book reviews, Trump

Repost: A review of Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump…

Here’s a reposted review of Harry Hurt III’s book, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump. It was originally posted in 1993, but I reviewed it on April 28, 2017. It appears here as/is.

I was determined to finish my latest book last night, even though we had a brief power outage.  I have been reading Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump for ages.  There was a time when I used to breeze through books in a matter of days, but this one took forever.  So last night, I pushed through and got the thing read.  Written by Harry Hurt III, Lost Tycoon was originally published in 1993, long before anyone in the world would know the horror of President Trump.  Although it took me a long time to get through it, Hurt’s book offers a telling look at the man who would be the United States’ 45th president.  And yes, according to this book, he was every bit as much of an asshole in the 80s and 90s as he is today.

I happened to discover Hurt’s book back in February, less than a month after Trump’s inauguration.  I read an article that mentioned Lost Tycoon.  In it, there was an anecdote about how Mr. Trump, pussy grabber extraordinaire, was recovering from a painful hair replacement surgery.  Trump’s then wife, Ivana, had suggested the surgeon.  He had done good work on her own aesthetic work.  But Mr. Trump was reportedly in agony after the procedure and he allegedly became so enraged at Ivana that he raped her and pulled out chunks of her own hair.  Then, as she sat sobbing after her husband defiled her, Trump asked “Did it hurt?” 

The story about Trump’s violence toward Ivana came from their divorce proceedings.  Although the story is clearly depicting Trump as a violent sex criminal, Ivana only calls it “rape” in that he wasn’t “loving” to her.  As I understand it, this wording is due to Trump’s concern over his image.  But according to Hurt in story after story, Trump is interested only in conquests.  According to Hurt, he lies and mistreats women, including his second wife, Marla Maples.  Stories about Trump’s affair with Maples figure prominently in Lost Tycoon.  Granted, she is depicted as a homewrecking bimbo, but she and Trump also weathered their share of storms.  And we’ve seen how he treats Melania, too.

Aside from stories about how Trump treats women (and how he lies about the ones he’s dated, like Carla Bruni Tedeschi), Lost Tycoon offers plenty of sordid tales about Trump’s shady business dealings and famous arrogance.  Twenty-four years after this book was published, I can see that Trump hasn’t changed.  While what I was reading may have seemed scandalous to the point of tabloidesque in 1993, in 2017, I can see that Hurt’s depiction of the future president is dead on.  

Harry Hurt III is an award winning journalist who has worked for The New York Times and Newsweek.  He clearly did extensive research for this book.  It’s well-written and packed with astonishing tales about Trump and his family, giving readers an interesting look at him when he was a younger man.  Naturally, because this was written in the 90s, you won’t read about Melania or Barron Trump or even Tiffany Trump, Marla Maples’ daughter with the president.  What this book offers is a glance at what was coming.  I was a young woman in 1993 and I distinctly remember the headlines about the Trump love triangle, as well as Trump’s tycoon business deals, much of which was built on other people’s money.

Toward the end of the book, there’s even a story about how Trump tried to keep heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson out of prison for raping nineteen year old Desiree Washington.  Hurt writes that Trump tried to broker a deal in which Tyson would set up a fund for rape victims.  The author alleges that Trump was really thinking of himself and his own issues with sexual assault.

By contrast, in 1991, Trump’s then 79 year old mother, Mary, was mugged by a sixteen year old kid who had skipped school.  The kid had knocked down Mrs. Trump, causing her to suffer a broken hip. She spent time in the hospital and Trump was reportedly “incensed” about it, wanting the kid to go to prison.  I agree, the kid should have been punished, but so should have Mike Tyson, right?  A 44 year old black maintenance man who happened to witness the mugging caught the teenaged criminal and held him for the police.  Trump invited him to dinner with him and Marla Maples.  The future president smiled for cameras as he thanked the man for helping his mother, but he did nothing to help the guy with better work opportunities, something that the man needed and Trump could have easily provided.

Although it took me way too long to finish this book, I do think it’s worthwhile reading.  This man is now our president and it’s scary as hell (ETA: Thank God he was not re-elected).  Maybe that’s why I took so long to get through Lost Tycoon.   The future looks bleak.

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law, LDS, religion, true crime

Repost: Rape culture in churches

I am reposting this blog entry that originally appeared on October 16, 2016. I have no reason for reposting it, other than I think it’s an interesting piece. Bear in mind that it was written almost five years ago and I haven’t changed the content, so some comments may be outdated.

I just read a very disturbing article about a lawsuit that was just filed against a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in Weber County, Utah.  The lawsuit was filed by a woman who claims that she was repeatedly raped by a church instructor and JW officials later her made her listen to a recording of one of her assaults.  The woman seeks a jury trial and $300,000 to cover medical care, legal fees, and general damages. 

According to the article I read, the woman may or may not have gone to the police after she was allegedly raped by a church instructor.  The Salt Lake Tribune states that members of the JW faith are encouraged to bring problems to church elders rather than involving outsiders.  Having done my share of reading about Jehovah’s Witnesses and having had a relative who was once a member, I can affirm that this attitude is prevalent among people involved with the Witnesses.

