When Online is Out of Line: The Sting of Betrayal

Although I had been closer to Karen than I had been to Weasel, being blocked by Weasel hurt more. Karen had given me an explanation for why she had blocked me and I had come to believe that she had both of our best interests at heart. Weasel had blocked me with no explanation. I was left to speculate as to why she had done that and I did not believe her intentions were in any way noble.

I kept thinking about how she had consoled me when Karen had blocked me. I thought about how I had said to her “You aren’t going to block me, are you?” and she had replied to me “No, Kira I would never do that. I am your friend always and forever.” Now I felt like an idiot for believing her.

When I told Bernadette what Weasel had done she said “I’m not really surprised. I wouldn’t have expected her to remain loyal for very long.  She flip-flopped on me a few times. She’s a fair weather friend.”

A few hours later Bernadette got the following e-mail from a ninja mod:

“This is a notification that you are henceforth banned from the forum for your creepy, and frankly unhealthy obsession with “outing” a supposed faker and the lengths to which you have gone to dig up proof of faking.

We have examined your proof and found it to be wanting and you are no longer welcome in the community.”

At that point I put two and two together and realized what had happened. Weasel had taken the information I had confided in her as a friend and shared it with the moderators in an effort to get Bernadette in trouble, stir up drama and make herself look good on the forum.  Those questions she had asked me about Bernadette had not been friendly, innocent questions. They had been leading questions meant to get me to spill information that she could use against me and my friend. And I had been dumb enough to fall for it.

The truth was that if anyone had a creepy, unhealthy obsession with outing a supposed faker, it was me, not Bernadette. I had suggested  to her that since those assholes on the forum wanted to accuse me of lying about my life with no evidence to back it up, despite all their efforts to dig for it, we should go back and share the evidence we had found that proved Marcia was a liar. Bernadette had replied that that would be pointless, as the people on the forum would just complain about how creepy and trollish we were and then go back to starting cat threads. They weren’t worth our time.

Neither of us cared that Bernadette had been banned because she hadn’t planned on returning to the forum anyway but boy did Weasel’s betrayal sting. It stung even more than all the nasty things that had been said about me on the forum. At least those people had been upfront about the fact that they did not like me and that they did not care if they hurt my feelings.

Weasel,  on the other hand had pretended to be my friend and to be concerned about me. She had reached out to me at a time when she knew I was emotionally vulnerable and encouraged me to confide in her. Then she had taken what I had confided in her and used it to stab me in the back. She knew full well how hurt I would be at being blocked by her but she did it anyway because tattling on another friend of mine for her own personal gain and pettiness was more important than my feelings or emotional well being.

At that point the emotional progress I had made since being banned from the board started unraveling. My acceptance of the situation had been based on the premise that I still had friends from the board that I could socialize with online. Now I was seeing that those friends could not be trusted and could slip away from me at any time. I felt completely and utterly alone. I was slipping in to a pit of despair.

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When Online is Out of Line: Pop Goes the Weasel

While the accusations that I was lying and faking were hurtful to me, they were also helpful. Some of the people on that forum were clearly ridiculous fools. Since they were clearly and unequivocally wrong in their claims that I was a man with multiple internet personalities who had faked my dog’s death, perhaps they were also wrong in their claims that I was a rude, annoying troll who was incapable of thinking for herself . Because as always while there was a part of me that felt those people were judging me unfairly and were wrong about me, there was also a part of me that felt they were right about me.

Weasel told me the names of the people who had accused me of faking. Some of them came as no surprise because they were the people who would constantly attack me on the forum but some of them did surprise me because they had never said anything cruel about me before.

“I was also surprised that some of those people accused you of lying but I’m sure they were just doing it because they wanted to feel like they were part of the crowd. It has nothing to do with you personally” Weasel said.

“They can search the internet for evidence that I’m a liar all they want. They’re never going to find any because I haven’t lied about anything.”

“Exactly. They’ve been digging and all they’ve come up with is ‘Oh yeah, that matches up with what she said.’ ”

I told her about the evidence Bernadette and I had found that Marcia was lying. Her mind was blown. Like me, she’d always disliked Marcia but had never suspected she was a faker.

“Maybe I should go back to the forum and post the evidence we found of Marcia’s lies” I said.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“You’re right. People will just believe what that they want to believe and Marcia is already a miserable person so there’s no point in trying to make her more miserable. It would end up hurting me more than it would hurt her.”

“Do you think Bernadette would do it?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it the last time I mentioned it.”

