Back in 2004 or so, there was a show that used to air on ABC Family, or a similar network, that I used to watch on occasion. It was a “feel good” show called Home Delivery. The show’s formula was basically about people with hard luck stories having their dreams come true. The show featured several attractive hosts who would be there to present the fairy godmother treatment to the lucky person with a compelling sob story. I remember Home Delivery to be kind of an annoying and cloying show that appealed to hitting people in the feels. I would watch it because, frankly, I didn’t have anything better to do.
I remember one episode was about a young woman who had “severe appearance deficits”, as George Carlin might have joked. I don’t remember what the exact issues with her physical appearance were, but they were obvious and she dealt with a lot of mean behavior from others because of it. I think they may have been caused by a medical problem. In any case, I remember she loved the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” by country singer Mark Wills. I had never heard the song before I watched that episode, but I remembered Wills’ song, “I Do (Cherish You)” from a wedding at which I performed (not that song– it was played at the reception). Alas, the marriage didn’t last, and the bride has since wed twice more, though I did catch her bouquet and was married myself a couple of years later.
I am one of those folks people love to laugh at, which is probably why I have such a wicked looking resting bitch face. I’ve spent many years being ridiculed, particularly by so-called loved ones. I think that may be why I developed a sharp wit… or so people have told me, anyway. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t very quick with my words. I have an older sister who used to make me cry all the time because she would belittle me. This sister, like several others in my family, is also very witty and funny, although I think she has a tendency to be kind of mean. One time, when we were on somewhat good terms, I asked her how she got to be so quick with put downs. She told me that she’d learned from an early age to cut people down before they cut her down. It got to the point at which she would slay people with a clever barb before they knew what hit them.
I noticed that another one of my sisters also has this trait. She can be deadly with her words when she wants to be, although I don’t think she’s quite as quick witted as my other sister is. The eldest sister is above everything and not particularly funny… except for the rumor that she’s somehow morphed into a Trump supporter. I feel like she’s a victim of body snatchers! This sister, like me, was a Peace Corps Volunteer. She also has a doctorate in public health, speaks several languages, and was a ballerina for years. But she’s drunk the Republican Kool-Aid. I feel like we switched places. I used to be more conservative and she was more liberal. Now, the opposite is true. I blame my brother-in-law.
That song by Mark Wills popped into my head last night. I was reading a story about how over the past COVID-19 year, people have become extremely unruly on airplanes. I think I read that in the ten years prior to the pandemic, the FAA had dealt with some 1300 complaints total. And over the past year, with the new rules and face mask mandates, there’s been a lot of rebellion. According to that article, they’ve had 1300 complaints and counting– just since FEBRUARY.
As usual, commenters were all clamoring about how we should show no mercy to the rule flouters. Throw the book at them and toss ’em in jail! Zero tolerance! Let ’em rot with the child molesters and murderers! I understand the outrage and the sentiment, but I wish people would stop for a moment and think about what they’re suggesting.
I happen to believe that jail is an overrated punishment that is mostly ineffective at best. So I commented something along the lines of “Jail isn’t the best punishment for every crime.” That’s all I wrote. I didn’t write anything about not punishing offenders. I didn’t even express any sympathy for the rule breakers, although I can kind of understand why some of them cracked. I just wrote that I don’t think putting people in jail is the best way to handle the problem.
Do you know that at last count (because I quit looking), there were at least five laughing responses to my comment? I don’t know what was so funny about it. It was a simple statement, and like I said, it’s not like I expressed a wish for the misbehaving people not to be held accountable. I just think putting people in jail for every single offense is wrong-headed and does more harm than good, particularly in a pandemic. And, perhaps because I’m extremely irritable and stressed out right now, I lashed back at a few people who decided they needed to school me with lengthy diatribes about why we can’t let the rule breakers “run roughshod”.
The first response I got was a comment about how we should just execute people so they won’t reoffend. That response was stupid, and I said so (note– I didn’t “laugh” at the guy or call HIM stupid). The next two were from women who both kind of gave off an extremely shrill and neurotic vibe. I wanted to tell them to calm down and hear me out, rather than “laughing” at me and verbally vomiting the same tired script we’ve been hearing all year about how to deal with pandemic rule breakers.
