Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hitler, Beck- separated at birth?

GLENN BECK, on his radio show, likening the camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya to the Hitler Youth
 I heard this quote this morning and read it online and all I can say is, what the hell are you talking about?
Let's break it down. "There was a shooting at a political camp," No, Mr Beck there was a shooting at a Youth Camp sponsored by a Norwegian political party. The camp was focused on developing leadership skills, teaching grassroots political activism, and offering inspiration and encouragement to young people about their country and it's continued promise and potential. Sounds a lot like a Young Republicans or Young Democrats conference, Rock the Vote meeting, or summer camp for political geeks.
"Which sounds a little like Hitler Youth." No, Mr. Beck the Hitler Youth organization was compulsory, it's only purpose was to prepare German boys for military service and German girls for motherhood. Children were forced to attend meetings until late in the evening and the meetings were so stressful, many children suffered academically and physically with teachers complaining of poor attendance at school due to late night meetings and drills.
"Or, whatever." Mr. Beck if you are going to throw out the name of Hitler either come prepared to have a real conversation or be quiet. I realize this is a foreign concept to you but give it a whirl, or whatever.
"I mean, who does a camp for kids that's all about politics." The camp is actually not all about politics. Like most summer camps it's about swimming, soccer, smooching the cute girl from the town across the river and playing guitar around a camp fire. There were political speakers on a variety of topics and there were discussion groups on everything from politics to Norwegian history. Here in the U.S. the American Legion, political parties, the Masons, churches, and state governments all sponsor youth summer activities to teach young people about how they can impact their society. All of these camps have a particular political or ideological bent, and no one compares them to Hitler.
"Disturbing." No Mr. Beck, the camp itself is not disturbing. What's disturbing about this absurd and appalling commentary from you is how it continues to show how ill informed you are, and how you seemingly do not care to get all the facts before you open your mouth and slander a nation of people in mourning.
Right now, the people of Norway are dealing with an emotional tragedy and facing the harsh reality that people with beliefs like the admitted gunman seek haven inside the borders of their tolerant Nordic country. The actual comparison to Hitler might have actually been appropriate if it had been made as a comparison to the gunman, Anders Breivik, who views himself as a Christian fundamentalist set upon affirming the need to destroy Muslim culture and acceptance of Muslim's into "white society." In his manifesto of hatred Breivik mentioned a variety of anti Islamic bloggers as his heroes and I imagine he and Hitler would have had a lot in common, including a maniacal myopia regarding their importance to the rest of the world.
Not unlike Mr. Beck himself.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Love, loyalty, and wizarding

*SPOILER ALERT-if you have not yet read Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows-do not read this post

Before Nicholas and Henry were born I had already begun reading the Harry Potter series and with each new book I revelled in the joy of getting lost in another world. As my babies became boys we got in the habit of listening to the books on CD in the car or at bedtime. Soon one or both of them would be pointing a stick at the other in the backyard and yelling "You great prat!" As time has passed they have practiced their Unforgivable Curses, hunted for just the right stick/wand, longed for their own Quidditch pitch, and, of course, the sword of Godric Gryffindor.

So by the time the opening of the final movie began on Friday I was feeling overwhelmed by "THE END." I gasped when I saw the Quidditch fields ablaze, I wept when Harry finally got to see into Severus Snapes heart via the Pensieve, and I delighted in watching Maggie Smith and the other professors defend Hogwarts to the death. The movie was not exactly like the book, but every moment of it did service to the words in print and to the character J.K. Rowling so lovingly brought to vivid life page after page.

Now here I am days later still pondering Mr. Potter and what his story means to me and mine. When the movie finished we ate supper, all four of us talking at once about our favorite parts, characters, lines. The boys were in heaven dissecting the movie and were even willing to listen and hear what Bob and I had to say about Professor Snape's terrible choice of Voldemort in his early wizarding life and how that one choice, ruined every possible moment of joy he could have had in life. Harry Potter is more than a book to me and mine, because his story transcends wizardry and Death Eaters for real life.

The boys identified with Harry missing parents he didn't remember, and as they have gotten older, they identify with not quite fitting in with the Muggles around them. How I wish there were a Hogwarts summer camp they could go geek out at! Beyond the joy of friendships and learning Harry, Ron, and Hermione made mistakes-sometimes big ones, and learned to ask for help and forgiveness. They learned that loving people means acknowledging their flaws and loving them regardless (brash Sirius, common senseless Hagrid).

