The Last Straw

 

A favorite movie from my youth was one called Billy Jack, the story of a half-white, half-Native American (um, Indian in those days), former Green Beret who, shall we say, has some anger management issues.

In one scene, Billy arrives in town to find some of his friends being bullied by some locals in a diner. After surveying the damage, he offers his heartfelt confession to the chief bully, Bernard, that he really, really tries to keep his temper in check. But when he sees these acts of cruelty inflicted on his friends, and I quote:

”I just go ber-serk!!!

Then he starts some serious butt-kicking.

That’s about where I find myself now.

 

I’ve witnessed a lot of events in our country, and our world, in the last year and a half, facilitated by people in Washington, DC, that have strained my limits of tolerance.

I’ve seen some completely boneheaded, irreconcilably stupid, downright reckless acts committed in the name of Making America Great Again.

And I have, for the most part, held my tongue about it, mainly because I thought the people behind these actions, along with the people who support the people behind these actions, care not one little bit about what I may think.

But, when I see picture after picture of immigrant children – children! – locked up in cages like a bunch of dangerous criminals, having been separated from their parents….

When I hear the President blame Democrats for this whole debacle, when any idiot knows that Democrats are the minority party in Congress, so they essentially have no power to enact or change anything…

And when I hear the Attorney General of the United States have the gall to cite the Holy Bible to justify these cruel and barbarous acts, and the Press Secretary (among others) then defend that Scriptural perversion…

Well, now I just have to speak up, because the next stop is berserk.

 

This is beyond outrageous. It’s beyond shameful. It’s beyond disgraceful. It reveals a country that has given up its decency, compassion, and humanity, in exchange for fear, prejudice, and hatred.

A country that has heard all the same old lies about immigration so many times as to believe them all, without question.

A country that has revealed to the world its true attitude, in all its wretched ugliness.

I don’t know the answer to the immigration issue. Apparently, nobody does, or it would be solved by now.

But I guarantee, there is nobody – absolutely nobody – who can convince me that this is it.

And I think it’s time for us all to just go berserk.

How You Doin’?

 

 

From the Associated Press, 06/08/2018:

“Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and citizen of the world who inspired millions to share his delight in food and the bonds it created, was found dead in his hotel room Friday in France while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions. He was 61.

“CNN confirmed the death, saying that Bourdain was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert in the French city of Haut-Rhin. It called his death a suicide.”

 

From the Associated Press, 06/06/2018

“NEW YORK (AP) — The husband and business partner of designer Kate Spade, who died in an apparent suicide, said she suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.”

 

From the Washington Post, 06/08/2018:

“Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the individuals had no known mental health condition when they took their own life.”

 

Is there anyone out there who still doesn’t see how serious a problem this is?

We’re dying, folks. By our own hand.

In ever growing numbers.

I find that both terrifying and heartbreaking.

Not to mention, completely unnecessary. This doesn’t need to be happening!

My brothers and sisters, we need to look out for one another. Where are we failing?

Well, I have one possible explanation:

The CDC report pointed out an apparently high number of suicides among people without a known mental health condition, saying: “In the 27 states that use the National Violent Death Reporting System, 54 percent of suicides were by individuals without a known mental illness.”

But Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, added an important asterisk to that statistic, saying that, “When you do a psychological autopsy and go and look carefully at medical records and talk to family members of the victims, 90 percent will have evidence of a mental health condition.” So, many of the suicides were completed by people who were never even diagnosed, and consequently, never got any treatment for their condition.

According to the report, a likely reason for that is, most people aren’t asking for help. Especially, men. 

 

And, listen, I understand the reluctance. Mental illness still has a huge stigma attached to it. Nobody wants to admit there’s a problem, because it comes with a great big Scarlet Letter.

So, rather than be negatively labeled, people will just keep killing themselves.

THAT’S why the stigma has to be eliminated. That’s why we need to discuss mental illness as easily as we do cancer, or heart disease, or any other physical malady. It’s an illness, and it can and should be treated. People with mental illness aren’t crazy; they’re sick, and they need help.

