ethics, healthcare, law, modern problems, poor judgment

Medical freedom… or medical freedumb?

Today I reposted a 2017 era article from my original Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife blog. That post was written in a time of blissful ignorance of what awaited the world just three years later. In 2017, I was inspired by reading about young people who were critically ill and forced to accept medical care decisions thrust upon them by older people. Most of the cases of the youngsters in that post suffered from cancers of some kind, but a couple of them had other medical problems.

In several cases, the young patients’ parents were religious or wanted to try a more “natural” approach to healthcare. The parents were taken to task by medical professionals who wanted to override their decisions. In one case, the patient was a 17 year old young man who was deemed mature. He didn’t like the chemotherapy that was prescribed to treat his Hodgkin’s Disease, so he tried to refuse it. Doctors sought to force submission by legal means. In the end, the young man’s case was the inspiration for “Abraham’s Law” in Virginia, which allows older teenagers and their parents to refuse medical care or choose alternative therapies.

It amazes me now to read about these controversial cases involving young people, especially given that COVID-19 wasn’t on the radar at the time. Nowadays, the term “medical freedom” is a hot topic, as people fight over whether or not vaccinations against the coronavirus should be mandatory for all who can safely take it. On one hand, there’s a group of people who want to be able to make all medical and healthcare choices for themselves, although a lot of the people in the anti-vaccine group curiously draw the line at abortions for other people. On the other hand, there’s a large group of people who fear the rapidly spreading COVID virus that has, so far, killed over 650,000 Americans and well over four million people worldwide. That group believes that people should be required to get vaccinated.

Although I am all for vaccination and I do believe that the vaccines are saving lives, there is a part of me that empathizes with those who don’t want to be forced to take it. I don’t think it’s smart to skip the vaccines. Many of the arguments I’ve heard against the vaccines seem to be mostly based on misinformation and conspiracy theories. A lot of people worry that there will be terrible side effects to the vaccines. Or they know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy whose balls shriveled up and fell off after the first shot. Personally, I think those arguments are pretty lame. But I also genuinely don’t like the idea of forcing people to do things. I wish those kinds of rules weren’t necessary, and more people would cooperate simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve read many stories of people who took a “wait and see” approach to COVID-19 and are now dead. Some of the saddest stories involve people who had young children or newborn babies. I’ve read at least three tragic stories about parents who have left large broods orphaned because of COVID. I’ve also read a lot of sad stories about people who are sorry they didn’t get vaccinated.

And I’ve also read about many conservative radio talk show hosts who have either gotten very sick from COVID or have actually died. There was a news story just this morning about a conservative talk show host named Bob Enyart, who had spread false information about COVID-19. He got sick and died. Enyart was vehemently against vaccine and mask mandates, and last year, he successfully sued the state of Colorado over mask mandates and capacity limits in churches. Enyart was all about making choices for his own health, but as a very vocal opponent of abortion, he apparently didn’t mind making healthcare choices for other people.

Curiously enough, Enyart was a Christian pastor, and he once gleefully read the names and obituaries of people who had died of AIDS while he played “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. What a charming man… huh? As Mr. Enyart was the 5th conservative radio talk show host to die of COVID in the past six weeks, perhaps the Queen song is appropriate theme for him and his ilk.

This morning, I ran across an interesting thread in the Duggar Family News Group. Someone, yet again, compared the COVID vaccine and mask mandates to seatbelt laws.

I disagree with this comparison. I also am old enough to remember when the seatbelt laws went into effect. At the time, I was pissed off about them. Don’t be too hard on me, though. I was a teenager.

I have mentioned before that I don’t think the COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates are the same as seatbelt laws. I mean, yes, I can see how people would make the comparison, but I don’t think it’s a very accurate one. When I was a child, I hated seatbelts and would only wear them if I was forced to… and generally that only happened when my dad was feeling controlling. In those days, a lot of people didn’t wear seatbelts. They weren’t as comfortable as they are today. Thankfully, as time has passed, the technology behind them has improved. I doubt we will ever be rid of the damned things. In any case, seatbelts are kind of different from masks and vaccines, as they don’t involve being injected into someone’s body, nor do they impact normal living and communicating as much as face masks do. You only wear them in the car. They don’t interfere with speaking, hearing, seeing, eating, or breathing.

And before anyone tries to tell me that masks don’t impede breathing, let me just stop you right there. I know they don’t. But some people do find wearing them oppressive, and the anxiety that comes from that might impede breathing. There are some people who can’t wear them for whatever reason… not too many, I will admit, but there are some. Likewise, some people can’t wear seatbelts for whatever reason. A lot of times, the reason has to do with being very obese, but sometimes it’s because of an injury or an occupation.

The point is, I don’t think seatbelts will ever go away. However, many of us hope the masks will go away, if and when the pandemic ends. Personally, I don’t see the pandemic ending happening unless a lot more people get vaccinated. But even though I think vaccines are an excellent idea and I would strongly encourage people to get the shot(s), I also feel uncomfortable with government mandates on things like medical care. Because, there are people who can’t or shouldn’t get vaccinations, for whatever reason. I also understand that some people are genuinely concerned about government overreach. Their concern isn’t entirely unfounded, although some of the arguments I’ve read are pretty ridiculous.

One thing I don’t think is helpful, though, is being rude and insulting to those who disagree. I don’t like the dogpile approach to trying to change minds, either. The above photo was shared in the Duggar Family News group, and it did invite contention. One woman posted this:

I remember when this page was about snarking on fundamentalist Christian families on television rather than promoting the divide of human kind based on personal choices they make for what they put in their own bodies.