They learned that being brave doesn't mean not being scared whether that was riding a hippogrif, dealing with ginormous spiders, facing the school bully, or swallowing potion and becoming Bellatrix. They cheered for the little guy (Dobby, Flitwick) and how even wizards could be cruel to other species (centaurs, Giants, dragons)

They learned to value the eccentric (dear sweet Luna) and the awkward (heroic Neville), to value smarts (Ginny) over money or fame (Professor Slughorn) and to recognize that all people, no matter how difficult you may find them to interact with, have their own life story unfolding-and it is sometimes a heart breaker (Snape). Most importantly they learned the value of being loyal, not just to oneself or friends, but to your beliefs and they learned that there are worse things than dying and that those we love change us forever, and remain with us forever. Not unlike a truly magical book.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bachmann Blues

It's funny now that at 42, I see the world through my children's eyes and see how much progress we have made in terms of women being capable of being a part of most any profession. As a little girl in the 1970's, the idea of a "lady" doctor or "lady" policeman was still a rare thing, and a female soldier or firefighter, forget about it. When Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for Vice President on Walter Mondale's ticket it seemed like a gimick to get the attention of voters, not an effort to actually have a gender balanced alliance in the White House.

I marvel at the fact that my kids live in a culture that has women professionals of every kind, a female Secretary of State and a mixed race President-but I admit to having a sense of dread as the new presidential election looms ahead of our country. Not the,"Oh dear Lord, please not another campaign ad," dread, but rather the,"there are two female presidential candidates and both make me embarrassed to be a woman," kind of dread.

There really isn't much I could add to the discussion on Sarah Palin at this point-I think time has proven over and over again that she is all hat and no cattle. She is the Dr. Phil of presidential politics, full of folksy witticisms and "common sense talk" and her nonsense plays to the crowds she chooses to address. Mind you, that's all she's actually done since the last election, talk to people who want to drink from her Kool Aid stand. She has never been part of any substantive discussions on issues of importance to American voters where anyone present might disagree with her.

Michelle Bachmann on the other hand appears poised to steal Palin's thunder despite her persistant inability to pronounce common words or speak competently about American history. It's not about her being conservative. Honest to goodness. I would be more than happy to see a competent, articulate, conservative female run for President. I could listen to her debate our current President and be willing to acknowledge her strengths, despite my left leaning tendencies. But for the life of me, I cannot bear the thought that we are going to be forced to wade through the muck of another presidential race that involves the incessant correction of facts, mispronounciations, and disclaimers that will come with a Bachmann candidacy.

It is as if some part of the conservative nominating base has determined that the only way Americans will vote for a woman is if she looks like she fell out of a PTA meeting at the local Talbots. She is white, trim, always immaculately dressed, and her hair is a helmet of perfection. She is the Stepford wife candidate and what disheartens me most is that, she appears to get all of her political ideas spoonfed to her, and when she does pop off with some little gem of her own-it's usually factually incorrect.

In just the last month she has incorrectly named John Quincy Adams as one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, signed a pledge that glamourizes the family life of slavery, and announced her pride at being a part owner of her husband's Christian therapy clinic which espouses the concepts of "praying the Gay away" and converting homosexuals via prayer.

I do not like all of the decisions President Obama makes, I haven't liked all the decisions any president I did or did not vote for has made in my last 20 odd years of voting. I don't actually think I have to like Mr. Obama in order to respect his ability to govern our country. I respect President Obama because he has shown a healthy respect for the process he is part of, while acknowledging it's glaring deficiencies. He is intelligent, learned, compassionate, and articulate. He also readily acknoweldges that he is not an expert on every subject facing our country-but he will find the right people for the job.

I believe our country deserves to trust that the office of the President will be held by someone who believes in the importance of the office, but takes the reins with humility, a desire to serve, and the willingness to learn. We cannot afford to elect or even waste time listening to someone so arrogant that she would argue the validity of her Adams misstatement with the press or proclaim her pride in being a part of a "medical" clinic that accepts taxpayers dollars, while providing treatment that is grossly negligent.