Weasel also told me that a lot of people on the forum had said they hated that I was banned. When I later asked her who those people were she told me that she’d been cautioned by people on the forum not to share any more information about what was happening on the forum with me and she’d realized they had a point. She wasn’t helping me move on by doing that.

“Okay, I’m curious about what’s been said about me but I understand why you don’t want to tell me.”

“The thread really wasn’t even that bad, Kira. It was mostly concern for you with a smattering of ‘she’s annoying’ from assholes.”

Before I knew it a few weeks had passed since I’d been banned. I was surviving. I wasn’t doing all that well emotionally but I hadn’t been doing well before I was banned either. Those ‘old chestnuts’ of autism and mental illness that according to the forum I used as an excuse for my bad behavior were continuing to wreak havoc on my psyche.

As I thought about the accusations from the forum that I’d been lying about my life, I thought of some of my interesting life stories and was inspired to write some of them down. This wasn’t the first time the forum had gotten my creative writing juices flowing. For Bernadette’s amusement I would write hypothetical scenarios that could occur on that forum. They read like sketch comedies.

I was talking to Weasel every day,  sometimes for hours. We would talk about current events, our personal lives, our likes and dislikes. We shared our past and present experiences and our problems and struggles with each other.

One day when I logged on to messenger eager to talk to her, I was not able to send a message. Thinking there was something wrong with my computer, I clicked on her profile. I saw the yellow X of death. She had blocked me.

When Online is Out of Line: A Silver Lining

Although I was fond of many of the people on the forum and I had a certain attachment to them, I did not consider most of them to be my friends. Karen I did consider to be a friend so losing her her brought a fresh level of pain to my situation.

At the same time, the banning was resulting in me forming friendships with people from that forum. One of the people I became especially friendly with was a woman I’ll call Weasel. I call her that because at one time she had a wild weasel running loose in her house and it became a joke on the forum but as you’ll see later in this saga, the name is also appropriate for other reasons.

I told Weasel about what had happened with Karen.

“I’m sorry. Losing a friend is hard” she replied.

“I wonder if Karen was starting to believe I was a faker like people were saying”

“She doesn’t believe that, sweetie”

“Why do you think she blocked me?”

“It has nothing to do with you personally. She’s just stressed.”

“You aren’t going to block me too, are you?’

“No, Kira, I would never do that to you. I am your friend always and forever.”

I wrote a message to Karen and asked Weasel to relay it to her. It said that I was hurt by what she she did but I understood why she did it and I hoped she would be friends with me again someday.

Karen replied: “Thank you for the message. Honestly, I am very worried for Kira. I think I probably encouraged her in ways that I shouldn’t have and I feel quite guilty over that. It was nice to be able to vent all the things that would irritate me and that was not only a petty thing to do on my part but I kinda feel like I contributed to her demise. Selfishly I don’t want to be banned if I tell her things that are happening on the board, but even more than that I didn’t want to sabotage any good that might actually come from her getting away from the board.

I wish her all the best. She has an amazing mind and is funny and clever and I still like her, I’m just afraid that I’m not good for her right now.”

After that I started to feel a little bit better. I reasoned that Karen might be friends with me again some time in the future, that I was deepening my friendships with other people on the board and that I would no longer be interacting with my cyber enemies. Maybe some good actually would come from me getting away from the board.

When Online is out of Line: “For All We Know She’s Really a Dude!”

Another factor complicating my dealing with being banned from the forum was the shame and secrecy I insisted on maintaining over it. In the aftermath of my banning I reached out to some people from the forum and some people from the forum reached out to me but I would not discuss the issue with anyone who was not a member of the forum.

My loved ones who knew me in real life could sense that I was upset but when they asked me what was wrong I would not tell them. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my therapist about it. I had this fear that she would tell my mother about it or that she would go looking for the forum and find it.

Bernadette said to me “I don’t think your therapist would be able to find the forum or that she’d tell your mother about it and even if she did, so what? I think excessive anxiety about this situation is preventing you from taking steps that would allow you to move on from it as quickly as possible.”

Kevin, one of the forum members I’d reached out to, said “Kira, I can only imagine how isolated you must feel right now and I’m happy to listen but I can’t help but feel that I’m not the best person to talk to about this. I have strong ties to the forum and I’m friends with a lot of the people who went after you. I think you need to speak with someone who can be more neutral.”

