mental health, psychology

No one should ever die over spilt coffee!

The last couple of years have really been quite the mess, haven’t they? I wouldn’t be a young person in America again for anything, especially in this post pandemic hellscape. Young people are under so much pressure to make it. I remember what it was like to be young and unsure, filled with anxiety and depression, feeling like a failure, and when I was clinically depressed, actually thinking about suicide on a daily basis.

I thought I would be broke and unloved, or working in a job that I hated, desperately trying to earn enough to pay my own way. I went through this anguish for years, only to somehow find myself on a career path to a career I probably wouldn’t have loved that much. Then I met Bill, and was soon swept off that path, and into a new future that I had never, in a million years, envisioned for myself. Even after twenty years, I can’t believe this happened. I never would have thought that the answer for me was finding the right man. That’s not how I was raised AT ALL.

I’ll be honest. There are times when I still feel anxious. There are times when I am depressed. Sometimes I worry about what’s going to happen. Then I am awed by what I have… amazed, even. And I’m glad I didn’t give in to the urge to commit suicide when I was still in my 20s. Then I think to myself… if I had done that, I wouldn’t have been any the wiser about what was to come. My life would have been unfinished, like Neuschwanstein… or an incomplete novel with no ending.

You might already be wondering what’s brought on today’s musings, which some people might find a little disturbing. Well, I don’t assume anyone worries about my mental health, and there’s no reason to do that now. I’m not feeling particularly depressed today. It’s just that this morning, I read a story about yet another high achieving young woman who decided to kill herself over something that really should have been a blip on the proverbial radar.

The Washington Post ran a story today about Katie Meyer, a young woman who, by most accounts, should have been on top of the world. On February 28, 2022, 22 year old Meyer was just a few months from finishing her degree at Stanford University, where she was a soccer star and captain of the university’s soccer team. She had a 3.84 GPA, and in 2019, had helped lead the prestigious university to a national championship in soccer. She had plans to attend law school. She’d hoped to attend Stanford for law school, too.

On February 28, Katie Meyer had done seemingly normal things. She went to classes, soccer practice, and an event for the Mayfield Fellows Program, for which she had recently been selected. She had FaceTimed with her mom and sister about her spring break plans. She had emailed her mother about plane tickets she had booked. She’d never make the flight, though. February 28, 2022 was her last day of life. Katie Meyer committed suicide that day.

So what happened on February 28 that led to Katie Meyer’s untimely death? It started with spilled coffee in August 2021.

On that fateful day in August 2021, Katie Meyer was riding her bike when she somehow spilled coffee on a football player who was accused of sexually assaulting (kissing without permission) one of Katie’s teammates, who was 17 years old. Katie maintained that the coffee spilling incident was an accident. The football player, who was not identified and never faced any disciplinary charges, didn’t even complain about the spilled coffee. However, the incident was reported to Stanford’s Office of Community Standards by the dean of residential education. An investigation ensued, and apparently, for the first time in her life, Katie Meyer was in some trouble.

The complaint against Meyer indicated that spilling the coffee on the football player had caused physical injury. It was the university’s standard practice to review the incident and determine whether or not Katie should be disciplined. Meanwhile, the incident regarding the football player’s uninvited kiss of the soccer player was also reported to the Title IX office. However, that office determined that the criteria for investigating the kissing incident were not met.

In September, Meyer spoke with a university administrator about the coffee incident. She expressed how distressed she was by the investigation. Two months after that meeting, Meyer provided a formal statement about the incident, again explaining that the disciplinary process had caused her great worry and stress. She feared the incident would derail her career plans and ultimately even ruin her life. According to the Washington Post:

“My whole life I’ve been terrified to make any mistakes,” she wrote. “No alcohol, no speeding tickets, no A- marks on my report cards. Everything had to be perfect to get in and stay at Stanford. I suffer from anxiety and perfectionism, as so many female athletes do. We know all too well that in professional settings women have everything to lose and have to work twice as hard to prove that they are qualified and professional, and any mistake is magnified, any attitude of assertiveness is demonized.”

Man… I can remember feeling like that, too. And I am definitely NOT Stanford material. So often we think of high achievers like Katie Meyer– young, beautiful, brilliant, athletic– richly gifted in almost every way. We think of how lucky they are. We never stop to think about the incredible pressure they’re under and how much pressure they put on themselves. It’s easy for me, at age 50, to sit here and think this is ridiculous that a young woman like Katie Meyer– who seemingly had EVERYTHING going for her– would kill herself over spilled coffee.

I empathize with Katie. I remember very well being young and scared, and feeling like I needed to excel. I also felt like I needed to excel when I was very young. I felt like it was expected of me, not just from my parents and other elders in my life, but also and especially from myself. Unlike Katie, I didn’t excel at that much. But, like her, I felt like I really needed to achieve, and if I didn’t, my life would not be worth living.

I remember working as a temp in the admissions office at the College of William & Mary, where extremely talented, bright, high achieving young people attended school. I read their essays, letters of recommendation, and report cards, and filed them away, along with lots of other items they sent in to convince the admissions committee that they were worthy to matriculate at William & Mary in the fall of 1998. So many of them seemed desperate to achieve… and unaware that there are so many ways to succeed at life. In 1998, I was 26 years old, a graduate of a less prestigious college, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I felt like a loser, even though I had already done a lot. Depression and anxiety will do that to a person, especially when they’re young.

I was fortunate, though, because I found a really kind and understanding therapist who helped me. I took medication that helped even out my thinking. I took voice lessons, which were relaxing and therapeutic for me… a form of expression that was easy for me and brought positive regard. Gradually, I started to see other pathways out of that hell. It took some time, but I finally moved past that dreaded anxiety ridden state of youth that makes young, ambitious, talented people to consider suicide.

