business, careers, law, LDS, YouTube

I discovered a fascinating new YouTube channel…

Based on the recent topics I’ve been covering on this blog, some people might come away with the idea that all I care about is abortion, Trump, and COVID-19. But, the truth is, I have a wide array of interests. I am really interested in cults, and before the mess of the pandemic and Trump’s disastrous presidency, I wrote a lot about toxic organizations.

Before I revised my commenting policy, I heard from someone who had read the story of how I almost got sucked into a multi-level marketing business. Well, actually, that’s probably overstating things. The truth is, there was never any real possibility that I would ever get involved with an MLM. I did, however, get roped into seeing a presentation by people involved with the now defunct group, Equinox. It was a bizarre experience that was also surprisingly educational. I’m glad I went, although I am even more glad that I didn’t get sucked into the business.

As I discovered yesterday, when I found NOT THE GOOD GIRL’s YouTube channel, some people are not so fortunate. I found her channel yesterday, when YouTube suggested a video she made, interviewing a former Mary Kay director. It was late afternoon and I had time to kill, so I watched the whole thing, which ran for over two hours. I have to give her props. I very rarely have the patience to sit through a two hour video that wasn’t made by TV producers or movie makers. But I did watch the whole thing… and I found it thought provoking on many levels.

I watched this entire video… Elle could have been me, although she’s a lot bubblier than I am.

What I really thought was interesting about this video is how the two women talk about the culty tactics used to keep people in the business. At one point, they both mention that they used to be religious. Elle says she went to a Bible college. And Josie, the woman making these videos, also mentions that the tactics reminded her of being in church. I don’t know which religious bent either of these ladies followed, but I definitely could see the parallels.

I was raised mainstream Presbyterian, which was pretty benign. But Bill was involved in the LDS church, thanks to his ex wife. I have been studying Mormonism for years, and I recognized a lot of the signs and symptoms of “cult abuse” in this video that I’ve also seen in Mormonism. In fairness, those same signs and symptoms exist in other religious organizations. Mormonism is just the organization that directly affected me. They aren’t the only ones, nor are they necessarily the worst offenders. Actually, Elle mentions that being in Mary Kay reminded her of Scientology. I could definitely see that, having seen some of the videos showing members rallying, with Tom Cruise and his ilk at the helm.

Reminds me of some of the video footage of MLM rallies I’ve seen.

In the below video, Josie talks about her own experiences with MLMs, and how she got indoctrinated by multi-level marking companies. So many of the techniques used by culty religions and abusive people are used by MLMs. Josie talks about being “lovebombed” and groomed, sucked into the business model that so often preys on people’s hopes and dreams of prosperity and being their own bosses.

Josie explains how she got hooked by MLMs…

I noticed in both Josie’s and Elle’s stories, both women joined the MLMs when they were feeling desperate and/or trying to escape a bad situation. In Elle’s case, she was a new college graduate who had a degree in English. She was look for a “real job” and was not having much success. Mary Kay made it seem like she could be a legitimate business owner and build “experience” that might make her attractive to employers. She didn’t realize that a lot of people don’t like people who are involved in MLMs, because they are always looking for sales leads– either people to buy their products, or people they can recruit. Because recruiting new distributors is how people in MLMs make money, and most people are not successful.

In Josie’s case, the decision to be involved in MLMs followed a divorce when she was in her early 20s. She thought the MLM would help her change her life. But what it really led to was the loss of friendships and the loss of herself. She and Elle both describe incredible toxicity that occurs within these types of organizations. I can’t help but notice that a lot of people who join demanding religions also tend to lose friends and family members as they get more indoctrinated within the group. Maybe that’s less true with a religion like the LDS church, as many people identify as “cultural Mormons” and associate with non-LDS people. However, people who initially join and radically change their lifestyles often do lose contact with people who don’t want to join the religion.

Now, I know that some people join MLMs, not because they want to make money, but because they like the products and want discounts. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. What Josie and Elle are talking about are people who think they’re going to make a lot of money in MLMs. Some people do make money, but the vast majority of people never make so much as minimum wage. And they often end up exploiting people in the process of trying to succeed.

Josie also points out that some MLMs do offer good products. I remember that even Equinox had some good products that people wanted to buy, even after the company fell apart. I know a lot of people swear by Avon and Mary Kay. The issue isn’t necessarily the quality of the products. It’s the fact that the products aren’t where the money comes from. The money comes from getting people to basically join a cult, where toxic measures are used to keep people slaving away. The toxicity includes being told you’re not good enough; you don’t work hard enough; you aren’t positive enough, or sharing the company’s image in the best light.

