I can’t remember a gloomier day in a long, long while…both literally and figuratively. The smoke and resulting air quality from the many fires in California has made being outdoors impossible; there is an orangish-grey tint to the sky and a heavy haze bordering on “fog-like”. There is no such thing as unencumbered breathing and all of this has cast a pall on my mood as well as the day.

However, the fires are a “me” thing and also on my mind is our country and the more global world situation. In the last week a crisis in Afghanistan has exploded and several days ago at least thirteen US military personnel lost their lives along with scores of Afghans and there were many more injured, the result of a suicide bombing as we try to evacuate way too many people in way too little time. I have many thoughts on this but there is a specific one that made me want to put pen to paper.

Who is to blame for this? I can sense the words Trump, or Biden, or Republicans, or Democrats, or CNN, or Fox, coming to lips everywhere. But this is wrong; the gloom, the despair, the chaos, the finger-pointing, all trying to determine which of the above should take the blame? Who is responsible for this and so many other current messes? I have a news flash.

It. Is. Us.

Us. The self-centered, arrogant, narrow-minded citizens of this country that at some point in the last several generations put ourselves in the position of self-righteous narcissism. The UNITED States are anything but and our citizens are now shills for a deadly Romans vs. lions game where the only acceptable outcome to any difference of opinion is for one side to die a horrible death. We have completely forgotten what a blessing it is to live in this country and have instead become involved in a circus of self-loathing.

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a pandemic, military withdrawal, immigration, energy or everything in-between, the teeming numbers of the egocentric among us have become masters of spin, talking points and self-appointed superiority. We believe we know more about every subject than anyone around us and have made it our duty to shove that faux knowledge down everyone’s throat. We have become Mensa-level experts in medicine, matters of state, science, economics, and psychology and behavior. Except we’re not. Not even close.

A wiser soul than I one said “you teach people how to treat you” and we have done that to perfection. We’ve taught an already biased media that we are too lazy to do the work ourselves and we are happy for them to feed us any information they want…as long as it agrees with what we already believe. Then when they sarcastically serve the opposite point of view to us topped with thinly-veiled outrage, with great glee we are outraged right along with them. But who can blame them? This is the behavior we have encouraged; in their position as ‘ratings whores’ this very behavior has rewarded them for what they are doing.

Our friends, neighbors, and co-workers have learned that a free exchange of opposing points of view will garner disdain, anger, and sometimes even outright rage. The merchants in our communities have become painfully aware that one poorly expressed thought, or worse, seemingly just a conversation among friends, results in loss of business, bad publicity driven by angry people and in the extreme, loss of their livelihood. But again, we have taught each other there is a payoff to being a bully. He who yells the loudest, posts the most scathing social media retorts, or takes intimidation to an art form is clearly the winner, right? Because after all, this is all about being the winner.

And finally, our politicians. We’ve taught them a master class on what we want. We want red or we want blue. We don’t want our President, or Congress, or the Judiciary working for a common goal. We don’t want bi-partisanship like Rep. Seth Moulton, Democrat from Massachusetts and Rep. Peter Meijer, Republican from Michigan, both military veterans, who took it upon themselves to gain knowledge about the situation in Afghanistan. Their detractors, of which there were many, couldn’t excoriate them fast enough. Was it because they did something horrible? No…well, yes, if you consider putting aside political differences to work for a common goal somehow horrible. The coming days will reveal whether their critics vitriolic remarks have any substance but I understand the Congressmen’s trip to the Kabul airport. They are two veterans who felt frustration at the situation and the type of information coming out of the area and from the military brass. They wanted to talk with fellow soldiers for themselves and draw their own conclusions. It would seem, though from two different political parties, they were united in their desire to do their job and do it fully armed with the facts. What a concept! They pushed outside the popular narrative and thought for themselves in the interest of the soldiers (who also don’t care whether we are red or blue) and civilians and they made their fellow congressmen and women and the administration look bad by working together and for those currently stranded (yes, I said stranded) and caught in an untenable situation. To anyone “in charge” that is unforgivable.

But we taught them everything they know and I also understand the horror at the Congressmen’s trip…the talking heads and the politicians don’t know what to do; they’ve been caught unaware. We want red or blue, not both. We want fighting and scheming and contempt and hatred and division and some full-blown, life-sized reality show of a government screaming “conspiracy”, “racism”, “orange man bad”, old man senile”…I don’t know why we want that but we clearly do. We reward it with our dollars, our votes, and our lip service all in the name of winning some ridiculous game. Of course, there is a payoff of power and money and some odd form of fame for all of them in dancing to the tune we play. But make no mistake, we are continuing to play like virtuosos.