That comment led to this response…

Even though I understand the frustration behind this response, I don’t think it was helpful.

The original poster was offended by the image. She expressed her dismay that a total stranger would wish death on her. Then, a big, long thread of comments ensued, with the vast majority of people name-calling, hurling insults, being sarcastic, and typing “all knowing” responses at the original poster. Her response, rather than being convinced, was to dig in her heels and respond in kind. Then, she either got booted from the group, or left on her own accord.

The last comment ends with the person telling the OP not to go to the hospital because she doesn’t believe in science. I disagree with that attitude, too. If someone gets sick with COVID, I don’t want them out on the street, infecting others. I’d rather see them getting treatment.

So… what exactly was accomplished by this contentious exchange? Not much, that I can see. I think a more respectful and friendly dialogue might have done more to foster group harmony. Maybe no one’s mind would have changed, but at least there would be listening and constructive communication going on, rather than flaming and hair flip rage exits. No matter what, I don’t think it’s appropriate to wish death on people simply because they disagree with you. On the other hand, I do understand the sentiment and the frustration behind such responses. I will also admit to occasionally being a hypocrite when I get pushed too far. I’m human, after all. I do try not to start out with abuse and insults, though.

I have never liked “nannyism”, especially in laws. However, I understand why “nanny” laws are often necessary. Many people, when left to their own devices, will not do things that are in their own or the public’s best interests. I have always hated wearing seatbelts myself, but I do understand why they’re necessary. I also have a husband who will turn into Pat Boone if I don’t wear one. So I do comply with that rule.

Even though I fucking hate face masks, I comply with that rule, too. However, I hope someday it will no longer be necessary. And I had no issues whatsoever with getting vaccinated against COVID, because as a student of public health, I know the theories behind vaccines and have seen concrete evidence that most of them work. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to learning new information, nor does it mean I’m not aware of potential risks from certain vaccines.

Below is advice given to people during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I agree with most of it, although I don’t think it matters whether or not someone “obeys cheerfully”, as long as they are compliant.

From 2018, when the Spanish Flu was killing people. They used masks then, and the masks eventually went away. I hope the same for COVID-19.

My late beagle, Zane, was a prime example of a dog who didn’t do well with vaccines. He had mast cell cancer (immune system cancer) that eventually progressed to lymphoma. He was allergic to at least one vaccination, and would get tumors when he had others. I actually think some people over-vaccinate their pets, and some of the encouragement to vaccinate is due to the revenue vaccines generate. Dogs with mast cell tumors should not get any unnecessary vaccines. I’m a little concerned about Arran, because he is due for a rabies shot next month, and the rabies shots can stimulate mast cell tumors. Arran has also had mast cell tumors, though not to the same severity Zane had. Because of Zane, I have some sympathy for people who are against vaccines, even though I think their reasoning is wrong in most instances. We don’t vaccinate people like we do pets, anyway. We certainly don’t get as many shots as they do.

Although I do believe in vaccine efficacy, I am not one to run out and demand the latest and greatest shots, nor do I get every vaccine available. For instance, I’ve never in my life had a flu shot. I would get them if I spent more time around other people, though. COVID-19 is different, at least right now. There’s hope that the virus will eventually weaken and become less dangerous, as flu mostly did. But at this point, it’s not getting better. Many people are getting sick and dying, and from what I’ve read, COVID-19 is a pretty nasty way to go.

I do think sometimes we need laws to protect ourselves and each other from those who lack insight, perspective, and wisdom. On the other hand, I agree that people should be free to make choices, whenever possible. Either way, medical freedom doesn’t do a damned bit of good to anyone who is dead. So I do hope that those who are against vaccines will wise up and get with the program. I understand wanting to wait and see how other people do with the shots, but time is running out… I have read too many sad stories about people who waited too long and got sick. There are too many stories about orphaned children, and bereaved spouses, siblings, and parents. And too many people are becoming downright mean and NASTY toward total strangers. I wish we’d all remember that when it comes down to it, we’re in a community. And being in a healthy community requires compassion, responsibility, and solidarity.

That being said… sometimes people DO need protection from crazy beliefs. Case in point, an old Mr. Atheist video I came across yesterday. Religion and politics make people do stupid things, even to their children. So while I am mindful of the so-called slippery slope when it comes to government overreach, I also think some people need to be saved from “freedumb” ideas.

JWs are just one group that have beliefs that can harm others… especially their own followers.
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good tv, nostalgia, YouTube

The “Family” rabbit hole…

Thought I’d take a break from bitching about Donald Trump today… I made a discovery yesterday that I should have made about forty years ago. It was raining most of the day, so I decided to watch some YouTube on my TV. Someone uploaded a bunch of episodes of the 70s era drama, Family.

I had heard of Family before yesterday, but never watched it during its initial run from 1976 until 1980. For one thing, we lived in England when it premiered. For another, I was only four years old at the time, and the show usually aired in the 10pm time slot. No way would I have been allowed to stay up for that, even if we’d been in the United States.

I remember people said Family was a very well-written show with progressive story lines. Kristy McNichol played Letitia “Buddy” Lawrence. At the time, she was about eleven years old and very precocious. Actor/composer John Rubinstein composed the theme for Family, which is very serious and not all that catchy. He also played Jeff Maitland, ex husband of the older Lawrence daughter, Nancy (played by Elayne Heilveil for six episodes, then Meredith Baxter).

I ended up binge watching about a half dozen episodes, or so, before Bill was finished with his work day. One of the episodes I saw was the pilot, in which Nancy Maitland comes home to find her husband in bed with another woman. She goes running home to her parents. Her dad, played by the late James Broderick, babies her. Her mom, played by the late Sada Thompson rants about how sometimes women just want “out”.

