Germany, history, lessons learned, politicians, politics

Twenty years after 9/11, basic decency is disappearing…

A couple of years ago, I wrote my 9/11 story and posted it on this blog. Almost everybody who was alive on 9/11/01 has a 9/11 story. I guess the only ones who don’t are those who were somehow unconscious that day. Or maybe people who live in remote places they have never left, where the world’s news can’t reach them.

Suffice to say, those of us who live in the modern world, where there’s television and Internet, have a 9/11 story. Or, at the very least, they’ve heard other people’s memories of that day, if they weren’t around at that time. Like… I wasn’t here for John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but I’ve read and heard plenty of stories of that day. I think 9/11 was much bigger than Kennedy’s assassination. 9/11 permanently changed the world.

I remember 9/11 very well. It was the week after Bill and I, then just “friends”, had a magical Labor Day weekend. No one in our families knew we were dating. So, when Bill went to work at the Pentagon on 9/11, no one knew that he had a special friend who would worry all day, wondering if he had survived. After 9/11, we decided that we needed to make our relationship official. A few months later, we were engaged. We married in 2002.

I remember what it was like for Bill in the days that followed September 11, 2001. At that time, people had come together in solidarity. There were people who offered their support to any and all emergency workers. Police officers, nurses, doctors, military service members, firefighters, were all being heralded as heroes. I remember how people would stop Bill when he was in uniform and thank him for his service.

I read a story this morning about a couple who happened to be on a flight from England bound for Houston, Texas that got diverted to Gander, a small town in Newfoundland, Canada. They fell in love while they were stranded in Canada. Aside from falling in love, the couple, along with all of the other 7000 people who were suddenly diverted to Gander because of terrorism, enjoyed the most extraordinary hospitality from the locals in Gander.

Americans were Americans, before they were Democrats or Republicans. People came together to help each other through a crisis. It wasn’t just Americans, either. I wasn’t in Germany at that time, but this morning, I read an article about what it was like in Stuttgart on 9/11. Germans and Americans stood side by side in solidarity as people made sense of what happened.

Above is a post that reminded me about how Germans and Americans came together after 9/11. That photo brought tears to my eyes yesterday, partly because I was moved, and partly because it probably wouldn’t happen in 2021.

Twenty years later, it seems like most of the goodwill and civility that was so prevalent after 9/11 is gone. Now, on 9/11/21, we have people laughing at teenagers who share personal stories about losing family members to COVID-19. Grady Knox, a high school student in Tennessee, bravely tried to explain why he thinks mask mandates are a good thing to have in his school. People told him to shut up. It could not have been easy for Grady to stand up and talk about losing his grandmother. Public speaking is not easy for a lot of people. But for him to stand up and speak and then have his neighbors laugh at him and tell him to shut up… well, that’s just shameful. And it makes me think that those people are not good people. They have learned nothing, and have no empathy for others.

What the hell is WRONG with people?

Today, we have governors who are more interested in money and power than they are in saving human lives (except for the unborn, of course). Joe Biden– recently reviled for the way the U.S. military FINALLY left Afghanistan after twenty long years– delivered a tough speech, expressing how disappointed he is in the complete lack of concern Republican leaders have for their constituents. Biden has been threatened with lawsuits, as he signs legislation mandating that people in certain workplaces get vaccinated against COVID-19. Biden is not looking so wimpy now, as he tells the governors to “have at it” in their plans to sue him.

President Joe Biden on Thursday issued two executive orders mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors and announced new requirements for large employers and health care providers that he said would affect around 100 million workers, more than two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.

From MSNBC: https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-republicans-hope-derail-biden-s-bold-new-vaccine-policy-n1278900?cid=sm_fb_maddow&fbclid=IwAR07wYh1NCrCl2lTB2R_sMkiCVLML7tycCXzr-Srn8oyNeQuZhq0JtZjvOY

I read one comment from a Republican who said if Donald Trump had ever tried to enforce vaccinations, people would be “horrified” and calling for Trump’s head on a platter. However, I think it’s highly unlikely that Trump would have ever done what Joe Biden is doing. Trump does not care about anyone but himself, and he would not have done something that would alienate his conservative base the way the vaccine and mask mandates would have. There is a huge difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Joe Biden has basic decency and respect for others. Donald Trump, simply put, does not.