In Katie’s situation, several months passed, and Katie apparently figured the trouble had blown over. She started to relax and look forward to her bright future. But then she got that email at about 7:00 pm on February 28th. She was alone, and panicked. Hours later, she was found unresponsive in her dorm room. The email from the Office of Community Standards informing her that there was a hold on her degree and she could be removed from the university due to the spilled coffee incident was still open on her computer. Apparently, Katie had not responded to a February 25th email indicating that more information had been added to her file regarding the spilled coffee incident. The Office of Community Standards had requested more exonerating evidence from Katie by February 28th. She was a very busy student, though, and had evidently missed the email. Since the supporting evidence had never arrived, the university sent the after hours email that left Meyer so distraught that she took that last devastating action.

Katie Meyer’s parents are now suing Stanford University for wrongful death. They maintain that the university had acted negligently and recklessly in the way they handled her disciplinary case. According to the Washington Post:

“Stanford’s after-hours disciplinary charge, and the reckless nature and manner of submission to Katie, caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide,” said the complaint, filed last week in Santa Clara County Superior Court. “Katie’s suicide was completed without planning and solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while alone in her room without any support or resources.”

For its part, Stanford University is vehemently denying responsibility for Katie Meyer’s death. In an official statement to the Stanford community, university officials wrote:

The Stanford community continues to grieve Katie’s tragic death and we sympathize with her family for the unimaginable pain that Katie’s passing has caused them. However, we strongly disagree with any assertion that the university is responsible for her death. The complaint brought by the Meyer family unfortunately contains allegations that are false and misleading.

I don’t pretend to know what actually happened in this situation. The description of the coffee spilling incident is not very well explained in the article. Did she go up and hurl a cup of hot coffee at the football player while he was kissing Katie’s teammate? Or was she carrying a Starbucks while riding a bike and hit a bump in the road, causing it to fly from her hands? I can’t tell from the description in the newspaper article. However, whatever actually occurred with the football player, I do know that it should not have led a 22 year old woman with a very bright future to kill herself. I am so sorry for Katie’s parents and other friends and loved ones. But I’m not sure that the university is necessarily at fault, either. I would imagine that most people would not have reacted in such an extreme way to that email.

Extremely competitive universities like Stanford University do attract the best and brightest, and a lot of those students are extreme perfectionists, perhaps even to a pathological level. Maybe at a school like Stanford, it makes sense to be very careful about delivering that kind of bad news– the kind that might threaten a highly achieving young person’s future. However, Katie was 22 years old, which made her a grown woman. She was about to embark on a career in law. I would imagine that she would face some pretty threatening and stressful challenges in that arena, too. It sounds to me like Katie really needed mental health treatment. Perhaps the bigger question is, does Stanford University support and encourage students to seek out mental health services when they need them? Do they try not to penalize students for seeking help when they need it?

This is a topic near and dear to me, because my husband has spent most of his adult life in the military, in which a lot of lip service is paid about people seeking mental healthcare when they need it. However, those who do go to therapy and take medication often wind up being penalized when they lose security clearances or get reassigned to jobs that mess up their career aspirations. A lot of tragedies have occurred because of this policy, that punishes people for seeking help. Hell, in the military, a servicemember can wind up being “punished” even if a family member needs special services for their mental health or educational needs. See my rant about EFMP for more on that.

More recently, I read a Washington Post article about students at Yale University who were kicked out of school for having mental health issues. One student, Rachael Shaw-Rosenbaum, had a very hard time dealing with attending Yale during the pandemic. She needed help, but instead was driven to suicide. The article highlighted other stories of high achieving students being forced to withdraw from Yale after they needed psychiatric care. Some of those students did go on to kill themselves, because they felt like they’d failed and Yale simply wanted to “get rid of them”. Yale University also famously falsely accused a young woman of having an eating disorder and threatened to kick her out of school because she couldn’t gain two pounds. I wrote about Frances Chan, the “fake” anorexic, in my old blog, and since her story is relevant to this post, I will repost my 2014 article about her case today.

Anyway… I think it’s very sad that there’s a population of very bright, promising, young people who feel so overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed that they can no longer bear to go on. I thought it was hard enough in the 90s, when I was staring down the rest of my life, wondering what was going to become of me. At 22, I should have been on the brink of the best time in my life. But instead, I was scared, anxious, depressed, and occasionally suicidal. I feel fortunate that I managed to get through that time. I realize that not everyone can do what I managed to do. They lack the time, the money, the will, or they simply feel like they aren’t deserving. Some of them feel like they should be able to get over mental health issues by themselves. They’ve been taught that they have to be superhuman. But no one is superhuman.

It’s time that Americans stopped stigmatizing people who have mental health issues, especially when they are among the best and brightest. It’s time treatment for mental healthcare was prioritized, and made easy to afford and access. It’s time we stopped ruining people’s lives– or making them think their lives are ruined– simply because they made a mistake or got in some trouble or experience a temporary lapse in mental health due to stress, physical illness, or some other minor setback.

Life shouldn’t be so serious… or so hard, especially for young men and women on the brink of adulthood. No one should ever die over spilt coffee.

My condolences to Katie Meyer’s friends and family members. She sounds like she was an extraordinary person.

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divorce, Ex, family, marriage, narcissists

Carolyn Hax says, “There isn’t enough hell for this no!”

This morning, as I was waking up to another Monday morning, I happened to read a letter to an advice column in the Washington Post (it’s unlocked for people who don’t subscribe). Sometimes letters to Carolyn Hax trigger me a little bit. And then I read other people’s comments, and I get triggered all the more. That’s what happened this morning. So now I need to vent in my blog. Below is the letter that got me all hot and bothered:

Dear Carolyn: I very recently had a baby with my boyfriend of several years. We were both married when we met, but after developing feelings for each other we divorced our spouses and committed to each other. Neither marriage was fulfilling, but I’m on very good terms with my ex as we co-parent our children as a united team.

My boyfriend’s ex-wife, however, has continued a pattern of manipulative and controlling behavior. For example, she told my boyfriend that the pastor at their church expects him to apologize to the church leaders for having divorced his wife. When my boyfriend sought to clarify this with the pastor, the pastor was stunned and assured him she never had a conversation like that with the ex-wife.

