Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate, but People Do

knightveritas:

I’ve had similar thoughts myself; it gets frustrating at times when people I can otherwise spends a great deal of time with come out and start talking about mental illness in a way that makes me feel like I have to hide mine.

Originally posted on livinginmultipleworlds:

I just left a group I had recently joined, under the impression that people who were intent on erasing the stigma of mental illness would be, well, more open-minded. I am a somewhat naive person in some respects; I will admit that. Possibly because I’m hopeful. Possibly because I’m gullible, to an extent, and I want to believe the best of people. Especially ones trying to erase the shame associated with mental illness because, after all, it’s not something a person can help.

I was surprised, then, to find a posting after the shooting at the recruitment centers, describing the shooter as having an “extremist personality” and one of the women who’s daughter had bi-polar saying, “her daughter didn’t act that way.” I was furious. And very disappointed.

I responded that if the young man hadn’t been Muslim, this wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation, and apparently the idea…

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Moral Calculus

I’ve had philosophy on my mind a fair amount lately. This may be because I’ve read, or listened to, a couple philosophy books fairly recently. But it brings to mind some moral dilemmas I’ve been trying to work my head around – not ones in my own life, mind you. No, moral dilemmas in comics. Big shocker there, huh? It’s just something that’s been bouncing around in my head, and I thought maybe if I was able to try and put it all down in my blog, maybe some of it would stop bouncing around quite so much and free up some much-needed headspace, so here goes.

Backstory: Some very intelligent people – perhaps the most intelligent people in the Marvel world – formed a group called the Illuminati a while back. They wanted to be more proactive about problems in the world, and the universe at large. Their track record… didn’t go so well. They sent the Hulk off Earth, because they knew he would just keep causing destruction – but they didn’t foresee that when he came back – and of course the Hulk would come back – he would be PISSED. They tried to scare off the Skrulls (shapeshifting aliens who have tried to mess with and/or conquer Earth several times), and in so doing set the stage for a terrible invasion. So, eventually figuring out they were causing more harm than good, and that they became something of an echo chamber – assuming that being smarter than everyone else meant they had to be right – amongst each other, they disbanded. Until recently, when they reformed.

See, parallel universe-Earths had started to intrude on standard Marvel Earth. The smart guys figured out that this was not just a one-time thing, but the start of a pattern. Eventually, each parallel Earth that standard Marvel Earth interacted with would have to be dealt with, because across the multiverse, parallel Earth were being forced against each other, two by two – and if one Earth did not destroy the other, then both Earths would end up annihilated. Knowing that the Illuminati had failed before, in part because they failed to include morality in their calculations, they enlisted Captain America in their struggle. They asked him what they weren’t seeing, because they knew he would want to find a solution where both parallel Earths survived. So they gave him control of the Infinity Stones – all six of them – when a parallel Earth intruded on standard Earth (designated as Earth 616 in the comics, so I’ll use that here). He used the Infinity Stones – which, when together, form a power greater than virtually any other in the universe – to push the two Earths apart, but in doing so, he destroyed, at least temporarily, all six stones.

Left without the Stones as a solution, the other Illuminati started immediate discussions of a weapon that could destroy the next parallel Earth that had an incursion with 616, because more would come. This terrified and disgusted Captain America, who found the idea of destroying an entire alternate Earth – whose inhabitants were, as far as any of them knew, entirely innocent – a monstrously evil act. Moreso, Cap knew that if they constructed such a weapon, it would soon not be a question of ‘if the weapon is to be used…’, but when – because as the Illuminati had done before, they would talk themselves into the necessity of using their weapon. He preferred to wait, watch, and hope that when the next incursion occurred, they would find another way to avoid destroying either Earth. The others could not help but see his hope as just a notional idea, with no real substance to it. And so, knowing that unless Captain America was taken off the playing field somehow, that he would interfere with the Illuminati’s actions, they took a drastic step – they had Doctor Strange erase his memories of ever being there, or ever taking part in the action against the incursion, so that they could continue planning to save the world.

The Illuminati went on to have their own moral troubles with destroying alternate Earths, splintering even further into those who wanted to build a weapon but then find ways around using it versus those who wanted to use the weapon for expediency. Eventually, all remaining parallel worlds would collapse into a single universe, which is the status of the current Marvel comic event, Secret War.