In this case, the assaults against the woman allegedly took place after she went out with the instructor on a date.  He took her cell phone from her and said she had to kiss him on the cheek to get it back.  She refused, so he kicked her out of his car.  Later, he came back for her and the assaults apparently escalated from there.  When the assaults were brought to the attention of JW officials, they began an investigation…  but it was not an investigation against the perpetrator.  Instead, the young woman was investigated.  Below is a quote from the article linked above:

In April 2008, the Roy church formed a judicial committee to investigate whether the girl engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior — “a serious sin” in the religion. During the meeting that included her mother and stepfather, the lawsuit states, church leaders played a recording of one of the purported rapes, obtained from the instructor, for four to five hours “repeatedly stopping and starting the audio tape … suggesting that she consented to the sexual behavior.”

The woman alleges that she was raped several times.  Realizing the patriarchal culture within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s possible that she felt like she had to do what this man said.  She was likely taught to do whatever the church officials told her to do.  As the attacker was apparently her church instructor, she probably felt that she had no choice.  It really is a shame that people continue to get and stay involved in religious organizations that promote this kind of thinking and do nothing to empower everyone, not just the men. 

This situation among the JWs in Utah sounds an awful lot like the recent hullabaloo about Brigham Young University’s policy of bringing rape victims up on Honor Code violations.  Women who dared to report rape to the police or University officials were getting in trouble for putting themselves in situations where they might be assaulted.  For the record, I think these kinds of policies are disgusting and they keep our society in the Dark Ages.  

Of course people– male or female– who choose to sexually assault others should be held responsible for their actions.  At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong for people to look out for themselves.  I wish these churches and universities like BYU would do more to promote personal safety outside of the religious sense.  I wish they wouldn’t simply tell women to protect their virginity and purity because that’s supposedly what God wants.  They should be empowering them to protect themselves because they don’t want to be victims of crimes. 

It’s interesting that this subject came on my radar this morning.  I just saw a Facebook post by 11th Principle: Consent about how rape culture develops.  Although I would absolutely never say that it’s okay to rape someone, I do think it pays to be careful.  One young woman made a comment about how she’d gotten very drunk at a party and was raped while she was unconscious.  She wrote that it was wrong that she was raped, but she shared some responsibility in the situation by drinking so much that she passed out.  She got a lot of indignant comments from people who said that no part of the rape was her fault at all; she bore absolutely no responsibility toward the crime perpetrated against her.

At the risk of pissing off a lot of people, I will go on record as saying that I agree that rape is never a victim’s fault.  However, I do think that everyone– males and females– should take some responsibility for their personal safety.  One of the comments I read on the 11 Principle: Consent Facebook page was this:

– if you went for a walk, but someone chose to stab you, should you have stayed in?

-if you decided to go for a drive, but someone drove into your car, is it your fault?

-if you went for a swim, but someone drowned you, was it your fault because you put yourself in a position where you could be drowned?

My response is that in the above examples, precautions could have been taken to lessen the chance of harm or mitigate the harm that did occur.  For instance, when you take a walk, you choose areas where there are people around.  You carry a cell phone that is charged and ready in case of emergency.  You tell someone where you’re going.  You might learn self defense.  These are things you can do to lessen the chance that you’ll be a victim.  You might still end up being victimized, but you will have taken steps to lessen the chance of it.

If you go for a drive, you wear a seatbelt (even though I hate them).  You make sure your car is safe to drive.  You don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before getting behind the wheel.  You make sure you are well rested.  You might still have an accident, but you’ve done your part to lessen the probability.

If you go for a swim, you make sure you can actually swim.  If you can’t, you learn how and stay out of the deep end until you have the appropriate skills.  You take someone with you when you swim.  You use floatation devices if you need them.  You might still drown, but the chances are not as high as they could be.

When it comes to assaults, sexual or otherwise, I think the same responsibilities apply.  Don’t get so fucked up that you black out.  Don’t go to parties alone, especially if you don’t know the people hosting them.  If you do get assaulted, it’s certainly not your fault.  But my guess is that you will learn from the assault and take steps to be sure it doesn’t happen again.  It sounded to me like the young woman who said she shared in the responsibility of her attack had simply learned from it.  She’d made a mistake by getting so intoxicated.  I have made the same mistakes myself on a number of occasions.  There, but by the grace of God, go I.  

Is it ever your fault if you get assaulted?  No.  The person who chooses to perpetrate a crime is always the guilty party.  But the point is, there are things you can do to lessen the chance that you will be a victim.  I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge that.  I don’t think that line of thinking promotes “rape culture”.  I applaud the young woman who realizes that she was wrong to get so drunk that she passed out.  At the same time, I think it’s sad that there are shitty people out there who would take advantage of a woman so distressed.

I’m reading the article about the lawsuit against the JWs just as everyone’s talking about Donald Trump’s infamous “locker room” talk.  I have friends of every stripe opining on a potential U.S. president talking about grabbing women by their pussies.  I have a number of very religious relatives criticizing Hillary Clinton because– well, probably because she’s a female liberal.  These same supposedly God fearing people see no problem with voting for a man who brags about forcing himself on women and grabbing their crotches.  But if a woman gets assaulted, instead of being outraged, they look for ways to blame her.  I don’t think that’s right.  But I do think there are things people can and should do to protect themselves.

