lessons learned, musings, Reality TV

“Raise your words, not your voice.” Ruminating on Rumi, Renee Alway, and people who have done “bad” things…

This morning, I was thinking about what today’s topic would be. I’m kind of irritated, because I had a couple of interesting ideas for today yesterday, while we were enjoying the end of the weekend. But when I woke up this morning, those ideas were no longer available. I probably should have written down the ideas, but that’s not my habit.

I did what I usually do when this happens, which was check the old version of my blog. I ran across a post about former America’s Next Top Model contestant, Renee Alway. Back in December 2014, I wrote a controversial post about Renee Alway’s 2013 arrest and conviction for a number of felonies. Around the time I posted, Renee had been sentenced to twelve years in prison. I was sad for her, even though I remember how she had behaved when she was on ANTM. She was often portrayed as a “bitch” on that show, but then she would show a really lovely side to her personality.

I thought Renee was gorgeous and had so much potential. Then she got on a bad path. I was disappointed to see her with a shaved head, wearing cuffs, shackles, and chains. That sadness and disappointment was what had motivated me to write about her. I wasn’t interested in shaming her, although some people apparently thought that’s what I was doing.

Renee was released from prison on good behavior after serving five years. But then in 2019, she was arrested again for domestic violence.

I got a ton of hits on that post, as well as a lot of comments. Some of the people who commented claimed to be Renee’s friends. I even got a comment that appeared to be from Renee herself, although I can’t confirm if it was her or someone pretending to be her. One person got so irritated by my comments that she wrote:

Renee Diane is an amazing person, she continues to teach me the most amazing aspects in life, she’s there for me like no other person has ever been… I love her with all my heart, you don’t know Renee and never will just because she’s a model and is beautiful doesn’t mean she’s not human and doesn’t bleed. We all have our story in life and deal with pain differently who are you to sit here and judge her. Walk a mile in her shoes and look into your own lives the come here and point fingers … You don’t know a thing about here keep your blog shit to yourself. If you have nothing nice to say and reflect on the world don’t say shit.

We went back and forth a few times. I finally turned that person’s post into one of my famous rants. I basically explained that people are going to have and express their opinions, particularly about public figures. When a person goes on a reality TV show, particularly if they are an adult when they make that choice, they are pretty much fair game for commentary.

What I wrote about Renee Alway really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I think it was a fairly compassionate post. Let’s face it. It IS sad when a beautiful young woman with children gets arrested and goes to prison. It’s sad on many levels. I saw Renee as a talented person with great potential. I could tell she loved her son very much when she was on ANTM. I don’t know why she chose the path she did, and I was dismayed to see that her life had taken a criminal turn. That was the main gist of the post.

But that person still got angry with me that I wrote about Renee. She basically told me to “shut up”. And my response was this:

Thanks for the comment. This is a personal blog and I have the right to write about anything I please. If that upsets you, I’d encourage you to find something to read that is more to your liking. Based on what I saw on ANTM, Renee would probably tell you the same thing. She strikes me as quite a spitfire who doesn’t let other people dictate to her what she can and can’t communicate. 

The person evidently got confused about what I meant when I wrote that my blog is “personal”. She responded thusly:

If it was personal it wouldn’t be posted online. And your right she’s definitely a spitfire and doesnt take shit from anyone or let anyone elses opinions affect her. But I’m her friend and seeing people put her on blast and talk down on her upsets me so I’m sure you understand and would do the same for your friends and ppl you love

I hear what she’s saying… really, I do. But I’m not the one who put Renee on blast. I wrote this in response:

I understand your concern, but she put herself on blast when she went on a reality TV show. In any case, this post has been here for months now and is only getting new attention because you’re commenting. I’m sorry Renee is in the situation she’s in and I hope it gets better for her, but I can’t allow random visitors to my blog to dictate what I write about. I hope you understand.

