Biden, musings, Trump

Struggling not to be a hypocrite…

This week has been bewildering. I can see it in my blog posts from the past ten days or so. I’ve gone from being cranky and irritable, to elation. Elation turned into dismay, then there was a dash of guilt. This morning, as I sit here thinking about what I want to write about today, I realize I’m a hypocrite. Every day, I struggle to be consistent about things. I try not to be hypocritical. But I often fail.

I’m not alone. Most people are hypocrites. Most of us say one thing and do another. We often have good reasons for being hypocritical. A common excuse is that a certain situation is different somehow. Like, for instance, I recently wrote a sympathetic post about how hard people are being on Skylar Mack, but then I wrote another, much less understanding article about how Jenna Ryan and Jacob Chansley are getting what they deserve.

I wrote yesterday about how I think redemption is important. I think that people should be able to rise above their mistakes. So how is it that I can have so much empathy for Skylar Mack, but not as much for Jacob Chansley and Jenna Ryan? There are some significant differences in each of those cases, of course.

Skylar Mack is 18 years old and barely an adult. What she did, while foolish and potentially dangerous, didn’t actually harm anyone. She wasn’t infected with COVID-19 when she broke quarantine. That doesn’t mean she was right to break the rules; it simply means that this time, she didn’t literally hurt anyone by breaking them.

Skylar needed to be punished, though, because other people are always watching. Not punishing Skylar could have emboldened other people to do what she did. Some of those would be rule breakers might be infected with COVID-19, and if they broke quarantine and mingled with the locals, they could cause an outbreak on the Cayman Islands. It was just my opinion that Skylar didn’t need to rot in jail forever for what she did. I’m glad the local officials agreed and let her go this month, even if a lot of virtue signaling hypocrites at home thought she should have fried.

Conversely, both Jenna and Jacob are much older than Skylar is. Jenna Ryan is a 50 year old businesswoman. Jacob Chansley is 33 years old. Both are well over the ages at which their brains should be fully developed. Skylar still has a few more years to go before her noggin is completely solid, and medical science supports that. According to this article by the University of Rochester Medical Center, Skylar still has a “teen brain”, and she will have that for about seven more years. That means her judgment is not the same as an older person’s should be.

Jenna and Jacob surely knew that what they were doing was illegal, and it’s been illegal for a very long time. I mean, come on. When was the last time you were able to just walk into a federal building like the Capitol, completely unvetted and unchecked? Granted, I haven’t been in a U.S. federal building in ages, but even in the years prior to 2014 (which is the last time I was in the USA), most federal buildings had at least a security guard. Many of those buildings have metal detectors and require showing identification. On January 6th, 2021, a whole bunch of people showed up in Washington, DC, hellbent on breaking and entering a restricted building. They KNEW it was wrong. If they didn’t know, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to cross the street by themselves.

Moreover, five people DIED at the riot. Countless other people were physically injured, psychologically traumatized, or both. There was a lot of property damage due to vandalism, and there was also theft. Jenna Ryan and Jacob Chansley may not have stolen anything or caused any property damage themselves, but they were certainly not doing anything to stop the damage. In fact, they were encouraging it and participating, and they were doing so with a very defiant, unapologetic attitude. They had to know that what they were doing was against the law.

By contrast, up until the spring of last year, people were coming and going from places like the Cayman Islands with no one tracking their movements. Face masks weren’t a fashion accessory. Neither were armbands that monitor a person’s movements. Except for the fact that Skylar Mack was evidently in the Cayman Islands alone at age 18, she was doing what many teenagers before her have done, completely without consequence. The rules suddenly and radically changed for her and her peers. The rules did not suddenly and radically change for Jenna and Jacob.

And finally, Jenna and Jacob did things to draw attention to themselves. They bragged about what they were doing on social media. Jenna Ryan went so far as to advertise herself as a realtor as she raved about “stopping the steal” and “taking back our country”. It’s sheer lunacy that she thought this was okay and that she’d get away with it. And after she got busted, she took to social media to beg for donations. Later, she posted an unbelievable confession:

WHAT? Who do you think you are, Jenna? Televangelist Paula White? Seriously, I bet Jenna is a fan of Paula White’s. I used to watch Paula on TBN, as she would beg for love gifts for her “ministry”, even though she lived in a mansion.
Paula White in action. I think Jenna sounds a bit like her.

PayPal canceled Jenna’s account, so I guess those “blessings” are no longer flowing. Mom and Dad would be so proud that I remember a concept from the Doxology. All those years in church sometimes come in handy. But, besides taking donations she claims she doesn’t need, Jenna also felt entitled to a pardon from Donald Trump, who quite predictably, didn’t come through for her, or her buddy Jacob Chansley, who can’t eat prison grub and needs an organic diet.