As for the woman suing the JWs, I don’t think it’s wrong that she’s filed a lawsuit.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a pervert ending up in power.  It’s not just the JWs, either.  Lots of churches empower creeps who then victimize their supposed underlings.  I’ve read about plenty of religious organizations who don’t do enough to keep bad people from powerful positions.  I think they should be held accountable when these things happen.  Again, from the article:

A leader from the congregation apparently warned the girl’s parents in November 2006 that the instructor — who previously attended church sessions in Ogden and Oregon — was a “bad kid” who had “engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a female member of the Clearfield congregation.” The plaintiff says that warning wasn’t enough.

How did the guy end up a “church instructor” if church leaders knew he was a “bad kid”?  One has to wonder.  At the same time, isn’t it crazy that someone like Donald Trump, who openly admits to being a pervy creep– even if it was privately– might end up leading the country?  No wonder we have issues with so-called “rape culture”.

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disasters, expressions

Choosing the harder right over the easier wrong…

As a new week begins here in the land of perpetual lockdowns, my mind is on a heartbreaking opinion piece I just read in The Washington Post. A public health nurse practitioner, writer, and former Army Captain named Jackie Munn wrote about how her parents both contracted COVID-19 a few months ago. Munn’s father, a 28 year Army veteran, had tried to care for his ailing wife, Julie Anne Oeser, while he was himself ill. Unfortunately, Ms. Oeser’s condition deteriorated and she had to go to the hospital. She had initially resisted going, fearing that she wouldn’t come home. Sadly, she was right. On January 26, 2021, as many people were getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations, Julie Anne Oeser died. Her family stood around her bedside. She had spent 11 days in the intensive care unit, battling the novel coronavirus.

Jackie Munn is understandably very angry that she’s lost her mother, who was 62 years old and had “few preexisting conditions.” She writes that her family had “done its part” to fight COVID-19. Munn’s sisters, Jess and Jenn, are also in healthcare. Jenn works as an emergency room nurse in a hospital east of Los Angeles, California. Jess is a medical laboratory scientist at a Kansas City area hospital. Their parents had taken the pandemic seriously and followed all precautions, to include social distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing face masks. Both planned to be vaccinated, although Ms. Oeser died before she was able to take that step.

Jackie Munn writes, “…as a West Point graduate and combat veteran, I was taught that good leaders chose the harder right over the easier wrong.” She acknowledges that her father and older sister, both veterans like her, and been trained to do things that might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but serve the common good. And she’s understandably pissed off that so many Americans, many of whom were egged on by our former leader, Trump, have decided not to “do their part” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Birx speaks about the vaccines now available.

Munn blames Trump, of course, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx, who was herself an Army colonel and had been part of the COVID-19 task force in the Trump administration. She served as the COVID-19 Response Coordinator for Trump’s White House. Birx was recently in the news admitting that many COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if people had taken the virus more seriously and Trump had been a more responsible leader. I remember watching Deborah Birx on video, looking visibly uncomfortable as Trump spoke about COVID-19. She knew the truth, but unlike her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, she did not feel that she could say it out loud. She’s said that she had many “uncomfortable” discussions with Trump. My guess is that he threatened her.

She didn’t feel empowered to speak out during Trump’s reign. She says she should have been more outspoken.
These folks felt “muzzled” by Trump. Dr. Birx says that after the first 100,000 deaths, the subsequent carnage wrought by the virus could have been prevented.

Although I haven’t yet been personally affected by COVID-19, my heart goes out to Jackie Munn and the rest of her family. And yet, I also have some empathy for Dr. Birx. It’s easy for people to say she should have done more. They aren’t in the position she was in, and they weren’t directly dealing with a man like Trump, threatening, bullying, and browbeating them into doing his bidding. I can’t help but realize that Trump is a malignant narcissist, and if you’ve never had to deal with such a person, you have no idea how difficult it is not to bend to their will. They can be extremely convincing, even if they aren’t the U.S. POTUS… and when they are someone as powerful as Trump was, with many minions ready to carry out his wishes, it seems like an impossible situation to be in.

I don’t blame Dr. Birx for deciding to retire. I think it’s a shame that all of the legitimately good work she’s done over the course of her career, to include work in mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS, is going to be tarnished by her unfortunate connection with Trump. I think she was in a no win situation. I can see why it was so hard for her to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong,” even if doing so might have saved lives.

Naturally, I had to read the comments on Jackie Munn’s piece. It was a lot of the same polarized crap we’ve been reading for over a year now. Many people– I’d say maybe 85%– had nothing but condolences and commiseration to add to Munn’s piece. It really is a sad read, and it resonates with a lot of people. A few other people were obviously ignorant pro-Trump trolls, who are clearly belligerent and selfish. But I also noticed a few people whom I thought made sense being called “trolls” or angrily shouted down by the masses. Here are a couple of examples:

Those of you who “know” me, know that I’m not a fan of group think or echo chamber comments. So many people seem to want to pat themselves on the backs for doing the “right” thing, for the good of everyone else. I’ve seen so many self-congratulatory and outright pious comments from people who claim they have done everything correctly and figuratively spit on everyone they assume isn’t toeing the line created by the likes of Dr. Fauci. Don’t get me wrong. I admire Dr. Fauci’s work, and I think he’s a very smart man who knows what he’s talking about. He definitely knows a hell of a lot more than the average Internet user. I also agree that people should do their parts to control the spread of the virus. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more rational discussion, rather than chastising and insulting perfect strangers online.

