Sunday, December 11, 2011

Who's Bullying Whom?

I wasn't going to talk about this, but recent events have given me reason to change that decision. I think it's time to provide some perspective to those who are willing and able to view it.

Last week, on Tuesday, my brother and I both spent the day in horror as we received phone calls indicating that our mother was likely dead and that she may have been in her house dead for a week or more.

It is not uncommon for us to not be able to reach her for days at a time or even a week or so. It is not uncommon for people (her neighbors) to bang on the doors and windows and get no response when checking on her. However, it *IS* uncommon for her to not come to the door when the "Meals on Wheels" delivery person arrives each Tuesday.

For the second Tuesday in a row, my mother had not come to the door. Furthermore, her neighbors called in a panic and said that it appeared that her mail had not been picked up in more than a week, since the bill for trash pick up arrived for everyone in her neighborhood a week earlier and hers was still in her mailbox.

This was what prompted my brother and I to interrupt very busy and hectic work days (I was traveling for business between TN and KY that day) and contact the local police. For hours we waited for word as we exchanged text messages and phone calls. Nothing.

Finally, my brother and I prepared ourselves for the worst and agreed that we would both drive to Atlanta - both from different states - and meet at my mother's house and get a locksmith to unlock her newly installed front door, to which not even her neighbors had a key yet. We knew it would not be pretty, and the images that run through one's mind are quite unpleasant when considering the possibly week-old decomposing body of a loved one.

While enduring this mental torture, my brother was trying to maintain his composure as a prosecutor carrying out his duties in court, and I was trying to maintain mine as a technical consultant for my clients. I didn't mention the situation to the people I was working with, as it would have been too much of a distraction and I worried it would come across as unprofessional. It wasn't easy to manage.

Once I had handled the business at hand in Nashville, I headed to Chattanooga, knowing that if we got word that my mother was okay by then I would be roughly the same distance from Knoxville as from Atlanta.

The police had been to her house at our request and they got no response either. However, they did not want to break the windows or doors, for reasons I suppose had to do with the fact that her new front door was just installed a week earlier (reinforced steel after a burglary my mother reported) and that if she was dead there would be nothing they could do anyway.

After 12 hours of horrific stress, I finally got word from my brother that my mother's sister had heard from her. My mother later told me she had been in the hospital with her diabetes for a week and that she didn't remember anyone's number and didn't even remember what happened or how she ended up in the hospital.

There are still many unanswered questions, and those who know the situation well know that there are many other things at work here that I'm not going to get into publicly. However, suffice it to say that, while I am relieved that my mother is alive, there is still much concern and stress over the fact that my mother refuses to allow us to move her closer to where I live so I can keep a closer eye on her and be more readily available when needed. There is also much stress over dealing with the issues of not knowing what really happened and trying to piece things together from a variety of things that have occurred over the past few weeks.

While dealing with all of this, I started getting messages from people that several individuals had begun a smear campaign against me. Apparently, because I am headstrong and debate relentlessly point for point with people who make political and religious statements that are not supported by facts, there are some who feel the need to attack me personally.

This isn't just a matter of people making obnoxious and insulting comments in a thread or in response to a status update. We're talking about a blatant campaign to assassinate my character and make unfounded accusations. The individuals in question sent messages to people on my friends list who they mistakenly believed I wasn't all that close to with a variety of statements designed to sabotage me.

The one and only thing that was true in the messages sent by these individuals which were forwarded to me was that I am a convicted felon. Apparently, the claim was that they are "outing me" as a felon and "warning" other people about me. Umm... HELLOOOOOOOO.... I've only been "outing" myself for about a year and a half now. LOL Read my blogs, folks. I've been extremely open about my status as a felon who plead guilty to wire fraud charges. I talk about it often. I even wrote a book about it. I'm not sure why anyone would think there is a need to "out" me to people who already know this information, but nonetheless, these people decided to do just that.

Other accusations ranged from the claim that I never went to the high school in TN where I spent the first two years (did the last two in GA) to the claim that I don't even have a felony and just made up the whole story about going to prison so I could write a book about it.