Donald Trump’s encouragement to get the vaccine was lukewarm… he got boos and laughter. I think he’s created monsters.
Southerners who are getting sick aren’t thinking of anyone but themselves… until they get sick and realize just how fucking horrible COVID is.

Today, we have governors who are gleefully signing legislation that pits neighbors against each other, and puts bounties on the heads of women who seek abortions. Meanwhile, Greg Abbott is fine with people walking around, spreading COVID-19 as they tote their guns openly and run their mouths about their freedoms. Freedom means nothing if you’re dead… but try to explain that to some of these folks. They insist that COVID-19 is not a risk for them or or their families… or anyone else. Somehow, they’ve managed to ignore the news stories and documentaries about people who have had COVID-19. They’ve even managed to ignore Howard Stern, who has berated the willfully ignorant.

I can’t wait to vote for whomever runs against this man.
I empathize with his frustration.

This antipathy especially happens on the Internet. Even on the most benign of posts, there’s a chance someone will lash out with nastiness or unnecessary snark. Yesterday, I was answering a question on Toytown Germany from an American who is trying to get her US Moderna shots recognized by a local pharmacist, so she can enjoy a more normal life. I expressed empathy for her situation, commenting that it would be nice if we had a more global solution that would make it easier for people from all countries to get their shots recognized. It’s in everyone’s best interests to encourage the vaccines and reward people for doing the right thing. You’d think that would be a pretty innocuous comment, right? I certainly didn’t think it would go south.

Sure enough, some guy from up north responded snarkily, by sharing a picture of the yellow World Health Organization booklet, and writing that is the global standard that works fine. Yes, it’s true, that yellow booklet is used around the world. But, for some reason, the CDC isn’t using it, so that comment isn’t helpful. There are a lot of Americans who live in Germany. Some of them got shots when they went to the USA, where they were easier to get. Then they came back to Germany and, if they live in an area where there aren’t a lot of Americans, are not able to get their vaccines made official in Germany. This is a problem. I was trying to help someone solve the problem for themselves. For my efforts, I got a shitty comment from some smartass who thought that was the right time to act like a jerk.

I could have ignored it entirely. Or I could have responded with a snarky comment of my own. Instead, I agreed that the yellow booklet is useful around the world, but it’s not helpful to Americans in Germany right now. Americans aren’t issued the yellow booklets, even though that would make things easier. Being rude to me doesn’t change that fact. And then I added that I was trying to be nice, and being snarky and negative isn’t helpful to the community. Those kinds of crappy responses just discourage people from posting, which defeats the purpose of having an online community… or any community, really. Why try to help someone if you’re going to be mocked for your efforts?

I realize that even as I preach about this, I’m as guilty as anyone is. I do try not to respond to people with rudeness. Sometimes, I will admit, I fail. Because, like so many other people, I’m fed up. I’m tired of people who can’t simply cooperate and have basic respect for other people. But still, I think being kind is the better way to go, most of the time. I truly do believe that being understanding and decent is, overall, better than being angry, mean, malicious, and rude. There really is enough of that in the world today.

I think it’s sad that we haven’t learned much from 9/11. On September 11, 2001, people around the world came together in solidarity. On September 11, 2021, a lot of people are acting like selfish jerks. It’s depressing… although, I guess if I look for it, I can find some positive things about today. Like, for instance, the fact that Bill was not killed on 9/11, and despite everything, we’re still together and basically healthy and happy with each other’s company. But it’s hard to ignore all of the divisiveness and evil that is being perpetuated right now.

When things were good…
Twenty years later, when things had really gone to shit.

I do hope that people will find a way to come together. Right now, I’m reminded of the opening of the film, Lean on Me… as we see how things can change for the worse in 20 years. Maybe a new version of Mr. Clark is in order to straighten us all out… Maybe Joe Biden is turning into him now. One can always hope, right?

