Local Papers Tell More Than You Might Think…

Local, small town newspapers may tell more than you might think, perhaps especially in what they don’t say. I know. I worked for a small town paper in east-central Alabama, wrote freelance articles for another half-dozen papers, and have generally followed smaller, local publications anyway. And one thing’s for sure: Small town papers respond to and cover what’s important to local residents. After all, it’s their bread and butter.

For example, the paper I worked for ran a few AP (Associated Press) articles, but for the most part covered very typical small town stuff. You know, last night’s high school basketball game, the latest meeting of the garden club, town council and country commission meetings, a new traffic light to be installed at a “heavy” traffic intersection. Typical stuff for small town papers.

However, and this is important, if a larger issue directly affected our area, we’d report on it. For example, when I was with the paper we had an issue with water usage along the Chattahoochee River. The city of Atlanta was sucking up large quantities of water from the River, thus lowering water levels along the Chattahoochee further south. This directly impinged upon our area, so … we reported on it, albeit from a local perspective.

This is true, I believe, of most local papers, especially smaller ones. Ordinarily you expect them to report on typical, small town matters. They should. Again, it’s their bread and butter. Subscribers can, and do, easily get national and international news from the larger papers, from radio, television networks, and now the Internet. Consequently, what they want from their local paper is … well, local news. Period.

This is a big part of the reason I delved into local, small town newspapers in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, particularly focusing along the Mexican border, when trying to determine whether or not there is really a crisis there. And what did I find? I ended up searching through more than 40 such papers and found only a handful, perhaps six or seven, that addressed border issues and illegal immigration at all, and those publications pretty much offered the same conclusion: There is no crisis along the border.

What really struck me, though, was the fact that out of those 40+ papers I consulted, the overwhelming majority had nothing whatsoever to say about any border problems, illegal immigration, drugs and crime (supposedly) flooding in from Mexico. Nothing. Period. So because of my own background, I knew there must not really be any “crisis” at all.

You see, I know that if there really were, and if it were directly impacting those towns and cities, the papers would be reporting it. The silence, in this case, told me more than what was reported in those other, very few local publications. Add to this the fact that, according to other larger news outlets, residents along the border are actually reacting negatively to the (false) claim that there’s a “crisis” and you know with hardly any doubt that this frenzy has been manufactured by our current President. 

Sad, really, but before signing off on this article, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of the honest, hard working, small town newspaper reporters, who keep their constituency informed so well day after day, week after week. They deserve our applause and our respect!


Read “Beyond Washington: What the Locals Have to Say About the Border ‘Crisis’” and Beyond Washington: What the Locals Have to Say About the Border ‘Crisis,’ Part II

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The ‘Old Calendarists’ of America: The Dissection of an Influential Mentality

They are called “Old Calendarists” because they still use the ancient Julian (for Julius Caesar) calendar, and represent a small, though vocal, minority of Eastern Orthodox Christians. You see, some Eastern Orthodox churches simply refused to adopt the newer Gregorian calendar, which was a revision of the Julian made in the 16th century, because they saw the proposed adoption as a capitulation to the Roman papacy. So to this day, they continue using an outdated and inaccurate calendar in order to (ostensibly) maintain the purity of their faith. Weird, huh?

Well, more specifically, and admittedly more important, these churches have been adamantly opposed to revising the liturgical calendar of their churches, which was part and parcel of adopting the new Gregorian calendar, which was again modified in 1923 by the Serbian astronomer, Milutin Milanković. Now, you might justly wonder why in the world this should make any real difference. After all, wouldn’t you want to use a more accurate calendar? And, if you are an Orthodox Christian (as I am, by the way), couldn’t you continue celebrating all of the feasts and fasts of the year?

Why am I even mentioning this obscure subject, which doubtless interests hardly anyone, least of all my readers? It’s simply because it occurred to me, perhaps especially after reading a recent article by my friend J. D. Wills, that we have our own kind of “Old Calendarists” here in America. Call them “resisters” or “preservationists,” or what-have-you ~ although I resist applying the term “traditionalists” to this group ~ really they have much the same mentality as the Old Calendarists. Having grown up and lived most of my life in the deep South (i.e. the old Confederacy), I understand this.

