germany, where public health ministers are still wanting to limit freedoms and impose COVID restrictions. A lot of Germans seem to be fed up with the rules, too, although they do seem to be a lot more willing to submit to them than Americans are. What I like about Germany, though, is that people seem to be somewhat less insulting, whichever side of the mask debate they’re on. And Germans, as a rule, are more community minded about most things. Many people here are still wearing masks, even though they are no longer legally required to wear them. Those who don’t wear masks mostly don’t get harassed for not wearing them. Maybe they get the side eye from one or two people, but no one is getting belligerent or aggressive about it, and there’s a lot less violence all around. I doubt if the mask rules were relaxed in the middle of a Lufthansa flight, that people would be whooping and hollering like they reportedly were on US flights yesterday. But yes, there would probably be people gratefully removing them.

As usual, I took a look at the comments on the news articles. It didn’t surprise me that a lot of people were whining about their fears regarding this decision, while others were being really offensively belligerent about their “freedoms”. I suspect that if the mask mandates are reinstated in the United States, there will be even more of an uproar and possibly, more violence. I have noticed, as many have, that since the mask mandates were in place, the behavior of people on planes was more violent and unruly than it’s ever been. After all, flights in economy class are uncomfortable enough as it is. The masks made them even less pleasant for a large number of people, even though some people don’t mind the masks and never found wearing them “onerous”.

Obviously, the masks make it harder for flight crews, as people have gotten violent over having to wear them on planes.

One thing that I’ve noticed and don’t really like from either side of this issue, is that people aren’t willing to compromise or concede. Why can’t the pro-maskers, for instance, understand why people hate wearing masks? Why do they feel it necessary to insult, belittle, and berate people for their valid opinions? Being nasty and sanctimonious to people does not inspire their cooperation. Moreover, I don’t find it very convincing when a person in a mask brags about “caring for other people” as they verbally abuse those who don’t share their opinions and dare to express themselves. I’ve seen more than one comment by a supposed “concerned mask wearing humanitarian” indicating that they think anyone who disagrees with them deserves to die. That’s not a very caring and kind attitude, in my opinion, and it doesn’t necessarily make me want to wear a mask for the sake of others. In fact, I think it’s the height of hypocrisy.

Conversely, I also think it’s awful that there are so many anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers out there who feel the need to laugh, gloat, and insult people who are genuinely afraid of getting very sick from the virus. I happen to agree that masking should be a choice, even though given a choice, many people won’t choose to wear a mask. Having the right to choose is part of living in a free society. But I also empathize with people who are afraid of COVID, or are concerned that they will spread it to vulnerable loved ones. Unfortunately, this was a problem even before COVID, and it will continue to be a problem. Forced mask wearing is not going to make the basic challenges faced by immunocompromised people go away, even if they appear to make things safer. I do agree, however, that we could all stand to be kinder and more considerate about this problem.

I read an op-ed on the Washington Post this morning about the relaxed rules. Robin Givhan, who wrote the opinion piece, demonstrated the attitude that, personally, I’ve found very off-putting throughout the pandemic. Her piece, titled “Whoops of selfish delight”, lamented that people were cheering about the suddenly dropped mask mandates. The mood of her opinion was that people were behaving badly for being visibly happy to be rid of the masks. This was Givhan’s sarcastic comment about the midflight announcement:

“They reveled in the knowledge that while they might be required to buckle their seat belt, turn off their cellphone, put their seat backs in the upright position and refrain from smoking on their grueling one-hour-and-20-minute flight, the one thing they would not have to do was wear a mask. The long, torturous nightmare of government overreach, which is how so many aggrieved passengers viewed the mandate effecting public transportation, has come to an end.”

I just want to ask her what the hell she was expecting. Of course people in their tight airplane seats with no leg room, strapped in and masked up, while their neighbors eye them suspiciously and with hostility, are going to be delighted with the prospect of being free to breathe unmasked. A lot of people– and I’m sure many in the travel industry, especially– are thrilled not to have to wear masks or enforce the wearing of masks, temporary as it may end up being.