Again, I recognized the wisdom in their words and I knew I needed to speak to someone because I was in a really bad place emotionally but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

People continued to talk about me on the forum and I continued to hear about it. Soon the talk turned to speculation about my personal life. Being picked apart like that when I was feeling so down added insult to injury.

In an effort to find out more about me members of the board Googled my name. They posted links to the information they found including my stepfather’s work page and the obituary of my stepbrother, who had died tragically and unexpectedly at a young age.

Several members said they thought I had been lying about various aspects of my life and identity.  Exactly one year to the day before I was banned my beloved dog had died tragically when she suffocated on a chip bag. I had been devastated and had expressed my devastation over the accident on the forum.

Now Cowgirl was suggesting that I had faked my dog’s death. Overall the members of that forum were very intelligent but Cowgirl had never been the sharpest tool in the shed so perhaps she surmised that I had been lying about my dog’s death because her Googling turned up obituaries for my family members who had died but no obituary for my dog.

The accusations got even more ridiculous than that. There were people who thought Bernadette and I were really the same person.  There were people who were suspicious of the fact that I never posted pictures of myself on that forum and said that for all they knew I was really a dude.

Sure, the reason I never posted pictures could have been that I was really a dude but it also could have been because at the time I did not own a digital camera. Plus when I already had a group of people constantly criticizing my character, I didn’t really want them picking apart my looks as well.  Don’t think the members of that forum were above doing that either. One member called another member a confident ugly girl after she posted pictures of herself.

There was general disbelief that my stepfather was really as mean as I said he was. How ironic that a group of people who regularly made the same kind of cruel comments to me that my stepfather made would doubt that a man as cruel as him actually existed.

“The things those people are saying about me are so ridiculous” I vented to Karen.

“It’s all just speculation. You can’t be surprised. This always happens when members are banned.”

“They’re such assholes”

“People were messaging me about you after I said in the thread that I talk to you off the board so I posted that I know you’re real and I know you and Bernadette are not the same person.”

“What were they asking you about me?’

“They wanted to know if you were as consistent with your story off the board as you are on the board.”

“I hate them.”

“I’m not going to tell you about what they’re saying anymore because it’s just upsetting you and I don’t like doing that.”

“They can all kiss my ass.”

“Okay, this is really starting to stress me out. I’m really, really sorry that you got banned. I do not think it was cool. But I’m going to have to step back from the situation. I wish you all the best. I really do.”

And then she blocked me.

Strangers Being Assholes to Me

Sometimes I wonder if I have some kind of target on my back visible only to other people. That could explain why strangers so often seem to feel the need to humiliate me in public. I think a lot of it has to do with misunderstandings related to my being on the autism spectrum but the amount of shit I’ve been getting from strangers in public lately has just been insane.

Of course if you asked those strangers they’d say I was the one who was the asshole. They’d say my behavior was so appalling that I needed to be reprimanded. They’d say they were just setting me straight and giving me what I deserved.

A few times when I’ve neglected to thank someone for holding the door open for me they’ve reacted by huffing and puffing and blowing out a snarky “You’re welcome.”  I’ve seen that kind of thing happen to other people too. It’s awkward and it makes me roll my eyes.

Obviously those door holders are offended by the perceived lack of manners on the part of the people they held the door open for. Yet somehow I don’t think barking a snarky “you’re welcome” at a person whose story you don’t know is the epitome of good manners. That person’s slight against you was probably not deliberate while you are definitely deliberately trying to make that other person feel bad. Intentional cruelty is worse than unintentional rudeness.

I don’t know about anyone else but I can say that there’s never been a time when I’ve noticed that someone has held the door open for me and I’ve thought to myself “I’m not going to thank this person for opening the door because I do not feel this person is deserving of my gratitude.” When I notice that someone has held a door open for me I say thank you.  It’s just that sometimes I don’t notice.  That’s because I have attention issues and executive functioning issues. Sometimes I’m distracted because I have something important or upsetting on my mind.

One time after a woman huffed and puffed about not being thanked for holding the door open she said loudly to her daughter for the benefit of the person she’d held the door open for (who happened to be my father) “You can still do nice things for people even if they don’t thank you.” She’s right about that but since she’s so outraged about not being thanked perhaps she should examine her motivations for doing nice things for others.  Maybe you should do nice things for people for the sake of helping them and not for the sake of being thanked.

Sure, it can sting when you’re not thanked for your good deed but let’s keep things in perspective.  Acts like opening a door for a stranger require a minimal amount of effort and hardship on your part. It’s not like you donated a kidney. But speaking of which, I regularly donate blood knowing that the people who receive my blood will never thank me and will never know who I am. I’m fine with that because I don’t donate blood for the sake of being thanked.

