condescending twatbags, politicians, politics, social media

No, I will not “sit down”! And do not call me a “libtard”!

Well hello there, folks. It’s already Friday, and I’m sitting here with mild, vague discomfort in the left upper quadrant. I’m wondering if I have an ulcer, or something worse. It will either go away, or I will be forced to access the German healthcare system, which I don’t really want to do for a lot of reasons. I’m sorry to say that one reason I don’t want to visit a German doctor is because I don’t see the point of sticking around the cesspool the world is sinking into. I mean it. Every day, I feel a little more hopeless that things will ever be “normal” again, as more and more extremists try to shut down respectful discourse.

Last night, I wrote a rant about how people were busting my chops about a comment I made on an article about Virginia Military Institute. In that case, most of the people who were coming at me were people who are probably referred to as “liberals”. They saw a shocking 1997 era photo of a small young woman being screamed at by VMI cadets, and automatically assumed that the school is an abusive hellhole. For many people, VMI probably could be considered an abusive hellhole. When I commented, I repeatedly reiterated that it’s not the kind of college that I would have enjoyed. However, I know a lot of people loved their experiences at VMI. Should I champion shutting it down just because it’s not for me? Because I know that although it has a long history of racist and sexist policies, the truth is, VMI has made a lot of progress.

For instance, a couple of years ago, they finally took down the famous Stonewall Jackson statue that cadets had to salute every day. Stonewall Jackson is a legend at VMI, but he’s a controversial figure. The statue that was removed was a gift to the college from sculptor Sir Moses Ezekiel, Class of 1866, VMI’s first Jewish cadet, and a veteran of the Battle of New Market. It had been there since 1912, and thousands of young men, most of them White people, honored it every day. But times changed, and VMI eventually desegregated. In 1997, it became coed. And, after years of controversy, the statue was finally moved to a less visible place.

Still, I’m sure that this week, new cadets are experiencing “Hell Week” as they enter the Rat Line. This is well-known ritual that has gone on for many years. It’s a variation of what anyone who joins the military goes through, although maybe people in basic training don’t get harassed by people only a couple of years older than them at the same level VMI “rats” do. But– people still choose to attend, and they are often rewarded for graduating. Just because it’s not for me, should I really be championing to deny that experience to the people who want it? Should people who have no experience or actual knowledge about a college or university have the right to declare it “abusive”? I mentioned last night that I have experienced abuse and inappropriate encounters many times, in various places and situations. Should I want to shut down Longwood University, because there are some assholes there who are abusive? I don’t think so. Because the good outweighs the bad– both at Longwood, and at VMI.

I wouldn’t want to attend a religious college. I would never willingly go to Brigham Young University or Pensacola Christian College. But many people go to those schools and love them. Some people thrive there. Isn’t it a great thing to have freedom of choice? People can and do vote with their wallets, right? We still have the right to vote. For now, anyway… I don’t think we should ban religious universities, just because I wouldn’t want to attend one. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable take. We all have a path in life.

So last night, I was feeling attacked by “leftist” people. This morning, I felt similarly attacked by right wing folks. I read a Washington Post op-ed about Liz Cheney. It was written by a man named Marc A. Thiessen, who titled his piece “Why Republicans don’t want to join Liz Cheney on her Kamikaze Mission”. The main idea of the op-ed is that Cheney sacrificed her political career because she’s more interested in defeating Donald Trump than “getting rid of” Joe Biden. Thiessen went on to blame a lot of global problems on Mr. Biden, and presented him as more “evil” and “corrupt” than the man who incited violence when he lost the presidential election, and has been trying to overthrow the government ever since.

So I made a comment along the lines that I don’t understand why Republicans can’t see that the emperor has no clothes. I don’t agree with Liz Cheney’s politics, but I respect her integrity and bravery. I don’t think we’ve heard the last from her. Personally, I think her quest to rid the country of Trump makes her heroic, even if I would never vote for her. She’s sane and decent, and she values our democracy much more than Trump and his cronies ever will.

Some guy came along, gave me an eyeroll, and sarcastically posted “Because Joe Biden has been so good for the country. Sit down.”

I responded to the guy thusly: “You sit down. I have as much right to comment as anyone does.”