The conflict seems to be one that plays itself out frequently in Avengers comics – Iron Man (one of the Illuminati) prefers to pursue the path that leads to the most good for the most people, something of a utilitarian philosophy. He’s alright with getting his hands dirty, with doing things he sees as ‘necessary evils’ in order to obtain a greater good. At one point, when fighting against a villain, the Crimson Dynamo, he did something that stopped the Dynamo’s heart. He then restarted it, of course, but for a short period of time, he’d technically killed him, and Tony was alright with that. Captain America is staunchly opposed to this, having principles he sees as inviolate – less worried about the ‘necessary’ part than the ‘evil’. He’d be more deontological – that is, he feels he has a duty to uphold certain principles, and that he can’t be morally in the right unless he makes every effort to uphold those principles. Steve was terribly angry with Tony when he pulled the Dynamo stunt, noting that he could have, and did, see a number of other ways to stop the Dynamo without killing him – even if only temporarily.

Both of these guys are trying to save the world on a regular basis. Often, they work together, and most of the time they consider each other friends. So why do they see morality so differently? Is one of them right and the other wrong? Are they both right and both wrong at different times, morally speaking? It can be hard to say. In the case of Earths colliding, as a resident of Earth, I’d like to keep living. But would I be alright creating a weapon to destroy the other Earth, killing everyone and everything on it, just to keep on doing so?

Let’s simplify it further. Say I’m standing in the middle of a road. I know that there will be people coming down the road, not in control of their vehicles, that will, if they hit me, kill me. For whatever reason, I can’t get far enough off the road to avoid them – I’m, in danger wherever I go. Say I also have a weapon that will let me stop the vehicles, and keep them from harming me – but stopping them vehicle kills the occupants – who have no control over their vehicle. There may, in theory, be ways I’m not seeing to both avoid being hit and avoid killing the occupants of the vehicles, but I can’t know what they are until fractions of a second before they vehicle hits me – which may be too late. Is it wrong to kill the occupants, innocent as they are, to ensure my own survival? If it isn’t wrong the first time, is it wrong the second? The third? When does my killing of innocent people make me into someone who isn’t wroth saving, if at all? Should I let the vehicle hit and kill me – essentially sacrificing myself – in order to allow the vehicle’s occupants to live? What if my death means the death of everyone I know and care for – and the death of the occupants of the vehicles does the same for them? How does that change things?

If these questions don’t make your head hurt a little, then you’ve clearly got things more sorted out than me, because as much as I want to side with Captain America, I don’t know that relying on the hope of finding a better solution – and doing it over and over – is a fair thing to do when you are gambling with the fate of an entire world, perhaps even an entire universe. But I also don’t know that immediately blasting billions of innocents to death to save billions of lives on your side is going to be the right move, either, especially if it has to be done many, many times.

Man, sometimes I find comics are far deeper than I generally give them credit for.

The Chosen

Courage. Honor. Loyalty. Sacrifice.

That is the mantra repeated over and over in one of my favorite graphic novels (the title being the title of this blog entry). It is, predictably, a Captain America book, and in it, Captain America has lost his physical abilities; his strength, speed, and endurance have faded. Worse, his body is almost totally collapsing, and doctors give him weeks, if not days, until his body fails entirely. But his mind works just fine – better, in fact. And so he undertakes one last mission. The story is told from the viewpoint of a Corporal , Jimmy Newman, in Afghanistan, fighting a war that scares and exhausts him, with no end in sight – until suddenly it appears Captain America is by his side, pushing him to go further, fight harder, be a hero. But on Corporal Newman can see Cap, and he disappears after aiding the Corporal. When Captain America appears next, he explains his situation to the Corporal.