Sometimes I’m dense and don’t even realize someone has done something for me for which they should be thanked. I walked in to my school cafeteria and asked the cashier how much a meal cost. She asked if I was a student and I replied that I was. She then told me I didn’t have to pay.  Thinking that just meant the general cafeteria policy was that students didn’t have to pay, I went on my merry way.

The cashier barked an angry “Thank you” after me. I continued to be dense and didn’t realize she was chiding me for not thanking her. I thought she was thanking me for something, although I wasn’t sure what. “You’re welcome” I replied in a confused voice.

That’s the problem with being all around socially awkward. My social awkwardness causes me to be called out and embarrassed by strangers and then my social awkwardness causes me to respond to the calling out in a socially awkward way, causing me further embarrassment.

“What do you say when someone does something nice for you?” the cashier asked.

“Thank you” I replied meekly, feeling about five years old and five inches tall.

“Remember that next time”.

It was nice of her to give me a free meal but her random act of kindness was cheapened by the random act of unkindness she followed it up with. I would rather have paid for my meal than been publicly humiliated like that.

Perhaps she held a grudge over that incident because the next time I encountered her she chided me for coming so late to lunch even though there was no official time limit and the cafeteria was open and serving

The next time I came to the cafeteria I got a different cashier. I made sure to thank her after she gave me my change but the truth is I was also thanking her for not being the other cashier.

At the theater I accidentally bumped in to a woman when I was exiting the bathroom. I immediately apologized but apparently my apology wasn’t good enough for her. She had to snidely say “Just shove right past me, why don’t you?”

I was sitting in a movie theater reading on my silenced cell phone before the movie started and before the lights went out when this douchebag extraordinaire walks down a few aisles to point at me and yell “Turn off your cell phone! What part of the announcement about turning off cell phones did you not understand?”

I was so angry that I tried to flip that guy off but unfortunately I raised the wrong finger (my awkwardness strikes again!)

I’m self conscious and socially anxious enough without having to deal with this kind of shit from strangers. If I’d done something truly horrible I could understand why they’d feel justified in yelling at me like that but when it comes to minor faux pas like not saying thank you I think they can afford to give me the benefit of the doubt and choose their battles.

You can never know what issues the random people you encounter in public may have or what they may be going through. They may have some kind of invisible disability that makes seemingly simple tasks like saying thank you or navigating their bodies through space difficult. They may not have the energy or wherewithal to pay attention to their surroundings or to social niceties because they’re reeling from a traumatic loss they’ve just suffered. The last thing they need is to be the recipient of some random act of unkindness from a stranger.

The impulse to publicly humiliate a stranger over some minor issue is foreign to me because I would feel just as embarrassed and uncomfortable to be on the giving end of something like that as I am to be on the receiving end but for whatever reason some people seem to get off on that kind of thing.

The moral of this story is don’t be an asshole.  If you want to make nasty comments to a stranger whose story you don’t know because you think they’re an asshole due to some minor perceived social slight, consider that doing so makes you the real asshole in the situation.

 

When Online is out of Line: The Morning After

For years the first thing I had done when I got up in the morning was check that internet forum. When I got up the morning after I was banned I felt the reflexive urge to do just that. When I remembered that I couldn’t and thought about what had happened, a sinking, empty, dreadful feeling spread throughout my my body.

Although I could no longer log in to the board since I was banned word gets around the internet so I heard about some of things that were being said about me there.

Whitney said: “I won’t be weeping into my pillow over this decision, god knows, but I do think the way we got here was….not great. The woman had been a member here, for good or ill, for a very long time, and the tone of some of the posts directed at her today made me really uncomfortable. Yes, she was annoying. Yes, she insisted she wasn’t going to change. Yes. And yet, I would have thought we as a community were better than some of the insults flung at her. I don’t know. I understand that tempers were frayed and patience has just all run out for her. But I’m a little disappointed at some of the things that were said. Maybe it doesn’t matter now, the situation is over, but that’s what I think.”

Frenchie said “I’ll cop to being someone who had to take a commenting break from the board for about six months because I thought I was being a total butthead to Kira but I wasn’t reeling it in. I was always at a ten with her no matter what we were discussing. I couldn’t figure out how to deal with someone who took everything I said so literally, and then didn’t seem to internalize any of it at the same time. And I was way ruder than I should have been. On the other hand, she was driving me up a wall, so this will definitely prompt a lot of uncomfortable navel-gazing on my part. ”

I appreciated both of those posts very much because even though I was called annoying it was acknowledged that no matter how annoying I was it was not okay for people on that forum to have treated me as badly as they did.