But in the meantime as we squabble about who wears a mask and who doesn’t, women and children on the other side of the world will be raped or killed or both; their only fault being born in a country where such brutality is common place. They would be ecstatic to have the opportunities we have here and after all, someone should. We don’t seem to be. As we continue to remove any trace of ‘uncomfortable’ history from our consciousness, our young men and women in uniform performing heroic actions on an hourly basis will again be in harm’s way. And as we abdicate any vestiges of common sense while we hop on the latest bandwagon of buzzwords, cancel culture, condescension and the blame game we will single-handedly accomplish what no other country or entity has been able to pull off in over two hundred years; the disappearance of the greatest country in the world. We should be ashamed.

Let me begin by saying that in the following paragraphs I will undoubtedly use the wrong word, offend multiple people and set keyboards ablaze. None of this is my intent, but I have recently been told that intent doesn’t matter…ever. Nonetheless, I will continue.

I have wanted to get these thoughts out of my head for some time, but over and over have found myself in front of the keyboard too exhausted by the futility of it all to type a character. Being a writer, I hope my words make the reader think…that’s all, to consider something to this point not on their radar. Yet in the current climate, if read at all, every piece is read by 8 out of 10 people (a guesstimate, I have no studies to back this) who started with a preconceived idea and are only reading to find flaws and debunk.

I recently realized that we have come to such a heightened state of tribalism than the one and ONLY thing that matters is that you support and give lip service to whatever your tribe does. We have lost the ability for independent thought while at the same time losing the ability to think about what we say or do, only thinking about what “they” say or do. And by the way, in this situation, “they” are always exponentially worse than anything we could do.

In recent days I’ve thought back to when I was a kid in the 60’s (yes, I am THAT old). There was a group then too that didn’t like the status quo, thought the world was too uptight, and wanted to do their own thing. They were the hippies. All these years later it’s kind of a silly word, but it is well worth thinking about them and their movement. The hippies believed in non-violence. They were against the Vietnam War and weren’t beyond verbally harassing returning soldiers…this part of their movement was not their finest hour. But generally, they loved everyone and took a casual approach to life, sex, and living arrangements. As a movement their slogan was “Make Love, Not War”, and they were happy to, in a sense, smoke dope and skip rope. Like the zealots of today, they too wanted to change the world.

So what’s the difference between then and now? Racism existed in the ’60’s, so did xenophobia, misogyny, or any other ism, phobia, or gyny you can think of. These things are not gone, but the situations have improved. I would like to say they have been eradicated, but sadly they have not and it is an ongoing effort to improve the lot of all inhabitants of the world. But if you are only in your twenties or thirties, you have no basis of comparison and you, as did we all at that age, think you are the first to become “woke” to these issues.

The huge difference I see is anger, plain and simple, ANGER. It makes us blind to a free exchange of ideas, we can’t see our own actions or hear our own words. I recently saw an exchange on Facebook where the original poster was called every name I have listed in the previous paragraph and then some for a, granted, controversial opinion. But then, the person replying suggested the OP consider a nursing home as their brain had clearly ceased to function. In arguing their highly valued opinion, they couldn’t see that they were labeling and judging based on age, which evidently is OK unlike the other possibilities.

My point is this…we have allowed people who never have and never will meet us to drive this anger. You will notice I have not mentioned a name, and I will not as this comes from many sources and sides. It isn’t important who they are, it is important that you have given your free will and independent thinking over to them. To drop names of politicians or media “stars” (and I use the term loosely), is no different than the alcoholic saying, “he made me drink”. Your decisions, your behavior, and for sure, your anger; all those are your own. No one makes you attack someone else behind the anonymity of a keyboard and computer screen. We have not suddenly become experts on all things based on a 30 second video clip. You have NO right to burn down or loot the business of someone you don’t even know. Yet, here we are.

Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, do better”. Rather than literally and figuratively beating people senseless with what you believe is better, why not lead by example? As my mother often reminded me, “you know better”. and we all do, so let’s do better… not just the “others”, but all of us. Let’s think less about being angry and woke, and worry about the one thing we can control…ourselves.

I recently de-activated my Facebook account…it was a hard decision because I do benefit from the ability to promote my writing there, not to mention the people I enjoy staying in touch with. That being said, I’ve clearly had enough. It was a sentiment that had been building in me for some months and I can’t point to one cause. It came down to people and their reactions to events and primarily to one another.