At least Skylar Mack did her time, paid her fines, and respectfully admitted that she deserved to be held accountable for what she did. Yes, her grandmother reached out for help from the government. She was genuinely concerned about her loved one’s well-being. But I didn’t hear Skylar, herself, asking for Trump’s help.

Jenna and Jacob acted like their shenanigans were a big fucking joke, and they were entitled to behave like miscreants because apparently, they think Trump gave them permission. Even if Trump had “invited” them to break the law, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be serious consequences for doing so. Surely, Jacob and Jenna know that U.S. Presidents aren’t actually above the law– although Trump has sure acted like he was.

Judging by the news yesterday, I can see that there are still some pesky QAnon folks around who haven’t gotten the news that they were “played”. Some of those folks have wisely come to their senses… but too many are still on the QAnon/Proud Boys’ bandwagon. That includes a newly elected legislator from Georgia named Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has already filed articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden. This Trump trailing twit says that Joe Biden is unfit to hold office because he “blatantly abused power” when he was Vice President during the Obama years. She also accuses Biden of “blatant nepotism” regarding his son, Hunter Biden. Um… nepotism? Where the fuck was Ms. Greene during Trump’s tenure? Does she not realize that Trump gave most of his children and their spouses government jobs? I just can’t understand the stubborn cognitive dissonance in some of these people.

But anyway… I see that some people might think I’m a hypocrite for some of my views. And I’ll own up to that. I did get a little pissy the other day when someone chastised me and accused me of “falling for click bait”, although my getting pissy didn’t result in anyone getting blocked or unfriended on Facebook. And maybe I should be more understanding about my former “friend” blocking me a couple of days ago for praising Mike Pence on my space. I really don’t know what she’s going through right now. We’re all dealing with a lot of stress. I mean, I’m feeling depressed, hopeless, and stressed out and I don’t even have kids or a fucking job!

On the other hand, Biden is now in power and Mike Pence is not, so is it really that harmful to offer Pence some praise as he (hopefully) leaves federal politics? I’ll bet praise has been slow in coming for him over the past four years. He sure as hell never got it from a true narcissist like Donald Trump. I’ll bet “Mother” went through some hell, too. Poor woman probably had to hear and witness many horror stories about what an unapologetic asshole Trump is… although I’m sure Pence didn’t swear when he told her about it. If he didn’t actually tell her, then I’m sure it showed up in his demeanor. I’m married to a man who was both married to and once worked for narcissists. And I’ve witnessed and heard a whole lot of sad stories myself.

Well, anyway, I guess it’s time to wrap up today’s post. Bill has just called me to breakfast and he hates it when I let it get cold. So I’ll close by saying I know I’m a hypocrite about a lot of things. I really try not to be. But, as my former asshole psychiatrist once told me, “The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one.” So I’m doing that now, and I’ll try to be accountable. And maybe my next post will be about something other than politics.

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complaints, musings, poor judgment, true crime

What would you have Skylar Mack do?

I know I can and should write about how today is the very last day Trump will be called “president”. Or, at least he has to wait four years before he runs again, which I hope will never happen. I do have some thoughts on Trump’s departure from the White House. I also realize that things aren’t going to noticeably improve for awhile. It takes time for the stench of big business to clear, just as I’m sure it takes time for the stench of Donald Trump’s farts and shits to dissipate. We will have some wild news days for some time to come.

A screenshot of a funny image making the rounds today. Kudos to Portuguese cartoonist, Vasco Gargalo for this awesome image. Here’s a page for him.

However… although I could write about Trump’s departure, I want to address something else on my mind. It has to do with mean people and mean comments.

Last night, I got a drive by visit from some butthurt guy from Charleston, West Virginia. I’m not sure what he was doing on my blog. I don’t know for certain, but my guess is that he’s a Trumper who is upset that his orange leader is departing Washington, DC and wants to lash out at strangers. Or maybe he’s not a Trumper. Maybe he’s just an asshole who likes leaving rude comments to people he doesn’t know who happen to have a different viewpoint than he does.

Anyway… this guy, name of Marty, hit my post about Skylar Mack, the 18 year old young woman who was arrested in the Cayman Islands and spent about six or seven weeks in jail. Not the one I wrote yesterday, but the one I wrote last month.

In his post, Marty wrote some choice words about what an entitled jerk he thinks Skylar Mack is… then he called me a SJW, as well as a few other things. I could tell by my statcounter report that Marty had spent a total of about four minutes on my blog, and felt compelled to spew his nastiness at me, a perfect stranger, simply because he doesn’t agree with the views I express on my personal blog.

I did not publish his comment. In fact, after skimming it, I deleted it. And if he comes back here and leaves me another shitty comment, I will ban him. Maybe some people think that’s harsh or a violation of his right to freedom of expression, but this space isn’t a democracy. I pay a lot of money to host my blog. It’s my space. And while I used to let people pretty much write whatever they wanted, I’ve decided that I’m not going to do that anymore. Life is too short. If you want to be rude and nasty, go post somewhere else. I will not allow it here.

