Torture, the new American value, satire

            It’s been quite a week. President George W. Bush said that the United States does not condone torture when other nations torture U. S. citizens, soldiers, and its allies, but does  reserve the right to torture terrorists who might have information useful to the interests of the United States.

            “You see”, the President said, “God told me that he wants me to allow some agents of the U.S. to torture other people because God doesn’t like them. He only likes Americans and other people who love freedom.”

            When polled, many Americans agreed with the President especially evangelical Christians lead by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and Dr. James Dobson.

            “Jesus, Himself, was tortured”, said Pat Robertson, “and He saved the human race so how bad can it be? If a little torture helps save Americans, then I think Jesus would approve. Golly, gee, it was good enough for Him, so I guess it should be good enough for terrorists who could help us by giving us information to help us dominate the rest of the world to our will. And the U.S’s will is God’s will because God blesses America.”

            Roy Christian said, “Over a million Americans watch Pat Robertson’s PTL club TV show so he has plenty of support, and the majority of Americans voted for President Bush so he must be right.”   

           It’s hard to argue with Roy. He is very sincere and he truly loves the Lord since he found Jesus as his Lord and savior after a few wild years of whoring, drinking, and snorting a little coke.

            “I understand our President”, Roy said. “We have a lot in common.”

Elmer Sandbagger listens to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity everyday, he says, because he likes to stay well informed. Elmer admits that a lot of the policy issues are over his head and he says that he likes it when Rush reassures him that he doesn’t really have to keep up with all the information and developments because Rush will do his thinking for him, and all he has to do is just listen to him. Elmer has even adopted a soldier for $49.95 to get Rush’s newsletter. As far as torture goes, Elmer says, “No pain, no gain. That’s how I see it.”

            Jennifer Golddigger said that one of her boyfriends is a “contract interrogator” and actually did some work at Abu Ghraib. Jennifer says that he is retired special forces but now makes good money doing this  contract work. She says Jerry is making over $150,000.00 per year providing “security” in some of the Iraqi prisons and interviews the prisoners. She said that Jerry told her it was his idea to have Lyndie English pose with that Iraqi prisoner on the dog leash. Jennifer said that Jerry told her that those pictures could be worth big bucks to the right person. Jennifer quickly said, “I don’t think he meant for blackmail. I think he was going to sell them to the National Enquirer”.

            And that’s how it’s been this week in Everytown, USA where Roy Christian identifies with the Commander In Chief, Elmer is tuned into the EIB golden microphone, and Jennifer loves the flush she feels when she thinks of Jerry making all that money playing sado-masochistic sex role play games with Iraqi prisoners. And as President Bush loves to say, “God Bless America”.

National Incompetence Staring Us Right In The Face Like The Eye Of A Hurricane

It’s been quite a week. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama. New Orleans, being below sea level, was flooded when the levee holding back Lake Ponchatrain broke. The Federal government did nothing and poor people, without resources, died and suffered.

It makes you wonder about governmental incompetence. Is our government really there to help us, or is it to oversee and enrich itself off the market economy? We decided to do our own research and so we asked some of our more opinionated citizens.

Elmer Sandbagger said, “The problem with Americans is that they want their government to solve all their problems. What’s George Bush suppose to do about a hurricane? People using the brains that God gave them, got out of town like they were told to do. It’s not Bush’s fault if people didn’t follow the government’s advice.”

Jennifer Golddigger opined, “I flew out on the first flight I could catch to New York City. I have been having a swell time even going to a couple of broadway shows until this thing blows over. (Do you like my pun?) We’ve been staying at the Waldorf and they have treated us like royalty. I even get bonus points on my credit card. It’s terrible what’s happening to those poor people who couldn’t get out of the city, but they were warned, so what more can I say? I loved seeing Laura Bush down there visiting the shelter right at lunch time. She’s such a fine first lady.”

Roy Christian said, “This is God’s wrath for the southern decadence festival that was scheduled to begin on August 31st. Those homosexual perverts bring in people from all over the world to celebrate their homosexuality. It is like Sodom and Gomorrah down there, and this is what they get. This city has been known for the celebration of sin and filth such as Girls Gone Wild, Mardi Gras, and Southern Decadence. It says in Matthew 5: 45 that God “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust". What is happening is biblical in its proportions, and I am glad the President has been slow to respond to give these people time to think about their sinning ways and repent.”

Ted Marketer seemed a little taken back and at a loss for words, but finally uttered, “This is one hell of a marketing opportunity for everyone but the current administration. Think of the money and jobs that will be needed for rebuilding. Nobody will be out of work now. Of course, how the government in Washington and Baton Rouge and New Orleans spins their incompetence will be interesting. Dead bodies floating in 4 feet of water in city streets is hard to put a positive face on. It seems apparent that the market economy let us down because it doesn’t do well when the public health and safety are at peril. People with resources survive while people without resources suffer and die, but then, that’s the Darwinian notion of the survival of the fittest. It’s an example of dog eat dog, but that seems to be the values that our economy and politics is built on, and the people support it. They elected these idiots and seem to support their policies.”