I had to quit reading the comments when I realized I’d started rooting for the people who were gamely taking on all of the arrogant lecturing and blaming done by those who are all about everyone being forced to do the “right” things. I am not a fan of forcing people to do right, especially when people take a black and white, zero tolerance view. There are always situations that require exceptions to the rules, and the people who require exceptions should have a chance to be heard without being screamed down by others. I don’t like to be the devil’s advocate myself, because I find dealing with the deluge of irritating comments from graduates of the Google School of Public Health too tiresome and ultimately pointless. But I do secretly cheer on those who take on these folks. Most of us can Google. Not all of us are going to come to the same conclusions. That should be okay. People should be allowed to share their thoughts and opinions if they want to, and the ones who make some sense should have their thoughts respectfully considered, even if their conclusions are eventually rejected.

I’m getting especially “prickly” when I see some all knower write something like “You do know that…” or “Pretty sure that…” or “And your medical/public health degree is from…” or “What about seatbelts and helmets…” I don’t think the COVID-19 situation is akin to the other safety measures enforced by law. Ms. Munn is obviously gutted that her mother has died. I can’t blame her for that. I don’t blame her for trying to place responsibility on other people, either. It’s only natural. But even if everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing, there’s a chance her mother still would have gotten sick. There may have been far less of chance, but the chance still existed.

Not everyone is going to get onboard with the new rules. Some people never will, no matter what we do. There’s a good chance those people won’t spread COVID-19, despite breaking the rules. On the other hand there’s a good chance they will. We don’t know who passed the virus to Jackie Munn’s mom, but we do know that it’s an extremely contagious bug, and even if someone does everything right, as Ms. Munn’s mom presumably did, people are still going to get sick, and some people are still going to die. Hopefully, with the advent of the new vaccines, those numbers will drop significantly.

I think it’s useless to point the finger at random people who aren’t doing what they’re told. Those people have their reasons for not cooperating. Maybe you and I think their reasons are stupid, but they obviously think they’re right. And unless we stop and talk to them and actually listen respectfully to what they have to say, they probably won’t cooperate, even if they’re dead wrong. How many random strangers are going to change their habits just because someone insulted them and left an angry comment? On the other hand, if we engage with them from a place of respect and decency, maybe we can come to a meeting of the minds. Maybe then, more people will “choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”

A few days ago, I got into a minor scuffle with some woman from Australia. Well, actually, she tried to start a scuffle with me. I ignored her, which probably pissed her off. Anyway, what happened was, I had read an article about a type of dermatitis that is being caused by mask wearing. Many people are getting perioral dermatitis and mistaking it for acne. The condition doesn’t clear up when they use acne remedies, and they have painful reactions, as their sensitive skin is abraded by constantly wearing the masks.

A woman posted that she was dealing with this condition herself. That’s when Tiffany from Australia responded that she’s owned a medical practice for twenty years, has to wear masks, and just sucks it up and drives on. The original poster came back and reiterated that the dermatitis was actually very painful. Tiffany still had no empathy for her. She wrote that she has the dermatitis too, but she still does her part and masks up. Here’s a cookie, Tiffany.

Enjoy.

I was a bit disgusted by Tiffany’s lack of regard for this woman and her valid complaint. So I wrote, “You made a choice to go into healthcare, where masks are required. Most of the rest of us didn’t. It’s not nice to discount other people’s legitimate problems.” Several people agreed with me, and I got quite a few likes for that comment… not that I needed the likes. They just told me that I wasn’t the only one who found Tiffany’s “suck it up and drive on” attitude annoying.

Next thing I knew, I got a message that Tiffany wanted to “connect” with me. I discovered her message maybe an hour or so after that exchange. I had a feeling she was going to blast me privately. I didn’t read her whole message, but saw enough of it to know that she felt I had no right to call her out for her virtue signaling and she was telling me off in my PMs. The end of her message was, “Cat got your tongue?”

If had responded, I might have said, “I didn’t even realize you had messaged me until I saw my phone. I don’t get those notifications on an iPad. Moreover, your decision to PM me doesn’t require me to answer you. If you want to address me, you can do it publicly and respectfully. Otherwise, I have nothing more to say to you.” What I really would have liked to have said to her, and anyone else who PMs me uninvited and is abusive is, “We don’t know each other, so piss off!” In the end, I chose to ignore her completely, which probably left her feeling like the wind was let out of her sails.

I wonder how many people would like to get in on the discussion and have valid perspectives to add, but choose not to because of bullies like Tiffany who want to call them “babies” or tell them to get over themselves. Likewise, while I completely understand Jackie Munn’s anger, frustration, and outrage that she lost her mother at age 62, I don’t think issuing a blanket blame toward anyone who isn’t doing what she thinks they should be doing is productive. Would she be just as angry if her mom had gotten the flu and died? How about if her mom had had an accident? Would she have felt better if many more people were wearing masks and her mom still died of COVID-19? It’s possible that could have happened, too. The bottom line is, the situation Jackie Munn is in is terrible, and it seems unfair. But we’re in a pandemic, and people are going to die, just as they die in wars and other catastrophes. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t horrible and tragic– but unfortunately, blaming the world for her mom’s death isn’t going to bring her back from the dead.