Speaking of Skylar Mack. I noticed similarly nasty spew written about her on the news sites. Many people, the vast majority of whom have never met Skylar Mack, are calling her a selfish, entitled, spoiled brat. They laugh at her apology, and even the fact that she admits she deserved to go to jail. Last night, I left a supportive comment for her, writing that I hoped she’d learned something from her experience and could move on with her life. I got a response from some woman who feels sure that Skylar didn’t learn anything but how to run to mommy for help.

Skylar Mack speaks out.

I responded that I felt like that wasn’t a fair assessment of Skylar Mack at all. I highly doubt that woman has ever met Skylar. Granted, I never have, either, but I’ve read that she’s 18 years old and a junior in college. If that’s true, she must have done some things right. I don’t approve of her choice to go to the Cayman Islands and then break quarantine. It was a stupid mistake. But she’s paid for her mistake, and now it’s time to let her redeem herself in peace.

The lady came back and said that I only feel this way because Skylar’s name is “Skylar”. In other words, she assumes, not ever having met me or knowing a single thing about me, that I am only being supportive because Skylar Mack is a pretty White woman. That’s not true at all. It doesn’t matter a whit to me that Skylar is a pretty White woman. I wouldn’t think locking her in a cell for months on end for her crime would be appropriate no matter what she looked like or what her name was.

I don’t think locking people up is appropriate in all circumstances. I think it’s done far too often in the United States, particularly for non-violent crimes. Skylar was jailed in the Cayman Islands, but I’m pretty sure that time behind bars was very unpleasant for her. I doubt she’ll forget it anytime soon. And I think the reduced punishment she received was fair and just, particularly since her initial punishment didn’t involve jail time at all and was reassessed by someone wanting to make an example out of her.

Skylar Mack can’t help who she is. She can’t help that she was named Skylar, and was born White. She can’t help that she has a supportive family who did what they could to help her. You know what? If she was my daughter, I’d do the same damned thing. I would be angry at her for making a poor decision and would definitely voice my strong disapproval of her choices. I certainly would not have bankrolled her trip. But if she was my daughter and she got in trouble in another country, you bet your ass I’d do whatever I could to help her. I think most decent parents would. I don’t blame Skylar Mack’s family for reaching out for help. I would do it, too, for a friend or a loved one.

Then I asked the lady, who was still challenging me, what she would have Skylar Mack do. Does she honestly think another month or two of her sitting in jail would have made more of an impression on her? How about a year? Should Skylar be forced to wear a hair shirt or self-flagellate? Should she kill herself or be beheaded? Exactly what punishment, in this person’s view, would be sufficient? And what makes her think she’s qualified to judge? Would she want that for herself if she made a mistake and landed in jail? I would also strongly caution her to never say never. All too often, “never” turns out to be a famous last word.

While I might agree that people of color typically get treated differently by law enforcement– that is, much more harshly– than White people do, I don’t think the solution to fixing that issue is to treat White people worse. I think the solution is to treat everyone with more respect, fairness, and kindness. We all make mistakes, particularly when we’re young, inexperienced, and impulsive. It’s not effective to be cruel and abusive. The goal of punishment should be correction and reform, not breaking people down so they can’t recover.

If it later turns out that Skylar didn’t learn from this experience and goes on to commit more crimes, I might change my mind about her. I’m sure I’ll be less inclined to give her a pass for bad behavior. But at this point, I truly hope she can move on from this and get back on the right path. I think she got the point, and no, it doesn’t matter to me that she’s a pretty White woman and apparently privileged. She’s a human being, and I think she should be given basic respect and consideration for that.

I feel that all people should get basic respect for being human. I am inclined to forgive Skylar Mack for making a mistake. I think I should be able to state that without someone making assumptions about the type of person I am, making fun of me, or leaving me mean or insulting comments. And again, leaving me a rude comment here will result in nothing more than laughter, deletion, and banning. I ain’t got the time for it.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, maybe I’ll be back later for one last Trump post. Or maybe not… today might be a good day to make some music.

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rants, true crime

Getting out of jail early…

This morning, I read that Skylar Mack got out of jail and came back to the United States. Skylar Mack is the young American woman from Georgia who made headlines last month after violating COVID-19 quarantine rules in the Cayman Islands. She was there to see her 24 year old boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, in a jet ski race. People at the race saw her violating quarantine and turned her in to the authorities. Skylar was initially given a light punishment, but some Cayman officials decided to make an example out of her and re-sentenced her to four months in prison.

Skylar is now out of jail.

Lots of Americans were outraged by Skylar Mack’s behavior and fully supported the tougher sentence. I went on record to say that I thought it was too harsh. Cooler heads in the Cayman Islands prevailed, and Skylar got a reduced sentence of two months. And, thanks to the local custom of letting well-behaved prisoners out after they serve 60% of their sentences, Skylar and her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, have both been released. Skylar Mack is said to be at home and very happy to be back in the United States, having survived her ordeal in a Caribbean prison.