I have a Facebook friend who was an actual friend long before the existence of social media…I have known her for over 60 years. I like and respect her, I admire her accomplishments in life, yet, upon reading a single post from her I realized it was time to go. She said, speaking of the Associated Press’ calling of the election (because as of this writing it is not an officially certified election and recounts are ongoing), “This is the first day in four years I have not awoken with a sense of dread”.

Now let’s get one thing out of the way; this is not about politics, at least not in the direction most will leap. To one degree or another, I haven’t liked many presidents in my lifetime, but I always respect the office and the election process. It’s OK with me if people didn’t like, or even hated, Donald Trump because I don’t know him nor do I hang my hat on his words. I don’t like politicians and that was one thing I most liked about Trump…he is not a politician. Biden, on the other hand, oozes ‘career politician’ from every gesture and pore; that alone means his era begins with me not a fan.

Much ado has been made about Trump’s manners or lack thereof and the Big 3; his alleged racism, misogyny, and homophobia. I have no argument with denigrating him for his perceived attitude toward women, but I only buy that argument if you reacted the same way to Bill Clinton, JFK, Eisenhower, etc. and though not a president, the infamous Chappaquiddick incident with Teddy Kennedy. None of it has been right, but your argument only holds water if you don’t make some of the incidents more right than others. But I digress…

I admit my reaction to my friend’s post was incredulity. Not for one moment do I believe she awoke every morning, for 1460 straight days, with a sense of dread. She has and has had, a rich, full, productive life. As far as I know, DJT’s presidency did not stop her from anything she was attempting to do or accomplish in the last four years. She is, as are we all, still here and living the best life possible. However, my issue with her post was MY problem, not hers. I realized that reading some of the empty thoughts that pass for informed opinion colors my thinking about individuals I like in all other aspects of life. I’d rather not think ill of friends and if I don’t read ‘it’ and can’t see ‘it’, no harm, no foul as it relates to my relationships. Face to face, the discussion would never happen so rather than challenge an opinion she has every right to have, as do many that agree with her, I save countless friendships by saying adios to Facebook. Posting and acting like petulant “mean girls” (and boys) makes one no better than the man who is so proudly despised.

In my mind, the decision of so many in the last ten or so days to drink the Kumbaya Kool-Aid has brought unrealistic expectations to the table. I absolutely concur that the majority (barely) in this election voted for Joe Biden and as such in ten short weeks he will be sworn in as the next president. I wish him well. But the idea that the arrival of Biden signals everything will be alright now and that Zen, euphoria and nirvana are just around the corner suggests a need to limit the Kool-Aid intake. Donald Trump is now a non-issue, but the belief that things will not proceed as before is a pipe dream.

That slim minority of 70+ million people now being told it’s “time to heal” have spent the last four years being chastised and insulted for their views and are now being dismissed as ignorant, psychotic, stupid, or possessing an IQ that hasn’t climbed out of the double-digits. As the Speaker of the House screeches we must “stop the circus” there are at least 70 million people who believe over the last four years she, herself, has been one of the marquee acts. As we watch the horribly biased, ‘unbiased’ media rail on, there are at least 70 million people who remember the media before they were ‘Entertainment Tonight’ with a photoshopped journalism credential. Finally, those 70+ million folks have not forgotten that the very same souls urging healing now, never did, and still haven’t, healed from or accepted their self-proclaimed catastrophe of four years ago.

Conversely, every Biden voter did not spend the summer rioting in the streets, they are not devotees of Karl Marx’ “Communist Manifesto”. They did not vote for a man whose sole hope is to destroy our country because no person that attempts to be chosen President ever does. But while Biden voters had many and varied reasons for making their choice, it should be noted that Trump voters did as well.

Before the term “ignorant” is bandied about, maybe someone with a child or spouse in the military supported Trump because there have been no new wars in the past four years. Maybe IQ is not the issue, but job security, and thus the ability to provide for a family brought about by an industry remaining in the US that caused the box to be marked for Trump. Rather than “stupid”, possibly those affiliated with the law enforcement community checked the box because they felt supported in their efforts, and rather than “psychotic”, maybe those in middle America in danger of losing their family’s farm and therefore legacy, felt someone was listening when they marked their ballot. Behavior of a childish nature is annoying, but not the most important thing to many people who ignore the same behavior from their friends and co-workers every day. One doesn’t have to agree with someone’s reasoning to understand how they reached their conclusions, but if one satisfies themselves with the easy labels instead of sincerely asking what brought someone to the choice they made, that paints the labeler’s behavior with the same broad brush the almost-former President has been painted with.

