complaints, politics, rants, stupid people, tragedies, work

You should worry about yourself…

Apologies in advance for this disjointed rant. I have a lot on my mind, and it’s coming out in heaves today. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think that a lot of people who identify with conservative values are actual morons without consciences or souls. It’s probably because, as usual, I’ve spent too much time looking at the news.

A few days ago, I noticed that my former college professor answered a question on Facebook about whether or not she would accept a ticket to see Bill Cosby perform. She answered “no”. Just as I was about to click off the page, I noticed that my cousin responded. This cousin shares a Facebook account with his wife, so I’m not sure which person actually wrote the comment. Friends, I was a bit sickened by it. He or she wrote that Bill Cosby is “past his prime”, but was good in concert back in the day. And Cosby had engaged in some “negativity” some time back, but is otherwise a good entertainer.

I was pretty flabbergasted. So I commented, “You’re referring to dozens of cases of drugging and raping women as ‘negativity’?” I didn’t add this, but I should have also written, “And Cosby ADMITTED to doing this, too. He’s out of prison on a ‘technicality’.”

I can hardly believe I’m related to this guy. Well… actually, I guess I can believe it. I remember overhearing him tell a nasty story to another cousin when I was six years old. He and the other cousin, also male, were several years older than I was. Still, they made it seem like a funny story, so I repeated it to two younger cousins and got in trouble with my aunt, who gave me a tongue lashing I haven’t forgotten. Later, she apologized to me, explaining that her kids were very young and “didn’t know what to do with that”. Um… neither did I! I was six years old! And I had overheard a story being told by my cousin, who apparently thinks Bill Cosby’s habit of drugging and raping women is plain “negativity”! And he’s also a proud Trump supporter, who blithely ignores Trump’s disgusting record of treating other people like shit and, like Cosby, abusing women for his own vile gratification.

This morning, I read an article in The Atlantic from March 2021 about how a lot of relationships haven’t survived the Trump era. I’m sad to say, it’s true in my case, too. There are family members I used to love seeing with whom I no longer have contact. It’s not necessarily my doing, either. A lot of them have cut off contact with me because I think Donald Trump is a poisonous man. Somehow, they fail to see that Trump is a liar, thief, and a cheat, while they bitch and moan about people “abusing” unemployment insurance and welfare benefits. I’ve got news for them. Trump doesn’t pay his fair share. He hires cronies to screw over honest businesspeople while he harasses and molests women. Read Micheal Cohen’s book, Disloyal. Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who spent time in prison due to his business with the former POTUS, writes about how he would strong arm and screw over businesspeople on Trump’s behalf.

Meanwhile, your garden variety Republican is under the delusion that people who are getting unemployment insurance and welfare benefits just stay on those programs forever. Newsflash– they DON’T. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF– also known as “welfare”) is just that– TEMPORARY. And that has been the law since 1997! Granted, state leaders are allowed latitude in how they run TANF, but the program was designed to strongly encourage recipients to look for work or engage in training to prepare them for work. Recipients have to show proof that they are job hunting or getting training in order to receive temporary benefits. And that money is generally not enough to live on for long.

I ran across the above post this morning because another friend had answered the question. My friend answered “no”, he doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t taken a job due to unemployment insurance. He lives in Virginia, where payments are notoriously low. Just under his response was a rant from some guy who said he “knows people” who aren’t working because it will interfere with their housing allowance or “food stamps” (SNAP) eligibility. And then he wrote that there should be “time limits” on aid. I had to respond. As I pointed out, “welfare” does have time limits imposed– it was five years or 60 months (federal guidelines) or less (depending on the state), last time I checked. But so does unemployment insurance. When Bill retired from the Army in 2014, he got unemployment for a month. The money he got was based on what he’d paid into the system, and he had to show that he was applying for jobs. When he got a job offer, he had to return a payment he received, which wasn’t really much money.

I’ve read a lot of comments from conservatives who have bought into the “welfare queen” myth, thanks to a 1970s era story perpetuated by former President Ronald Reagan and like minded folks. They spread a tale about people who took advantage of social safety nets, which caused some people to believe in a stereotype about poor people being lazy and bilking the system. It seems to me that the whole “welfare queen” story was news because it’s not that common. Are there people who game the system? Yes, of course. I ran into a couple of them during my brief time as a social worker. But I doubt most people enjoy using benefits like SNAP cards, especially when busybodies are judging them for what’s in their grocery store buggy and watching how they pay for such items. Also, SNAP cards can’t be used for just anything at the store. Seems to me, most people would rather have the cash to buy things they want and need. Yes, some people are truly lazy, but I don’t think it’s as common as some people claim. Moreover, it’s actually expensive to be poor.