Of course, at first I wasn't too worried because everyone already knew about my felony and the people who received the messages were more disgusted by the behavior of these people than I was. It was mentioned to me that these people tend to spend a lot of their time drinking and getting high, despite the fact that they are in their 40's, and I believe the term one of my friends used was "perpetual adolescents".

One of the people involved is a woman I went to high school with and thought was a friend. Of course, I'm no stranger to friends who turn on me for a variety of reasons - whether because I disagree with them and refuse to cave in to their arguments anymore than they do mine - (*I* don't go on personal character assassination campaigns when people argue with *me*) - or because they disagree on matters of critical thinking vs. religion, medicine, science, or anything else.

I'm a pretty forgiving person, but I'm not too quick to trust people again once they've stabbed me in the back. Still, I won't hold my breath for an apology from people such as these.

It is interesting to me that when I made a particularly clear point that one of these individuals couldn't counter with anything intelligent he responded with "shut the fuck up". I suppose that is the point at which I should have blocked him, but I didn't realize the true level of immaturity and mental unbalance I was dealing with in this person at the time.

Since then, I have learned much about what has gone on behind the scenes, because these people also have people with whom they are friends who are turning on them now that they are revealing themselves to be less-than-capable of mature friendship.

There have been attempts to hack into my accounts, (I get notified when there are failed login attempts) and a variety of other activity which I have fully documented for legal purposes. I may be a felon, but I share a house with a retired police officer and we have many mutual friends who are currently still in law enforcement at a variety of levels. I am fortunate that they are available to advise me on what steps need to be taken to protect myself. (Incidentally, they don't view me as dangerous or untrustworthy at all. They're a good judge of character, and they know the difference between someone who makes a mistake and someone who is a career criminal.)

I've been told there are likely a variety of reasons for this behavior by mutual friends of the individuals involved in this hateful behavior. The possible reasons range from the fact that I have declined invitations to go to parties and engage in drinking and getting high with them to the fact that I have shown no romantic and/or sexual interest in any of them. Whatever. Only these people know what their motivations are, but I know for a fact I have done nothing to deserve this kind of negative attention and extreme effort on their part.

Now, there are allegations that I am a horrible person because I have supposedly "attacked" people.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will whine incessantly that people like me make posts about atheism that amount to about 2% of the number of posts that appear in their social update stream compared to the number of religious posts.

I do not whine that anyone is attacking atheism every time they make a prayer request, start the day by "praising the lord" or god or whatever they choose to call the subject of their particular belief. I don't whine because others don't use a religion-specific greeting. I don't even whine about people wishing me a Merry Christmas. I'm perfectly happy with whatever greeting one wishes to share with me. I, however, choose to follow the Jewish philosophy which the religious figure Jesus is said to have also shared which says that we should treat others as we would like to be treated, which means that I try to be all-inclusive in my greetings rather than risk alienating anyone and making them feel as though they are surrounded by people who do not recognize any celebration or religious holiday but their own. Jesus himself wasn't that selfish if anything that has been written about him is true.

In a world full of self-righteous, self-centered people, it can be a very hostile environment for those of us who are in the minority. There are death threats I receive on a regular basis (another reason why I have developed so many close relationships with law enforcement) and there is non-stop bullying I endure.

Sometimes the bullying takes the form of accusing ME of being a bully for not buying what those who disagree with me are selling. Sometimes it takes the form of others spreading false rumors, or trying to distort truths about me into something more than what they are. Some people try to convince others that I have attacked them when I have, in fact, done no such thing.

One of the individuals who is campaigning against me has a restraining order out against him by another friend and is known to be mentally unbalanced. I have a very mentally ill family member, and I am sympathetic to such ailments, but I will not tolerate inappropriate behavior from such people either.

There was a tirade a couple of days ago (of which I have a copy) against me by this person telling me what a horrible person I am for having a wire fraud conviction and being a convicted felon and on and on and on. His attempts were designed to intimidate and belittle me. So, at the suggestion of several people, I flipped it back on him and asked him some questions... asked him if some of the awful things I had heard about him were true.

Apparently, he is now playing the victim. Everyone knows I don't tolerate double standards, nor will I walk on egg shells for someone who is throwing stones my way and lives in a glass house themselves.