Sushi said: “Wow, I missed the party… but then I have things to do, like prep a house for my in-laws, who are descending upon us next week.

I’m another one who has been here since 2004 (and before that, under a forgotten login) and look at my pathetic post count… But Kira? 28,000+ posts. Not. healthy.

I’d been seeing her posts ramp up again rather badly recently, and I sighed aloud to myself: she’s slipping again. This time, she was in threads she really had no reason to be in, like Pregnancy Updates… which I thought was weird. It’s one thing to peruse them and lurk, but to post when you aren’t part of the convo at all was just a bit bizarre. So I started avoiding her threads/posts other than the Minor Celebs thread. I just couldn’t take it.

I don’t like banning long time posters but this was absolutely justifiable. She’s divisive, provocative, rude, has these annoying blinders on, and acted like she ran the board. I started to find it insulting that every time she was called out on her excessive posting and rudeness, she’d drag the old autism/mental health chestnut out again. I think this latest go-round became really untenable, even more than the previous attempts to curb her impulses, and I saw that she continued to chase away other posters, this time including myself. It’s that relentless thing in her that just grates and drives everyone nuts.

Thank you, ninjys. I truly hope she finds counseling that will help her behaviors.

I hope this opens a new chapter where folks can be comfortable posting again.”

That post I did not appreciate so much. Since Sushi thought the number of posts I had in relation to the amount of time I had been on the board was so unhealthy I have to wonder how she felt about those people who had been members for a shorter time period and had more posts than me. I also have to wonder how she felt about those other people who posted in threads that they “had no reason to be in.”

She found it insulting that I would bring up the old autism/ mental health chestnut?  Well I found it insulting that she would refer to disorders I’ve struggled with all my life and have suffered a lot from as an old chestnut.

I have gotten counseling to help myself but my counseling has never focused on behaving in ways that will please the assholes of the internet because there is no pleasing the assholes of the internet. The assholes of the internet might benefit from counseling themselves.

The events leading up to my banning certainly hadn’t felt like a party to me and now that I had been banned my mood was rather funereal.  My grief was compounded by a couple of feelings I couldn’t shake: 1. It was my own fault I’d been banned and I’d gotten what I deserved  2. Being banned from an internet forum really was not a big deal and it was ridiculous for me to be this upset about it.

I reasoned that if I had posted less or argued less with the people who criticized me I wouldn’t have been banned so how could I complain or grieve over a situation I had brought upon myself?

I knew that people could grieve and feel a sense of loss over situations that did not involve death but extending that concept to being banned from an internet forum seemed a bit much. It was just an internet forum after all. It wasn’t like it was “real life” and it wasn’t like being banned from it was the end of the world.

Yet the truth was that that forum had been a very real part of my life and that when I was banned from it a part of my world did come to an end.

Grief is among the most painful emotions humans can experience. Another painful emotional experience is social rejection. I had just been kicked out of a social group that was very important to me and was really my only social group outside of my family.

Of course alongside my feelings of grief and rejection were feelings of anger. I was angry that I had been banned, angry at what those people had said to me, angry about the hypocrisy, the unfairness and the cruelty. Sometimes the anger was so intense it felt like a boiling hot rage welling within me and the only thing that could fill the overall emptiness I was now feeling inside.

Bernadette tried to comfort me:

“I’m sorry people have been so rude to you, Kira. I know it always hurts a little when the dogpiling starts, even though we’ve all seen it before. Being banned will feel weird for a little while – for a few days it’ll keep popping into your head. You might even think of checking the board over the next few weeks, forgetting that you’re banned for a moment. Then when you remember, you’ll feel bad about how it all happened. Soon enough, though, you’ll stop thinking about the board except for occasionally, and you’ll feel more neutral than negative.

You’ll laugh when Karen posts something ridiculous from the board and be glad you don’t have to deal with it. You’ll be amazed when you think about how much idiocy and cruelty you’ve put up with for years. You will find other ways to occupy your time, online or off. For example, I chat with people on Facebook more now, and I’ve read a couple of books for pleasure, a habit I had unfortunately lost in college. I also found some really fun strategy and sim-type games that I play sometimes. If you want to read about names, go to sites like Baby Name Wizard or blogs like British Baby Names. If you want discussion of news and various topics, try Quora, or look for subject-specific boards.