His 16-year-old, “Sam,” also refuses to meet the baby without his mother present. And JUST his mother present. My boyfriend is desperate to reconnect with his son (whose estrangement is enabled by the ex) and thinks meeting the baby will soften his son’s heart. I’m incredibly uncomfortable with the conditions. For context: I’ve learned his ex-wife has on multiple occasions made fun of the name we chose for our daughter. She also demanded to know all sorts of intimate details about me, such as my plans for breastfeeding.

His ex-wife has been pushing hard to meet the baby. My boyfriend says she and Sam are a package deal. But my mama instincts are screaming that my baby is not safe around this woman. She recently made it clear she expects to meet the baby soon, whether Sam does or not.

I am obviously sleep-deprived and hormones are crashing, but am I being unreasonable? I know she will someday meet her, but I don’t see why it’s necessary for her to have this experience with my newborn.

— Mama Bear

I actually liked Carolyn’s advice. Her first sentence summed it up nicely. She wrote, “There isn’t enough hell for this no.” I totally agree with her. I’ve never had a child, but I can plainly see how inappropriate this demand is. But other people didn’t see it Carolyn’s way at all. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, because we’re dealing with people in a culture who automatically see men and any subsequent female partners at fault when a heterosexual relationship falls apart. And some people seem to think that the jilted woman is automatically entitled to whatever she wants. Can you believe the ex wife in the above example thinks she’s entitled to meet the baby even without her son in tow?

To Carolyn’s credit, she simply looked at what was written in the letter. She didn’t attempt to recreate the letter from the ex wife’s perspective, as one reader did. It’s not that I don’t think it’s useful to consider the ex wife’s perspective so much, as that the person who did it added details to the situation that didn’t exist in the original letter. I saw a lot of people projecting their own opinions and experiences into this situation, complicating what, to me, looks like a pretty cut and dried situation. The letter writer has a brand new baby. It’s HER baby. She’s the mom, and she gets to decide who is around her newborn baby. Ex wife has ZERO standing to demand anything regarding the letter writer’s brand new baby, her son with the boyfriend notwithstanding. Below was one commenter’s take.

Um… did this person miss the part where the EX said her ex husband needed to apologize to church leaders for the divorce? And the church leader said the conversation never took place? Also, the original letter says that the couple had been together for several years, and made no mention of the mom’s age. And personally, I think gifts related to breastfeeding are inappropriate, unless it’s something the person specifically requested.

As for “Sam”, my comment would be that it’s regrettable that he evidently doesn’t want to meet his half-sister. He can meet her when he grows up, if he wants to. But his mom is not in this, and needs to butt out immediately. She has absolutely no right to demand to meet the baby, at all.

I write this from the perspective of a second wife whose husband was denied access to his daughters for many years. One of them finally came around five years ago, and we continually find out more about the total fuckery that went on during those years they weren’t talking and continues to go on today. I know, in our case, there really is a wacko ex involved. I also know that when there’s a wacko ex, you have to be careful not to give ’em an inch, or they will take a mile. The bit about the fabricated church leader story, coupled with the demands to know about breastfeeding habits, makes me think the ex in this story could be a bit looney.

I also write this as a woman who DID NOT have an affair with a married man, but many people assume that I broke up his marriage to his ex wife, simply because people often think that about second or subsequent wives and girlfriends. Many people commenting made the assumption that this couple had an affair. Nowhere in the letter does it say that. It’s entirely possible this couple met and had a platonic relationship until they got divorced. That’s how it happened between Bill and me.

We met online in a chat room back in late 1999. Both of us were lonely. I was single and in graduate school. He and Ex had separated because he had decided to rejoin the Army full time. She was already dating #3. Bill and I chatted for three whole months before he finally sent me an email explaining his situation. I was shocked by the email and sorry about Bill’s marriage breaking up, but I never expected to ever meet him in person, let alone marry him. I had never thought to ask him about his marital status, because we weren’t talking about or doing intimate stuff that would necessitate my knowledge of his marital status. Our relationship at that time consisted entirely of chatting online and emails. We also lived in different states and time zones, and at the time, I had never met anyone offline that I had originally met on the Internet.

A couple of months after Bill explained his situation to me, it was time for that infamous Easter confrontation in his father’s house, where Ex dramatically presented an ultimatum that Bill bend to her will, or dissolve the marriage. She knew nothing about me or my existence, and I had absolutely NOTHING to do with her ultimatum. She didn’t find out about me until we had been dating for about eight months; by that time, #3 was already living in the house Bill was still paying for, and had proposed to her a couple of times.

At the time Ex demanded the divorce, I was just Bill’s Internet acquaintance, anyway. We were completely platonic until after his divorce, which happened less than nine months after we encountered each other online. Bill decided to accept Ex’s divorce proposal because he knew his marriage wasn’t working and wouldn’t get better. He was tired of living hand to mouth, and wanted to have a job that paid better than factory work. He loved the Army; it’s his vocation. And he and Ex have nothing in common, other than their kids and where they went to high school.

To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of meeting Bill when the idea first came up. When were still talking online a year later, I agreed to it. And even after the first in person meeting, I wasn’t sure where our friendship was going.

About three months after that dramatic Easter scene, their divorce was final. Bill and I met in person almost a year later, when the Army sent him on a work trip to the city where I was living at the time. That’s when we started dating offline, as Bill later relocated to Virginia, which is my home state. On long weekends, I would drive from South Carolina to Virginia to see him, and he would sometimes return the favor. We did not have a sexual relationship until two weeks after our wedding.

I know some people might not believe me, but I swear it’s the truth, and yes, of course it’s possible. Neither of us were much into dating when we were growing up. When I met Bill, he was my first boyfriend since high school, and he is my only sexual partner, ever. Besides Ex, I am his only partner. And if we can do it that way, anyone can.