There are some shared characteristics between the Old Calendarists of the East and resisting-preservationists in this country , including the deeply-rooted, felt-need to resist any and all changes that might be perceived as bowing to some opposing force, or group, even when that change is an overall good change or one that really has little affect on the truly important things of life. More than this, however, there is an unadulterated, hyper-conservative mentality that militates against change simply because it is change. This is the mentality that fueled “white flight” in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

There are other shared characteristics, though, of which the following few come to mind:

The need to preserve a pure history.

History can often be confusing, especially when one is seeking truth, that is, trying to discover “what really happened,” or the “way it really was.” Now, I’m not so cynical as to think it’s not possible to arrive at some good, solid conclusions where history is concerned, but I do know that it’s oftentimes … well, messy. You know, it’s not the elementary schoolbook version, but resisting-preservationists need their history to be clean, smooth, easy to grasp and understand. Why? Because it underpins everything else they believe and, thus, how they live out their lives. For example, though the Judeo-Christian faith was an important theological-philosophical influence in the founding of this country, the Founding Fathers were, nevertheless, a mixed bag when it came to religion. Many were deists and many more were, to put it bluntly, little more than nominal Christians. The Declaration of Independence was, at best, a deistic document, and the Constitution not at all religious in any sense of the word. Period. This is not to say the newly birthed United States was irreligious, only that the pristine pure narrative of this country being founded as a Christian nation is, at the very least, complex. In other words, there’s more to say on the subject, and when one delves into the founding documents, writings, recorded speeches and whatnot of that era, one soon discovers the difficulty in simply, almost glibly saying, “We were founded as a Christian nation.” And this is only one example, but it leads to another point…

The good ole days were the best days.

Not only is history supposed to be pure and simple, it also needs to be good, truly good, for the resisting-preservationist. This is the anchor-hold for Old Calendarists, both East and West (including this country, of course.) After all, if the good ole days were really not so good, then why try to preserve them or bring them back? Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe there is much ~ very much, in fact ~ to be deeply appreciated, and even in some cases revered, from the past. I abhor chronological arrogance; besides, as I said above, I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian myself, so how in the world could I possibly despise the past??? That would be to despise my own salvation, as it were, and most especially my Lord Jesus, whom I love with a deep and abiding love and to whom I gladly cling in hope and joy. No, I’m not a despiser of the past, but neither am I a blind glorifier of some carefully selected past that I can use explicitly to justify my beliefs, perspectives and chosen lifestyle. For example, I’m proud to be an American, yet I feel no need whatsoever to “tidy up” the history of my great country. The resisting-preservationist, however, views the whole of his/her communal, or national, history as really and truly being the “good ole days,” when all things were as they should be and, consequently, s/he feels deeply compelled to return to those glory days … and even fight for that return.

If the good ole days were the best days, then these days are not.

In pining for the good ole days, it’s not difficult to understand how and why resisting-preservationists would look at the current scene rather gloomily. Looking back at the past nostalgically, they look at the present negatively. You’ve heard it, I’m sure: “Things just aren’t the way they used to be.” Right? Right. And so another narrative surfaces, one that casts a long, dark shadow over the whole world, and in this world the majority of the major players, if we might call them that, are held suspect. There is precious little talk about the very real freedoms we continue to enjoy in this country ~ including freedom of speech and religion ~ and very little mention of how modern technology has made our lives so much more convenient; hardly any thanksgiving for modern medicine and, comparatively speaking, good access to healthcare (which certainly needs to be improved, but…); very little talk about the relative safety we enjoy in this country, not to mention food and clothing and shelter. Only compare how billions of men, women, and children are forced to barely survive throughout the world and you would think there’s an awful lot for which to be grateful here in America … but for the resisting-preservationist, this contrasts too sharply, too vividly with his/her notion of the good ole days and the way things seem to be now. So, s/he must guard against too much light of reality penetrating into his/her preconceived notion of how the world, and nation, currently stand…

So build a wall or, better yet, a fortress.