Family pilot, circa 1976…

Buddy overhears her mother say that when she was pregnant with her, there were times when she wished she could have an abortion. Naturally, that upsets Buddy, who doesn’t stick around long enough to hear her mom say that she was glad to have her now.

Earlier in the episode, Buddy is shown learning to drive a car with her big brother, Willie. She has a close relationship with him, even though he’s several years older. The character is supposed to be 17 years old, but the actor who portrayed him was actually about 27 and looked it!

I got a kick out of the driving lesson scene, though, because the two changed places while they were in the car and neither wore a seatbelt (HORRORS!). Willie tells Buddy to sit on her books, then tells her to put on her “safety belt” (no one ever calls them that anymore). She slips the shoulder belt behind her the way I used to when I rode in the front seat as a kid… no air bags, and no laws requiring kids to sit in the back seat… and, in fact, no seatbelt laws!

As I was watching that scene, I imagined Bill’s reaction to it. He’s older than I am, but he’s definitely a safety geek. I’m sure he’d be horrified!

Anyway, Willie effectively teaches eleven year old Buddy how to drive, so after she hears her mother say that at times when she was pregnant with Buddy, she’d wished to have an abortion, she runs out and takes the car for a spin. Somehow, she ends up at a greenhouse, where she throws rocks from the inside and smashes a bunch of windows in a childish rage!

An old man catches her in the act and calls the police, describing her as an eleven year old child driving a 1974 Maverick. Back in the 70s, my sister used to drive a red Maverick she called Maybell. I’m sure it was a sporty car in those days!

Next thing you know, Buddy is marched into the police station and her dad picks her up and scolds her for driving. Then he takes her home and her mom has to explain her abortion comment.

Later in the series, Nancy gets pregnant and considers having an abortion… this was cutting edge stuff in the 70s. And, as we all know, abortion remains a hot topic 45 years hence!

I also related to Buddy’s angst about what her mom said about abortion. My own mom told me many times that she hadn’t wanted to have me. She never considered having an abortion. They weren’t legal in 1972, anyway. There were many times when I wished she had had one… it would have saved us both a lot of pain. But really, I just wish she had never told me that she was ever sorry to be pregnant with me. That is just not a cool thing to say to your kid, even if you’re happy they’re here now. But it’s especially uncool if your kid is depressed and anxious anyway, as I was when I was growing up. Maybe I could be understanding about that if she’d told me when I was an adult and could comprehend the context better. But, as a kid, it devastated me and fucked me up for years… and I really related to the character Buddy’s emotional outburst at overhearing her mom say that.

Kristy McNichol is an extraordinarily talented actress. She was especially gifted as a child actress. I know she’s retired now, but she really helped make Family an excellent show. As much as I liked Meredith Baxter when I was growing up watching Family Ties, I don’t think she can hold a candle to Kristy’s gift. She’s a natural on screen.

I noticed they used percolators on that show. No one percolates coffee anymore. My mom used to have a percolator like this one. She and my dad drank nasty ground coffee from a can… Maxwell House or Folger’s. And they sweetened it with Sweet-10 (liquid saccharine) and instead of using milk or half and half, they used non-dairy powdered creamer like Cremora. Yuck!

I’ll probably keep watching Family. I get a kick out of the many guest actors from my childhood who show up. A lot of them are now dead or senior citizens, which only serves to remind me of how old I am now. But the 1970s don’t seem like they were that long ago… and frankly, they’re a nice escape from 2020, which is definitely a crazy year. Aside from the nostalgia factor, I really think it’s a great show that has aged remarkably well. I’m grateful that someone posted them on YouTube.

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mental health, musings, psychology

My rebellious streak…

This morning, I got an ad from Facebook for a t-shirt. It was about the proper way to wear face masks and it starred Snoopy, famed comic beagle.

Seriously? Who would wear this?

As much as I love Peanuts, beagles, and t-shirts, I can’t imagine having the nerve to wear something like this in public. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know how I feel about people who have didactic motivations. I think wearing a t-shirt like this would be pretty obnoxious behavior.

To be clear, I am certainly not above being obnoxious. I guess I just prefer my brand of obnoxious behavior to be more along the lines of being loud, vulgar, and crude. I have pretty much hated the face mask evangelism movement ever since it became popular a few months ago. From the beginning, I have said that I’d rather stay home than wear a mask. That’s mainly what I do. When I go in public, I do wear a mask, but I hate doing it. And while I wear the mask properly and notice when people wear them the wrong way, I wouldn’t feel comfortable confronting someone over it. Wearing a t-shirt or mask like these is basically confronting everyone who sees it. I find it off putting, rather than cute.

I would sooner wear this penis mask than the instructive Snoopy mask. I especially enjoy what appears to be drops of something falling off the penises in the center of the masks. Actually, I probably WOULDN’T wear this… but I completely agree with the irreverent sentiment.

I might not be opposed to wearing a mask that has tiny dicks all over it. That’s also an obnoxious thing to do, but at least if someone comments on it, I can tell them they need to socially distance more. For all of my talk about vulgar subjects, the reality is that I’m not really that vulgar in practice. I don’t enjoy looking at genitals– male or female, even when they are in comic form like the ones pictured above. But I do like to shock people. It’s one of my less appealing characteristics.