I have visited this topic before. In my original incarnation of The Overeducated Housewife, I wrote several posts about LuLaRoe. I know a few people who were involved in that company, and some swore by how comfortable their leggings are. Deanne Brady Stidham and Mark Stidham are the founders of LuLaRoe, and they are LDS. People in the business referred to Brady as “Aunt Deanne”. I’m sure that was by design, as I pointed out in one of my posts that on the surface, it sounds good to be calling her “aunt”.

If you’re family, you’re supposed to be “loved” and cared for, in a sense.  Family members are supposed to have your back.  We love our family members and don’t want to disappoint them.  That’s what makes it easier to trust family members, and more devastating when family screws you over.  Lots of people think of a business that treats people like “family” as a good thing.  But there is a downside to being a figurative “brother”, “sister”, “aunt” or “cousin”.  Sometimes when you think of someone as “family”, you let your guard down when you really shouldn’t. And, in fact, some of the worst abuse and most toxic relationships happen at the hands of “family” members.

Family members have that advantage of being in the group… they have access to you that other people generally don’t.  They know you better than most people do.  And when something unpleasant needs to be done, family members feel okay about asking other family members for help.  If you go against the grain, you run the risk of being cast out… lovingly, of course, because you need to see the error of your ways.  While I don’t know for sure, I get the sense that LuLaRoe and some other multi-level marketing businesses are kind of culty like that.  You toe the line so you won’t be towed outside of the group. 

If you watch the video with Elle, the Mary Kay director, you’ll hear her talk about the $400 suits she felt compelled to buy for the sake of her business. She talks about how, as a Mary Kay consultant, she was expected to wear panty hose, even when she was on a plane going to a convention. She talks about all of the gear and merchandise she was pressured to buy, all in the name of promoting the business. Below is a screenshot I took of a now defunct blog post about a woman who got burned by LuLaRoe. You can see how appearance and dressing for success is very heavily promoted. But it also has the effect of creating a “uniform”, which psychologically gets people to think they’re part of a larger, more powerful group. While there may not be anything wrong with being in a group, I do think it’s important to understand how being conditioned to look, think, and dress a certain way is a conduit toward being a part of a cult.

LuLaRoe dress rules.

I loved this lady’s hilarious anti-LuLaRoe video. It bears another share!

She gets it… and is spilling the truth.

I’ll probably spend some more time watching Josie’s videos today… or maybe even a few by other people who have learned the truth about being involved with MLMs. I know some people think MLMs are great. In fact, I remember one acquaintance got very defensive when I shared a negative news article about LuLaRoe. However, I could not help but notice that less than a year later, she was trying to unload her entire inventory after LuLaRoe got very publicly sued. Amazon even has a new docuseries going on about LuLaRoe.

I don’t like MLMs, and it’s sad to hear and read stories of people who get caught up in them. On the other hand, I find that topic less depressing than COVID-19, Trump worship, and abortion… So, since it’s Friday, I’ll probably explore some more. Josie’s channel on its own has hours of content! I could totally fall down a rabbit hole. I’m watching the below video now.

High drama!

I notice that Josie’s early videos get very few views. But now that she’s exposing MLMs, she’s probably making some legitimate bank on YouTube!

Standard
book reviews

Repost: Book review of Exile from Latvia: My WWII Childhood- From Survival to Opportunity

I wrote this post for my original Blogspot blog on September 15, 2016. It appears here as/is.

It’s time for another book review.  Since my Internet sucked yesterday, I finished reading a book I’ve been working on for awhile.  Harry G. Kapeikis published his book, Exile from Latvia: My WWII Childhood- From Survival to Opportunity in November 2007.  I see the book, which is the first in a three part series, is now no longer available on Kindle.  I think that’s a pity.

I really enjoyed reading Mr. Kepeikis’s story of his Latvian childhood interrupted by the invasion of the Russians and subsequent liberation by the Germans.  Kepeikis and his family left Latvia and moved to Bavaria, where they eventually ended up in a Displaced Persons (DP) camp operated by the Americans, who were occupying Germany post World War II.  Although Kepeikis now writes in a very fluent, conversational English, in the 1940s, he was a young boy who spoke Latvian.  He did not speak German.  He did not speak English.  And there he was in a strange land with his family, trying to assimilate and survive.

