Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Truly horrible behavior’ Category

Five-Year Anniversary of Pulse Nightclub Shooting…#LGBTQ

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Folks, I can’t let today go by without a mention of one of the most disgusting, disgraceful, and straight-up awful actions of the last five years. (Those years being full of such actions, mind you…but I digress.)

Five years ago today, forty-nine people in Orlando, FL, lost their lives while dancing and drinking at the Pulse Nightclub. They weren’t doing anything wrong. They were just out for a night on the town.

And a shooter murdered them out of hand, for no reason at all.

Edited to add: My first version of this blog post said the shooter hated #LGBTQ people. A friend sent me a link to this website, which shows the shooter was more interested in killing any Americans than he was about killing any #LGBTQ people. He also abused his wife physically and cheated on her, so overall he was a terrible individual. This makes his actions no less painful, unfortunately.

Back to the original blog post, already in progress:

However, I wanted to remind you of something else. The rise of human decency after the terrible shooting was something to behold.

I tried to depict this in my book, CHANGING FACES. A memorial walk for the folks who died at the Pulse Nightclub is the last major scene in the novel. My transgender characters Allen and Elaine, plus the others on that walk lived and walked in Lincoln, NE. This was done for a reason, mind.

Lincoln, you see, isn’t exactly the gay-rights capital of the world. But it is learning, and growing, and changing, just as the rest of us are. And there really was a walk there in memoriam for the innocents killed at the Pulse Nightclub, from what I remember…just as there were many other walks in many other places throughout the United States and the world.

Though it’s five years later, I continue to mourn the innocents who died at the Pulse Nightclub. But as one of the survivors said recently on CNN, “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

I don’t know what the answers are, mind you. I only know the questions.

So, here are those questions.

For the shooter himself, who’s now dead (so I can’t ask him these questions): Why were you so intent on killing innocent people? What is wrong with you that you thought hate was stronger than love? Why didn’t you get mental health treatment before it was too late?

To those who hate LGBTQ people on principle who have somehow found this blog, I want to ask this: “Why do you feel so superior? Why do you feel you’re any different than anyone else? Why do you feel like you should make your viewpoint the only viewpoint? Why can’t you live, learn, and grow like everyone else? Why must you kill what you do not understand?”

We need to stop hating people just for the sake of whatever label they fall under. Whether they’re LGBTQ, Wiccan, conservative Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever, we need to stop the hate.

I just don’t know how to say it any better.

But if anyone has any ideas on how we can learn how to stop the hate, please chime in. I’m all ears.

———-

Even though this particular shooter wasn’t specifically looking for LGBTQ people (I believe the HuffPost article, along with several others I found after looking including one by NPR and another by the New Yorker), he was a horrible person and he did way too much wrong.

That this shooter’s widow was persecuted afterward was flat-out wrong, too. She had nothing to do with any of that. (I thought that at the time, too, but I didn’t say so. Bad me.)

Seems like there’s a whole lot of wrong in this example, with no good answers. (I am glad the shooter’s widow was acquitted, in case anyone is in doubt.)

The important thing now is, how do we stop the hate?

Last Week’s Insurrection Attempt in Washington, DC, Continues to Trouble Me

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I’m still trying to comprehend the events of the last week-plus in Washington, DC. I never thought I’d see anything like that in the United States. 

I just do not understand how so many people could go inside the Capitol building, riot, deface and vandalize things, in addition to building nooses outside and apparently wanting to kill the VP, the Speaker of the House, and perhaps anyone else they could get their hands on.

How can otherwise reasonable people do such terrible things?

Because while there were many in that mob that were not reasonable, and had intended from the get-go to do awful things (thus the zip ties, the makeshift battering ram, the rappelling equipment, etc.), there were still quite a few people caught up in the mob that probably had never intended to do anything like that in their lives.

And I just don’t get it.

To those who honestly believe the 2020 election was stolen, I urge you to get the facts. Look at what the judges — many Republican appointees, including a good number of Trump appointees — have said about the various challenges. Look at the actual briefs of the lawsuits that were thrown out. And then ask yourselves, how could so many Republicans down-ticket get elected if there was supposedly so much fraud?

And by “down-ticket,” I mean state legislatures as well as the US Senate and House of Representatives.

