Friday, June 23, 2017

Marrying your stepchildren... part three

I probably shouldn't write about this again, since it tends to attract people who feel the need to chastise me for my opinions.  I'm going to do it anyway because it's on my mind.  And since this is my blog, I feel alright in writing my thoughts here.

Yesterday, the Today Show featured yet another story about a man who "proposed" to his girlfriend's daughter.  Some readers may remember that I'm not a fan of guys who "propose" to their potential stepchildren.  For some reason, it's always men doing this to women with little girls.  Although I'm sure there are cases where potential stepmoms "propose" to their potential stepsons (or stepdaughters), I have yet to see a case like that featured on a media outlet like the Today Show.  I have also never seen a potential stepfather proposing to a potential stepson.

Anyway, this time it's Grant Tribbett doing the proposing to his girlfriend, Cassandra Reschar, and Cassandra's 5 year old daughter, Adrianna.  According to Reschar's account on The Knot's How He Asked, after popping the question to Cassandra,

“Grant got back down to propose to my daughter,” Reschar wrote. “He said, ‘Adrianna, can I be your daddy, to promise to love and protect you for the rest of your life?'"



Meanwhile, Cassandra's friend, a professional photographer, took pictures of the touching event.  Cassandra shared the photos on The Knot and then the Today Show picked up the story.

Not surprisingly, there was a flood of comments on the Today Show's Facebook page from people thinking this was "the sweetest thing, ever".  There were lots of memes and gifs depicting happy tears.  People were posting that this is what a "real man" does.  I understand why people think this is very touching, although I personally don't agree.

I've noticed these "proposals" to kids usually involve jewelry or a special gift of some sort. What little girl wouldn't want a new necklace or ring, especially if it's "special"? It certainly makes it easier to excite the child and get her on board with the new family dynamic, right?  It also strikes me as being more than a little bit manipulative.

But my main beef with this trend is that it promotes a fairytale "happy ending".  Fairytales generally have no basis in reality.  Let's face it-- unfortunately, a lot of marriages don't end up lasting.  I'm not saying Cassandra and Grant won't stay together.  I'm simply saying that it's definitely not a given.  There could come a time in the future when they'll split up.  If they split, what will become of Grant's promise to Adrianna?

Perhaps Grant intends to legally adopt Adrianna.  If he does, then maybe he really can keep his promise to love and protect her forever.  If he doesn't adopt her and this couple splits, there's a good chance he won't be able to keep his promise because he won't have any rights to a relationship with her.  Hell, even if he does adopt her, there's a chance he won't be able to keep his promise, although with the legal rights that come with adoption, he stands a much better chance than he would without them.

I shared this post on Facebook with the comment that I must be one of the few people in the world who thinks this annoying trend of men proposing to their stepdaughters-to-be is a bad idea.  I also commented that I didn't dare share my feelings about this on the Today Show's post, because I knew it would only invite a hailstorm of people shaming me for not being caught up in the romance of the moment.  But-- here's the thing.  A parental relationship, especially one involving steps, is not the same thing as a marriage.  Moreover, a man asking for a child's permission to marry the child's mother and/or "be their daddy" is disingenuous, especially when it involves special jewelry or another type of gift.  

What if the child says "No, I don't want you to marry Mommy."?  Will the couple really take the child's feelings into account?  Will the adults actually allow a child to overrule their decision to get married?  Although sometimes kids are absolutely right when they have misgivings about their parents' choices in partners, the fact is, it's not the child's decision.  In the vast majority of cases, they have no control or say over the situation and it's wrong to make them think they do.  

This particular story makes me think that Adrianna's biological father is not in Adrianna's life now.  If he's not in the picture and Cassandra and Grant are serious about letting Grant "be the daddy", I hope they plan to make it legal.  If Grant is truly going to be Adrianna's daddy, then he will need the legal authority that comes with that responsibility.  That way, if the couple later splits (and I'm not saying they will-- just saying that divorce is VERY common), Grant will have legal rights and responsibilities toward the child.  He has a better chance of being able to honor his commitment.