I, for one, am glad she’s out. I hope she’s learned her lesson and will not offend again. I’m sure she won’t soon forget what she went through, and may now have more appreciation for what she has. I don’t think having her sit in jail for more time would have changed much of anything, and would only give her nightmares and personal setbacks. Life is tough enough right now, for EVERYONE.

While some people seem to think that anyone breaking COVID-19 rules is “murderous”, I, for one, think that’s a bit of virtue signaling hyperbole. COVID-19 is very contagious and potentially very dangerous, but it’s caused by a virus. Viruses are tiny, wily, and built for survival. People have to live their lives, and some folks will get sick no matter what. What Skylar Mack did was irresponsible, disrespectful, and very foolish, and she definitely deserved to be punished for it, but she’s not likely to become a habitual criminal. Doing what many 18 year olds would have done doesn’t make her a terrible person. Her life shouldn’t be ruined for breaking the rules… and thankfully, it looks like it won’t be.

I’m not a huge believer in lengthy incarceration as punishment, especially for non-violent crimes. And that’s why I’m also thinking that Lori Loughlin’s husband, Mossimo Giannulli, should also be allowed to serve the rest of his sentence for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud at home. Giannulli was sentenced to five months in a minimum security prison for his part in a scam that got his two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California on false pretenses.

I don’t think he’s wrong to complain.

Giannulli was supposed to go to FCI-Lompoc, a minimum security federal lockup near Santa Barbara, California, after he turned himself in back in November 2020. However, after he completed his two week COVID-19 quarantine, he was moved to a small cell at the adjacent medium security penitentiary. For 56 days, he was kept in solitary confinement, only allowed out of the cell for three twenty minute breaks per week. He was finally moved to the minimum security camp on January 13th, probably because his lawyers have been making a stink and word has gotten out in the press.

Solitary confinement is a harsh punishment. It’s inappropriate, given the nature of Giannulli’s crime. He should not have been locked down like that for 56 days, especially if he was supposed to be incarcerated at a minimum security camp. I know people want to scream about privilege, but I don’t think they’ve stopped to think about what it means to be locked in a cell for 24 hours a day for weeks on end. The punishment ought to fit the crime, even if the confinement is, supposedly, for his “own protection”.

Many people think Mossimo Giannulli deserves some abuse. They cite his “white privilege” and “wealth”, as well as an attitude of entitlement, as they haughtily claim that it’s fair for him to rot in solitary confinement. I guess it’s a crime to have money, in some people’s views. It always makes me shake my head when people armchair quarterback these cases and think someone’s prison sentence isn’t harsh enough. When I’ve called people out on their high and mighty positions, asking them if that’s how they would want to be treated if they should ever get in trouble, they always tell me that they would never do what the person has done. But sometimes shit happens, and people find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I think, in a civilized society, we must temper justice with mercy.

I absolutely think it was right for Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli to have to face consequences for what they did. I don’t even think being in jail was inappropriate. But when it comes down to it, their crimes weren’t violent. Their daughters are now outed, and won’t be getting over anymore. They won’t be committing this crime again. There’s no need to force them to rot in a cell for long periods of time. I don’t think that’s appropriate for ANYONE, regardless of their race, class, or creed, when the crime isn’t one that resulted in injuries or deaths of other people. Americans are way too enamored with putting people in prison to punish them, rather than investing in humanity.

Given the fact that Giannulli has now spent two months in prison under much harsher conditions than what was agreed upon in court when he was sentenced, I don’t think he’s out of line for requesting home confinement. However, I also know that what I think and a nickel will get us nowhere. 😉

A lot of people are big believers in making examples out of others. They don’t seem to realize that someday, someone might want to make an example out of them or a loved one. Someone might think they need to be made an example out of for everyone else. Believe me, perspectives always change when the shoe is on the other foot.

I don’t condone breaking the law. I just don’t think that incarceration for long periods of time for non-violent crimes is the answer. I especially feel that way in situations when it’s a first offense or likely to be an only offense. In both Skylar Mack’s and Lori Loughlin’s and Mossimo Giannulli’s cases, the crimes were non-violent and unlikely to be repeated. If someday, Skylar Mack decides to reoffend in the Cayman Islands, I think it would make sense for her to get a harsher punishment for breaking the rules. But I highly doubt Skylar will be going anywhere anytime soon, and I doubt she’ll cause any more trouble, at least not in the Caribbean.

Likewise, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli probably won’t get caught up in another legal situation anytime soon, at least not involving their daughters going to college. So I won’t be upset if Mossimo gets out of jail early. I think it’s appropriate, under the circumstances. And I would feel that way even if he wasn’t a rich, white guy. Incarceration isn’t a good idea during a pandemic, anyway. We’re all pretty much incarcerated as it is.

