condescending twatbags, healthcare, law

Confusion, chaos, and crass behavior continues, as US ends mask mandates on transportation…

It’s a beautiful spring day here in lovely Wiesbaden, Germany. The sun is shining and the air is fresh, crisp, and cool. I can see my neighbors’ trees heavy with flowers. Later, when I walk my dogs, I expect to see plenty of beautiful blooms in well-tended gardens. I probably should enjoy being outside more, especially since the weather in this part of the world isn’t always as nice as it is right now. It’s always so nice to see spring arrive in Germany, since the earliest months of the year are usually pretty crappy, when it comes to the weather. Making things even nicer is that on April 2, 2022, Germany finally lifted face mask requirements and vaccine checks in many venues, although they remain on public transportation.

Because masks are still required in airports and on public transportation in Germany, Bill and I will be driving to Italy next week. Actually, we might have decided to do that anyway, since we will probably be buying wine, cheese, and other groceries and it’s easier to transport that stuff in a car than on a plane. I like road trips, as a general rule. In my opinion, one of the best things about living in Europe is having the option to drive to so many beautiful places.

My countrymen aren’t so fortunate when it comes to traveling abroad. A person in the United States can’t drive to Europe, Africa, Australia, or Asia. In fact, it’s not so easy to get from coast to coast in the United States by car. It takes awhile to drive from, say, Virginia to California, and a lot of Americans prefer to fly, because vacation days are precious in the US and flying takes less time. So yesterday’s ruling, made with a stroke from federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s pen, has caused a big ruckus among Americans. Public reaction to her decision has been decisively split. Judge Mizelle’s ruling makes it okay to forgo face masks on domestic flights, although it’s my understanding that they are still required on planes that are flying to places where the masks are still required.

Cue mass hysteria.
Something tells me that this decision is going to prompt policy changes.

Many people are hailing Judge Mizelle for setting them free from face masks on public transportation. Others are cursing her and calling her “incompetent” for allowing people to suddenly take off their masks mid flight yesterday. The facts that she’s from Florida, is somewhat young and attractive, and was appointed by Donald Trump, don’t help some people’s negative impressions of her worthiness as a judge. Some public health and medical experts are very concerned about this restoration of facial freedom the judge has bestowed upon the public. And some people are feeling more emboldened than ever to shoot the finger at people they regard as sanctimonious virtue signalers.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m liberal about a lot of things. But you may also know that I’m not a fan of face masks, even though I am a master’s level graduate of an accredited school of public health. I was never really in favor of them, even at the beginning of the pandemic. I don’t think a lot of people wear the masks properly. Here in Germany, we’ve been forced to wear heavy FFP2 masks (like N95s), but the infections continue, probably because no one is forced to cover their eyes. And so, I conclude that a lot of the masking is basically theater, although I can certainly understand why they are important in certain medical settings.

Two years ago, before we had vaccines and most people had zero immunity to the virus, I could see why they were initially necessary, even though the masks most people wore at the beginning of the pandemic were pretty useless. As the variants have become milder, and fewer people seem to be getting quite so sick and dying, I can see why the masks are being phased out. For the most part, I think it’s time. It’s been two years, and while I’m sure there are some people who would love to see everyone masked forever, that’s not a very realistic goal.

Many people legitimately hate the masks because they can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. They do cause legitimate problems for some people, particularly those who suffer from anxiety, are hard of hearing, or have sensory processing disorders. They aren’t a good long time solution, in my opinion, because they are so polarizing, and because they hinder communication. Even if face masks were the best idea ever, it would take some time for people to accept them as normal. I am old enough to remember when a lot of Americans didn’t voluntarily wear seatbelts in their cars. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that they became normal for most people. At least that was how it was in the United States. In most countries in Europe, mandatory use of seatbelts for all passengers has been the rule for a lot longer, and fines are pretty stiff for non-compliance. But even a lot of Europeans are over the masks.