I get wanting to see people working and paying their own way. I understand that it’s distressing to be going to work every day when someone appears to be living off of the system. But what I want to ask these folks is, why is it any of your business? Do you know these so-called welfare cheats and unemployment abusers personally? Are you aware of their story? Do you have knowledge of their characters, or have any idea about their family situations? My guess is that you don’t– because why would you be “friends” with someone you think is a lazy cheat? If you were friends with them, maybe you’d understand more about why it appears that they’re “getting over”. Maybe you’d realize that, in fact, most of them aren’t getting over. Anyone who has ever worked has paid into “the system”, which exists so that people have somewhere to turn when they fall on hard times. The assistance we offer in the United States isn’t really that much, either.

Let me ask you this. If you had a family and were receiving benefits, would you really want to take a job at McDonald’s just so you could be earning your own money? Stop and think about it for a minute. Yes, you’re making your own money, which might be paid to you in debit cards that you have to pay a fee to access. But let’s say the money you make is less than what you’d get from welfare. How long can you afford to work for minimum wage? And why the fuck would you? In that situation, doesn’t it make more sense to get trained for work that pays better, or to search for a job with a higher hourly rate? What if you have children? What do you do with the children when you’re working at McDonald’s, which many people think should strictly be a minimum wage job? Do you pay a babysitter to watch the kids while you work at McDonald’s? How can a person get ahead that way?

I’ve often heard people complaining about folks who drive “nice” cars or have “expensive” cell phones, but turn up at food banks. The people want to know why the nice car driver or cell phone user doesn’t sell their “luxury items” so he or she can buy food. What if the car or the phone was paid for during better times? Why would someone sell their means of transportation or communication, if it’s been paid for? Isn’t it easier to find work if one has transportation or access to WiFi? Especially if the car also serves as shelter? Now, I get that owning a car or a cell phone requires money, and if someone is between jobs for a really long time, selling the car or the phone might make sense. But you probably don’t know that person’s story. Their need for food at a food bank may be very temporary. Why does it matter to you, anyway? You don’t know that person’s story, or the obstacles he or she is facing. You should know your own story, though, and you should worry about yourself.

And finally… yesterday, I read a couple of disturbing news stories about how Republicans are turning COVID “vaccine hesitancy” into outright hostility. Of all of the bullshit I’ve read about conservative “thinking”, I think this has got to be the most ridiculous, tragic, and demented. Why in the holy fuck are COVID vaccines being politicized? My God– this virus has killed millions of people WORLDWIDE! It’s not a fucking political issue! It’s a public health issue! And in areas where people are being vaccinated, the rates of COVID infections are decreasing. The fact that so many Republicans are spewing this bullshit about how vaccines are part of a socialist agenda is just unconscionable. It just isn’t true! But, according to The Washington Post, some Republicans are spewing lots of grade A tough guy bullshit. From the article I linked:

The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump, on a par with assertions that the last election was stolen and the assault on the U.S. Capitol was overblown.

Appearing at CPAC, lawmakers like Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) took aim at Biden’s push for “door-to-door” vaccine outreach, framing efforts to boost inoculations as a creeping menace from big government.

“We’re here to tell government, we don’t want your benefits, we don’t want your welfare, don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie,” Boebert said, referring to Biden’s top medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, her voice rising as she paced the stage and shook her finger. “You leave us the hell alone!”

However, I do take comfort in seeing that Mitt Romney, a man I dreaded seeing run for president, has said that we need to stop politicizing the COVID vaccines. It’s nice to know that not all Republicans are like Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebart. From The New York Times:

“We don’t control conservative media figures so far as I know — at least I don’t,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said in an interview on Wednesday. “That being said, I think it’s an enormous error for anyone to suggest that we shouldn’t be taking vaccines. Look, the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic.

Yes, it’s moronic! I completely agree, Mitt. Things will not get back to any semblance of “normal” until we get COVID-19 better under control. This is why so many people were out of work in the first fucking place! This is why we’re having a problem with inflation, as supply and demand for certain products was interrupted because people couldn’t work. Why? Because of the deadly virus! However, during our unique COVID-19 crisis, people had the time to stop and think about how completely insane the American system is. Now, some of them are demanding some changes. I say, good on them! We should be demanding work that pays enough for people support themselves. We should be demanding access to benefits that makes living healthier and happier for everyone. People should NOT be going into onerous debt because they went to college or had the misfortune of getting sick or hurt. We shouldn’t have multi-billionaires paying workers minimum wage for demeaning work while they make plans to blast off into space as tourists. It’s sheer lunacy, and yes, it’s MORONIC!

I love Amazon… but you gotta admit, the working conditions are insane and, frankly, cruel. Why do we accept this?

Through it all, many Republicans decry abortion. They say that people who have abortions have no regard for the “sanctity of life”. But they don’t want to do anything to help people who have unintended pregnancies. They don’t want employers to have to provide birth control access in health insurance policies. Their answer is to tell people not to have sex, which we all know is a policy that doesn’t work for most (it DID work for me, but my situation isn’t the norm). Tell me… why would you want to bring an innocent baby into a world where he or she can look forward to low pay, high cost of living, onerous debts, shitty employers who treat their workers like robots, deadly viruses that people don’t want to work together to arrest, and old white men in charge who literally don’t give a damn about anything but money and “pussy”? I tell you what. I don’t think the world looks so great right now. We’ve got natural disasters out the wazoo, worldwide– here in Germany, over 50 people have lost their lives because of flooding attributed by global warming, something else conservatives don’t want to talk about or fix.