Now, maybe it was rude to “whoop” about it, if only because yelling can spread viruses faster, and there are people who are legitimately terrified of being around maskless people. But I don’t think people are being selfish when they’re happy to be allowed to unmask. It’s perfectly natural, especially after two years of this weird, dystopian, plague we’ve been enduring. And if the mask mandates are reimposed, be prepared for backlash. I suspect it could be even worse after people have gotten a taste of freedom. No amount of shaming, virtue signaling, and berating is going to cow certain people into compliance. I just hope there won’t be more violence.

Anyway… count me among those who are for putting away the face masks, although I probably won’t be flying or taking transportation anytime soon. I never liked the masks, and I’m not going to submit to peer pressure to be a cheerleader for them. I’ll wear a mask if I’m asked to, but I certainly don’t want to do it. Not wearing a mask doesn’t make me a shitty person, especially since I don’t hang around people much, anyway. I also don’t care if other people wear masks. They can wear as many as they want to. It’s their choice, and I respect that. It would be nice if we could respect each other’s choices, since we all have to breathe. When it comes down to it, COVID is just another one of the many, many risks we face on a daily basis. Over the past two years, I’ve lost several people in my life, all of whom died years before perhaps they should have. Not a single one of them died of COVID… most of them had cancer or another chronic disease that might not have been adequately addressed, partly thanks to this virus. One died of suicide, and another was killed in a hit and run. I think that’s something to consider.

In other news…

I’m in trouble again.

I got another “restriction” from Facebook yesterday. They claimed I posted “hate speech” for referring to “dumb Americans”. My “punishment” is having my group posts filtered to the bottom for a month. I’m annoyed by this new ding, but I guess I should have expected it. Facebook must have a quota of sanctioning people for posting “offensive” content. What I find especially stupid is that people can and do post all sorts of offensive stuff toward strangers, but I refer to Americans as “dumb” because they won’t allow a children’s author to read his book about unicorns, and I get accused of posting “hate speech”.

I saw this on the Duggar Family News page. Wonder if it will get flagged for being offensive…

Just as I would like to ditch masks, I would also really like to ditch Facebook. I may end up doing that at some point, although it’s the best and easiest way to stay in touch with people. But I resent their stupid bots making false accusations about my posts that are taken out of context. The other day, someone referred to me as a “baby killer”, complete with vomiting emojis because I support the rights of people to get abortions. But that’s apparently okay– to call an individual stranger a “baby killer” as you react with puke emojis. Call Americans “dumb”, and your account gets restricted. It’s very aggravating. But, based on the comments from friends, at least I am in good company with these inane “punishments”. And at least this time, my offensive post was only a few days old, instead of four years old, as it was the last time I got slapped on the wrist. And this time, Facebook said I could appeal their decision. I don’t care enough about this particular issue to do that, though. I’ll just put up with another month of wearing a red badge of shame.

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funny stories, Germany, humor

R.B.F.

Yesterday, the weather was predictably nasty. Bill decided to take the dogs for a quick walk before the rain started in earnest. As he was walking along the main drag, Arran decided to drop a load. Bill was stooped over picking up the mess when a “scraggly” looking guy passed. Just as Bill finished cleaning up the poop, Arran took a couple of steps and cocked his leg on a cement pillar that formed part of an archway.

The scraggly guy turned and said, in German, that letting the dogs pee on structures isn’t a good thing to do. Bill said, “Ja, ja.” and went on about his day. Then he came back home and stewed about the encounter for awhile. Bill is unusually conscientious and takes public rebukes to heart. I could tell he was upset about that confrontation. I can’t blame him for that. I hate it when random people speak to me, particularly when they really need to fuck off and mind their own business.

For some reason, it seems like Bill runs into people like this more than I do. So I told him I thought he should develop R.B.F.

You know what that is, right?

I posted about it on Facebook, and my friend Meryl wrote, “Huh?”

Resting Bitch Face. I think Bill should develop one.