If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

These things do not hurt my feelings, they do not concern me except for the fact that my personal safety may be threatened, and they certainly do not discourage me from continuing to share information and counter irrational arguments made by others. If anything, it makes me more determined not to be silenced.

I am grateful to my loyal friends who are keeping me informed, who have my back, and who refuse to allow themselves to be manipulated by others who have nothing better to do than spend their time attacking someone they simply don't like.

If I rub you the wrong way to the point where you feel the need to attack my character and/or exploit past mistakes, that's a reflection of who you are as a person, and in no way has anything to do with who *I* am as a person.

Having said that, if you find my refusal to agree with what makes no sense to me to be so disconcerting, please feel free to remove me from your friends list. It won't hurt my feelings. I have plenty of friends who disagree with me but are mature enough to respect our differences rather than behave like toddlers throwing temper tantrums and engaging in childish behavior.

I can not be responsible for the words and actions of others - only myself. I was once again reminded of this by someone who tends to be very militant, even though he and I share the same views. He has said some things that were a bit strong even for my taste to people on the other side of debates, and I tried to be the peacemaker and point out that what started it all seemed to me to be a misunderstanding, which resulted in me being accused by both sides of siding with the other side. (I'm quite accustomed to that as a libertarian-leaning individual... conservatives accuse me of being a liberal, liberals accuse me of being a conservative. I'm neither.) Likewise, I wasn't taking any sides in this particular case, but merely trying to let people know that the people they had mistaken for contrarians were actually just presenting alternate views. Of course, it didn't work out, so from now on I'm allowing others to handle their disagreements and will refrain from trying to break anything up, as it is usually the one breaking up a fight who receives the most punches.

I will close by saying that it isn't rational or fair to accuse those who counter your arguments with solid arguments of their own of "attacking" you. If they attack you personally, ok. They are attacking you. I, however, do not attack people personally. I don't "attack" anything. I refute false statements and counter them with either facts or well-supported theories or arguments. I am always willing to back up my claims, and I don't require that anyone accept my statements just because I'm making them. I certainly don't tell them to "shut the fuck up" just because they have made a solid point that I can not counter with more information.

It is mentally exhausting to some people to put the effort forth to make sure their points are based on solid evidence or sound theory, but it is something I do well most of the time and if that annoys you, I strongly urge you not to engage me in debate. The positions I hold come not from opinions which I attempted to bolster with false information appearing real, but rather, I investigated matters, evaluated information objectively, absent any need to come to any particular conclusion, and *that* is why I take the positions I take.

In the end, if it isn't kept friendly, it's not very worthwhile unless it is something that may cause harm to others if it is not refuted and an attempt made to share important data. An example would be those who choose not to vaccinate their children simply because there are some admitted safety issues with some of our vaccines. That is a situation that I wouldn't back down from, and I would have no qualms about personally insulting someone by calling them a bad parent for putting their child in danger of contracting a life-threatening illness. Otherwise, I try to stick to the topic at hand rather than attack the individual making the argument. It's too bad others can't do the same, and it's even more unfortunate that they are disrupting so many otherwise peaceful (albeit opinionated) people as a result.

What's interesting is that the people who are currently assassinating my character are people who were very friendly when my views agreed with their own. It was only when they didn't that they began acting like buffoons. I'll just chalk it up to a lack of maturity and them likely being under the influence of illegal substances, of which I understand they partake regularly. (This is another reason why I have never done illegal drugs or even legal drugs illegally, despite the fact that I think they should all be de-criminalized for a variety of reasons.)

Whatever holiday you celebrate at this very festive time of year, I wish you peace and joy, and I hope you will keep in mind that the reason for the season is to share peace and love, regardless of whatever natural patterns in the environment, religious figures or belief systems have inspired you to do so.


1 comment:

Mentarch said...

Hear, hear, Angie! It is always the guilty and hypocrites that accuse others of doing ... what they themselves are doing. It,s called "projection".

(btw: I don't recall accusing you of taking any side ... lemme know if I actually did. In any case, I apologize in advance if my brain somehow went through a glitch and actually did just that. Obviously, as I remember the particular thread you allude to, you were trying to do what you say you tried to do: break up a "fight" - which was not really one imho, but then again, I'm used to, ah, "vigorous" debates and discussions ... what, me being a scientist and all) ;-)