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?

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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.