One of my other longtime friends who, I guess, is often shocked by the things I say and write, commented that she was grateful that someone asked what R.B.F. is so she wouldn’t have to. I thought it was self-explanatory. I have a pretty good R.B.F. myself. I think a lot of women develop one so they won’t be harassed by men. Seriously, if you look unpleasant and unapproachable, most people will leave you alone. It’s a great defense mechanism. Today’s featured photo is an example of one of my MANY R.B.F.s. Actually, in that photo, I was pretty pissed off.

As Bill was telling this story, I was cracking up. I told him he should have pulled out his Schwanz and taken a piss, too. It’s not like we haven’t seen dozens of European men peeing in public, although they don’t typically do it on busy thoroughfares. But the weather is so chilly that it would have meant instant shrinkage. We’re talking a stack of dimes shrinkage. Bill isn’t that bold, anyway.

I usually try not to let Arran pee on buildings, though, mainly because I don’t enjoy being confronted by random people about my dog’s natural toileting habits. Arran peed on that pillar because many other dogs have peed there. That’s like the community bulletin board for dogs. They go by and leave their urinary calling cards for all of the other dogs in the neighborhood. It’s Arran’s way of saying “Arran wuz here.”

The one time anyone German (other than ex landlady) ever spoke to me about my dogs’ potty habits was pretty positive. I was walking Zane and Arran through the field near us and one of the dogs pooped near a wood pile. I was cleaning up the pile when a guy drove up in his truck. He had a look on his face that told me I was about to be confronted. I immediately got nervous, because I figured the guy was going to yell at me. Then I realized that the look on his face wasn’t one of annoyance. In fact, he looked amazed and appreciative.

The man explained in German that people were regularly letting their dogs go potty by his wood pile, but they usually just leave their dogs’ piles of crap there. So he was delighted to catch me cleaning up after my dogs and was offering thanks. That was a memorable experience and every time I pass that woodpile, I remember it with a smile.

Hearing Bill relate that story also reminded me of a funny memory from several years ago, when we visited Rome. We were wandering around the city and happened to pass a church, where a homeless looking guy was sitting on the steps, drinking a beer. Another man was passing and shamed the homeless looking dude for drinking on the church steps. The street person did not seem affected by the shaming.  He casually raised his bottle as if to offer a sip to the guy who had just yelled at him. It was pretty funny.

As I sit here writing this, I’m reminded of how much I miss traveling and interacting with people. We have had so many funny things happen to us, especially in Europe. Like, for instance, the time we were in a Seville restaurant drinking wine. A bum came in begging for spare change. This guy was pretty ballsy and had a sense of humor. He was very persistent about begging for change, and I was a bit drunk. The bum and I ended up engaging in a really funny exchange, so at my prompting, Bill gave the guy a euro or two. Then I told him to beat it.

Actually, I rarely wear a mask, because I rarely leave my neighborhood.

I really hope this COVID-19 crisis eases up soon so we can have some fun again. It’s pretty sad when a random encounter with a German guy over dog whiz results in a blog post. I miss creating memories. Hell, it’s almost time for President’s Day, which is typically a long weekend we use for traveling to other places. Last year, we went to France. It’s also Fasching season, which usually means there will be festivals involving costumes, drinking, and partying in the streets. In 2019, we even got mooned while eating in a restaurant! But not this year. ūüôĀ

We can’t go anywhere or celebrate Carnival, because everything is locked down. I guess the one consolation is that the weather is positively shitty right now and will be so for probably another week to ten days, at the very least. So another precious long weekend gets lost to the stupid virus. At least we have Noyzi here to provide some fun. And at least we live in a comfortable home, in a neighborhood where people are generally nice and leave us alone. I don’t have to employ my R.B.F. very often in these parts. I guess I have to take my victories wherever I can find them.

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family, lessons learned, nostalgia

Double repost: It’s graduation season! and Lost in Bloomingdale’s…

Sorry… one more repost. Bill and I were talking about the incident that occurred in the “It’s graduation season!” post last night, and I wanted to preserve the memory. Then I noticed the next post, which was about the time I got lost in Bloomingdale’s as a little kid. I’ll try to write something fresh after these reposts, which appear “as/is”. These posts were written in April 2014.