So yes… I think you should worry about yourselves. Conservatives have made it plain that in today’s world, it’s every person for themselves. They don’t care about you and yours. They sure don’t seem to want to lend a hand toward making the world better for everyone. And, as much as I always wanted to have children of my own, I’m grateful that my particular line of ancestry is going to die with me. It seems to me that many conservatives are interested in money and power, and they haven’t realized that we’re all connected. What good does money do you if there’s nothing to buy because people aren’t working? What good does money do if you can’t find someone to help you clean up after a flood because so many people have died of COVID-19 and the workers who exist are already engaged?

We need to worry about ourselves and have more forbearance toward others– but we also need to realize that we’re all in this together and we could all stand a bit more humanity. So instead of judging the person you think is “getting over”, why not pay attention to your own situation and do your part to make things better? And whatever you do, don’t make excuses for creepy predators and cheats like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. It makes you look like an asshole.

August is wise beyond her years.

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celebrities, obits, politics, racism

Rush Limbaugh is finally dead… shit makes the flowers grow.

A few months ago, my husband lost a “friend” over his “hatred” for Rush Limbaugh. I put quotes around the words “friend” and “hatred”, because I’m being facetious. Anyone who knows Bill knows that he doesn’t hate anyone. He doesn’t even hate his ex wife, who probably deserves his hatred more than anyone on the planet. The point is, my husband isn’t a hater. But he never liked Rush Limbaugh. Neither did I.

Last night, we found out that Rush finally kicked the bucket at age 70. He’d been suffering from lung cancer, having announced his illness in February 2020.

Back in October 2020, Bill was labeled a hater by a former friend because he had noticed that the very organ that had allowed Rush Limbaugh to spread hatred and bigotry toward large groups of marginalized people was also going to be the death of him. Bill had posted his thoughts about Rush’s illness on his Facebook timeline, and some of his friends went freakin’ nuts. One even accused him of being a “bad person” for stating this:

I know what I’m about to say is the result of unskilled thinking, but this appears to be an example of Karmic Justice. The organ used to spew years of hate, vitriol, and self-centeredness will be his undoing.

We weren’t rejoicing in Rush’s illness in October, and we’re not rejoicing in his death now. I don’t generally celebrate when people die, even people I think of as highly contemptible, and worthy of disdain or even outright hatred. I think Rush Limbaugh qualifies as someone who, in life, was highly contemptible. And while I’m not particularly happy that he’s dead, I am relieved that he won’t be spreading his toxic negativity, ignorance, and bigotry anymore. He won’t be saying or writing hurtful things to or about people who aren’t like him and don’t share his opinions.

In the aftermath of Rush’s death, we’ve also seen yet another falsely attributed quote arise from the dead. If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’ve probably seen people sharing this meme.

According to The Atlantic, Mark Twain NEVER SAID THIS.

I know a lot of people like to share these kinds of cute and clever memes, and many people don’t actually care who said it. I care, though, because I like to give credit where credit is due, and I don’t like false attributions. So where did this quote come from? According to the article from The Atlantic I linked above, no one important actually said or wrote it in that precise manner. Alex Eichler, the person who wrote the article for The Atlantic, writes:

Matt Blum at Wired has the fact-check: the quotation actually comes from Clarence Darrow, the lawyer of Scopes Trial fame. Here’s a fuller version of the quote, which appears in Darrow’s 1932 work The Story of My Life:

All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.

Clarence Darrow

I know some people are glad Rush is gone. Some are actually jubilant about it. And I would never tell them they don’t have the right to feel whatever it is they feel. I’m not in a group that Rush openly mocked, unless you want to call me a liberal. I’m not actually that liberal, but I don’t like the way the Republican party has gone in recent years. I think their embrace of both evangelical Christians and Donald Trump is confusing and wrong. And Republicans often say regrettable, heartless things to people who are in trouble and need help.

Case in point. Yesterday, I read about former Colorado City, Texas mayor Tim Boyd, who basically went off on his constituents for begging the government for help. Texas, as you probably know, is in serious trouble right now, thanks to a terrible winter storm that has disrupted the power grid. People are suffering because of power outages. Some people are even dying! They’re either freezing to death, or poisoning themselves with carbon monoxide by doing things like running their cars in closed garages or using barbecue grills indoors to generate heat. But Mr. Boyd, proud Texan conservative he is, had this to say in a poorly written and now deleted Facebook post:

Typical Republican ASSHOLE!