I still live in Germany, where public health ministers are still wanting to limit freedoms and impose COVID restrictions. A lot of Germans seem to be fed up with the rules, too, although they do seem to be a lot more willing to submit to them than Americans are. What I like about Germany, though, is that people seem to be somewhat less insulting, whichever side of the mask debate they’re on. And Germans, as a rule, are more community minded about most things. Many people here are still wearing masks, even though they are no longer legally required to wear them. Those who don’t wear masks mostly don’t get harassed for not wearing them. Maybe they get the side eye from one or two people, but no one is getting belligerent or aggressive about it, and there’s a lot less violence all around. I doubt if the mask rules were relaxed in the middle of a Lufthansa flight, that people would be whooping and hollering like they reportedly were on US flights yesterday. But yes, there would probably be people gratefully removing them.

As usual, I took a look at the comments on the news articles. It didn’t surprise me that a lot of people were whining about their fears regarding this decision, while others were being really offensively belligerent about their “freedoms”. I suspect that if the mask mandates are reinstated in the United States, there will be even more of an uproar and possibly, more violence. I have noticed, as many have, that since the mask mandates were in place, the behavior of people on planes was more violent and unruly than it’s ever been. After all, flights in economy class are uncomfortable enough as it is. The masks made them even less pleasant for a large number of people, even though some people don’t mind the masks and never found wearing them “onerous”.

Obviously, the masks make it harder for flight crews, as people have gotten violent over having to wear them on planes.

One thing that I’ve noticed and don’t really like from either side of this issue, is that people aren’t willing to compromise or concede. Why can’t the pro-maskers, for instance, understand why people hate wearing masks? Why do they feel it necessary to insult, belittle, and berate people for their valid opinions? Being nasty and sanctimonious to people does not inspire their cooperation. Moreover, I don’t find it very convincing when a person in a mask brags about “caring for other people” as they verbally abuse those who don’t share their opinions and dare to express themselves. I’ve seen more than one comment by a supposed “concerned mask wearing humanitarian” indicating that they think anyone who disagrees with them deserves to die. That’s not a very caring and kind attitude, in my opinion, and it doesn’t necessarily make me want to wear a mask for the sake of others. In fact, I think it’s the height of hypocrisy.

Conversely, I also think it’s awful that there are so many anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers out there who feel the need to laugh, gloat, and insult people who are genuinely afraid of getting very sick from the virus. I happen to agree that masking should be a choice, even though given a choice, many people won’t choose to wear a mask. Having the right to choose is part of living in a free society. But I also empathize with people who are afraid of COVID, or are concerned that they will spread it to vulnerable loved ones. Unfortunately, this was a problem even before COVID, and it will continue to be a problem. Forced mask wearing is not going to make the basic challenges faced by immunocompromised people go away, even if they appear to make things safer. I do agree, however, that we could all stand to be kinder and more considerate about this problem.

I read an op-ed on the Washington Post this morning about the relaxed rules. Robin Givhan, who wrote the opinion piece, demonstrated the attitude that, personally, I’ve found very off-putting throughout the pandemic. Her piece, titled “Whoops of selfish delight”, lamented that people were cheering about the suddenly dropped mask mandates. The mood of her opinion was that people were behaving badly for being visibly happy to be rid of the masks. This was Givhan’s sarcastic comment about the midflight announcement:

“They reveled in the knowledge that while they might be required to buckle their seat belt, turn off their cellphone, put their seat backs in the upright position and refrain from smoking on their grueling one-hour-and-20-minute flight, the one thing they would not have to do was wear a mask. The long, torturous nightmare of government overreach, which is how so many aggrieved passengers viewed the mandate effecting public transportation, has come to an end.”

I just want to ask her what the hell she was expecting. Of course people in their tight airplane seats with no leg room, strapped in and masked up, while their neighbors eye them suspiciously and with hostility, are going to be delighted with the prospect of being free to breathe unmasked. A lot of people– and I’m sure many in the travel industry, especially– are thrilled not to have to wear masks or enforce the wearing of masks, temporary as it may end up being.