In Wisconsin, it was a close, tough vote, but Joe Biden prevailed. How do I know it wasn’t rigged? Because every single one of the Republican legislators in my area — which is purple, meaning it can be D some years and R some years — were re-elected. Every single last one.

I don’t know about you, but if I were going to rig an election, I’d want to throw all of the opposing party out. Not just one guy. But every single last one of them.

And if you’re saying something like this: “Barb, they were smart about their theft! They wouldn’t try to take everyone out! You’re being foolish!”

Well, my reply is this. I believe that many of the US Senators running for re-election had tough races, and obviously the Democrats wanted to take some seats. It looked like there would be quite a few Republican US Senators getting turfed out, but instead, most of the Republicans running for re-election (even in those tough races like Maine or Kansas or Iowa, to name three places where the Democrats thought they had an excellent shot to pick up a Senate seat) won their seats back.

I can’t believe that at least a few of those seats wouldn’t have had different results if there truly was a theft of the election.

Nor can I believe that in Wisconsin, a place that elected a liberal judge to the state Supreme Court in 2019, would return all but two Republicans to the Assembly (lower house), and have more Republican state Senators than Democratic state Senators, if there truly was fraud and theft going on.

So, either the fraud and theft here was so deftly done that I — someone who worked on a state judicial recount years ago — can’t detect it, or there was no fraud and theft.

Which means this: You, the angry Trump-supporting Republicans, are in the same place I was in 2016. I was frustrated, hurt, upset, angry, and didn’t know how Donald Trump could win an election. And right now, you are frustrated, hurt, upset, angry, and don’t know how Joe Biden could win.

I can’t tell you what to do about this, but I will tell you what I did. I made sure to vote. And I worked on campaigns — at least a few, now and again — for candidates I believed in. I called my Senators and Representatives to let them know what I thought, and was polite throughout. And I did my best to educate myself, so I could make informed choices as best I could.

In addition, over time, I have peacefully protested. I have worked on a state recall for the sitting Wisconsin governor. And as previously stated, I have participated in a statewide judicial recount.

I did these things because I felt they were important.

And after things didn’t go my way, what did I do? I continued to educate myself, vote, work for candidates I believed in, etc.

I certainly didn’t commit acts of violence. That thought never entered my mind, because it’s utterly wrong.

But you get the point by now, so I’ll leave you with this: The best way to overcome any obstacle is to work hard, keep your eye on the prize, and accept setbacks graciously.

Anything else is useless, pointless, and unnecessary.


Written by Barb Caffrey

January 14, 2021 at 1:41 pm

Refuse to Spread Vitriol

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Folks, the last few days have sorely tested my resolve to refuse to spread vitriol.

Why? Well, we had an officer-involved shooting less than ten miles from my home; worse yet, the officer shot a man who appeared to be unarmed seven times in the back. (Yes, I live not far from Kenosha, Wisconsin. And the videos of this horrific event are prevalent, so I will not link to them.) And worst of all, three of the unarmed man’s children witnessed this.

I have no words for expressing my frustration, my outrage, and my anger over all of this. I don’t understand it. I definitely don’t like it. And I wish very much that this hadn’t happened.

The only good thing about it is that so far, the man — Jacob Blake — is still alive after surgery. I pray he will have a full recovery, and that truth and justice will prevail in this matter.

Anyway, that’s not the only thing upsetting me (though that would be more than enough in a more “normal” year). But the Curse of 2020 lives on, and thus, we have to keep on going in a time that seems incomprehensible after so many bad things have happened in a short space of time.

Those bad things include:

  1. Covid-19.
  2. Shutdowns.
  3. So many murders of Black men and women, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, for what surely appear to be no justifiable reasons at all. (Black Lives Matter. Which you’d not know after all these shootings. But I digress.)

Then you add in the governmental dishonesty, the ridiculousness you see on television or the internet, and the naked partisanship that has divided friend from friend and hurt the United States as a country and the world at large, too…and it all adds up to a big, fat, smoking mess.

That said, we have to somehow refuse to add to it. Yes, demand justice be done. That is the bare minimum we as reasonably enlightened humans should insist upon. But do it through the rule of law. Peacefully.

For that matter, I want to add the following to the above: Find out the facts. Don’t just pop off and insist you’re right, la-la-la, and hear no evidence to the contrary. Learn, grow, change, develop into a better person, and try not to be an ass.