Then another guy demanded that I “prove” that Joe Biden has been better. Then he called me a “dumb libtard.” I find this especially rich, since Facebook “restricted” me for using the word “dumb” a few months ago. But this guy can call me a “dumb libtard”, even though I am far from dumb, and I’m not particularly liberal. I’m for fairness and sanity.

So I wrote, “You obviously haven’t been paying attention, and you are a name caller to boot. Welcome to my block list.”

Then I blocked both men. I started thinking about this situation, and it reminded me of a discussion I saw on Janis Ian’s Facebook page. She posted that she had removed her Quote of the Day (today’s featured photo), because people were arguing about its merit, due to the controversial nature of the person who was quoted. I see that a few hours later, she reposted the quote, but limited who can comment on it. Below is the explanation she gave for removing it:

I’ve removed today’s QOTD. Though the quote was valid, and true, I have a busy day ahead and don’t feel like spending hours explaining to people that what’s important is the quote, not the person who said it. Let alone bouncing and blocking people who attack me for quoting a person they don’t like.

Judging by the initial responses, most posters worried more about the contemptible idiot who said it than they did about the quote.

I’m really tired of people trying to invalidate quotes because they don’t like the person being. quoted. Those are the same people who dismiss an artist’s work because they don’t like the artist’s politics. So let me ask this. How is that different from people who burned my records when they found out I was gay?

We don’t dismiss quotes by Socrates, a pederast. Roald Dahl was a racist and an anti-Semite. Hitchcock terrorized women, Chanel was a Nazi spy, Aristotle considered women “deformed men”, and John Lennon beat his first wife. I’ve quoted all of them to no objections.

So. Is it okay to consider a quote by a contemptible human being only if their politics agree with yours? Do you only learn from those you admire, or do you learn from anything worthwhile?

A lot of people insisted I remove the quote because of the person who said it. I want to be clear – that’s not why I removed it. I removed it because today, I refuse to spend my time back in grade school, playing hall monitor.

As they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

That thread generated a lot of discussion, with most people supporting Janis. I’m convinced that a lot of people truly do stay silent, because they don’t want to get into arguments with idiots. I will admit, that’s often me. I usually vent in this blog, instead. But I’m beginning to think that comment sections could benefit from fair, balanced, and reasonable comments from moderate thinkers like me. If it means I get trolled, insulted, and harassed, so what? I can always block them, and then bust them in my blog. But no, I will not “sit down”, nor will I allow someone to call me a “libtard” and then comply with their demands that I dance to their tune. Like I have said more than once, I am nobody’s ass monkey.

In spite of what some people might think, given my extreme anti-Trump attitudes, I am not against conservatives. I am against the bastardization of the Republican Party that is passing for conservatism right now. Until the party changes to something more moderate, I won’t be voting for Republicans, even if I admire some of them for doing what is obviously the “right” thing. There is no place for a corrupt leader like Donald Trump in our democracy. So I will speak out, and I will do my part to vote out these cancers on our society. I have to… because I have seen what else is in the world. Too many Americans have never left where they grew up, and have no perspective beyond what is two feet in front of them.

I won’t sit down. I won’t be quiet. And I am not going to either extreme. I think people have the right to choose, should vote their consciences, and speak out when they want to speak out. But this should be done in a civilized manner, with people hearing each other out and not resorting to name calling, ridiculing, or discounting. The people I’ve encountered in comment sections over the past eighteen hours or so are too busy pushing their narrative to learn new things. As Trump would say, that’s “SAD”.

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book reviews

Repost: Pat Conroy’s last words– A Lowcountry Heart…

Here’s a book review from 2016. I am reposting it as/is. I really miss Pat Conroy, but I’m glad he’s missed out on the shitshow of COVID. Maybe it’s time to revisit some of his books, especially since they make me remember “home”.

2016 has been a horrible year to be famous.  So many great people have died, including Pat Conroy, who was (and still is) one of my favorite authors.  As much as I loved his novels, I probably enjoyed his non-fiction works much more.  In the wake of Conroy’s death last March, his latest book A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, was published in late October.  I have been reading this last work and remembering Conroy.