Now, maybe it was rude to “whoop” about it, if only because yelling can spread viruses faster, and there are people who are legitimately terrified of being around maskless people. But I don’t think people are being selfish when they’re happy to be allowed to unmask. It’s perfectly natural, especially after two years of this weird, dystopian, plague we’ve been enduring. And if the mask mandates are reimposed, be prepared for backlash. I suspect it could be even worse after people have gotten a taste of freedom. No amount of shaming, virtue signaling, and berating is going to cow certain people into compliance. I just hope there won’t be more violence.

Anyway… count me among those who are for putting away the face masks, although I probably won’t be flying or taking transportation anytime soon. I never liked the masks, and I’m not going to submit to peer pressure to be a cheerleader for them. I’ll wear a mask if I’m asked to, but I certainly don’t want to do it. Not wearing a mask doesn’t make me a shitty person, especially since I don’t hang around people much, anyway. I also don’t care if other people wear masks. They can wear as many as they want to. It’s their choice, and I respect that. It would be nice if we could respect each other’s choices, since we all have to breathe. When it comes down to it, COVID is just another one of the many, many risks we face on a daily basis. Over the past two years, I’ve lost several people in my life, all of whom died years before perhaps they should have. Not a single one of them died of COVID… most of them had cancer or another chronic disease that might not have been adequately addressed, partly thanks to this virus. One died of suicide, and another was killed in a hit and run. I think that’s something to consider.

In other news…

I’m in trouble again.

I got another “restriction” from Facebook yesterday. They claimed I posted “hate speech” for referring to “dumb Americans”. My “punishment” is having my group posts filtered to the bottom for a month. I’m annoyed by this new ding, but I guess I should have expected it. Facebook must have a quota of sanctioning people for posting “offensive” content. What I find especially stupid is that people can and do post all sorts of offensive stuff toward strangers, but I refer to Americans as “dumb” because they won’t allow a children’s author to read his book about unicorns, and I get accused of posting “hate speech”.

I saw this on the Duggar Family News page. Wonder if it will get flagged for being offensive…

Just as I would like to ditch masks, I would also really like to ditch Facebook. I may end up doing that at some point, although it’s the best and easiest way to stay in touch with people. But I resent their stupid bots making false accusations about my posts that are taken out of context. The other day, someone referred to me as a “baby killer”, complete with vomiting emojis because I support the rights of people to get abortions. But that’s apparently okay– to call an individual stranger a “baby killer” as you react with puke emojis. Call Americans “dumb”, and your account gets restricted. It’s very aggravating. But, based on the comments from friends, at least I am in good company with these inane “punishments”. And at least this time, my offensive post was only a few days old, instead of four years old, as it was the last time I got slapped on the wrist. And this time, Facebook said I could appeal their decision. I don’t care enough about this particular issue to do that, though. I’ll just put up with another month of wearing a red badge of shame.

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bad TV, celebrities, funny stories, true crime

Chris Rock’s “squirrel joke” ends with a slap heard ’round the world…

I don’t follow awards shows at all, and haven’t even been to the movies since 2018. Nevertheless, I woke up this morning to the news about how actor Will Smith smacked comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards last night. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard the story, here’s what happened. Chris Rock was hosting the Oscars show, and he made a tasteless joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Will’s wife. Jada Pinkett Smith has a condition called alopecia areata, which causes patches of hair loss. Consequently, she’s almost bald.

Chris Rock made a crack about the alopecia, making reference to the film G.I. Jane, which starred Demi Moore, who was sporting a very short haircut. He says he expects to see Jada in G.I. Jane II. Jada Pinkett Smith’s response was simply to roll her eyes, but Will Smith went a whole lot further when he marched up on the stage, hauled off, and slapped Rock across the face.

That is what you call a bitch slap. He definitely didn’t hold back at all.

I’m sure Chris Rock felt his teeth rattle after that blow to the face. I have to give him props for shaking it off and carrying on. Especially as Will Smith then tells Chris Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his “fuckin’ mouth”.