Huey Bourgois said, “Why don’t they help us?! My mother died in the attic on Friday, after waiting four days for help. My wife took our baby up to her mother’s when we knew the hurricane was coming, but I couldn’t leave my disabled mother. I don’t know how they are doing. I haven’t heard.”

Richard Landsman said, “This disaster was entirely predictable. We have known this was going to happen for over a decade. We have advocated for resources to fix the potential problems from Washington, but they had other plans like war in Iraq. As a matter of fact, President Bush cut funds for the reinforcing of the levees from the budget just last year. Nobody in a position of leadership can legitimately act surprised about this. This national tragedy was entirely and accurately predicted and yet our leaders did nothing. It is a failure of will not of knowledge. There was no money in it, and no votes, and so nothing was done, and now the whole nation will suffer because of incompetence and hubris.”

And that’s the way it’s been this week where a natural disaster bigger than anything this nation has ever seen has struck with devastation that was entirely predictable, and the government was caught with its pants down, if not deliberately refusing to respond. We, at Markham’s Behavioral Health, worry about the future of our country  which is in the hands of such incompetent leadership whom we all elected and put into place, and stares us in the face like the eye of the hugest hurricane we have ever seen in our nation's history.

Mrs. Sheehan knows that the emperor has no clothes

  Cindy_sheehan  It’s been quite a week. Cindy Sheehan, the mother with a dead son killed in Iraq, is camping outside the President’s ranchette in Crawford, Texas. The President is on a 5 week vacation, but from what isn’t clear, because people in the know don’t think he is actually running the country. People think that Karl Rove whom the President has nicknamed “Turd Blossom” and other Republican Neo- Cons are actually calling the shots because George seems confused and ignorant of what is really going on most of the time. His handlers are the ones in charge behind the scenes and feed him the script without which he appears lost and inept.

            Mrs. Sheehan says that she wants an explanation from the President on what her son died for. It seems that it wasn’t because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or links with Al-Queda, or was any threat to the United States. Having made an ultimate sacrifice which the Bush boys with kids, like George W. and Jeb haven’t made, Mrs. Sheehan believes that she is owed some sort of explanation. It appears that the rest of us aren’t owed any explanation, because we’ve been told to go shopping to prove that we won’t be intimated by terrorists, and since there is no draft and the only people being killed are volunteers, it seems that the public at large, the so called silent majority, don’t care enough to protest the global injustice being perpetrated by their government.

            I asked around to find out what other people were thinking.

            Elmer Sandbagger said, “Mrs. Sheehan is the reason that women need to know their place and to keep their mouths shut. The President already talked with her last year. Who does she think she is that she can just waltz in and talk to the President anytime she wants? These liberal do-gooders feel entitled, entitled to all kinds of things from their government. George W. Bush is a good man, a good god fearing fellow who wants only what’s best for this country. Anybody who doubts that is a traitor to this great country. Mrs. Sheehan should be ashamed of herself.”

            Jennifer Goldigger said, “Gawd, I love the Bush bunnies. They are so kewl. I wish I could party with them. I hear their cousin, Noelle, graduated from drug court in Orlando. Those girls know how to parteeeeeeeeeee. You won’t find them joining any Army. They take after their dad. He knew how to get out of the whole military gig thing too. You got to be smart to get ahead in this country. I do feel sorry for Mrs. Sheehan loosing her son and all, but hey, he volunteered. What did he expect?”

            Ted Marketer said, “This looks bad for Bush. This lady is an embarrassment to him and his administration. His refusing to meet with her only gives her more of a platform to gather up community recognition and sympathy. Of course, what is the guy supposed to say? His foreign policy has been dead wrong from day one and he refuses to admit a mistake which is a big mistake. Remember the Tylenol fiasco? When their pill bottles were contaminated they immediately apologized, took all the product off the shelves, and the company rebounded with more credibility than ever. The public is forgiving if people, companies, organizations will admit their mistakes and make up for it, but the public is not trusting when they are being stonewalled. Bush is making a terrible mistake. He should meet with the lady. Her son was killed for crying outloud. She deserves an answer, but what can he say if he is honest? I doubt he is ever going to admit that his war was a mistake. Even his father, the former President knew better.”            

            “The Christian response to sin is repentance”, said Roy Christain, “but the greatest sin is arrogance and pride, and Mrs. Sheehan should get down on her knees and pray for humility. How dare she question the President of the United States and such a God fearing man as George W. Bush?”

            What can be said to a grieving mother who has lost a child in a bogus and immoral war? She is like the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “the Emperor’s New Suit.   

“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.