And here’s the important part: If you know them, they need you to ask them if they need help.

I know that’s tough but, many times, they’re simply waiting for someone to ask them; they just won’t come out and say it.

Look, I’m no doctor. I’m no psychiatrist. I do have an illness. It’s called clinical depression, and I sure enough need help for it. And I’m getting it. Because I deal with those thoughts that visit me sometimes, and tell me just go ahead and check out, because you’re hopeless, you sorry, no good SOB.

But then, I realize: after posting information on this blog about what some of the warning signs are in someone who may be suicidal (08/31/2017), where to go to get help (08/31/2017), and how to help someone who is suicidal (09/13/2017), and after offering personal encouragement (09/23/2017 and several other dates), it would all ring pretty hollow if I just went and killed myself, wouldn’t it? I’d be the world’s biggest fraud. (Well, second biggest; you longtime readers know who I think has a lock on first place.)

But, back to my point: We all need to learn to be more observant of the behavior of those around us and, if we notice something that’s off with somebody, ask if he or she is okay. That’s not nosy, that’s caring.

And, you never know. It could be the difference between someone getting help, or ending it all. The stakes are that high.

Please, folks, let’s get out of ourselves and our cellphones a little more, and check in on our family, our friends, our colleagues. They may be waiting for us to ask.

But for how much longer?

By the way, how are you?

 

Never. Not Once

This is great stuff. Read it and consider seriously what this gentleman is saying.

Note To My White Self

Note to my white self…

In light of the recent events at a Starbucks coffee shop, it seems prudent to understand what such incidents teach you as a white person.

You have never been asked to leave a coffee shop because you haven’t purchased a beverage yet.

You have never had a store clerk call the police to have you removed from the premises.

You have never been arrested for asking to use the restroom.

Never. Not once.

You have never had black men yell “Honky” and throw garbage at you from a passing vehicle.

You have never had a person cross to the other side of the street when they see you.

You have never had people stare right through you when you said “hello.”

You have never had someone tell you they hate you because of the color of your skin.

Never. Not once.

You have never had…

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For the Fellas

 

Men. Guys. Dudes. Brothers.

Listen to me right now. If I could, I would grab every single one of you by the lapels on your coat, pull you right to my face, and say, “Pay Attention!!”

Here’s why: There are two professional basketball players who have something very important to say to all of us guys.

So, I want all of you to go straight to The Players’ Tribune, a website where professional athletes connect directly with fans, in their own words. Once you’re there, read Everyone is Going Through Something, by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, about the panic attack that woke him up to his mental illness.

Then, read about DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, opening up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait here.

 

Done? Good.

Could you identify with some of what you read? I sure could. I think lots of men can.

But nobody ever knows that, because to speak up about it is to admit to a “weakness”, which, of course, no real man can admit, right?

Plus, in our culture, “mental illness” is synonymous with “looney toons”, and it’s time we all get past that way of thinking.

What I hope sticks with you, fellas, from Kevin and DeMar’s stories, is that it’s okay to talk to someone about your mental health. You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem.

You hear me? You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem. And you’re not any less of a man for talking with someone about it. The fact I have to practically shout it to you just shows how much STIGMA is attached to mental illness in America. Especially, with men.

And, the way to make that go away is for more of us to talk openly about it, like Kevin and DeMar, and so many before them, and not just athletes, either. Men from all different walks of life.

Because, the truth is, big boys do cry. We just never see them do it.

Mental illness isn’t something that will just go away with time if you wait it out, and it sure as hell isn’t something you can fix, yourself; I don’t care how badass you think you are.

I’m gonna keep talking about mental illness. My mental illness. My depression. Because it’s something men need to talk about a whole lot more. Not just about sports, or cars, or politics, or women, or our physical health.

Our mental health is as much a part of who we are as the rest of it, guys. So, let’s make it part of the conversation.

I just want to remind you of what Kevin said at the end of his essay:

“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

“Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.”

It was for me. And, with all my heart, guys, I promise you, it could be for you.