Besides the obvious legal and logistical issues that could arise from "proposing" to one's stepchildren, I think using symbols that are traditionally intended for marriage as a way of including a stepchild is inappropriate.  I wrote this in my second post about this trend:

Marriage is not the same thing as step-parenthood. Marriage is a different relationship that involves sexual relations and a type of intimacy that is hopefully very different than the relationship a stepparent has with a stepchild. A marriage proposal is supposed to be a serious thing and one that most people hope will be special and come once in a lifetime. Stepfathers who present rings to their stepdaughters, in a way, kind of pre-empt that special moment that may come later in the child's life, when she is a grown woman. Some people might argue that these types of proposals aren't really serious. If that's the case, why film them and put them on the Internet? In fact, why do them at all?


I also think that publicizing these proposals is a bad idea because, again, there could come a day when the relationship falls apart.  Since a lot of stuff stays on the Internet forever, these types of proposals can one day lead to a lot of hurt.  

Personally, I am a lot more impressed with stepparents who commit to taking care of their stepchildren on a daily basis with no expectation of accolades or attention.  I also think that it's best when stepparents have a basic modicum of respect for the child's other natural parent, even if that person isn't necessarily a good person.  The fact is, half of the child's DNA comes from the other parent and that is a very strong bond.  Many people want to deny that DNA matters, but I have seen that it often really does, for good or ill.  

I know that people are going to do what they're going to do.  My ranting about this practice won't change anyone's mind, nor will it change the Today Show's practice of glorifying this trend.  And, for all I know, this proposal will lead to a long and happy marriage.  I do hope that Grant and Cassandra have a good life together and Adrianna gets to call Grant "Daddy" for the rest of his life (or hers, depending on who dies first).  

I hope this romantic "proposal" works out for them and doesn't eventually lead to heartbreak.  But I also think that more people should consider the potentially negative scenarios that can come up later.  What seems like a sweet, romantic, heartfelt gesture can later turn into something heartbreaking, like betrayal.  When kids are involved, I think it's best to stay grounded in reality and not indulge fairytale endings.  Adults have a responsibility to look after the best interests of the children in their care.  That means keeping it real and being honest.  These "proposals" to kids are, to me, not always honest and they're usually more for the adults than the kids.  

Lest anyone think I don't know what I'm writing about, let me remind everyone that Bill "adopted" his former stepson (non-legally).  He promised to be "Dad" to former stepson and even paid child support for him after the divorce.  That decision ended up leading to a lot of heartbreak for Bill when it became clear the relationship was entirely about money and stepson went back to calling his long absent bio father "Dad".  Now that Bill's daughters are adults (who may or may not have been legally adopted by #3), they remember that Bill is their dad.  One has even made tentative steps toward reconnection.  So much for their "everyday daddy", right?  I can't help but have this cynical perspective about these scenarios because I've seen up close and personal what can actually happen in these situations.

Remembering Lisa Steinberg...

For some strange reason, I was reminded of a song from my youth yesterday.  I've already blogged about "Dear Mr. Jesus" on my music blog, but that was a pretty short entry.  I think it was short because besides being associated with very depressing case of horrific child abuse, "Dear Mr. Jesus" is an overtly religious song that kind of gives me the creeps.


Someone set this song to the Sims 2...  The group is called PowerSource and the soloist is six year old Sharon Batts.  They were from Bedford, Texas.

Anyway, "Dear Mr. Jesus" was popular in 1987 or 88, although it was originally recorded in 1985.  I used to hear it on morning radio right around Christmas 1987.  It was constantly played around the time that six year old Elizabeth "Lisa" Steinberg was in the news.  Her illegally adoptive father, disbarred former criminal defense attorney, Joel Steinberg, had beaten her on November 1, 1987.  Steinberg was under the influence of crack cocaine when he struck the little girl.  For hours, Lisa was left in the care of Steinberg's live in partner, Hedda Nussbaum, who finally sought medical help for the girl when Joel Steinberg went out to party with some friends.

Lisa spent days languishing in Saint Vincent's Hospital before she died of her injuries on November 5, 1987.  Officials noticed that both Nussbaum and another illegally adopted child, Mitchell, both had signs of physical abuse.  Nussbaum was not prosecuted for the events leading to Lisa's death because she agreed to testify against Joel Steinberg, who was convicted of first-degree manslaughter.  He spent about sixteen years in New York's Southport Correctional Facility, a "supermax" prison, because it was presumed he was at risk of other inmates attacking him.