I don’t wear “cute” masks. I don’t want to get into that trend, because I want this face mask thing to be a temporary requirement. I did try to order cloth masks from Novica, but the ones I chose were backordered and by the time they finally became available, I had a new credit card and the old one no longer worked. The payment was rejected, and correcting it would have been more of a hassle than I wanted to deal with, so I cancelled the order. I’m still wearing paper masks on the rare occasions I go somewhere where they are required. I might get a cloth mask if they’re more comfortable, but really, I hope they go out of style soon. Some people will happily wear them from now on. Not me.

I don’t know why I’m like this… I have a rebellious streak, I guess. I’ve mentioned before that it took me many years to get into the habit of wearing a seatbelt, even after wearing them became law in Virginia back in 1988. I’ve always hated them. I really hated them when I was a child, and would pitch a fit when my dad would– on occasion– make me wear them. I think it was mostly because he usually forced me to wear them when he was in control freak mode or wanted to punish me. My parents always wore their seatbelts. I never saw either of them drive or ride in a car without one on. But they were very inconsistent about making me wear them. A lot of times, they let me get away without wearing one because I would throw huge tantrums.

Then I married Bill, who is a safety fanatic. And we bought cars that ding incessantly if I don’t wear a seatbelt. And we live in a country where not wearing them results in large fines. And it’s become a habit, even though I still find them annoying. Actually, the Volvo’s seatbelts are very comfortable and I barely notice them. The ones in my Mini are less comfortable, but if that car gets in an accident, I’m probably less likely to survive. On the other hand, this year has sucked enough that maybe being beamed up early isn’t such a bad idea. At least I won’t have any more problems or worries. And it’s not like anyone depends on me.

The other day, I mentioned on Facebook my hatred for seatbelts. I posted about it because I read a fascinating article on History.com about how back in the 1980s, politicians who boosted seatbelt laws were labeled as akin to Hitler and regularly got hate mail from people who didn’t want to be told what to do in the form of a nanny law. There was a tremendous lobby against seatbelt laws and automotive safety. A lot of it was due to money and people’s concepts of “personal freedom”.

Car makers didn’t want to spend the money to make cars safer by installing driver’s side airbags, and people didn’t want to be told what to do. Also, seatbelts in the 1970s and 80s were not nearly as comfortable or adjustable as they are today, so they truly were uncomfortable and restrictive. In the end, we ended up with tons of airbags and seatbelt laws. Most people wear seatbelts now… and a lot fewer people seem to go to church. I wonder if there is a connection. But it’s taken many years to get to where we are today. People really resisted seatbelt laws back in the day, and did their best to defeat features like automatic seatbelts and interlock systems that would not allow a car to start without a fastened seatbelt.

It’s always amusing to read the comments from people when I dare say something publicly about how much I hate seatbelts and miss the days when wearing them was voluntary. Group think really is an issue these days. To be clear, I do wear seatbelts, just like I wear masks. I just don’t like wearing them. I don’t understand why some people feel like a person has to comply with safety rules AND like that they are complying. For many people, it’s not enough for a person to simply comply with the rules. They also have to be a booster, or else they need an “intervention” of some sort and a lecture!

I got the usual comments about how some people won’t move their cars until everyone is wearing a seatbelt. But then I got a comment from my former shrink, who has since become a friend. He wrote about how he lost a friend he knew who was earning her Ph.D. She had just finished her training and passed her oral exams, and had gone on a date with the guy who had been the best man at my former shrink’s wedding. While my ex shrink’s friends were on their date, their car skidded around a corner and ran up against a tree. The car was an older model and the door handle protruded. The handle was sheared off as the car door hit the tree and the passenger side door flew open. The woman who had just passed her oral exams flew out of the car and fractured her spine, which killed her instantly. Ex shrink promised his friend, who had survived the crash, that he would always wear a seatbelt. He strongly encouraged me to do the same.

I was touched that my former shrink would share that story with me. I think if my dad had expressed more kindness and actual concern for me over this issue rather than stern military-esque orders, he would have gotten a much more compliant attitude from me in response. But my dad was often formal and controlling, and he was very much a military guy. That didn’t mean he wasn’t sometimes fun and loving, but he had a habit of issuing orders in an overbearing, offensive way that didn’t sit well with me. So I often rebelled, although when he wasn’t in a controlling mood, he was pretty negligent, so I didn’t have a need to rebel that often… if that makes sense.

Like– I never had a curfew, and my parents preferred that I work, even if it would have affected my performance in school or was dangerous in some way. I have a deep scar on my arm from the time when I was ten, and my dad made me break down cardboard boxes with a box cutter. Naturally, I cut the wrong way and injured myself. He didn’t even take me to a doctor for stitches and a tetanus shot, which I clearly needed (the blade went through all layers of skin). Whenever another adult had a complaint about me, his response was to immediately side with the other adult, yell at, and physically punish me, rather than hear my side of the story. He rarely protected me and instead, acted like a bully. As you can see, that treatment left lasting scars beyond the one on my arm. I don’t tolerate bullies anymore.

My mom was not strict at all about most things. My dad was strict only when he felt like being strict or something affected him personally. But his strictness was haphazard and inconsistent, and more often involved the threat of physical punishment and yelling than actual concern for my well-being. Also, my parents were very worried about what other people thought, which also didn’t sit well with me, and still doesn’t, when I see that attitude in other people. I am much more impressed by people who care about what their loved ones think than what the neighbors think.

I do think my dad loved me. I don’t think he shared his love and concern in a constructive way that translated very well. He was often kind of mean to me. Consequently, I rebelled when he issued orders, and I chafed at his attempts to control me, even when it came to things that were supposedly for my own good, like wearing seatbelts. And the fact that my former shrink, who hasn’t seen me in person since 2004, showed what appears to be more genuine concern for me than my dad ever did, is not lost on me. But then, my dad sometimes showed his love in other ways, like when he would make me periscopes out of mirrors and matte board, and when he helped me move to South Carolina for graduate school (though that was partly for his benefit).