I’m not implying that what happened in my case is what happened in the letter writer’s situation, only that it could have happened that way. There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that this couple had an affair before they divorced their ex spouses. All it says is that they were both in unfulfilling marriages, and that they had been together for a few years before their daughter was born. No, they aren’t married, but not everyone wants or needs to be married to have children. God knows, that happens every day, although personally, I would not want to have a baby out of wedlock. But that’s just me… and at my age, it’s no longer a possibility, anyway.

“Sam” is estranged from his dad. Regrettably, that’s not uncommon when parents divorce, and it’s often the fathers who wind up alienated. The letter writer’s boyfriend obviously loves his son and wants to be in his life. It sounds like his ex wife is not facilitating things, which is also a common and, perhaps, even an understandable reaction after divorce. A lot of people are bitter after a divorce, and that leads to asking other people to take sides, especially if they are the custodial parents of a child that came from the relationship. But you know what? In two years, Sam will be an adult, and he can make his own choices.

If Sam’s parents’ divorce is the most painful thing he ever deals with, he’s going to be lucky. Maybe his father is a jerk, but maybe he’s not. It will be up to Sam to decide if he really wants to jettison his father forever. He may eventually realize that this isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. But, it could turn out that after a few years and some perspective, Sam may come to realize that he was used as a weapon. Or maybe that isn’t the situation. Either way, it’s not up to him or his mother to dictate, if, when, or how he meets his half-sister. At age 16, he’s allowed to say no to visitation with his dad, even if it’s not the wisest decision. At age 18, it will be entirely up to him, legally speaking. Of course, if his mother is anything like Ex is, she might still make it extremely difficult for the wounds to heal. It might take a few years of adulthood before the blinders come off and Sam is ready to have a relationship with his father on his own terms.

In twenty years of marriage, I have only met my husband’s daughters in person once, and that was many years ago, because his ex wife refused to cooperate and actively sabotaged the loving relationship Bill once had with his kids. She did this for purely vindictive, selfish, narcissistic reasons. And now, younger daughter can see, plain as day, what happened, because she’s been treated in the same disrespectful way that Bill was. Now that they’re finally speaking, younger daughter is finding out things she hadn’t known, and I have a feeling that some of what she’s learning is very upsetting. Pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together… and if I’m honest, I worry what will happen when she finally understands just what she was denied when she was growing up. Her mother betrayed her by alienating her from her father and trying to force her to bond with #3, a man who clearly doesn’t care about her.

For Bill’s part, he now very much regrets not fighting much harder for his daughters. That was a terrible mistake. All he can do now is be there for the present and future, if they want him around. On the other hand, we’ve also learned that life continues to go on if there’s estrangement. There are some things you can’t control, like trying to force a horse to drink water. I would say reconnecting with estranged children often falls into this category. Sometimes these situations happen even when there hasn’t been a divorce. One person can’t control how another person feels or reacts. Ha ha… Ex actually said that to Bill once. “I can’t help how you feel.” Well, that goes for her, too… It goes for EVERYONE.

Another one of Ex’s expressions that Bill brought into our marriage is “Murder will out.” I had never heard that expression before I married Bill, but he’s said it many times over the years. And I can see by Ex’s very public social media accounts that she says it, too. Things are coming home to roost now, and I suspect they could get very dramatic soon. I probably shouldn’t read Carolyn Hax’s advice column, because letters like the one I read this morning are still very triggering for me. Our situation is extreme, but it’s been educational for me, and it’s taught me that stereotypical explanations of situations aren’t always accurate. Many commenters were assuming that the boyfriend in this letter was a spineless coward who cheated. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that.

But… bottom line is, the ex wife in this situation has absolutely no standing to demand that the letter writer surrender her baby for a private meeting with the ex and “Sam”. As I mentioned up post, I have never been a mother myself, but I would imagine that those mama bear instincts are there for very good reason. Yes, she’s the girlfriend, but she’s also the MOM of that baby, and it’s her job to protect her child. So she should politely tell the ex to fuck off, if she deems it appropriate. If it means Sam doesn’t meet his half-sister for the time being, so be it.

Edited to add…. Sorry, this letter really got under my skin. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of upsetting new information that has me a bit spun up.

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condescending twatbags, dogs, lessons learned, love

No, treating Arran’s cancer with chemo isn’t selfish or pointless…

The featured photo is Arran this morning. He was able to jump up on the bench for the first time in a couple of weeks. Two days ago, he jumped up on the bed by himself. Why? Because he wanted me to share my lunch with him.

Wow… Wednesday, already! Tomorrow, it will be time for Arran’s third chemotherapy appointment. I don’t necessarily enjoy hanging out in the vet’s office for an hour while he gets his treatment, but Bill and I have both been loving the results of the chemo. It’s giving us precious time with a very special and wonderful dog. Arran clearly feels so much better than he did a couple of weeks ago. I still don’t know how much this will cost, but at this point, I think whatever it is will be worth it.

Last night, as I was watching Arran interact with his beloved Bill, I went looking for blog posts by people who have also made the decision to treat canine cancer. I didn’t end up finding any blogs, although I will admit that may be because we were distracted by The Trump Tapes. It’s a new Audible book put out by the veteran Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward, that reveal 20 interviews he conducted with Donald Trump. I can barely stand to listen to Trump speak, but I decided that book would be interesting, so I downloaded it. Bill and I listened to a large part of it last night, although I will admit as the evening wore on, we were less attentive.

In any case, while I wasn’t paying attention to Woodward’s interviews with Trump, I went looking for first hand accounts of canine cancer treatments. I found an article that was published last summer in the Washington Post. I have unlocked it here for the interested. The piece, by Kim Kavin, was titled “My dog needed advanced cancer treatment. The price tag stunned me.” Kavin, whose article was published on July 24, 2022, wrote about her 12 year old dog, Blue, and the cancerous tumor he developed that was causing him to have a watery eye. Kavin happened to have pet health insurance for Blue, which enabled her to access the high tech treatment for the dog’s cancer. Still, the cost of treating the cancer was formidable. From the article:

It was a cold shock of reality when I added up Blue’s total projected expenses on paper. Getting the best available treatment for his tumor could cost more than $15,000 — and that was if everything went right. I’d already spent a lot. And it was unclear how much time it would buy him.