I’m sure a lot of people had this reaction…

I’ve seen a number of reactions to this incident, and I’ve gotta say, I’m kind of shocked by how many people think it’s okay that Will Smith reacted with violence to Chris Rock’s crappy joke. I certainly agree that the joke was in very poor taste, and it definitely wasn’t funny at all. However, while I can understand Will Smith’s impulse to strike Chris Rock in the face for publicly insulting his wife, I don’t think it was the right thing to do. Smith committed a crime when he hit Rock, and there are literally millions of witnesses to what happened. Moreover, it just isn’t civilized behavior to give in to violent impulses, particularly in a setting like the Oscars. It was supposed to be a dignified occasion, not the fucking Friday night fights. These two men turned what was supposed to be an honorable and dignified occasion into something that was decidedly not family friendly.

If Smith had just kept his cool, Rock would have looked like an asshole. We probably would even be talking about what a lame, mean-spirited joke Rock made at Jada Pinkett Smith’s expense. Instead, we’re all talking about Will Smith’s thuggery, perhaps even taking a side as to which man behaved worse. And then, Smith wins an award and gets up to talk about “what God wants him to do” and “protecting” his family. He blames his violent actions on “the devil”, which I think was quite a cop out.

He says he wants to be a vessel to love… but first he needs to learn to keep his hands to himself.

There are times when a violent reaction to an action is completely justifiable. For instance, if Chris Rock was physically attacking Jada, I could understand Will Smith smacking Rock in the face… or Jada herself decking him. But Chris Rock is a comedian, and it’s his job to make people laugh. Sometimes, comedians go for cheap laughs by making demeaning comments and insults about other people. I’m not saying it’s right, but I do think it often comes with the territory of being a comedian. I mean, even Spongebob Squarepants once got laughs by insulting Sandy Squirrel, right?

I think Chris Rock could learn from Sandy Squirrel’s lesson for Spongebob.

I just rewatched this clip from Spongebob Squarepants and, seriously… it really is quite a lot like what happened, except Spongebob didn’t get his beating in public like Rock did. And Rock, astonishingly, somehow managed to keep his composure and the show apparently went on. But a better comedian can make jokes without hitting below the belt with comments about things other people can’t help. It’s not cool to make fun of another person’s body. So I think Will Smith should have just let Rock’s joke stand for the poor comedy it was, and kept his hands to himself. Or, if he really wanted to hit him, he should have done it at a time and place where the world wasn’t watching.

Chris Rock could press charges against Mr. Smith, and it’s pretty likely that the law would be on Rock’s side. I’m sure a lot of judges would have some sympathy for Smith, but it would be wrong to condone violence. I mean, we learn in kindergarten not to go around hitting each other, right? It’s one of the first lessons children learn in school.

Moving on…

We had a really nice weekend. The weather was perfect, and we got out a couple of times. And on Friday, I ordered new sheets for our bed… first ones since 2015, when I bought Comphy microfiber spa sheets. I remember writing about that purchase on my original blog. Those sheets have started developing a hole, so Friday, I decided to get new ones. I love Comphy sheets. They are my favorites.

Comphy doesn’t ship to APO addresses, so I originally wanted to purchase them and have them sent to my mother-in-law. I was able to do that in 2015. This time, I couldn’t do it, so I had to have them shipped directly to me. I ordered Friday morning and they have already gotten here! The credit card charge hasn’t even posted yet!

Granted, I paid a lot for the sheets. I bought an extra set of pillow cases, and a throw, so that all amounted to a pretty big bill. Customs and shipping were also pricey. BUT… they really are the best sheets I’ve had. They’re super soft and comfortable; they don’t wrinkle or pill; and they are very durable through hundreds of washings. So I don’t mind that they cost more than a month’s rent in my apartment in grad school.

I’m now giving them a preliminary wash and I heard the chime go off, so In an hour or so, I will be putting them on the bed… and I suspect, thanks to DST taking effect yesterday, in about three hours, I’ll be napping on them.

Yea!

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sex, sexism, silliness, stupid people

Woman freaks out when confronted by a trans woman in a locker room…

The featured photo is of the Friedrichsbad, perhaps Germany’s most famous nude spa… where everyone is naked. They do have days when the genders divide by sides, as well as co-ed days, when people can go through the spa on either side. Bill and I went on a co-ed day, and had a blast. No one bothered us.