And… just because I’m happy about it– one more day to go before Trump is out of office. Yea!

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lessons learned, poor judgment, true crime

If I were in Skylar’s shoes…

Yesterday’s post about Skylar Mack has attracted a lot of attention. Or, it’s attracted a lot of attention by this blog’s standards. This blog doesn’t usually get that much traffic. Ever since I switched platforms from Blogger to WordPress, my hit counts have been down. I’ve been slowly rebuilding my audience since February 2019, but if I’m honest, I’m not in a hurry to do so. I don’t blog for popularity or money. I blog because I feel compelled to write down my thoughts.

I have always been a writer at heart. I’ve always kept journals, even if I haven’t always been in the habit of writing every day. Feeling compelled to write is just one of my innate quirks. I choose to leave most of my posts public because I genuinely enjoy interacting with most people, even if they don’t agree with me. I often learn from comments and interactions with people. But sometimes my thoughts and opinions attract contention, and while a little bit of that is okay, too much can be distressing.

Yesterday’s post about Skylar Mack came about after I’d had a Facebook discussion with some friends about her case. I had posted about it because I read an article about Skylar Mack’s predicament in The New York Times. Then I read some of the comments posted on The New York Times’ Facebook page. The vast majority of the responses left by the masses were really negative. Some of the comments were personal, mean-spirited, and nasty, with some judgments about her character that I felt were unfair. I also read that she and her family were getting hate mail and death threats. That seems very wrong to me.

I started thinking about how I would feel if I were in Skylar’s shoes back in 1990, when I was her age. Like Skylar, I am white and blonde, and come from a relatively privileged family from the South. I can’t help any of those things. They just are what they are. Skylar also can’t help being white or privileged. She’s prettier than I was, and I certainly couldn’t have been a pre-med student because I don’t have a head for math and science, or a stomach for looking at blood and guts. But other than that, we have things in common.

First, it occurred to me that when I was 18, I had the benefit of relative privacy. There was no widespread Internet usage in those days, so people who were arrested could enjoy a lot more anonymity than they can today. Yes, your name might appear in the local newspapers, but not everybody reads the paper from cover to cover and there was no social media feed. Had Skylar Mack been 18 in 1990, she probably would have been arrested in the Cayman Islands and no one would have ever known about it. She also probably would not have gotten a four month prison sentence, because there would be no reason to make her an “example”. Americans would likely not be reading about what was going on in the Cayman Islands and thus would not likely be affected by how strict the local authorities appear to be.

Next, I imagined how I would feel if I were Skylar Mack, being arrested for the first time and having it happen in a foreign country. It would have been mortifying enough if this had happened in 1990, when I was 18. I would have been ashamed, humiliated, devastated, and horrified, without any of what happened being leaked widespread to the media. But in 1990, I would have had the ability to take my punishment without dealing with the court of public opinion chiming in.

Then I started thinking about what it must be like for Skylar and her family to be reading the vitriol being spewed about her case by total strangers around the world. So many people, who have never even met her and know nothing about her, were making sweeping negative statements about what kind of person she is. It occurred to me that while Skylar Mack made a huge mistake, she’s also done a lot of things right. I don’t think it’s right to condemn a person simply for screwing up. Everybody screws up sometimes. I wouldn’t want people to treat me or someone I care about in that way. It’s also not lost on me that Skylar’s family is likely responsible for putting this story out there.

Then I realized that Skylar Mack still has something to offer the world, despite having made a blunder. She has reportedly wanted to be a physician since she was a child. She’s been on the way to making that lofty goal come to fruition. But she’s also 18, and 18 year olds don’t magically become adults with common sense or maturity simply because they have become legal adults.

I have known a lot of teenagers who were very mature for their ages. And I have also known people well into their 30s and 40s who still act like children. I suspect that Skylar Mack is a typical 18 year old, who hasn’t quite crossed the bridge to maturity and is a bit self-absorbed. But, prior to this incident, she’s been on the right track. She still has so many years to go. To read some of the responses on The New York Times, you’d think she should be beheaded for simply wanting to have a good time.

Next I started looking at what actually happened. Skylar chose not to quarantine, but her choice not to quarantine did not harm anyone, as she was not infected. Yes, she could have spread COVID-19 by attending that jet ski competition. She also could have spread it by going to the grocery store or riding a bus. COVID-19 is, unfortunately, a very wily virus that spreads like crazy. I don’t think traveling right now is a smart decision, and I agree that she should have followed the guidelines set to slow and hopefully stop the virus from spreading. But when it comes down to it, she wasn’t a spreader. She could have been one, but she wasn’t, and she was tested twice, then quarantined for the two weeks she was supposed to quarantine. I think that point deserves consideration.