When I met Bill, I finally found a genuinely kind, caring, loving man who honestly had real regard for me as a person. I don’t mind wearing a seatbelt for him, because it’s not about issuing orders and having me obey him. He actually cares, even though I like to joke about him becoming “Pat Boone”. I think my former shrink cares, too. He wrote that he doesn’t want to lose another friend. The fact that my ex shrink sees me as a friend means a lot to me. He’s in a line of work that puts him in contact with all sorts of very difficult people. I must not be so bad, after all– despite public opinion to the contrary. 😉 It’s reassuring.

I loved this show. It’s a British show that aired on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. I would actually stay home from the barn so I could watch it, because it aired at 3:00pm.

One last side note. I recently wrote about how I “married Black Beauty” and Bill married “Ginger”. If you’ve ever read the book, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, it might make sense. Black Beauty was a well-bred, well-mannered, beautiful black stallion who always worked hard, was honest, and was well-behaved. Ginger was a hard working mare who did not tolerate abuse and would kick up a fuss when she was treated badly. Black Beauty and Ginger never “got together”, but I always got the sense that they were kind of a couple. I have been encouraging Bill to read Anna Sewell’s classic book. I think he’d like it, and understand more clearly what I mean when I tell him he reminds me of Black Beauty, while I’m more like Ginger.

A scene featuring Black Beauty and Ginger in a movie version… Ginger takes no shit.

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musings

Offensive fashion statements… or, who was that hooded, masked man?

As Patrick Starfish would say, “Good morning, Krusty Krew.” This morning, in contrast to yesterday morning, I am actually itching to write something of substance. Before I get cranked up with today’s post, I want to thank those of you who took the time to listen to my musical offerings yesterday. I truly appreciate it when anyone listens and comments on my recordings. I don’t put them out there very often because I hate making videos and I never know how they’re going to be received. But it does bring me great joy to sing songs and share them with others. So if you took the time to click on my channel, thank you very much. It means a lot to me, even though I did lose one subscriber on YouTube (bwahahahaha!). It’s okay. I’ll stay humble and stick to my day job.

Now, on with today’s controversial topic, which I hope readers will read and consider with an open mind.

Yesterday evening, I came across two news articles that caused me to react in different ways. After thinking about both of these issues, I realize that they’re two pieces of the same “puzzle” that faces everyone on the planet today. The first article that upset me was in the Washington Post. It was a piece by Robin Givhan about how face masks are “here to stay” and have now become a fashion accessory which may, very soon, become as essential as undergarments. Givhan writes:

Fashion always finds a way. Human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate, to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so the face mask — once purely functional, once perceived as an exotic accessory — has evolved at breakneck speed into something more.

It’s more essential because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans wear a mask when interacting with others. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also a more complicated cultural proposition. And, of course, the face mask is political because both the president and the vice president have refused to wear one on highly public occasions and because some protesters have insinuated that masks are un-American.

As the country moves toward reopening, masks are assuredly part of our future. And in some ways, their evolution is the perfect encapsulation of how much life has changed in a blink of an eye — and how challenging, both intellectually and emotionally, it will be for us to go forward.

I have written in previous pieces about how, personally, I don’t like seeing face masks being normalized and turning into fashion statements. I realize that I can’t stop them from evolving in such a way. Some people like wearing them and feel safer with them with them on. However, count me among those who have no desire to be mandated to wear a face mask for the rest of my life. In fact, I don’t even like that the masks are being pushed on everyone via peer pressure. I would hate to see them become like seatbelts, which most everyone is compelled to wear nowadays.

When I was a child, seatbelts were entirely optional. I have many memories of riding without them in those days, lying in cargo areas in my dad’s many vans or riding in the back of pick up trucks. At one time, my dad had a Volkswagen pop top camper, which had a bar across the ceiling that we had to push to get the camper top to go up. I used to swing on that bar like a monkey when I was a kid. It was very unsafe and unthinkable today, but great fun back then. I don’t regret the experience of swinging on that bar as we cruised down the interstates.

Now… as a sensible adult, I understand why all U.S. states and many developed countries require people to wear seatbelts. New Hampshire, the one seatbelt law hold out, currently doesn’t require seatbelt use for adults, but does require people under age 17 to wear them. It also looks like New Hampshire will soon require seatbelt use for everyone. However, generally speaking, I am opposed to “nanny” laws in principal. I think people should wear seatbelts because it’s the smart thing to do, not because they might get a ticket. I also wear one because if I don’t, my husband turns into Pat Boone.

I have seen face masks being compared to seatbelts. I don’t think they’re the quite same thing. Riding in a car without a seatbelt has always been inherently dangerous. Being in public without a face mask has not. Moreover, facial expression is a big component in effective communication and identification. A lot of things can’t be feasibly done in public if a person is wearing a mask… things that bring joy, like eating, drinking, lip reading, and smoking (although smoking is not something that brings me joy) or playing woodwind instruments or horns. Although speaking and singing are possible while wearing a mask, they aren’t as easy to do. Breathing isn’t as easy to do while wearing a mask, either.

I imagine that when summer is fully upon us, people who don’t routinely wear masks will realize what being forced to wear one at all times could mean. The thought of it really depresses me, especially since there is still some debate as to how helpful the masks really are. Face masks in 90 degree weather sound like a recipe for a lot of sweat, smelling of one’s own bad breath, and possible tan lines, not to mention kind of a creepy dystopian feel to society in which we won’t be allowed to see each other’s smiles in every day society.