(Really, these things should be blindingly obvious. But apparently, they are not. So I am writing this blog, again, in the hopes that someone out there will realize things have got to change — for the better — and assumptions must be challenged along the way as I’ve said many times previously on this blog. But going on…)

I’m frustrated, too, by things I’ve seen closer to home.

For example, at the senior citizen housing place my mother lives at, one of the other residents was told to give up her dog — a big, goofy-looking, sweet and loving guy named Ollie. Ollie’s about fifty-five pounds, can be a little mischievous, but loves everyone. And his “crime,” which got him banished after three years of living with his owner, was that he got out one day and ran down the hall. He didn’t bark. He didn’t jump on anyone. He didn’t bite anyone. And he came when he was called by name.

Apparently, they have a “one strike and you’re out” policy at this place. And that worries me.

You see, right now with Covid, senior citizens are being told to stay indoors. Stay away from people. Don’t go out unless it’s essential. That means the love of a pet is even that more important.

Unfortunately, that is not what the apartment complex felt.

Ollie, who is over ten years old (though he doesn’t look or act it), had to be brought by his owner to her nearest relatives in Kentucky. By all accounts, both are miserable.

This happened despite a petition with over 80 names on it (in a complex that maybe holds 200 people) saying Ollie should stay. And despite the doctor’s note for the owner saying Ollie was essential to the owner’s mental health.

Nope. The apartment complex didn’t care. So poor Ollie and his owner are now separated, for what appears to be no reason at all.

This is nonsensical, ridiculous, and hurtful in the extreme to a poor, innocent animal and his poor, innocent owner. I have no words for how angry this makes me.

Otherwise, the heat and humidity and air quality where I live have all been bad again for about a week. This has not helped my mood any, either.

As I said, all of this has tempted my resolve not to spread vitriol.

But I’m still doing my best to avoid being a jackass, and help as many people as I can. I try to listen, learn, educate myself, and do the best I can to make the world a better place.

Some days, though, it seems much harder than others.

Do not give up the fight, though. I promise, I won’t, either. (And do say a prayer or think good thoughts for Ollie and his owner, will you?)

Why We Need Empathy Now, or, Why You Should Never, Never Punch Down

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Folks, I have been bemused — at best — by a complete and utter lack of empathy among many folks I know. I understand that tempers are frayed; we’ve already endured one lockdown and may have to endure another; the economy sucks; Covid-19 remains rampant in the U.S.; and no matter what we do, we can’t get away from these realities.

That puts a lot of stress on us, no lie.

But getting mad at grocery store clerks for having to enforce a mask mandate is stupid. Getting mad at someone who’s drawing unemployment because the U.S. government gave people under severe distress an extra $600 a week for several months is even more stupid. (Especially if you factor in the huge waits most of these folks had to get benefits they’d paid into. Unemployment insurance is not welfare. You pay into it when you’re working so you can get some help if you lose your job through no fault of your own. Losing your job due to the pandemic certainly qualifies.)

Getting mad at others because you, yourself, are up against it and hurting is very human. Yes, it is. But we are more than our basest impulses (or at least, we should be). And there are better people to be angry at than store clerks or medical personnel (many folks who can’t or won’t wear masks are angry at them, for some weird reason, as if they wanted Covid-19 about any more than the rest of us), and there are far better people to be angry at than the unemployed.

Simply put, if you are angry, you should turn that energy into something positive.

Here’s a few things to do:

Write to your Congressional delegation. Tell them what’s on your mind. Explain what you want them to do. And if you see them doing nothing, make sure you remember that when it comes time to vote.

Write to your doctors’ offices, if you can’t wear a mask due to PTSD or anxiety; explain that you do not want to hurt them or yourself, but you can’t wear a mask. Don’t stand on this pseudo-Libertarian argument that says, “Dammit, I have rights! I don’t want to wear a mask, and you have to see me anyway!” It’s a public health emergency, so no; they don’t. But you can get some help if you admit you have PTSD, severe anxiety or are so damned depressed you can’t handle the mask if you ask for that help, nine times out of ten. (The tenth time, you should write to whoever heads up the medical practice and complain to high Heaven.) Can’t they give you anti-anxiety meds before you are seen, so you can maybe get through the appointment without screaming?

And if you need surgery, and are again someone who can’t wear a mask — not just don’t want to, but can’t (as I don’t think any of us wants to wear masks, quite frankly; I’m asthmatic and I hate the damned things, but if they even give a scrap of protection to someone else I’m going to continue to wear the damned things because I don’t believe in hurting others to save myself) — please see the above.

