The California State Fair is returning after a three year Covid hiatus.  I have long been a participant in the fair, sometimes as a 4-H parent, an entrant in the baking competitions, and as part of the California Authors Booth.   The return of the Fair has resurrected many memories; one in particular I feel the need to tell again…this time in an abridged version.

Many more years ago than I care to count, I found myself in the midst of yet another marathon day at the Fur and Feathers building at the California State Fair.  My daughter was waist deep in the 4-H Rabbit Show and though she was young enough that I needed to be present, she didn’t need me in the middle of it all.  The building was hot and stuffy and I’d had enough of air filled with rabbit fur sticking to eyelashes, clothes, and well, just about everything.  I told my daughter I was going to stroll around the other exhibit buildings clustered in the area and made sure another friend and fellow 4-H parent would keep an eye out.

I strolled through the Hall of Flowers and the Industrial Arts Building but soon found myself inside the building housing the food competitions.  The judging was already in progress so I quietly took a seat and tried to figure out what was going on.  The ins and outs of the judging process are only pertinent to this story as they related to my subjects.  This is the story of, as I named them, Aint Bee #1 and Aint Bee #2.

As an aside, I remember watching The Andy Griffith Show as a kid.  Aunt Bee, who with Andy’s pronounced accent became Aint Bee, was Andy’s aunt and the small-town, woman-of-the-heartland that cleaned, sewed, and cooked up a mess of the best food anyone has ever had.  Therefore my story’s protagonists had to carry on the name.

The food judging is arranged solely by entry number; there is no identification of any sort allowed on the items entered nor is anyone allowed to speak up and identify themselves as the maker.  In a short amount of time, however, it became quite clear to me which items had been created by Aint Bee #1 and Aint Bee #2.  As items were carried from the storage room to the judges, when a particular item made an appearance Bees #1 or #2 would puff up like peacocks and assume an almost imperceptible air of smugness.  It was clear to me they saw themselves as the matriarchs of this thing; the ones to beat, a force to be reckoned with and to their way of thinking, every other competitor was simply an also ran.  It was also abundantly clear that Bees #1 and #2 held the same opinion of each other that they held of the rest of the field.  There was obviously no love lost between the Bees.

The category being judged at my inaugural exposure to the Bees was Muffins.  The judges wear wireless headsets so the audience can hear their comments, good and bad, as well as the final score given on each item.  From their vantage points on the far left and far right of the spectator seating (because obviously their loathing of each other precluded any close proximity) Bees #1 and #2 smiled empathetically, nodded knowingly, and tut-tutted as the offering of other competitors came before the judges.

The first round was judged by what is called the Danish System, whereby any entry scoring 90 or above received a blue ribbon, 80-89, a second, and so on.  After the first round, all the outstanding entries returned for Best of Class, Best of Division and Best of Show placement.  It was evident the Bees believed this first round of Danish scoring was a formality; their blue ribbons a forgone conclusion.  But that is where things went horribly wrong…at least for Bee #2.

Bee #1’s entry in the Muffin class had already been brought forth and given a score of 100. (I never said these ladies couldn’t bake.)  The 100 meant that Bee #1’s muffins would advance to the “best of” rounds and though you could see the consternation on the face of Bee #2, there was also a steely look of determination in her eyes that said she knew she was up to receiving the same score and hence furthering the rivalry.

We in the audience had escaped disaster when, upon hearing her 100 score, Bee #1’s blouse buttons, already strained beyond the normal laws of physics, threated to break free and fly throughout the exhibit hall as she swelled with pride.  Against all odds, they held.

But now there was a stirring on Bee #2’s side of the room as from the back, her entry of Blueberry Muffins appeared.  The rules have changed since but these were the days of presentation…presentation…presentation.  Almost as much time was spent on the display as was spent baking the entry.  Bee #2 didn’t disappoint.  I could only assume she thought the All-American theme was perfect as the muffins were placed in front of the judge in a lovely basket draped with a red, white and blue cloth.  The handle of the basket sported a large red white and blue bow and tucked around the edges of the basket were red, white and blue Mylar picks resembling fireworks.

Almost instantly as the basket was placed in front of the judge, he looked down and said immediately, “I can’t judge this.”  He turned to the scribe recording all his utterances on the score sheet and said, “Disqualified.”