            It is nice to see at least one woman who is being honest about the United States foreign policy. It makes no sense. It is based on deceptions and lies, and now the need to save face. Mrs. Sheehan is making America face its shame and that is something that will make a nation squirm.

            And that’s how it’s been this week in Anytown, USA, where Elmer thinks women should know their place and they have gotten too far out of line, Jennifer admires the Bush bunnies, Ted knows a terrible marketing strategy when he sees one, Roy Christian still thinks the President is a man of God and those that would disagree need a lesson in humility, and we at Markham’s Behavioral Health know that in the end truth, justice, and love will prevail.

Abortion and the Chain of Life

It’s been quite a week. On Sunday there was a "Chain of Life" stretching down Route 19 in Anytown and for a ways west on Rt. 31 up by the plaza. Scores of people stood about 10 feet apart, holding white signs with blue lettering that said, "Abortion kills children."

I was thinking, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." People kill children through the procedure that is called abortion. Anyway, I was feeling a little bit guilty because I am pro-life, and I thought that I should be standing with them struggling to define the cultural norm by taking a stand against this deviant practice, which is driving our society and culture right to hell. When babies are expendable, we are all vulnerable. 

We have children killing children in the ghettos of America and who cares? They should have been abortions anyway, right? Those ghetto kids are unproductive, unsocialized psychopaths raised by single teenage mothers in poverty. When one dies, that's one more off the welfare roles and out of the criminal justice system. If kids were killing each other this way in middle class suburbs, don't you think something different would be done? But life is cheap nowadays. We can't be burdened and inconvenienced.

I asked some of the folks in our area what they thought of this public demonstration

      "My gawd," said Jennifer Goldigger. "Who do these people think they are? They have no business imposing their religion on other people.Women ought to have say over what happens to their bodies. They should be able to get an abortion if they want one. I'm pro-choice all the way. If they're against abortion, then don't have one, but leave me alone."

      "What's this country coming to?" asked Elmer Sandbagger. " It's a sad day when babies aren't safe in their own mother's womb. A woman's place is in the home taking care of the kids. Like Dr. James Dobson says, the major source of problems in this country today is the breakdown of the family.

       "Where would we be if Mary had had an abortion?" said Roy Christian. "Y'know she wasn't married to Joseph when she turned up pregnant. Immaculate conception aside, essentially she was just another cheap hussy. Kinda fit the profile of a welfare mother. She had no husband -- couldn't even give a definitive answer on who the father was. Jesus was an illegitimate child until Joseph finally married her and made a respectable woman out of her."

      "The symbolism is nice," said Ted Marketer, "but it's completely ineffective. Chain of Life demonstrations, candlelight vigils, prayer services -- they just don't work. If pro-lifers really want to advance their agenda, I've got three words for them: money, media and lobbyists. I'm sympathetic to the cause, and I'd offer my own consulting services gratis, but let's face it, most people associate pro-lifers with fundamentalist Christian doctor murderers. I can't afford to be connected with them. It'll kill my business, if you'll pardon the pun. It's an image thing. You understand."

      Abortion is one of those emotional issues that will be debated for decades to come. At a natural level though, it's crystal clear that children in our society are an economic liability and not an economic asset. The world is becoming overpopulated, and the survival of the species no longer depends on maximizing procreation, but on balancing our planetary resources and the needs of the population. We don't need "good breeders" anymore. On the contrary, infertile and gay couples don't contribute to the crowding that is now reaching crisis proportions in some areas. In agricultural societies of the past, abortion was not even an issue. Children provided cheap labor and were a sign of wealth. Moreover, polygamy was sometimes encouraged, and the more children produced the better. My, how times have changed

      So it seems that abortion comes down to money and economics. We try as individuals and organizations to minimize the overhead. From this point of view, abortion makes perfect economic sense for the individual and for society. Therefore, we tolerate it, if not encourage it.

      Some women think that abortion is a feminist issue, arguing that it frees them from the burdens of fertility and gives them freedom. In fact, at a deeper level, women are being exploited because they are being deprived of their biological potential so that the patriarchal economic structures can continue undiminished. How many men encourage their girlfriends to have abortions because it's easier on them? And how many women choose abortion because of the period of economic dependence that pregnancy and child rearing may require?

      And so the Chain of Life stretched along our highways trying to make a point. I think that point was probably lost on most people. This public stand by some courageous souls is laudatory, and yet probably ineffective in the long run. I still feel guilty, though, for not being there. Abortion is wrong. It does kill children. And we have an obligation to say so. It diminishes us all because we value money, convenience, and "freedom" more than we do life. And that is frightening.

      I too am pro-choice. I say choose life and not death, life and not money, life and not a promotion, life and not saving face, life and not convenience. We would all be better off if we made the hard choice, and not take the easy way out.

            And that's how it's been this week in Anytown, where Jennifer wants to be left alone to do her own thing, Roy is glad that there are bastard saviors in the world, Ted thinks speaking out is too risky, and the Chain of Life folks are trying to make this a better world.