Even though Captain America is dying, he can project his mind – through the use of some remote viewing technology – into the minds of others, like Corporal Newman. He can encourage others with his presence, even if he’s not physically there. He can help them unlock the courage they didn’t know they had, to fight the fear they feel. But doing so puts a terrible strain on Cap’s body, cutting short what little time he has left. But it’s important to Cap, because he knows that he can help these people. Where Project Rebirth created a super-soldier, what Captain America is doing – Project Multitude – is reaching out to dozens, even hundreds, of others, around the world, to summon the courage, honor, loyalty, and willingness to sacrifice to replace him. He knows that while the super-soldier serum might have made him super, it was those other qualities that made him the hero he is. And he knows the country – the world – needs more people who can follow in his footsteps. In the end, Captain America dies, but not before his words and example inspire Corporal Newman to truly heroic actions – and hopefully the same to the others he was reaching out to. The cover of the final issue of the mini-series, which I have a print of on my apartment wall, shows others taking up the burden Captain America leaves behind:

Captain_America_The_Chosen_6

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not just because I’m a big Captain America fan, though that helps  But because these are the qualities I want to see in myself. The courage to face my fears and overcome them. Honor shown through honesty, fairness, and integrity in both word and action. Loyalty to friends, family, and others who might depend on me. The willingness to sacrifice for good causes. I think about this more now, as I am about to enter into a program to eventually get my Masters degree in Social Work, and hopefully go on to try and help others.

I know I’ve expressed a number of fears recently, and some people I know were worried, and justifiably so, that these fears might be problematic and difficult to overcome – and that the inability to overcome my fears might be a big obstacle to going into the field of social work. How can I hope to help others with their problems, if I have such fears of my own? That worries me, too, but I also know that having fears is normal. Again, referring to the Captain America mini-series, one of the things he keeps talking about is his own fear. The fears that have dogged him since he agreed to start the program that would turn him into a super-soldier. What if I fail? What if I let the people who are counting on me down? What if I have sacrificed all I have for nothing? Captain America notes that he has never been without fear, because he knows that even when he had his abilities, he was still human – a man at the peak of human ability (and in Marvel terms, that’s apparently pretty far beyond what we think of), yes, but still a man. He wasn’t immortal like the gods (not God; Marvel’s universe does include God, and there are several tiers of lesser, but still godlike to ‘mere mortals’, beings below him; this is covered in philosophical detail in chapter 14 of The Avengers and Philosophy: Earth’s Mightiest Thinkers, true believers) he has fought alongside, or invincible like some of his fellow heroes; he never had the healing factor of Wolverine, or the incalculable strength of the Hulk. He was just a very well-trained man fighting against powers that could threaten cities, nations, worlds – even the universe itself, on occasion. On a strict power basis, Captain America is outclassed by almost every supervillain he has ever faced – and yet he never gives in to his fear.

My fears are real, yes. And they do scare me. That’s just how life works. Everybody is afraid of something; anybody who say differently is lying or having some severe issues. But if (the admittedly fictional) Captain America can face things that could destroy the universe – as well as, at various times, his own death, being stripped of his name, having to watch the people he grew up with die, and a whole host of other things, can I do any less than face my fears? I don’t aspire to be Captain America – for one, he’s fictional, and for another, I don’t think my body could take that kind of physical conditioning – but I do think the ideals that he espouses are worthy ones. And I have a sincere desire to try and help others through the kinds of things I have had to face with mental health, to make a difference in the life of at least one – and hopefully many more than that – life because I learned something that I can use to show someone who is hurting, depressed, lonely, and maybe even suicidal that things don’t have to be like that – that they can get better. I don’t think my fears will go away, but I do believe that I can face them. And I think that if I do, I’ll be a better person for it.

Having a Captain America shield on the wall is a mighty good reminder, though.

Cape Fear

Fear can be exhausting.

I really know this because lately, I’ve been scared – well, more like terrified – of a number of things, and when they add up, it just gets to be too much to handle, mentally speaking. Enough fear and where your body would normally react in a fight-or-flight stance, it just seems to wash over you and, while you can feel your heart race and your mind go weird, you just can’t seem to make yourself do much of anything. Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks.

Let’s start with the news. I can’t imagine anyone who has access to the news in the US, and probably much of the rest of the world, didn’t hear about the shooting in Charleston last week, where a young white guy, in what seems like a calculated act to try and start another civil war, went to a high-profile, traditionally African-American church, killed 9 parishioners while spewing racist BS, left one person deliberately alive to tell others about what he had done, and then go caught fleeing a while later. I don’t know much about Dylan Storm Roof, besides him being a racist murderer, but one of the posters on an RPG discussion board (RPG.net) said what I thought sounded very apt about this guy, and I’ll quote that user, neutrondecay, here: “When a white guy with the middle name ‘Storm’, in a former slave state that still flies the Traitor’s Flag, who wears badges honouring racist nations from before he was even born, goes to an historic black church closely associated with slave revolts and the civil rights movement, kills people, and leaves a survivor to report what he’s said and done, I think we can reasonably say that this was an act of racist terrorism.