I was a bit perturbed after reading Givhan’s article about how masks are becoming a fashion statement, especially since so many people commenting seem to be all for it being a permanent fixture. I don’t think a lot of people have thought about it very deeply. I intend to resist that trend as much as possible and only wear masks when I absolutely have to in order to avoid harassment or legal trouble. I posted about it on Facebook and my friend Sara, who is a nurse at the Mayo Clinic and has to wear a mask all day, fully agreed with me that wearing masks full time should be a no go. Especially since the coronavirus epidemic hasn’t been an issue for that long. Some people are now pushing for laws… and I know that I’m not the only one upset about the prospect of face masks being as necessary as underwear. In fact, another article drove home the idea that requiring face coverings at all times could be a very slippery slope.

Just before I was about to go to bed, I noticed a news item posted by a friend in California. A man in Santee, California went into a grocery store wearing a white, cone shaped hood. The San Diego Union-Tribune referred to the hood as a “KKK hood”, which it probably was. However, the man was not identified by name by the newspaper. In fact, other than a picture of the guy demonstrating his choice to wear the hood, along with shorts, t-shirt, and shoes, not much information about the man was provided at all.

I shared the article on Facebook, and a few friends automatically labeled the guy a racist. And, to be honest, he probably IS a racist. However, there is no way to know for sure. I suspect the guy wore the mask to make a point about the requirement to wear face masks. The rules are pretty broad right now. Your nose and mouth are supposed to be covered. The white hood accomplishes that. Because a hateful group of racists have co-opted the white, cone shaped hood into a symbol that immediately identifies one as a white supremacist, it’s taboo to wear a hood that looks like that in public. This guy chose to wear one anyway. He technically followed the rules by covering his face and mouth, but he did so in a way that was sure to offend other people.

I brought up the fact that since I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve noticed the Confederate battle flag being flown or otherwise displayed in various places here. When I’ve shared my observations with American friends, they almost always react with shock and dismay. To many Americans, the Confederate battle flag (which was actually only one of many used by Confederates during the Civil War) is ALWAYS a racist display. I grew up in the South and saw that flag all the time while growing up. Hell, when I was in South Carolina going to graduate school, there was a Confederate battle flag on top of the Statehouse. It was later relocated to the grounds of the Statehouse, where it stayed for years before it was finally put away for good. Yes, many people see that flag as a racist symbol, but others still insist that it’s about southern pride and a spirit of rebellion.

I once had an Italian Facebook friend. I guess we’re technically still friends, but he left Facebook last year, claiming that people didn’t want to engage in healthy debates with him. I’m sorry he left, especially since we have lost touch. Although he could be very obnoxious and even kind of mean at times, I liked the perspective he presented. He is an intelligent and articulate guy, and I miss getting his input on some topics. One time, he explained why it’s not really uncommon to see the Confederate battle flag displayed in Italy. That flag doesn’t have the same connotations to many Europeans as it does to Americans. A lot of people in Europe see that flag as only a symbol of southern rebellion. In fact, there’s a Harley Davidson garage located not two kilometers near where we live, and they proudly fly the Confederate battle flag. I’ve also seen it on a cab driver’s bumper in Ireland. To many Europeans, it doesn’t stand for racism like it does in the United States.

While the white hood and, especially, the swastika are definitely taboo in Europe, as they are in the United States, I would imagine that those symbols, when taken to a place where they have no meaning at all, would not inspire outrage. When it comes down to it, they’re just symbols, and they only have the meaning that people give them. Personally, I think we should pay more attention to the racist attitudes that actual people have rather than the symbols used to promote those attitudes. It’s also not lost on me that when those symbols are presented, they identify those who have those sentiments. That makes it much easier to choose not to associate with them… although a lot of them are simply ignorant, and their ignorance doesn’t necessarily make them horrible people. At least not in my opinion.

Does “God” feel the same way about Confederate battle flags and white hoods made of cloth?
Isn’t this a blip? My father was a proud flag carrying conservative, but he never hesitated to wear ugly clothes inspired by the American flag. I think Americans should probably think longer and harder about this issue.

Back when football player Colin Kaepernick was regularly in the news for “taking a knee”during the “Star Spangled Banner” to protest racism, a lot of conservatives were upset because they saw his actions as disrespecting the American flag. Curiously enough, “God”, the popular Facebook page, even referred to the American flag as a “piece of cloth” and the national anthem as just a song. I remember blogging about this subject, and to make my point, I included the photo below.

I am not at all condoning the actions of the “very fine people”. However, one could argue that the Confederate battle flag and, in fact, other symbols made of fabric, such as white, cone shaped hoods, are also just “pieces of cloth”, as “God” claims the American flag is.

So anyway… all of this led me to conclude that the guy who walked into the grocery store in his white hood is possibly more of a pissed off Trump supporter, rather than a flat out racist. He’s pissed off because he resents government overreach, and he sees having to wear a face mask at the grocery store as a violation of his personal liberties. He may also be pissed because Trump may very well (hopefully) get his ass kicked during the elections this November, and that may mean more left swinging laws. Remember, Trump and Pence don’t willingly wear masks, either, and Trump has gone as far as to encourage citizens to rise up against their state governments and demand that restrictions be lifted so life can get back to “normal”.