If learning is fun why is schooling compulsory?

It's been quite a week. The kids are getting ready to go back to school, for better of for worse. Some reluctant students have griped about returning to the classroom, stating in no uncertain terms that they hate school.

"It's stupid," one tenth grader told me. "It's a boring waste of time and I don't understand why I should be forced to go. Last I checked this was a free country."

That set me to wondering why the state, in its infinite wisdom, supports compulsory education. Why do we incarcerate kids against their wills and deprive them of their liberty? Our Constitution prohibits the government from infringing on the freedoms of its citizens. A writ of habeas corpus can be brought in any jurisdiction that takes liberties with personal freedoms -- except, of course, where kids are concerned. We kill them through abortion, incarcerate them in school, and force them to abide by the court's ruling in ugly court divorce cases. Supposedly it's for their own good.

            I asked some of the members of our community what they thought about the idea of compulsory schooling.

            "Kids have to go to school -- period," said Elmer Sandbagger. "What are you going to do -- let them sit around all day? If they don't learn anything, how are they going to participate in our democracy? Well, I guess they could just read USA Today, but kids should go to school, too, for gym. They are getting fatter than pigs sitting around eating chips and watching TV. Their idea of exercise is playing 5 hours of video games."

            "We should pay kids to go to school," said Jennifer Goldigger. My father gave me $5 for each 'A' I brought home. He even gave me a car when I graduated. I decided not to go to college -- not that I didn't like school or anything. See, I want to be a model or an actress, and I'm dancing at the Babes Unlimited Club to make ends meet until I get my big break. Overall, I enjoyed school. I really liked cheerleading for the football team. In fact, some of my fondest school memories involve football players.”

            "We have turned into a godless nation since they took prayer out of the schools," said Roy Christian. They're teaching secular humanistic values, talking about sex, distributing condoms teaching evolution instead of Intelligent Design. I don't want my kids to have any part of it. I'll send them to a private Christian school or homeschool them if I have to. Education is the God-given responsibility of parents, and the government has no business telling me how to do it."

            A guy we know has been thinking about starting the American Association to End Compulsory Education. He decided to lay low, though, when NEA vigilantes threw a brick through his front window and set his schnauzer on fire. He has a point. There are a lot of ways to get an education, and public schooling is not necessarily the best. We wish that there were more affordable alternatives. But the teacher unions have a captive audience, and the taxpayers keep coughing up the bucks to support what amounts to a government monopoly. So, until there are vouchers, viable alternatives and competition among schools, test scores will continue to plummet, cultural literacy will continue its steady downward spiral, and students will continue to complain that school is boring and a waste of time. And they're right.

            And that's the way it is in Anytown this week, where Jennifer is using her education to excel as an  exotic dancer, Roy worries that his 13-year-old daughter's boyfriend will decide to take advantage of the free condoms now available in school, and the school taxes have gone up another 17% this year. 

            Markham’s Behavioral Health realizes that there are at least two sides to every story. Although we believe compulsory education makes about as much sense as diet chocolate, there are certainly some excellent arguments for maintaining our educational status quo. Thus, in keeping with our reputation for objectivity and fair play, we present ...

Top Ten Reasons Why Ending Compulsory Education is a Bad Idea   

10. Easier to get drugs at school.

9. Army recruiters would be faced with a dwindling pool of kids with no options; would have to find another source of financially strapped, impressionable young people to do the bidding of the military-industrial complex.

8. NEA would have to reduce membership fees.

7. Parents might have to spend more time with their children and take an interest in their socialization.

6. Cliff's Notes sales would plummet as students begin to actually read literature, rather than memorize pertinent facts for multiple choice/fill-in-the-blank tests.

5. Public schools provide necessary skills for becoming a corporate drone upon graduating and a brain dead citizen ready to vote for any candidate with the best, most provocative negative campaign ads.

4. Students would lack social skills without daily contact with peers at school; might go through life unable to respond appropriately to interactions such as, "Fuck you, Faggot!"

3. Dean of students getting a rush from suspending troublemakers and browbeating parents would have to get jobs as ambassadors to foreign countries or the U.N.

2. Students might begin to think freely, threaten social order, endanger the American way of life.

1. School administrators would have to go to work at Burger King,

Shopping through a war on terrorism

            It’s been quite a week. As casualties increase in the Iraq war and the war grinds on in spite of President Bush’s landing on the air craft carrier in a jet plane announcing “mission accomplished”, people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with a government that lied to them.

           Pre-emptive war is necessary intoned the Bushies because Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, is linked to Al-Quaeda, and is in imminent threat to the United States. Turns out these were all lies. When this is pointed out, President Bush blames “bad intelligence” but then gives the Director of the CIA, George Tenent, the Medal Of Freedom, because he did such a great job lying to him.