I never know how people will react to what I write. If I chose to “keep my blog shit” to myself as a means of avoiding upsetting random people, I would never publish a single post. I can’t predict how people will respond to most topics I choose, nor can I control it. I think that commenter also confused the concept of “personal” versus “private”. They aren’t really the same things. Personal means it comes from me. I can write something personal and not keep it private. Or I can keep something private that is also personal… or impersonal.

I could keep the blog private, but there’s not much use in doing that. Why write things that no one will ever read? I understand feeling the need to respond to things that are upsetting, but I would urge people to pause and reflect for a moment before doing so. It’s not right to tell people to shut up, particularly when all they’ve done is shared an opinion or an observation. Stop and think for a minute and consider if what the person has said is really as awful as you think it is. Chances are, you’re overreacting to something that shouldn’t be that upsetting. I understand having that reaction, particularly when it’s in response to an ego blow. We all do it. But no one likes to be told to shut up, and frankly, telling people to shut up isn’t cool. Especially when you’re on their space instead of your own.

One commenter wrote this about Renee:

The season Renee was on was one of the ones I watched. I found her to be arrogant, manipulative and despicable. She wasn’t a good person. You managed to find the good side, however, which is to your credit. 
Renee actually ended up with two kids when she was arrested and gave birth to a third after that. She had been addicted and committing a strong of burglaries, eventually armed when she did so. 

In her prison interview, she admits to being a person whose character had defects. She said that she thinks people watching the show saw exactly who she was and that she had problems with her character. At least that admission is a good start. But it’s funny that she has “friends” on here denying what she herself has admitted and screaming at someone who wrote a compassionate post about what happened to her. 

Right… and what I wrote was not nearly as “mean” as what the person above wrote. I think her comments are valid, even if they do seem harsh. It’s good to show grace toward people, but it’s also good to keep your eyes open about who people are.

So anyway… on to Rumi, and his connection to Renee Alway, who was born hundreds of years after his death. In my response post, I found a meme attributed to the Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was born in the year 1207 in present day Afghanistan. His parents were native Persian speakers. He grew up to become a sage, whose influence spread around the Middle East and transcended borders and ethnicities. He died in 1273 at age 66 in what is now Konya, Turkey.

When I was writing my response post to Renee’s friend who told me to “shut up”, I found today’s featured photo, which is a famous Rumi quote. I thought it was very relevant. The quote is:

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

In other words, yelling at someone is not likely to make a whit of difference. You might feel better doing it in the short term, but it’s not likely to inspire cooperation or compliance. If you have an argument or contrary view, try presenting it in a civilized way. Take the time to reason. Frame your comments in a way that is constructive, instead of destructive. Don’t just react with emotion. Think about why you’re reacting the way you are before you say something. It’s fine to feel offended by an ego blow, but you’ll get further in changing someone’s perspective if you approach them with basic respect for their dignity.

In my response post, I wrote “If you “yell” at me, I’ll cross my arms and stop listening because I will simply assume you’re an asshole.  I don’t listen to assholes because that’s where shit comes from.” I had to laugh at that because it’s true. Shit is basically thought of as unpleasant, stinky, and worthless. On the other hand, shit DOES make the flowers grow. Most everything has a purpose of some sort. Most everything has at least something good about it. If you stop and think long enough about it, you can probably come up with something good about almost anything.

For example, a lot of people dislike Donald Trump. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I can’t stand the man. But– I can legitimately state that some good things came from Trump’s time as president. For instance, I have noticed that many people have become much less complacent about voting than they once were. They are no longer okay with skipping elections, because they’ve seen what not voting can lead to. Or– if they support Trump– they realize that their votes will make a difference. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum one falls on, I think it’s a very good thing to exercise the right to vote. It’s a very valuable right in a civilized society to be able to make one’s voice heard. So, in my opinion, making people more aware of the right to vote and impressing upon them how important voting is is a good thing Trump did. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s a contemptible asshole. But he isn’t 100% bad, either. Almost no one is.