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healthcare, musings

I’m tired of thinking about health…

A few days ago, I got drawn into a rather unpleasant online argument on Toytown Germany. Someone had started a thread about how healthcare providers in Germany are dishonest. Lots of people were lamenting about how dentists are crooks, and how privately insured patients get fleeced by physicians. Meanwhile, publicly insured people are treated with apathy.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with German healthcare providers myself, although I do know of some Americans who have chosen to have major illnesses treated by German doctors instead of the American ones at Landstuhl. I know someone whose wife got colon cancer and was treated with relative apathy by the military docs. She contacted doctors in Wiesbaden and they were quick to see and treat her. Now, she’s in remission.

Bill and I love our German dentist in Stuttgart. We haven’t seen him in two years, but he’s still the best dentist either of us has ever had. He is a hybrid, of sorts… Mom was German and Dad was American, so he knows both cultures. We’re hoping to see him soon for cleanings we desperately need, now that we’re vaccinated. But I can understand that some people have had bad experiences with German healthcare providers.

There was one person, though, who was crowing about how great American healthcare is. Frankly, I don’t see it. I mean, if you have access to great health insurance or you have money, sure… but for the rank and file person who isn’t insured or wealthy, I don’t think American healthcare is that great. For one thing, it’s very expensive, and you don’t know what you’ll have to pay, because prices aren’t regulated. I know of a couple of people who have gone bankrupt after having had car accidents or other unexpected medical emergencies, even if they have insurance coverage. There are many horror stories online about people who have faced financial ruin after hospital stays, particularly when the stays were due to emergencies.

Some people have looked abroad for their needs to be met. I know someone who had a whole mouthful of dental implants done in Costa Rica, because she couldn’t afford the six figures she was quoted in the States. I know someone else who went to Mexico for a Lapband procedure for the same reason; she paid a fraction of the cost of what that procedure would have run her in the United States. Of course, going abroad for healthcare can be risky and results differ. My friend who went to Costa Rica is very satisfied with the result. The one who went to Mexico later developed a life threatening infection that her health insurance wouldn’t cover, because she had the Lapband operation done in Mexico by a physician who wasn’t in network. And because the infection, while certainly in need of urgent treatment, was related to an uncovered procedure done in Mexico, my friend had to pay out of pocket to get the necessary antibiotics and related medical care to cure it.

Mental healthcare services in the United States are given very little coverage, even though conditions like depression and anxiety can cause physical health issues and impact the quality of life. They can also cause people to do drastic things that lead to tragedies. But try to get broad coverage for a mental health issue in the States. It’s not easy, particularly if inpatient care is indicated.

For another thing, the United States doesn’t actually rate that highly when compared to systems in other countries. If you look at the United States when compared to, say, France or Italy, or even Germany (which also isn’t that high ranking, but is better than the USA). you’ll find that it isn’t even ranked in the top 30 of 196 countries. A lot goes into determining what makes a great system, of course. Researchers look at factors such as infant mortality, life expectancy, the number of qualified medical providers available, mortality and morbidity, and how long patients manage to avoid being readmitted to hospitals after they’re released. Researchers also look at affordability, accessibility, and availability.

The United States certainly has a lot of excellent hospitals and some great doctors. But there are also many areas where healthcare coverage is poor, such as remote and rural locales. Some of those areas rely on telemedicine in order to help people meet their needs. Some healthcare facilities are also very poor, as are some providers. And then, there’s that pesky issue of people not being able to access healthcare because they simply can’t afford it. Those people are often the ones who end up going to the emergency room for routine care. It’s like doing your grocery shopping at a 7 Eleven.

So anyway, I pointed this out to the American healthcare system cheerleader. She came back to me with a rather nasty tone that didn’t suggest to me that discussing the issue further with her would be productive. So I signed off– inviting her to do her. It was kind of a snarky retort, but I just didn’t have the energy to get into it with a stranger over this subject, even though it’s something I know a little about, having studied it formally. Then, come to find out, she’s not even AMERICAN! She comes from Britain! And she fucking lives in Cologne! Maybe she has real experience with the US system, but I doubt she’s ever had to seek healthcare in a rural area of the United States. I could tell, though, that she wasn’t interested in another perspective, and frankly I just didn’t feel like going around with her. So I fucked off, although I did have a brief private conversation with someone else from that thread. She was kind and civil, so that wasn’t a bad thing.