Now… to wrap this up and get on with my day…

A few days ago, I wrote a protected post about a situation we’re in right now. It’s going to require some tough choices that may make things temporarily worse before they’re better. Or, they could make things permanently worse. And yet, Bill and I both know that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s something we should have done a long time ago. I was thinking of that situation when I read Jackie Munn’s words– the lesson she learned at West Point– “choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.” It’s so easy to turn a blind eye and let people get away with doing bad things. But in the long run, it can cost dearly.

I’m truly sorry about Jackie Munn’s loss. I absolutely appreciate all she and her sisters have done to fight COVID-19. I’m going to continue doing whatever I can to stop the spread. I stay home about 90% of the time and, on the very rare occasions when I do go places, I follow the rules. But unfortunately, I also know that the virus is very contagious, and some people can and will do everything right and still get COVID-19. It’s not necessarily anyone else’s fault when this happens, and I don’t think it’s helpful to blame others. It’s just a sad fact that until more people are fully vaccinated, people are going to get very sick, and some will die.

Yes, we should do all we can to reduce the numbers and cooperate for the common good. But there will be casualties regardless, and there will be heartbroken people who will suffer tremendous losses, no matter what they do. I also realize that I may very well be among those who will lose, as Bill and I anxiously await the vaccine ourselves. May God help us all.

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bad TV, complaints, condescending twatbags, modern problems, politics

Canceling Pepe Le Pew really stinks…

You know, I’ve been eagerly awaiting new leadership in the United States. For the past four years, we’ve had a bonafide sex offender in the White House, embarrassing and humiliating Americans around the globe. Donald Trump is, without a doubt, someone who truly ought to be canceled. This is a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. In his first divorce trial, his first wife Ivana described a disturbing incident in which he forced himself on her sexually. And there are COUNTLESS accusations from women over decades accusing Trump of molesting them. One disclosure famously came from a woman named Katie who claims that she was raped by Trump as a teenager at Jeffrey Epstein’s house of horrors. Just today, in my Facebook memories, there was an article from 2017 about some of the horrible “rapey” things Donald Trump has said.

Thank God Trump didn’t win a second term in the White House. I know a lot of people are upset about it. I’m sure many of those people don’t believe the dozens of women who have accused Trump of assault. Even though Trump has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself, these folks are doggedly still supporting him. And he’s still in the news as he does what he can to run decent Republicans out of office so he can hijack the party and turn it into Trumpism.

We should probably be focusing on getting rid of Trump. We should be focusing on getting rid of COVID-19. But what are a surprising number of people upset about right now? Pepe Le Pew. They say he needs to be canceled because he’s “rapey”.

When I was growing up, I used to watch the French skunk on Saturday morning cartoons. The running gag was that the amorous skunk wanted to make sweet love to a cat (a pussy)? He’d grab her and snuggle with her, kissing her without consent, not taking “no” for an answer, and being relentless in his pursuit of her.

Yikes!

I’m not saying this is behavior anyone should be modeling. As a kid, Pepe’s cartoons weren’t my favorites. I didn’t like the Road Runner either, or Speedy Gonzales. I was more of a fan of The Flintstones, Tom & Jerry, and Bugs Bunny. But I never thought of Pepe Le Pew as “rapey”. I always figured the pussy cat didn’t want to get with him because he stank. As I got older, I forgot all about him. But now Pepe’s in the news, mainly because The New York Times ran an op-ed by columnist Charles M. Blow entitled “Six Seuss Books Bore a Bias”.

Blow’s column was in response to the recent decision by the company that publishes Dr. Seuss’s books that six titles would no longer be made available because they include “racist and insensitive imagery”. In a statement, a spokesperson said that the six offending books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Blow was cheering on the decision, and in his piece, had referenced cartoons that a lot of us had grown up with, saying they had promoted ideas that were wrong. From Blow’s op-ed:

Some of the first cartoons I can remember included Pepé Le Pew, who normalized rape culture; Speedy Gonzales, whose friends helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans; and Mammy Two Shoes, a heavyset Black maid who spoke in a heavy accent.

A lot of people are upset that six of Dr. Seuss’s books are going to go out of print. Many people bemoaned “cancel culture”. To be honest, I am personally not a fan of cancel culture myself. I am uncomfortable with whitewashing history, burying language, and political correctness run amok. However, I think it’s absolutely fine to recognize that some relics of the past are hurtful and stop highlighting them in popular culture, and I don’t think the decision made by the publishers of Dr. Seuss’s books is necessarily “cancellation”, per se. I think it was more likely a business decision.

Hey– this issue is inspiring talented people, even though I don’t quite agree with this dude’s take on it. He plays guitar well, though, and his message resonates with the salt of the Earth types who never went to college.

However… I do think it’s absolutely crazy that people are calling for Pepe Le Pew, a cartoon character from decades ago, to be canceled. I really do. Because we’re talking about a fucking cartoon character, not a real person. Less than three months ago, a legitimate sex offender was running the country and influencing the free world. Many people are still cheering him on. He almost won a second term in office. Why the fuck are we up in arms over a cartoon skunk from the 1940s?