I can even extend this thought to people like Josh Duggar. I don’t like Josh Duggar. I think he’s a massive creep who has done terrible things. However, I don’t think he’s the worst person there ever was, and I recognize that there are people in the world who love him, in spite of his criminal behavior. I also realize that he’s got six kids and one on the way who would not be here if not for him. I don’t know a thing about Josh’s children, but I’m assuming that they have the potential to be good people. They don’t have to turn out like Josh has. And they would not be here or who they are if not for their father. At this point, they probably love their dad and, if they’re aware of what’s going on, may feel scared and upset that he may soon be going to prison for a long time. So I have some compassion for them, too… and that leads me to have some compassion for Josh, in spite of how terrible his actions have been.

Because I have compassion, I can’t support mistreating people who have done bad things. I think they should be punished, and some need to be permanently taken out of society because they will harm others. But I don’t support deliberately making them miserable, torturing them, or harming them. I do understand the sentiment of feeling like you want to hurt or kill someone who’s done you wrong. I even express it at times when I am angry. But the reality is, I don’t want to see people being hurt, even if they’ve hurt others. I mainly think it’s only appropriate to hurt or kill someone when it’s done in self-defense.

Most commenters on this video don’t think Ghislaine should be treated decently. I disagree.

I recently watched a video about the conditions Ghislaine Maxwell is dealing with as she awaits her trial regarding her alleged sex trafficking crimes. In the video, Maxwell’s lawyer explains that Maxwell is in a living hell. While I do think she needs to be confined because she is a potential flight risk, I can understand why she’s complaining about her conditions in jail. But there were so many comments from people indicating that they had no compassion for her and she deserves to be treated cruelly. I can’t agree with that. She’s still a sentient human being. Being cruel to people who have done wrong doesn’t change them for the better. It makes them worse. I don’t want Ghislaine Maxwell to be worse than she is. I want her to be a better person. So I think she should be treated humanely.

I think all people should be treated with humanity, whenever possible. And I write this realizing that I’m sometimes a hypocrite when I get angry… I sometimes express anger in a way that seems contrary to the idea of compassion. But I’m telling you that deep down, despite being angry, I don’t support hurting people or making them suffer unnecessarily. That includes Bill’s ex wife, whom I legitimately despise. I mainly want her to stay out of my life and am content with letting her destructive actions lead to natural consequences. I would also hope people would show compassion to me, so I do try to show it to others. I can be compassionate and still think a person should be held accountable… or even have some contempt for them.

Anyway… I don’t know what Renee Alway is up to now. I think it’s troubling that she turned to crime. I suspect she suffered abuse in her past and is dealing with it in a way that isn’t helpful. When I saw her on ANTM, I really did think she was gorgeous and talented. I rooted for her and hoped she’d win. I wish things had turned out differently and she didn’t succumb to criminal behavior. But I realize Renee has friends… and some of those friends can’t bear to see her criticized. I do understand wanting to protect your friends, but screaming at me to be quiet doesn’t help your case. It just draws attention to that which you claim is damaging. So, as Rumi says, “raise your words, not voice.” If you want something to grow– like flowers or food– you have to nourish and nurture it. In other words, be constructive, not destructive. And try to have kindness and compassion toward people, especially if you want them to return that sentiment to you.

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complaints

Social media is for assholes…

Sorry… it’s Monday morning, and I’m in a bad mood. I don’t recommend reading this post, unless you want to be in a bad mood, too. I woke up early and the smell of Arran’s food made me heave a few times. Then I checked Facebook and felt even crankier. It’s probably time for me to rethink being on social media. On the positive side, it does keep me connected to people. On the negative side, it keeps me connected to people. People get on my fucking nerves.

I have a laundry list of grievances this morning, mostly relating to social media and how grating it can be. I might as well start with Felicity Huffman. A lot of people are irritated that she only got 14 days in prison for her part in “Varsity Blues”. More than a few people hit the angry reaction in response to an article about Felicity Huffman’s sentence. Honestly, I don’t really get it. She’s not going to repeat the crime. She’s not a violent person or a career offender. And she’s taken responsibility and apologized profusely. What more do people want? Blood?