            The Downing Street Memo describes an understanding in Britain that President Bush was planning war from the beginning of his Presidency and that 9/11 just made it possible to justify an action he already was wanting to take.

            As of August, 2005, there have been over 1800 Americans killed and 13,000 physically wounded, and it is estimated that as many as 30% of the soldiers who have served have behavioral health problems.

            It’s hard to know what’s worse, the war, death and destruction, or the lies. We asked around in Anytown, USA.

            “Kill the bastards”, said Elmer Sandbagger. “They come over here and run planes in our buildings, somebody’s got to pay. We Americans don’t take this kind of thing lying down. I don’t know who them camel jockeys think they are. Just because they’re sitting on oceans of oil, they think they can run the world. I don’t believe for a minute this is a holy war. The Koran doesn’t tell them to go kill people. A few lunatic Imans have manipulated a few holy rollers into acts of terrorism and a holy war. Our religious leaders don’t do that here.

            Jennifer Goldigger said, “My stocks have soared. I just love the industrial military cooperation that has benefited our economy and is making the world safe for freedom and democracy at the same time. I’m doing so well, that I just went out and bought a Humvee. It is totally awesome to drive. I sit way above everyone else, and I don’t worry at all any more about an accident. Like President Bush, when I’m on the interstate, and it is congested and people are driving crazy, I just say, ‘Bring em on’.

            Roy Christian seems ecstatic these days. He said, “This is the religious war of the millennium. This is the  war of Islam and Christianity. I mean, it’s kind of like the Crusades all over again, because we are taking the war to them. Like President Bush said, it’s better to be fighting terrorism in Iraq than here in the United States. Of course, the Londoners are used to it having a history with the IRA and those damn Catholics blowing up buildings and stuff.”

            Ted Marketer opined, “Bush’s approval ratings are down, but the public is fickle and other than flashing survey results on the 6:00 news, nobody pays much attention to them anyway. I liked Bush’s line about the best thing Americans can do to fight terrorism is to keep shopping. That Bush is a true American. That’s why he got re-elected. People don’t care so much about good and evil as they do about their material comfort and as long as that isn’t disturbed, Bush will do Okay. Price of gas is trouble though. So far, middle and upper class Americans don’t care. One lady told me that she paid 50 grand for her Cadillac Esplanade and she plans to drive the damn thing if gas goes to $10.00 a gallon. It might take a few more years, but she just might get her wish.”

            For the most part, people around Anytown, USA don’t seem to be too worried about the war, and the death, and the destruction. As long as they aren’t personally affected, they seem to feel helpless and have lost interest. The politicians, the senators and the congress people, roll over and play dead, the local clergy say nary a word, and life goes on as usual except for the immediate families of the soldiers whose lives have been disrupted.

            And that’s how it is this week in Anytown where Elmer wants to kill people because he is pissed, Jennifer is enriching her retirement portfolio with companies that make weapons and cater to the war industry, Roy is dreaming of Armageddon, Ted thinks the Bushies have spun the war story perfectly telling people the best thing they can do is shop, and we at Markham’s Behavioral Health wonder through our tears what planet we are living on.

Compliment Clubs of America

It’s been quite a week. Last Saturday I talked to a lady who told me that the highlight of her month has been a thank-you card she got from the employees at Ames. It seems she filled out a store comment card saying that she thinks Ames employees are top-notch, that they outshine Walmart workers by a long shot. Well, apparently this comment card went to corporate headquarters in Connecticut -- where Ames head honchos took note of the staff's superior service -- and then all the way back to Anytown’s store. The employees were moved by the lady's comments and wanted to thank her for taking the time to say a few kind words about them. So, they picked out a card, they all signed it, and they sent it to her.

Hard to tell who feels better here -- the employees or the lady who complimented them. These random acts of kindness have a way of feeding on themselves and becoming self-perpetuating. I'm guessing that the store manager will see an increase in productivity and a jump in sales this quarter as a result of the lady's card. Cashiers will be a little friendlier, the shelves will be a little neater, and the guy who works in Electronics will check on the sale price of miniblinds over in Domestics without even a trace of irritation. That's not because employees are bucking for more flattering comment cards; it's because they believe their work is valuable and appreciated by their customers,and by extension, that they, too, are valued and appreciated.

"Well," I said to this lady, "Maybe you should start the Compliment Clubs of America and recruit people to look for opportunities to give genuine compliments to people who do good work to make this a better world."

The lady smiled and said that Compliment Clubs could go international, with chapters all over the world -- from Albania to Zimbabwe.

"Wow!" I said. "Exactly!"

Seems to me that the Palestinians and Israelis might get along better if they complimented each other once in a while. Same is true of the Bosnians and the Serbs, the Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland, the Americans and the Iraqis, even the Crips and Bloods in South Central L.A.