One of the things Bill and I have come to enjoy, since we’ve been living in Germany, is the availability of nude spas. I will admit that it took us a long time before we got brave enough to try them. We never tried them when we were here the first time, and it took us almost three years to go naked once we moved back here. Once we finally did the deed, there was no turning back. Now, being nude at a spa is just not a big deal anymore. Not all spas in Germany are nude, but quite a number of them do have nude areas. Saunas and steam rooms all require patrons to be nude, and there are a lot of wonderful spa facilities here where bathing suits aren’t allowed at all.

I guess, in this way, Bill and I have kind of gone “native”. I don’t think we’d mind a nude beach. I know I wouldn’t. I don’t worry about perverts. Here, I’ve seen many people– especially men– urinating in public, although it’s technically illegal. But get caught in a Stau on the Autobahn, and if it’s bad enough, you can count on seeing someone pissing on the side of the road. They just don’t care. I’ve seen a lot of public urination at rest stops, too, whether or not facilities are available. Many of the rest stops over here require payment. Some people don’t want to pay, so they don’t.

I’ve also seen women openly breastfeeding. I’ve seen children change clothes or simply undress in the open air at Freibads. I’ve even seen kids in the nude spa areas, which personally I don’t agree with, because people go to spas to relax. Almost nobody cares. Maybe my ex landlady would. I don’t know. I would think she’d be smart enough not to go to a spa where there might be nudity if it bothered her.

To date, I’ve been to eight different spas in Germany, most of which had optional nude areas in them. Three of the spas were completely nude, meaning no bathing suits were allowed there at all. People carry towels and robes for sitting on things. Most of the dressing rooms at the spas are also unisex. They do have cubicles that allow people to change in private, but the lockers are all in one big room accommodating everyone. And in the nude spas, once you go to where the pools are, everyone’s nude, except for the people who are working there. And nobody cares.

There are people of all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and persuasions running around at German spas. You are liable to see people sucking face in the pools. They’re mostly young people– teens or young adults– who can’t keep their hands off of each other. But I promise, the spas are mainly for health and relaxation purposes. It’s not a place where perverts hang out. If they are there, they’re below the radar.

Americans, as a whole, are very prudish about nudity. They aren’t the only ones. Brits are pretty shy about baring all, as are Swedes… or, at least the spa we went to in Sweden was very much bathing attire required. But here in Germany, I’ve seen signs with bathing suits and red lines crossed through them… and I’ve also seen signs that say “proper bathing attire required.”

Today, I read an article in the Washington Post about a customer at the Wi Spa, a facility in Koreatown in Los Angeles, who was “traumatized” when a trans woman changed in the women’s dressing room. The trans woman evidently still had male equipment, and the sight of it really upset another customer and her daughter. She confronted the spa staff about the intrusion. The spa manager asked the client if the trans woman had done anything specifically inappropriate. The client responded that the person’s genitalia was displayed, and that was “traumatizing”. This, in a spa where the “lack of modesty” is disclosed ahead of time. I wonder what the hell the upset client was doing checking out other people’s junk, anyway?

For some reason, many Americans seem to equate nudity with perversion. There’s this pervasive fear that child molesters and creeps are lurking at spas, just waiting to rape someone. Those who subscribe to this fear especially seem to believe that perverts are wanting to pose as transgender people so they can prey on women and girls.

I can’t pretend to be an expert on transgender people or sex offenders. But from what I do know, trans people aren’t necessarily sexual deviants, just as cisgender people are not necessarily sexual deviants. And I don’t think that hanging out in bathrooms or spas and pretending to be transgender is a reasonable MO for a person who is sexually deviant. I really don’t think a trans person in the locker room is the issue, anyway. I think it’s the attitude among many Americans that there’s no such thing as transgender people.

In any case, I haven’t seen or heard of a lot of people being victimized at German spas, where modesty is not the word of the day. I just don’t think transgender people are out there attacking people. They simply want to change clothes or do their business in rooms where they feel safest. I don’t believe most men are rapists. I think even fewer people of the transgender persuasion are sexually deviant. And I cringe when I read the many frightened and angry comments by ignorant people who seem to think that people who are different than they are are somehow dangerous.