It really is okay.

Here’s to the Women

 

I am strong, I am invincible, I am Woman. – Helen Reddy

Girls just wanna have fun. – Cyndi Lauper

 

Today is International Women’s Day! Women of the world, I celebrate you all!

According to the International Women’s Day website, “International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

You have certainly achieved much in our history, and for that, you should be proud. However, the mountain you’re climbing, as you well know, is very high, very steep, and very treacherous.

Some men, with their cultures, their religions, their double standards, their smug condescension, their supreme arrogance and horrifying violence do everything they can to break your spirit, to break your will.

And still, you continue the fight; for respect, for equality, for your rightful place in this world, a world to which many of you deliver our next generation. And you love and care for those children the best you can, in the face of any adversity or hardship.

And you laugh and you sing and you dance and you hurt and you cry and you mourn and, most of all, you love.

Oh, yeah; you inspire, as well.

Be proud of who you are, today, women. We men could learn so much from you, if we would just freakin’ admit it.

I admit it. I’m just a little slow to learn, sometimes.

But you have my admiration and respect, today and every day.

Bless you all.

Those “Mentally Ill” Killers

 

I know I’ve dwelled on the subject of gun violence of late, but it’s really been on my mind. Way too many people, especially kids, are being shot to death; it’s an epidemic.

Our beloved leaders in Washington, however, are rendered impotent by their own partisanship, not to mention their allegiance to the National Rifle Association’s money.

Which is why, after this latest horror scene in a Florida high school, the focus is again not on the proliferation of and easy access to guns in America, but on mental illness.

I would simply ask the President, members of Congress, and anyone else who would seek to blame mental illness for all the gun violence, to at least consider the findings of an article published by Psychiatry Online entitled, “Mass Shootings and Mental Illness.” Here’s the link:

https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/appi.books.9781615371099

Among the points it makes are:

“Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths.

“The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms.

“Laws intended to reduce gun violence that focus on a population representing less than 3% of all gun violence will be extremely low yield, ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources. Perpetrators of mass shootings are unlikely to have a history of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. Thus, databases intended to restrict access to guns and established by guns laws that broadly target people with mental illness will not capture this group of individuals.

“Gun restriction laws focusing on people with mental illness perpetuate the myth that mental illness leads to violence, as well as the misperception that gun violence and mental illness are strongly linked. Stigma represents a major barrier to access and treatment of mental illness, which in turn increases the public health burden.”

Now, don’t you think, if psychiatrists were convinced that mental illness actually was the problem, they wouldn’t be presenting all this evidence to the contrary?

Gun violence is a public health crisis, but please, let’s not be so quick to brand it as a public mental health crisis. I’m fully aware that a lot of you will disagree, but the problem is, and has always been, the guns.

Period.

 

 

“Fuck you, I like guns.”

I know this won’t sway any of the gun lovers, but this is, by far, the best argument I’ve read for why assault rifles shouldn’t be available to just anyone. Look past the occasional dirty word; just focus on the big picture. This is the most important issue our country faces right now. Ask any student.

Anastasia Writes

Edited to add: I can’t thank you all enough for interacting with this post. I am actually surprised that it’s become this popular. This is the first time more than ten people have read anything I’ve written here. I’m probably going to turn off commenting soon because everything that can be said already has been. In general, I’d like to point out that this is an opinion piece. I wrote it on a 15 minute coffee break and posted it unedited. It’s raw, and that’s the whole point. The tone, the language, and the style are intentional. This was written for people like my mostly conservative Army buddies who will never click an article that is titled “Gun control is your friend”, and tend to assume those who support such legislation have never seen a gun before. I’m not a professional writer, nor a particularly prolific blogger until about three…

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Guns In the Classroom

For all the “Arm the teacher” advocates out there in the wake of the Florida school shootings, let’s hear from a recently retired teacher:

Endless Bitchen Summer

After dedicating 18+ years of my life to teaching high school before retiring this year, I can say with authority that arming teachers with weapons is a very bad and dangerous idea. While some of my former colleagues may disagree, I assert that only more tragedy will occur on an armed-and-ready-to-shoot campus.