And then he continued with this:

To be clear, I don’t agree with issuing death threats or even so-called “cancel culture”, but what the hell reaction does Tim Boyd expect? He was an elected official and it was his JOB to help his constituents and show some fucking compassion!

I’ll bet Tim Boyd is sad that Rush is dead. I’ll bet Boyd was a Limbaugh fan. I don’t know for certain that he was, but what he posted is the same kind of hateful, mean-spirited shit that Rush Limbaugh was spewing for YEARS on the airwaves. And ignorant, compassion challenged people who are deeply saddened that the raucous voice of their belief system has died don’t seem to understand that Rush hurt a lot of people with his snarky, hateful rhetoric.

This has been a very difficult year for so many people– from the deaths and illnesses caused by the pandemic, to the many natural disasters, to the massive job losses, and complete upending of of normal life for everyone. It’s really sucked on many levels. And so, when an elected official like Tim Boyd mocks and lectures people for their valid complaints, it stings a bit. Rush Limbaugh was of the same ilk, and people like Tim Boyd looked up to him. He had no compunction about saying awful things to and about anyone, especially people who have historically suffered and been marginalized by privileged people.

Seriously…

Let me remind Rush’s supporters of a few things. Rush Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox for having Parkinson’s Disease and accused him of exaggerating his symptoms. Rush Limbaugh called women “sluts”, and referred to Barack Obama as the “magic negro”. And he wouldn’t have thought much of me, either…

Bwahahaha… maybe he wouldn’t have thought of me as “overeducated”. But I don’t think that Rush was a very good judge of intelligence.

Anyway… I’m not glad Rush is dead. I don’t care enough about him to rejoice in his death. Besides, everybody has to die sometime. It was simply his time to go. I’m not going to celebrate his death. But I’m also not going to shame or blame anyone who is glad to see him gone. I figure they have their reasons, and many of those reasons, while perhaps hypocritical, are understandable. We all have our own karma to tend.

Bye now.. enjoy the next life..

In other news, our heating went out last night. It’s not as bad here as it is in Texas, but I am a bit chilled. Hopefully, the landlord will have it fixed soon, so my hands, feet, and nose won’t be so cold. And Bill has to go away for three weeks next Saturday. Hopefully, he won’t bring any COVID-19 viruses back with him. Otherwise, people might be cheering about my death.

So long, Rush… You served a purpose and now your work is done. And, as Folk Uke reminds us, even shit has a purpose.

“You’re not good for nothin’…”
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modern problems, politicians, politics, Trump

Impeachment trial #2…

There are many advantages to living in Europe. One of the biggest advantages is that I can watch things affecting the United States from afar. A lot of what I’ve seen regarding the past few years has been pretty heartbreaking. Like, right now, I’m listening to a video of a woman who spoke to CNN about how she “escaped” QAnon when Joe Biden was inaugurated.

This lady was “devastated” when Biden was inaugurated… but now knows she fell into a conspiracy theory.

South Carolina mom, Ashley Vanderbilt, explains that she was raised to do as everyone else said and did. She was told she was a Republican when she was growing up, so she’s always voted “red” without a second thought. I know how she feels. I grew up similarly. My whole family was Republican and I grew up in a Republican community. I didn’t care about politics, so I didn’t follow the news much. It wasn’t until I was older and left the United States that I started changing my political views.

I suspect that Ashley Vanderbilt is a perfectly nice person who was complacent about who was leading the country. But now that Trump is out of office and Biden’s inauguration hasn’t immediately led to a dystopian socialist nightmare, she realizes she was duped. She says she feels “foolish”. I’d say she’s one of the lucky ones. So many people are still mired in Trump foolishness, and they don’t understand that QAnon is a bunch of bullshit. And they see the attack on the Capitol last month as perfectly fine… it’s akin to the Boston Tea Party to them.

I haven’t been following the impeachment trial religiously. It’s hard to do that when you’re six hours ahead. I did, however, watch a video this morning that was shown to Congress as the second impeachment trial against Trump commenced. I don’t understand how any sane, rational person can support what happened. It’s just horrific.

This is just insane.

The sad thing is, many lawmakers will ignore this footage. They will vote against convicting Trump because they don’t want to break away from Republican Party lines. What exactly does Trump have to do before people realize how incredibly toxic he is? How do otherwise decent people excuse this? If you manage to watch this video, you will see and hear people calling police officers “faggots” as they repeatedly say, “Fuck you!” to them and use American flags to break the glass windows of the Capitol building. You will see Ashli Babbitt trying to penetrate the Capitol through a broken window and get shot for her efforts. Is this the kind of future we want? If Trump is excused– and he probably WILL be– we will send a message that a lame duck president can pull this kind of shit and get away with it.