And for the true Libertarians out there, I want you to consider this. I agree with you that you don’t have to wear masks. But if you don’t wear them, and a store requires it — which is something stores can do — don’t get mad at the clerks. (Yes, I’ve already said this, but it bears repeating.) Those folks don’t want to have enforce the stupid mask mandate any more than you want to be complaining about it.

The real problem, again, is Covid-19.

“But Barb,” you ask. “What’s this about punching down and needing empathy?”

Empathy is required to get through these exceptionally difficult times. We need to be kinder, not worse; we need to turn the other cheek more, not less. We need to remember that we’re all human. We’re all trying our best. We all are coping the best we can without running around and screaming, and need others to be as kind and gentle to us as we are to them.

The whole thing with punching down is, if you are angry with the people on unemployment for receiving extra money that they didn’t ask for but the government gave — why in the Hell are you mad at the people getting the unemployment rather than the government who offered them extra money during this time of unprecedented, multiple crises? (Mostly, again, due to Covid-19.)

These folks are hurting through no fault of their own. (See: Covid-19. Repeat as necessary.) You should not be angry at them. (And needless to say, you are not showing any empathy, are you, if you’re getting mad at people who’ve lost their jobs due to a pandemic drawing unemployment to feed their families and pay their bills?)

Be angry at Covid-19, if you must. (Not that it’ll care; it’s a virus. But still.) Be angry at the government for not preparing better for all of this.

Hell, be angry at the young adults acting like they’re immortal and partying on the seashore without masks and certainly without any social distancing. They’re a big part of why Covid-19 just won’t die in the United States, OK?

But don’t get angry at folks who need help. Don’t get angry with the doctors, even though a lot of what they do and say is frustrating. Don’t get upset at the people just trying to do their jobs without getting sick and perhaps dying, because for some folks, Covid-19 is more deadly than others (and they still don’t know why).

Channel your anger into something productive instead. Or better yet, try to understand why others are hurting, and do something, anything, to alleviate that hurt.

We must rise to the occasion and become better people. That’s the only way we can triumph over adversity that has any meaning and worth at all.

And remember: we need empathy. We need it now. We need it worse than we’ve ever needed it before. So be empathetic, and do your damndest to help others.

In short: Stop punching down. Lift others up, instead.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 2, 2020 at 10:57 pm

Crossroads and Current Events

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There are times in life you know you’re at a crossroads.

For me, the most recent one was when my late husband Michael proposed to me. I’d been burned in two previous marriages, so taking that leap of faith again was hard. I did, though, because Michael was the best person I’d ever known — and I was right to take that leap of faith.

But there were others, and most of them had nothing to do with relationships.

For example, when I was in graduate school, I had the opportunity — or at least the desire — to transfer into the journalism school. I didn’t do it, because I didn’t want to start all over again with a new program. And I worried that my student loan debt — already formidable — would get even worse if I started a new program midstream.

I think I did the right thing to stay in the program I was already in, mind. But there were a few months where I wondered, “Am I doing the right thing? Would I be better off in the J-School?”

Anyway, the crossroads I sense now is different than both, but has elements of both. I need to take a leap of faith, and I need to trust that I’m already on the right course even if it doesn’t feel that way.

But perhaps I need to take a step back, and explain what the Hell I’m talking about. (Especially as this post is titled “Crossroads and Current Events.”)

I realized earlier this evening that over the past year, I’ve written mostly inspirational posts. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s not what I would prefer to be talking about, and yet…it seems almost like I’m shying away from the stuff that’s more controversial, or difficult, or noteworthy, because to put myself out there in such a way requires more energy than I have some days.