Lately, I’ve found that I just don’t have the patience to engage with people online, particularly when they’re strangers. Maybe it’s me, but it just seems like a lot of people are just nasty lately. It could have to do with how on edge we’ve been, thanks to COVID-19 and the lifestyle restrictions it’s led to. Or, it could be because people have lost the ability to be civilized, thanks to being behind computer screens too much. It could also be a combination of both conditions. Whatever the issue is, however, I’ve found that I’m just not interested in discussing it anymore. I don’t want to talk or hear about most things related to health… or really, the pandemic.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t want to engage with people about other subjects, either. This morning, I ran across an article about Andrew Yang and New York City’s carriage horses and how so many people are divided about it. Personally, I think the people who are claiming the carriage horses are being abused are overstating things a bit. I’ve also realized that most of the people with opinions about the horses don’t actually know anything about horses, or the people who work with them. Here’s a good, balanced read about the issue.

I read so many comments from people saying the carriage horses should just be retired and sent to a farm somewhere. I just want to ask these people how they would feel if, one day, some well-meaning but ignorant person told them that they shouldn’t be doing their job anymore because it’s “cruel”. Suddenly, they lose their purpose… but how many people can afford to keep horses as mere pets? And is a life consigned to being sent out to pasture really as good as it seems? I spent a lot of time with horses earlier in my life. They like having jobs, particularly when they’ve been bred to do something. Also, some people who keep horses shouldn’t be keeping horses… like– I would rather see a horse pulling a carriage in New York City than wind up on a farm owned by a hoarder.

A lot of the folks who complain about the carriage horses don’t realize that unwanted horses are sometimes auctioned off and bought by people who send them to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. It’s currently illegal to slaughter horses for meat in the United States. So the kill buyers will send them beyond the borders on long haul trucks, where they don’t get rest, proper food, or water; then they die a horrible death. Since they are companion animals, they aren’t even really suitable to be turned into food, either. I started to write about that this morning, but decided I just didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to get into it with the uninformed, and frankly it’s a depressing subject. So I clicked off the article and practiced guitar, instead.

It just seems like people aren’t interested in having a civilized discussion. Everyone has opinions, and everyone thinks his or her opinions are correct, and fuck anyone with a different view. Those with an alternative viewpoint are shamed, belittled, berated, and name-called. It’s frustrating and ultimately pointless to engage with those types, so I just let them win… and let the more energetic people deal with them. I’ve got more important things to do, like scrubbing my butt crack.

I was feeling this way last year, too. This was what I posted a year ago on Facebook…

People are getting nastier lately. Three times in the last week, friends of friends who don’t know me at all have jumped down my throat for posting something they take offense to. They don’t even try to understand before they snap. Instead, it’s shoot first, ask questions later. It makes me hesitant to post comments on other people’s posts, because I can get snarky comments from so-called loved ones just as easily. I sure don’t need them from total strangers who don’t even know me.

I think it’s sad, because in my experience, most people truly aren’t bad people. If you take a minute to think before you respond with nastiness, you might end up making a friend instead making someone think you’re an asshole.

A year ago, COVID-19 was new, and there was a lot of rudeness going around on social media. It hasn’t changed much this year, although now that we’ve been vaccinated, maybe I can find something to do besides hang out online. Here’s hoping.

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obits

Touched by a stranger… who is now an angel.

I so often write about people whose comments irritate and annoy me in some way. Today, I’m going to do the opposite.

I frequent a forum called Toytown Germany (TT). It’s a place for English speakers in Germany (or even just people with an interest in Germany) to hang out. I joined that forum in 2008, when we were living in Germany the first time, but before I was on Facebook. I’ve always found it a useful place to find information about living in Germany that isn’t military-centric. I also find a lot of the people there interesting, since they come from all over the world and walks of life. It’s not unlike the Recovery from Mormonism board, which I also sometimes frequent, only there’s a lot less talk of religion, which suits me fine.

A few years ago, someone on Toytown Germany started a thread entitled “What Made You Cry Today?” At this writing, the thread had swelled to 135 replies. I just added one myself this morning. Last night, I happened to glance at the thread, having not read it from the beginning. I noticed someone calling themselves manly386 responding to a call out from another poster. This was what he wrote:

  On 4/9/2020, 3:02:19,  Acton said: 

Wow! What a sad thread.