Again, you will be totally fine. Soon, you’ll wonder why you ever stuck around that forum when people there treated you so horribly for such a long time. Yes, many people there are intelligent, some are funny, and a few are kind, but many are also arrogant intellectual snobs who enjoy bashing others for sport. Just look how much we complain about them!

You don’t need people like that in your life. They’re not even worth a “bye, shitters” post. When I was first suspended, I considered returning after the six months to share my true thoughts and get banned once and for all, but why bother? I don’t want to waste my time. It would be like complaining on Facebook about people who were mean in high school. It’s over now, and everyone should move on.”

Even as I recognized the wisdom in her words, I still felt awful and I was still reeling from being banned.

 

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated

I must apologize to anyone who assumed I was dead as a result of my absence from this blog. I’m alive and well but school’s been keeping me busy.

That’s actually not the reason for the title of this blog though.

For a while I was getting daily emails about funeral insurance. Each morning I would be implored to make sure my family wasn’t burdened by expenses for my funeral after I kicked the bucket. I’m a big fan of both puns and gallows humor but somehow taglines like “leave grave concerns at the cemetery ” and “don’t let your family be buried in funeral expenses” failed to amuse me.  The emails said that although it can be hard, it’s never too early to start planning for the future. I’m going to have to disagree and say that your thirties is too early to plan your funeral.

Eventually I became sick to death of being reminded of my impending demise every time I opened my email so I unsubscribed from those funeral insurance emails (not that I’d ever subscribed to them in the first place.) When I did so I got a message implying that I was crazy for not wanting to get funeral insurance emails and informing me that I may continue to receive funeral insurance emails for ten more days.

That’s actually not the reason for the title of this blog either though.

Since I don’t drive myself, my father, bless his heart, is great about assisting me with transportation. He’s not always so great about arriving on time though. Yet he usually has a legitimate excuses for his tardiness. Two weeks ago he was late because he went the wrong way on a one- way street, was stopped by the cops and incurred a $500 traffic ticket. Last week when he picked me up he told he was late because he’d just gotten a letter from his car insurance company that he was really upset by.

“What did it say?” I ask.

“See for yourself. Can you believe this?” he exclaims as he hands me a piece of paper.

“They canceled your insurance policy?” I remark after my eyes skim the paper.

“Yes but look at the reason they canceled it.”

It takes me a minute to find it in the chart that’s printed on the letter but when I do I gasp and say “Oh my god!”

Under “Reason for Cancellation” it says “Insured Deceased”.

“Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

“They sure have been.”

“I guess when you get to be my age people just assume you’re dead.”

“The best part is that they sent you a letter informing you of your own death.”

I accompany my father on his visit to the insurance agency’s office to clear up the misunderstanding over his death.

“Are you guys a serious company?” he asks incredulously as he deposits the letter informing him of his death on their front desk.

The guy sitting at the desk looks over the letter and says “Oooh…that’s not good…you’re clearly not dead.”

The insurance company mostly takes the laugh it off and blame it on someone else approach. After making a phone call they inform my father that he will be getting a new letter in a few days and assure him he is no longer considered dead.

Those funeral insurance emails continue to arrive for a few days after I’ve unsubscribed from them. “At least they’re not assuming I’m already dead” I say to myself.

Allow me to introduce myself

In my copyediting course the other introductions are all like:

“Hello, my name is John. I have a Phd in astrophysics, a JD, a masters degree in cognitive psychology, another masters degree in English literature, plus a certification in underwater basket weaving. After serving in the peace corps, I worked as a lawyer and then as a rocket scientist,while publishing a few novels on the side. Although I’m fluent in five languages and have won both a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize, I realize that there is always room for self improvement. Thus, I have enrolled in this copyediting course. When I’m not working, furthering my education, travelling the world or fighting for world peace, I enjoy spending time with my beautiful wife of 25 years, Caroline and our three beautiful children.”

Then my introduction is all like “Um, hi, I’m Kira. I like to read. I have a dog and a cat. I’m in this course because I realized I can’t make money as a writer.”

A March for Our Lives in March

I went to my first March last Saturday. It wasn’t the one in Washington but there was a local one that I decided I wanted to go to at the last minute. I didn’t have a sign so I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me to go but I asked about it on Facebook and was assured that marchers without signs were welcome.