Sadly, the incident in Los Angeles led to a protest, which eventually turned violent. Transphobic people brought guns to the protest and brandished them at counterprotestors. Another person was hit on the head with a lead pipe at the protest. Personally, I’m a hell of a lot more frightened of all the American idiots with weapons than I am of a trans woman in the ladies room. I think they are a much bigger threat to my safety than people who identify as a non-binary or transgender.

The woman who caused this ruckus made an Instagram video and said she wouldn’t be at the protest, because she’d heard Antifa would be there and she worried about her safety. Um… Antifa isn’t a group. It’s a movement. It’s an idea. This lady is grossly misinformed.

Thanks to my friend, Julie, for sharing this.

It would be one thing if someone actually saw another person doing sexually inappropriate things at the spa. It’s quite another if someone is just minding their own business, changing their clothes or using the toilet. Every single one of us has sex parts. The presence of those parts aren’t what make someone a deviant. Germans have figured this out. Why can’t we figure it out in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave? Grow up. And stop looking at other people’s private parts. Frankly, I think the woman who complained is the pervert in this case.

I hope the German nude spas reopen again soon.

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mental health, modern problems, true crime

Americans are both awesome and awful people…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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true crime, Virginia

Double repost: the tragic case of Crystal Ragin

Here are two posts that originally appeared on the Blogspot version of this blog. I wrote the first one, not knowing anything more about the case than what little was in the paper. One of Ragin’s relatives sent me a private message. She was initially upset about my comments, but then told me more about what had actually happened and asked me to write more. So I did… and I am including the second post with the first. As usual, these posts are mostly unedited and appear “as/is” from 2014.

This is a truly tragic story…

I like to read The Daily Press sometimes.  It’s the newspaper I grew up with and I used to read the paper version of it every day when I was growing up.  Today, I check it a few times a week to see if anything interesting is going on in the area where I grew up.  Today, there was a very sad story about a woman who made a very poor choice in husbands.  Now she and three of her four children are dead.

Fort Eustis Army Sergeant Crystal Ragin was an exemplary soldier who was going to go to school to become a drill sergeant.  She was well-known for being very good at her job, responsible, punctual, and very hard working.  A mother of four, she had been married to her second husband, John Moses Ragin, since 2006.  They met in South Carolina, when Crystal was a guard at the prison where John Ragin was serving a 15 year sentence for manslaughter.  He had killed his childhood best friend.

Once John Ragin was released, Crystal, who by then had joined the Army, was free to marry him.  She did, and he became a father figure to the three children she had with her first husband, Mike Burton.  Then Crystal and John had a child of their own, I’Kaos.

John Ragin was apparently a very jealous and controlling husband.  He insisted on Crystal calling him often.  He never wanted her to go out alone.  He demanded that she live according to his wishes, which included swearing off eating meat.  He was very suspicious of the men Crystal worked with in the Army.

On August 19, 2011, John Ragin had apparently had enough.  He brutally murdered his wife and her three older children, Sierra, La’Kwan, and Rasheed, stabbing them 74 times, and setting their home on fire.  Then he took I’Kaos and went back to South Carolina, where he was arrested the next day.

Ragin now may face the death penalty and his son is being raised by his maternal relatives in South Carolina.  What an awful thing for that family to have to deal with… and what a terrible legacy that little boy now has.

I’m sure Crystal Ragin was a wonderful woman, based on the article written about her.  I wonder why she was attracted to John Ragin.  I can’t imagine finding a killer attractive, but I realize that these things aren’t always based on logic or common sense.  Sometimes people can change…  or so they say.  I can’t imagine I’d want to have my children around someone who had done time for killing someone, but I know that sometimes there are mitigating circumstances.

I just think it’s very sad that this woman, who had four beautiful children and a promising career, ended up with someone who obviously couldn’t control his rage or impulses.  I don’t know what Crystal’s reasons were for choosing to marry John Ragin.  It would be easy for me to blame her for being unwise.  But really, she just sounds like someone who trusted someone who was ultimately untrustworthy.  She and her kids paid the ultimate price for that choice.  Her young surviving son will now have to carry on with a father in prison or dead and a mother and siblings who were brutally murdered.