It depresses me that we have so many people in leadership positions who literally don’t care about anything more than their “job security” as politicians. It’s sad to me that Donald Trump can have two bumbling attorneys represent him– two lawyers that Trump is said to be deeply unhappy with, by the way— and they can do a mediocre job of making their points and still win. Why? Because nothing said or shown to some of the people charged with protecting the country is going to sway them from “protecting” Donald Trump for the sake of the hijacked Republican Party (which is nothing like my father’s Republican Party was). I find it deeply disturbing and very sad that he probably won’t be held accountable.

There is a chance I’m wrong. I hope I am wrong. It’s hard to let myself think positively, even though Biden won last year when I didn’t know for sure that he would. You’d think that more people in the United States would see how bad Trump is. But no… I think a lot of them are like Ashley Vanderbilt. Perfectly nice, but uneducated, uninformed, and uninterested… and voting red because that’s what everyone in their families and communities does. If you don’t go with the crowd, they will turn on you.

This isn’t to say that this kind of thing isn’t also a problem on the blue side, either. I’ve seen it and ranted about it more than once. We talk a lot about freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but when it comes down to it, there’s great pressure not to say or think the “wrong” thing. And precious few of us are listening to anyone, anyway.

Sometimes, I wonder if the many people who have died over the past year are the lucky ones. They no longer have to think about this, or worry about what will come in the future. Even the heady news of new COVID-19 vaccines has been more sobering lately, as new mutations of the virus resist the vaccine. I’m wondering what the future holds, and if it’s even worth hanging around for it. Germany is probably going to stay locked down until March 1… and I won’t be the least bit surprised if the lockdown continues through the spring. And even when things open again, will I even care about going out or doing anything? Is this living?

Well… I’m sure more news will come out about the impeachment trial. I do hope it will be successful. Trump’s successor is bound to be more refined and cunning. You can bet he or she is waiting in the wings. We have to do something to set a precedent against his kind being allowed back into power. And we have to focus on making the world a place we want to stay in.

I do find a glimmer of hope when I hear people like Ashley Vanderbilt speak, though. She managed to find her way out of the rabbit hole and join us in reality. There must be more people like her. I sure hope there are.

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business, complaints, money

It’s really not that simple, cuz– or, my husband invested in me and it paid off.

Yesterday, I ran across the below political cartoon. It was shared by my very conservative cousin from Georgia. Actually, he’s from Virginia like I am, but he’s lived in Georgia for decades. Anyway…

This is a rather simplistic cartoon. I was tempted to leave him a comment, but decided not to, since his sister is being memorialized today.

Full disclosure. I have actually paid off my student loans. They were paid off about nine years early, back in 2018. I was originally scheduled to be finished to be finished paying in 2027. I made paying the student loans off a priority, and I am fortunate enough to be married to an extremely kind, generous, and cooperative man who was alright with helping me (a whole lot) in my quest to lose this obligation that hung over my head for so many years.

My mother had saved some money for me to attend Longwood University (then Longwood College), and I also worked during the summers. I still left my undergraduate career with Stafford loans, some subsidized and some unsubsidized. I think I borrowed about $10-$12K, but I’m not altogether sure of the total amount. I remember my parents were thrilled when I got the financial aid during my junior year. It was, and still is, a state supported school, but the price of attending rose significantly when I was attending in the 1990s. That school is also in a rural part of Virginia, where jobs in town were relatively scarce, and employers didn’t want to hire people who weren’t staying there year round. I didn’t qualify for enough work study to make that a viable option for me at the college.

Nevertheless, when it was time to graduate, I attended the mandatory video session during which I was reminded that I had taken out loans and they would need to be repaid. And after graduation, I paid every month on time and in full, although again, it was with help from others that I was able to do that. I was lucky enough to be living at home rent free.

After my first year post graduation, I joined the Peace Corps. In those days, it was possible to defer student loans. I did defer, but also arranged to send $30 per month of my readjustment allowance (then about $200 a month, I think) to defray the cost of interest on the unsubsidized loans. When I finished my service, I worked for a couple of years and paid on my loans– I think it was about $125 a month.

Two years after I came home from Armenia, I decided to attend graduate school. Because I would be going to graduate school, I was again able to defer my student loans. I was also able to take out more loans, which I did. Although I attended the University of South Carolina, which was out of state for me, after my first semester, I was able to land a job as a graduate assistant at South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). That gig didn’t pay well, but it did reduce my tuition to about 20% of the IN STATE rate– a HUGE savings. I also had a part time job on weekends and some evenings. Still, I needed loans, and when all was said and done, I graduated with two more degrees and five figures of debt, courtesy of my Stafford and Perkins loans.

About two months after I graduated from the University of South Carolina, I decided to consolidate my loans. Doing that took me out of my “grace” period, but locked in a 3.75% interest rate. I’m not sure what today’s rates are, but I bet they aren’t that low. I’ll also bet that today’s students, particularly during the pandemic, don’t have as much ease in finding well paying jobs, which even twenty years ago wasn’t that easy. Anyway, when all was said and done, I had borrowed $57,000 for all of my education– that’s for all three degrees. Even in the early 00s, that wasn’t too bad for all I managed to get. But it was still a lot of money for me. I wasn’t sure how I would repay it, even though I had fully intended and expected to find a good job.