Then I started thinking about the length of the sentence and what it would accomplish. Skylar Mack is a productive young woman who is (or was) on her way to becoming a physician. There could be a day when she’s treating people with COVID-19. Right now, we need people who are willing and able to work with the sick. She did not show the best judgment last month, when she chose to ignore the quarantine regulations. But again, she’s 18 years old, and apparently not fully baked yet. Science has shown us that most people’s brains aren’t fully developed until they are 25 years old. Skylar still has another seven years before she’s 25. It’s perfectly normal for her to have lapses in judgment. From the link:

The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.

In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In teens’ brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.

Four months to someone who is 18 will seem a lot longer than it does to someone my age. Having had a look at the conditions of the jails in the Cayman Islands, it occurred to me that Skylar could have lasting psychological damage from being incarcerated down there. A 2018 article about the Northward Prison in the Cayman Islands describes the facilities as “filled to capacity”. An accompanying photograph shows a rather grim looking facility. Another 2018 article describes the women’s prison at Fairbanks as “overflowing”. I see no reason why those conditions would be different in 2020, although they could be.

So here we have a young woman who has never been in trouble with the law and is working toward becoming a much needed medical professional being locked up for months because she had a lapse in judgment– something that is scientifically proven to be very normal for 18 year olds. Her lapse in judgment, while disrespectful, irresponsible, and immature, didn’t actually harm anyone. She was not infected with COVID-19, as far as I know. So sitting in a prison cell would probably not do much more than give her nightmares and ruin what was a bright future.

Last night, just before I went to bed, I saw that the powers that be in the Cayman Islands agreed with me that Skylar’s punishment was too harsh. They reduced her sentence to two months, which I think is reasonable and sensible. She will get a taste of being incarcerated, but won’t have to languish in a jail cell until March. Plenty of people still think she should just sit and rot in jail and have her future ruined. I wonder if they would take an active interest in this case after reading the headlines. When February 2021 rolls around, are they still going to think Skylar Mack should rot in a cell? Or are they just blowing off steam and/or virtue signaling?

I could have added my own comment to The New York Times’ Facebook post. I opted to write a blog post instead, because I have found that people who comment on Facebook are not usually very deep thinkers. They have a knee jerk reaction to something, form an opinion, and spout off. And I am not interested in getting into a pointless argument with someone, especially a stranger, who makes sweeping assumptions about people without knowing the facts or even considering another perspective. That’s a waste of my time and energy, and does nothing more than raise my blood pressure. But I still felt the need to write, so I did.

One of my friends, whom I think leans conservative but wrote that she thinks Skylar should sit in prison, told me that she didn’t think my opinion was unpopular. She based her perspective on what her friends were saying. I could be wrong, but my guess is that a lot of “pro-Trump” types are aligning themselves with Eric Trump’s Tweeted comments about this case.

Let me make myself clear. I may agree with Eric Trump that the sentence was excessive, but I doubt we agree for the same reasons.

I think Eric Trump’s Tweet is likely less about genuine concern for Skylar Mack’s welfare and more about being a privileged and entitled American. That is NOT why I think Skylar’s sentence was rightfully reduced. I genuinely feel that Skylar’s originally amended sentence of four months was unfair and unproductive and could do more harm than good. I think she would get the point just as easily with two months in jail as she would with four months, and there might be fewer lasting effects that screw up her life. And my impressions of what people were thinking weren’t at all based on what my peers were saying; they were based on what total strangers by the thousands were commenting. I think many of those comments were made more out of anger, frustration, and not wanting to look like a “privileged American”, than any real thinking about what actually happened.

As an American who lives in Germany, trust me– I am very aware of how Americans look to others. I don’t want to look like that, either. But I also don’t think it’s right to punish Skylar more harshly simply because of where she came from and what she looks like. I have never met Skylar Mack, but I think she should get the benefit of the doubt, especially since she’s very young and this was her first offense. I’m sure she won’t make this mistake again.

I also became so resolute about this case because I don’t feel like I should be expected to agree with others, simply because others have an opinion that is more popular. Yesterday, several people seemed to be trying very hard to change my mind or convince me that my perspective is wrong, ill-considered, or flawed. Believe me. I have read why so many people think why Skylar Mack should rot in a cell. A lot of those people seem very focused on retribution rather than rehabilitation or genuine correction. I don’t think that is useful, especially since those who are assuming she’s an entitled little shit won’t even care about this in a few days, but this will affect Skylar’s future from now on.

All I did was share my opinion. At the end of the day, that’s all it is… an opinion. My opinion has no bearing on Skylar Mack’s case whatsoever. I never once said she should get off “scot free”. It seems that the local authorities in the Cayman Islands must have agreed with me, to some extent, because they did reduce her sentence by two months. I think that was a reasonable compromise. But the way some people behave, you’d think that sharing and defending my contrary opinion merits some kind of “re-education” effort, as if I can’t possibly see how wrong Skylar was to do what she did. I agree that she was wrong. I just don’t think her mistake merits public flogging and character assassination in addition to a jail sentence and a fine. Several people tried to “correct” my opinion about this case, even though an opinion is all it is. I think the world would be a very dull place if people weren’t allowed to make up their own minds and express themselves.