To the first commenter, I wrote that I never said we should let the rule breakers go unpunished. I said that jail isn’t the most effective way to deal with people who break the rules. The lady had said the rule flouters would “learn a lesson”, but I think if she did her research about recidivism, she’d find that a lot of people who go to jail end up reoffending. Moreover, jail sentences don’t just affect the offender. They can have a bad effect on society as a whole. Locking up people costs money to taxpayers, and makes it more difficult for the offender to support themselves and their families. A jail experience can have a devastating psychological or even physical effect on a person… or it can have no effect at all. Again, plenty of people who do time end up going back to jail.
To the second one, whose fingers pretty much vomited out the same shrill diatribe as the first commenter’s, I wrote something along the lines of “Americans are much too wedded to the idea that we have to jail everyone who does something wrong. Consequently, we have many, many incarcerated people who are being guarded by folks who, frankly, often aren’t a lot better than they are.” Then I added that it seems to me that if controlling the pandemic is a concern, locking potentially unvaccinated people up in a crowded jail is not the best approach to fixing the problem. Then I added a comment about how it’s sad that people “laugh” at anyone who isn’t parroting the same crap in the comment sections, rather than taking a moment to consider if what they’ve said makes any sense. I ended by wishing them all a good day. A couple of people “liked” that comment.
I don’t know… maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the vast majority of people aren’t thinkers. People have a knee jerk response to so many issues. Someone does something wrong? JAIL THEM! Lock ’em up and throw away the key! Let ’em ROT! To be sure, prisons and jails do serve a purpose. I think they are mostly valuable for keeping society safe from dangerous offenders, although some people who commit egregious, but non-violent, crimes probably should go to prison, too. But not everyone needs to be locked up to be taught a valuable lesson. Maybe it’s my time living in Europe that has made me feel this way, but I really do think Americans are way too enamored with the idea of throwing people away in barred warehouses. It’s sad, ineffective, and inhumane.
Empathy is a two way street. You can’t expect people to have empathy for your situation if your rabid response to them, and their concerns, is to simply lock them up and hope they rot in prison. Jail is not necessarily the best place for people to learn empathy… although I suppose it can and does happen sometimes.
Why are so many people freaking out now, because of the “strip of cloth” they are being asked to wear across their nose and mouth? Well… I think it’s because a lot of them are tired of being told that the “strip of cloth” is not a big deal. Clearly, it IS a big deal to a lot of people. Folks who would have never caused a problem on an airplane prior to the year 2020 are now acting crazy, rebelling, assaulting and cursing at flight attendants, and behaving completely out of character. I think it’s time that we acknowledged that forcing people to wear face masks for hours on end is a problem, and it’s not a sustainable practice. A more acceptable solution must be found and implemented, or these kinds of outbursts will continue. The FAA can keep fining and banning people for life from airplanes, and we can keep throwing the offenders in jail, but eventually that will cost the airline industry, and society as a whole, money that we can’t really afford to lose. Moreover, the job of enforcing the mask wearing will continue to suck and airlines will have trouble finding people to work on their planes.
I’ve found that trying to explain this concept to people is very difficult. I generally don’t try to do that in comment sections anymore, because people have become very rigid in their thinking. And they are quick to “laugh” at anyone who thinks or dares to say anything different. People will dismiss anyone who has empathy for the “anti-maskers” as crybabies, COVIDiots, spoiled brats, irresponsible and selfish, Trump supporters, or science deniers. Speaking only for myself, I can assure you that I’m none of those things. I got my first vaccine last week, and I wear the mask when I must. I will also confess that a year ago, I was afraid the masks were going to become permanent, but this year, my gut feeling is that most people plan to ditch them as soon as they can. That makes me feel somewhat better and more hopeful about the future.
Even Dr. Fauci has said that the masks could become less of a thing soon. He has said that as more people get vaccinated, we should become more liberal about indoor mask wearing. Some people may choose to wear them, and that should be perfectly fine, but the mandates forcing people to wear them will be lifted. Frankly, I believe that once that happens, the FAA will have far fewer issues with passengers attacking flight attendants on airplanes. Instead, they’ll just go back to attacking each other over reclining their seats and being too fat for economy class.
Of course… if someone gets on a plane and does something violent or genuinely puts people’s lives at risk by being disruptive, then yes; by all means, they probably should do some time behind bars. But I don’t think a “zero tolerance– straight to jail” policy is necessarily the best approach to handling every incident or altercation on an airplane. Because, as I mentioned earlier in this post, since February, the FAA has gotten over 1300 complaints about unruly passengers. We have a lot of jail and prison facilities in the United States, but at the rate people seem to want to lock people up, we’re sure to run out of space eventually.