Most people who propose arming teachers have not set foot on a high school campus since they graduated. So let me enlighten you. Schools are over crowded. My last teaching assignment was at an at-risk school – the largest Title I school in Nevada. I had 230 students. Most classes exceeded 40 students. Desks were jammed so close together that in an effort to assist students, I had to squeeze between desks. In that type of proximity, a motivated student could have disarmed me in seconds.

While most of my students were great kids, I had legitimate gang…

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Fire, Bleed, Repeat

 

Really, is there any point?

Any point at all in discussing the school shooting in a Florida high school on Wednesday?

The one that left seventeen people dead, at the hands of a nineteen-year-old former student? With a rifle?

That filled our TV screens with crying students and crying parents and SWAT teams and somber reporters?

That rang the bell for Round Whatever of the great Gun Debate?

Really, is there any point?

When we all know the end result will be…nothing.

And the story will disappear from the news cycle in a week or two.

And the whole f####ng scenario will play out again. And again. And again.

I honestly don’t know where to go from here. I can’t offer any hope. I can’t offer any rage. I think it’s all a waste of my breath.

So, I’ll just offer this:

To those of you who lost people you loved in this tragedy, I am so very deeply sorry. My heart is broken for you.

But, just as heartbreaking, is that you’re likely just the latest in a never ending line.

Because our attention span is just too short to allow us to care.

That’s the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Aboard?

 

We’re gonna keep this train a-rollin’
We ain’t gonna break down on this highway
We could sit here waitin’, worried, wonderin’
Wishin’ we were somewhere other than right here
But we’re right here

“Keep This Train A’Rollin’”, Doobie Brothers

 

Well, we are right here, aren’t we?

And we’re all witness to the infancy of a historical revolution.

Ladies, I’m looking at you.

A distant voice is calling, growing in volume and intensity. It’s the voice of millions of women – of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations – standing together to say emphatically, “TIME’S UP!

Women are speaking out against sexual harassment from powerful men, finally revealing secrets they’ve kept for years under threat of swift and severe consequences.

Women are speaking out against pay inequities at work, along with other forms of discrimination they experience on a regular basis.

Women are speaking out against the body shaming culture that denies their right to simply be themselves, and be happy with that.

Oh, yeah, the revolution is happening. This train is a-rollin’.

And I’m on board.

 

This week’s Grammy Awards ceremony gave us two definitive moments in that revolution.

First, there was artist Janelle Monae, issuing a clarion call for the just treatment of women in the music industry, holding out an olive branch in an ironclad fist with the unequivocal declaration, “We come in peace, but we mean business.”

Immediately following that was recording artist Kesha who, backed by an all-female chorus, delivered a devastating performance of “Praying”, an anthem for every woman who has endured the worst kind of treatment, only to emerge victorious.

Mind you, this follows on the heels of Oprah Winfrey’s energizing speech at the Golden Globe Awards earlier this year, which was inspired by the #Me Too movement, which itself emerged from the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Put coal on the fire, and the train gains steam.

 

Now:

You fellows that have terrifying visions of armies of militant, man-hating bitches marching down our street, ready to castrate every male they see, like so many bulls down on the farm:

Honestly, get over yourselves.

If you feel threatened, welcome to their world.

Women aren’t looking for dominance. They’re not looking for supremacy. They’re simply asking to be treated with respect. Aretha was right all those years ago.

 

When I was a lad, pop singer Helen Reddy released “I Am Woman “, a confident, self-assured statement which became a huge hit song, and was adopted as the anthem of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The lyrics remain amazingly relevant, I think:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again
Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong

(Strong)
I am invincible
(Invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

From the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the 19th century, all the way to the present, the struggle for women has been long and arduous; at times, disheartening, at times, rewarding. After all, just two years ago, a woman was nominated for President of the United States.

If there’s one thing you should take from that, guys, it’s this:

They ain’t givin’ up.

The train is a-rollin’. Get on board.