My experiences being Bill’s wife have taught me that people sometimes make very poor choices when it comes to finding mates.  Bill made a bad decision to marry his ex wife and he paid a dear price.  But at least he’s still alive and healthy.

Reading about this case reminds me of the old story about the scorpion and the frog.  A scorpion wants to cross a stream, but doesn’t know how to swim.  So he asks the frog to help him.  The frog worries about being stung, but the scorpion points out that if he stings the frog, they will both die.  So the frog trusts the scorpion and halfway across the stream, gets stung.  As the doomed duo start to sing, the frog asks the scorpion why he did it.  The frog says, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.  It’s nature.”

With some of these people, I have to think that it’s in their nature to be violent and controlling.  In some cases, no amount of love and understanding can overcome that.  I wish Crystal’s family much peace.    

AND the follow up piece… Originally, I had a link to the 911 calls regarding this case. Unfortunately, those were taken down. Listening to those recordings really drove home how dangerous John Ragin was and how Crystal Ragin and her children were completely failed by the Newport News police department.

How the police failed Crystal Ragin and her kids…

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Crystal Ragin, a soldier at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia who, along with three of her four children, was brutally murdered by her husband, John Moses Ragin on August 19, 2011.  The lone survivor was the youngest child, a boy named I’Kaos, Crystal Ragin’s son with John Moses Ragin.

I must admit, what I knew about that case was based on one article I read in the  Daily Press, which is the local newspaper for the Newport News area.  Though I was born and raised in the Hampton Roads area, I haven’t lived there since 1999.  I only occasionally read the news that comes from there, and that article from the Daily Press was the first I had heard of Crystal Ragin.  This morning, Ragin’s former sister-in-law contacted me on Facebook and asked me to take another look at the story.  So I started reading more about the tragic relationship between Crystal Ragin and John Moses Ragin.  What I’ve learned is very disturbing.

In June of 2011, John assaulted Crystal and threw her to the floor.  She hit her head on a dresser.  The week of the murders, Crystal faced John in court on the assault charge resulting from that attack.  A judge found that there was enough evidence to convict John, but for some reason, decided to defer sentencing for two years.  This decision was especially strange, since Crystal Ragin met her husband in a South Carolina prison; she was a guard and he was an inmate serving time on a manslaughter charge because he’d shot and killed his best friend in 1991.  He was released in 2005 after serving just 14 years.  John Ragin already had a history of violence that, somehow, the court didn’t take into account.

After the hearing, Crystal Ragin filed a protective order against John, saying she “feared for her life”.  As it turns out, her concerns for her life were entirely valid.  However, it took over 24 hours for a Newport News Sheriff’s Department Deputy to attempt to serve John Moses Ragin with the protective order.  Between the time the order was granted and a deputy made an initial attempt to serve it, John Moses Ragin stabbed his estranged wife and stepchildren 74 times and then tried to cover up the crime by setting their apartment on fire.

By the time the deputy had arrived at the apartment to serve the papers, it was already a devastating crime scene.  This makes me wonder, too, how was it that the deputy didn’t already know about what had happened?  Don’t the police agencies communicate with each other?  Or was it the deputy who initially discovered the crime scene?  Given that there was a fire involved, I wonder why no one called the authorities until after the fire was out.  Didn’t the other residents at the apartment complex notice the fire?

Crystal Ragin called 911 on August 18, 2011, while she was at a Shell gas station with the kids.  John Moses Ragin confronted her and wouldn’t let her leave.  According to a Daily Press article, John Ragin was confronting Crystal because he wanted his son, I’Kaos.  He planned to take the boy to South Carolina and was blocking Crystal from her truck because she wouldn’t let him have their son.

Crystal told the 911 operator that there was a pending order of protection she had filed that hadn’t been served.  In the background, you can hear John Ragin repeatedly telling Crystal to “stop lying”.  He sounds very menacing, yet Crystal is very calm as she speaks to the 911 operator.  She sounds like a well trained soldier, keeping cool in a crisis.  I think if I had been in her shoes, I would have been hysterical.  I can’t imagine how very terrified she and the kids must have been.