We have Amnesty International to identify and complain about human rights violations and atrocities around the world -- a worthy endeavor if ever there was one -- so why not have an international organization dedicated to recognizing the good things people do that build up humanity and facilitate our development into a better world?   

      I thought I'd ask around and find out how the idea would play with the good citizens of Anytown, USA.   

      "It sounds like a lot of liberal, feel-good hooey to me," said Elmer Sandbagger. "People should do good things because they're supposed to, not because somebody's gonna compliment them. Keep your compliments to yourself -- that's what I say. Start passing out compliments and before you know it, people ain't gonna want to do anything unless they get a compliment in return. That's what's wrong with this country! Entitlements, I tell you! Everyone feels entitled and no one wants to work!”

      "Will there be a cash prize that goes along with the compliment?" asked Jennifer Goldigger. "Talk is cheap. I say, put your money where your mouth is. Save your applause, honey. Just slip me some century notes."

      "Why, I think this is a wonderful idea!" said Roy Christian. "It's a ministry befitting a Christian. We can share our agape with each other and bask in the rosy glow of love and mutual admiration. Jesus would definitely give the Compliment Clubs a thumbs up. And by the way, that's a sharp tie you're wearing." 

      "I don't know," said Ted Marketer, who was on his way to A Very Important Meeting. "Good concept, but it's a tough sell. The public is concerned mainly with self-gratification -- making themselves feel better, not other people. However, if we could position the Compliment Clubs as making the target audience thinner, more popular, more successful at work and play, it could work. And if we could get a celebrity spokesperson, say Charlie Sheen -- Oops! That's my beeper! Gotta run!"

"A compliment club -- that's a good idea," said Emma Martin, who was walking home from school. "Today at recess Richard Davis called my friend Anita a cow, and I said, 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it' -- that's what my Mom always tells me when I pick on my brother Zack. So I guess the opposite is true, too. Like, if you have something nice to say, do say it."

Personally, I think the Compliment Clubs of America – or International -- is a wonderful idea, and I told the lady so. "And just think," I said, "when you're rich and famous from having founded Compliment Clubs International, you'll put Anytown on the map, because the entire, groundbreaking movement will have started right here in little ol' Anytown, USA. Whoever said that nothing good can come out of Anytown?”

           The lady said she would think about starting up Compliment Clubs International, but what with her fall canning and the church rummage sale coming up, she didn't think she'd have much time to devote to it.

"It's too late," I said. "You've already started it by filling out the comment card at Ames. The question is, do you want to keep it going?"

She said she'd think about it. 

Mr. Newton, the high school physics teacher, tells me that an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest stays at rest. I thinks that's good news and bad news for Compliment Clubs International. On the one hand, we've got an awful lot of inertia to overcome to get the ball rolling, but once in motion, kindness runs on its own energy and gathers its own momentum. 

Well, that's how it's been this week in Anytown, where Elmer wants people to keep compliments to themselves, Jennifer is interested only in the money, and the compliment lady just might recruit other complimenters and put Anytown on the map.

Jeff and Jim get married

            It’s been quite a week. Jeff Johnson, Mayor Johnson’s son, has announced he is getting married in Massachusetts to his long time committed partner, Jim Monroe. The attitude in Anytown has been “Don’t talk, don’t tell” or whatever the heck the policy is in the military. In other words, everybody knows that Jeff is gay, but nobody is supposed to acknowledge this, at least publicly, or talk about it. As long as it stays “hush, hush” if you know what I mean, I guess nobody is embarrassed especially the mayor but also the good right wing Christians who support him and benefit from his, and his administration’s favorable treatment of their pet projects and preferences.

      So, when Jeff’s wedding announcement appeared in the Anytown News Gazette it caused a bit of a stir even though nobody was supposed to talk about it. The biggest question on everybody’s mind was would the mayor and his wife travel to Massachusetts to attend the wedding, and should people give gifts or what? Half the town was worried that they might get an invitation and would have to decide on whether to attend or decline, and the other half were wishing they would get an invitation so they could go and gawk and gossip monger but knew darn well that they were out of the loopdy loop.

            Elmer Sandbagger, who is a town councilman, was heard discussing the situation with his colleagues, the other councilmen down at Colleen’s Café. He supposedly said, “Damn fruits, light in the loafers sissies, I don’t see why they have to flaunt it. What goes on behind closed doors we have already agreed to ignore, but when they get in your face, and want public acknowledgment, they’ve gone too far.”

            Jennifer Goldigger is reported to be very excited about the wedding and is planning on going. Jennifer is “tight” with both Jeff and Jim and they shop together regularly and exchange decorating and wardrobe tips. Jennifer would like TV coverage of the event and thinks that Anytown would benefit from it. She was heard to gush when she was getting her hair done at Klassy Cat Hair Styles, “It’s like our very own Queer Eye For The Straight Guy right here in Anytown. Who would have thought it possible?”

