A Blanket Apology to Everyone on Earth

This post is for all of you who read my blog outside of the U.S. I am an American. I can’t speak for all Americans. No one can. Or at least no one should. But I can certainly speak for myself.

It breaks my heart that my country as a whole is being judged by the rest of the world based on what they see in the news. Most of us are not like the insane people who grab the headlines these days. Many of us are as appalled by what we read as you are. I don’t know if that will be a source of comfort or of increased anxiety for you, but there you have it: for many of us, that feeling of disgust does not stop outside our borders.

So let me tell you a little about who I am, so you can see that not all of us fit that stereotype that has been created by Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol, where you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting someone who is morally bankrupt, unforgivably selfish, and rotting from the inside by the sheer weight of his or her greed. Such blatant abuse of power is unconscionable.

First of all, I am horrified at my government’s total disdain for the environment. We are one of the most environmentally selfish nations on earth, and the least likely to do anything to turn this global warming situation around before it destroys us all. I’m so sorry for that. I wish I felt like I could do something about it. I mean, I vote. I speak out. I do the best I can to reduce my carbon footprint. But I feel like I’m not making an impact, and I know this negatively impacts you as well.

I also happen to think that my country’s stance on guns is absurd and dangerous. We have more mass shootings than anywhere else, and we can’t even agree that the average citizen has no legitimate need for semi-automatic weapons. It makes no sense.

And this damned border wall that Trump is so in love with? I don’t want it. No one I know really wants it. All this political maneuvering is an embarrassment. Honestly, how do these people even look themselves in the mirror?

I don’t think immigrants are a threat. In fact, I’m a second generation American myself. This country would be lost without immigrants. I’m not so greedy that I’m not willing to share the wealth. I actually like you unless you give me some personal reason to feel otherwise. I don’t believe in kidnapping your children at the border. I think the day we stop granting asylum to people in danger is the day when we lose the most vital part of what makes us decent human beings. Jesus wouldn’t turn you away, so how can a country that considers itself mainly Christian do so? I don’t understand this attitude of xenophobia. It makes me sick.

I am also profoundly sorry that we don’t step in to help nearly as often as we butt in to serve our own best interests. We have no right to do this. Clearly, we struggle to get ourselves right, so it’s the height of arrogance to think we can fix anyone else.

And we imprison people to a much higher degree than any other country. I can’t blame you if you think twice about visiting us. I’d be afraid to, if I were you. But I genuinely believe that we need you to come visit. We need our horizons expanded. It’s hard to think of someone as an enemy once we’ve broken bread with that person. Please, come break bread with us.

I guess I do sit squarely in one stereotype. I tend to forget the world doesn’t revolve around us. Perhaps you could care less about what my country says or does. Perhaps you have more important things on your mind than my pompous country. That’s a legitimate response, too, and I can hardly blame you for it.

I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry about all the destruction we cause. I just wanted you to know that somewhere here, in this unbelievable circus of a country, sits a woman in a bridge tower who is every bit as outraged as many of you are. And I know for a fact that I’m not alone. So, please forgive us, individually, even if you cannot bring yourselves to forgive us collectively.

American Flag

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That’s Bill Cosby’s name now. Let that sink in for a minute. Cliff Huxtable is in prison. And that’s exactly where he should be. Chickens do have a way of coming home to roost.

But it makes me really sad. This pathetic, legally blind, 81 year old man is rotting in jail because of the vile choices he made, over and over and over again. And the reason he got away with it for so long is that America loved Cliff Huxtable. We bought into his brand.

Now that his mask has finally slipped away, it reveals a sick, twisted, pathetic shell of a human being. A sex offender. A rapist. A criminal who deserves what he gets, even more so because it could so easily have been avoided. He had it all, but it wasn’t enough without the kink of destroying women’s lives along the way. Such power. So warped.

America’s TV dad.

Prison Bars

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An Unfinished Internet Story

Do you ever Google your own name, just out of curiosity? I do, sometimes. But I bet Joann Elizabeth Wingate doesn’t.

I don’t even know how I stumbled upon this story, because it is from the summer of 2014. When I found it, I was intrigued. The story itself is sick and twisted, but the fact that no one bothered to follow up on it is even more revealing, in my opinion.

Here are the very basics, which got picked up by one lowbrow news outlet after another, for about a week: Ms. Wingate was once a chiropractor, but her license expired for reasons not explained. So she decided to steal the medical license of a local psychiatrist who shared her last name, and operate a physical exam business from inside her own home. She targeted truck drivers, who need this exam to renew their certifications. She put up fliers at a truck stop.

She would meet these guys at the truck stop, drive them back to her shabby little house in her shabby little car, and perform a full medical exam, including urinalysis, for $65. At least 16 guys fell victim to this woman, who held no medical license whatsoever. (That’s what you get for getting your doctor off a truck stop flyer, I suppose.)

But here’s what I don’t get, and probably never will: That’s a lot of work for 65 bucks. It seems to me that if you’re going to do a con, you’d go for some bigger fish, unless there was some unexplainable kink factor for you with regard to making men pee into a little cup.

Whatever her motivations were, riches do not seem to have been her primary one. Instead, she wound up being held in prison on 10k bail. (And how do you make that phone call to your nearest kin?)

I can understand why so many news outlets jumped on this story. It’s insane. It’s funny. It probably went viral. And there was marijuana involved.

But here’s the thing: According to my lazy internet search, not a single one of those journalists bothered to follow up on the story. Did she do time? (She should have, because apparently she had already gotten caught pulling this creepy con elsewhere, and had to move to another county to keep it going.)