The oncologist at NorthStar VETS in New Jersey said they make sure pet owners understand up front what they’re getting into financially because many people can’t afford that kind of cost — many don’t have enough money in the bank to cover their own, or their kids, medical care. The call like the one I got is usually the heartbreaking beginning of the end of their pet’s story.

Kavin happened to live near NorthStar VETS, a high speed veterinary clinic that offered advanced oncology services for dogs. She had also spent about $700 annually to insure Blue. Because of that, she had the opportunity to access cancer care for her admittedly old mutt. Kavin still had to use her credit card to pay for the services until the reimbursement came from the insurance company. Also, Kavin explains that there aren’t a lot of veterinary oncologists available, particularly given the huge surge of “pandemic pets”. She was fortunate, though, in that the vets were able to get to Blue and start the treatment before the cancer killed him. Kavin writes:

Within a week, the CT scan and consult with a radiation oncologist were done, and within two weeks of the initial trip to my regular vet, he began the first treatment. About 48 hours after his treatment was completed, he was back to bounding around the park and chasing squirrels in the backyard. He had no side effects other than temporarily needing drops in his eye, which was dry. There was a lump on his face where the cancer mangled some bone, but he’s on the doggy version of ibuprofen and showed no signs of discomfort.

Sadly, in Blue’s case, the cancer did come back with a vengeance in June. In July, Kavin wrote that Blue didn’t have much time left. But she also wrote this:

He has been comfortable, and on pain meds, and I’m at least comforted that I did everything possible for him. We gained another two to three months of walks in the park, swims in the river and snuggles in bed.

If I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing.

I’d pay double.

I’ll be honest. I was very skeptical about trying canine chemo. When we learned that Arran had lymphoma, I figured we would be saying goodbye to him within weeks, especially given that it took some time to get the diagnosis and arrange for the chemotherapy treatments. Arran is 13 or 14 years old, which means that he’s lived a full life. The practical side of me told me that treating him was a dumb idea that would cost too much money, and be inconvenient and annoying for us, even though I know that healthcare and veterinary care is significantly cheaper in Germany than it is in the United States.

I didn’t worry about Arran being sick from the treatment, as I knew that dogs don’t get the same amount of medication that humans do. The focus on treating animals with cancer isn’t so much about curing it. It’s about improving the quality of life for the time they have left. I had expected our vets to give us some steroids to make Arran comfortable, which is what we did for our previous dog, Zane, during the week we had him after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Zane wasn’t as healthy as Arran is, and we caught his cancer later. I also suspect that the type he had was more aggressive than what Arran has (B cell lymphoma).

Our vet said that they didn’t typically give steroids to dogs with lymphoma that weren’t undergoing chemo. Basically, it sounded like we could choose chemo, or we could just wait for Arran to get really sick and die. Bill had to go away on business for two work weeks this month. Arran and Bill have a very special bond, and I worried that Arran would decline while Bill was away. The vet said she thought that, in spite of his age, Arran was a good candidate for treatment. Moreover, we could get the treatments in her office, which is maybe two or three miles from where we live, rather than at the local high speed vet hospital. So then we decided that we might as well give chemo a try. At worst, the treatment would kill him, which the cancer is eventually going to do, anyway.

Two weeks ago today, I sent Bill an angry email, because Arran was getting sicker and was in obvious pain. I was pissed off, because I didn’t want him to hurt. Our first chemo appointment was for the next day. Bill called the vet, who prescribed painkillers. I picked them up and gave one to Arran, who seemed to feel better after taking a dose. Then, on Thursday afternoon, October 13th, we finally went in to see the vet for cancer treatment… You can see from the photos, Arran looks a little bit sad.

I took Arran home with some Prednisolone and Endoxan, another chemo drug. I gave them to him with his dinner. Then, he slept for the rest of the evening, until the wee hours, when he woke me up for a bathroom break.

The next morning, Arran was clearly feeling noticeably better. As he was getting sick, he was not wanting to get up in the mornings. But on Friday morning, October 14, he was up early and ready for his breakfast. He continued to improve all week until last week’s treatment, when the vet said that based on his blood test, Arran’s bone marrow appeared to be working to replace his low red blood cell count. He’s had almost zero side effects from the chemo whatsoever. His lymph nodes have gone back to normal. He’s eating, sleeping, taking walks, and demanding food. Best of all, he made it through Bill’s business trips, and they are now spending precious time together, making their last memories.

Last week’s treatment. It took about an hour.

After I read Kavin’s article in the Washington Post, I checked out the 734 comments that were left by fellow readers. Much to my shock, the vast majority of them were about how stupid, pointless, and even cruel it is to treat canine cancer. I noticed a lot of comments from people who complained about dogs getting treatment that human beings can’t get. Below was the first comment– it was one of eight highlighted by the WaPo:

I’m actually kind of mad that veterinary medicine is expanding into things like cancer treatments and canine dissociative order. I love my pets with every fiber of my being and yet, putting them through these treatments doesn’t seem like kindness. You can’t explain to your dog or cat that scary and painful days at the vet hospital are “for their own good” and will, hopefully, make them feel better eventually. They are just scared and alone and in pain. It’s one thing to improve on surgery techniques so that a dog hit by a car has a better chance to fully recover. Putting them through radiation treatments to get a few more months of walks in the park just seems selfish. I ugly cry when my pets pass on because I am personally devastated, but I know it was time. I don’t want to also feel guilty because I didn’t do absolutely everything the vet suggested.

This was the third comment:

I am a dog lover. I have always had a dog. My Blue Heeler is curled up beside me as I type. I am also a Buddhist who believes, as the Buddha said in so many words, that the root cause of suffering is clinging to the delusion of permanence. Everything ends, and it was this dog’s time. I can’t conceive of putting a canine through chemotherapy with no chance of a cure. But that’s just me….

Still another:

Are you doing this for the dog, or for yourself?  