            Roy Christian is not a happy camper and he and the folks at his church are tied up in conniption fits. Nobody at the Truth of God Bible Church of Jesus Christ is sleeping well these days. The pastor preached a barn burning sermon this past Sunday on hell fire and brimstone about sodomy and degeneracy. The children and teens were excused from the sermon and sent to the church basement to do some games that had been a hit at the bible vacation school this last summer. A couple of the teens wanted to stay. They seemed interested, but the deacons ruled against them and banished them to the basement. I guess the pastor went on about oral and anal sex and the men seemed to be more sedate than usual and sat in rapt attention while the women squirmed and were restless in their seats. Bottom line according to Pastor Baxter is that, as he put it, “all those who practice perversion will burn eternally in the fiery pit of hell." Martha Burns was overheard whispering in her husband’s ear, “Did Jesus say that in the New Testament?”

            Mayor Johnson, himself, loves his son and even likes Jim and has pretty much decided, even though it is a delicate situation, to follow Vice President, Dick Cheney’s example, and declare this issue a family, not a public matter, and that he will do what is best for his family.

            The folks in Anytown were somewhat relieved that the whole situation was being removed from public consideration and would be considered a private affair. Only problem, of course, is that marriage, ipso facto, is a public affair. But hey, with George W. Bush in the White House, everyone is getting used to the “newspeak” of the day where words only mean what those in power want them to mean, so a public affair has been redefined now as private, until of course, somebody in power wants to redefine it as being public again in which case it will then become public and ripe for discussion.

            Some of the women in Anytown wondered why, if homosexual marriage was now a private affair, abortion was becoming an increasingly public affair when a woman’s body should be one of the most private things of all?

            At any rate, the Johnson’s are off to Massachusetts for a wedding. Elmer, even though invited, is staying home to spray his lawn for dandelions. Jennifer is out shopping for the perfect dress to wear to the wedding and helping Jeff and Jim plan their wedding reception compete with a press release hoping that some TV stations will cover the affair. Roy Christian and Pastor Baxter are trembling with righteous indignation at the scoffing at what they consider to be God’s laws. We at Markham’s Behavioral Health wish Jeff and Jim all the best, and believe that the world is big enough to encompass all kinds of people, and that if we had more tolerance and respect for each other, we could live together in peace.

Water only for the rich?

It’s been quite a week. People are paying up to $3.00 for a bottle of water at the Six Flags amusement park and in the football stadium, and $1.50 at the gas station.

            Water.The same stuff you can get out of the tap at your kitchen sink.

            Made me wonder when water became a commodity that can be bought and sold when it is a necessity of life.

            There was a time when you could drink it right from the creek, or the pond, or the well which you dug 35 feet down.

            Those days are gone for most people. The new gold, the new oil which will enrich some and impoverish others will be access to clean drinking water.

            This issue goes under the label of “water rights.” Who has a right to water and who doesn’t? Is access and provision of water a private matter for the market economy or a governmental function?

            We asked some of the people in our community.

            Elmer Sandbagger said, “Well, hell, I drink the stuff right out of the creek. I go down there with canning jars. It might be a little cloudy and it does have somewhat of a musty odor to it, but it goes down and slakes my thirst. Loosens my bowels too so I don’t have to use no more Ex-lax. I can’t understand those yuppies buying that stuff down at the Stop ‘N Go. Fancy, schmansy bottles, with them funny tops. Hey, it’s their money. If they want to throw it away, when I can get it for free, that’s their business.

            Jennifer Goldigger said, “My uncle runs a bottling plant down by the river and he is making a killing. The label says “Forest spring water” but he gets it right out of the river and then boils it down. He is making a killing. People like the snob appeal of it, and they are willing to pay. What was it that P.T. Barnum said? Something like ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’”

            Roy Christian weighed in, “Well, in the church, we call water, ‘Adam’s ale’, because it was part of God’s creation right there in the Garden Of Eden. It tastes so good on a hot day when you are thirsty, you can get a little rush off it, a natural high, know what I mean? I know the Town Council people were arguing over the water treatment plant upgrade and how it would raise taxes, but if the town isn’t going to supply good, clean water, then where would most people get it? Would you have to buy clean drinking water from a store like milk? I think the less government the better, but like the roads, maybe we should consider water a public utility, because we need it for the public good.”

            Water is the elixir of life and the good folks in Anytown, USA are beginning to realize that it just doesn’t grow on trees, we can’t just take it for granted any more. We are glad that the creek water loosens Elmer’s bowels so he doesn’t have to use an over the counter laxative any more, but we worry what other bodily organs his creek water is affecting. Jennifer is looking to get rich on what some folks consider a basic human right, and Roy wonders whether “water rights” are a proprietary interest or a fitting purpose for government.

When Peggy Sue Brown was sexually molested

The following story is fictitious. The names are made up and do not refer to any real people. While the story is fictitious, the dynamics and attitudes, while caricatures, are, unfortunately, all too real.

