mental health, modern problems, true crime

Americans are both awesome and awful people…

There has been quite an interesting array of news stories lately. Last night, I read a truly heartwarming story about a young man in Alabama who showed up to work the morning shift at a Waffle House on his graduation day. He’d had the day scheduled off, but his mom had to work and couldn’t take him to the ceremony, and he is not in touch with his dad. So he went to work, instead.

The 18 year old, whose name is Timothy Harrison, wanted to walk across the stage to get that diploma he’d worked so hard to earn. But since there was no way to make it happen, he resigned himself to going to work and making some money, instead. Timothy’s boss, Cedric Hampton, wasn’t having it. He and the assistant manager, as well as other co-workers and a couple of customers banded together to see to it that Timothy could have that rite of passage experience that is so important for so many.

By the time I’d finished reading this uplifting story, I had tears welling in my eyes. I was truly moved to read this story about good people doing great things. Americans love to help an underdog, and they are capable of great support and largesse for people who have a good story. Timothy Harrison’s story was so good that he also got a full scholarship from Lawson State Community College, whose faculty members got wind of his work ethic. Now, instead of following his plan continuing to wait tables at the Waffle House and, perhaps, later joining the military (which isn’t actually a bad plan for many people), Harrison will be going to college to study business and computer science.

As you know, I have nothing against people who join the military. It’s a great career for plenty of folks, my husband included. BUT– it’s not for everyone… and thanks to the kindness of Timothy Harrison’s “Waffle House work family”, Harrison will have another choice that could potentially change his life’s course forever. And that change could have significant ripple effects for other people in Timothy’s life. Thinking about that made me feel great and hopeful for the future.

But then I woke up this morning and read another sad and senseless story about violence over face masks… I was reminded that Americans can be awesome. They can also be awful!

Although a lot of people are ditching the masks as COVID-19 infections are waning among the vaccinated, not all areas are yet finished with the mask requirements. Such is the case in Decatur, Georgia, where Victor Lee Tucker, age 30, had stopped to pick up groceries at a Big Bear Supermarket. Mr. Tucker was not properly wearing a mask when he approached the cashier (now identified by police as Laquitta Willis, 41) to pay for his items. Tucker and the cashier got into an argument about how he was wearing his mask (according to the Washington Post, Tucker was wearing a mask, but not correctly). He got pissed off and left without buying the items. But then he immediately came back and shot the cashier, killing her.

Tucker also shot 54 year old Danny Jordan, the off duty police officer who was moonlighting as a security guard at the store. Fortunately, Jordan was wearing a bulletproof vest, which probably saved his life. Another cashier was slightly wounded by a bullet that grazed her. She was treated at the scene, while the cashier and Tucker, who was shot by the guard, were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. Tucker is listed in stable condition. Deputy Jordan, who was shot twice, went to Atlanta Medical Center, where he is also listed in stable condition.

I have not made it a secret that I despise the face masks. I think that while they are helpful in preventing the spread of virus particles, they also cause a lot of problems for many people. For that reason, it’s my hope that they go away soon. Too many people are being inconvenienced by the masks, but more troublingly, people are also DYING over enforcing their use. Imagine trying to avoid getting COVID-19 and dying anyway because you asked someone to wear a mask properly and they shot you! Edited to add, June 16th– the indoor mask mandate was in effect in Decatur, Georgia on Monday, when Willis was killed. It’s due to expire next week.

But people definitely shouldn’t be killing and dying over the face mask issue. Of course Tucker was absolutely wrong to kill the cashier over something so utterly stupid. He probably shot her because he felt the need to “protect his freedoms”. Maybe he felt like the mask was oppressive and was finally fed up with being “oppressed”. Maybe that was why he felt justified in killing an innocent person. But that was an erroneous notion on his part. And now, he will lose his freedom and be forced to wear a prison uniform and, it’s very likely, a face mask, along with all the other stuff prisoners are forced to wear.

In all seriousness, it does make me sad to think about Tucker going to prison over this. He’s a 30 year old man, who had his whole life ahead of him. I don’t know what kind of a person he is when he isn’t losing his cool and blowing hourly wage earning cashiers away over face mask rage. I’d like to hope he’s not all bad, as I don’t think most people are all bad. But it’s hard to understand why someone would be so unhinged that he’d just callously snuff out some innocent lady’s life because of a face mask. It’s tragic and ridiculous on so many levels.

Personally, I think if I were in the States, I wouldn’t confront anyone over the masks. It’s just not worth it. Our culture is so strange– people are encouraged to be “nice”, and we hate confrontations and conflict. And yet, so many of us are carrying weapons! And so many are apparently on the edge of insanity! Would Tucker have killed anyone two years ago, before COVID-19 face mask requirements was a thing? I honestly think that the risk of getting the virus may be lower than the risk of being shot in some parts of the USA. There have been so many stories about people killing and dying over face masks! It’s crazy! It baffles me that so many Americans seem to enjoy busting people over the masks. The New York Times called it a “new American pastime.” I think I’d be too scared to say anything to someone about the masks. I’d rather just get away from them.