So instead of grudgingly wearing a regular face mask like a good citizen would, he decided to cover his face in a different way. He wore a white, cone-shaped hood, which to many people is an extremely horrifying symbol of racism and hatred. He made a lot of people very uncomfortable. However, he wasn’t violent and didn’t physically hurt anyone, and after being asked repeatedly to remove the hood (and probably what was his nose and mouth covering), he did comply. He paid for his items and left the store without incident, although local law enforcement is “looking into the matter”. Santee, California reportedly has a “checkered past” when it comes to racism, and its mayor has gone on record to denounce the hooded shopper’s actions.

It occurred to me that ultimately, the white cone hat guy was expressing himself. Granted, he was expressing hatred, disrespect, and disdain, which are ugly, antisocial expressions. But when it came down to it, he was expressing himself, which in the United States, he still has the right to do. Then I thought about it some more. Judging by the photo in the news article, I’m about 99.9% certain this dude probably is a racist on some level. But– is it possible he wasn’t? What if he was just a smart assed troll trying to rile people up? What if he was from another country and wasn’t aware that the hood would offend (highly unlikely, but technically possible)? Maybe someone paid him to wear the cone shaped hood on a dare? Not knowing anything about the guy, I can’t know for sure what his story is, although I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume he’s a racist. Or maybe he’s just a frustrated, pissed off American making his feelings known in the most offensive way he can think of, not unlike when Melania Trump wore her “I really don’t care, do U?” jacket. I am certainly not condoning that the man chose that way to express himself… but I can see how that explanation could be a possibility.

The fact that the man wore the offensive KKK-esque hood into the store, technically complying with the order that he cover his mouth and nose, may seem like a bad thing. But, as I sat at the breakfast table talking about this with Bill, I concluded that his actions were not necessarily such a bad thing overall. Because it’s getting people thinking and talking about this issue. If face masks do become the law for the foreseeable future, people are probably going to have to come up with some guidelines. The guidelines aren’t going to suit everyone, and it may take some time to come to a consensus. By then, maybe a vaccine will be created and we can move beyond this pandemic without forcing another nanny law on the populace.

The first article I referenced in this post is about how the face masks are becoming “fashion”. Well, fashion is frequently distasteful. That’s part of the reason fashion is a thing, just like any art is. Art isn’t always beautiful or simple. Sometimes, it’s ugly and offensive. And if we want to mandate face masks for people, we should probably be prepared for those who will use their masks to make their feelings known through offensive fashion statements. I know a lot of people got a kick out of Mindy Vincent, the lady in Utah who made a face mask out of cloth that had penises on it. Plenty of people found that funny, especially when she told people that if they could tell her face mask has penises on it, they were too close. But other people, no doubt, were offended by it. Mindy Vincent has been selling the masks and has reportedly donated a lot of money to charity. That’s probably a good thing, depending on the charity. Some people would probably criticize her for that, too… or for the charity she’s chosen to donate to. The nice thing about America is that we can still have these thoughts and discussions… at least for now.

It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the hood wearing guy and whether or not his stunt will have any legal repercussions, especially if we do have to wear the fucking face masks from now on.

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silliness

When Bill turns into Pat Boone…

The other day, Retro Wifey on Facebook shared a photo of a small child in a baby carrier from days of old. I don’t know when the picture was taken, but my guess is that the baby in the photo is now at least as old as I am. When I look at what passed for safety in the 70s, and then compare it to the current day hysteria over child safety, I’m amazed anyone from the era prior to, say, 1990, ever grew old enough to reproduce. Nowadays, kids have to wear helmets, padding, and seatbelts for everything, on pain of investigation by child welfare authorities or the police if parents don’t comply.

A screenshot of Retro Wifey’s picture. It’s amazing what kids of old got away with…

I grew up with parents who were religious about wearing their seatbelts. However, they were not very strict about making me wear them. Why not? Mainly because I hated the damned things and would cry, complain, and generally drive my parents (especially my mom) crazy when they made me wear them. My dad was much stricter about making me wear seatbelts, but even he was inconsistent and usually only made me wear them when he was either in a control freak mood or wanted to punish me.

In 1988, Virginia adopted a mandatory seatbelt law for front seat passengers. It was not, and is still not, a very strict law. Enforcement was secondary, so you’d have to be doing something else illegal to get yourself stopped before police would levy a $25 fine on you for not buckling up. Over 30 years later, Virginia still has a lenient seatbelt law. Cars back then were also more lax about letting people choose for themselves if they wanted to make safety first. They didn’t have all the sensors and alarms they have now– just a five second reminder that buzzed when you turned the ignition. 1988 also happened to be the year I turned 16, and I remember being quite pissed that this oppressive law was passed the year I got my license.

It took a few more years before I became “good” about voluntarily wearing a seatbelt, even after it was the law. I’m short and busty, so they always seemed to hit me in the wrong places. Then, I met Bill… who is laid back about most things, except for when it comes to car safety. I often joke that I think seatbelts are for sissies, but if I don’t wear one, Bill turns into Pat Boone. On my old blog, I used to write about this phenomenon rather frequently, mainly because Alexis got the joke and we both thought it was funny. Alexis has always been my most consistent reader, so sometimes I cater to her. We have both read a lot about Pat Boone and his family, too— an odd thing, since Pat Boone was a sex symbol way before either of us would have found him remotely appealing or relatable. He was always OLD to me, and Alexis is about 22 years younger than I am. Turns out we both read books written by members of Boone’s family, or by Pat himself.

Pat Boone and his white spats will make you go splat if you misbehave on his watch.

I am at least old enough to remember Debby Boone and her 1977 hit song, “You Light Up My Life”, which was originally used in a film by the same name and sung by the late, obscure singer Kasey Cisyk. But I didn’t know who Pat Boone was until I heard him sing on a 1978 Lassie movie, which also featured songs by Debby. Then I remembered Robin Williams making jokes about him on Mork & Mindy, implying that he was strict and straight-laced.