Joel Steinberg was paroled in June 2004.  His illegally adopted son, Mitchell, was returned to his biological mother.  In 2007, a judge upheld an order for Steinberg to pay Michele Launders, Lisa's birth mother, $15 million.  Launders had initially hired Steinberg to find an adoptive family for Lisa, but he chose to keep the girl and raise her as his own.  He never filed paperwork to adopt Lisa or Mitchell, so he was not legally their father.  As of 2006, Steinberg had moved to Harlem and was working in construction.  He still claims his innocence.

I was a teenager when this case was in the news; and it was in the news every day for weeks.  The tragic child abuse case made "Dear Mr. Jesus" an especially timely entry to popular music.  Americans seem to have a high tolerance for schlock, especially if there are religious overtones.  That song was very syrupy and it struck people right in the heartstrings.  I cringe when I hear it now, although it does force me to remember this very tragic and high profile case. 

Hedda Nussbaum was a former book editor who was well-educated.  She and Steinberg were considered upper-middle class.  And yet, she took his abuse, which was so severe that she needed extensive plastic surgery to repair damage to her nose.  When she called for medical help, she initially claimed that Lisa had choked on food and her bruises had come from falling while skating.  It was later determined that the child had been lying on the bathroom floor for at least ten hours before Nussbaum called for an ambulance.  

It's hard to believe that this fall, Lisa Steinberg will have been dead for thirty years.  I remember when this case was news, seeing Hedda Nussbaum's tired, defeated face in magazines and on television.  Nussbaum's plight brought new attention to "battered women's syndrome" and domestic violence.  I also remember seeing Lisa's picture.  She was tiny, unkempt, and looked so scared and traumatized.  How awful it is that her short life was filled with so much trauma.

The details of this case are shocking and depressing.  It's hard to believe this couple was so easily hidden behind the veneer of respectability.  And yet the two innocent kids illegally adopted by them were living in filth and regularly being subjected to Steinberg's monstrous abuse.  I really think it's too bad Steinberg was released from prison.  At least Mitchell, now known by a different name, was able to escape Lisa's fate.  I read that in 2004, around the time Mr. Steinberg was released from prison, he was headed for college.



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hand-me-downs...


I was so blonde in 1979!

My mom sent me a birthday card.  In it, was a Valentine's Day "card" I made for one of my dad's old Air Force buddies.  I drew it in blue ink on legal paper, which is now faded.  I can't say much for my artistic talents or handwriting... or even my spelling.  But I did glue the above picture to the "card" and my dad's buddy kept it all these years.  When my mom went to visit him and his wife, they gave it to her and she sent it to me for my birthday.  

In the picture above, I was seven years old and sported quite the bowl cut.  Back in those days, Dorothy Hamill's hair was all the rage.  I actually hated my hair like this, but my mom made me get my hair cut short.  Looks like I'm missing my front teeth, too.

I see I'm wearing a dress that belonged to my neighbor, Sarah, who lived next door to me when I was six and seven years old.  Sarah is Canadian and now lives in British Columbia.  A few years ago, I found her on Facebook and we reconnected.  I remember when I was a kid, I inherited a bunch of clothes that belonged to her, including one of her old swim team bathing suits.  I remember it was a red tank suit with white racing stripes down the sides.

Sarah's clothes were probably my only "hand-me-downs" because my sisters are so much older than me.  When I was born in 1972, they were 8, 11, and 13 years old.  So even though I was the youngest kid, I got most of my own clothes.  Some of my clothes ended up in my cousin's closet.  She grew up to be a lot taller than I am, though.  




As you can see, I really liked Dave a lot!

It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that I was seven.  Now I'm a lot older than seven.  Time really flies.  It's funny to see this innocent side of me now.  


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I lied...

Yesterday, I promised that today's topic would be lighter.  I totally meant to write a lighter post today. But then I saw the footage of Philando Castile being shot while stopped for a routine traffic violation last summer.  Supposedly, Philando Castile also matched the description of someone who was wanted for a crime.  It turned my stomach.

One of my Facebook friends is a police officer and he has a lot of opinions.  I actually really like him although we often disagree.  I wasn't surprised when my friend defended Jeronimo Yanez for killing Philando Castile.  For some reason, the jury acquitted this police officer for his outrageous actions.  There must be some evidence that isn't being made public because from what I saw in the videos, that cop really fucked up badly.