It came to light that Peggy Sue Brown, who is 15, is being sexually molested by her step father. Apparently this has been going on for about three years and Peggy told a girlfriend at school who told a teacher who called Child Protective services who called the police who came to visit Mr. Singletary who is Peggy Sue's step father.

It seems that Mr. Singletary has a drinking problem and when he was "feeling better than any human being should" as he would put it, he would wander into Peggy Sue's bedroom in the middle of the night and force himself on her saying he wanted to "cuddle".

Peggy Sue had tried to refuse him, but then instead of being nice he would quickly turn belligerent and tell her to be nice and shut her mouth or she'd be sorry because he would take care of her, her mother, and her younger brother, if she caught his drift. Peggy Sue was disgusted, terrified, confused, and had no idea where to turn.

      Mr. Singletary resented it if Peggy Sue brought a boy home, or asked if she could go out on a date, or even mentioned friends. He quickly would forbid her to go out, or would find some fault and "ground her". Peggy Sue's mother, Bobby Joe, would look timid and perplexed and would shout at Peggy Sue that she should behave herself and not cause so much trouble and get Mr. Singletary upset.

Peggy Sue's friend, who told the teacher who called Child Protective that set off a whole chain of events, told me that she felt guilty  for causing so much trouble for this family. She said that Peggy Sue refused to talk to her saying that everything now is her fault. The friend was crying and said she felt guilty and confused and wondered if she had done the right thing in telling the teacher what Peggy Sue had told her.

      I asked around to try to get some advice from some folks in the community.

      Elmer Sandbagger said, " Well, I've known Gene Singletary for years and he always seemed liked a nice fellow to me. I can't believe what that young filly accused him of. Maybe she's mad at him for disciplining her and wants to get even. I can't believe he'd do such a thing. Why that wife of his is a real looker. You don't stray when there's a good thing at home, if you know what I mean. As far as the gossip goes, once you get those County folks involved you've got problems. People should mind their own business and stick to their own concerns."

Jennifer Goldigger said, " I know just how Peggy Sue feels. I was molested myself by my grandpa and my older cousin. I finally told them to buzz off or I'd go the route of Lorena Bobbitt and I'd Bob it for them. Well, they simmered down, although I've noticed that they are spoiling my 11 year old niece lately and I wonder if they've got the same eyes on her they used to have on me. I should sue them for damages, but some lawyer told me I probably couldn't get compensatory damages unless I could show that I was financially damaged. I could file criminal charges though. Well, I don't want to be responsible for putting anybody in jail, so I just dealt with it myself."

      Roy Christian said, "Sexual perversion is the path to hell. It's the pornography and the titillating movies, TV, songs that stimulate and get people going. I mean if you can't gratify, you shouldn't stimulate, you know what I mean? I think Peggy Sue's friend did the right thing, but she should have gone to her pastor not her teacher and the government. Mr. Singletary needs to repent his wickedness and turn his life over to the Lord. I do wonder though what Peggy Sue did to seduce him. I've seen that girl walking around town in her seductive clothing that is not modest. You do reap what you sow. Our community is going the way of Sodom and Gomorrah. It's terrible! Those liberals want every body in therapy. That’s what’s wrong with this country. People need to lay their burdens at the foot of the cross and turn their lives over to Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior. It works for us Protestants, but, well, those Catholics have a whole bunch of problems all their own. Of course, they’re not real Christians anyway. Not like us.

I wondered about poor Peggy Sue, and poor Gene Singletary, and poor Mrs. Singletary, and Peggy Sue's little brother, and her friend. Sexual abuse is such a tragedy for the whole family. It is easy to blame the perpetrator who is ultimately responsible, but I wonder how this was going on for so long under Mrs. Singletary's nose and she didn't know about it and had a blind spot for it. I wonder how Gene Singletary has come to have such a poor sense of boundaries that he cannot control his own impulses and breaks a basic human taboo. I wonder how Peggy Sue will deal with her self esteem and self concept when she feels dirty having been molested and responsible for the family crisis that occurred when she spilled the beans and the cat got out of the bag.

      First, Peggy Sue deserves protection and reassurance. Secondly, this whole family needs therapy individually, group, and as a family to better understand their own dysfunctional behaviors and that of their family. Perhaps, Gene Singletary needs punishment by the criminal justice system first to protect the community, secondly to make the point with him that he can't behave this way and needs to get himself on a better track, and third as a vehicle for redemption of not only Gene but for the whole family.

      And that's how it's been here in Anytown, USA, where Elmer thinks Gene Singletary is a great guy, Jennifer talks tough while her niece and God only knows how many other vulnerable young women are being molested, Roy thinks the worst sin in the world is sex, and we at Markham’s Behavioral Health thank God that Jennifer's friend had the courage to make that call for help so that the first step on the long road of redemption could begin.