The crowd was large and parking was hard to find. People of all ages were there from babies to senior citizens. The bottom of one kid’s sign said “Babies against guns”. The top said “My right to live is above all rights.” His brother’s sign said “NRA go away.”

Other signs carried by children said “I can’t have peanut butter in school but you can have guns?”, “Arms are for hugging”, “School is to get an education not murdered”, “My life is more important than your gun” and “No guns, for safe schools.”

Adolescents and young adults held signs that said Protect kids, not guns, One life is worth more than all the guns on earth” “Students call BS”, and “18th century laws can’t regulate 21st century weapons.”

I took a picture of a “No more school shootings” sign perched atop an empty stroller. A woman commented that it was a good picture and I asked if I could take a picture of her sign, which read “I’m a ballet teacher. Should I carry a gun too?” with a picture of little girls in tu- tus next to a picture of a pink gun. Other signs that commented on the ridiculousness of arming teachers included “Bullets are not school supplies” and “Arm teachers with pencils not guns.”

A middle aged woman held up a sign with a picture of Maria from The Sound of Music that said”The Schools are alive with the sound of bullets.” A woman standing on the remnants of a dirty snow bank held a bright red sign that said “SOS save our schools from gun violence.” A man held up a sign that said “Taught not Shot.”  A woman standing next to him held up a sign that said “Finally a pro-life rally I can attend.” Then there was the woman whose sign had a list of things that were regulated more than guns: Alcohol, Sudafed, lawn darts, Roquefort cheese, Kindereggs, cars, fireworks and her uterus.

Older adults held up signs that said “Guns kill. Period”, “We are the majority”, “Choose life. Tighten gun laws” and “Resist, insist, persist, vote.”

There were signs calling out the NRA. One sign had NRA standing for national recall of arms. Another sign had it standing for no responsibility for arms (or children.)  There was a sign that said Ditch NRA or ditch office, a sign that said NRA, let go of my country  and a sign that said “The NRA can kiss my ass. Your blood money ends now. ” The most darkly funny sign said “Who’s afraid of the NRA? with the NRA as the big bad wolf and Donald Trump, Mitch Mcconnell and Paul Ryan as the three little pigs.

There were several signs pointing out that what we need is action and change, not thoughts and prayers. There were signs that stressed the importance of voting.  A woman wearing a shirt with the word Change beneath Obama’s picture was carrying a sign that said “I demand gun control and I vote!” I saw a sign laying on a table that said “We’re with the teens.  Get out and vote!” There was a sign that simply said “Vote, vote, vote” over and over again.

Some signs kept their messages simple but powerful.  There was a sign that said Disarm Hate.  There were signs that consisted of one word : Enough.

Another one-word sign simply said Love. And in the midst of all the anger and indignation at that rally there was a lot of love. People hugged, held hands, draped their arms around each other, carried one another on their backs.

There were signs that listed the names of the Parkland victims and signs that displayed the pictures of the Parkland survivors who are acting as advocates for gun control. While I was participating in a local march, those survivors were participating in the national march in Washington D.C. where they gave moving and eloquent speeches. They were mostly lauded for their bravery but some rabid defenders of the second amendment had a real problem with them exercising their first amendment rights.  I never would have thought anyone would have a problem with survivors of a horrific tragedy taking action to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, much less target those survivors in a cruel manner but these are interesting times we’re living in.

In addition to the signs, there were also powerful speakers at this rally. One young man described his terrifying experience as a student in a school that had an active shooter.  He sat huddled under a desk wondering if he was going to die. He pointed out that the shooter was not a bullied social outcast as the media stereotype would have you believe. Another young man discussed an aspect of gun violence that doesn’t get as much media attention: suicide. He described a friend of his who died of suicide by gun. He argued that although it’s commonly believed that people who commit suicide want to die, the truth is most of them don’t want to die. It is an impulsive act of desperation, as evidenced by the fact that most suicide attempt survivors do not try again. I’ve often felt depressed and thought about wanting to die but I’ve never attempted suicide or formulated a plan. I wonder if things would have been different had I had access to a gun.

When the talk became about the politicians who bow to the NRA, the crowd chanted “Vote them out! Vote them out!” Acknowledging that he felt awkward taking the stage amidst those cries, a New Jersey state representative explained that although he owns a gun, he supports gun control laws and will not bow to the NRA. I have no interest in owning or using a gun myself but I appreciate the voice of reasonable gun owners in the gun control debate. I’m annoyed that it’s even a debate to begin with. Gun control just seems like common sense to me and those feelings were obviously shared by a woman carrying a sign that said “Pass common sense gun control laws”. Another sign that sums up my feelings well said “Sensible gun laws!  Save lives. Don’t violate the second amendment. Worth the “hassle”. Arrrrgh.”