I have already stated that I think Huffman’s sentence is just. I still think that, even though people are pointing out other cases in which poor people of color got much harsher sentences for similar crimes. I am aware of formerly homeless mom Tanya McDowell’s 2011 case, in which she was sentenced to five years in jail for falsifying her address so that she could send her son to a better school. I think it’s extremely unfair that McDowell got so much time behind bars for her crime, although having read more about it, I have discovered that McDowell’s sentence wasn’t just because she falsified her address. McDowell’s sentence was the result of a plea bargain that included other charges, including some involving drugs.

For some reason, a lot of Americans seem to think jail is the answer to every societal ill. I think people lose sight of how many Americans are locked up and how warehousing people in prison ruins lives. Incarcerating people doesn’t just affect those behind bars; it also affects their family members and loved ones. Now, Felicity Huffman’s life won’t be ruined by her upcoming stint in prison, but the average person will have trouble bouncing back after being incarcerated. Locking people up is expensive for taxpayers, but it’s also a big business. Private prisons make money by keeping people behind bars. They aren’t in the business of rehabilitation; they’re in the business of enslaving people for profit while forcing them to wear used underwear.

So, while I understand people being upset by the disparity between Huffman’s sentence and McDowell’s sentence, I don’t think wishing more jail time for Huffman is the answer. Instead, we should fix the system that locks up people for committing non-violent crimes and profits off of keeping them locked up for as long as possible. But, I understand, hitting the angry reaction button on Facebook is a lot easier than actually doing something to rectify society’s problems.

Moving on

Yesterday, Bill and I spent the day together. It was a beautiful day, and we probably should have gone out and tried to do something fun, but I was feeling kind of tired and cranky. So we stayed home, and Bill baked a delicious Dutch apple pie. It was his first time, so he forgot to put foil on the edges of the pie crust. They got a little overly brown. Someone “helpfully” pointed out that foil on the edges would have prevented that. I have baked a lot of pies in my day, so I know about the foil trick. Bill now knows, too. The pie was still excellent, regardless. I probably should just focus on that, but instead, it was just the first in a series of unasked for help I received yesterday.

Did you ever notice how much people enjoy offering unsolicited advice? I’m sure most of the time, people want to be “helpful”. But, for some reason, it really chaps my ass when people offer “tips” I didn’t request.

For instance, last night, we were listening to the Eagles and I asked Bill if he knows what harmony is. Bill loves music, but he isn’t a musician. He didn’t quite get the concept, so I demonstrated it for him. We had kind of a cool conversation about harmony, so I posted about it on Facebook. I was really just sharing a “feel good” moment. Immediately, I got a bunch of suggestions about other bands or groups we could have been listening to. A little of that is okay, but this was a totally impromptu discussion that came about only because the Eagles were playing. I hadn’t prepared a lesson plan or anything, and wasn’t planning a lecture. We were just chatting.

And then, a guy shared a video of the song, “Hallelujah”. You know, the one written by Leonard Cohen? When I first heard that song on Shrek, I liked it. But now, it’s become so goddamned overrated that I just plain don’t care how great the harmonies are by some group I’ve never heard of. I don’t need to hear that song again… or, at least not for a very long time. The guy who shared the video doesn’t know that, of course… but I wonder what makes people feel like they have to offer “help” when none was requested.

I feel the same way about the version of “Over the Rainbow” done by Israel Kamakawiwo. It was poignant when it was used for Dr. Mark Greene’s death scene on ER, but then everyone was doing it and playing it, and it became super annoying. I’m sure the version of “Hallelujah” that was shared with me to demonstrate harmonies is awesome, but I wasn’t looking for more examples of great harmonies. I know Simon & Garfunkel harmonized well. So do Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. So do a lot of other people. I was really just sharing a moment brought on by the Eagles. But I suppose it’s my fault for sharing that story in the first place.

People state the obvious…

What would the business owner have people do? Pee in their pants?