I believe our country has moved far enough down the road of gender equality to have qualified candidates, both male and female, we don't need another Palin, and she may claim her individuality, but the fact is, Michele Bachmann is nothing new. She is ignorant, arrogant, and disposable and no President of the United States can afford those three character traits, no matter how good they look in a red dress and heels.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Independence from Beck

"I'm so sick and tired of being in the system. I'm not going to play the game anymore." Glenn Beck, signing off from his Fox News program on Friday, July 1, 2011.
Oh, please. Would that we could all actually believe he is actually going to sit down and shut up.
No, no he is taking his crazy train to his own Web TV channel, eponymously named, GBTV, which sounds a little too much like a sexually transmitted disease for my liking, but perhaps that is the point. Glenn Beck, or at least his manufactured, not ready for prime time persona is as virulent as a case of the clap. Worse still, it will be a daily two hour extravaganza of hyperconservative half baked nonsense...almost makes me want to go back to dial up Internet service.
Here's my real problem with Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and others like them who claim to represent "the average frustrated God fearing American." They don't know American history, they don't fact check their own comments, and they don't understand that even the most average American would really like their elected officials to be better than average.
I am not a economics whiz, yet I think the person running the Treasury should be and I think the Secretary of State ought to have a little background and hands on experience in foreign relations and diplomacy. What the hell, let's go crazy and make sure that the people planning and leading troops into battle, actually have experience doing that while we're at it.

I do not want a folksy every person who knows half of the Declaration of Independence and is muddy on the details regarding the founding fathers (Michele Bachmann) to represent me and my country to the rest of the world. As it is, America lags behind every other developed country in educating our children and the current crop of politicos making news simply adds to the chain of evidence.

Glenn Beck revels in creating drama, even manufacturing it on occasion. He delights in pointing out the foolishness of liberals and Democrats but forgets that he is playing with a double edged sword. Once you tread down the path of name calling and vitriol it is impossible to come back to the land of sane, reasonable debate. Moderates have stopped even trying to reason with Beck for that very reason.

There have been conservative talk show pundits before and they managed to keep the highway of conversation flowing in both directions, intelligently and with respect for all parties involved. William F. Buckley was witty and irascible. He wasn't necessarily likable, but he knew his facts and he didn't pick a fight with someone if he didn't know what the hell he was talking about-whether you agreed with him or not you were likely to get a well thought out argument.

And that is exactly my point-this is supposed to be a democracy and part of the democratic process is, or should be, well reasoned, rational debate. Year after year our country becomes more diverse in every possible way and with that diversity comes an increasing number of divergent views-again, that's the way it should be. Part of the health of our growing democracy should be based on the kind of free and open debate we are able to have as Americans.

Free of vitriol, open to the exchange of ideas that are different from our own, and debated in a manner that does service to the men and women who founded an imperfect democracy.

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." James Bovard

Happy Independence from Inflammatory Argumentative Nonsense Day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

And Medication for All?

At a time where justice seems to becoming more myth than reality I have been following the proceedings related to Jared Loughner, the young man accused of shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and in May the courts decided he was not competent to stand trial for the 49 counts against him, including the deaths of 6 people. He was transferred with little fanfare to a federal facility in Springfield, Missouri in June and since the 21st has been receiving psychotrophic medications against his will.

His attorney's argued that the federal facility did not provide enough evidence or reasons for medicating Loughner and that he should not be forced to continue the medications without a judge's approval.  Wednesday, Federal Judge, Larry Burns ruled in favor of the doctors treating Loughner,"I have no reason to disagree with the doctors here," Burns said. "They labor in this vineyard every day."  Amen brother, amen.

I admit to being conflicted about how we care for a man in Loughner's condition. I am too well aware of how limited mental health services are in the U.S. and how easy it is for someone with a severe mental illness to spiral out of control when they are off of medication. I know also, how these medications can impact a person's daily life and the plethora of symptoms the medications cause while treating the voices, tics, visions, and panoply of misery that is schizophrenia.

Long before my nursing degree I worked with adults with mental illness who were on parole for the Texas Department of Corrections, the vast majority also had a substance abuse problem due to their years of self medication to cope with the aforementioned mental illness. My job in a nutshell was to act as their guide back into the land of people who take care of themselves outside of an institution. How to ride the bus, buy groceries, take medication on time, go to AA, and meet with your parole officer were all part of our lessons, as well as reminders like, "Have you bathed this week?" and "No, you cannot wear that shirt again unless you go to the laundromat."

I did home visits to check up on their self care at everywhere from seedy motels, homeless shelters, the Salvation Army, boarding houses, group homes, and occasionally squallid apartments that would make sex offenders hope for death. I went with my clients to their parole appointments, to apply for social security benefits, and to get blood pressure medicine or teeth pulled. What I learned every single day in that job was that no matter how shitty I thought my life was...I had nothing to complain about.