When I was a senior in high school, I read Starving for Attention, a book written by Cherry Boone O’Neill, Pat Boone’s eldest daughter. I was taking a psychology class and had to read a book about a psychological disorder and report about it to my classmates. Cherry Boone O’Neill, who suffered from anorexia nervosa and bulimia for about ten years, was born in 1954 and happens to share the same birthday as Bill. She was a people pleaser and felt great pressure to make her parents proud. Boone often brought his four talented daughters with him on his tours, where he could keep an eye on them. Cherry felt pressure to be thin, in part, due to her father’s fame and her own show business career. So, she developed anorexia, which I’m sure also helped her feel like she regained some control over her overly supervised life as a young woman. Pat Boone was a notoriously strict father who believed very strongly in corporal punishment and laying down the law. He watched his daughters like a hawk and would not hesitate to discipline them for any infraction of his many rules.

In two of the three books written by his daughters that I’ve read, Pat Boone’s penchant for delivering painful spankings and being very strict is candidly noted. In both Debby’s and Cherry’s cases, the spankings continued until they were adults. They were particularly traumatic in Cherry’s case, since she was extremely underweight and had no padding to absorb Boone’s blows. Although Debby and Cherry have both written about their father’s spankings, in Cherry’s case, the bruises were more severe.

I would like to see Bill in this outfit… while he’s driving. Shit, he’s even wearing spats! I am ashamed to admit, I actually own Pat’s metal album. I had to have it because I wanted to review it. It’s not that bad, especially if you listen to it with a sense of humor.

The other day, when I saw that picture shared by Retro Wifey, I shared it and posted “seatbelts are for sissies”. A few of my friends posted about the good old days, when kids could lie in the back of a station wagon, completely unrestrained and unencumbered. My dad used to have a bright orange Volkswagen Westfalia with ugly green plaid interior. It was a 1977 model and he drove it for several years. It had a pop top, which was fun for camping in sweltering heat and getting multiple bug bites. I remember there was a bar across the ceiling when the top wasn’t popped up. I used to swing on it like a monkey as my dad drove down the interstate. Nobody cared. Nowadays, if a child dared to do something like that, someone would be on the horn to the police in seconds. Today’s carseats are very secure, so kids can’t get away with monkey style gymnastics in a VW van. They have to be strapped down as if they are about to be executed. A kid swinging on a bar monkey style the way I used to would be caught and dealt with very quickly in all but the most provincial of locations.

For you, Alexis… Dad’s was just like this.

Germany is probably even stricter about seatbelt use than the United States is. In fact, Bill became a seatbelt fanatic when he lived in Germany the first time and was threatened with a 40 Deutsch Mark fine. However, I have seen deja vous scenes from my childhood in Italy and Croatia, where things are evidently a little more reckless. Frankly, I would be scared not to wear a seatbelt in Italy. People drive like they’re alone in a big field there, even if there are tight switchbacks on a mountain road.

I mentioned in my shared post that Bill turns into Pat Boone when I don’t buckle up. One of my friends asked me if I could get video of Bill turning into Pat Boone. Actually, I think I would enjoy providing that. I might even get the chance, since we’re about to take a long road trip from Sweden to Germany in our new car. He does get rather stern about it… or as stern as he is capable of becoming. This is a bit crazy, since Bill spent 30 years in the Army, where one would expect easy “sternness”, especially from an officer. But Bill is one of the most easygoing, laid back, kind people I know. He would never turn into Pat Boone about most issues… except if he caught me without a seatbelt. And even then, he probably wouldn’t turn me over his knee and deliver a bruising spanking the way Pat Boone did back in the day. For one thing, it would obviously be very physically difficult for him to turn me over his knee. For another thing, as titillating as that idea might be for both of us, the fact is, it’s not actually something either of us is particularly comfortable with. Yes, we’re a little kinky, but we aren’t that kinky. I might get a lecture… it probably wouldn’t be a very serious lecture, because that would either piss me off or make me laugh.

Volvo is serious about safety… probably really turns safety geek Bill on.

The new car is a Volvo, so I suspect that even if Bill doesn’t turn into Pat Boone, the new car will. Volvos are notoriously “safe” cars, jam packed with safety features, alarms, and sensors determined to make sure everyone is as safe as possible, whether or not they’re feeling dangerous. Even if I were to –say– decide to ride in the back seat sitting behind Bill (something he doesn’t allow), the car would tattle on me if I misbehaved. The reason he doesn’t want me to sit behind him in the car is because it’s harder for him to make sure I’m not ditching the seatbelt. He wants me up front. If I wanted to ride in the back, he’d want me where he can glance back at me. But in the new car, it won’t matter. I bet he still won’t let me ride behind him, though. If I try to sit there, he’ll turn into Pat Boone and issue an Army style direct order to move to the middle seat. Hmm… maybe I’ll do that on purpose and film it so people can see Bill be “stern”. It’ll be good for a laugh.

So really, I guess when I say Bill turns into Pat Boone, I’m mostly kidding. The reality is, he treats me like a princess. No, not really a queen, but a princess– because if the truth be told, he takes excellent care of me. He’s very considerate, thoughtful, and protective, and only once in a great while does he morph into an Army style disciplinarian. I’m very lucky to have him in my life, even when he turns into Pat Boone… on quaaludes, maybe. Still, I can’t help but sometimes wistfully remember the days when I could readily flit about the car, completely unfettered by pesky laws, law abiding parents, and a safety geek husband.

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