For Manly386, who says he has only 5 months to live, this must be truly awful. Could you tell us something about yourself? I see you live in Vancouver. How did you latch on to this TT site? I’m sure we could all chip in to try and give some positive support.

Hi Acton:  I’ve nothing to complain about.  Lived a charmed life, blessed with loving parents, a loving girlfriend (to become my wife later), good health and a body that seemed to accept all the abuse I could heap upon it and come back in fighting form. A Policeman for 32 years, both in the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department.  on the side I dabbled in real estate and the stock market.  during those times 70″s 80’s and 90’s,  everything seemed to go up, couldn’t help but make money. By the 2000s I retired and got out of the market that’s when everything tanked. but I was okay.  We had a son, Warren,  who had pulmonary atresia, and died at 7.  8 was his favourite number, he could speak it in several languages.  He died nov. 28, at 8:00pm in 1988.  He was seven and a bit.  I counted up the months he lived,… it was 88 months.  go figure.

I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. Probly because I was too chicken to have an annual colnonoscopy. Have Your Colonoscopy ! !

The cancer spread and now its in my bones, lungs, liver lymph, and I’ve developed colono-rectal cancer.

My Dr. whom I trust absolutely told me  “Dave there’s nothing more we can do, if all goes well you have about 5 months to live,  you have absolutely no immunity to anything, the chemo took care of that.”  No visitors, no going out for walks etc etc. Fortunately I have a very caring wife, she does everything she used to do and all the stuff I used to do, frustrates the hell out of me ’cause I loved helping out.  ah well, such is life.  I have no complaints, I don’t feel cheated, I’m 75 and enjoyed my life.

I found TT by snooping around on my computer.  That encouraged me to travel, I never had before, too busy.  I chose to backpack through Austria, Switzerland and Germany.   Bavaria was my favourite, The people were very warm and helpful.  went to my first curry night in Munich.  Didn’t know anyone but had a good time.  Ive been to Germany three times since 2000 and three curry nights.  Slept in train stations, rode the trains and busses, slept in hostels and absolutely enjoyed myself. It took me out of my Policeman’s Hard Shell and turned me back into a human.

I loved hunting, fishing camping and hiking.  Playing with my son and being a family man.  I truly was a fortunate man. 

Dave the Barbarian

ps  I’d love to make it to 100 “greenies” before the end !

Dave

“Greenies”– I think he was referring to the system of “likes” on the TT forum. At this writing, he has 39 on that post.

I decided to read his initial post, which prompted the call out:

What made me cry today?  My oncologist, a man I love and trust advised me that the chemo treatments were not working and there were no further meds available.  He’s given me 5 months at best.  I cry for my wife, the good woman that has stood by my side for 54 years.  Apparently I must leave her soon,  We lost our only son, and now she is losing me.  She is so trusting and good she is easily taken advantage of.  I fear for her.   These are chaotic times and so much is happening at once.  Despite my pretense of being a Barbarian living in a tent, that was me only in hunting season.  We are more than extremely well off financially and I’m trying to teach her there are sharks that will eat her alive.  A police officer for 32 years,  I was trained to protect,  now I won’t even be able to protect the one I love most. Christ, the world is both so beautiful and cruel at the same time. 

To all of you younger people in TT.  Shakespeare had it right,  “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”,  don’t go crazy,  but enjoy the world while you are able to,  It’s a beautiful place. 

Dave the Barbarian.  

Since the post was from about a year ago, and Dave said he had about five months, at best, I went looking to see if he had been around TT recently. I saw that his last visit was on July 19, 2020. This morning, I Googled his name and city to see if there was an obituary. Sure enough, I found one, complete with photos. His last visit to the TT forum was a week before he died.

I can see that Dave had many loved ones, family members, colleagues, and friends who are missing him. I never knew the man or even heard of him until last night, and yet I regret that I never had the chance to interact with him, even if it was just on a Toytown Germany forum. He must have been a special person, indeed. He was definitely wise. Reminds me a little of my Bill, who is downstairs making breakfast as I write this.

I hope his wife, Lucy, is doing okay.

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language, overly helpful people, rants

Hey Digga!

Here comes another one of my rants about overly sensitive language cops. It comes this morning as my friend from my hometown shared a news article about a professor at the University of Southern California, who went viral for teaching about pause or filler words in China and using a word that sounded a lot like the n-bomb.