Well… as you can see, I didn’t set any records on fire in the employment world. As I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, I was very fortunate in that I met and married Bill, who is an unusually empathetic and cooperative person. And once we were married, he was willing to help me pay for my loans. I started off paying $180 a month, which pretty much only covered interest and a tiny amount of the principal. At the time, we didn’t have much extra money because Bill was paying child support for three children and recovering from the financial disasters wrought during his first marriage. I was also trying to find work, but was unsuccessful.

I paid that same paltry amount for five years, until Bill went to Iraq and got a temporary salary boost. While he was deployed to Iraq, I used the extra money to pay off his credit cards in full. I also started paying extra toward my student loans. It wasn’t much at first– just $20 a month. Within six months, I was a full payment ahead. Slowly but surely, I added more money to the extra I was paying. It got to the point at which I started getting letters from my creditor telling me I didn’t need to pay. But I kept paying more and more until I was years ahead of schedule. And in 2018, when I was down to owing about $2000, I paid it off in one fell swoop. Put this in perspective– even after years of paying more toward my loans than I had to, when we moved to Germany in 2014, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. By 2018, I owed nothing.

It seems crazy that I was able to do this. Looking back on it, it seems highly unlikely that I could have, if things had been any different than they were. If I hadn’t married Bill (who had a pretty checkered financial history– common sense should have told me not to marry him– in this case, I’m glad my heart won over my brain)… If I had had children (expensive even if they’re completely healthy)… If we had gone through infertility treatment or pursued adoption… If my parents hadn’t been self-sufficient… If we hadn’t stayed healthy… If Bill hadn’t been able to stay well-employed… If we’d had huge legal fees due to Bill’s ex wife and kids… If we had bought a home… If I had gone to a more expensive school… If I had dropped out or took longer than scheduled… If I had had a higher interest rate… If I had borrowed from private lenders… I also made a determination that I would pay off those student loans first, because they can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy and I didn’t want to have them hanging over my head if disaster struck.

Everybody’s situation is different. Yes, paying back loans is an obligation. However, I think today’s students have gotten a pretty raw deal. For one thing, even if a person chooses to attend a state supported college, states are not contributing as much money to higher education as they once did. That’s been the case for years. I remember one year when I was still at UofSC, tuition went up 15% because the state didn’t contribute as much. Tuition never seems to go down, either. For another thing, college has been vastly oversold, making degrees less valuable than they might have been. Not everyone should attend college. Some people aren’t ready to go. Some people aren’t academically inclined and should pursue a field that is more technical. But college should not just be reserved for the privileged who are lucky enough to be able to afford it due to the circumstances of their birth. It should be a place where academically talented people can go to build their skills in whatever field they want to pursue.

One of the comments I noticed on my cousin’s post was about how some degrees are “worthless”. It always bothers me when people scoff at any academic field. Maybe you don’t think a degree in women’s studies is useful, but it’s useful enough that people who have studied it have been able to get jobs teaching it, researching it, writing books about it, or even making fun of it. I know many people think the arts are “worthless” pursuits. I heartily disagree with that. I was friends with many music majors when I was in school. They were among some of the most talented, hardworking people I knew in college. They had to be hard workers, since they took so many one credit courses that met three times a week. Moreover, the arts make the world a better place to be. And ditto to those who think English is a worthless degree. Being able to write, think critically, read carefully, and speak the language coherently are vital skills that are lacking in many people. If you don’t believe me, hang out on social media for awhile.

I also think people should be careful when they dismiss the pursuit of certain occupations as a waste of time. Everyone is unique, and we all have different skills and talents. One could argue with me that I should have studied accounting because it’s a well-paying field. But I am not good with numbers and I’m not particularly detail oriented. I would have struggled in an accounting degree program and probably would have hated the job. That would have made me a mediocre and probably unsuccessful accountant. And that would also make me a lot less employable. I am, however, really good at music and writing. I would stand a much better chance of being gainfully and successfully employed in jobs that use those skills and talents, even if there aren’t as many lucrative jobs. The world doesn’t need any more shitty accountants. And maybe the world doesn’t any more writers or singers… but at least I do those things reasonably well and enjoy the work. Those skills and the personal qualities affiliated with them can also transfer to other jobs.

I will agree, however, that too many people choose to go to college when it’s not a suitable choice for them. And there are cheaper ways to get a degree, too. A lot of people are overly concerned about going to “prestigious” schools, when a state supported school or even community college would suit them fine. Lots of people get college education through the military. That’s what Bill did– all three of his degrees came from private schools and were mostly paid for through scholarships and his G.I. Bill. He even has some money left of his G.I. Bill. These are topics that are worth discussing, especially with people still in high school. BUT– I also think the government should take steps to reduce the cost of college and relieve some of the debt burdens on young people.