“They’re gonna keep the fuckin’ real ones!”

It reminds me of a classic George Carlin rant from the late 1980s, in which he went off about all of the ludicrous inconsistencies in American culture. In the above clip, he reminds us that gun shop owners have a list of stolen credit cards, but not a list of criminals and maniacs. And he adds, “now they’re thinking of banning toy guns… but they’re gonna keep the fuckin’ real ones!”

As usual, Carlin was right.

That rant was from 1988, and I can remember watching 90s and 00s era shows like 7th Heaven, in which the characters Ruthie and Simon aren’t allowed to play a game called “Baboom” or play with toy guns, and yet look at all of the shootings we’ve had since the late 1990s! To be sure, having grown up in a relatively innocent time, never having had to confront a security guard at school and seeing my classmates bringing their hunting rifles on school grounds, we didn’t worry about random acts of violence like we do now. And yet in those days, people weren’t trying to cancel things because they were politically incorrect. Or, at least a lot fewer people were trying to do it.

Does cancel culture really work? I don’t know that it does. I think it makes some things “forbidden fruit”. I’ll bet the six Dr. Seuss books that are no longer going to available are in high demand on eBay and Amazon now. In fact, last night as I was looking for something to watch, I noticed one of the trending shows on iTunes was a show that highlighted Pepe LePew’s cartoons! I haven’t thought or cared about Pepe LePew in probably 40 years. But suddenly, he’s relevant again, because people are calling for him to be “canceled”.

I honestly think a lot of the reason why so many conservatives are resistant to liberal ideas is because a lot of liberals come across as heavy handed, all knowing, and insulting. Which is not to say that the conservatives aren’t guilty of the same thing. Read any article about abortion, women’s rights, or the rights of LGBTQ people and you’ll read a lot of insulting, heavy handed, and just plain offensive conservative opinions. But liberals do the same thing, shaming conservatives for liking things like Pepe Le Pew, or The Dukes of Hazzard, or certain books by Dr. Seuss. At the same time, they tout themselves as being better people and look down on those who don’t agree with them. They show no willingness to understand why some people agree with conservative views. Instead, they simply mock them, and the conservatives respond in kind, and we have an “us versus them” situation. No understanding is ever reached; therefore, we can’t be open-minded and come together to accomplish things that will make the country better for EVERYONE. To me, it makes no fucking sense.

I’ll be honest, too. I’m a lot less concerned about certain offensive words and symbols than I am the dangerous and influential people behind those words and symbols. I grew up watching racist cartoons on a Christian television station. I was once a dedicated fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. I grew up in a place where people proudly displayed the Confederate flag. I even went to graduate school in a place where that flag flew over the Statehouse and I could see it from my window… at least until it was finally removed from the dome in 2000 and removed from the Statehouse grounds fifteen years later. I’m not saying it wasn’t time for the flag to come down. I’m not even saying that it’s wrong for the Confederate statues to come down. But I think the outrage some people have over those symbols is way out of sync with the real causes of the problem– that is, dealing with the negative attitudes and stereotypes that promote them. It’s a lot easier to cancel inanimate objects, though, than it is to deal with real people who make those items relevant.

In my view, someone like Donald Trump should have NEVER been allowed to run for president, for the very fact that he bragged about molesting women, was sued for racial discrimination, and has a long history of being a fucking creep. Put it this way. If he were going for a regular government position, he wouldn’t pass muster. He wouldn’t be able to get a security clearance. And after the attacks on the Capitol in January, we can see why he wouldn’t. But instead of STOPPING Trump and his cronies, we’re spending precious time and energy talking about Pepe Le Pew and Dr. Seuss. It’s ridiculous!

Look… at this point, I simply want things to get to a point at which we can have some semblance of peace and normalcy. I want to be able to go downtown and not worry about getting deathly ill. I want my husband to be home with me. I want my president to be a normal person who cares about the people he’s (or she’s) serving. I want to be able to go to a concert or a mall sans face mask, and without worry that someone will randomly shoot me. I want to be able to seek healthcare without worrying about going bankrupt. It would be nice if I could find a job with a living wage, if I needed to. I want all of those things for everybody else, as well.

ALL of those things are a hell of a lot more important to me, personally, than Pepe Le Pew’s rapey tendencies circa 1945. I don’t remember reading a lot of Dr. Seuss’s books when I was a child, although I do distinctly remember reading “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”, which was included in a book of stories I inherited from my older sisters. I was influenced by all kinds of questionable things in the media that many people worry will warp kids and ruin them. I’ll be honest. Having been around for going on 49 years, I don’t think this practice of canceling words, symbols, books, movies, tv shows, music, and cartoon characters has done anything to keep kids from being more fucked up than they were in my adolescence. If anything, I think things have gotten markedly worse than they were back then. Maybe we should rethink trying to change people’s beliefs and thoughts and do more to make life better and more fair for everyone… and keep narcissistic rapey assholes out of the White House, rather than banning fictional French cartoon skunks who sexually harass cartoon cats… Hey, at least Pepe wasn’t biased against different species, right? He has that going for him.