Professor Greg Patton, who teaches communications, was talking about the Chinese equivalent of “err” and “um”, you know, what we in English speaking countries say as we’re thinking about the next thing we’re going to say, but we don’t want “dead air”. It turns out that in Chinese, the “filler” language akin to our “ums” and “errs” is the Chinese word for “that”, which is evidently “na-ge”. And spoken out loud, “na-ge” sounds a bit like the taboo n-bomb.

Naturally, someone was filming the professor, and the footage made it to the Internet. Several students complained to Geoffrey Garrett, dean of the University of Southern California. And now, Professor Patton is no longer teaching the course. According to the article, Patton voluntarily stepped away, as Garrett stated:

“It is simply unacceptable for the faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,”

News of the debacle reached China, where native speakers posted on social media that the backlash was discriminatory toward speakers of Chinese. Interestingly enough, I have another friend who lived in China for awhile and she frequently told me about how racist their society is. In fact, in the Toytown Germany thread I reference later in this post, someone wrote this:

Silly and sad, just shows you how people are tripping over themselves to show how not a racist! they are. Big smiiiiiiles, eeeeeeveryone’s happy, no one’s racist here, nosirreee… All a little different from actually not being racist.

As an aside, China is an objectively far more racist society. Pot, kettle, black. The Chinese government knows full well what resonates in foreign media for political effect. Their diplomats will criticize America’s racism, while within China, Africans are called chocolate or monkeys and many restaurants or hotels forbid entry. Not to mention the current Uyghur concentration camps. There are no self-reflective large anti-racism movements.

A few months back, veteran Canadian news reporter Wendy Mesley for the CBC (like the BBC) got in deep doodoo for betraying her secret racism. While in a conference room with producers (apparently none Black?), discussing a specific episode of her show and how they should cover BLM protests and racial issues, she said that word while discussing how they should refer to this work here. It’s the title. The discussion was about that and she said the title. She was (temporarily?) removed as host and issued an apology, etc. Confession and repentance, 50 Hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers.

Obviously the word shouldn’t be used, but it’s hard to see what this kind of official censure for using it in (closed door) academic/historical contexts achieves. The reporter is known for her progressive liberal stances. Of course, CBC as a state broadcaster had to do something… 

My reaction to this? Big sigh. I have already written more than once about my strong aversion to burying language and banning words, particularly when they are words that only sound like offensive words. I am also extremely irritated when people don’t have their facts straight and attempt to ban words based on untruths. But, most of all, it disappoints and offends me that people who attend a prestigious school like the University of Southern California are not intelligent enough to understand the difference between someone deliberately being hurtful by using clearly derogatory and racist language, and a professor who is actually trying to educate them about another culture and language.

Seriously? My opinion of the California USC (as opposed to the “original” USC, my alma mater, the University of South Carolina), has now dropped considerably. With all of the other crap going on right now, one would hope a famous and storied school like USC, where parents are going to prison and paying fines for cheating their kids’ ways past the admissions office, could rise above something as petty as this without it making the news. I certainly don’t think a man’s livelihood should be threatened over this incident. And it should not be international news, either!

What the hell are colleges and universities for if there can’t be a free exchange of ideas without people getting offended? Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where ideas can be born and hashed out, and language can be used in an instructional way. Professor Patton was not trying to be offensive. He was trying to educate! That’s his job!

You might be wondering about the title of this post. It comes from a recent thread on a Web site called Toytown Germany, which I joined in 2008, when we lived in Germany the first time (pre-Facebook days). I still hang out on Toytown Germany on occasion, as it’s a very useful source of information about living in Germany and the information isn’t strictly for the U.S. military affiliated population. That site has many people on it from all around the world, including Germans. The one thing they have in common is the ability to speak English.

Anyway, recently, a woman who teaches in a German school started a post about the German slang word “digga” and how she finds it offensive. The original poster teaches in an inner city school in Cologne. She’s a native English speaker from an “ethnic minority background” and she writes that she doesn’t generally try to prevent her students from using slang. However, she tried to draw the line at the word “digga”, because it sounded a lot like the n-bomb and she felt her students were using the word in a derogatory way. Clearly, it was triggering her a lot.