Apologies if I’ve posted about this before‚Ķ I probably have, but I think it’s a story that bears repeating. This is not a happy story, so skip it if you prefer something cheery.

Since it is graduation season, I feel impressed to write about an incident that occurred in the year 2003, when I had the great “fortune” to attend two graduation ceremonies.  My own grad school graduation from the University of South Carolina occurred in May 2002.  I guess 2003 was the payback year.

Picture it.  It’s late April 2003.  Bill and I live in a shitty apartment in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Bill is about to get his master’s degree from Webster University.  My sister, Becky, was about to get her master’s degree from American University.  Both ceremonies were going to be held at the American University campus.  American University also happens to be where Bill got his undergraduate degree back in the mid 80s.

My parents were still mostly functional in 2003.  My dad’s mental state was starting to slide a bit, but he was 70 years old and still pretty “with it”.  Though my parents had lived in northern Virginia for a couple of years, my mom didn’t feel comfortable driving up there anymore.  Becky realized that Bill and I lived close enough to the DC area that she could call upon us for a favor.  She asked us to play chauffeur for our parents.  They would drive to our shitty Fredericksburg apartment and Bill would drive us to Becky’s graduation ceremony at American.

Now‚Ķ I knew what was up.  Becky had phrased her “invitation” in such a way that it sounded like she cared if we were there to celebrate with her.  And, I’m sure on some level, she did want us there because we’re family.  But really, it was about her wanting our parents to attend and knowing they wouldn’t show up if Bill and I didn’t drive them.  At that time of my life, I was less assertive than I am now.  Still, I knew what she was up to.  She was asking a favor of us and expecting me to say yes out of familial obligation.  And Bill, being a brand new son-in-law wanting to make good with my parents, was all too willing to be the driver.  So though I knew we were being used, we agreed to help Becky and my parents, knowing that we were going to get a lovely lunch at 1789 for our trouble.  1789 is a very nice restaurant in Georgetown; in fact, it’s where Bill presented me with my engagement ring the previous year.

So, graduation day rolls around.  It’s early May and the weather is fine.  Mom and Dad come to our apartment and Bill drives my mom’s land yacht to Washington, DC.  We park and go to a gymnasium, which is where the ceremony is being held.  My parents seat themselves a couple of rows ahead of us.  Bill and I sit with Becky’s boyfriend, Steve. 

We were chatting quietly among ourselves.  It was a gym, after all, and people were yelling, clapping, ringing cowbells, and using air horns to congratulate the graduates.  Somehow, we had the misfortune of sitting near the single biggest northern Virginia/DC area cunt on the planet.  Apparently, our quiet conversation bothered her.  She complained to my parents, specifically about me.  I was surprised she knew we were with them, since they weren’t sitting with us.  But my mom said, “We can hear you.” in my direction.

We quieted down; but again, it wasn’t exactly a dignified event.  We listened to the graduation speeches and then the noise level kicked up again.  The massively cunty woman in front of us objected again and said something to my parents.  Why she didn’t just turn around and speak to me personally, I will never know.  It would have been the smartest and most adult thing to do.  But she didn’t‚Ķ she took her issues to my parents, who felt compelled to correct me.

Anyway, my father suddenly turns around and roars at me loudly enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear him, “Shut up!  You’re DISTURBING people!” 

How I felt when my dad screamed at me at my sister’s graduation…

At that moment, I was completely consumed with fury.  I gave what Bill has described as an absolutely murderous look to my father and the bitch who was sitting near us.  I’m pretty sure if looks could kill, they both would have died instantly.  As it was, I’m certain the look in my eyes conveyed to that horrible bitch and her pansy male companion that I hoped she got into a fiery car crash on her way home from the graduation.  I then got up and stormed out of the gym, mortified and livid. 

Here I was, dressed up and sitting in that fucking gym, not even really wanting to be there, but doing a favor for my parents and my sister.  Moreover, I was being no more disruptive than anyone else at the graduation, including the two men I was sitting with; and I was almost 31 years old, being spoken to like a six year old by my father in a way that was absolutely uncalled for. 