Bee #2’s side of the room sat in stunned silence while Bee #1 looked ready to dance like Mrs. Doubtfire with a vacuum cleaner.  The judge elaborated on his decision for the audience.  It seemed along with the other decorations Bee #2 had included red, white and blue Mylar confetti.  She had sprinkled it about the cloth but in the handling, it had migrated to some of the muffins.  The rules are quite explicit that the food be free of foreign objects; hair, bugs, and as it turns out, Mylar confetti.  Bee #2 was bereft and I have to admit returning to the Fur and Feathers building shortly after the turn of events that were either disastrous or fantastic depending on which Bee you happened to be(e) was necessary before I began to laugh uncontrollably and couldn’t stop.

In the succeeding several decades I have entered some of my own baking and had my share of winners, also-rans, and even a Best of Show.  I don’t stay for the judging and usually read the results online, so I’ve yet to identify newer versions of the Bees. I am. however, confident they are there.  As to the original Bees #1 and #2, they were still present and ‘battling to the death’ for the first few years I competed but now are long gone.  I only hope through all the drama they were able to gain some enjoyment from the process because I thoroughly enjoyed watching them.

Many times in the last six months I have found the words, “Don’t be that person”, being spoken by me to others or even as a reminder to myself; 99% of me believed this was the correct philosophy in life.  But recently, things have not seemed nearly as clear-cut as they once did.

I am a black and white kind of girl.  I am the most happy when things are either one way or the other; when a particular circumstance always calls for the same response, when a certain behavior yields predictable reactions.  But more so every day, it seems this is not the case.

I like to think of myself as kind…I try to BE kind.  Increasingly though, in many instances kindness has proven to be just a synonym for “doormat”.  Those wishing to impose their will, or opinions, or behaviors on others see kindness as a sort of acquiescence; the exposure of a tender underbelly serving as invitation for the attempt at crushing dominance.

But we are told to “turn the other cheek”, we are told “don’t be that person”.  We are conditioned to walk away and in truth, all of that works quite well if you are talking about a complete stranger or even a casual acquaintance.  Here, however, is where the water begins to muddy.  When the person who hurt you or someone you love is a close friend or a family member what do you do?

I find those that have it in them to hurt others have always had it in them; that these incidents are usually not isolated.  So, do we kill the offenders with kindness?  Turn the other cheek?  Better individuals than I could do that but I am not equipped.  I have come to the conclusion that to do that to the most egregious transgressors is to present them with a silver tray containing an invitation to continue to behave badly.  It’s what they want; control, dominance, chaos.  And they want more, they want conflict, confrontation and anger.  They feed on it, they grow stronger with it while giving themselves permission to play victim.

Then do we give it back to them tenfold, this vehemence, hostility and passive-aggression?  Do we try to double-down on the hurtfulness to teach them a lesson about how to treat others? No.  They don’t care who they hurt, it was the goal all along.  The solution is to do nothing but one soul-saving thing.  You see, people who behave badly, who see the world as revolving around their personal axis, will never learn anything no matter how adept the teacher.  They have found great satisfaction in the way their world currently turns.

The solution is to have no reaction, to ignore them both figuratively and literally and remove all trace of them from your life.  Don’t be kind, don’t be forgiving, don’t be understanding…don’t be anything.  For those of us that consider the feelings of others this is a daunting task as we see even the “baddest actors” as having enough redeeming qualities that we don’t wish to hurt them as we have been hurt…but they don’t.  At least they don’t as it pertains to us.  They have already made clear which rung of the ladder we occupy in their life and often it turns out we haven’t left the ground.

At that realization it is time to fade away.  Bestow your kindness on those who understand and appreciate it rather than those who use your good nature against you.  They don’t get it…they will never get it and they will see to it that whatever bad feelings they glean from your departure are your fault; they will bear no responsibility no matter what.  But in the end you will keep your dignity and will have taken with you the one thing they can’t abide losing, their power over you, real or perceived.

I will continue to always try to be kind, to be helpful, to see the big picture in life, but to be cruel, rude, or hurtful to me or the ones I love is a deal-breaker for me.  A doormat?  I am not THAT person.

 

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.