“Digga” is a word that originated near Hamburg. It’s basically akin to the English slang terms, “dude” or “bro”. She wrote:

I banned the word ‘digga’ in my class and I told the students that they should be ashamed to be using such language whilst considering themselves anti-racist and progressive. Now I have had a bit of pushback from a few parents who say I shouldn’t stop kids from using their German language slang.

I have had to bite my own tongue and hold back. I think  parents need to listen to the music their kids are listening to, they need to pay attention to the media their kids are consuming but most are quite naive or really don’t want to know.

This lady also got quite a pushback in Toytown Germany, which isn’t surprising. That forum is not exactly “politically correct” and people will not hesitate to tell off anyone who comes off as ignorant. Many people told the teacher she was wrong to ban the word “digga”, as it is not a racist epithet. This was the first of many comments she got:

digga comes from “dicker” (a kind of fond way of addressing someone who is your friend, and it also has nothing to do with them actually being fat), it has no associations to nigga whatsoever and I agree with the parents that you are overreacting as well as overreaching.  It is also not a new phenomenon, has been popular at least as long as I have lived here although back in the early 2000s it seemed like more of a Hamburg thing that kind of made its way over.

In any case it really has nothing to do with nigga.  

One person was sympathetic to the teacher’s plight and wrote this:

Verbal violence is a form of abuse and precursor to other violence. It all starts somewhere. Sigh. Fighting it is an uphill battle. Letting slip leads to the abnormal becoming normalised. Saying nothing condones this undesirable behaviour. This possibly escapes the attention of the parents. However, their and your energy is limited and you have to choose how to use it. The insider connoisseurs claim the expression is harmless… but you see it in context. You don’t have an easy job!

Okay, but words are always evolving. I can think of a half dozen of them right off the bat that once were totally innocuous and later turned into insults that need to be banned. The word “faggot”, as well as its abbreviated form “fag”, for instance, has a few meanings, only one of which is derogatory. And yet if you say that word in certain places, you will face a huge backlash.

Ditto for the word “retard”, which is a perfectly innocent word with forms that are used in many languages. In fact, we heard it correctly used in France and Italy– it had to do with the train schedules. But now it’s pretty much banned in the United States.

It seems to me that we focus way too much on words and not nearly enough on attitudes and context. Instead of banning words and firing hapless professors who use certain words in their classes, we should take a moment to consider the context. Was the professor trying to be hurtful when he used that word? Was the professor being oppressive? In the case involving the USC professor, I don’t think so. In the case involving the teacher in Germany, I would argue that trying to impose the standards of one’s own language and homeland to people from another country is overreaching.

Banning words or making them taboo doesn’t change negative attitudes. A person can be racist and never drop the n-bomb. A person can be non-racist and use the n-bomb in an instructive way. Think it can’t be done? Try reading a slave narrative and banning that word. Try listening to certain musical selections where it’s referenced. “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder immediately comes to mind, as it has in my previous rants about this topic.

To the teacher’s credit, she did come back and thank everyone for setting her straight. Ultimately, she was looking for clarification and the right way to handle this situation, even taking into account that she has an “obvious walking disability” and is a person from “an ethnic minority background”. The thread continued for several pages and was revived when the news came out about the professor at the University of Southern California.

Again, I reference what Dean Geoffrey Garrett said in response to the uproar about the Chinese filler speech that sounds like the n-bomb…

“It is simply unacceptable for the faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,”

Wow. So he’s very concerned about the “psychological safety” of students in a world where they have been regularly threatened by school shooters, terrorists, cops who kill innocent people, and deadly rogue viruses like COVID-19? I mean… people are getting killed or dying by the day in the United States, sometimes while just sleeping in their own beds! And he’s worried that his students will be permanently scarred by the Chinese word “na-ge”, which just happens to sound like the n-bomb, an English slur? Seems to me that the dean needs to gain a global perspective and stop being so politically correct. Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out. That’s my motto.

Right now, many people are focused on simple SURVIVAL. The people who are lucky enough to attend the University of Southern California ought to know the difference between someone being hateful and derogatory toward a group of people and someone who is talking about another culture with another language. They need to grow up and wise up. In the vast majority of cases, if they’re at USC, they obviously have had a lot of things go right in their lives.