Mr. Castile did have a weapon.  He did inform the officer that he had the weapon and he was licensed to carry it.  Seconds after Mr. Castile told the cop that he had a weapon, we hear Yanez shout at him not to reach for it as he simultaneously fires seven rounds into Mr. Castile, right in front of his little daughter.

Amazingly enough, Yanez justifies his actions with this beaut of a quote:

“I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front-seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me?”

This so-called police officer was concerned about Castile's daughter's health because Castile was allegedly high on marijuana (which, I understand, doesn't tend to make people violent as a general rule).  So then he blows her father away with seven shots?  And she's sitting there watching it.  I wonder what kind of lasting damage witnessing that act of violence will do to that poor girl.

This video is clearly biased toward Mr. Castile and it's graphic.  


The girlfriend is obviously in more control than the so-called cop is.

And here is dashcam footage.


The cop totally freaks out.

Intellectually, I can understand that police officers have a difficult job and they put their lives on the line every day.  I still think this particular cop fell way short in what he was entrusted to do.  One of the things I like about living in Germany is that there's not as much violence here.  That includes the police.  Bill and I have witnessed them in action.  They do a lot of talking and de-escalating.  I'm sure that is mainly because most people don't own firearms.  To get a gun in this country, you have to undergo a lot of training and expense.  It takes time and effort.  This is certainly not the case in the United States.

I am generally all for showing respect to police officers.  But I must say, watching these videos made me feel outrage I don't often feel.  I think the jurors got it wrong.  I don't say Yanez went to the car intending to kill Castile, but he was clearly not in control and he made a fatal mistake.  He should be punished with more than just being fired.

I can hear the police officer is totally freaking.  He should be freaking.  He should be haunted by what he did for the rest of his days.  And we should all learn from this.    




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review of Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz

Hello again!  I've just gotten back from our whirlwind long weekend in Belgium.  Today happens to be my 45th birthday.  I have spent all day in an aging SUV, hurtling down various high speed freeways and avoiding traffic jams as much as possible.  It was kind of hellish, trying to get back to Germany today.  However, as bad as today's journey was, it paled in comparison to the journey so many others took to and through Germany back in the 1940s.

I don't know why, but it seems like I always read about the Holocaust at this time of year.  I just recently read The Pharmacist, a book about an ethnic German Romanian pharmacist who was corrupted and became a Nazi.  A couple of days ago, I finished Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz (2013) by Shlomo Venezia (Venezia also includes an interesting commentary about why so many Jewish people have places as their last names).  This may seem like a very heavy topic to be writing about on my birthday, but I wanted to get my thoughts down before I forgot too much... although honestly, this book was so gripping that I'd be hard pressed to forget much about it.

I've read a lot of books about the Holocaust, but none that have quite the perspective that comes from Shlomo Venezia, an Italian Jew whose family was rounded up and deported from Athens, Greece and sent to Auschwitz.  Once they arrived, Venezia's mother and sisters disappeared, almost certainly gassed immediately.  In exchange for some extra bread, Shlomo Venezia agreed to be a member of the Sonderkommando.  He had no idea what he was signing up for when he agreed to this special duty; basically, it was his job to help remove the corpses from the gas chambers and burn them.

This book, written in interview style, covers what it was like for Venezia to carry out his grim duties. Although he had relative comfort compared to other prisoners, he was there to see fellow Jews sent into the gas chambers.  He heard their screams and saw what they looked like after they were murdered.  He watched his colleagues raid their bodies before they were dispatched to the crematoriums.  One guy lied about being a dentist and was tasked with removing gold teeth from the corpses.  He found the work relatively easy at first, but then it grew more difficult as the bodies stiffened.

There were times when Venezia would run into people he knew.  One time, an uncle grew too sick to work and was sent to the gas chamber.  Shlomo had the opportunity to talk to him before he died.  He reassured his uncle, knowing that he was lying, but trying to comfort him in his last moments.  He gave him an extra piece of bread.  And when he died, he and his colleagues were able to say a kaddish for him before he was cremated.

Venezia was also in a position to see some things that other survivors could not have seen.  He witnessed a baby that survived the gas chamber only to be shot in the neck by a Nazi.  He saw a mother and son evade the gas chamber for a couple of days, hiding in tall grass.  They were eventually found and murdered.  He saw some prisoners try to escape, unsuccessfully, of course.

