A confluence of topics dealing with mental health, substance abuse, health, public health, Social Work, education, politics, the humanities, and spirituality at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. In short, this blog is devoted to the improvment of the quality of life of human beings in the universe.
Scott McClellan is a huge disgrace for shilling for the President and the Bush administration. He will now make millions off his book saying that the Bush administration was spewing propaganda rather than being straight with the American people. This is nothing new, but it does validate those who have been saying this for some time. Talking Points Memo TV gives highlights of many of Scott's press conferences. It is this kind of mystification that makes Americans crazy. The video lasts 9:30 and is worth watching if you are interested in this kind of stuff.
This is an essay I have wanted to write for some time, but have never felt confident that I had the words to accurately express my thoughts and feelings. I have looked for other authors who could state the ideas more clearly and succinctly than I can, but having found none, I have decided to take the risk and try to express the idea myself.
On this memorial day, I have a great deal of difficulty honoring and paying tribute to people who have engaged in immoral, unethical, and perhaps even criminal behavior. I am talking about soldiers who willingly and readily engaged in the killing in the immoral wars in Viet Nam and Iraq. Participating in the immoral wars of empire is not an honorable or moral activity. The defense that the soldier is “only doing their job”, and “just following orders” is the same as the German soldiers who transported the Jewish people and manned the crematoriums during the Holocaust. This defense was judged to be inadequate in the Nuremberg trials after World War II and it is not adequate for our soldiers immoral activity in a war of imperial conquest now.
There are courageous and heroic people who objected to the criminal activity and said “Hell no, I won’t go!”, and who rejected further service. I call these soldiers, “Soldiers of conscience” because they have reflected on the activities they were being ordered to participate in and judged them immoral and objectionable and at great personal sacrifice said so and refused to participate. They're people of conscience I admire, honor, and respect and yet the majority of Americans seem embarrassed by them because they force us as a nation to examine our nation’s policies and activities and we are conflicted and ashamed. It is another example of the classic case of the little boy saying to his mother, “The king has no clothes on!” and she tells her son to “Hush up!” because she fears the reprisal and retribution for his honesty.
As a therapist, I hypothesize that a great deal of what gets diagnosed as PTSD is a case of overwhelmingly guilty consciences at what was done, or what was seen done, and what was participated in, and yet there is no socially acceptable mechanism for individual soldiers and us, as a nation, to confess our sins, acknowledge our guilt, ask for forgiveness, and repent. This spiritually cleansing strategy has been labeled by the current Republicans and conservative pundits as “cut and run”. And yet it is much more psychological and spiritually healthy to call a spade a spade, take the bull by the horns, determine the nature and degree of harm done, and attempt to rectify and repair the harm.
Our current political climate and culture is too imbued with hubris to admit mistakes, take responsibility for immoral and illegal behavior, admit wrongs done, and apologize and make amends. So the iconic images and ideas of Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo, of extraordinary rendition, of deceit in justifying a pursuit to war, makes us as a nation hide our shame by sporting yellow “support the troops” magnetic ribbons on our cars and pretend that memorial day is a day to celebrate the heroic sacrifices of the activities of soldiers who have engaged in immoral, illegal, and unethical acts in our name.
We do no service to ourselves and to them when we lie and deceive ourselves and others about the horror we have inflicted on Iraq, Viet Nam, and other people’s around the world.
As Nuremberg trials concluded, at the end of the day, the individual conscience is supreme and to excuse one’s moral choices saying “ I was serving my country” or “I was following the orders of the Commander in Chief” is no defense.
When we look at the indicators of mental health among our soldiers: the rates of PTSD and other psychiatric problems, the suicide rates, the dysfunction among military families, I have to ask myself on Memorial Day, who is kidding who? If this activity is so grand and noble why the terrible psychic sequelae?
We have allowed ourselves as a nation to follow a delusional administration, and a dysfunctional congress into engaging in a pre-emptive, immoral, and illegal war. As Michael Moore pointed out on Larry King live over 100 million Americans, about 1/3 of the voting public knew the war was wrong. Millions more around the world knew the war was wrong. The United States essentially declared war alone with many more nations being unwilling than the touted few who were willing. The Pope and other major religious leaders around the world declared the war immoral. How can this be the occasion for honor and tribute? It will only make us crazier. It is better to call sin what it is – sin, and then go from there.
I honor the prophets, like the little boy who saw that the emperor had no clothes on, and thank them for their enlightened witnessing when those in power and the “moral majority” who support them have lost their way.
This Memorial Day should be a day of reflection and repentance. Let’s stop glorifying and honoring what is morally ugly. Let’s provide opportunities for truth and reconciliation instead of military jingoism and chauvanism. What many of our soldiers need is moral cleansing, along with our leaders, and then maybe it wouldn’t be necessary for them to kill themselves and go nuts.
Here is video with Darrell Anderson who is one veteran whom I admire and honor very much. The video lasts a little over 4 minutes and is worth every second.
Stephen Murdoch, the author of the book IQ: A Smart History of A Failed Idea, talks about the misuse of IQ tests by the Nazis and Americans to use IQ scores to forcibly sexually sterlize women and in Nazi Germany kill people. The video only lasts 3:29 minutes and is worth watching to remind us of the misuse of psychological and psychiatric diagnostic information for political purposes which is both unethical, immoral, and sometimes criminal.
935 lies by Bush Administration lead U.S. to war according to the Center for Public Integrity. Is this evidence of war crimes and a basis for impeachment because of high crimes and misdemeanors? It is this kind of mystification that makes a whole nation crazy. When government is in bed with the corporate media and the military/industrial complex, fascism is real and present, and any sense that we live in a democracy becomes self delusional. Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow give an overview. Video lasts 6 minutes and every American should watch it.