We’ve all heard the term “fortress mentality,” and that’s what it is, really. It’s literally erecting a mental fortress around one’s whole belief system, or perspective on life and the world. Let nothing out ~ or, in other words, let nothing of one’s particular ideological view go ~ and let nothing in, i.e. let no one else’s perspective creep into the fortress. And it helps immensely to have friends in this fortress, of course. As the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” Naturally, too, it’s much easier for these “Old Calendarists” of America ~ the resisting-preservationists ~ to perpetuate their pure and simple history as the good ole days (the best days), as well as their dim view of the contemporary scene with the consequent need to return to the nostalgic past when they do so together in the greatest numbers they can muster. Well, community is great, and we all love to be with folks who share our interests and hobbies and whatnot. I imagine we even like to have at least some friends who share our values and perspectives on life and the world around us … but here’s precisely the point: Most of us, I truly believe, also appreciate other viewpoints and perspectives, even other faith-religions, just as we surely appreciate art, literature and music from different cultures, even when it may not particularly be our “cup of tea,” so to speak. In an open and ideologically liberal society, we’ve learned to value other people and other cultures along with what they offer without feeling threatened or as if we’ve somehow compromised our own dearly, deeply held beliefs. Not so the resisting-preservationist. Any outward show of appreciation for something or someone different is perceived as a sign of weakness and/or compromise. What’s really terribly insidious about this (among other things) is that many of these folks actually, secretly love what they pretend to detest. But since they are in a fortress with others of like mind and heart, they cannot “out” themselves. There is safety and security in their enclave, and this safety and security is simply not worth sacrificing … for anything.

Well, so much for brief observations! Though much more could be added, I’ll quit now by simply reiterating (or confessing) that I know of what I speak. I’ve been there. I’ve been party to the “Old Calendarists” of this country, the resisting-preservationists. Consequently, nothing I’ve written is offered in a mean spirit at all, nor do I imagine it will effect any great change. I just thought that, perhaps, some of my readers might want to better understand what has become an extremely influential mentality (of an abnormally influential minority) in the U. S. I hope I’ve managed to provide this. If not, I apologize. I’ll try better next time! God bless!

 

Falwell Jr.’s New Religion?

Did you hear? Evangelical “Christian” leader Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a recent interview that “Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. He went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom…” Really? No, Jesus didn’t try to tell Caesar how to run Rome; neither did he condone the abject wickedness of Rome. But more importantly, when Christ taught his disciples to pray ~ what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer ~ he specifically taught them to say, “… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Falwell also claimed, “There’s two kingdoms. There’s the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for your country.” Presumably, then, doing what’s in the best interest of the country may include harming innocent people? In other words, the Golden Rule to do unto others what you would have them do unto you has no bearing, or should have no bearing, on national policy? Well, this evangelical “Christian” leader seems to think “that’s what Jesus thought, too.” 

Really? Jesus simply said things like, “if you’re one of my followers, then you will not act like others in the world, that is, lording it over each other, seeking power and wealth and prosperity… No. In fact, the ‘first’ among you will be the least … will be the servant of others, just like me.” I wonder what difference this might make if it were applied consistently by conservative, Bible-thumping, evangelical Christians, especially those who hold elected positions? Of course, if Falwell is right, then it doesn’t apply to public life. How he proposes separating the two is a bit of a mystery. How does one go about following the teachings of Jesus privately, in one’s “individual” life, without also following those teachings publicly and, where the Church (called the Body of Christ) is concerned, communally?