Indeed, we ought to say it, and not mince our fucking words.”

Of course, soon afterwards came the typical stuff you’d expect – that this guy was clearly mentally ill, only crazy people do things like this, it’s not a symbol of systemic racism just one lone gunman. That shit scares me, because, hey, I have a mental illness. I don’t shoot people. I know a lot of other people with serious mental illness issues. They don’t kill people, either. In fact, according to the facts (found here, and cited), people with mental illness are not only not a very large part of the violent population, but are in fact 2.5 times more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Jumping to the conclusion that because someone shot and killed a number of people, he must be crazy/mentally ill – because of course only crazy folks do that – is not only giving him an excuse he doesn’t deserve, but also lumping all of the non-violent people with mentally ill people into a group with him and saying that we, too, should be considered likely to do something like that. It makes it seem like mentally ill people are more dangerous than people with guns, and should of course have our rights restricted because we might have something in common with a criminal. God forbid that his issue be with a culture of racism and white privilege, or any number of other legitimate issues. That might mean taking an uncomfortable look at society as a whole, and we can’t do that, so let’s just call him crazy, shove him in a hospital with all the other crazy people,and forget about him. Well, until the next one.

Along those lines are other stories popping up about people with mental illnesses being mistreated. The one that comes to mind is a blog post that covered a couple stories, linked here. One has a man who was in police custody; the police were ordered by a judge to take him to a mental treatment center, but instead of bother dealing with that – because they didn’t want the guy around if he was crazy – they felt it was appropriate to just put him on a bus from Kentucky to Florida. Yes, the police just shipped a guy from one state to another, in defiance of a judge’s orders, because they didn’t want to have to deal with a criminal whose mental health issues might have been at the root of his problems. That was actually the easier of the two stories to take, because the other involved another story of police mistreatment of a mentally ill prisoner, but he didn’t get a bus ticket. He had committed a crime – forging a check – and was arrested for failing to make a court appearance in that matter. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013, and apparently been managing it, but the stress around the criminal proceedings seems to have driven him off the rails somewhat. A physician who visited him in jail said he had become “quite psychotic“, and he was denied visits from his family. On April 7 of this year, 13 days after he was brought to jail, he died there of – get this – dehydration and malnutrition. They let him starve in jail rather than do anything to help, and the Sheriff responsible, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, had this to say: “I am truly sorry for this tragic death. Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our inmates and staff and this report describes a systematic breakdown of policies, procedures and communication that led to this tragedy.” The punishment involved for this terrible miscarriage of justice? Well, according to this Island Country Herald article, the chief deputy was suspended without pay for 30 days, and a lieutenant placed on leave. Treatment like this scares the hell out of me – if I had been brought in my police after my last suicide attempt, when I was hallucinating and wandering around a hotel talking to things that weren’t there, could this have happened to me? It’s enough to keep me up at night. Several nights.

Add to that the fear lately of dealing with women – one in particular – who I have some degree of interest in, but am absolutely terrified of talking to about said interest. Largely because I’ve never been good dealing with anything involving a potential romantic relationship, and also because I think I am still getting over my last heartbreak, and I don’t want to hurt anyone else by trying to make them a part of my life in such an intimate way and risk hurting them with baggage from my past relationship attempts. It makes me feel a little haunted, because I don’t know how to tell if I’m really over someone, or if I will even be able to tell. I also don’t want to make a horrible mistake and ask someone out, only to be rejected and still have to interact with this person on a regular basis. But I only have so many venues in which to get to know women, and taking a leap and asking one of them out from any of my current options freaks me out.