The overall average lifespan for dogs across breeds is 10 to 13 years. Subjecting a 12 year-old dog to the discomforts and fatigue of radiation treatment, making the last months of life a combination of misery and confusion, doesn’t sound like you’re doing it for the dog.  

There are literally hundreds of thousands of young dogs needing adoption. Give one of them the gift of a long and happy life instead. 

and…

There can be a point where care is more about the humans than the animal.

These weren’t the worst of some of the judgmental, and frankly ignorant, comments left on this piece. Here are a few more samples from the comment section:

  • All who were surveyed said they would do anything to save their pets. But, would they all subject their beloved pets to radiation and/or chemotherapy, not to save them but to prolong their lives for months, a great part of which is treatment and not good times? They have a shorter life span than humans. You will have to grieve at some point. 
  • Would you put a 70-80 year old human through these painful treatments at the end of their life? I hope not. Not even our SCOTUS fools would make someone go through this to “maintain” life!
  • I understand the impulse to do anything you can for your beloved pet. I love my own dog to distraction. But I also feel deeply ambivalent about extended medical treatment for pets. They cannot be protected from the pain that cancer patients go through. They cannot consent. They do not fear death, as we do. The veterinarians are making a fortune off of people’s delusions. Many of these owners cannot afford these treatments, and they are often done on dogs who are within a few months of their natural lifespans. People bankrupt themselves for their pets out of love, but also out of guilt. Think of what you are putting your beloved pet through for the potential of a few more months of limited life. Ask yourself if you are being selfish. Think about whether your vet is taking you for a ride. Sometimes the best thing is to send your dear one off to chase balls in dog heaven, spared from months of agonizing treatments. Think of them, not yourself, and ask it it’s time to let go.
  • I adore my dog, but I am damned if I am going to torture her so my mourning of her death gets delayed by 6-12 months. One of the many reasons dogs are superior to humans is they do hot have our irrational fear of the inevitable.
  • Nope. I wouldn’t do this. You put your dog through a hell which he did not understand.
  • To torment an animal for your own guilt is unconscionable. We had a galah with major medical issues. She received 5 medications twice daily for 3 years. She was clearly miserable. We probably spent $50k between the time she became obviously ill and when she finally died. I hated it. I don’t begrudge the money, my husband’s bird, his money, I had no right to complain. But it broke my heart to see her tortured and tormented and so obviously feeling miserable. I shed a lot of tears over the poor thing. She finally died over a three day weekend when she cratered badly and we could not get her to her vet because they were closed and did not do emergencies. The question, to me is, are you prolonging the agony because of your own guilt? Or for the “benefit” of the animal who has no idea what is happening?
  • It’s disgusting that expensive technology and expertise that could be used to heal people is being used on pets. We are so wealthy and pampered in this country that even the slightest inconvenience and sadness to us is worth the price, we would never consider spending this money on a poor human that we did not know.  Do the right thing, shoot the dog and donate the money you saved to a charity that helps heal people instead. People are more important than pets.
  • Oh, judas priest.  It’s a dog. A 12 year old dog. If it’s in pain, you put it to sleep. Otherwise you let nature take its course. And then you get a new dog. Which you’ll do anyway, since a 12 year old large dog has a life expectancy of around 0. People have their priorities so amazingly f’ed up these days.
  • So many people cannot afford healthcare, and people are using tens of thousands of dollars to extend the lives of dogs, whose lifespans are little more than a decade. That seems gross, no matter how much you love your dog.

It’s not that I don’t see their points, on some level. Like I said, Bill and I weren’t keen on putting Arran through any “painful” treatments, either. But before we made our decision, I noticed how he was behaving. In spite of his swollen lymph nodes, he was still engaged with us, and even wanted to play with his toys. He still wanted to take walks and cuddle on the couch. And you’d really have to see how bonded he is with Bill. He adores him.

We had another dog who was like Arran when he had cancer. That dog, whose name was Flea, had prostate cancer, which was truly horrible and painful, and defied treatment. He didn’t want to die. It was very obvious to us, even on the day when we decided it was time to let him go. He was still fighting, even as the drugs were taking effect. We see the same spirit in Arran. I hasten to add that our other dogs who have passed– CuCullain, MacGregor, and Zane, did not have that spark to keep going. They were undeniably ready when they passed.

In Zane’s case, he was definitely going to die of the lymphoma on that day, even if we didn’t opt for euthanasia, because he was bleeding internally. In MacGregor’s case, he could have lived a little bit longer with his spinal tumor, but he was clearly in agony. And CuCullain had a very rare, contagious, and painful disease that was certainly going to kill him, but because it was contagious, we couldn’t take him home. We couldn’t afford to keep him where he was, but it would have been pointless, anyway. In those cases, yes, treatment was futile. But it’s not futile in Arran’s case. Treatment can give him some precious time, and allow us the chance to set up his exit from life in the best way.

Begging for treats last night. Two weeks ago, he didn’t even want to eat homemade chicken and rice.

It’s true that Arran will likely die soon. I don’t know how long the chemo will work. I am at peace with the fact that he’s going to die. Neither Bill nor I are expecting a cure. Even if he got cured of the cancer, he’s old enough to die of natural causes. But I can’t deny that right now, he’s feeling much better, and that is priceless. We have the means to do this, and Arran is obviously up for it. So I don’t feel like what we’re doing is “for us”, or pointless or stupid… To a dog, a week or a month is a longer time than it is for a human being. Six extra months may not seem significant or worthwhile to a person, but to a dog, it’s akin to years of a human’s life.

Aside from that, chemo for dogs is not as horrible as it is for humans. If it was, I would never agree to do it. And when it appears that the chemo isn’t helping or is causing distress, of course we’ll know it’s time to say goodbye. Not everyone who opts for canine chemo is out of touch with reality or selfish.