Harry Kepeikis offers a unique perspective on history, albeit one that is definitely slanted by his own experiences.  His family rented land in Latvia, where they had rabbits and chickens and a big garden. It was their home.  When the Russians invaded, they began to round up Latvians and send them to Siberia, where they were forced to work.  Many people died of exposure, exhaustion, and starvation.  Kepeikis also writes of Latvian children being rounded up by Soviet authorities and sent to a “camp”, where they would learn about the “benefits” of being in the Soviet Union.  Kepeikis writes that many of the children who were rounded up never came home again.  His mother, whom he explains was very protective, hid her son in the cellar for days while the authorities came through their town looking for kids to send away to camp.

Germany, it seems, was equally frightening for the Kepeikis family, especially at first.  Kepeikis writes of seeing American soldiers, some of whom were black.  He had never seen black people before and was bewildered and, perhaps, afraid of them.  They spoke a language he didn’t understand.  But they also gave him chocolate.  He brought the chocolate home and his mother, being protective, told him not to eat it because she feared it was poisoned.  Of course, it wasn’t poisoned and Kepeikis eventually tasted it and loved it.  He sang the praises of American chocolate, which at least in the 40s, might very well have been superior to what one could find in Europe.

Because of the language barrier, Harry and his family often found themselves often confused, especially when it came time for them to go to a DP camp.  While the idea of being sent to a “camp” may sound sinister, Kepeikis makes it sound like it wasn’t so bad.  The families were put up in apartments that had running water and kitchens, which was a huge upgrade over camping out.  The kids were able to attend school.  They made friends.  Eventually, in 1950, the families who were in DP camps were allowed to move to one of several countries willing to receive them.  Some people went to Australia.  Some went to Canada, England, or Argentina.  Many ended up in the United States.

Because it was 1950, Kepeikis and his family took a ship across the Atlantic Ocean.  I have done a few cruises in my day and I know I have a tendency to get seasick.  Imagine being on a naval ship crossing the Atlantic in a time when the ships had no stabilizers.  Yes, there was rampant seasickness.  However, there was also plenty of food and companionship.  This part of the book is at the end, as Harry and his family are headed for their new home.  As I finished reading about their first glimpses of New York City, I found myself wishing the book was longer.  But, as I mentioned at the start of this review, this is the first book in a trilogy.  I want to read the other two books to understand how this man eventually assimilated into the United States.

What I liked about Exile from Latvia, is the firsthand account of what it was like for a man to change countries as a young child who didn’t understand everything at first.  I also appreciated, as an American, how grateful Harry was to the American soldiers who ultimately helped his family.  In a time when a lot of people have overwhelmingly negative things to say (and write) about the United States, I found this attitude very refreshing.  Of course, Harry’s family didn’t always trust the Americans… and rightfully so, given what they’d already been through.

I also think this book is extremely timely reading for many reasons.  First off, I live in Germany and have extensive experiences with the U.S. military as a “brat” and a spouse, so I can relate on many levels to Kepeikis’s impressions of the military and Germany.  Secondly, Germany is currently home to many refugees from Syria.  While Syria is a very different place and has a vastly different culture than any in Europe, reading Kepeikis’s account gave me an inkling of what it must be like for some of the refugees who had fled the Middle East, some of whom are now living in what used to be housing for U.S. military troops.  And thirdly, the United States is currently entertaining electing a man who has some disturbing similarities to Adolf Hitler.  While Kepeikis and his family ultimately came out of World War II in a better place, many people did not.  Actually, Kepeikis doesn’t focus much on Hitler.  His enemy was Josef Stalin, yet another toxic leader.

Anyway, as you can probably tell, I recommend Harry Kepeikis’s book, especially if you’re interested in reading about what happened to people who survived Soviet occupation and World War II.  I’m glad I read it and will have to read the next book.  Kepeikis is a good writer who spins a good story– and even demonstrates a vivid imagination as he writes about how he used to daydream in his garden as a child.  He also seems like a genuinely good man who reminds us that immigration and immigrants are a large part of what makes the United States the United States.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
celebrities, condescending twatbags, narcissists

Let’s talk about Dave Ramsey…

Dave Ramsey… that’s a name I’ve heard bandied about in fundie Christian circles. Before this morning, I didn’t know much about him. I’d heard a little about what he does. He’s a Christian financial guru. I probably first heard about him from the Duggar family– Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, specifically– who used to tout their theories on how to stay out of debt and raise a humongous “quiver full” of children who would grow up to be God fearing, tithe paying Christians.