For example, I am frustrated at what I see in the news. Here are three stories that just have bugged me, over the past couple of weeks:

  • Some people from the Bahamas lost everything, including their passports. But the US isn’t letting them in, even though there’s an agreement with the Bahamian government to help in times of crisis or tragedy.  Refusing to help an ally is not a good look for the United States in the first place; refusing to help an ally when they’ve endured a life-threatening event like a severe hurricane is unChristian and uncivilized.
  • There’s a policy from the Trump Administration that’s awful, and it has to do with children — some on legal visas from the get-go, some allowed in for humanitarian reasons — who have been told to leave the country. Even if their home country does not have the life-saving treatments these folks need, the Trump Administration does not care. Again, this is unChristian, and uncivilized; it makes the people of the US look like fools, that we’d have “leaders” like this putting sick children out of the country for no good reason.
  • Finally, I am appalled at the story having to do with the Air Force being told to refuel and rest at Turnberry in Scotland, all because POTUS Donald Trump has a hotel there that needs business. This is not the policy of the Air Force, nor of any of the Armed Forces; they usually — rightfully — go to military bases to refuel (and rest, if needed). This is the cheapest way, and it is the safest way. It also doesn’t financially enrich the sitting President of the United States, and since we have a Constitution that forbids such things, we should follow it. Or admit that the Constitution has no meaning in the 21st Century.

So, these are the three burning issues that have vexed me for the past week. But there have been others.

Why am I telling you about them now, though? It’s simple. My crossroad here is, “Do you want to be silenced, or do you want to be yourself?”

As I’m not interested in being silenced, I am going to be myself. I’ll still pick my spots to chime in, because I do have to save my energy for other things (or I’ll never get back to writing fiction).

So, my leap of faith tonight was to tell you what’s bugging me.  I hope you understand why I pointed out these three horrible issues.

As for my friends on the right, I pray they will understand my disgust and anger even if they (for some reason) don’t share it. (Personally, I would hope refugees needing help, kids being sick needing to stay in the country rather than being forced to go home to die, and the Air Force putting in at military bases to refuel are things we can all agree on. But in case I’m wrong, be civil in your disagreement.)

 

 

How You Treat Cashiers Says A Lot About You…(A Rant)

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I decided to write this, to explain what I saw, as an exercise in narrative framing…and I hope it will make sense to all of you.

Folks, I was out shopping a few days ago, laying in supplies for myself and my Mom due to the incoming snowstorm. And I witnessed a terrible man lighting into a cashier for no reason at all…so I thought I might talk about this, and why it showed so much of this man’s negative personality.

First, it was busy in the store. The shelves were bare in some places. It was cold outside, we were anticipating snow in the next six to eight hours, and most folks with any planning sense at all were in the store. Which means the cashiers were overworked, harried, and tired.

How do I know this? I’m a former cashier. I also have some common sense. And I know that if you’ve been dealing with a lot of people with big orders for hours, you are tired, you are stressed, and you haven’t had any down time to even grouse to fellow cashiers about how cold the weather is, how worried you are that your car won’t start, or that you won’t make it home until the storm is well underway.

But you can’t help but think this. You do what you can to shove it away, and give the best customer service you can. You tell yourself that no one can control the weather, and that it’s not your fault all these people are cranky (oft-times, crankier than you are), and you do your best to be ultra-polite and get them out of the store as fast as you can.

Anyway, I was in line, paying for a large amount of groceries (especially by my standards), and heard a man behind me yelling at a cashier in the next lane over. (I turned to get a description. He was fortyish, with graying-brown hair, rather short, with a combative expression.) He’d just asked her if anyone had called in sick; she said no, and had turned her light off as she was about to go home. (I know this because the manager had just been over telling her to go home a minute or so prior.) He apparently took great exception to this, and started yelling at her about her “unprofessional behavior,” “bad attitude,” and suchlike. All he did was rant at this poor young woman, who did nothing wrong, and then insisted that a manager be called. All delaying her in going home, and souring her experience of working hard and well during a difficult day.

This guy had no reason at all to do this. She had tried to de-escalate the situation after he started yelling, asking if there was anything she could do. He said he wanted a manager, and he kept yelling and making an ass out of himself.

Look. I know it’s frustrating when the weather is bad, and you’re worried about driving, and you have kids (he had two, I think), and maybe you couldn’t find everything you needed. But yelling at a cashier who did nothing wrong says more about you than it does about her.

And none of it — none — is flattering.

As I am a former cashier, I decided to stick around and talk with the folks at the service desk to give them a better idea of what had happened. I didn’t have to do this. But I didn’t want them thinking this young woman had done anything wrong. (She was probably under twenty.)

I wanted to give that angry man a piece of my mind. But by the time I got out of my line, he was already with the manager. Then he stormed out, his kids in tow…there was no point to engaging with him, not under those circumstances.