Ah! This is a good question, isn’t it? After all, an individual is elected to public office as an individual. It’s hard to see how s/he can stop being an individual. It’s also difficult to see how an individual can be completely amoral ~ moral or immoral, yes, but not completely amoral. But if that’s the tactic Falwell wants to take, then he’s really destroyed his own foundation, at least where an awful lot of his pet issues are concerned. For instance, upon what grounds does he continue to oppose abortion? Remember, by his own recently-admitted standard, he can’t quote the Bible, or anything religious; he must demonstrate how outlawing abortion would be “for the good of the country” without resorting to any religious or religious-type argument(s).

The same goes for his opposition to homosexual rights. On what grounds can Falwell now continue to oppose homosexual marriage, for instance? Not on biblical/religious grounds … not anymore. Please note that I am not presently presenting my own perspectives on these issues; rather, I am simply wondering just how Falwell, as an evangelical “Christian” will continue to make his case on these, and other, issues without resorting to anything remotely religious. I may be wrong, of course, but I think it will be exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) for him to do so, but I also know he will keep on pounding the pulpit (literally!) against abortion, homosexuality, and a host of other issues. And he will do so without any qualm about the hypocrisy of it all.

Many things intrigue me about what the evangelical “Christian” community has become in recent years. But now Falwell is promoting an altogether new religion totally divorced from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. No wonder more and more Protestants are dropping the “evangelical” label, not wanting to be identified any longer with the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. Oh! And isn’t it interesting that Jr.’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., started the Moral Majority movement precisely to influence the government, all political discourse, and, indeed, the very course of the life of this nation. Wonder what daddy’s thinking about baby boy’s recent comments? But, then, all of this seems to me to be one very good reason not to listen to religious leaders’ commentaries and endorsements of politicians and policies. So maybe I kind of, sort of agree with Jr. in separating religion ~ at least institutionalized religion ~ from government and political discourse in general… I just wish he’d follow his own lead on this and separate himself!

(Everyone reading his remarks should also note, importantly, that Falwell Jr. heavily insinuated that following the teachings of Jesus would not be in the best interest of the country … only in the best interest of the individual. Wow!)

Civil War or Christmas Cheer?

Did you know there is a coming Civil War in the United States? Well, I didn’t either until someone posted about it on Facebook. Well … not to be too incredulous, I decided to at least Google “coming civil war in America,” and sure enough, I got some results! From the League of the South. Never heard of the League of the South? That’s okay. They explain themselves very forthrightly on their website:

The League of the South is a Southern nationalist organization, headquartered in Killen, Alabama, whose ultimate goal is “a free and independent Southern republic.” The League defines the Southern United States as the states that make up the Confederate States of America.

Okay, now that you have an idea of what this organization is all about, what do they have to say about the coming civil war? Again they mince no words:

The coming civil war in America. With each passing day, we move closer to open conflict in America – civil war, if you will – between the forces of Western Civilization (which is founded on a biblical understanding of nationalism) and the forces of Judeo-Marxism or godless international leftism in general.

Gotta’ hand it to them on one count: They’re very clear and straightforward in their statements! If you’re like me, though, you might want a second opinion. So … I got one. This time from an article, penned back in January 2017, in The Trumpet, an ostensibly Christian webzine focusing on current events and Bible prophecy, particularly “the end times,” or eschatology. The writer of the article, “America’s Coming Civil War,” Gerald Flurry, had this to say:

Protests occurred in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Miami and several other cities (following Trump’s election.) Dozens of people were arrested. Many journalists reported these as if they were spontaneous, but everything indicated that they were all organized and planned. Many of these protesters are professionals who are paid to stir up demonstrations! Many of them don’t even live in the cities where they march and riot… Bill O’Reilly asked, “Is a civil war brewing in the U.S.A.?” 

That is an important question! Clearly there are many people who want a fight — a revolution — a race war! And they are going to get it — and a whole lot more…! Average Americans just want everything to calm down so they can get back to their lives and their pleasures and so forth. But the shocks for America aren’t going to go away. You can see that if you are watching what is happening with open eyes. But beyond that, you can be sure of it because of the prophecies in the Bible.