I am 48 years old. I finished paying student loans in 2018. I expected to be paying until I was in my 50s. I don’t have any children. One of my parents is dead, but the other is in her 80s. She is, thankfully, reasonably healthy and very self-sufficient, and I also have sisters. But what if I was having to pay my loans, support children, and pay for a nursing home for my mom? What if I also had a mortgage to pay? What if I also had a chronic health issue that wasn’t covered by health insurance? What if I didn’t have health insurance? Or… what if I had a financial setback that led to being late on a bunch of bills? When Bill and I first got married, he was recovering from foreclosure and bankruptcy brought on by his ex wife’s irresponsible spending and his failure to take control of his finances. It took years of effort to climb out of that hole. It took a lot of work. Fortunately, we weren’t distracted by the misfortunes that befall so many people. We were VERY lucky. I was especially lucky. I hit the husband lottery.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that it’s not as simple as borrowing money and paying it back. Yes, I agree that repaying loans is a responsibility. But the cost of education should not be so heavy that young people are saddled with debts that make it difficult or impossible for them to ever get out from under the burden. And we need to do a better job of teaching young people about alternatives to college and encouraging them to take them. There should be no stigma toward those who choose a different path.

This morning, as Bill and I were talking about this, I looked at our investments, which I started doing on a very small scale back in 2012. I think I initially invested about $1000. Well, that amount has grown almost 50 times– before long, we will have investments that will total in value as much as that initial consolidated loan was in 2002. Without me, Bill wouldn’t have that money, because it never occurred to him to invest. He knew nothing about it and had neither the time nor inclination to learn. So I like to think of that as paying him back somehow… although he says that having me around is payment enough. See? I hit the husband jackpot! 😉 Perhaps I should think of it as Bill investing in me and getting a return.

P.S.– I made another song…

This is dedicated to the three relatives who are gone… and those who have been kind enough to help us grieve.

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politics, social media

Social media can reveal a lot about a person…

A couple of days ago, I wrote about my former relative, who wrote that she thinks people should be replying “Trump 2020” on every Facebook post. I’m not sure where she got the idea for that. It seems to me like a very good way to lose friends. But anyway, even though we haven’t “talked” in ages, I was kind of curious about where her newfound spirit for social media activism came from. I decided to visit her page, and found this…

When I see this kind of stuff on a person’s page, I figure the stupid is very strong… and I know that they worship Donald Trump.

This seems to be a rather tone deaf response to all that is going on lately. Why would someone post something like this publicly? Even if what this says is technically true– and I’m not implying that it is— it doesn’t seem to reflect the attitude of certain white Republicans today. For example, it came out in the news that Derick Chauvin, the guy who killed a handcuffed George Floyd by choking the air out of him while pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck, was recently accused of voter fraud. Chauvin owns property in Florida, but has been living in Minnesota. Nevertheless, he reportedly voted illegally in Florida in 2016 and 2018. And, guess what party Mr. Chauvin is a registered member of? That’s right– the Republicans! And this is the same party that does not support mail in ballots, for fear of “voter fraud”.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I used to know this woman offline. In fact, for the first years of our relationship, our dealings were entirely in person. Most of the time, she was basically nice to me, except for the times she backhandedly insulted me. I never saw the “racist” side of her personality, though, before I interacted with her on Facebook. Maybe it’s because I also never saw it in my relatives until somewhat recently. It’s kind of sad what social media can reveal about a person. In some ways, it’s less personal than face to face interactions, but in other ways, it’s not. I think, after reading the above post and the many others she’s written since she posted “Trump 2020” on my page, she’s revealed some rather ugly truths about how she feels about people of color and those who don’t vote the way she does. She’s certainly not as “nice” as I once thought she was, and has joined the ranks of people who are obvious Trump supporters– people that Trump himself would never deign to give the time of day to, according to his long time (but now probably former) friend, Howard Stern.

Who are obvious Trump supporters? They’re the ones posting memes like the one with which I started today’s post. They’re the people who do things like drive their cars into crowds of protesters and lead Ku Klux Klan groups. Are all Republicans like this? No, of course not. Some Republicans are basically intelligent and decent people. They vote Republican, and let other people vote the way they want to vote. I think there’s a difference between Republicans and Trump supporters, too. Some Republicans– even prominent ones– are wisely turning on Donald Trump. But a whole lot of Trump supporters are embarrassingly out of touch with basic decency, so much so, that when I read a news story about someone doing something incredibly stupid, I can almost always correctly assume what political party, and more importantly, which prominent politician they support.

Last year, when we were blissfully ignorant of the oncoming pandemic and racial riots, I posted about two guys who got arrested because they got drunk and shot each other while wearing a bullet proof vest. One of the men was injured during this stunt and went to a hospital. Staff members called the police, and after they managed to get the guy to tell the truth about how he got injured, he and his friend were charged with aggravated assault. I wrote a post about it, and commented that I bet I knew which candidate they supported in the 2016 elections. One of my Republican friends commented on the post. It caught the attention of one of her more outspoken and less civilized friends, who then chose to take me to task.