Had he not been the final person in this cashier’s line, and had I been behind him, I might’ve asked him why he was getting all upset over nothing. (Then again, I might’ve just waited and then told the cashier she did nothing wrong, and that I was sorry she had to put up with asinine people like that.)

But he was. And he behaved very badly, so badly that he gave his two kids a lesson in bullying. Not to mention rudeness, completely misunderstanding the situation, and a show of just how obnoxious this particular individual can be on any given day.

I did what I could to repair the situation for the cashier. (She’d already gone home by then, or at least was counting her drawer somewhere I couldn’t see her.) But I don’t know how many other patrons would do that.

So I am here to ask you: If you are in a bad mood, please do not take it out on an innocent person like a cashier. Do not make a spectacle of yourself in public, and give bad examples for your kids (or other people’s kids).

And if you have a legitimate beef, be calm. Be courteous. Be respectful. Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

That’s the only way to be an adult. And don’t you want to be one? Especially if you have two kids looking up to you, trying to learn decent behavior from you?

Finally, I will tell you this: Any guy who behaves like this to a blameless cashier is not one I want to spend any time with whatsoever. Period.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 29, 2019 at 1:36 am

Tiredness, Writing, and Two Quick Comments on Recent Events

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I figured I’d give you a quick health update, for those of you keeping score at home. (Someone must, after all.) I’m a lot better than I was three weeks ago. I’m back to editing on a more or less normal schedule, and I can and have resumed most daily activities, with some caution. I can do more than one thing a day now, which is very good; I can also do some more extended/difficult things, like shopping for an hour-plus (always hard for me to do, considering I walk with a cane and have some back issues), without making things any worse.

That said, the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) is not gone by any means. It’s just a lot better, that’s all. Not quite down to a simple respiratory ailment (or even a capitalized Respiratory Ailment, which must be worse, right?), but still enough to get in the way if I don’t keep a running calculation of how much energy I have on any given day — and how much I can, in all actuality, do.

I’ve had some folks in the past ask me why I’m so open about my health. Mostly, I think someone out there may need to know that he or she is not alone; maybe they’re dealing with health issues, too. Or maybe they’re frustrated because they’ve been sick for weeks, and they wonder if there’s any daylight on the other side, because it’s been so long since they felt halfway decent, they can hardly remember when that was.

And I know I would’ve liked to find a blog like this when I felt my worst.

It’s because of the health issues and only because of the health issues that I didn’t blog at the time about two very big stories that upset me greatly. The first was the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh; the victims were older folks, and all except for one were there to delight in the glory of God. (That last, a doctor, rushed to the scene when he heard gunfire, and was shot dead with the rest.) And the second was the unwarranted and vicious murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia; this last is compounded by the problem that the United States has not taken the lead on this despite Khashoggi being a permanent resident of the U.S. at the time. Instead, Turkey has been the one to find out the most details, and to do the most pressing on the international stage to get justice for an innocent man.

Both are horrible tragedies, and are hard even now for me to write about because I hurt so badly when I think about them. I don’t understand how a bunch of innocent people in a synagogue could be shot to death (and a doctor, rushing to help, too); I don’t understand how a writer who advocated for peace in the Middle East and for greater transparency and for the freedom of the press to do their jobs could be dismembered without the formal representatives of the country he was living in at the time, the United States (read: the State Department, the President of the U.S., the Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, etc.), being outraged.

I am outraged by both.

So while I’m very slow off the mark to write about either thing, I wanted you all to know that I did see these stories. I was saddened greatly by them. And I hope there will be justice for the victims, because what happened to all of them should not have ever occurred.

It’s hard to heal when you see such devastating things as this. But I will continue to do whatever I can to get healthier, so I can perhaps write blogs in a timely manner when I am upset, outraged, or better yet, really happy over something going on. (Hey, it could happen.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 3, 2018 at 2:38 am

Why Can’t We Communicate?

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been quite frustrated, I will admit.

It seems like the world has forgotten how to communicate. Left can’t talk with right, centrists like me trying to find common ground are ostracized, and it seems impossible to just talk with someone — even with the assumption we’ll disagree about nearly everything, but civilly — most of the time.

I don’t know why we can’t communicate. And it bothers me.**

The cultural assumption in the United States used to be that anyone could say anything (except yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, of course), and we’d agree they could do this. So long as people were peacefully protesting, that was just fine.

That’s what we are supposed to be about, in America. Free speech, yes, and peaceful protests, yes.