Finally, and most recently, a friend of mine seems to have decided that because of events transpiring right now in her life, she no longer wants to keep living. Having been suicidal myself in the past, I can understand the impulse, and understand feeling so lost and alone that it seems better off to just end your life. It’s come up in discussion in that past, but is much more front-and-center right now because of something happening. I don’t know what to do, or if indeed I can do anything. She’s my friend, and I don’t want her to go, but I also know that she has been suffering a lot, and this current loss will just be the latest in a list of indignities and sorrows; she recently told me she felt she was clearly not meant to be alive. I don’t know if there’s someone I should tell, or something I should do, because while I can understand her pain and sorrow, she will be the second friend in just over a year I will have lost to suicide if she goes ahead with it.

So yeah, I’m all feared out. Spider invasion? Bring it on. Shark attack? Go ahead, make my day. What the hell can eight-legged monstrosities or living death machines do to my sense of fear that isn’t being done already?

Das Ist Verboten!

I’m going to talk about something here that may be, but hopefully will not turn out to be, explosive: politics. Specifically, my views on certain things, because several things have been weighing on my mind recently, this is one of them, and I’m hoping that putting some of it out in a relatively coherent form will keep it from taking up more of my own headspace.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: I’m a liberal. I have probably mentioned that in the past, but it hasn’t changed. I don’t necessarily mean that I’m a Democrat – I am, as it turns out, but only because it’s the one of the two major US parties that comes even kind of close to some of my views. I’m not necessarily tied to the Democrat ‘brand’, so let’s avoid that one and stick with my views of various topics.

First, the one that might be closest to me, health care. As am American, I believe in the whole ‘life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness’ deal, and to get the ‘life’ part, you need your health. The US healthcare system is pretty badly messed up, and if there were a way to tear it down and rebuild it in a way that not only helped most of the people who need it most but keep most of the people who are employed in it employed gainfully, I’d do that. Because I suffer from the ‘pre-existing condition’ of major clinical depression, before the ACA went into effect I couldn’t get any kind of health insurance on my own, which sucks – my medications, with any insurance coverage, run $500+ a month, and many doctors won’t see you even for a routine check-up if you don’t have insurance. I know the ACA is far, far from perfect; I have a friend who has been kinda of screwed over by the restrictions on it, and the legalese makes my head hurt. But it’s better than what we had – and I think it still needs to be vastly better. Everyone in the US should have the ability to get affordable healthcare. I’m not an expert by any means, but I would love a system that somehow gave everyone healthcare without bankrupting people.

Second, education. I’m kind of an academic, so this one, too, is close to me. I have a BA, and MA, almost got a PhD, and I’m trying to go back and get an MSW. I know an education can be valuable, even if that value may not always be in getting a great job.And I know an educated populace is going to be better prepared to figure out what to do with the government and the general running of the country. I think there should be some kind of standard across the country for pre-college education; there’s no reason that, for instance, Iowa needs different pre-college education requirements than, say, Nebraska, or Missouri. There are 50 states, but those 50 are all part of one country, and knowing that a high schooler three states over from you is getting basically the same kind of information as you when you go to high school is good. It makes college things easier, as well, because then colleges have an easier time knowing what students should know by the time they get to college. And one state, or a couple, should not be essentially running the show as far as textbook materials are concerned, especially when that material is blatantly not true and pushes an agenda – this article on the Texas Board of Education’s effect on textbooks is kind of scary. I know that the process will almost always be political to some extent, in one direction or another, but I think every effort should be made to keep things as factual and educational as possible.

Third, I think minimum wage should be higher. Now, I’m biased, because right now I work for minimum wage, or just above it, but in my mind, the ‘minimum’ in minimum wage should be, essentially, the minimum amount one can earn at a full-time job and not require other funding to support oneself and afford food, housing, and other necessities. I know this would be hard on some businesses, but on some of the largest, they keep wages that low because they can essentially get the government to then subsidize their employees – this article notes Walmart as one of the big offenders here, costing taxpayers billions in public assistance so they can pay their workers less – and then turn around and profit on the assistance, given that many people on government assistance shop at Walmart because of low prices. To put it simply – if someone cant’ survive on what they are making when they are working a full-time job, then something is wrong. If an employer values a position so little that he/she/it won’t pay enough for a worker in that position to live on it (assuming the position is full-time), then eliminate the position, because it clearly isn’t necessary. If you need a full-time position filled, then pay that employee enough to live on.