I don’t know if the cashier was required to enforce the mask policy or she just decided to on her own. I would certainly never say that she shouldn’t feel free to enforce the mask requirements in a private business. BUT… there is a real danger in doing so, as her story, as well as so many others, have shown. I hope there will come a day soon when the mask requirements go away so this particular issue won’t be something people continue to die over.

And that makes me think of something else… does it seem to you like America has gotten way more extreme? It seems like fewer people are moderate nowadays. I feel like I run into more extremely “woke” people and extremely conservative people than I used to. I still tend to be pretty middle of the road– leaning a bit more left lately, but not extremely so. But the past five years, which I have not spent in the States, make me a little scared to go back home. I feel like today’s America is not the America I knew.

According to the Washington Post, 2020 was the deadliest year for shootings and, so far, 2021 is even worse. Within the first five months of 2021, 8100 people in the United States lost their lives to gun violence. Much of the violence seems to come from frustration and anger over the pandemic situation and all of the problems that are affiliated with it. The Washington Post reports that the violence started to edge upwards from April 2020, when the virus started to become a real problem. I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to “normal”… but it sure is sad to me that a deadly virus killed so many people and so many citizens are also dying because of gun violence… or they’re being hit and run, like my old friend Matt was last month. The week Matt died, another person was also killed in a hit and run in the same area. It’s also a problem on the rise, perhaps caused by very angry people who have no regard for other people.

Well… at least I was able to start this post with a feel good story. I wish Timothy Harrison much luck as he embarks on what could be a very bright future. I hope he avoids gun violence and the virus. I hope he goes to school and sets the world on fire as he puts his promising work ethic to the test in a tough world. I, for one, would not want to be young again for anything! But I have high hopes for Harrison and his Waffle House family. His story, coupled with the cashier’s story, really show how awesome and awful Americans can be.

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true crime

Women in Alabama ought to be up in arms!

Alabama is in the news again for its increasingly misogynistic views and policies regarding females, particularly those of color. In May of this year, Alabama’s female, Republican governor, Kay Ivey, signed an unconstitutional bill into law that outright bans most abortions at all stages of pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the Internet is abuzz today due to the case of 28 year old Marshae Jones, who was five months pregnant with a girl last December when she was shot in the stomach during a fight with another woman. The fetus did not survive the shooting, which would have been sad enough. What really has people alarmed, though, is that Ms. Jones has now been charged with manslaughter and was just released from jail on a $50,000 bond.

How can this be, you ask? Well, police say that Ms. Jones started the fight that got her shot in the stomach. She did not take steps to keep herself out of harm’s way. Because she was pregnant, they conclude that she should have done all she could to protect her unborn fetus. Since she allegedly started the fight that ended with her being shot and her unborn child’s death, police reason that she should be charged with manslaughter.

But I say hold on there, coppers… what about the woman who did the shooting? Ebony Jemison, who was fighting with Ms. Jones in the parking lot of a Dollar General store over the paternity of the unborn child, was initially charged with manslaughter in the death of the fetus. That charge was dismissed after the grand jury failed to indict her. So evidently, Ebony Jemison is now free, even though she shot someone. However, based on reports, she did shoot in self-defense, as she was evidently trying to get away from Jones when she fired her weapon.

Now… having read about this case, I’m pretty dumbfounded. Do I think Marshae Jones was right to get into a violent altercation with another woman over the father of her unborn baby? No, not particularly. Pregnant or not, I think it’s stupid to get into violent fights with other people, particularly if they’re packing heat. However, losing a pregnancy should not be a crime. I’m sure Ms. Jones had no idea she would be shot and her unborn child would be killed. This situation, like others involving pregnant women that have resulted in incarceration, seems to put pregnant women at a different legal status than other people. That’s not fair, and it could set a horrible precedent for other women who might lose a pregnancy that others might deem was due to their negligence.

Complicating matters is the fact that Ms. Jones is a black woman, and I think we know what kind of record Alabama has towards promoting the rights of people of color. This situation is appalling on many levels and reeks a bit of The Handmaid’s Tale to me. Before you know it, pregnant women in Alabama will wind up practically incarcerated by their own accord, trying to avoid being arrested for losing a pregnancy.

The officer who was quoted about this case, Lieutenant Danny Reed of the Pleasant Grove Police Department, had this to say: “When a five-month pregnant woman initiates a fight and attacks another person, I believe some responsibility lies with her as to any injury to her unborn child. That child is dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations.” There’s something about that statement that totally skeeves me out. He sounds like a legalistic cretin who hates women and wants to control them.