But we’re now looking at a scenario I’d never envisioned.

Instead of people agreeing to disagree, we’re mostly staying in crisis mode and assuming our neighbors will hate us unless they agree with us in every respect. (Which, by the way, is impossible, but I digress.) And the threat of violence seems so large, even the current President of the US has talked about it — though mostly in his terms, and because he seems afraid he will lose his grip on the power he has.

I live in a “purple” state. We are split down the middle, more or less, between people on the left and people on the right. Centrists, who just want to get the potholes filled and work out the remaining problems civilly and non-violently, are present, but keeping their heads low ’cause centrists are the only ones who get yelled at by all.

(“Blessed be the peacemakers,” indeed. But again, I digress.)

So, if there’s going to be violence if one side or the other doesn’t get their way, my home state of Wisconsin seems a likely target.

I don’t have any answers, mind you. But I do at least know what the right questions are, and the first one, as I said before, is “Why can’t we communicate?” Learning how to civilly disagree, without violence, used to be the first thing people learned, after all. So why is it that we can’t seem to remember that now?

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**I do hope that people will stop getting so upset that they can’t even talk with their neighbors and/or friends about the things that matter. Politically, you can disagree with someone, but that doesn’t mean personally, morally, spiritually, or ethically that you disagree…and yet, we’ve become so tribally oriented for some reason, it seems like if you disagree at all, you’re just a non-person.

I find that so upsetting, I don’t have words to describe it. Thus this post.

Yes, We Need Freedom of the Press

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Folks, today is a day for action. As a writer, I feel it’s important to let you know that hundreds of newspapers have written and published editorials about the importance of the freedom of the press, due to constant verbal battering by President Donald J. Trump calling any news he dislikes “fake news.” (If you want to know more about it, take a look at the New York Times editorial from today, and then click on a few of the associated publications that are listed. And those aren’t all of them; those are just the ones the Times knows about, as far as I can tell.)

See, the 45th President of the United States complains that all news is fake. Or at least all news that he doesn’t like must be fake. And he constantly proclaims this from the highest mountaintop, letting everyone know he hates the press, he hates everything they say (unless they fawn over him, of course, as they often do on Fox News’ morning programs), and that supposedly the press is “the enemy of the people.”

Um, no, Mr. President. They aren’t.

As a writer, I want you to know where I stand on this.

We need the First Amendment to hold, and as such, we absolutely must have freedom of the press to operate as they will, to find out what they can, and to hold the powerful accountable. (Is that emphatic enough? Do I need to add emojis? GIFs? Frowny faces? Or will this do?)

(Moving on…)

I’ve written for a few newspapers in the past. (Two college papers, and freelance articles in a few other places, to be exact.) We took what we did seriously. We researched. We wrote. We edited. We checked our facts. And then we wrote and edited some more…yes, sometimes errors were still made, but we did our best to correct them. (Something President Trump doesn’t seem too worried about doing, if you ask me. But I digress.)

As today’s Kenosha News‘ editorial put it (this being the closest paper to me that’s taking part in the nationwide effort; my hometown paper, the Racine Journal-Times, did not, which shames me):

Presenting news that you disagree with is not “fake news.” We work hard to inform, serving as watchdogs of government and institutions, while also celebrating the good in the community. This has been going on for decades.

Absolutely correct. And without watchdogs, what would we learn except spin, spin, and more spin?

Here’s why we need the free press: They find stuff out everyone needs to know when the bigwigs in state, local, or federal government (or, perhaps, the very, very wealthy corporations) don’t want anyone to find out.

How would we have learned about big problems that led to the meltdown of Three Mile Island’s nuclear reactor without the press? (Wouldn’t the government have just spun everything, and said everything was fine?) How would we have learned about the Flint water crisis, and all the problems with the pipes, without the press? (Especially as the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, did his best to obfuscate and “happy talk” the problems away until they got so big, they had to be dealt with publicly? Not that they’re over by any stretch, but at least we know about them now.) How would we have known at all about the problems of Senator Joseph McCarthy (who was from Wisconsin), if not for the press? (Wouldn’t Senator McCarthy have continued his reign of terror, accusing people of being Communists willy-nilly, and ruining even more people’s lives, reputations, and livelihoods thereby?)