While religion is not supposed to be tied to politics, it often is. Fundie Christians have huge families, in part, so that they can make more voters who have been trained to vote for political candidates that champion their religious beliefs and make laws that favor Christianity. Dave Ramsey appears to be one of those people. He’s made a career out of courting Christians and recruiting them into his financial programs.

I don’t actually know too much about the quality of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice. I have read that some people like his budget plans. However, after reading an article about him this morning, I’m reminded an awful lot of another famous person who was recently in the news… Tom Cruise. Cruise, as we all know, is famously devoted to the Church of Scientology. He’s also quite narcissistic and abusive, as evidenced by his recent verbal tirade that put him in the news a couple of months ago. I’ll get to why Dave Ramsey reminds me of Tom Cruise in a minute.

Dave Ramsey is in the news this morning because he has said that he doesn’t agree with giving people stimulus checks to help them through the pandemic. Dave Ramsey said on Fox News, “If $600 or $1400 changes your life, you were pretty much screwed already.” He continues, saying “That’s not talking down to folks. I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve been broke. I work with people every day who are hurting. I love people. I want people to be lifted up, but this is, again, it is just political rhetoric,”

Probably because of Ramsey’s comment on Fox News, someone in the Duggar Family News group shared an illuminating article about people who have worked for Dave Ramsey’s company, Ramsey Solutions. It’s said that the company is run more like a church than a company, and being employed there means giving up a lot of privacy. Ramsey reportedly has a lot of dictates about his employees’ personal lives. People have been fired, for instance, because of things their spouses post on social media. In fact, according to the article, when a person is considered for a job working for Dave Ramsey, their spouses are also interviewed. Why? Because Dave wants to make sure no one is “married to crazy”. He says being married to crazy means that employees won’t be at their best. According to Ramsey’s Web site:

“When hiring someone, you are employing more than just the person… You’re taking on the whole family. And when they are married to someone who is domineering, unstable or simply full of drama, you’ll end up with a team member who can’t be creative, productive or excellent.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be judged for jobs that my husband takes. It was bad enough being an Army wife, which has really affected my life a lot. When my mom was an Air Force wife, back in the 60s and 70s, she was often judged as much as my dad was, when it came to promotion decisions. I remember hearing that my dad was once passed over for a job because the leadership didn’t think my mom was a good enough hostess. Thankfully, those days are mostly over in the military community. I think that nowadays, maybe the only people whose spouses might be judged are those who are going to be Generals. Ramsey’s running a private company, so I guess if his employees don’t have a problem with him running their private lives, it’s perfectly legal. But it sure doesn’t seem right.

Ramsey is being sued by a former employee after she was fired for having premarital sex, which is against company policy. Ramsey, angry about being sued, yelled at his remaining employees at a company meeting:

“I am sick of dealing with all this stuff,” Ramsey bellowed, according to a recording obtained by Religion News Service. “I’m so tired of being falsely accused of being a jerk when all I’m doing is trying to help people stay in line.”

Right… but who appointed Dave Ramsey as the person who has to “help people stay in line” in their private lives? Reading that quote by Dave Ramsey reminded me a lot of Tom Cruise, both when he screamed at his employees back in December… and back in 2008, when he famously said this:

“Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it’s not like anyone else. As you drive past you know you have to do something about it because you know you’re the only one who can help,”

It sounds to me like Dave Ramsey and Tom Cruise are similar in their beliefs that they’re the ones who ought to be in charge. However, unlike Cruise, Ramsey isn’t taking the pandemic seriously. He thinks people who would rather work at home to avoid getting sick are “wusses”. While Tom Cruise screamed this to his employees about COVID-19:

“They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us. We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherfuckers,”

“I don’t ever want to see it again! Ever!,” he rages. “If I see you do it again, you’re fucking gone.”

“And if anyone on this crew does it, that’s it — and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever fucking do it again.”

Dave Ramsey says this to his customers and employees:

“You would think that the black plague was coming through the U.S., listening to people whine,” he told his audience. “You guys have lost your mind out there.”