There’s nothing more frustrating to me than a story without an ending. The only thing I am fairly positive about is that Joann Elizabeth Wingate doesn’t Google her own name, if she even bothers to use it anymore. Because the only thing that pops up is this odd little unfinished story.

I would hate for that to be my legacy. And I feel awfully sorry for any woman out there who shares her name. (Note to expectant mothers: Google prior to naming your child!)

Where is she now? More importantly, what is she doing, and to whom? The possibilities are endless.

Joann Elizabeth Wingate
Joann Elizabeth Wingate

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On Being Someone’s Person

My dog Quagmire is hysterically clingy. That’s partly due to his breeding—Dachshunds can be that way. But it’s also partly due to all that he’s been through in his life. He was found dirty and starving and wandering the streets. He spent a lot of time in dog rescue facilities, which, despite their best intentions, probably felt a lot like puppy prison to him. It’s got to be traumatic to be jailed when you’re innocent.

And then I adopted him. I became his person. Now, when I’m home, he sticks to me like glue. If I’m sitting, he’s on my lap or nestled under my arm pit. He even accompanies me to the bathroom. He sleeps curled beside me. If I roll over, he repositions himself for maximum body contact.

Mostly I love it. Sometimes it drives me nuts. It’s like I suddenly gained 18 pounds of furry fat.

But when you adopt a pet, you make a commitment. You are responsible for the health and safety of another living thing. You don’t get to take a day off. It’s like being a parent. If you cannot provide a child with constant love and security, then maybe you should not take on this lifelong task.

Once you tell someone or something that you will provide a forever home, you need to keep that promise. Ideally, you will do so happily. It’s okay to have your moments. We all do. But don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. The damage you cause will ripple outward.

And it will also say something extremely ugly about you.

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The Marijuana Miracle Myth

First of all, let me say for the record that I genuinely believe that marijuana should be legalized. I live in a state where it happens to be legal, and lo and behold, the earth continues to revolve around the sun, and society as we know it has not come to a screeching halt. I also find it absurd that there are people doing serious prison time for selling marijuana to consenting adults (but sales to minors is a different kettle of fish). Overall, I believe cigarettes and alcohol do a lot more harm.

I know many people who use marijuana occasionally, a few who use it medically, and still others who abuse it. That could be said of many substances. Personally, the substance I abuse is food, which is a self-destructive, albeit socially acceptable habit.

Here’s the one issue I have with pot: a lot of people, especially the abusers, seem to be under the impression that it’s some sort of magical cure-all. We know that for some it can help with nausea, sleep, and anxiety. Wonderful. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for everything from carbuncles to cancer. It’s not going to take away your acne or wipe out malaria.

Here’s how I know this. If it were good for every health issue, then back when we were more in tune with the earth and relied on plants rather than chemicals to stay healthy, healers wouldn’t have bothered to look at any other plant besides this one if it cured everything. It’s common sense, really. Simply by trial and error, they had a much more realistic view of pot than we seem to have.

The real tragedy in all of this (or irony, depending on how you look at it), is that we probably are overlooking a lot of practical uses for cannabis, because until it is uniformly legalized, we can’t really do any in-depth scientific studies. Governments are also missing out on a phenomenal revenue source. And the industry could do with a bit of oversight.

Personally, I don’t smoke pot because it’s a depressant, and I’m already prone to depression. I can also think of much better things to do with my time and money. It’s just not something I need in my life. Still, it’s nice to have a choice, and it would be even nicer to have a highly informed one.

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The Life Penalty

As sick as I am right now with the head cold from hell, death sounds very appealing to me. Please put me out of my misery. Please. Sure, I know that in a few days (God willing) I’ll be feeling better and my attitude will change. But right now, I’d dearly love to shuffle off this mortal coil, wrapped in flannel and wearing bunny slippers.

That’s also how people who are suicidal feel. At a time when every single aspect of their lives feels totally out of their control, their mortality, or lack thereof, may seem like the only choice they have left. That’s a short-sighted view and one I disagree with, but there you have it.

Call me crazy if you like (and a lot of people do) but I am completely opposed to the death penalty. Not for moral reasons, although there are many of those. Not for financial reasons, although there are tons of stats out there that show that it costs more to put a human being down than it does to lock them up and throw away the key.

No. The reason I oppose the death penalty is that dying is easy. Life is what’s hard. Especially a life behind bars without the possibility of parole. That’s why people refer to death as being taken out of their misery in the first place.

Most murderers and serial rapists and the like are all about dominance and control. Putting them in a situation for the rest of their lives in which they don’t have control over anything would be hell on earth for them. They are also usually under the impression that they are the smartest people in the room, and now they’ll be surrounded by fellow idiots. Torture. Imagine being condemned to a life with no future, full of boredom, frustration, hostility, violence, ignorance and helplessness. I can think of no more apt punishment for a psychopath.

I know that the families of victims often think that the death of the perpetrator will bring closure to them. I can’t even pretend to understand what they are going through. But I will say that I used to long for the death of my abusive stepfather, and when he finally obliged me, I felt… nothing. Nothing at all. The damage still had been done. Death will not negate the atrocity that was visited upon you. Death cannot bring your loved one back. Nothing can do that.

I could talk about the racial disparities that are related to the death penalty. I could discuss how it has been proven not to be any type of deterrent. I could blather on about how people have been put to death and then have been found to be wrongly accused, which makes murderers of us all. You can get plenty of information about these things on other web pages. But what I will tell you is that if revenge is your thing, then death isn’t the worst punishment. Life with no freedom and no potential for joy is.

Life Penalty

[Image credit: seattletimes.com]