I think the government needs to re-prioritize some of its spending, too. I know infrastructure spending isn’t exciting or sexy (though I recommend watching this John Oliver clip on it, because let’s face it, the man is both right and hilarious), but our country runs on it, and our, nationally, is…well, kinda falling apart. Meanwhile, as of last year, we have spent over a trillion dollars on a new fighter plane design that we don’t even have a working version of yet (look up the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program). We could probably have rebuilt every unsound road, bridge, dam, and other infrastructure installment with money left over for that amount of money. So I think we need to look at our government budget and see where things actually need to go – not where some congressman wants extra funding to go just to get re-elected, but where government money needs to actually go. Rebuilding infrastructure would be a good place to at least do some looking into.

I could say something about corporate influence – like the idea that corporations can be people, and that they can have some kind of moral control over their employees, like Hobby Lobby. Or the idea that money can be seen as speech (which is true, as long as we’re clear that that speech is bribery). But to be fair, while I have opinions on these things, I have no good sources to offer that can explain things more clearly, or that contain anything resembling facts. And without some kind of fact base, I don’t want to get into a political flamewar. I’m open to talking about these things – I am not a fervent political operative by any means. I would just prefer to have an intelligent conversation about these kinds of things, without the assumption, on either side, that the other person thinks the other arguer is somehow stupid, mentally deficient, or some other kind of insulting terminology.

So, that’s what’s going on in my head right now, at least partially. If you want to talk about any of this, get in touch with me. I promise I will make every effort to have a cogent, intelligent discussion. And if nothing else, we can talk about John Oliver and FIFA, which is always a good time.

Faith- Based Initiatives

So, this is going to be another blog entry on faith – just thought I’d give you all fair warning, in case that’s not your thing. I plan on covering two very different faith-related topics, and one of them might be upsetting to some people, so I’ll leave that one for last.

First up is this – I think I want to find a church of some kind to go to. I was raised Catholic, but I’m not sure that’s where I am; I don’t think my ideas tend to line up with Catholic teachings very well, and so I don’t think that would work very well for me. And aside from my knowledge of Catholicism, my experience with church in Houston has been pretty limited. I enjoyed going to church the few times I went with Calla, but given that we are no longer on speaking terms, I think it would be weird for me to go there; I don’t want her to feel like I am trying to intrude on her life or her faith, and I also think seeing her would be a constant reminder of how much that messed with my life. So that is out, and that’s my only real church-going experience in Houston. So I am looking for a place I can go that will accommodate, or at least not be outright dismissive of, my beliefs. I’ve never really looked into finding a new church before, so I don’t really know how this goes. Ideally, I’d want to go to or belong to a church that has some times, apart from services, that are explicitly for discussion; I don’t want to force my beliefs on anyone, but I think that more in-depth discussion of theological matters might help me to articulate what I’m thinking more clearly, as well as give me more of a faith-based outlet in my life – which seems like something that would be helpful right now. I’m open to suggestions, if anyone has any.

And now, on to the part that might be offensive or triggering to some people. Going beyond this point will result in reading about the anger and disgust I’m feeling right now at some people who consider themselves Christian, but don’t seem to be in anything but name. You have been warned.

So, Josh Duggar has been in the news lately. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he is a son of the Duggar family, stars of the TLC channel show ’19 Kids and Counting’. And, apparently, some years ago – it seems around 2002 – he molested a number of young girls, including, it seems, several of his sisters. And his father, at least, knew about it – and did nothing. Well, not until 2003, when he reported it. Not to the police, though – to his church elders. They recommended that Josh get counseling – but his counseling consisted of manual labor and talking to someone who had no training in counseling. When they finally went to the police, they went to a friend of Josh’s dad – who only gave him a stern talking to (it turns out that police officer was later in his own hot water for child pornography, but that’s not the issue here). And that was apparently it, until last week, when details came out and Josh apologized. And, of course, many people leaped to his defense, saying he had, in his father’s words, “made some very bad mistakes“, but had been forgiven by God. Even former Governor Mike Huckabee (a personal friend of the Duggars stood up in Josh’s defense, saying, among other things, “Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.