And those are just three examples. There are many more. (For my conservative friends, think about how Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky would’ve been covered up if there were no journalists. Linda Tripp could’ve spoken until she was blue in the face, but if there was no one to publish what she had to say, other than the folks in her limited circle, who else would’ve known?)

This is why I urge you to please remember that the press is not the “enemy of the people,” no matter who says it, no matter how many times that person says it.

And start thinking about why someone who holds the highest office in the US of A keeps nattering on about “enemies of the people,” hm? Because shouldn’t he have bigger fish to fry, like North Korea? Or better yet, trying to make sure hackers don’t shut down our power grid in the middle of winter?

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P.S. And yes, dammit, the Russia investigation needs to be fully investigated, if for no other reason than to find out once and for all what happened. We need to know.

And if nothing happened, well, we need to know that, too. (I wait for facts. But the way this President has behaved, including his atrocious behavior in Helsinki alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, makes me wonder just what he’s trying to hide. Surely I can’t be the only one?)

Why I Don’t Care About Josh Hader’s Teenage Tweets

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As most of you know, I am a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers. I love baseball, enjoy the Brewers, watch their games, sometimes write blogs about them, and have been happy to keep the faith over many years of mostly non-winning, non-viable teams.

This year, the Brewers have a better team than they’ve had in years. After last year’s shockingly good season (where they missed the playoffs by only one game), they remain in the playoff hunt. And they placed five players, a team record, in the All-Star Game: Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, and Josh Hader. Two of them, Hader and Jeffress, are relief pitchers; two, Cain and Yelich, are outfielders; the last one, Aguilar, is a first baseman.

But rather than being happy the Brewers placed five players on the All-Star team (a nice accolade to have), Brewers fans woke up yesterday to a very sour story, that of Josh Hader’s teenage Tweets. Hader’s Twitter account (now locked down to “private” mode) was public, and went all the way back to 2010 or 2011…and some of the Tweets from that time period were pretty raw. Hader bragged about the size of his, er, male anatomy; he quoted raunchy song lyrics without attribution; he said he couldn’t stand gay people; he even made an odd KKK Tweet. (This latter made no sense, but Hader has been an elite-level pitcher since high school. I want to believe he maybe meant this as a reference to three strikeouts in a game he’d pitched, though who knows?) Worst of all, to my mind, was the disregard he showed, whether it was to women, LGBT people, minorities, or anyone else nonwhite and not an elite athlete like himself.

(Note that I am not linking to the screen-capped Tweets, mostly because this is a family blog. (I also believe you can find them elsewhere without too much difficulty.) They aren’t pleasant reading. I felt like washing my mind out with soap after reading them. But back to the blog.)

The thing is, Hader was seventeen at the time of these Tweets. I do not condone what he said; I, myself, would not have said anything remotely like that at seventeen, and I was considered an elite-level musician at the time, with multiple scholarship offers. (Not exactly the same thing as Hader, and certainly without the earning potential. But close enough.)

Still. He was seventeen. And one would hope he’s learned better by now, as he’s now twenty-four.

His teammates have said what’s expected. (Jesus Aguilar in particular came out and said Hader’s not racist, and that everyone should know it.) They know Hader better than anyone else. They do not believe he’s a bigot. Nor do they believe he’s misogynistic.

Look. We all have said something we shouldn’t, that hurts us. (I know I have.) It may not be as bad as this, no. But it is something we do because we haven’t fully matured yet, or maybe we just don’t realize the impact our words have on others yet.

Or, perhaps, we all make mistakes, so we can learn from them? Or try to learn from them?

In this day and age, when mistakes can linger for years and years–as Hader’s did, waiting to bite him on the butt in 2018–shouldn’t we learn how to forgive and forget? Or at least forgive?

Also, keep this in mind: Hader is not making public policy. He is not in charge of the federal government, or the state government, or even the local government…he is a baseball player. A pitcher.

In other words, Hader’s words have only as much effect on us as we allow. And if his teammates are all right with him, and providing he continues to work on himself and mature and become a better person (as we all must, if we want to get something good out of this life at all), why should we care about his teenage Tweets?

So, that’s my position. I do not care about Hader’s Tweets from 2011. But I do care about how he acts right now. And my hope is that he will be able to become a force for good, and use his celebrity and money to good effect.

In that way, he can transform this obnoxious episode from his past into something better. And then, maybe, his old Tweets can become a blessing…that is the best-case scenario.