To lay it on the table, Donald Trump did not cause the division in this country, no one did. Well…except us. We did. We did and continue to do it to ourselves. Any adult citizen who takes any cue for their behavior from a politician of either party, an entertainment figure or media personality has greater problems than who is President. If you are an adult, you know how to behave correctly. You may or may not follow through, but you do know what the correct way is.

I never supported DJT’s rambling monologues or Tweet-filled days; before the 2016 election I told family and friends the best thing to happen to him and us was for someone to tell him Twitter was broken…permanently. Trump has no “impulse control”, but that has no bearing on my behavior or impulse control. He has been known to say mean things, but no worse than I see multiple times, every day, on social media by those who need to take responsibility for their own actions. He is a narcissist, as are most Beltway sycophants, but he is not the cause of the rampant narcissism in the country. To blame him for the way the populace acts toward each other is just more of us refusing to own our actions.

Let’s just do ourselves a favor…accept that in ten weeks though Trump will be out of the White House many will still be vengeful, angry, hate-fueled ideologues, 70 million strong, whose opponents are the other 70 million whose high crimes and misdemeanors were simply choosing to look differently at life and what is important. Donald Trump didn’t change us and Joe Biden won’t either. Even a nine-year-old understands the responsibility for their thoughts and actions rests with them alone. How about giving that concept a shot? Hmmmm?

WTF?  I ‘ll say it again for the people in the back…WTF?

Have any of you looked in a mirror lately?  Listened to the words as they left your mouth?  Reread the words you have pounded out on a keyboard?  No?  I can’t say I’m surprised.

Let me begin by saying that I am appalled at what happened to George Floyd.  He shouldn’t have died and I won’t qualify that.  He shouldn’t have died for any reason.  By the way, I don’t know one person, not one, that believes otherwise.  I’m sure they exist but I’ve not met one yet and in my circle of friends and family I’m not likely to.   I truly believe the vast majority of citizens in the US are sickened by racism, sexism, religious discrimination or sectarianism of any sort.  So why is everyone acting like they are the only ones?

WTF? Can we just get one thing out of the way?  Hate is hate.  There are not degrees of hate, it is not justifiable, and whether you claim to hate blacks, whites, law enforcement, a religious group, gays, a political party, men or women; it’s just hate and it’s just ugly.  As long as the word invades your speech or your thoughts you are already lost.  The only thing separating you from Lee Harvey Oswald, or Timothy McVeigh, or Tyrone Mitchell, or Mohammed Atta, or Derek Chauvin is you have not yet acted on your hate.

While multiple pleas in the last few days have gone out for honest dialogues about difficult topics, I have struggled as I watched those that were brave enough to comment with differing opinions have every syllable of their thoughts dissected, vilified, and insulted.  WTF?  If everyone came from the same place there would be no reason for conversation, but if we ever hope for a change we must be able to listen and try to comprehend.  As many people struggle to understand something that defies understanding, how we approach their questions and concerns will have everything to do with how they come away from the exchange.

WTF?  Why does it take a nearly 65-year-old woman to explain that when you insult a child for trying to express her views instead of helping her learn that which she is too young to yet know, all you will accomplish is to create another individual that will have no desire in the future to learn, discuss, or think of others.

Mahatma Ghandi had no problem cutting to the chase.  When he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world” he was on to something.  For some, issues with race or religion or sexual orientation are as ingrained as the DNA that determines our eye color.  Generations have helped form these opinions and just because our impatient, short attention span selves want to see this wrapped up by tomorrow or the next day, it’s not happening.  It will happen from what we model to the youth of our world; our children and their children.  It will be slow, it will be excruciating at times, but if we start each day being the change we want to see, it will come.  Stop lecturing everyone on how they should think and act and be the example.

Finally….law enforcement.  WTF!  This eye-for-an-eye thing, it doesn’t work. Not even a little bit.  What happened to George Floyd has nothing to do with a police officer in Las Vegas, or St, Louis, or Davenport, Iowa.   George Floyd was a father, a Christian, a son, a brother, loved by his family, and a flawed man. .  The law enforcement officers being attacked all over this country can be described the same way and this tit-for-tat thing…it’s BS.   A job in law enforcement is incredibly difficult.  If you haven’t done it you probably have no understanding of how hard it can be…and how thankless.  I suggest the same course of action as above.  Find a law enforcement officer.  Ask questions, find out about their job and what makes it so hard and the stress they are under minute to minute while they are working. If you can’t paint all the members of a race with one brush then you can’t do it for law enforcement either. Really people…WTF!

