condescending twatbags, healthcare, mental health, poor judgment, social media

How about a little compassion?

This morning, we woke up to the first significant snow we’ve seen since 2017. I think we got one dusting last year, and the year before that. The other years we’ve been in Germany, there’s always been at least one or two good snows. I remember back in 2015, we got snow and it hung around for over a month. But the last couple of years, it’s been unusually warm. I remember when we lived in Germany the first time, I wouldn’t dream of going outside without a jacket. Now, I can get by the whole winter without donning my down coat. Or, at least I’ve been able to over the past few years.

Noyzi loves the snow. We let him out for his morning whizz and he was galloping all over the yard. Arran is less enthused about snow, but even he seemed to enjoy the pretty white blanket. I don’t know how long it will hang around. It was cold yesterday, but it feels a bit warmer today, despite all the white stuff. Bill was going to go into work, but he’s going to telework this morning because of the white dumpage. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of it melts by tonight, though.

Now… about today’s title. I read a sad story about an elderly couple from Jackson, Michigan who both caught COVID-19, got very sick, and died at the very same minute on November 24, just two days before Thanksgiving. Patricia and Leslie McWaters were reportedly inseparable. Married for 47 years and aged 78 and 75 respectively, they did everything together, even when it was time to exit this life.

Like the rest of us, this couple got tired of being locked down. They decided to go out to eat in a restaurant where people weren’t wearing masks and were freely walking among the tables. Boom… they got sick with COVID-19. Now, they’re dead.

It was a bittersweet story to read. Patricia McWaters had been an operating room nurse. Her husband, Leslie, had been a truck driver. They raised children together, and Patricia was known as “the boss”. Leslie was famous for his one-liners. They were much beloved by their family and friends.

I read the readers’ reactions. Quite predictably, instead of compassion and kindness, there was self-righteous comment after comment about how “stupid” and “selfish” this couple was for daring to dine out during a pandemic. I was starting to lose hope for humanity when I ran across this wise comment from a physician:

I’ll bet this doctor is a good one.

Everybody dies. Every single living being will someday pass away, and it’s quite possible that they will die because of something they did or didn’t do. There’s actually no telling how this couple got COVID-19. It’s highly possible they got it while dining at the restaurant, but it’s also possible that they didn’t. I’ve read so many stories about people getting sick and dying of this virus. I’ve read tales about people who egregiously flouted the rules and got it, as well as a few from people who did everything “right” and still got sick anyway. This virus is very insidious. I think anyone who gets it deserves empathy above everything else.

Another doctor had this to say…

A doctor who “truly wishes ill” on people? Wow. How shameful.

I feel sorry for the surviving McWaters family members because it sounds like they’re dealing with a terrible loss. Would the people commenting on this article have more compassion if this couple had died in an accident? What if they both got cancer or heart disease brought on by “bad habits”? How about if they got sick while working, rather than dining out? Would that make their causes of death more respectable? The bottom line is, they got very sick, suffered a lot, and died. Isn’t that punishment enough for them and their bereaved family members? Do we also have to heap nasty comments and callousness on top of that? Why is it necessary to be judgmental? Especially since the people the comments are directed toward are no longer with us, but their grieving family members are?

COVID fatigue is a real thing. I feel fortunate because I don’t mind staying home. I am a bit tired of seeing the same scenes every day, but I don’t mingle with people as a rule. So the social distancing thing isn’t a huge deal for me, personally. I would like to travel again and I miss eating in restaurants, but not so much that I’d take the risk of catching COVID-19 or dealing with the pain in the ass of taking precautions by wearing a mask. I’d rather simply stay home, which is what I continue to do and have the luxury of being able to do. I don’t feel like I’m suffering that much, but I also don’t feel morally superior to those who are still out in the world, doing their thing. If I weren’t living in Germany, where I am away from family and friends and don’t have to go to work, I’d probably be out among the masses, too.