In the February 1, 2008 issue of Medical Economics, Gastroenterologist Michael Cappell tells the story of the time he got sued in a shotgun malpractice case. Even though innocent of wrongdoing, he still paid a hefty professional and personal price. Shabby treatment of health care professionals discourages the good ones from practicing medicine and they will not be there to help the sick when they are needed because the lawyers have driven them from the field. Here is part of what Dr. Cappell says about the personal toll on him:
From a societal perspective, justice was served. Except for the elderly physician, who faced trial for malpractice, the court dismissed claims against all of the other 16 physicians originally named in the lawsuit.
From my perspective, however, justice was poorly served. I spent about 20 hours on the lawsuit before it was dismissed—and another 10 hours afterward explaining it to prospective employers and malpractice carriers. Psychologically, the suit took a greater toll, especially when I felt that my academic career as a clinical gastroenterologist might be in jeopardy.
All this wasted time and emotional distress was unnecessary.
First, by merely certifying as to the factual basis of the claims against me, the plaintiff's attorney was able to include me in the case. Given the potential harm to practicing physicians, shouldn't malpractice claims always be preceded by a medical expert's signed affidavit, as at least 16 states now require?
Second, when doctors are dismissed from a lawsuit without any settlement, shouldn't courts expunge any mention of the original litigation from the records? In the current system, physicians are not only considered guilty until proven innocent, they're still regarded as suspect after claims against them have been dropped.
The Associated Press reported today, 01/31/08, that the number of suicides in the military has continued to climb and is up 20% from last year.
As many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a jump of some 20 percent over the year before, officials said Thursday.
The rise comes despite numerous efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by a longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the most deadly year yet in the now six-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
Internal briefing papers prepared by the Army's psychiatry consultant early this month show there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 deaths that are suspected suicides and still under investigation.
More than a quarter of those — about 34 — happened during deployments in Iraq, an increase from 27 in Iraq the previous year, according to the preliminary figures.
The report also shows an increase in the number of attempted suicides and self-injuries — some 2,100 in 2007 compared to less than 1,500 the previous year and less than 500 in 2002.
The total of 121 suicides last year, if all are confirmed, would be more than double the 52 reported in 2001, before the Sept. 11 attacks prompted the Bush administration to launch its counter-terror war. The toll was 87 by 2005 and 102 in 2006.
Officials said the rate of suicides per 100,000 active duty soldiers has not yet been calculated for 2007. But in a half million-person active duty Army, the 2006 toll of 102 translated to a rate of 17.5 per 100,000, the highest since the Army started counting in 1980, officials said. The rate has fluctuated over those years, with the low being 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.
I have my own hypothesis which is that Americans are not able, in good conscience, to kill in hand to hand combat as the military has demanded in Iraq and Afghanistan in an immoral war perpetrated under deceitful rationale by their commander in chief. Guilty consciences on top of other psychosocial stressors is a deadly combination.
I am distressed as I run into young people who are considering joining the military wondering if they understand how their moral conscience may be compromised when they are asked to kill for immoral reasons.
It is interesting how the moral conflicts engendered by the activities of killing fellow human beings is never mentioned in our national policy discussions, let alone the toll it takes on the mental health of the people who are asked to kill for us in our name.
As Americans we are not only responsible for the killing done in our name, but for the mental health of the killers who kill at our behest. Apparently, an increasing number of them cannot live with themselves and hate their lives enough to end them, and not only is the blood of those they have killed for us on our hands, but now their blood is on our hands as well.
What America needs is a period of repentence as we atone for what we have done to our brothers and sisters in other countries, and what we have done to our own.
Justice Talking Radio program released an excellent program on 01/14/08 entitled "Neurolaw, The New Frontier" in which various experts discuss the latest brain imaging techniques and how it is being used and could be used in the future.
Some lawyers are using brain scans showing defects to argue that their clients aren’t responsible for criminal behavior. In recent years, this neuroscientific evidence has been increasingly used in our courtrooms. But some scientists argue that the imaging is still new and unreliable, while others question whether juries should be ruling on what counts as a "defective" brain. As neurolaw grows in influence, it could potentially revolutionize our notions of guilt and punishment as criminals say "my brain made me do it." Might we be, one day, just a brain scan away from a form of lie detection and prediction of criminal behavior? Tune in as we examine this new frontier of law on this edition of Justice Talking
The show lasts about 50 minutes and can be listened to on line or downloaded in MP3 format. It is well worth listening to if you are interested in the topic.
Chris Jenkins wrote a good article in yesterday's, 12/30/07, Washtington Post about involuntary outpatient mental health treatment. In New York State there is such a law known as Kendra's law and it appears to be successful. It is being looked at closely by other states such as Virginia as a model to replicate.
Susan Wezel had been committed to the city's hospital wards more than a dozen times in 10 years. Her psychosis was so deep and debilitating that she lost her career and her relationship with her son, as she refused to take her medication or follow treatment.
But because of a New York state law, Wezel hasn't been hospitalized in more than a year. She doesn't wander the streets alone at night anymore. She takes her medication willingly. She even has plans to follow her dream of singing at a neighborhood nightspot, something that was unthinkable 18 months ago.
Wezel and her caseworker agree that the transformation occurred because of the law, which allowed officials to force Wezel into an outpatient treatment program after she was discharged from a hospital.
Known as Kendra's Law, it is considered one of the most far-reaching mental health statutes in the country. It gives great latitude to doctors, social workers and relatives to take mentally ill people before a judge to force them into treatment, and it provides money for clinical services.
If you are interested in involuntary outpatient mental health treatment, the article is worth reading.