My conservative friend’s friend visited my Overeducated Housewife Facebook page and bitched me out because I wrote in that post that I could tell the guys were Trump supporters. I ended up writing another post in the Facebook poster’s honor. He couldn’t understand how I made the “leap of logic” that Trump is to “blame” for the actions of these two gentlemen in Arkansas who decided to handle firearms while drinking. Trump wasn’t to blame for what those guys did, and that wasn’t my point. My point is that a certain type of person is charmed by Donald Trump, and it’s obvious by their behavior which way they vote. The Republican party is, for sure, very different now than it was when I was younger. It’s been co-opted by religious zealots, greedy people, and racists. There are still some old school Republicans out there who are not like Trump and his ilk and want to take back their party. But unfortunately, they’re being drowned out and lumped in with the monster they created in Trump.

But just to give Trump supporters a break, I will also mention that liberals have their issues, too. I can understand why some Republicans are not impressed by Democrats. It gets tiresome to read preachy, sanctimonious, shaming posts about racism, face mask wearing, white privilege, and other social issues. People love to get on a soapbox. I’m no different, although I mostly try to keep my preaching confined to my blog. I don’t agree with all liberal ideas, and I certainly cringe a bit myself when someone posts something that presumes to tell me how I should feel or behave. People probably mean well when they post that stuff, but when it comes down to it, it usually has more to do with making themselves feel better than actually effecting change.

It’s kind of like what happened ten years ago, when my older sister tried to manipulate me into driving to North Carolina from Georgia. At the time, my dad was hospitalized. She couldn’t make it to see him in the hospital herself because she lives in Minnesota and couldn’t afford the air fare or time off work. When I demurred about her proposal, having just spoken to our mom and been told not to visit, my sister tried to lay a big fat guilt trip on me by becoming extremely bitchy and accusatory (which, by the way, is NOT a good tactic to use on me). I surmised that she was doing this because she couldn’t/wouldn’t come visit my dad. She felt badly about it. Since she was feeling guilty, she figured she could nag me into visiting instead and do what she felt she should be doing, not considering that maybe I had other things to do or our mom might not want me to come.

I finally had to firmly tell her that I would not be jumping in the car and driving up to see my dad on her say so. Instead, I would speak to our mom and find out what would be most helpful for her. That’s what I did. It turned out my dad was going to be moved to Virginia anyway, so a visit to North Carolina was not a good idea. Mom wanted me to go pick up a piano that was in the house she was selling. I did that, then visited my parents in Virginia. My sister was “happy” that I’d made that concession and said she wanted me to tell her how our parents were. But the reality was, she didn’t actually care. She just felt guilty and thought that by nagging me to change my behavior, she would feel better about her own shortcomings. That’s what I feel like many of the guilt mongering/shaming posts are about– making people feel better about themselves by pointing fingers at those who happen to read their posts on social media.

I’ve seen many annoying posts from people on both sides of the political spectrum, although I have gotten rid of most of the egregious Trump fans. Every time I see a preachy post from someone reminding me to “check my privilege”, I cringe a bit inside. It’s not that we shouldn’t be “checking our privilege”. It’s more that I don’t think a person’s behavior will necessarily be changed by a Facebook post that has been passed around like a stale plate of hors d’ouerves. Could a person be inspired to change their behavior by a Facebook post? Maybe. But the ones that tend to stick with me are the ones someone took the time to write personally, not something that was just liked and shared. Most of the preachy posts– including the ones suggested by my former relative who is posting “Trump 2020” on everything– are meaningless virtue signaling posts. At best, they are very annoying. At worst, they show everyone who you really are deep down inside. It’s not always a pretty picture.

Social media has really changed how people communicate. I suspect Facebook was originally supposed to be fun– a place for friends and family to get together and stay in touch when they couldn’t be together in person. Now it’s also become a place for people to preach at others, get into fights, and share news, some of which is “fake”. I remember hesitating to join Facebook back in 2008. I was finally convinced by a former friend. Seems kind of appropos that we’re not friends anymore, doesn’t it? Social media is, in some ways, a lot less intimate than in person communications… but in other ways, it reveals a lot more about a person than they might realize. If not for Facebook, there’s a good chance I would still consider my ex friend a friend and my former relative a relative.

Well… pardon me if anyone finds today’s post preachy and obnoxious. I truly don’t mean to be that way, even though I know I am sometimes. I figure most people who are adults don’t need me to tell them what to do, anyway. I’ve mostly taken to not commenting on people’s controversial stuff now because the few times I have, strangers to me– friends of friends– jump down my throat. Life is unpleasant enough right now, and I don’t enjoy being deep throated by strangers, so I mostly stick to writing this blog… and some readers think I’m stupid for that, too. But they still come back for more. Imagine that!

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