But other people are having a real problem with this new lifestyle that has been forced on us this year. Some people are suffering from mental health issues. Others are just plain fed up. Plenty of others simply can’t stay home because they have to earn a living. I don’t wish illness or death on them for being human or needing to work. I also don’t wish them ill for wanting to enjoy life and having fun.

Remember, folks. There but by the grace of God (or just plain luck) go you and yours. This couple was very unlucky. When it comes down to it, they were just trying to enjoy their lives. And when you get to be in your 70s or 80s, you don’t have that much time to lose. Unfortunately, that group is the one most at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 and perishing. But they would have eventually died anyway. Everyone does. At least they were able to go out together.

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poor judgment, social media

We shouldn’t “love to hate” people…

At the risk of sounding like I’m telling people what to do, I feel compelled to write a post about a news story I was alerted to last night. Amber Lynn Gilles of San Diego recently decided to visit a Starbucks. She was not wearing a face mask, even though the masks were required.

San Diego County issued a notice as of May 1, requiring residents to wear face coverings in most public settings, including when visiting a store or getting food at a restaurant. The rule does offer exemptions for those with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Gilles implied that she is medically exempt from wearing a mask, but she didn’t explain why. Perhaps she doesn’t actually have a medical condition preventing her from wearing a mask. Or maybe she simply feels it’s no one else’s business.

In any case, Lenin Gutierrez, the barista who tried to serve Ms. Gilles, asked her if she had a mask. Gilles said she didn’t. So Lenin said he couldn’t serve her.

Gilles’ response was to flip off Lenin, “curse up a storm”, take Lenin’s picture, threaten to report him to corporate, and complain about him on Facebook. This was her now deleted post:

“Meet lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.”

To be sure, this was not Amber Lynn’s finest day. I don’t condone her behavior at all. She sounds very much like an asshole. Other people thought so too, and her post quickly backfired. She got all kinds of hate, and yes, lots of people calling her a “Karen”, which if you know this blog, you know I don’t like. But what was most troubling to me was that Gilles got death threats. It struck me as completely hypocritical and ridiculous, especially since the face masks are supposed to help preserve life.

As I have read on Facebook post after Facebook post for the past few weeks, wearing a mask is the “kind” and “considerate” thing to do. If you wear one, you are showing regard for other people and their health. Well… if that’s how people really feel– that all people’s lives are important, and we should be doing our best to preserve them and show our regard for others– why would we cheer about Amber Lynn Gilles getting death threats?

Gilles doesn’t sound like a very pleasant person. She wrote on Facebook that “Masks are stupid and so are the people wearing them.” According to the Washington Post article I linked, Gilles has also expressed her contempt for masks in prior posts and suggests that people who wear them are “not thinking clearly”. The 35 year old mother of three has also been described as an “anti-vaxxer”. She was quoted as saying, “It starts with coffee but it ends with digital certificates and forced vaccinations.”

Mmm’kay then… it sounds to me like Gilles is very frightened about something. Perhaps that is what led to her outburst. Maybe she’s feeling “caution fatigued“, as I know I am these days. I know I’ve been feeling anxious and depressed and, at times, angry about what’s happened this year. I feel kind of robbed, even though I probably don’t have the right to feel that way. I am admittedly a very privileged person who enjoys the good fortune of being able to stay home and avoid these kinds of altercations. However, I still feel angry and depressed, whether or not people think I have that right. It is what it is.

Coronavirus is scary, and many people are fearful of what is going to happen in the immediate future. A lot of times, fear is expressed as anger. Anger makes people feel powerful and strong. Fear makes them feel weak and powerless. I’ve seen this reaction in dogs many times… wonderful, sweet, loving pets reduced to snarling and lashing out with their teeth because they’re scared and feel the need to defend themselves. I don’t think humans are necessarily that different. I’ll bet Amber isn’t always profane and hostile. Most people aren’t.