A Lowcountry Heart is basically a collection of Conroy’s blog posts, speeches, interviews and even letters he wrote.  It also includes tributes from friends, as well as his wife, Cassandra King, and the eulogy delivered at his funeral, which was open to the public.  I was one of his blog subscribers, so I had read some of the ones that were included in his last book.  Still, it was good to have the posts all in one volume.  I also appreciated the other aspects of this book, the speeches and letters Conroy penned.  I was particularly impressed by a letter to the editor Conroy wrote to a newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia after he received word that two of his books, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, had been banned by a high school.  A high school student had written to him in great distress and he went to bat for her.

During his lifetime, it wasn’t uncommon for Pat Conroy to take up a cause.  I remember in the mid 1990s, when female college student Shannon Faulkner was forcing Conroy’s alma mater, The Citadel, to admit women.  She faced scorn and derision from many people.  Conroy very publicly and enthusiastically supported her.  Ultimately, Faulkner was unable to hack it at The Citadel, but she did help make history and change the long single sex traditions at both The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute.

While I can’t say that books of essays and writings usually thrill me, knowing that these are Conroy’s last remarks make this final book worthy reading.  A Lowcountry Heart will not be my favorite Conroy book.  I think that honor goes to My Losing Season or perhaps The Death of Santini.  But it will remain a treasured part of my library as I remember one of the few fiction authors who never failed to make me laugh and appreciate the beauty of language.  What A Lowcountry Heart offers is yet another intimate look at the man behind the lush, vivid, colorful language so prevalent in Conroy’s novels.  

Some of the blog posts included in this book are particularly entertaining.  I enjoyed reading about how he became acquainted with his personal trainer, Mina, a Japanese woman who spoke little English and did her best to help Conroy reclaim his body.  Sadly, pancreatic cancer took him anyway, but Mina no doubt helped make those last months healthier.

I was lucky enough to get to hear Conroy speak when I was a student at the University of South Carolina.  He was actually filling in for Kurt Vonnegut, another favorite author of mine, who had just had a house fire and wasn’t able to attend.  Vonnegut died not long after I heard Conroy speak in his place.  I remember I had a healthcare finance exam the next day, which I ended up getting a D on.  I probably would have gotten a D anyway, so it was worth going to see Pat Conroy.  I will always treasure that memory, even if I didn’t get to meet the man in person.  He was every bit as real as he seems in his words.

I think I’d give this last volume four out of five stars, mainly because it feels a bit unfinished.  I recognize A Lowcountry Heart as one last gift to Conroy’s admirers.  I am grateful to have it available as a last goodbye from one of the South’s best writers.

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memories

September 11th

It’s that time of year again. Ever since September 11, 2001, Americans go into memorial mode and recall the day when our country was attacked and life changed forever. I have shared this story before, but since it’s September 11th again, I’m going to write about how I spent that day and where it ultimately led me.

I am a firm believer that good things come out of almost every situation. Sometimes you have to look really hard to see the good in a situation. Sometimes things happen that you wish wouldn’t have happened, no matter what positive effect occurred. In my case, I think September 11th helped me find my way to the altar and, ultimately, a better life. I wish it hadn’t happened that way, but it kind of did…

Flashback to 2001… Labor Day weekend. I had just started my third and final year in my dual master’s degree program at the University of South Carolina. Bill had just been transferred from Leavenworth, Kansas to the Pentagon only a few weeks prior. We were both itching for a change of scenery, so I suggested we meet up at my grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia. Prior to that meeting, we’d only had one other in person meeting, back in May of that year. The Army had sent Bill to Columbia, South Carolina on business, like they’d done the year prior. I missed Bill on his first visit, but caught him on his second.

I remember after our May meeting, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. He seemed taken with me and repeatedly told me that it would be hard to go back to typing since he’d met me. But then all summer, we kept writing to each other. Seeing him again over Labor Day seemed right. He came down, met my aunt, uncle, and grandmother, and we spent a magical weekend together. We visited Goshen Pass and had a fantastic time…

I took this picture in November 2014, but we visited in September 2001, when it was hot enough for swimming. It was so much fun!

As Bill was leaving Granny’s house, she told me that I should marry him. Granny was, at that time, 95 years old and sharp as a tack. She loved Bill, and after that weekend, so did I. I remember practically floating all the way back to South Carolina. All week, I thought about our amazing Labor Day weekend in Virginia. And then came September 11th.