As the war drew to an end, the members of the Sonderkommando became dangerous.  They had seen so much.  The SS wanted to exterminate them before they could reveal all they knew.  Venezia had to use his wits to escape the situation and survive so that he could tell the tale of the horrors of Auschwitz.  While it must be a living hell to have those memories, we are fortunate that he is able to share them with the world.  I think we still have a lot to learn from the horrors of the Holocaust.

I won't lie.  This book is pretty depressing and often shocking.  And yet, it's fascinating and unbelievable... unbelievable that I now happily live in the country that produced most of the monsters who were capable of such horrific acts.  One thing I have noticed about Germany, though, is that its citizens fully recognize what happened and are very ashamed of it.  I have had some interesting conversations with Germans in my two times living here and many times visiting.  I even met one guy who was a POW in the USA.  Still, even having had those conversations and read so many books, it's hard to even fathom the horrors that went on during World War II.

Shlomo Venezia's account is stark, unflinching, dispassionate... and it's often very depressing and horrifying.  I still think it's valuable reading.  We really do have a lot to learn from what happened in the 1940s, especially given what is going on in Washington, DC right now.

I highly recommend Inside the Gas Chambers.  Be prepared to be shocked at the cruelty people are capable of... and heartened by the smallest acts of kindness and humanity.

Tomorrow's post will be on a much lighter topic.  I promise!



    

Saturday, June 17, 2017

In Belgium!

It took all day to get to our present location of Alveringem.  I rented us a huge old house that dates from 1670.  The dogs were warmly welcomed after their long ride.  I awoke this morning to the smell of beer brewing and the sounds of chirping birds and hooting owls.  I hope to have some new travel posts up today or tomorrow, but for now, I just want to enjoy where we are.  This town isn't particularly notable-- at least that I know of.  I think I chose it because it's not far from the beach, Ghent, or Bruges.  

Still... as much as I can vegetate at home, I'm tempted to do it here, too.  While it's currently cool outside, this place has a swimming pond that is also home to two fish.  We may have to try it out.

I think it'll be nice turning 45 here.  I'm a little leery about July, since July often sucks.  But right now, it's June... and I'm sitting in a beautiful old house with good WiFi.  And we were even visited by a cute little critter.



Good thing the boys didn't see this bunny!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mormon girl, age 12, shares her testimony about being gay...

Edited to add:  Natually, the church leader who shut Savannah down is now complaining about his privacy.  And the guy who posted the video is getting threats of Mormon Hell for sharing this.

And, of course, she gets shut down.  I will give the leadership credit, though.  They let her say a lot before they excused her.


Way to go, Savannah.  You are very brave.

I have never been to a Mormon church service, so the constant din from babbling babies is a little strange for me.  At my church, parents put their very young kids in the nursery.  I used to help in the nursery, which I was glad to do if it got me out of a sermon.  In my church, we didn't have fast and testimony meetings.  People didn't get up and bare their souls.

I'm not sure what will happen to Savannah's testimony as the truth about Mormonism is revealed to her.  Perhaps she will stay in the church and try to change it.  Maybe she'll leave it.  I don't know.  I just wanted to publicly offer my support.  That is one very brave young lady and she deserves accolades for what she did.  She's bright and articulate and will go places, especially if she gives up the shackles of the LDS church.

I realize that recently I have some new readers.  I hope these words aren't too shocking for some of you.  For a long time, most of my readers were ex Mormons, who are only too happy to read what I have to say about the church.  My husband is an ex Mormon.  He's a wonderful guy, but was treated like shit by many church members when he and his abusive ex wife divorced.  Later, the church was used as a parental alienation tool.  The end result is that my husband is only now reconnecting with one of the two daughters he lost to divorce and the stupidity of Mormonism.  And sadly, we're not even certain that the daughter who contacted him is sincere.  

I don't like Mormonism.  But I must say it's awesome that Savannah had the opportunity to say what she said.  They should have let her finish, but I'm very impressed that they let her get as far as they did.  I am guessing it was sheer shock, but I'd like to think some progress has been made.  And it will have to be made if the church expects to survive.

Bravo, Savannah!  I hope you get all you dream of and more.  And, if you are as smart as you seem, you won't let a manmade creation like a church tell you whom you should love.  