Though Crystal Ragin had a protective order pending against John Moses Ragin, when a police officer arrived at the scene where he had been threatening her, they let him go. The second call is from maintenance supervisor Johnny Kennedy. He’s calling about the apartment that the Ragins shared, which looked like it had been on fire. Mr. Kennedy could see a body and was calling to report his findings.

Officer E. Jenkins of the Newport News Police Department was one of the police officers who came to the gas station after Crystal made her 911 call.  Officer Jenkins describes Crystal Ragin as obviously scared and “shaking”.  He called a dispatcher in an attempt to find the protective order that had not yet been served.  Somehow, despite looking for 35-40 minutes, the dispatcher was unable to find the pending protective order.  John Ragin claimed he knew nothing about it and, in fact, he said he and Crystal had had sexual intercourse the night before.

Crystal denied having sex with John Moses Ragin and claimed that he was “crazy.”  The police officer offered to escort John Ragin to the apartment so he could pick up his belongings.  Somehow, that didn’t happen and Ragin was able to get to Crystal and her kids, where he violently ended their lives.

I read an article from May 2012 about how angry Crystal Ragin’s family is about how the protective order was handled.  Apparently, because the protective order was signed late in the afternoon, the police department’s policy was to wait until the next day to attempt to serve it.  Ragin’s family asserts that the Newport News Sheriff’s Department’s tardiness may have played a direct role in the murders.  I don’t have any direct experience with Newport News police; I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket in Newport News.  But if it takes them 24 hours to act on a protective order, I have to wonder how much good the order would have done in this case… or any other case, for that matter.      

Though it’s terrible enough that John Moses Ragin killed four people, it’s even worse that they really suffered before they died.  Crystal Ragin was stabbed 18 times.  According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn, one of the stab wounds went through Ragin’s face, “from one side to the other”.  Crystal Ragin’s daughter, Sierra, was burned so severely that her lips “curled back from her teeth”.  Sons La’Kwan and Rasheed were repeatedly stabbed.  Their deaths were not instant.  The medical examiner who testified in this case described the conditions that led to their deaths, noting that there were stab wounds in their heads, necks, and torsos.  Some of the wounds were so deep that they actually went through the bodies.  Rasheed was only six years old and weighed just 40 pounds, yet he had 27 stab wounds.

John Moses Ragin was charged and convicted with three counts of capital murder in the deaths of the children.  In the death of Crystal Ragin, he was charged and convicted of second degree murder.  He was also charged and convicted of felony arson and unlawful stabbing.  Though the death penalty was considered in this case, shockingly enough, Ragin was sentenced to three life sentences in the deaths of the children, 40 years for the death of his wife, a life sentence for arson, and five years for each count of unlawful stabbing.  The jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision to sentence Ragin to death, so he will spend the rest of his life in prison. 

I am no fan of the death penalty, though I stop short of saying that it’s never appropriate.  I have no idea why the jury wasn’t able to come to a unanimous decision for death in this case.  John Moses Ragin is obviously an extremely violent and dangerous man and it’s very clear that he’s guilty as charged.  Moreover, Crystal Ragin’s family was hoping he would get the death penalty and clearly made their wishes known to the court.  Yet there were people on the jury who did not feel the death penalty was appropriate, so by law, the judge had to sentence Ragin to life in prison.

Perhaps the people of Virginia can take some comfort in knowing that John Moses Ragin will never be a free man again.  He’ll likely eventually end up at a supermax prison in Virginia’s coal mining country.  Though things may have improved there since 1999, it’s my guess that Ragin’s time won’t be easy if he ends up going to either Red Onion or Wallen’s Ridge prisons.  Given Ragin’s propensity toward violence, it won’t surprise me if he winds up in Wise, Virginia with the worst of the worst, like Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the D.C. snipers.  

In the wake of this case, the Newport News Sheriff’s Department now serves protective orders at night.   
As for Crystal Ragin’s family, there have already been more casualties related to this case.  According to Crystal’s former sister-in-law, two family members have already died with broken hearts.  The family has known no peace since the terrible day they lost Crystal Ragin and her three oldest children.      

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