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rock stars, true crime

R. Kelly… the making of a monster.

The first part of today’s post is reposted from my original Blogspot post from January 2019, when I binge watched Surviving R. Kelly, which aired on Lifetime at the time. Two years ago, Bill was away on business and I found myself watching too much TV. Last night, I finally binge watched the second part of the series, which aired in early 2020. I’m reposting my thoughts about the first part, because I think it’s relevant to the rest of my thoughts about this case. The featured photo is a screen grab from Dave Chappelle’s parody about R. Kelly’s abuse.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks watching more television than usual.  Yesterday, I binge watched Surviving R. Kelly which recently aired on Lifetime.  Although I am a musical person, I never paid a whole lot of attention to R. Kelly.  The only thing I remember seeing about him was a Mad TV parody song and a South Park episode.  I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Dave Chappelle’s take on his outrageous behavior toward young black women and girls.  Oh, and of course I’ve heard some of his music.  There is no denying the man is musically gifted.  Unfortunately, he’s also a predator.

R. Kelly as depicted on MadTV.

It was interesting watching that series, especially since I’ve also been watching shows about cults.  I’ve also started reading a book about a woman who was raised in the Children of God cult, which I blogged about last week.  Consequently, I now have cults on the brain.  I even dreamt about them this morning. 

After hearing some of the stories of the people who have been caught up in these restrictive groups, I’m beginning to think most of my problems are really small.  Imagine, being so warped in your thinking that you allow someone like R. Kelly to lock you in a bedroom and force you to use a bucket for a toilet.  Imagine letting someone like him do the most demeaning things as he calls you vile names and forces you to debase yourself.  The women were all young, beautiful, and talented, and most of them hoped he could help them launch their own careers.  I suppose on one level, they might have been trying to take advantage of a man with power that they wanted to share.  But then R. Kelly used his gifts to harm them.

People made a lot of jokes about R. Kelly back in the day… it was no laughing matter.

I think, aside from the stories I heard from the victims themselves, I was most affected by what their families were saying.  I can’t imagine the anguish they felt, especially the ones whose daughters basically disappeared.  I remember one mother saying that when a child has died, you know what’s happened to them and you know they won’t be back.  It’s much worse when a child gets involved in a “cult” that separates them from their families.  You don’t know what has happened to them, where they are, or if they’ll be back someday. 

In a way, I think Bill can relate to that thought.  He lost contact with his daughters for years.  They wouldn’t speak to him, and their mother basically prevented him from having anything to do with them at all.  It’s only been within the past couple of years that he’s been able to reconnect with one of his daughters.  So much of what I heard R. Kelly’s victims say, Bill has heard from his younger daughter.  These types of abusers convince their victims that no one will help them and no one loves them, at least not the way the abuser does.  It really does a number on a person’s psyche.

I was angry with my husband’s daughters for years, mainly because they were hateful.  In the back of my mind, I knew they were being victimized the same way Bill was.  But it still made me angry, because I felt like they knew better.  But honestly, I don’t know.  I think being around abusers can really fuck up a person’s mindset.  It’s frustrating for people like me, who don’t have a loving relationship with the victims.  It must be soul crushing for a parent.  I know it was for Bill.  It’s much worse when there’s sex involved.  For R. Kelly’s victims, it was all about sex, control, and power.

I listened to the mothers of R. Kelly’s victims, and a couple of the fathers, too.  Some of the family members had the distinct displeasure of seeing their loved ones engaged in videotaped sex acts with the singer, which later ended up as porn videos for sale to the masses.  I can’t even imagine how devastating that must have been on so many levels.  Perhaps today, I should watch something a little lighter, like 80s era sitcoms.

In any case, Bill’s weird schedule is done for this week.  We’re leaving town tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to it, because I need a change of scenery and a chance to have some fun.  Hopefully, we’ll have decent weather.  Next week, he’ll be TDY in Germany.  The week after that, TDY in the USA.  Then, it should be smooth sailing for the next couple of months. (ETA: in 2021– boy do I miss being this carefree… but I sure hate the long TDYs)

And now, my thoughts in 2021, having seen the second part of this series…

Yesterday, as I recovered from my traumatic morning and irritating visit to the vet’s office, I came home and watched the second half of Surviving R. Kelly, which aired on Lifetime about a year ago. In that series, survivors and R. Kelly’s relatives talked about what went wrong with R. Kelly to cause him to hate women so much.

R. Kelly grew up in a house full of women. From the age of eight until he was about fourteen, Kelly was sexually abused by an older female relative. He was also sexually abused by male relatives. He never said anything about the abuse, but it obviously affected him. As he developed his obvious musical gifts, writing beautiful, inspirational hit songs like “You Are Not Alone”, which Michael Jackson made a hit, and “I Believe I Can Fly”, which is a staple at graduations, a hatred was simmering inside of him.

As I listened to the stories told by R. Kelly’s victims, young women who had been asked to meet him or work with him and were lured into his “sex cult”, I was reminded of so many other stories I’ve heard. In my post from 2019, I mentioned my husband’s experience with his ex wife. Bill has told me many times that he believes his ex wife hates men. That hatred comes from years of abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to protect and nurture her.