That morning was absolutely beautiful. The weather was warm and sunny, but not oppressively hot. I wore a short black skirt, bright blue long sleeved blouse, and black tights. Back then, I dressed up most days because I had to look professional. I was planning to actually be a professional, rather than an overeducated housewife. I had to go to my field placement at the Recovering Professionals Program. I was compiling data for a project I was working on when my friend, Jennifer, told me about the first plane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t think much of it at the time. She’d heard about it on the radio, so had no visual appreciation for what had happened.

Then the second plane hit.

Next thing I knew, the Pentagon was hit… And I realized that Bill, unofficially my new boyfriend, was at the Pentagon. Bill’s office had just been moved to a different location. It was originally in the area that was hit by the jet airliner that crashed into the Pentagon that day. If they hadn’t moved his office, he probably would have died on 9/11. Then, another plane went down in Pennsylvania. It seemed like the world was ending.

All day long, I wondered if Bill was dead or alive. I was still calling him my “friend”, but I knew we had more than friendship. I’d been chatting with him since November 1999, when we were both making new beginnings. He had separated from his ex wife and I had started grad school. We’d chatted platonically for a few months before he told me about his wife and children. I remember being shocked and sad for him… and, if I’m honest, a little sad for me. I knew I liked him, even in early 2000. But, he was in Kansas; I was in South Carolina; and I never had any intention of ever meeting him offline, let alone marrying him.

But then Ex served Bill with divorce papers at his father’s house over Easter 2000. They were divorced by June 2000. She had a boyfriend living in the house Bill was still paying for, and he was playing “daddy” to Ex’s three kids– two of whom were Bill’s daughters. She gladly took his money every month, but pushed him out of their children’s lives. Bill’s replacement is still married to her and they have had two more children. We hear #3 doesn’t get treated very well at all, but back then, according to her, new boyfriend was practically perfect, and Bill was a bastard who had ruined everything. Ex told Bill no other woman would ever want him. She didn’t know about me.

Fate conspired to have us meet. It was as if the stars aligned for our unlikely union. My aunt’s brother, Ralph, met Bill at a National Guard convention just a few weeks before I met him in person. Ralph is a retired Guardsman as well as a retired Virginia State Trooper. He assured me Bill wasn’t a psycho. I felt safe in meeting him in May 2001 and again in September 2001. By the time Labor Day 2001 was over, I knew I could love him. By the time 9/11 was over, I knew I wanted to marry him.

My mom and I talked on the phone and she told me not to expect to hear from Bill for awhile. Mom is a very experienced Air Force wife, so she was giving me practical advice about Bill, even though she’d never met him and was hearing of my “boyfriend” for the first time. As soon as I hung up the phone, Bill sent me a message on Yahoo! Messenger, letting me know he was okay. He had tried to call me, but the phone number he had for me was one digit off. I swear it wasn’t on purpose that the number was wrong. I probably just forgot it myself. No one ever calls me anyway, even back in 2001, when someone might have a reason to call.

I was very relieved that Bill had survived the terrorist attack, especially since he could have been killed just for being at the Pentagon, and would have been killed if his office hadn’t been moved. And I told him it was time we came out of the closet and told our families we were dating, because if something had happened to him, I never would have been informed. Bill agreed. Weeks later, he and his mom joined my big family at our annual Thanksgiving party in Natural Bridge, Virginia. Bill told him mom he was thinking of proposing and his mom, who was never a fan of Ex, said, “I approve.”

A year later, on November 16th, 2002, Bill and I were married at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. My dad was a graduate, as is an uncle and several cousins. Another uncle and at least two aunts worked at VMI. It’s about fifteen miles from Natural Bridge, which is where my dad’s family calls home. Just last week, 23andMe introduced me to a long, lost relative whose biological father was my great uncle. He was from Natural Bridge, too. It’s fitting that we were married in Rockbridge County, since that’s really my home, even if I never officially lived there.

One of the things that went right on our wedding day.

Our wedding day was imperfect, to say the least. Although the ceremony itself was beautiful and meaningful, some things went horribly awry. The most memorable SNAFU involved Bill’s dad, who was also his best man, locking his knees and almost fainting before we said our vows. And then, after the wedding, we spent two weeks unofficially married, because somehow our marriage license got lost in the mail. It was put in a mailbox in Lexington just after the ceremony, but the Rockbridge County clerk’s office either never got it or misplaced it.