“We have people calling in, they are wanting to cancel stuff for a live event in May — let me tell you how much of your money I am going to give you back if you don’t come for the coronavirus in May,” he said. “ZERO. I am keeping your money. You are a wuss.”

And yet, Dave Ramsey doesn’t let his employees think for themselves. He doesn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to minding one’s own business.

The messages are different, but the disrespectful, snarky, directive tone is very much the same. It’s abusive and mean-spirited. And again, even though Ramsey isn’t giving a paycheck to the spouses of his employees, the spouses are expected to toe the line as much as the employees are. They aren’t supposed to have credit cards, and their social media posts are monitored. One former employee’s wife who suffers from asthma and worries about COVID-19 posted this on Facebook:

“Jon’s company [Ramsey Solutions] wants to bring all 900 employees back asap when a majority can do their work from home… I do *not* understand how people don’t see we are setting ourselves up for a huge second wave. Ugh, people make me so angry.”

“Jon” was soon called by a supervisor, who chastised him for his wife’s Facebook comment. The wife of a co-worker had screenshot the comment and sent it to their boss. And yes, Jon was fired for it. On his way out, he was offered $18,000 in severance pay if he and his wife would sign a nondisclosure agreement and promise not to ever say anything derogatory about the company. To their credit, the couple chose not to sign the agreement. They have had to rely on the generosity of friends and family members to help them survive during the unemployment. Meanwhile, Ramsey’s legal goons are still trying to silence them by sending cease-and-desist letters.

When an anonymous employee sent a letter of complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for Ramsey’s failure to take precautions against COVID-19, Ramsey’s response was to berate his entire staff, calling them “morons”. First, he complained that the pandemic was ruining his golf game, then he reportedly said:

“So whoever you are, you moron, you did absolutely no good, except piss me off,” he told his staff. “You are not welcome here if you are willing to do stuff like that. If you are really scared and you really think that leadership is trying to kill you … please, we love you. Just leave. We really don’t want you here.

After warning his employees not to complain to anyone outside the company about the working conditions, he continued:

“If you really think the people here are evil, bad people and you think that you can effect change by reaching outside of here, you are wrong… And you are not welcome.”

Then, against the advice of his board not to speak about the OSHA investigation, Ramsey went on:

“I love this place and I really don’t want any morons here.” If he found out the person’s identity, he threatened,I will fire you instantaneously for your lack of loyalty, your lack of class, and the fact that you are a moron and you snuck through our hiring process, And then he reiterated that he “loves” his employees and Ramsey Solutions is the “best” place to work in the entire world. It’s also a place where your boss tells you he loves you as he calls you a “moron” and threatens you.

Ramsey supposedly “loves” his employees. But he calls them “morons” and tells them they aren’t welcome if they have a legitimate complaint or concern about workplace safety. Seems strange to me… but also familiar. Because after Tom Cruise screamed at his employees in December, he said something rather similar:

“That’s what I’m thinking about. That’s what I’m doing today. I’m talking to Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. Movies are going because of us. We shut down, it’s going to cost people their fucking jobs, their homes, their family—that’s what’s happening. All the way down the line. And I care about you guys. But if you’re not going to help me, you’re gone. OK? Do you see that stick? How many meters is that? When people are standing around a fucking computer and hanging out around here, what are you doing?

Now… it’s not that I don’t think Cruise had a right to insist on proper COVID-19 protocol. My issue is with the extremely disrespectful way he addressed his staff. He called them names. He swore at them. He threatened them. That is verbal abuse. Dave Ramsey does the same thing, for the opposite cause. But they’re very much the same in terms of how they deal with people. They treat them very much as if they’re objects who don’t deserve the most basic of respect. That’s what narcissists do, and I speak from experience when I say that being in an environment like that will take its toll. I definitely wouldn’t consider a fear based workplace where people are pressured to shut up and color the “best” workplace in the world. Far from it.

Ramsey’s company also has a policy against gossip. Gossip is defined by Ramsey as “when you discuss a negative with anyone who can’t solve the problem.” He fires people who “gossip”. Below is a famous Ramsey rant about gossip. Just listening to this, and Ramsey’s mocking tone, is kind of triggering for me.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound bad… until you realize that you can’t even vent about this to your spouse or a friend without risking your livelihood. It’s very controlling and abusive.

Many employees supposedly love the culture of Ramsey’s company. People are reportedly helpful and kind… until someone has a criticism. And then, Ramsey reportedly goes on a rampage to find out who is complaining. He even goes as far as to offer “bounties” to those who are willing to snitch. It sounds a little culty and East German-ish.