This morning, I reposted several book reviews about the Josef Fritzl case. Fritzl, as some may remember, is an Austrian man who kidnapped his own daughter and kept her underground in a dungeon for 24 years. He repeatedly raped and impregnated her. But before Fritzl was a monster, he was also an abused child. He was raised by a woman who beat him. The beatings only stopped when he finally got big enough to fight back. But Fritzl’s mother was also an abuse victim. According to one of those books I read and reviewed, Fritzl’s mother spent time in a concentration camp for refusing to house German officials. She had been cold and abusive before she went to the camp, but was much worse when she came home.

It’s no secret that child abuse, particularly sexual abuse, is devastating and damaging on many levels. Hearing so many stories of people who turned out to be manipulative, cruel, and predatory, I notice how many of them turned into legitimate monsters when they became adults. It’s like they revisit the horrors of their childhood on anyone they can. R. Kelly’s victims were mostly women who worshiped him for his talent and celebrity. He started with them the way many toxic people do… luring them with promises of help with their careers, superficial charm, and “love” that they weren’t getting at home.

Jerhonda, one of the women whose story I listened to yesterday described her mother as “uncaring”. She said her mom literally wasn’t interested in where she was or what she was doing. I was astonished by her story. She is a beautiful young woman, talented and intelligent, who had no adults in her life who cared about what happened to her. She fell into R. Kelly’s clutches. He was very nice to her at first, and seemed to care about her. It was like a drug, that regard that her mother had denied her. Once he had her trust, he her where he wanted her. That’s when Kelly changed and became an abusive monster.

Dave Chappelle makes fun of R. Kelly… This is much less funny now that I’ve heard from the women who were his victims.

Story after story was the same… and when one of the women was finally brave enough to say something to authorities, they didn’t believe her. So many of those women wound up suing R. Kelly and getting settlements that required them to stay silent. One woman named Lanita Carter, 24 years old and the mother of three when she met Kelly, was hired to braid his hair. He barely paid her for her work, but because she was associated with him, she picked up more clients. She fell prey to him, too… and finally had enough when he ejaculated on her face. He asked her for a “head massage”. She said she didn’t give massages, and he clarified that he was looking for her to massage his other “head”. He demanded oral sex and spat on her repeatedly.

Carter woke with her eyelashes sticking together with Kelly’s semen. One would think this egregious assault– especially one that could have significant health consequences would be enough to garner interest from the police. Imagine someone having so little respect for another human being that they’d do something as horrible as what Kelly did to Carter. She wasn’t the only one who received that extreme level of disrespect, either. R. Kelly was notorious for debasing his women with his body fluids. I can only guess it comes from lingering hatred of someone who abused him when he was a powerless child.

But when Lanita told the police about what R. Kelly did, they interrogated her. And when they went into R. Kelly’s home, they demanded that she give them information about the place that only someone who had been there would know. Carter was able to give them the information. They gathered evidence… but Kelly still wound up being sued instead of incarcerated for what he did. And when Carter spoke to the Chicago based personal injury lawyer who arranged settlements with Kelly, she wasn’t believed because– get this– she was TOO OLD! Carter eventually got two settlements from Kelly– one for $650,000 and the other for $100,000, which Carter got because Kelly wrote a song about having sex with the woman who braided his hair. Kelly was allowed to maintain the status quo, victimizing more girls and young women. In her interview, Lanita Carter says that the money didn’t heal the damage done to her.

I was also moved by listening to the women talk about how Black people, particularly women, are discouraged from reporting crimes to the police. This is because Black people are typically “over-policed” in the United States, and calling the police is seen as a betrayal of the community. So predators like R. Kelly, who are already surrounded by “yes people” due to their talent, money, charisma and fame, continue to get away with abusing other people unabated.

R. Kelly comes unglued during an interview with Gayle King.

It wasn’t until the first part of this documentary series was released that R. Kelly was finally arrested and held accountable for his crimes against women. It’s shocking that it took so long and the cooperation of a cable channel to make R. Kelly accountable to the law. He is now in prison, awaiting a trial on federal charges. His music is tarnished, and he’s left so many victims in his wake.

I couldn’t help but notice one victim, Joycelyn Savage, was so entrenched in R. Kelly’s lies and abuse that at the end of the documentary, she was still in Trump Tower. She was still loyal to R. Kelly, and her anguished family continued to pray for her return. Savage is one of several of Kelly’s victims who came from a caring family. I was struck when I heard that Kelly had a place in Trump Tower. It seems rather appropriate that a notorious sex offender would live in a building named after another notorious sex offender and egregious hater of women like Donald Trump. And when I heard her insist that she was “happy” with Kelly, it reminded me of listening to people entrenched in cults.

People are still championing R. Kelly, just as they are championing Donald Trump. R. Kelly is truly disgusting… but the person he is didn’t form in a vacuum. He was a victim of abuse. I’ve heard so many stories about “monsters” who were victims when they were children. This is why I think we must pay more attention to child abuse. It’s not something that should simply be survived. I think about how many people could have been spared the horrors of R. Kelly’s adult attempts to exorcise his demons if someone had simply helped him escape his nightmarish childhood.

If you can stomach watching the series, I recommend it. It’s a good warning about child abuse, as well as becoming too adoring of stars. They have clay feet, just like the rest of us do.

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