Bill came after me and found me absolutely beside myself with rage.  I was so furious that I told him I wanted to leave right then and there.  He was trying hard to get me to calm down while at the same time trying to figure out how we were going to escape the graduation without a vehicle.  Getting back to Fredericksburg without my parents’ car would have involved taking a train or bus or renting a car.  Owing to the massive child support Bill was paying, we were pretty broke at the time and really didn’t have the money to rent a car or buy train tickets.  So he was trying hard to get me to calm down and go through with the lunch at 1789.

After about a half an hour of deep breathing and venting, I finally calmed down and we found my family.  I was still feeling really pissed at my dad.  I went to the ladies room and Bill was left there with my mom, who went into damage control mode.  She suggested that we sweep this under the rug and just try to have a nice lunch.  Bill, being my biggest supporter, explained that I had a perfect right to be pissed off at my dad for the way he treated me in public.  His reaction was unreasonable and he humiliated me.  Even Becky’s boyfriend, Steve, stuck up for me and said he felt my father’s reaction was way out of line.

Somehow, we got in the car and I was sitting in the front seat.  Bill was being nice to my dad, but I was still enraged.  Poor Bill got my claws at one point as we were making our way to the restaurant. 

It happened to be Mother’s Day, and the restaurant was giving out potted impatiens flowers to all mothers.  When they gave one to me, my dad helpfully piped up with “You’re not a mother.”

I said, “I am a stepmother.”  I took the flower and proceeded to have a sumptuous lunch on my dad’s dime.  I had steak and eggs, champagne, two whiskey sours, and dessert.  Bill caught my eye as I casually ran up a big bill.  I made sure my father literally paid for being an asshole to me in public.  Bill knew exactly what I was doing‚Ķ and I think he approved, even though today I realize it was a pretty passive aggressive thing to do.  Talking to my dad rationally about what he had done and how it made me felt would have done no good.  In my dad’s eyes, he had the perfect right to discipline me in any way he saw fit, even though I was almost 31 years old and married. 

This is the same man who, while roaring drunk, felt it was appropriate to slap me across the face when I was almost 21 years old and the whole family was staying together at a beach house.  He slapped me because he felt I needed to be knocked down to a lower level.  To my credit, I did tell him that he had no right to hit me and if he ever laid another finger on me, I would have him arrested.  To his credit, he never has struck me again, though there were times when he threatened to.  My reminder that I would be calling the police always seemed to get him to back off and simmer down. 

The following week, I attended Bill’s graduation by myself.  Afterwards, we went back to 1789 and enjoyed a more modest celebration lunch, but it was a hell of a lot more pleasant, even if we had to deal with a couple of drivers near the Key Bridge who were intent on cutting in front of us.

I do love my family, but variations of the above scenario have happened to me more times than I can count. ¬†Someone in my family will ask me for a favor of some sort or want me to attend a family event, and then it turns into a huge drama. ¬†I find myself in a situation in which I feel forced to swallow abusive or embarrassing behavior or I find myself regressing to that kind of behavior myself. ¬†They wonder why I don’t want to do things with them anymore. ¬†The scenario I just described is why I avoid family gatherings whenever I can. ¬†I’m just getting too old for that kind of shit.

2003 was an exceptionally dramatic year, but it did give me the balls to stand up to Bill’s ex wife and anyone else who seeks to treat me with disrespect.  Of course, at this point, I realize my dad was probably in the early stages of dementia and that was likely affecting his behavior.  But truly, he has treated me like that for most of my life‚Ķ with disrespect and condescension.  I simply can’t tolerate it anymore. 

Awkward family photo‚Ķ  I think my dad must have threatened us with the belt.

AND– Lost in Bloomingdale’s

Lost in Bloomingdale’s…

As I wrote about graduation season, I was reminded of another dramatic event from my youth.  It actually took a long time to get over this particular trauma in the years after it happened, but yesterday was the first time I’d thought of it in a long while. 