Most of us have a passing knowledge of the accepted Five Stages of Death, a model by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  While I in no way wish to make light of the powerful force that is death, or to mock the work of Dr. Kubler-Ross, it hit me like a brick the other day that this model is applicable to so many other phenomena we encounter every day.  For this effort, I wish to focus on The Five Stages of Social Media.  It shouldn’t escape you they bear a striking resemblance to the Kubler-Ross model.  Coincidence?  I don’t know.  Conspiracy?  I’m sure someone will get back to me on that.

Stage 1 – Denial.  You are new to…let’s say Facebook.  You are so excited to have nearly instant access to friends across the country, the world.  You’ve heard friends complain but their experience is not yours at all.  You are right there to see their children, their animals, see photos of their vacations.  Everyone, and I mean everyone sends you a friend request.  You can’t believe you have that many great friends.  You have the ability to discuss important topics of the day and contribute to great causes all with the click of a mouse.  No, your friends are wrong, this is amazing!

Stage 2 – Anger.  You bring your cup of coffee to the computer, log in to your account and, oh great, the first fifteen posts are from, wait, who is that again?  Do you even know her?  Maybe she was one of the requests you accepted when you were trying to get more friends than that bitch, Sunny, who has 1600 Facebook friends but you know she doesn’t have any actual friends.  Today’s poster has shared countless political memes that aren’t even spell-checked, photos of obscene vegetables, and some with her boyfriend at a concert, both flipping off the camera.  A left-wing, tree hugging friend has shared so many shots of injured animals, starving children, and polluted oceans you are on the guilt-trip from hell and you can actually hear ‘Kumbaya” playing in your head.  A right-wing, ‘give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death’ friend is throwing up so much partisan garbage you can almost hear their fingers as they pound the keyboard and see the foamy spittle forming at the corner of their mouth. 

Stage 3 – Bargaining. Several days later you are faced with everything from your last Facebook visit and more.  In addition to lectures on politics and human relations you are bombarded with photos of missing children or animals that with one click you can determine are no longer missing. Look!  A 103 year old Civil War vet (yes, I did say Civil War) that has no further wish on this, the occasion of his 103rd anniversary of entrance to a long and fulfilling life, than to receive 10000 likes, and of course, the information gathering bots masquerading as ‘tests’ to determine what your astrological sign says about your preference in men.  You are nominated by 25 of your nearest and dearest to post photos of who knows what.  What do all these have in common?  They are striking a deal, of course.  There are even some that actually promise you bad luck if you don’t pass them along.

Stage 4 – Depression.  You leave the computer every day in despair.  Everything in the world is in ruin; you know it because you saw it on Facebook.  You can’t believe your friends are so f@%&ing stupid. You’ve been chided by someone you don’t even know who told you that the 6 million plus people in the world that have contracted Covid-19 did so because they couldn’t “self-manage their exposure” to the virus.  You have been sanctimoniously scolded that “unemployment is up due to loss of jobs”.  That one ellicits a mouth wide open, hands on cheeks dumbfounded reaction a la Macauley Culkin in Home Alone.  But mostly you are disgusted with yourself that you rise to the ridiculous bait some people throw out there yet you are thoughtful enough not to correct their spelling.

Stage 5 – Acceptance (or in this case, Hilarity).  Suddenly, one day the complete absence of hope and sense of distress washes away and you begin to laugh.  Most of this crap is actually hilarious.  The fact that people think they are demonstrating on a daily basis how ‘woke’ they really are and that anyone else cares, the fact that 90% of them have not figured out what tools Photoshop and creative writing actually are.  It is side-splittingly funny the offense that is taken over nothing, and it’s really fun to count how many women are photographed in the exact same pose.  You see the lecture from the person several generations younger than you are about what they learned in their Political Science class for what it is…hysterical.  But overall, you are through it.  You become quite liberal with unfriending and unfollowing and you keep the people that you started this for; those with shared experiences and memories that have shown you who they are, really are,  time and again rather than what they wear, what they eat, and just how cool they are.  You’ve made the choice to retain the social part of the experience and renounce the media part.  You have finally seen the experience for the narcissistic rubbish that it is while accepting the little bit of narcissism in us all.  There’s a smile on your face and a big sigh of relief…you made it!

These are times unlike any we, as a world, can remember seeing. A pandemic is ravaging the world and creating situations and challenges many have never even considered. Public health and safety is paramount, yet those given the responsibility for oversight in that realm are in large part sailing uncharted waters.