I’m glad to see people are outraged about this and saying “Hell no.” This is a slippery slope we really don’t need to be on. I’m also glad to read that prosecutors may choose not to prosecute Marshae Jones for the death of her unborn daughter. It’s not that I don’t think what Jones did was stupid and the loss of her baby was avoidable. It’s just that this could really cause problems for a lot of other pregnant women. Pregnant and breastfeeding women in the United States are already under a microscope, with people calling the cops on them if they think they’re doing anything to harm their unborn fetuses. I’m reminded of Tasha Adams, the woman in Toad Suck, Arkansas, who was arrested when a waitress called the cops on her for drinking while breastfeeding.

Pregnant women should NEVER be prosecuted for losing a pregnancy, regardless of whether or not it was her fault. That’s is a dangerously slippery slope and it will cause a lot of problems. Where do you stop? Should we prosecute women for smoking, drinking, walking after dark alone, or not wearing a seatbelt while pregnant? Should we prosecute them for getting into car accidents, falling down stairs while wearing high heels, or eating food that makes them sick? You see where I’m going with this? And again, I really doubt Ms. Jones knew Ms. Jemison was going to shoot her.

Incidentally, this case predates Alabama’s new law against abortion, so it has no official bearing on this case. However, the fact that people in Alabama want to force women to be pregnant when they may not want to be is a good indicator of how women are treated there. Makes me glad I don’t live there myself… although they obviously could use some more blue voters.

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true crime

In Spain, you can be sentenced to prison for being an asshole…

But in America, we let any nut with a chip on his or her shoulder wield weapons.

Okay, so maybe this is an oversimplification of things. However, I couldn’t help but take notice when I read a news story about YouTuber ReSet (otherwise known as Kanghua Ren) who made over 2000 euros on a video he made in 2017. Mr. Ren, who was 19 years old in 2017, filmed himself offering an Oreo cookie filled with toothpaste and a 20 euro bill to a homeless man sitting outside of a supermarket in Barcelona, Spain. The man, who was probably really hungry, ate the cookie and vomited.

Chinese born Ren, who acknowledged that maybe he went a bit too far in carrying out this prank, then quipped, “This will help clean his teeth– I don’t think he has cleaned them since he became poor.”

The video got plenty of views, which helped Ren make some money. He had made the video, in part, as a response to challenges set forth by his followers, who evidently wanted him to raise the bar on being an asshole and taking advantage of vulnerable people. However, a lot of people found his dirty trick completely reprehensible.

The homeless man, in his early 50s and identified as Gheorge L., was born in Romania and was once a shepherd before he wound up in Barcelona. He has a daughter. Mr. Ren offered her 300 euros not to file a lawsuit after having filmed himself visiting her father again, offering him another 20 euro bill.

Clearly, Gheorge’s daughter was not moved by the offer of 300 euros. Mr. Ren was forced to answer for his callous behavior in a Spanish courtroom. Noting that Ren had done other videos depicting himself being cruel to vulnerable people, Judge Rosa Aragonés found Ren guilty of violating the moral integrity of the homeless man. She sentenced Mr. Ren to fifteen months in prison and handed down a 20,000 euro fine, which is to be paid to the homeless man.

Because this is Mr. Ren’s first offense, and the sentence is less than two years, he is unlikely to go to prison. However, he has also been ordered to shut down all of his social media channels, including YouTube, for the next five years. I guess this means Mr. Ren will have to find another way to make some cash.

It’s interesting to read about this case, especially in the wake of the most recent shooting in the United States. On Friday afternoon, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, 40 year old DeWayne Craddock, who had just resigned his position as a city engineer that morning, brought a weapon into his former workplace and started firing indiscriminately, killing 12 people and injuring others. Craddock, who died in the shootout, was reportedly a “nice guy” who had quit his job for “personal reasons”. And yet, there he was with a gun on Friday, ending the lives of 12 people, including Keith Cox, who led seven people to safety before he was killed. Before he went on his rampage, my guess is that most people didn’t think of Craddock as an “asshole”.

In Europe, a person can wind up in trouble with the law simply for being an asshole. Granted, what Kanghua Ren did could have been dangerous. It’s not recommended to eat toothpaste and his victim did vomit after eating the Oreo cookie. But ultimately, what he did was mean spirited and cruel, and that was what he was punished for. He wasn’t punished for potentially poisoning someone.

In the United States, it takes a whole lot to deprive people of certain rights. One right far too many Americans enjoy is the right to bear arms. Lately, the shootings have become so common that I no longer really feel shocked when I hear or read about them. Something is causing ordinary people to simply snap and start murdering people.