In 2002, Virginia law stipulated, and still stipulates, that newly married couples have five days to file their marriage licenses after the ceremony. Otherwise, the license is null and void. I was waiting for the official license to get to us, but it never did. Bill called the county clerk’s office and was treated very badly by the staff. Eventually, the county clerk got on the phone and told Bill that even if the license was somehow found, it would not be honored, since it got to them beyond the deadline.

Bill and I went to the court in Fredericksburg, Virginia, which was where we were living at the time. We explained our situation, but they told us there was nothing they could do, as we were already “married”. But we were not officially married, so we couldn’t take care of any personal business. And Rockbridge County was telling us that even if they received our license, the deadline had passed and they would not be honoring it. The court clerk was very uncooperative and unhelpful, and offered no solutions on what we could do to fix the situation. In fact, he became quite belligerent with Bill and accused him of being “abusive” (which is real laugh– good thing he didn’t speak to me).

I was shocked by this turn of events… especially since I’ve always known people in Rockbridge County to be nice and helpful, but then in the wake of our wedding, discovered that there are some real assholes living there. My family has been in that county for a couple hundred years and I am probably related to many people who live there and haven’t left… and a lot of people haven’t left. I’m sure some people think I’m an asshole, too, but I can’t imagine why that clerk wasn’t more sympathetic to our situation. What were we supposed to do? Was he on some kind of power trip?

Fortunately, Bill is used to dealing with assholes and he’s also a very tenacious, yet pleasant, polite, and even-keeled kind of guy. He called Virginia’s Attorney General’s office to find out who the Rockbridge County court clerk worked for. Next, realizing it was an election year, he called both our local representative and Rockbridge County’s representative, explained the situation, and told them that he was a 9/11 survivor. I couldn’t get a new Social Security card, military ID, or any other benefits until the clerk did the job the people elected him to do.

Both representatives lit a fire under the clerk’s ass and after our officiant sent him a copy of the license application, the clerk begrudgingly handed over our official license, albeit with a nasty letter falsely accusing Bill of being “abusive” and admitting that he hadn’t wanted to help him because, basically, his feelings were hurt. Seriously?

I don’t like to call people snowflakes, but that guy must be a big one if my husband hurt his feelings. Wow. I have a feeling that the guy was just angry that Bill didn’t let him bully him and demanded that the clerk do his fucking job. Seems to be a trend in our marriage… People mistake Bill’s kindness for weakness and think they can steamroll him, make threats and false accusations, and take advantage. But I know the truth. Underneath that pleasant exterior beats the heart of a true warrior… and anyone who crosses Bill should remember that he makes his living planning battles. Yes, he’s a super nice guy, but he’s neither stupid nor cowardly, and especially now, he doesn’t tolerate bullies (including Ex).

I won’t even get into what Ex thought of our nuptials. Oh, okay… I’ll say this. When Bill told her he was going to propose to me, she asked if I was LDS. Bill and Ex were “sealed” for eternity and, at the time, he was still Mormon. So she wanted to know if I was going to be joining the fold. He said I wasn’t. She said he must love me very much. She was referring to the idea that Bill was giving up “eternal glory” to marry a “Gentile” (that is, a non-Mormon with no plans to convert). We would not be “sister wives” in the hereafter, and she couldn’t use her position as Bill’s first wife and mother of his kids, or LDS “teachings”, to cow me into submission.

In November, we will have been happily married for seventeen years. They have been seventeen years well spent. Would we have gotten married if not for 9/11? Probably. But I think 9/11 definitely sped things along and forced us to admit our feelings and tremendous chemistry for each other. We’ve had our share of problems from the outside, but our marriage has always been rock solid. We get along ridiculously well, and work as partners.

There were some things in my life that I didn’t do right, but I did find the right life partner. And as horrible as 9/11 was, it did show me that I had found the right man and I didn’t want to lose him. So… while I will always feel somber for the many people who died or were injured due to terrorism on 9/11/01, I will also remember that day as the day my life changed for the better. But I will also always remember that it was also a very dark day, as it took away America’s innocence and, I’m sorry to say, its collective spirit of generosity. I truly hope we get some of that kindness back in my lifetime.

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