Alrighty, then … maybe a third opinion? Well, just for kicks, I looked at a number of other websites touting the idea (or prophecy) of Civil War, but I won’t bother to share any more of what I found because, quite frankly, it all began to sound like the same person(s) wrote basically the same article with just a few tweaks here and there. More importantly, though, I was reminded just today that not only should I not focus too intently on all the negatives, I should also be careful not to spread despondency, doom and gloom. So I choose to look on the brighter side of life ~ not through rose-colored glasses, mind you, but just, you might say, realistically with a definite bent toward the optimistic.

Besides, the same person who posted on Facebook about an impending Civil War, and his friends and compatriots, also talks frequently about an evil “New World Order,” the wicked United Nations, Communists, the unholy Freemasons, illegal immigrants infiltrating our country for the purpose of overthrowing the government, and of course Muslims, etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum. I could add a few to their list, such as: the Illuminati, the world banking system, the Federal Reserve, and China. In one sense, it might be kind of fun, but then, why add fuel to the fire?

All in all, it’s better to live life in peace with joy, as much as reasonably possible. Besides, it goes against almost every belief I hold dear, including that really most people living on this globe, while certainly not perfect, are nevertheless good folk. I am also a dreamer, who, with Christian moorings, looks toward an ever-brighter future for our world, and I believe that, despite all of the wars and hunger and poverty, overall progress has been made down through the centuries, and I hold fast to the hope-filled belief that we can and will still progress now and in the future.

Life is filled with obstacles, yet it is also filled with opportunities, and something tells me that we really couldn’t have all the opportunities we do without at least some of the obstacles. After all, obstacles present us with opportunities to overcome, do they not? And with all the advancements in technology, literally linking the peoples of the world together in (possible) daily communication, we might just find (as I believe we are) that we have more of a unified voice than ever we before allowed ourselves to imagine.

At least I know I have friends on both Facebook and in the Blogosphere from every corner of the earth, and you know what? We not only get along … we actually like each other, and encourage each other. And when one weeps, we all weep; when one rejoices, we all rejoice. And while this may sound to some overly simplistic and, perhaps, too starry-eyed, I would rather live this way than constantly looking over my shoulder, finding in every different face another prospective boogeyman, waiting on pins and needles for the next Civil War or Revolution, and cringing at the daily news.

No, I won’t blind myself to the harsher realities of life, but in looking around me with eyes wide open I will say with the early 20th century minister, William L. Watkinson, that “it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” And this, my friends, is all one important reason I can (and will) have a very merry Christmas, indeed … and, yes, I trust a happy New Year, too!

 

Putrescent Political Circus

Sham proceedings in capital circus,
Political purchase of judicial corpus,
All to qualify going awry
Despite the people’s woeful cry…

Forget arrogant, virulent reactions,
Elision, division, and lack of vision,
Gross incision, and split decision

Roll the dice and make men mice,
Move to vomit, forget the price,
All to elect unpardonable vice

And so many blind follow behind ~
No cringing, twitching, or shrinking,
Or any thought of who’s been bought

And now will the nation surely suffer,
Having no longer any court buffer,
As clowns go on in Washington town

We Kill What We Do Not Understand

And the call of the roads is upon me, a desire in my spirit has grown
To wander forth in the highways, ‘twixt earth and sky alone,
And seek for the lands no foot has trod and the seas no sail has known
~ C. S. Lewis, “The Roads,” in Spirits in Bondage

It’s called “agnostophobia,” and it simply means “fear of the unknown.” (The other related word, “xenophobia,” means quite specifically “pathological fear of strangers,” foreigners.[i]) This is what many people with mental illness face in society at large, and it can be very uncomfortable. Point in fact, it usually is, unless the one who suffers the illness has grown a thick hide, so to speak.

“People fear what they cannot understand,” said Andrew Smith, “and they hate what they cannot conquer.” Touché! And more specifically to the point of mental illness, Elyn R. Saks, associate professor at the University of Southern California and mental health expert and advocate, hit the proverbial nail on the head when she opined, “Stigma against mental illness is a scourge with many faces, and the medical community wears a number of those faces.”