Like I said, in a matter of days, virtually no one will be talking about this case anymore. But if that four month sentence had stuck, Skylar would still be rotting in jail and potentially exposed to dangers that could permanently affect her health and livelihood. I think that’s worth considering. So that’s why I’ve written so much about this case and expressed myself so stubbornly as somewhat of an ally for Skylar. Plenty of people think she should rot. I want to be among those who think she still has something to offer the world and can redeem herself. I think she could use the support.

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poor judgment, travel, true crime

My unpopular opinion regarding Skylar Mack…

A few days ago, Bill mentioned a news story he’d read about Skylar Mack, an 18 year old woman who went to the Cayman Islands on November 27, 2020 because she wanted to watch her 24 year old boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, compete in a jet skiing competition. Bill told me that Skylar was supposed to quarantine in her hotel for fourteen days before interacting with the masses. Two days after her arrival, Skylar removed the transponder monitoring device that was placed on her to keep track of her movements. She had been tested twice for COVID-19 and had a negative result both times. Apparently, she figured she was good to go, even though she had been told she had to quarantine. She took off the wristband and abandoned the cell phone designed to ensure compliance with the quarantine rules.

Skylar Mack went to the jet skiing competition and watched her boyfriend compete. While she was there, she interacted with the locals. No one wore face masks. Both Skylar and Vanjae were reported to the police. They were arrested, and Skylar was charged with leaving her home during the mandatory quarantine period and Ramgeet was charged with aiding and abetting her. Originally, they were both sentenced to 40 hours of community service and a $2600 fine each. Ramgeet was stripped of his victory at the jet ski event and both were required to write letters of apology. Ramgeet is also banned from the first few jet ski competitions of 2021.

But then local prosecutors decided to appeal the sentence, claiming it was too lenient. Evidently, the day before Skylar broke the rules, the penalties for her crime were increased. The Cayman Islands Grand Court agreed with the appeal, and the young couple was resentenced to four months in prison. Roger Chapple, the judge who changed the sentence said that Skylar had complained that the wristband of her transponder was too tight. It was changed to a looser one that she could remove. He said that indicated that she had been planning to ditch quarantine; therefore her crime was “premeditated”. Originally, Chapple was considering sentencing her to up to fifteen months in prison. He “drastically reduced” her sentence due to “her age, previous good character, and her obvious remorse,” as well as the fact that she and Ramgeet had both voluntarily pleaded guilty.

Grandma speaks. I think she makes sense.

Recently, Skylar’s grandmother has been in the news, tearfully pleading for help getting Skylar released and sent home to Georgia, where she is a pre-med student at Mercer University. Skylar’s grandmother, Jeanne Mack, says that her granddaughter is “hysterical” and can’t eat. The family has called upon Donald Trump for help.

When I first read about this case, I was kind of inclined to agree that she broke the rules and should have to deal with the punishment. I do not condone what Skylar did, and she absolutely should have realized that laws apply in every country and one must follow the local laws or suffer the consequences. But then I read some of the comments people were leaving, which were incredibly heartless and mean-spirited. I’ve mentioned this before– for some reason, a lot of Americans love to see people rot behind bars, especially if the story involves a pretty white woman who comes across as “privileged” and “entitled”. It also occurred to me that plenty of folks seem to think they’re perfect, and forget that everybody makes mistakes– especially when they’re 18.

Let’s take a hard look at Skylar Mack. This is a young woman who has never been in trouble with the law. She’s 18 years old, and indeed, many people would say she’s very pretty. She attends Mercer University, a private school in Georgia, where she’s been majoring in pre-med (but after this fiasco, who knows?). When she was originally sentenced by magistrate Angelyn Hernandez, she paid her fines out of her savings and was working with authorities to set up her community service. She has written a seemingly sincere letter of apology. More than one person has said that she’s truly sorry for what she did. Less than a year ago, what Skylar did would not be considered illegal in any sense.

Reading some of the comments people are leaving about Skylar, you’d think she was some kind of delinquent demon from Hell. I remember being 18 years old and doing stupid things. I never went to a foreign country and broke the laws at that age, but that was because I had no money for travel. In those days, I was lucky if I had gas money to drive across the river in Gloucester, Virginia. But hell, I could have easily gotten into serious mischief as a really young and inexperienced woman. By the grace of God, I was never caught doing anything seriously wrong and, of course, we didn’t have a pandemic going on in 1990. I still doubt Skylar is that much more of a delinquent than I was at that age, back when a person could much more easily stay anonymous. She’s young and was looking to have a good time. Like many young people, she took a dumb chance and got busted.