They’re in a class where they’re learning about something that most people would never have the opportunity to study because they’re too busy learning skills that will keep them alive and able to pay their bills! They are probably the last people who need to be up in arms over a professor teaching them about Chinese filler words that happen to sound like a racist epithet in some parts of the world. And if they’re offended in the classroom in California, God help them if they go to China and actually hear Chinese people saying “Na-ge” over and over again. There will be many special snowflake meltdowns!

Jeez!

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expressions

Taking the piss…

Ever heard this expression? I think it’s a Britishism. I read it for the first time a few weeks ago, when I was reading Toytown Germany. Some people were writing about being unfairly treated by someone in authority… bosses, landlords, or even friends and family members. Time after time, I’d see British or Irish posters referring to “taking the piss”. It struck me as a funny euphemism, so I looked it up on Urban Dictionary. There were several definitions, but the one that seemed most relevant in the context provided on Toytown Germany was this one…

But this appears to be a more modern definition…
This appears to be the more traditional meaning.

It’s interesting how this expression has evolved. It looks like it used to refer to people who were just “messing” with others, trying to be funny rather than hurtful. The way I’ve seen it used in context more recently implied that it’s more about screwing someone over. That’s also how it’s defined on Wikipedia, for whatever that’s worth, although Wikipedia also references the other meanings.

Frankly, when I hear or read that expression, I think the definition about being screwed over by someone is more fitting. Lately, I can relate to feeling that way myself.

Just as I was writing this, my darling husband came up behind me and stroked my shoulder. I turned to look at him, and he had this adoring smile on his face. I asked him what he wanted and he said “Nothing… you just looked so intensely focused.”

In my typically snarky way, I said “So you decided to break my concentration?” But I was smiling, because at least this time, Bill didn’t sneak up behind me. He’s done that a few times, although I don’t think he’s ever done it intentionally. I’ll be reading or writing something, completely unaware of his presence, and he’ll startle me, the same way our old beagle, Flea, used to. I seriously believe Flea enjoyed making me jump out of my skin. He’d come into a room when my back was turned, sit there silently for a minute or two, then bark sharply. Inevitably, that would scare the shit out of me and I’d cuss and glare. Bill says he watched him do that several times. I’m sure it was hilarious to witness. Having spent so many years living with dogs, I know they have a sense of humor.

I hate being startled, though, and I don’t like it when someone breaks my focus. When I was a child, I had problems with concentration. I was very easily distracted. Unfortunately, in third grade, my elementary school had an “open pod” classroom that allowed for two classes to go on in a large room. My teacher wasn’t as loud as the teacher in the other space, so my attention would always drift to the other teacher. Then, when my teacher would catch me not paying attention, she’d call on me. I’d have no idea what was going on, and she would humiliate me in front of my classmates. A lot of the worst of the bullies rode my bus, so they would continue the harassment all the way home. It made for a rather miserable school year.

Now that I’m older, I can more easily concentrate, but when I do manage to focus, I become less aware of other things. Consequently, I’m easily startled, and when I’m startled, I get upset. Also, I tend to get really annoyed by people who “take the piss”, either way it’s defined. I mostly try to do right by other people unless they give me a good reason not to. I have a great sense of humor, but I don’t like upsetting people for the sake of being an asshole. And I also don’t appreciate it when they do that to me, although I will admit that the more skillful comedians are more likely to get away with it than others are.

Anyway, a quick search of Toytown Germany reveals many examples of the expression, “taking the piss”. I don’t run across that expression in other areas of the Web where I hang out, even though I have a number of European friends. I think I might need to incorporate that expression into my daily lexicon, especially since it seems to fit so well with my life lately. Yes… we’ve recently been screwed over and taken advantage of. Someone has definitely “taken the piss” with us. But I suspect we’ll have the last laugh.

For some reason, this sentence makes me laugh…

Yes, tell him that you’ll not be bullied, to stop trying to take the piss and deal with the situation like a respectable human being.

This one, too…

Definitely taking the piss. Do you have bank statements showing the original transfer or a copy of the contract signed by you both ?

Get a solicitor where you are to send a letter and I’m sure that an official response will follow.

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