What really stood out to me in the comments on that WaPo article, though, are the truly mean and nasty comments some people had, calling treating canine cancer “gross”, because humans are “more important” than animals are. First off, how do these folks think cancer treatments are developed? They get tested on animals. Every time a vet treats a dog for cancer, knowledge and experience is expanded, and that makes it more likely that they can help other animals or… perhaps even human beings!

And secondly, most people who opt not to treat their pets are NOT going to donate the money they “saved” by opting out of treatment. It would be nice if they did donate to charities that help humans, but most of them won’t do that. Many of the people opting out of treatment their animals are doing so because they can’t afford it, or because they think it’s pointless and will be painful. I’ll admit, a few weeks ago, I thought it was pointless, too. But now I know better. And the vast majority of people who “save” money by not treating their pets aren’t going to be donating that cash to save humans. I doubt the people who suggested donating money for humans would do it, either.

I was glad to see a few people leaving comments that challenged those who posted that treating canine cancer is “gross” or somehow decadent. I especially liked this lady’s comment:

You can’t save all the people, you can give your pet pet a better quality of life. You can be a drop in the bucket to strangers or provide meaningful benefit to someone your family loves and has contributed meaningfully to your life. I’d say ignoring someone who has been unfailingly loving and supportive in favor of a stranger would be gross.

I also love what this commenter, a veterinarian, had to say:

A lot of these commenters don’t actually know much about veterinary medicine. I’m a veterinarian and when you take into account the advanced medicine that is being performed, this is quite a steal. Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer, receiving gold treatment care (including radiation) and it costing $15,000 total? Is it for everyone? Of course not, but if you can afford it, it should be a choice. I don’t see why spending that amount of a beloved pet is ridiculous but people spend more than that on vacations, cars, etc. additionally, treatment for cancer in pets is very much focused on quality of life and not just “time.” Although surgery of course can be painful and have a recovery time, most chemotherapy and other options on our pets have few side effects. I refer people to oncologists all the time for advanced care and if they decide not to treat, I do my best to provide palliative care and/or euthanasia when it is time. And for people saying animals don’t understand, I agree, but neither do babies and young children yet no one is saying we should withhold care from them.

I would have been all for opting just for palliative care. For some reason, that wasn’t offered to us at this time. I’m glad it wasn’t, because this is a valuable learning experience for all of us– including the vets who are treating Arran. I know that doing this for Arran will inform us for the future, not just for other dogs, but also for ourselves, should either or both of us be unlucky enough to have cancer.

Finally, here is the best comment I read regarding Blue’s saga:

There’s nothing cruel about trying to give our companions the same kind of advanced treatments we have available for humans. For each pet and each family, it’s a decision that must juggle the age of the pet, the expected lifespan after treatment, the budget — with or without pet insurance — and the families’ needs. Not every dog can get radiation treatment, nor can every family afford this for their pets. 

I’ve made this calculation for my own pets, and sometimes it’s a go for treatment, but other times, it’s palliative care and euthanasia. Either way, no one has any business telling pet owners that they’re cruel to make either decision. If it’s not your pet, it’s not your decision.

When the time inevitably comes to say goodbye to Arran, we’ll send him to the Rainbow Bridge with his favorite people around him, loving him as his soul leaves the mortal coil. And, in the fullness of time, after we have had some time to mourn, we know he will send us a successor. All of our dogs have done that… even Flea did that, and he was the biggest “male diva dog” of all of our rescues combined.

Arran has been a faithful, loyal, and loving family member for almost ten years. I would like to see him make that ten year mark. Maybe that makes me “selfish”, but I can tell that the treatment is making him feel better, and giving him extra time with his favorite human. I don’t see that as cruel, selfish, stupid, decadent, or “gross”. Right now, it doesn’t appear to me that the treatment is causing him to suffer, and it’s the least we can do for him, after everything he’s done for us. When the situation changes, of course we will act accordingly and do what must be done. But we’re not sending him to the Rainbow Bridge before that time, simply because other, uninvolved, judgmental people think that treating canine cancer is selfish or decadent! Those people can seriously get bent!

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family, memories, mental health

WaPo advice column reminds me of mealtime meltdowns of yesteryear…

Today in the Washington Post, I read an advice column in which a letter writer asked if it’s “wrong” to force a child to eat. The writer explained that he or she was born in 1952, and their mother used to compel them to finish everything on their plate. She would either force the person to sit at the table for hours until everything was eaten, or she would use a fifteen minute timer and warn that if the food wasn’t finished, the child would be spanked and sent to bed early. The writer later found out that they have food allergies.

Yes… I think it is very damaging.

The advice columnist, Meghan Leahy, wrote that she thinks the letter writer is traumatized. She points to the level of detail included in the letter, so many years later, and explains that remembering that much about the experiences indicated psychological damage. Leahy comments:

There are three main activities one person cannot force another to do without inflicting some pretty serious harm: sleep, eat and use the toilet. These are driven by deep impulses, and each human runs on their own internal clock. When parents take draconian measures to control their children’s eating, it is about more than just getting them to finish their chicken. The parent is saying or sending messages such as: “I don’t care about your feelings or impulses. I control them.” “You don’t get to say when you eat. I do.” “I will withhold love and affection until you eat.” “Not eating or not making me happy will make me hurt you, physically and emotionally.”

I found myself nodding as I read her comments. Suddenly, I remembered my own traumatic experiences at the dinner table when I was a very young child. My father and I had a difficult relationship. He was an alcoholic who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He could be very controlling and demanding at times. Other times, he acted like he didn’t care at all about things. Sometimes, he was even kind and reasonable. Unfortunately, I never knew which version of my dad I was going to get.

When I was very young, I was a rather picky eater. There were, and still are, a lot of things I don’t eat. My mom was a pretty good cook, but she wasn’t above using processed convenience foods. I didn’t mind eating canned things. I loved Franco-American Macaroni and Cheese, for instance. I remember eating a lot of Campbell’s Soup– especially Bean with Bacon or Chicken Noodle. Sometimes I’d have frozen chicken pot pies that, of course, I would heat up before eating. These days, Bill and I make most things from scratch. He doesn’t like eating food from boxes and cans.