I shared this yesterday… which I actually shouldn’t have done, because it also annoys me when people use social media for preaching. To me, the point made by this picture is obvious. The person who owns this business isn’t really all that welcoming, after all. But someone commented that the restrooms are for paying customers. Got it, and in fact, my parents were small business owners with a bathroom that people sometimes made a mess in. But seriously, folks… when you gotta go, you gotta go. I would rather let someone use the facilities, than have them go pee in the street. And maybe that person who comes in to use your bathroom might actually decide to become a paying customer if you simply show them a little kindness and humanity. But then, as I type this, I realize how irritable I am this morning and how I probably wouldn’t be inclined to be that kindly myself.

Renee Alway is back in trouble.

I read this morning that Renee Alway, of America’s Next Top Model fame, is back in the big house. One of my most popular posts on my old blog was about Renee… and, in fact, a few people commented that claim to know her. I’m sorry to see she’s in trouble with the law again. This time, it’s for assault with a deadly weapon (not a firearm), two counts of infliction of corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, terrorist threats, a prior felony conviction, and a violation of parole. I genuinely liked Renee on ANTM, and I thought it was tragic that she fell into drug abuse and crime. I think it’s tragic that she’s back in trouble with the law now, although it doesn’t surprise me. But, you know? It annoys me that because some people are hellbent on making trouble for me, I have to keep my old blog locked down… at least for now. Maybe I’ll repost that entry about Renee, though, since I know people are interested in it. The comments were probably better than the article itself.

Ric Ocasek is dead.

Okay, so I know he was 75 years old, but I really like his music. It’s sad that Eddie Money recently died, too. Both of those guys contributed to the soundtrack of my youth, and losing them reminds me that I’m becoming an old fart myself. And I’m not really enjoying life as much as I should. Maybe I’m less upset that people have passed on and more jealous that I can’t join them. Being down here sometimes feels like a waste of time.

I looked up “roller fucking” on YouTube and got disappointing results.

I was hoping to find an old George Carlin routine about Olympic sports that didn’t quite make the grade. Instead, I got a lot of porn. It’s the same thing that happened when I searched for “bitchy landlady”. Instead of getting the results I was seeking, I got porn. Porn rules the world, y’all. And I am not interested in porn, although it might improve my mood.

Depression? PMS? Menopause? Burnout? A mixture?

I’ll admit, I am a bit irritable lately, for a lot of reasons. I think some of the reasons have to do with the onset of menopause. I felt very PMSy last week, and I should have gotten my period. It hasn’t shown up, but I have the symptoms of an impending visit from Aunt Flow. Add in the fact that I’m still mourning my dog while dealing with Arran, who has a bum foot. I have to take him to the vet again because he somehow cut his paw last week and was licking it so much that it couldn’t heal. He’s had a bandage for the past few days, and has substituted licking his asshole for licking his paw. I’m wondering if maybe he’s upset that Zane is suddenly gone and that’s made him nervous, or if we’re going to have another veterinary drama to attend to. Either way, the sound of a dog constantly licking his ass isn’t exactly peaceful or pleasant.

This video always cheers me up. I am a “bitchy” person today.

I think I’m also feeling a bit burned out on Germany. It’s not because I’m not happy with where we are now. It’s probably more because Germany is not really my home. I can’t even say that I miss the United States much, though. I don’t want to go back there… maybe I just need to visit my relatives and get a reminder as to why I’d rather be over here. But the idea of paying out the nose and being on a plane for hours on end isn’t very appealing, either. Especially since visiting my relatives is a risky proposition.

Bill is going to be away for most of this week. Maybe it’ll be a good thing. He’ll get a break from my irritable self. As it is, he asked me if I need to see a shrink. Yep… it’s a fucking Monday. I think I’ll go annoy myself with another episode of 7th Heaven and remind myself that at least I’m not a guy who made a name for myself playing an annoying minister on a popular TV show, only to be outed as a pervert years later…

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