Even in this 21st century, in the Western world, where we are supposed to be so advanced and so enlightened, we are still culturally very ignorant of mental illness (and mental health,) which is largely why there is an ongoing stigma revolving around those who are psychologically burdened and suffering.[ii] This is all the more amazing when we consider the fact that fully one out of every four adults will experience mental illness at some point in their lives, however short might be the duration.[iii]

fear_of_the_unknownMuch of the continuing misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental illness can, of course, be attributed to the world of popular entertainment. Consider for a moment so many popular psychopaths, such as: Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Sybil Dorsett, Annie Wilkes, Norman Bates, and many others. But then there are the real-life psychopaths that the media (in all forms) has consistently brought into our homes via television, radio, newspapers, the Internet … such as: Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, Amy Archer-Gilligan, etc.

But then there is the lesser, “minor” mental illnesses that people commonly misunderstand and, thus, stigmatize. For instance, depression and anxiety. With clinical depression those who suffer may very well be, and often are, told to just “get over it … put a smile on and face the day! No need to ‘wallow’ in depression!” Of course, the antagonist here simply does not understand that one doesn’t just “get over” depression. Likewise with anxiety. The sufferer hears someone say, “Just calm down, everything’s alright. No need to worry,” or the horrid question, “Why are you falling apart? Nothing is wrong!”

Whether it’s one of the “biggies,” like schizophrenia or oppositional defiant disorder or pyromania,[iv] or one of the “littler ones,” Patrick Corrigan and Amy Watson are right:

Many people with … mental illness are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.[v]

So what can those of us who suffer, or who have a close family member or friend who suffers, from mental illness do? Well, from my own personal experience I would suggest the following:

  1. Know Yourself: Come to know who you really are, constantly calling to mind that you are not defined by your illness. Grasp this truth. Celebrate it. Expand upon it as you look ever more deeply into yourself.
  2. You are not Jeffrey Dahmer, Jason Voorhees, or Sybil Dorsett… And even if you do happen to struggle with, shall we say, inclinations in that direction, there is still much help for you. Yes, you can lead an active, healthy, good and satisfying life. It’s there for you.
  3. Know your illness. Know as much as you possibly can about what afflicts you. After all, knowledge truly is powerful. Knowledge also gives you greater ability to confront, manage, and perhaps even improve your overall situation. Look, it’s happened before!
  4. Knowledge also gives you an advantage over the ignorance of other people, and, who knows, you might actually have an opportunity to educate someone.
  5. Know and remember that there are an untold number of “normal” individuals out there, who simply have not been diagnosed! They struggle each and every day with some mental illness … or, maybe, many. You are more likely to be able to spot those people. Have compassion on them; they need it, and lots of empathetic understanding, too. And don’t be surprised if, at some point, they trust you enough to open up and share with you their struggles, suffering and pain. If you can help them, then help. Just be sure not to lose yourself, or “drown,” in the process!

There are probably many other suggestions I could relate, such as referring folks to NAMI or NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) for more (and accurate) information on the various mental illnesses and how to best relate to someone who suffers one or more mental illness. Also, where you yourself are concerned, it’s always important to practice good mental health. Personally, I find physical exercise, meditation, and prayer, among other activities, to be good activities leading to good mental health.

What about you? What has been your experience with mental illness? Have you faced stigma? What about your mental health, whether you bear the burden of mental illness or not? Do you practice good mental health? If so, how? Share your answers and comments below. You don’t know who you might be helping in the process!