Ramsey also preaches a lot about Judeo-Christian values. He reportedly goes as far as to fire people for adultery and being pregnant outside of marriage, claiming that people have violated the company’s “righteous living” code. And yet, I see him writing and hear him saying things like “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” and “I’ve got a right to tell my employees whatever I want to tell them. They freaking work for me.” That doesn’t sound very “Christlike” to me. It sounds controlling and abusive.

Unfortunately, Tennessee, where Ramsey Solutions is based, is an “at will” employment state. So Ramsey is within his legal rights to fire people for almost any reason. He has a lot of fans, too. Like Tom Cruise and Donald Trump, Ramsey has charisma and people are drawn to that, even if that magnetism includes a helping of narcissistic abuse.

Well… before this morning, I didn’t really have much of an opinion about Dave Ramsey one way or another. Maybe his plans do help people get control of their finances. But I don’t find him to be a likable person, and I think I would hate working for him. I sympathize with those who are trying to take action against his policies. He seems to delight in being the “boss” of his employees, telling them what they can and can’t do, even when they’re off the clock. It’s hard to escape such an environment, particularly when there’s a pandemic going on and jobs are scarce. And so, people who are legitimately frightened of getting COVID-19 have to suck it up and drive on, maskless, because wearing a face mask indicates that God isn’t in control. It doesn’t matter that the virus has spread through the company and people, in general, are getting sick and dying of the virus.

If you try to use your own free will to protect yourself, Dave Ramsey doesn’t want you to work for him. Working for him apparently means your ass is his, on or off the clock. No thanks. I’m an adult and can make my own decisions. And… as Bill and I found out, I can even get us out of debt without Dave’s financial plan. So I don’t have to buy what he’s selling.

Standard
narcissists

Assholes at the wheel…

This morning, Bill told me kind of a funny story about one of his former Army bosses. This guy was legitimately an abusive asshole. Almost everyone thought so. He had a reputation that reached far and wide among everyone who knew him. Woe be unto anyone who had to work directly for him, because he would put those guys through hell. Bill experienced it firsthand in a war zone.

The sad thing was, guys like Bill’s former boss were frequently rewarded for being assholes. Nice, reasonable, compassionate guys like Bill were often seen as weak leaders. However… Bill’s asshole ex boss was eventually very publicly fired from his job weeks before he would have been a general, so there’s definitely a fine line of how far the asshole routine can go.

Years ago, when we lived in northern Virginia, Bill’s former boss used to visit the “slug line“. The slug line, for your information, is a place where commuters needing a ride into northern Virginia or Washington, D.C. could wait for someone to pick them up. It was a win/win. The riders would get a ride into the city and the drivers could use the “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lanes without risking a ticket. If you’ve ever experienced D.C. area traffic, you understand why that’s a good thing.

So anyway, this former boss of Bill’s… I’ll call him Zeus (clearly not his real name)… had a habit of showing up on the slug line to pick up people he knew. There were certain guys he targeted. He didn’t pick up just anyone. He’d get guys who worked with him or were in the Army. Then, he’d spend however long it took to get to the city berating the guy. He’d deliberately provoke arguments with them or get them involved in a stressful discussion about work.

Now… the guys didn’t have to ride with Zeus. They could take their chances that someone else was going their way, although that might mean they’d be late, or it would take a lot longer to get where they needed to go. More often than not, those poor dudes would suck it up and ride with Zeus, who usually outranked them and got off on harassing them.

Bill went to war with Zeus and experienced that kind of abuse 24/7 for about six months. He used to call me from Iraq and tell me stories… I knew it was really bad when he said his boss reminded him of his ex wife. I was pretty pissed off about that, too, since I didn’t want my husband to come home from deployment with mental issues other than what he might get from being at war. I do remember telling Zeus that if he got Bill killed, I’d be coming after him. He was a bit taken aback by that, since most wives didn’t speak to him in that way. But hell, I don’t care… The Army never issued me a paycheck. He never let Bill forget what I said, although to his credit, he did make sure Bill was never put in really dangerous situations.