Now… getting back to the title of this post– “don’t laugh at me”. Why was I so annoyed by the “laughing emojis”? Part of it is because, on the whole, I’m generally upset about life right now. But the laughing at me thing has been an issue my whole life. I’m the youngest of four by a lot of years, and my whole life, people have scoffed at me, laughed at me, underestimated me, not taken me seriously, and basically treated me like I’m stupid. Sometimes, I can use that perception to my advantage, but if I’m honest, it gets really old when people feel the need to resort to ridicule and insults. I’m tired of it, and have reached a point at which I’m not willing to tolerate it anymore.
There was a time when I was much more likely to take the blame in a situation in which someone mistreated me. Like, if someone chastised, ridiculed, or humiliated me, I would just feel shame and blame myself. But now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that anyone who resorts to making other people feel bad by being rude or mean to them is the one with the problem, especially if they are a perfect stranger.
Some months ago, a YouTube acquaintance/collaborator I had once respected “yelled” at me because I commented on his video in a way that he didn’t expect or appreciate. He had wanted me to simply praise his video. My comment was short, and had nothing to do with the music in his video, but was more about world events. He proceeded to go “off” on me publicly, lecturing me about the genius of Paul Simon (seriously?) and that I shouldn’t post anything on his videos that wasn’t strictly about the video or the music. I took that to mean that he only wanted positive feedback, which he would then reciprocate with a rubber stamp comment on my videos. Wow. Don’t do me any favors.
I didn’t realize that he’d had this policy. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have posted anything. Or maybe I would have just posted, “Nice job.” or something equally banal. I mistook him for a friend, though, so I didn’t simply praise him. I didn’t insult him, nor did I write anything that was extremely offensive. He’d played “American Tune” and my comment was that America wasn’t looking that great lately. My former acquaintance, who is from Scotland, took that to be a political comment, although I didn’t mention a word about politics. He ripped me a new one. I considered responding, but decided that this was the last straw in a disturbing trend. So I deleted my comment and unsubscribed from his channel. I also temporarily hid the recordings we’d done together and stopped featuring one of our duets, because I wanted to take a few days to process his response to me. They have since been restored. I figure if he wants me to take them down, he can ask.
Do you know what this guy did? He came to my channel and took the time to delete every single comment he’d ever left for me over a span of about seven or eight years. That just told me that my initial response to his public ass ripping comment was the right one. Obviously, he’s an asshole and not worth my time. He probably felt I should be grateful to him for sharing his “genius” with me on our collaborations, but actually, I feel grateful because his shitty behavior only prompted me to learn how to play guitar with more urgency. Because I don’t want to remain in a situation where I feel like I have to be nice to someone so they’ll do me a favor. The truth is, I’d overlooked some of his prior bad behavior because I enjoyed making our collaborations. We like similar music and our voices work well together. But he obviously doesn’t respect me and, I think, was either jealous or using me on some level. I should thank him, too, because last month I posted my first two videos in which I played guitar FOR MYSELF. 😀
This doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than he is, by the way. He is a more skilled musician than I am, by far. I think he’s the type of person who doesn’t want to share the credit. He’d suggest collaborations. We’d do them. I’d post them on my channel, but I noticed that he only posted ONE of our collaborations on his channel. And that collaboration got a lot of positive comments, which he brought up repeatedly in emails to me. I think if I had sucked, he wouldn’t have offered to do more collaborations. I think the truth is, we didn’t suck, but he didn’t want to share the wealth. For some reason, he felt perfectly fine in just publicly ripping on me. I didn’t retaliate by ripping on him in kind, because it was his channel and I respect his right to run it the way he wants (although he didn’t reciprocate in that instance, either). But I did vote with my feet. Obviously, my reaction to his public belittling hit a raw nerve for him to be so petty. I’m sure he’ll find someone else to sing with, while I continue to improve my guitar playing.
Last night, I asked my friends on Facebook if I was really “that funny”. It seems like everybody is laughing at me. A number of people responded. I was kind of surprised by that, since it was meant to be a general and rhetorical statement of irritation rather than a serious question. I was heartened to read some kind responses from people I think are real friends. Many of them are people I have known offline, but a couple are people who only know me from the Internet. I will say that those who took the question seriously are high value people worth my consideration and time. Those who just “laugh” at others… not so much. However, I reserve the right to laugh at people who still champion Donald Trump.