Skylar was quarantined after she was arrested. She was evidently not infected with COVID-19, so her interaction with the locals did not cause anyone to get sick. Yes, it was disrespectful, foolish, and wrong to do what she did, and it could have been disastrous, but when it came down to it, she didn’t actually harm anyone. Putting her in prison for four months will probably not do much more than cause her a lot of mental trauma that could haunt her for years. Even if she doesn’t get kicked out of her college, this incident could affect her if and when she decides to attend medical school or another post graduate program. The notoriety of this case might also affect her career prospects.

It’s been said that her sentence was much harsher than other people’s sentences for similar crimes. It sounds like she and her boyfriend were being made examples of, in part, because she’s a pretty, white, American woman who is deemed “privileged”. I don’t know Skylar at all. She might very well be a spoiled brat. But because I don’t know her, I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions about her just based on appearances. I don’t think people should get a pass for being pretty and white, but I also don’t think being pretty and white should require that someone is made into an example. Punishments should be fair and fit the crime, and justice should be blind.

Skylar is a pre-med student at Mercer University, which is where one of my cousins went to college. Many people were scoffing at that, given that she flouted public health measures intended to curb the coronavirus. Some physician she’ll be, right? Yes, it was a dumb thing to do, but again, she is BARELY a legal adult. Frankly, I don’t know what she was doing in the Cayman Islands– she should not be traveling right now and the fact that she had the means to be there indicates that she obviously has money. But she was, in fact, allowed to travel, and she made very poor, immature choices that may affect her for years to come. In light of that, her family is calling for help from the U.S. government. As a U.S. citizen, she has the right to request assistance from the State Department.

Lots of people are laughing about Skylar’s family pleading for help from Trump, but I’ll tell you what– if she was my daughter, I’d do the same thing. I think a lot of people would. It’s easy to want to condemn someone to an onerous punishment when they aren’t your friends or loved ones. When it comes down to it, though, most decent people wouldn’t just glibly say something like, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” about a loved one who is locked up abroad, especially at Christmas time. Seriously… if I were Skylar’s mom, I would be pissed off at her. I would let her have it when she got home to me, safe. But until that happened, you bet your ass I would try to help her and be very concerned about her welfare. I certainly don’t blame her family for calling on Trump, although I doubt he’ll be helpful.

Then I think about other people who have done time– Lori Loughlin, who was in the news for many months before she went to prison for two months for fraud. She’ll probably be out by Christmas. And Brock Turner, caught red-handed, raping an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster. He got less than six months. And yes, these are both American cases, but the Cayman Islands are an autonomous British protectorate. It’s not like the Brits are notorious for being super tough on crime, at least not in this day and age (although the prison in the Cayman Islands looks pretty dilapidated). Maybe if Skylar had gone to a country where the laws are notoriously draconian, I might be less sympathetic. But I don’t remember reading about any cases in the Cayman Islands indicating that it’s historically a place where laws are especially strict. The rules surrounding COVID-19 seem to change constantly, anyway.

I think it would have been far more suitable to have Skylar do her community service, pay her fine, and maybe serve a very short stint behind bars. Then deport her, and tell her she can’t come back. Or tell her not to come back for five or ten years. I would imagine she won’t WANT to come back, nor will she ever commit this crime again.

I did see an interesting comment from a person who appeared to be a Cayman Islands native living in the United States. This person was upset that some people were saying we should boycott the Cayman Islands. She wrote:

Hmmm… you say the Cayman Islands will be “fine”, but then you say anyone calling for a boycott is “not decent” and “should not own a passport.” If the Cayman Islands will really be fine, why would you claim that boycotters are not decent people who shouldn’t have passports? Why would it even matter to you?

First off, if enough people decide not to visit the Cayman Islands, regardless of the reason, there WILL be a detrimental effect to the economy. Secondly, I completely understand wanting to protect the islanders from COVID-19, but it seems to me that imprisoning a non-habitual rule breaker who isn’t a citizen would not be the best way to accomplish that. Frankly, after reading this story, I don’t think I’d want to visit the Cayman Islands. I wouldn’t visit there anyway, since I’m in Germany at the moment, and traveling is not a good idea right now. But if I were in the United States, this story and the way Skylar Mack is being treated would not make me want to visit. And that may be just fine with the people of the Cayman Islands, but if enough people felt like me, the locals may not like the end results.

I wish Skylar Mack well. Although I have no plans to write any letters to government officials on her behalf, I hope whatever ends up happening doesn’t ruin or end her life. She clearly has loved ones who are concerned about her well-being and want the best for her. I hope she will cling to that, hang in there, and not let this incident destroy her. Although a lot of people are laughing at her and sending hate mail and death threats right now, I realize that she made a dumb mistake and she should ultimately be forgiven. And those who are laughing at her might want to consider that these days, we’re all a cellphone away from becoming Internet infamous ourselves. I just thank God the Internet was not a thing when I was 18.

That being said… people DO need to follow the rules and not assume that they won’t get caught. COVID-19 is not a joke, and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to get through this together.

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