On many fronts one encounters fear, uncertainty and change but I am here to reassure you. It is abundantly clear that to navigate our current crisis we should go to the place where the information is cutting edge, those dispensing it are as woke AF and they possess not one ounce of bias or prejudice. That’s right…go to your Facebook friends, your Twitter feed, and for the truly informed may I suggest the chiropractor in the East delivering medical advice via YouTube with a backdrop that appears to be manufactured for Zoom meetings and available for purchase online.

The arrogance of the American people is simultaneously the best of us and the worst of us. On the positive side it is evidenced by American ingenuity, a never-say-die spirit and a collective mentality that is always striving to “build a better mousetrap”. On the flip side, this arrogance also leads many to completely discount the facts that this pandemic has affected citizens of over 200 countries because if it isn’t in the US it doesn’t count, right?

The theories are that Covid-19 is a plot hatched by (insert name here, I’ll give you a few suggestions). Democrats, Republicans, Bill Gates, socialists, pro-vaxxers, those wishing to permanently take our liberty, ad nauseum. I have heard that the first-hand accounts from first responders, doctors and nurses, of their daily struggles are paid for by the government. These are but a handful of ‘fascinating’ theories developed by people that wish to pretend that other populations of other races, creeds and religions are not suffering from and dying from this exact same virus…some before it came to the US. Or are they simply collateral damage to the master plans of Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump? All I know is it makes me wish I had planned ahead and purchased stock in any or all of the companies producing aluminum foil so I could make a killing when y’all start making your tin foil hats.

Make no mistake, the politicians will ‘politick’. It’s what they do, it’s mother’s milk and it is as necessary to them as breathing. They are not above using this extraordinary time in history to further their own ambitions and hatreds…how could we believe otherwise?

I also completely understand the drive to return to normalcy, go to work, and stop the bleeding metaphorically speaking. But as my grandmother often told me, wishing doesn’t make it so. We can’t wish away the pandemic and those that want to believe it’s no big deal are, in my opinion, driven by fear. They are afraid to entertain the idea that it IS a big deal, or could be if we don’t meet if head on, and they practice a little self-soothing by playing the all-American blame game.

There will be a day that where this came from; lab, bat, pangolin, terrorists, is unearthed. That who reacted badly, slowly, too quickly, along party lines, WHATEVER, matters. But it doesn’t matter now. while you climb the walls in your house and lament your lack of freedom there are those that simply wish they were free to be with their loved one at their death, to not be intubated and hooked to a machine…alone. They would love to be in their house and I’m sure would be happy to spend any amount of time there at this point. Tell me the numbers are small, but if you lose a loved one that is the only number that matters. Tell me it’s an overreaction, but we won’t know for years what the total of casualties would have been without the reaction that happened.

I have stepped away from social media and any regular mainstream news. I stop in to check on family and friends briefly each day, and I read daily news articles in moderation, but there is no desire to immerse myself in the insanity. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, as I am to mine, and no one opinion is more important than any other. But as many beat themselves against the porch light screaming how ‘right’ they are, like it matters, I hope you can listen to yourselves, really listen, and ask yourself if you are helping or adding to the problem. I will save my thoughts for family members working in law enforcement and in the local ER’s and wish for their safety, as well as that of my other family and friends.

As one who writes for many reasons, one of which is to work out things weighing on my mind, I would hope my words could cause people to stop and think; not to agree, just to consider other points of view. Predictably, I believe that is too ambitious in a world where anger is the emotion of choice.

Most of us have heard the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” True, while they don’t harm me there are some words and phrases that can send me to the brink. I am looking for any brain activity which does not include the words ‘election’ or ‘Coronavirus’, so though my list is long I will only list my Top 5.

Fair warning…this is a personal list and as a reader you are not required to agree though I’d bet you have a few of your own.

5. irregardless – OK, in my world this isn’t even a word at all though some publications beg to differ. Using the word ‘regardless’ will suffice. “Regardless of the consequences, the driver topped speeds of 100 mph.” See…it works!

4. Sorry, not sorry – It would seem that for many being edgy is everything and this seems to be the edgy way to allow yourself to say and do anything to anyone, simply considering yourself a truth teller instead of a rude SOB. If you feel the need to apologize (sorry) for what you said, or not (not sorry) maybe you need to keep your mouth closed and stop being a rude SOB. #sorrynotsorry

3. fixin’s – no one who has ever made my acquaintance would use the word “cutesy” to describe me and I think the term fixin’s is just too cute for me. Things are explained as having ‘all the fixin’s’, but as fixin’s can be anything it just isn’t possible to have all of them, is it? There can always be more and let’s face it, since we are not all Aunt Bee is this really an appropriate term?