I was six or seven years old.  We lived in Fairfax, Virginia, which is a suburb of the Washington, DC area.  At the time of this incident, my sister, Becky, was about seventeen or eighteen.  We generally got along, though she had a tendency to be moody and would get very upset and angry whenever the mood struck.

Anyway, one day she decided she wanted to go to Bloomingdale’s at Tyson’s Corner, which is a huge shopping mall in northern Virginia.  For some odd reason, she decided to take me with her.  My parents had company coming over.  Maybe that’s why she took me‚Ķ they may have told her to get me out of the house as a condition of driving the car.

So we went to Bloomingdale’s and they had a kids’ area where there were books and toys.  Becky told me to stay there and read while she went shopping.  I stayed there for awhile.  I really don’t know how long.  It could have been a few minutes or an hour.  I was a kid and a few minutes probably seemed like an eternity to me.  All I know is that at some point, I got bored and decided to go look for my sister.

I started wandering around, but I couldn’t find Becky.  Before too long, I got lost.  I started to cry.  Eventually, a matronly looking black woman approached me.  She said, “Little girl, are you lost?”

I was sobbing uncontrollably, but managed to tell the nice lady that I couldn’t find my sister. 

She said, “Come with me.” 

I followed the lady, who turned out to be a plain clothesed security guard.  She took me to her tiny office and called my parents, who said they’d be right there to pick me up.  Meanwhile, Becky was still out there in the store, looking at the latest fashions.

The security guard took me to what must have been a room designated for lost children.  All I remember about it was that there were couches and a nurse worked there.  Why there was a nurse working at Bloomingdale’s, I’ll never know.  It was the 70s, though.  Maybe she just looked like a nurse.  I remember she wore a white uniform that resembled a nurse’s outfit of that era.

The security guard finally found Becky, who was furious with me and swore she’d never take me anywhere again.  She kept asking the “nurse” why they hadn’t paged her.  The nurse said they didn’t have a paging system in the store. 

My dad eventually showed up at the mall.  He had his friend with him.  They were chuckling about my frightening ordeal.   I remember being very worried about Becky being so mad at me for wandering off.  Had this scenario happened today, God knows what kind of invasions that would have invited into our home.  I’m sure someone would have called CPS!  Not that I would have agreed with that, of course. 

It was a scary incident when I was a kid, but I survived it mostly unscathed‚Ķ and Becky did eventually forgive me and take me on other outings.  She even joined me in Europe when I was traveling there on the way home from Armenia.  Given how certain parts of that trip turned out, maybe it would have been better if she’d kept her promise not to travel with me anymore‚Ķ 

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book reviews

Repost: A review of Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed…

Here’s a repost of my review of Jon Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. I wrote this for my original blog in September 2018. I am sharing it again as/is.

The summer of 2018 is just about over now.  It will go down in my personal history as a summer of equal parts fun and angst.  I had a lot of fun over the summer; there’s no doubt about that.  Bill and I visited some beautiful places, ate good food, and really dove into some excellent concerts. 

But it was also a summer of uncertainty and anxiety.  I’ve watched a lot of people I’ve gotten to know over the past few years move on to new places.  I’ve worried incessantly about my dogs as I’ve noticed them aging (although at this point, they’re evidently fine).  I’ve seen Bill have to find a new job and now we’re going to be moving.  I’ve also watched in horror as several middle aged white women were publicly shamed on the Internet as people cheered.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you might know that I tend to lean fairly liberal these days.  I am not a Trump supporter.  I like social justice and often support liberal causes, particularly when it comes to social policies.  I don’t like racism, ageism, or sexism.  I’m also not a fan of shaming people.

However, over the summer of 2018, there’s been a trend of people capturing people, usually middle aged white women, on their cellphones “behaving badly”.  They put their videos online, often with a caption along the lines of “Let’s make this bitch go viral!”  Sure enough, the videos wind up on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and the person being shamed does, indeed, go viral.  They go on to suffer the wrath of thousands of people they don’t know, who weren’t involved in whatever incident occurred to put them in a viral situation, and who actively cheer for bad things to happen to them.