Christi Dewar, who was employed at the Virginia Beach utilities office and had worked there for thirteen years, said that Mr. Craddock was well dressed and soft spoken. She had no reason to fear him. She said he was a bit introverted, but gave no signs of being the type or person who would go on a shooting rampage. But on his last day living, Mr. Craddock came armed with handguns, high capacity magazines, and a silencer device. He cracked off at least fifty rounds at his former co-workers before he was finally taken out himself. Dewar says that she thinks all of the government buildings need metal detectors and security guards. She says she would happily tolerate daily searches if it means never having to go through another shooting. I would rather not give up more of my personal liberty in the name of stopping gun violence. I don’t think metal detectors and security guards will necessarily protect anyone. Security guards are people too, and if someone is that determined to kill, they’ll still kill… even if it means killing someone else who has a gun.

Seems to me a better solution is to stop making guns so accessible to everyone, make it easier for people to access and afford mental health care, and make eliminating classism and racism a priority. Also, I think there should be more emphasis on not being an asshole. Here in Germany, a person can be fined for flipping someone off, particularly if that person is in a position of respect, such as a police officer or government official. Of course, that doesn’t mean people don’t shoot the bird on the Autobahn. I have seen it happen. But there is an emphasis on not harming other people here– and not being uncivilized to others.

It’s been nice to live in Europe for the past few years, even though I’ve been watching my country disintegrate from afar. It makes me heartsick, and worried about what it will be like when we do move back home. I mean, yes… you can have neighbor disputes in Germany. You can have issues with your co-workers, your landlords, and other people. You can even end up being murdered in a particularly passive aggressive way in Europe. However, random acts of violence against perfect strangers is a lot rarer here than it is in the United States. There are a lot of pissed off, fed up, angry people there who are on the verge of snapping and have lost their senses of decency and humanity.

Anyway… while I’m not sure I think sending a prankster like Mr. Ren to prison is all that constructive, I do think it’s commendable that he’s been held accountable for being mean spirited. Maybe Americans can learn something from Mr. Ren’s case. It’s entirely possible that Europeans have simply had more time to become civilized than Americans have. Maybe, if the Earth is still around in 1000 years, America will be more like Europe is now. Or maybe Europe will be more like America is now. Glad I won’t be around to find out for sure.

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stupid people

Chevy vs. Ford…

Zane is feeling a lot better today. Yesterday, in the late afternoon, he came downstairs and sat in the sun, then wolfed down his dinner. By the time we were about to have our dinner, he was back to his old self, begging for scraps. We’re going to take him to the local vet today, because we already had an appointment scheduled. I think he’s on the mend, though. For now, at least.

He’s a spunky little shit. This morning, he got us up at the usual time and demanded his breakfast.

Moving on…

A couple of days ago, I read an amusing story out of Bedford County in Virginia. Well… maybe it’s not so amusing, considering two people were seriously injured. I mean, we laugh about it because it’s ridiculous, but it’s not so funny if you’re the one in the emergency room.

Anyway, last week Mark Edward Turner of Bedford County was enjoying some libations during a family dinner with his girlfriend and her grown son. Apparently, Turner and his girlfriend’s son got into an argument over which car is better, Chevy or Ford. The argument became so heated that Mr. Turner produced a knife and a handgun. He shot his girlfriend five times and her son once. Both mother and son were seriously injured and Mr. Turner was arrested. Evidently, at the time of his arrest, Turner was “heavily intoxicated.” Gee… ya think?

One of my college friends says Mr. Turner and his girlfriend are the neighbors of one of her other friends. She says her friend has many colorful stories about these folks who argue over the merits of American car manufacturers to the point of shooting and stabbing. I can just hear the argument in my head. Maybe something along the lines of this…

Tastes great! Less filling!

In fact, perhaps Mr. Turner was enjoying Miller Lite before the fight broke out.

I have family from Bedford County. It’s not too far from Rockbridge County, which is where my dad’s people come from (guess that makes them my people, too). It’s a fairly rural place, with lots of salt of the earth type folks who drive American, vote Republican, and drink bad beer. I’m not so surprised to read about this incident, nor am I surprised by the picture of the guy who allegedly did the deed of shooting his girlfriend and her son over Ford vs. Chevy. Maybe I’m a little sad that this is funny… I mean, it IS kind of funny because it’s total nonsense that some one would seriously injure two people over an argument involving American cars. But it’s also not funny because this man apparently has some major problems with anger and alcohol and he nearly killed two people while expressing himself.

He looks bummed.

In any case, I hope Turner’s victims heal quickly and completely, just as Zane apparently has. He’s currently lying behind me, looking kind of whimsical and amused. It’s hard to believe a couple of days ago, I was afraid he might be a goner. I also hope Turner’s girlfriend dumps him and finds someone less temperamental and less bearded.

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