Zeus loved to play little sadistic mind games and deny his people a break from his very special kind of narcissistic abuse. My husband is extremely kind and patient, but even he has his limits. After awhile, Bill started adopted little habits to deliberately irritate Zeus, who would force him to take his meals with him and deny him days off. Bill eventually became a bit passive aggressive, and then got more actively aggressive. At one point, Zeus sent Bill to Qatar for a three night “vacation”, which basically meant going to a small U.S. post there, sharing a room with a guy who snored a lot, and weathering 120 degree heat. But at least in Qatar, Bill could visit the markets and have an allotted two beers a day at the bar.

I will never forget the sight of Bill at Ronald Reagan International Airport in August 2007. He was in his uniform, fresh from the war zone. When he saw me, he looked absolutely overjoyed. He almost knocked me over with a big hug. It was like a movie moment. People stood around and watched our reunion… and then we went home and did a lot of fucking for about a week. After that, we had to pack everything up and move to Germany the first time. Great God Almighty, he was free at last! But it was kind of a short lived respite.

Zeus wasn’t done screwing with Bill after their war time experience. In February 2009, we were enjoying life in Germany. Bill had just gotten home from a “TDY” assignment somewhere. It was Valentine’s Day weekend, and we were headed to Chodovar, which is a cool beer spa in the Czech Republic. I was all excited about that… and then Bill got a cryptic email from his war buddy. It turned out he’d fucked with Bill’s career and recommended him by name for a job at Fort McPherson in Georgia. Fort McPherson was slated to close, so a move there would mean another move very quickly. We ended up being there for just 16 months before we had to move to North Carolina for another 28. Plus, we were loving Germany, and didn’t want to leave. I was really upset with Zeus.

Fortunately, although the chain reaction of three moves in five years was a big pain in the ass, it wasn’t all bad. In Georgia, we lived in a nice town and adopted our adorable and much missed Zane, the wonder beagle. Bill also learned how to brew beer, and we made some good friends. Then we moved to North Carolina, where we picked up Arran, and got to meet even more friends. Our year in Texas wasn’t so bad, either, although I was delighted to move back to Germany. It’s crazy how that worked out for us, and I’d say about 90% of our second experience here has been fantastic. Some of you know about the other 10%… but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Zeus went on to lead a large battalion of 750 people to Iraq a few years later… and he spent the whole year of his deployment egregiously abusing people. He was especially tough on anyone who didn’t appeal to his sense of aesthetics. I remember hearing about how he’d go through the trash cans of guys he thought were too fat, dig out any sweets wrappers he saw there, and show them to the entire group. He hated dealing with women, and would either outright dismiss them or be very insulting to them. This was even though he has daughters of his own. He would not allow female doctors to examine him, for instance. I have a female childhood friend who is now a colonel and she had dealings with him. She said he was a complete asshole to her, too.

About six weeks before Zeus was to come home and be promoted to general, his mother died. He went home on emergency leave. While he was gone, people in the battalion he was regularly abusing started working to get him relieved of command. They made complaints and offered proof of the abuse– there were 74 complaints lodged against him and two congressional inquiries. And by the time Zeus was back in Iraq, he was very publicly fired. There was a long article in the Army Times about him and everything. It was very embarrassing.

Guys like Zeus seem like they win a lot, just for being assholes. Nice people tend to let assholes get away with a lot more than they should. Frankly, I think Bill should have complained about the way Zeus behaved when they were in Iraq. It was the first time for both of them, and a lot of people saw how Bill was treated. A couple of people even spoke up about it… but when you’ve been an abuse victim, which Bill and I have both been, you get taught not to speak up when you really should. It’s a tough habit to unlearn.

One thing that Bill and I have been learning is that sometimes, you have to sound the alarm. Maybe if Bill had said something about his former boss, that guy wouldn’t have had an opportunity to harass such a huge group of people in Iraq. Being at war is tough enough when your boss isn’t a narcissistic creep. Maybe if Bill had stood up to his ex wife, his daughters wouldn’t have experienced as much hell as they did being raised by their mother. I can also think of times when I should have been a lot more assertive, although in truth, I tend to be better at that than Bill is. I have a much shorter temper.

It’s easy to cop out of standing up to bullies. Sometimes it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But not standing up to bullies is implicit permission for them to keep being bullies. We’re trying to change our habit of not speaking up more loudly when we should, so that major catastrophes can be avoided and other people don’t have to suffer. Sometimes, you have to let people reap the natural consequences of their bad behaviors. And sometimes, you have to put the wheels in motion… not unlike Zeus did in the slug line, when he’d pick up guys to harass on the way to work.

Standard