Incidentally, this is not the first time a Mormon has been publicly silenced.  Behold... a guy who speaks out about Prop 8.


Again... the Mormons don't want to support gay marriage.  And they don't like to be criticized.




Racist white people who lack empathy...

Last night, I watched a movie I hadn't seen in probably thirty years or more.  The film was called Carbon Copy.  It was released in 1981 and starred George Segal and Susan St. James.  It also featured a young and talented Denzel Washington, who was making his film debut.  I used to watch that movie on HBO all the time when I was a kid, though I didn't understand it as well back then as I do today.


A trailer for the film, Carbon Copy...

I was moved to purchase Carbon Copy because it had a very catchy theme song that I got stuck in my head.  With music by Bill Conti and lyrics by Paul Williams, the bouncy tune was definitely an ear worm, if not a bit dated.  Having watched the film last night, I can honestly say I enjoyed it.  It's basically a satirical look at racist white people and the stupid things they say and do.

The story begins with Walter Whitney (Segal) in bed with his frigid wife, Vivian (St. James).  She's not into him and he's frustrated.  He gets out of bed and we immediately see that he lives in a fabulous mansion in fictional San Marino, California.  Whitney is a wealthy ad executive and has all the trappings of success.  He has a pretty wife, a beautiful home, a well-paying job.  But money doesn't buy everything.

Walter's wife is a snob.  His stepdaughter, whom he apparently adopted, treats him with contempt.  His father-in-law is his boss and treats him with condescension.  Even his job was handed to him with strings attached.

One day, Walter gets a blast from the past.  A young black guy named Roger Porter (Washington) shows up at his office asking for him.  He mentions that he's the son of Lorraine.  Lorraine is a dear friend of Walter's, though he hadn't seen her in many years.  Walter's face lights up at the mention of her name.  He asks his secretary to send Roger in for a visit.  Roger comes in, parks his ass at Walter's desk and drops a bomb on him.  He's actually Walter's son!

At first, Walter doesn't believe him.  I wouldn't believe him, either, since Roger/Denzel doesn't look like he's biracial; but hey-- it's the movies, right?  Roger then convinces Walter than he is his long lost  17 year old son and his mother has just died.  Walter, being somewhat decent, decides he has to help Roger.  He brings him home after pitching the idea of hosting a black kid to his racist wife.

Both Walter and Vivian are extremely ignorant, condescending, and racist to the point of ridiculousness.  They wrongly assume Roger is a high school dropout who has no idea how civilized people live.  They serve him fried chicken and tell him he'll be attending the Presbyterian church, even though Roger says he's a Baptist.  They force him to stay in the garage instead of their home.

Then, when Walter and Vivian have an argument, Walter tells his wife he's really Roger's dad.  Vivian's reaction is extreme, to the point of needing a doctor and a minister.  In short order, Walter finds himself tossed out on the street with his son.  He's abandoned by his friends, his family, even his doctor, lawyer, and minister.

Walter and Roger move into a cheap motel, then a crappy apartment and Roger soon finds himself shoveling horse shit.  As he's knocked off his powerful white station in life, Walter supposedly learns something about what it's like to be black.  He realizes that his former life was a very fragile sham-- an illusion of decency and decorum.  Walter develops empathy and appreciation for his son.  He rejects his shallow existence and becomes a much better person.


Funny scene about assumptions some white people make about black people...

Carbon Copy is kind of a silly movie and it makes its points with over the top gags that require viewers to suspend their disbelief.  There were parts of the movie that were actually a little offensive to me today, although they probably wouldn't have been in the less politically correct early 80s.  And yet, after yesterday's post, I realize that it was kind of appropriate that I was watching that movie.  I realized that many white people still have a long way to go.

Yesterday, because I was curious about "Margaret", my very first roommate at Longwood College, I went into obsessed fan mode and looked up her brother.  I wondered if he was anything like her.  Granted, almost 27 years have passed since I was last in the same room with Margaret.  For all I know, she may have evolved into a decent person.  Still, her behavior in 1990 was very strange, even for a stupid 18 year old.  I went looking to find out if Margaret's brother-- also adopted-- was as big of an asshole as his sister was.

Looking at his Facebook page and the page made for their father's business, I can see that Margaret's brother works for their father.  He's got a bunch of public stuff on his Facebook page.  Some of it's fairly innocuous.  Like, for instance, I learned that Margaret's brother-- let's call him Chip-- is a proud father of four.  He's happily married and a Christian.  He loves being Southern and living in the South.