The few clients I had who still had family members actively engaged in their lives were either ill themselves or looking to "borrow" money from them. Most reported their family members were dead, or simply did not want anything to do with them any more. Their families were fed up, tired, emotionally and/or financially exhausted and when the clients ended up in the pen, that was it.

The bulk of the individuals I worked with ended up in jail because they were accidental criminals. A prime example was a lovely gentleman named Wilbert, he was in his mid sixties, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia for all of his adult life and lived with his mama on the north side of Fort Worth, quietly tending her tomatoes, going to church with mama twice a week, and
staying away from alcohol and drugs.

Then his mama died, and Wilbert inherited her home. Not too long after he stopped taking his medicine and the neighborhood crack dealer offered up friendship as well as crack cocaine to calm his new buddy's voices and lickety split Wilbert had a new best friend. Fast forward six months and Wilbert's house was now the neighborhood crack den and when the police arrived everyone was smart enough to get out except... Wilbert.

By the time I met him, Wilbert had served three years in prison for dealing crack cocaine even though he could not tie his own shoelaces, manage his medications, ride the bus independently, or smoke a cigarette without setting the couch on fire. Quite the criminal mastermind.

Wilbert was fairly mellow when he took his medications, when he didn't he became very paranoid and hid from the world. He was never violent. Many of the people I worked with could become very violent when they became paranoid or heard voices and for my part I had no trouble imagining feeling pretty violent myself if I heard someone repeatedly calling me names or singing nursery rhymes, or thought I could hear my dead baby crying all night.

There was a constant pendulum swinging in the lives of the people I worked with between medication and non medication and sometimes over medication. They clients I worked with had limited education, less than limited insight, and getting them engaged in the process of finding just the right dose of medication was a battle punctuated by frustration on their part as well as that of their psychiatrist.

Day in and day out I saw that even though these people were legally adults they were not capable of making healthy choices for themselves on a consistent basis and while that was certainly their choice the consequences were shared by the entire community around them. No antipsychotic medication for some of these people meant public drunkeness, robbery, violence, and further costs to everyone for medical care and legal interventions. How does a community balance freedom from medical intervention with the need to provide a safe healthy community for the rest of its' citizens?

Jared Loughner is mentally ill, and absolutely no one denies it. Neither the prosecution nor the defense has debated his need for care or debated his inability to stand trial for his devastating actions. Rather the debate is about how much medication and what kind of evaluation is thorough enough before medications are forcibly administered to an incompetent adult.

Loughner's attorneys have stated that the physicians at the federal facility medicated him without a full and proper evaluation and that he is being overmedicated against his will. Here's the kicker though-how do you evaluate a man you have only just met, who has reacted violently to his own attorneys and family members and can't or won't assist in his own care? At some point, push has to come to shove, and prescriptions are written. So much of working with these patients is based on observation before and after medication and developing a plan of care that results in optimal health and behavior.

What would be the best possible outcome for this whole sorry mess is if our elected officials, people who vote and love those with mental illness, and budget bureaucrats would come together and realize that there will be more mass shootings and forced medications, suicide attempts and psychotic episodes, jail time and institutionalizations if we do not stop treating mental illness like the common cold.

Major mental illness does not blow in and stay for a week or two of misery. Major mental illness is not "the blues" or "feeling down." Major mental illness effects every single part of a person's life and therefore it effects every single person they come in contact with, every member of their family, workplace, school and it must be managed daily just like diabetes and hypertension. People with major mental illness deserve and require daily support to maintain their health, to stay on the proper dosage of medications, and to prevent harm to not only themselves, but to their communities. That harm isn't just physical, it's financial, legal, and emotional and the cost in dollars and cents is astronomical.

Case management works, there are multiple examples of ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) teams that work providing daily medication monitoring and support for people. The only problem is that these programs work so well people are able to hold down jobs and manage large portions of their lives independently-so they no longer qualify for the services that helped them get better. Surprise, surprise months later many are off medication, hospitalized, or in jail because they no longer had the support they needed to stay well and the cycle begins again. Except this time they have to recuperate or rehabilitate to a lower level of functioning because their brain has been even further impaired by mental illness.

Case management is expensive-but far less costly in money and human lives than this repeated roller coaster of mental health devastation. Time and again we are presented with an opportunity to change business as usual. When will enough be enough?

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2080687,00.html#ixzz1QnBakmAz

Judge: Loughner Can Be Forcibly Medicated