I don’t know what led Amber Lynn Gilles to this point in her life. I’d like to think, though, that she’s not a totally terrible person. This incident amounts to just a few minutes of her life. In my experience, most people are not completely horrible, nor are they completely wonderful. Most people have good days and bad days. I would not want to see a person’s life ruined over a few bad moments caught on video or social media. I would not want Amber Lynn Gilles to kill herself or be murdered over something like this. I think people who send death threats should be prosecuted.

Someone on the Washington Post wrote this comment, with which I completely agreed:

Yeah… it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for recklessly avoiding wearing a mask when your response is wishing for them to die.

I suspect that the people who are reacting in this way, whether they’re refusing to wear a mask or being hateful to people who refuse to wear masks, are doing so because they’re scared and feel like they’ve lost control. They feel good “going off” on someone, not realizing that reacting to other human beings with hatred is no better than the initial bad behavior that prompted the hateful response. Lest anyone call me a hypocrite, I’ll even admit that I should try harder not to be mean spirited, too. Sometimes I vent with anger, although I mostly try to keep it somewhat private. Especially now. I try to do better, although it’s a daily struggle.

The good news is that Lenin Gutierrez is now being rewarded for the few minutes of meanness Amber Lynn Gilles sent his way. Matt Cowan, who doesn’t know him or Amber Lynn Gilles, decided to set up a GoFundMe account for him, inviting people to give him tips. At this writing, his tip fund is over $58,000, and Gutierrez, who sounds like a genuinely good person, says he’s going to use the money to teach dance to children.

I have often stated that I think good things can come out of almost any situation. As unpleasant as Amber Lynn Gilles’ behavior was, if you think about it, it may ultimately change many lives. If Gutierrez makes good on his plans to teach dance, he will no doubt do a lot of good for a lot of young people who could use some good in their lives. If Amber Lynn hadn’t been so hostile and insulting to Lenin Gutierrez, he might just keep on being a barista, serving the people Gilles calls “sheep”. But now he’s being singled out as a mensch, getting handsomely rewarded for doing his job and being cool. So, if anything, that was something good that came out of Amber Lynn Gilles’ outburst. Maybe Lenin Gutierrez will have the chance to fulfill a dream that will bear wonderful fruit for other people.

There are people I strongly dislike, and I am sure quite a few people strongly dislike me, too. But almost everyone I’ve encountered has had a positive aspect to them. Even Bill’s ex wife, who is someone I admittedly despise, has done me a solid. If she hadn’t been such a terrible wife to Bill and divorced him, I might still be single, and he might still be in a less ideal marriage. So, I am grateful to her for that… and I’m sure if I thought about it, I might even think of other reasons to be grateful to her.

I strongly dislike our former landlady for being immature, disrespectful, and trying to rip us off. But I am grateful that I got to live in a nice community in a beautiful area for a few years. I have good memories of our time there, even if the way we’ve parted hasn’t been good. But even leaving that situation on bad terms has a positive side, since I am also learning from that experience. That will only make me wiser, which is a good thing.

I don’t blame Amber Lynn Gilles for not liking the mask. I don’t like it, either, and I’m not convinced that it helps that much. I think that most of us will eventually be exposed to the virus, whether or not we wear masks. And some of us have already been exposed and aren’t even aware of it. I understand why so many people are angry. People are pent up, frustrated, worried, stressed out, angry, and sad. We should try to work together, but a lot of people feel like rebelling in a crisis– like the scared dog, they lash out. Some of them lash out inappropriately, like Amber Lynn Gilles, and that creates a domino effect of hatred… like the people who wish she was dead. I’m sure Amber’s children wouldn’t want their mother to die for want of a face mask and a cup of coffee. That’s preposterous.

It doesn’t help any matter when we don’t have empathy. Expressing hatred, and wishing for death on people we don’t even know, is not empathetic or civilized. It’s the wrong course of action, and ultimately will lead to our downfall. So no, I don’t wish death on Amber Lynn Gilles or her ilk. I wish her peace, which I hope will help her react with more kindness and understanding the next time she encounters someone simply trying to do their job.

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