I have seen a lot of the videos that have been posted online.  I will agree that in many of the videos, the people being filmed were, for the most part, behaving in a way that seemed wrong.  However, it disturbs me that people feel so free to call for the destruction of other people’s lives.  Allow me to go on record to say that I really don’t like this trend of publicly shaming people and actively trying to ruin their lives.  I think it’s very shortsighted and, in the long run, harms more people than it helps.

Because I was so disturbed by all of the videos trending on social media, I decided to read more about this phenomenon.  That’s when I discovered Jon Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.  This book, published in 2015, highlights several notorious cases of people who slipped up on social media and ended up going viral.  Ronson has a tongue in cheek way of describing how in this age of instant communication, a person can wind up being immediately punished for making an ill advised quip, sharing a racist joke, or not being reverent enough at a sacred place.

Ronson points out how, thanks to the Internet, the whole world can find out about something a person did and make a judgment, without knowing the context of what happened.  These shaming episodes can have real and devastating effects, and not just for the person being shamed.  I’ve written a lot about this over the past few months, so I won’t rehash my points too exhaustively.  Suffice to say that you might feel great about Permit Patty or BBQ Becky being humiliated online for being “racist”, but there are innocent people in their lives who are negatively affected by these public shaming episodes.  Moreover, 99.9% of the people sharing and opining about these videos have absolutely no idea about the context of what they’re seeing.  They don’t know the people being shamed, nor do they know what will happen to them once they’ve gone viral.  People’s lives have been ruined and even ended over these episodes.

Since this book is three years old, you won’t read about the most recent victims of viral shaming.  Instead, you might be reminded of people like Justine Sacco, who was a public relations executive who made some unfortunate tweets on a trip to Africa.  Sacco, who apparently has a politically incorrect sense of humor, famously tweeted back in 2013,  “Going to Africa!  Hope I don’t get AIDS.  Just kidding.  I’m white!”       

Granted, this was a tasteless, racist joke.  I’m not surprised that many people were offended by it.  However, what happened after Sacco posted this Tweet was nothing less than phenomenal.  There was an incredible backlash lobbed at Sacco, who was soon the recipient of death and rape threats.  She lost her job.  However, in Sacco’s case, there were a few positives.  Some people were moved to donate money to charities and Sacco did, apparently, manage to recover from the public shaming.

In another case, Ronson writes about a couple of guys who were at an IT conference.  They were talking among themselves and a woman named Adria Richards overheard and misunderstood a comment one of them made, wrongly assuming they were making sexist jokes.  She took a picture of them, placed it online, and set the wheels in motion to ruin their careers.  The sad thing is, she hadn’t even gotten the context of their private joke, which had absolutely nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with IT. 

And yet, thanks to Richards’ decision to “out” them for being sexist, these guys went through the viral Internet wringer.  One of them, a guy calling himself Hank, lost his job and posted about it on a Web site called Hacker.com.  Hank was justifiably upset because he’d liked the job and had three children to support.  Adria Richards, who had taken his picture was then outed and started getting hate mail and death threats herself.  Hank condemned the death threats against Richards, yet amazingly, she still thinks he deserved to be fired for his “joke” that was part of a private conservation and that she completely misunderstood, anyway. 

Ronson later spoke to Richards and she maintained that Hank was to blame for complaining about being fired, since “his actions led to his being fired.”  In the aftermath, men’s rights groups decided to make her go viral and she suffered backlash for trying to shame Hank for his joke.  Both Hank and Adria suffered the consequences of Internet vigilanteism.  I certainly don’t condone the death threats or rape wishes directed at Richards, but I do think she could stand to learn something from this ordeal.  If she had minded her own damned business, neither she nor Hank would have ever been in this mess.

Although I had already been thinking about the horrifying ramifications of Internet shaming, Ronson does a good job of pointing out what can happen to people who wind up in an Internet shitstorm.  I would venture to guess that the vast majority never consider beyond that moment of Schadenfreude that this kind of vigilantism has real and devastating effects for others.  They simply focus on that delicious moment of riding a moral high horse and watching someone’s life fall apart and never think beyond that.  That’s one thing I do think Ronson’s book is good for– reminding people that a successful Internet shaming session doesn’t just last for a day, nor does it have an off switch. 