[i] American Psychological Association, APA Dictionary of Psychology, 1006

[ii] Judy Marshall, “Mental Illness: Stigma and Reality,” as accessed on 09/22/2018, at www.psychmaster.com

[iii] Pete Etchells, “Mental Illness Stigma Has Not Gone Away,” as accessed on 09/22/2018 at www.theguardian.com

[iv] Cf. David Kupfer, Darrel Regier, Dan G. Blazer, et al, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-5), 90 – 122, 462, and 476 respectively

[v] Corrigan and Watson, “Understanding the Impact of Stigma on People With Mental Illness,” as accessed on 09/22/2018 at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

After a few months in the group home, I actually felt more comfortable than I did in the outside world. Every outing seemed like an encounter with something foreign, something I’d known in a previous life but with which I no longer had much of any familiarity. Well, the truth is, I was around people who no longer had any masks to wear. They were simply who they were, no more, no less, and I liked it that way. Conversely, so many folks I encountered in the outside world seemed somewhat fraudulent. 

I know, I know. This seems harsh to say, but I’m only being honest about my feelings at the time. (And, really, I still feel this way. Going to day treatment in Dothan now feels like reuniting with family, whereas elsewhere with other people feels a bit alien.) At any rate, it eventually struck me that people on the outside pretty much felt the same way about us; they looked at us as if we were personis non grata foreigners. Well, no, perhaps I shouldn’t go quite this far. Most individuals were at least courteous.

However, I do remember very well the day we went to Wal-Mart in Enterprise (Alabama) and two (Caucasian) cops stopped three of our group home residents, who happened to be African-American, on their way into the store. They not only questioned them; they actually went so far as to patting them down … right there in the middle of the parking lot, in broad daylight, when those three young men were simply walking up toward the sidewalk! They hadn’t even been inside Wal-Mart yet, so why the frisking???

It was utterly humiliating, but do you know that those three men did not complain. I can’t say why. They had every right in the world to make a fuss over how they’d been treated, (and SpectraCare should have lodged a complaint on their behalf, but instead did absolutely nothing!) Maybe they were, unfortunately, used to be treated that way? I was told by someone ~ and I don’t know how they’d know this ~ that someone say our van pull up and called the police. Why? I haven’t the foggiest idea, except… 

There is a stigma that surrounds mental illness. When you add to this the fact of being an African-American (or member of any minority), then you’re pretty well f***ed up! Sorry to be so blunt, but this is an issue obviously close to my heart. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, courtesy, and respect … at least until they forfeit that privilege. These three young, African-American men had not in any way, shape, or form forfeited this right, though, and those two cops should have faced disciplinary measures.

This may have been the most egregious experience of being treated differently, and degradingly, that I witnessed, but it was not the only one. In fact, there was another episode that I was only told about (because I was at home on a weekend pass.) The group home went to a new restaurant in Samson, only to be treated horribly! The proprietor was arrogant, pushy, demanding, impatient… One of the MHTs (Mental Health Technician) told me it was obvious he didn’t want them there.

Do you remember Sally? This man complained that she was taking too long to order, even though no one else was in his place of business! (Except for the group home residents.) And to beat all, after everyone ordered, they had to wait anywhere from an half-hour to one hour to be served! Wow! But again, SpectraCare did nothing. I think I would have at least had someone in the SpectraCare hierarchy call this man and give him a good tongue-lashing… But that’s just me, I suppose.

To tell the truth, I have never lived with sweeter and more down-to-earth people in my life than my second family in the group home. No, they were not perfect. They had their bad habits and dispositions, but after all was said and done, with very few exceptions, I couldn’t have asked for better housemates. So to see or hear of them being treated so poorly really rips at my heart, and fuels my righteous indignation. And you know what else? They also impressed me as being safer to be around than many on the outside.

Yes, for the most part they were/are kinder, gentler, safer, and more unassuming than most “normal” people. Really it comes down to this: These dear souls have simply been diagnosed, whereas people on the outside have not been. Other than this ~ diagnosed as opposed to undiagnosed ~ there is precious little difference, unless you take into account so many of the prevalent, stinking attitudes that “normal” folks display and contrast that with the meek, humble, and friendly attitudes of the mentally ill!

Forgive me if I’ve offended, but I’m just calling like I see it … especially after months (and, really, years) of personal experience. Thank you for listening, and God bless!


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God