I also learned that Chip is a firm believer in Donald Trump's genius.  He thinks that transgendered people should be forced to use the bathroom corresponding to their genitalia.  He obviously considers himself a "gentleman" and promotes attitudes reflecting conservative values.  He's probably pretty sexist, too.

Further down the page, I find the following...



This one in particular struck me as idiotic...


Chip expresses some very ignorant and rather offensive views about the Civil War and the Confederacy.  I can see that he's clearly very proud of his Southern heritage and he's against the recent moves to get rid of Confederate war memorials.

Having lived in South Carolina myself, at a time when the stars and bars were still flying over the South Carolina Statehouse, I can see where these opinions formed.  To be honest, I am not a fan of trying to whitewash history.  The fact is, there was a Civil War.  The South lost, but that doesn't mean there weren't great leaders from the Confederacy.  Should we still be publicly celebrating them in 2017?  Perhaps not.  But I can understand why some Southerners want to hang onto their memorials, even if I don't agree with them.  They do have a right to their opinions, ignorant as I might think they are.

On the other hand, the Civil War has been over for a long time.  The South is a part of the United States, not an entity unto itself.  And while I'm sure Chip is "nice" to black people he sees face to face, I have a feeling that deep down, he's quite racist.  Maybe that doesn't matter to him.  Since I don't know him, I can only base an opinion on what I can see in the messages he broadcasts publicly on social media.

I read that Chip's father served on some board at UVa. that celebrates diversity.  He also served as a Peace Corps Country Director in Jamaica.  How does that jibe with his son's evidently racist views?  These attitudes don't form in a vacuum.  

I read up on Chip's mother, evidently a woman very proud of her Greek heritage.  She and her husband met on a blind date when she was working for Senator Strom Thurmond.  I happened to be living in South Carolina at the tail end of Thurmond's time in the South Carolina legislature.  Although he was much celebrated in South Carolina, Mr. Thurmond had some pretty racist views, especially in his early political days.  If Chip's mom worked for Mr. Thurmond in the 60s, she probably has some racist ideas, too.  I know that racist ideas often die hard, especially in older people.  On the other hand, maybe she's evolved.  Based on her Facebook page, which also celebrates Donald Trump, I doubt it.  



According to Wikipedia:

During his 1948 campaign, Thurmond said the following in a speech, being met with loud cheers by the assembled supporters: listen (help·info)

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.[6]


There was a time when Chip's views weren't that strange to me.  I grew up in Virginia, which despite being geographically pretty far north, is a very Southern state.  I spent time with people like Chip, although I don't think most of the people I hung around with regularly were quite as drunk on the southern pride Kool-Aid as Chip appears to be.  But his attitudes are not unfamiliar to me.  When I was younger, I probably even agreed with them to some extent.  Then I left the country a few times and started getting to know people from other places.  My opinions began to change, hopefully for the better.  I like to think I have a broader mind now than I did twenty years ago, although I'm sure I still have a ways to go.  

It's funny that a silly comedy like Carbon Copy, which was made 36 years ago, is still relevant today. If you watch the film, you can see that it goes to extremes.  Walter Whitney tells his wife he's the father of a black son and, just like that, he gets ousted from his cushy lifestyle.  We all know that it wouldn't actually happen that way.  In reality, Walter's downfall would probably be a bit more like Dan Aykroyd's was in Trading Places, a 1983 film also starring Eddie Murphy.

Trading Places' plot was somewhat like that of Carbon Copy's.  Basically, a rich white guy gets knocked off his pedestal by a black guy.  He ends up living in a way he never thought he would, while the formerly broke black guy takes his place.  It's not quite the same execution, but the message is similar.  Many people have a lot to learn about empathy.  


Trading Places trailer.

Anyway, if you haven't seen Carbon Copy, I'd recommend it.  It's a bit dated and kind of silly, but it does drive home a point that is still valid over 35 years later.  And then, when you're done watching Carbon Copy, you can watch Trading Places, which was a more famous and successful film about the same thing.

As for Margaret and her dysfunctional clan, I think I'm done peeking into their lives.  My curiosity is now satisfied, probably for at least another 27 years.