Ronson writes of Lindsey Stone, a charity worker who, in 2012, took an ill advised picture of herself showing disrespect at Arlington Cemetery.  The photo went viral and pretty soon, Stone was being publicly flayed.  Stone, who had been working as a caregiver to people with learning disabilities, had a running joke with a friend.  They took “joke” pictures of themselves doing things like smoking in front of “no smoking” signs.  This time, there was a picture of Stone flipping off a sign at Arlington Cemetery that requested silence.  The photo went viral and soon Stone was being called a “cunt” and a “psychopath” by perfect strangers. 

Stone had previously been a happy go lucky kind of person who enjoyed going out, dancing, and doing karaoke.  But for over a year, she stayed home.  People were calling for her to be fired and, indeed, she was.  Then, after she lost her job, no one responded to her applications for a new one.  After a long time, she finally did find a new job, but lived in terror that someone at her position would find out about what she did.  She gave up on dating, worrying that a new love interest would find out that she had flipped off a sign at Arlington Cemetery. 

Long after people had forgotten about that incident, Stone was still dealing with the traumatic aftereffects.  I wonder, how many people who felt Stone is a “cunt” for posting that photo even know her?  Can a person’s character really be accurately summed up in a single photo or two minute video showing them “behaving badly”?  Do the people who called her names like “cunt”, “bitch”, and “whore” think her life should be ruined or even ended for posting that photo?  Do they really think she deserves depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder over that one moment of bad behavior that wound up online?

Stone ended up working with someone to rehabilitate her online image.  The professional, who was an expert at social media and Google searches, found ways to make Lindsey Stone appear to be a perfectly bland person.  Sadly, this was what it came down to– she had to be rebranded from the spunky, politically incorrect, fun loving firebrand she is to someone who likes Top 40 music and cats. How sad that is.

You see, this is why I get really upset about these kinds of Internet shaming trends.  It’s not just because I worry that someone is going to try it with the wrong person and wind up being shot.  It’s also because sometimes people say and do things without thinking.  Everybody has a cellphone with a camera these days.  I think it’s chilling that a person’s life can be ruined in an instant of carelessness.  It’s also chilling that sometimes people get things wrong and ruin people who truly don’t deserve to be harassed. 

To be honest, I would love to see the object of some of this kind of shaming turn the tables on their aggressors. ¬†Personally, I think they should start suing, especially when the person gets it wrong. ¬†Not long ago,¬†I wrote about a woman whose life was upturned¬†after she got involved in a heated thread on Facebook. ¬†Monika Glennon had opined about a smiling teenager’s photo at Auschwitz and offended someone who decided to make up a vicious lie about her and submit it to a Web site called “She’s a Homewrecker”. ¬†Although the story went unnoticed for awhile, another user took it upon herself to share the story with Glennon’s friends and family. ¬†It took a lot of time and money for Glennon to clear up the lie and salvage her reputation. ¬†She did sue the women involved and won, but Glennon will likely never see any of the settlement she was awarded because neither of the women have any money. ¬†Glennon recently left me a very nice comment on my post. ¬†I was glad to see she was able to recover from the public humiliation and be an example of why this kind of trend is potentially very harmful and wrong.

One criticism I have of Ronson’s book is that three years post publication, it’s already dated.  So many more cases are out there now that should be written about.  I also felt that Ronson treated this topic a bit more glibly that maybe he should have.  A little humor is good, but I really think people should understand that this kind of “justice” can really mess up people’s lives.  In the long run, it doesn’t serve society for people to lose their livelihoods over something like a viral video, tasteless Tweet, or tacky photograph.  People should have the right to be forgotten so they can recover from their mistakes and move on.  Otherwise, why would they bother living out the rest of their lives?

Anyway… I think I’d give this book four out of five stars.  Here’s a link for those who want to read it themselves. 

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