2. diva – this takes sorry, not sorry to ridiculous extremes. Not only do you want to say or do anything to anyone, AT NO TIME are you sorry. You are an entitled, rude human that delights in making it as difficult to get along with and be around you as you can. Then you give your bad behavior a name to suggest you occupy a pedestal the rest of us don’t…or can’t. Nice try, but call yourself a diva and I will see you for what you are.

And the winner is…1. triggered – this is the most overused, exaggerated buzzword of today. While there is an actual meaning relating to PTSD, anxiety and some mental disorders it is now is used everywhere by everyone. Go to any news service and see headlines like; “How The Whistleblower Triggered Impeachment”, “…Crash Triggered By Insect Bite”, “911 call Triggered Search”. Substitute ’caused’ for triggered and you have the same story but it is not nearly as dramatic and we are nothing right now if not dramatic. If you don’t believe me, I refer you to my earlier comments regarding the terms election and Coronavirus.

When I was a child there was a book titled Fun with Dick and Jane. It was a reading primer and as recalled by my admittedly warped-by-time brain a sort of introduction to behavior and interaction. Well, fast forward to February 4th, 2020, and we have our new version starring Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. Their behavior, each of them, prior to and during the State of the Union speech shouldn’t make anyone proud, yet take to the airwaves today and clearly it did. But I am not here to dissect bad behavior, at least that displayed by our politicians, I am instead writing about us and it’s not a flattering picture.

With each passing day, culminating with last night’s idiocy, I am alternately saddened, angered, appalled and disgusted by the behavior of my fellow citizens. They take to social media in droves decrying “them” while smugly celebrating the superiority of “us”. They belittle, insult, humiliate and unfriend those disagreeing even though last week they were ‘bonding’ over a great jumping round at the Desert circuit.

And it all takes a predictable turn no matter the issue du jour; opinions are stated, said opinion disagreed with, outrage at stupidity of those disagreeing, bad behavior judged on a sliding scale of what is worse (totally subjective of course). This degrades to vicious personal comments, lamentations that the sky is surely falling and when all else fails, public ‘outing’ of bad spelling. I can only assume the latter is designed to prove to the remaining readers some concrete proof of the stupidity of the dissenter.

My question is why any of us are allowing the behavior of those out of touch people in the executive and legislative branches that care far more about their own agendas and advancement than they care about any of us to bring us to this pathetic place. Don’t tell me it’s them; look at yourselves, look at the complete lack of civility and manners on display every day. Has this helped? Rudeness is decried by more rudeness, hatred and divisiveness is admonished by additional hatred. Why can’t we see it? Why can’t we stop it? And can one person answer that without blaming a person, a group of people or a platform?

Are any of you proud of any of this? God, I hope not. I recently saw a comment by someone that said while others were looking to find a bigger house or more room for entertaining all she planned for her home renovation was a crocodile and a moat. I feel today is the day to rent the backhoe and start shopping for that crocodile.

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

It has crossed my mind yet again this Christmas season how lucky the children of my generation were; before smartphones, Alexa, Siri, email, and all the other myriad of devices that separate us from one another. They can all be great, of course, but for every check mark in the plus column there is the certain knowledge that we are losing the human connection that has always been a hallmark of our society.

My mother loved the holiday season and she transferred that love to me, Every overachieving, detail-oriented gesture I now possess came from watching her do Christmas. Mom was an amazing “gifter”. She always seemed to know the perfect gift and it was always delivered in wrapping and ribbon as spectacular as could be. But the gifting was not her real legacy; it was what she created with her efforts.

I never heard my mother claim she was too busy; she baked, shopped, wrote letters, decorated not only our house but my grandmother’s, and topped it off hosting the neighborhood for a cocktail party on Christmas afternoon. She worked herself to the bone, by choice, and I know sometimes she set her own bar quite high. However, she never uttered a negative word. When she visited an elderly friend she behaved as if she had all the time in the world to catch up. When I wanted to help her bake cookies she let me though she could have finished the task in half the time without me. On a shelf near our front door there were always five or six small wrapped packages, generic, but there because she believed no one should come to the house and not feel as if they were expected, even if they weren’t, and above all to make them feel welcome.