Well, that’s bullshit. They were clearly not open and honest about it. If they were, it wouldn’t have taken 12 years – well beyond the statute of limitations for his crimes – to come to light. It was handled in-house – by his dad, their church elders, a friendly police officer. And then swept under the rug. He abused several young girls – some of them his own sisters – and it seems he got almost nothing in the way of consequences. And so the idea that he has been forgiven is laughable, especially since he probably has not sought forgiveness from the people he wronged. But what I find really disturbing about this, and which angers and disgusts me, is that no thought seems to have been given to Josh’s victims. Were they given counseling (and by this I mean real, professional counseling)? Were they helped in their time of need, after having their trust in someone who should have been a protector – for several of them, a big brother – violated in such a terrible and fundamental way? Were they treated with compassion, given all the care and help that, as devout Christians, they should have been able to expect from their fellows in their church? Given the way this was handled, I doubt it – they were probably given no thought at all. No punishment was ever truly sought for their abuser. I have seen nothing to indicate there was any effort to give them even token effort at help. Having known people who have suffered abuse – maybe not exactly like this, but similar – it offends and sickens me that the victims of this seem to have been totally ignored. Josh wasn’t the one who needed help – they were. They needed to know it wasn’t their fault, that the shame and guilt was on him, not them. That this family claims to be so strongly Christian yet seems to have neglected the needs of their own abused family to protect the reputation of their criminal son – because that’s what his acts were, criminal, not simply ‘mistakes’ – shows them to be hypocrites. It makes me sick to my stomach and makes me shake in anger to think that these people could represent any part of my faith.

Alright, that’s it, rant over.

Exhaustion

Man, I am tired. Hell, I am exhausted. Mentally, emotionally, physically.In the last few months, I have lost someone I thought was a good friend, had another good friend move away, had work go crazy, flown to Omaha and back over a weekend, had my grandfather die, and found out I didn’t get into the graduate program I have been working for much of the last year trying to get into.

My back hurts. My feet hurt. I just got over being sick. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in at least two weeks. And that’s just the physical stuff. Last night was the first time I’ve had to myself in about a week, and being an introvert, that’s important. I like being around my family, and I know it’s important for something traumatic, like my grandfather’s memorial service. It helped to have family around, and I know we all needed it. I was just glad to get some time to myself, not because I dislike my family, but just because being around people all the time, even people I like, just drains me mentally and emotionally.

So things have been pretty lousy lately. And a couple years ago, that would have been the road to something bad, and possibly fatal; I would probably have started on a road to deep, deep depression that would would likely have lasted for months, if not years, and might have eventually culminated in a suicide attempt. I know some people are still worried that a cascade of bad things happening like this will send me down that path anyway, and I can’t really blame them; it’s happened in the past.

But even though it’s been a pretty lousy couple of months, over the last two years I’ve had a lot of preparation for handling these kinds of things in my life. A lot of awful things have happened, and I do feel bad. But I also know that despite how I feel now, they won’t last forever. And one of the things that’s been on my mind a lot for the last week is my grandfather, who was a pretty amazing man.

As a little background, my grandfather was 93. He was a soldier in World War II, serving under Patton in the 3rd Army, and taking part, to some degree, in the Battle of the Bulge. That was one of the most miserable parts of the war on the western front, and yet despite that, all the letters he sent home to my grandmother were positive; he never complained about things like being stuck with summer clothes in winter. And for my lifetime, that same positive attitude was one of the biggest things I remember about my grandfather. He never got angry, or started yelling, and feeling sorry for himself. Even when he had trouble hearing, or started having trouble walking, or couldn’t drive anymore, he never seemed miserable. It was one of the things basically everyone he knew remembered most about him.

I don’t know that I can get to that degree of optimism; I am naturally a pretty cynical person, and, let’s face it, I do have clinical depression – even on a great day, my life is probably not going to be all sunshine and puppies. But I know that I can at least try and look on the bright side and be more optimistic; that’s what the whole idea of the gratitude challenges I’ve done have been about. I’m not really sure how I’m going to get there; right now I still need to deal with the fallout of my personal life’s wreckage and the fact that, without grad school, I need to find something else to do with my life. But I know that at the least, I can try to follow the example of my grandfather.

But right now, I have work tomorrow. So I’m going to try and get a jump on this exhaustion and get some sleep.