But then there were times when my mom would make things I didn’t like. My dad would get on a power trip and try to force me to eat things. I’d sit at the table and cry as he yelled at and threatened me.

The one thing I could never eat under any circumstances was mushrooms. As I have mentioned before in this blog, I have a phobia of them. When I was very young, I was literally petrified of wild mushrooms growing in the yard. I would freeze up and panic when I saw them. I think it stemmed from being told, when I was very young, that they were very poisonous and I must never touch them. I took the directive very seriously. I also had sisters who enjoyed tormenting me by chasing me with the mushrooms or drawing mushrooms with ugly frowns and shark teeth in my coloring books.

So one time, my dad, who was quite exasperated about my phobia, decided he was going to force me to eat a mushroom. My mom had made meat pie, and it had mushrooms in it. I remember him standing over me– I was maybe nine or ten years old– screaming at me to eat the pie. He had to go to choir practice that night, so I was under pressure. I was crying uncontrollably as he demanded that I obey him. I think I did eat some of the pie, but I never forgot that experience… or another one we had at a chain restaurant called Mountain Jack’s. My parents took me there one night and ordered sauteed mushrooms as an appetizer. My dad tried to make me eat one in the restaurant, and I started crying. My mom snarled at him to leave me alone, which he grudgingly did. But he would often get on these control freak power plays, sometimes in public. And yes, it was humiliating and traumatic.

As I read that article about forcing kids to eat things in the WaPo today, I was suddenly reminded of all the times my father bullied, harassed, and belittled me over things like food, body image, or even the way I laugh. Like several of my family members, my dad hated my laugh, and claimed I sounded like a witch. By the time I was eleven, I was very preoccupied with my body image and weight. For years, I struggled with disordered eating, although I never fell into a diagnosable eating disorder. Nowadays, instead of being obsessive about my weight and body image, I drink too much alcohol.

I looked at some of the comments people left on this article. One reader left what I thought was a really good comment. I took a screenshot of it; it was so good.

I wish all commenters were as wise as this person is.

Someone else left this comment, which made me feel really sad…

Eating should be a pleasurable activity. But this person’s mother turned it into a battle.

Below is one rather contentious comment thread on Facebook regarding this advice column. “Mike” obviously thinks that being controlling about food is a good approach to child raising… and now he’s raising his grandchild.

When I was growing up, I could not eat the hot lunches served in the school cafeteria. In those days, the food was actually cooked on site, but the smell of it usually disgusted me. There were certain items that smelled so bad that I would get nauseous if someone sat next to me eating it. I seem to remember being completely revolted by the smell of the vegetable soup, which was always served with a big piece of government cheese. I always wondered how it was that the cafeteria ladies could make ordinary food so unappetizing in appearance and aroma. I used to skip lunch during school, partly because I was always dieting, and partly because the whole experience of eating lunch at school was so traumatizing. I think it must be worse today, as schools now police what children are allowed to eat more than they did in the 80s, and food is not always cooked on site.

I remember practically starving myself in the summer of 1982, when I went to 4-H camp. The food there was even worse than what was served in school. The smell of it turned my stomach. I never went back to 4-H camp, mainly because I could not abide powdered eggs and the other barely edible stuff served there. I was fortunate in the the food served at my college was mostly very good, but I remember going to 4-H Congress at Virginia Tech and being grossed out by the food there, too.

I’ve probably shared this before, but it bears repeating. I agree with George, and his take on “fussy eating” is funnier than this post is. 😉

To this day, there are a lot of foods that some people find wonderful, like cheese, that I don’t enjoy. I don’t eat a lot of cheeses, myself. There are maybe half a dozen I will eat, and they have to be melted. Bill, on the other hand, loves stinky cheeses. He will not think twice about buying cheese that, to me, smells like dirty feet, and enjoying it with wine. I can always smell the cheese through the refrigerator door. On the other hand, I do like fish, which I know a lot of people can’t abide.

I’m sure my dad’s tendency to hypercontrol at the dinner table, back when we ate dinners together, was formulated in part because he was a child of the Depression era. He had eight siblings, and the family wasn’t wealthy at all, so food was a precious commodity. My dad was also an Air Force officer, so sometimes he would use that identity to make demands of his daughters. Sometimes, he could be strict, but his method of punishment was, in my opinion, quite cowardly. He used physical and corporal punishments to get what he wanted. Imagine, being a grown man taking out your frustrations on a little girl by walloping her whenever she challenged you. That was my dad. And, sorry to say, he did traumatize me with that treatment. Maybe that’s why I am so fucked up today. 😉

I did love my dad, when he was still living. I think a lot of his issues stemmed from his own abusive childhood, in which he was the eldest son of a violent alcoholic. I think a lot of the things he said to me were things that he heard from his dad. In fact, although I never knew Pappy, because he died when I was two, I have heard a lot of stories about him. Some of the stories are funny, but most pointed to the fact that he was an angry bully and a tyrant, and he had a biting, sarcastic sense of humor that could be devastating. I know that, on some level, my dad hated his father. He didn’t like to talk about him. When he did, it was usually after he’d been drinking. And sometimes, he told me things that sounded pretty awful.

Anyway… I don’t know what made me fall down this rabbit hole. But reading that advice column today really reminded me of those days when I was younger, and eating was traumatic and stressful. It’s too bad that we couldn’t have peace in those days. And it’s too bad my parents weren’t more careful about making a baby they didn’t really want.

Bill just left to go back to Bavaria for the next few days. It was good that he came home. Arran is doing well on the chemo. He’s eating well, enjoying his walks and snuggles with us, and doesn’t have huge lymph nodes right now. I don’t know how long the chemo will keep him feeling better, but I’m grateful for the extra time. I was very worried about Arran a couple of days ago, and I think if we hadn’t started treatment, we might have had to say goodbye this weekend or soon thereafter. As it stands now, he’s mostly back to normal, save for the rancid farts, need to pee, and increased appetite caused by steroids.

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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”.

Standard