You see, she got it. She knew to tell someone how busy she was when she arrived for a visit was the same as telling them, ‘I’m here because I have to be, not because I want to be.’ She floated through the Christmas season assuring everyone knew they mattered, that they were treasured, whether family or friends. She was as busy as everyone else, but she kept it to herself.

Of course, the world has changed and it is not my suggestion that everyone put pressure on themselves to do more than they are able; this is not about becoming the next Christmas wunderkind. In fact, it is not singularly about Christmas. But I ask you to consider the wisdom of Ms. Angelou’s words; ‘they will remember how you made them feel’.

The time to let people know what they mean to you is now. It has little impact after you’re gone. Whether you share a gift, your wisdom, your time, or your heart…be all in. Each of us has the power to be a positive in another’s life and it can take as little or as much time as you have to spend. It will never, however, happen electronically or with your face in your phone. We are steadily losing the largest power we have available to us; the power of human connection. I hope you can use your power this holiday season and throughout the year, to ensure someone remembers how wonderful you made them feel. Merry Christmas!

Last week the equestrian world blew up with the news that a once shining star of the sport had taken his life. He was under investigation by the newly formed (2 years ago) US Center for Safe Sport for allegations of sexual misconduct and his friends say he was broke, reputation ruined, and had nowhere to turn in his effort to clear his name. I am not writing this for “that” debate. I am far from qualified to speculate on either his mindset or the truth or extent of the allegations against him. I only offer this as a basis for the following.

This is not the first time I have taken on the subject of Safe Sport. The Center came to be, based on the Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 which was signed into law in 2018. At it’s heart, in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar/USA Gymnastics debacle it is designed to make sure the NGBs (National Governing Bodies) of Olympic disciplines do everything in their power to protect youth in sports from physical, mental and sexual abuse which includes bullying, threats and shaming. So what’s the problem you ask?

So far, no problem. Everyone can agree that children’s safety, in sport or out, is paramount. Safe Sport seems to be doing a good job at the education and training part of their mission. It is the resolution program where I part ways with them. It is my opinion that they have a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ mentality and they hide behind the reasoning that they are not subject to the same due process tenets because they are a private, non-profit. They have no transparency and by that, I do not suggest they release names of those coming forward with claims of abuse. I do, however, suggest that they not publish the names of the accused on their website until a resolution has been reached. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the names are published before any in-depth investigation.

I have been quite vocal in my opinions though I have never addressed the guilt or innocence of an accused, the validity or lack thereof of an accuser, nor am I interested in the names of the accusers. Again, I am neither qualified to determine guilt or innocence nor is it any of my business who these people are. My argument is with the policy and it seemed fairly simple to me that to exercise my right to abide by a current law while working to amend or change it was purely within my rights…HA! You see, this debate suffers from what every debate in our country currently suffers from; irrationality.

There is a popular forum on a magazine website for equestrians. Those in lockstep with Safe Sport are up in arms with those who don’t agree. They have been rallying each other to screen shot comments from other social media outlets with the names and comments from those with a differing opinion and forward them to Safe Sport and the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation). Sorry to burst your bubble kids, but I have already written letters voicing my opinions to the USEF and the twenty-nine senators who sponsored or co-sponsored the Safe Sport Act…signed ’em too. So your attempts to ‘out’ me and those others who disagree as “supporters of abuse” and “just scared because we are afraid we are next” is comical. Oh, by the way, I used my actual name in my communications instead of a cutesy screen name for your anonymity on the forum.

These same forum groupies have begun a list of those that have donated to a GoFundMe page for the family of the man mentioned above. Evidently support for someone’s family is also considered by them to be support of sexual abuse. You guys ever hear of Joseph McCarthy? Well, he had this list of people that didn’t agree with him, and…well, you should Google it.

Finally, I have been accused of victim shaming. I want to amend policy, not abolish, and I am victim shaming. Now I know amend and abolish both start with “a” but I can assure you that’s where the similarity ends. I want to have a debate over the policies of an organization in existence for less than two years and I am victim shaming. I never suggested any person coming forward with a claim of abuse didn’t have a right to speak and be heard and I am victim shaming..

Well, herein lies the problem. I, and others, have a differing opinion on this important and complicated subject. Instead of a dialogue, those of you that stand steadfastly with Safe Sport against bullying and threatening take my words and send them to the USEF and Safe Sport; to do what I’m sure I don’t know but you hope the idea of it scares me and makes me stop. Those of you standing against shaming want to publish the names of those disagreeing with you to, I’m guessing, make them ashamed of their actions. Anyone seeing a pattern? No? Oh my…