As the speaker portion of the march drew to a close we were reminded that we shouldn’t just go home, feel good that we participated in a march and then do nothing else. We need to take other actions as well, such as writing to our representatives and voting in upcoming elections. About a month before the march I wrote a letter to one of my representatives about the gun problem and a few weeks later I was pleasantly surprised to get a response, outlining the steps he was taking to address it.

“Do you want to visit your brother? He’s here” my father said as we left the march.  At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I realized we were walking by the cemetery where my stepbrother is buried. My stepbrother did not die of a gunshot wound but he did die tragically and unexpectedly at a young age, as did the kids whose lives were ended by bullets ringing out in the hallways of their schools-in Parkland, in Columbine, in Sandy Hook and in so many other schools throughout our nation. As did those whose lives were ended by guns shot by madmen at a concert in Las Vegas, at a club in Orlando, or at a movie theater in Colorado. As did those who were shot in their church or in their own home by a relative, by a friend, by an enemy or by their own hand. My stepbrother was a victim of another poorly handled and hotly debated epidemic that is sweeping this nation-the opioid epidemic.

Afterwards I discovered that several of my friends also attended the march but I did not see any of them them there, probably because the crowd was so large. Although I could not kid myself in to thinking I had made a big difference in my country’s gun violence problem, I allowed myself to feel good about the fact that I had participated in my local March for Life. It was an energizing, valuable and worthwhile experience. I look forward to my next march.

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The General Insanity of It All

We have a president being sued by a porn star over an affair he had with her and somehow that’s not even the biggest news item or 45’s tackiest, most classless, most horrific behavior. And to think of how scandalized I was by the whole Monica Lewinsky affair back in the 90’s…or how much I dreaded a Romney presidency back in 2012…

I was in 8th grade when the Monica Lewinsky scandal happened and I think I was also in 8th grade when Columbine happened. Of course I’ve heard about countless shootings since then and nothing has been done about this nation’s gun problem. After the Las Vegas shooting I wrote a blog post about gun control that ended up getting posted on a site called Writer Beat and I ended up wasting my time arguing with a bunch of gun-loving idiots.  I realized they were truly insane when they said that liberals don’t really care about the lives that are being lost as a result of gun violence, they just want to take away the guns so they can run roughshod over the rest of the population.

It’s incomprehensible to me that so many people are still opposed to gun control, just like it’s incomprehensible to me that so many people still support 45. He truly disgusts me and he’s as evil as he is stupid.

His brilliant solution to the opioid crisis is to put drug dealers to death, which is an idea that is as evil as it is stupid.  Does he not realize that opioid addicts and opioid dealers are often one and the same? So he’s going to try to solve the problem of people dying from opioid addiction by killing opioid addicts. Great.

Speaking of the death penalty, it’s being sought for the Parkland shooter. How disgusting that it’s easier to get the state of Florida to consider killing a teenager than to consider implementing gun control.

I think the same kind of toxic masculinity that’s responsible for the U.S. gun culture is responsible for the death penalty. People stock pile loads of ammunition, thinking it makes them look big, and bad and tough, that it will protect them and keep them safe but the reality is that it puts them in danger and causes more problems than it solves. People also think killing vulnerable prisoners makes us look, big and bad and tough and will protect us from future crime when the reality is it doesn’t. It just needlessly ends a life, wastes money and makes us a sick society.

Enough with these claims that mental illness rather than guns is to blame for the shootings. The mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it and mentally ill or not, you can’t shoot someone without a gun.

It’s also disturbing to see kids shamed for protesting gun violence. They’re being told that they should be nice to people instead. Puh-lease. That is some victim blaming bullshit.  Shooters are not typically those who have been bullied by their peers and I see no reason to believe the students taking a stand against gun violence are bullies. You can be a nice person and support gun control. The two are not mutually exclusive. Just like fighting for better mental health care and fighting for gun control are not mutually exclusive. In fact I’d say they tend to go hand in hand, whereas the gun nuts don’t really care about being nice to people or attending to their mental health unless they can use it as part of their asinine arguments as to why they deserve unrestricted access to dangerous weapons.

45’s brilliant solution to the problem is to arm teachers, proving that his IQ is as low as his approval rating.

I’m going to bed now. I expect the world will only be more insane when I wake up.