Saturday, June 19, 2021

It's time to come home

I've been away for a long time. I've been on Facebook Twitter and there is no truth there. Not because I am not willing to tell the truth but because I am boxed in by my different worlds. I have work friends and bosses, family and family friends, old friends and new friends that all know me from different angles. Sigh... it's simply too much pressure. And humorously, they would probably say I was outspoken and they were inspired (or annoyed) by me speaking my truth. And they would all be right. I am outspoken. In some regards.

I think I will start here and full disclosure, I posted this to Facebook but I am including some info that I could not post there because my son is on Facebook and I did not want to tell his story there where others in our family would read it or judge it.  

This is going to be a long post. It’s about mental health, policing, housing and a system that is incapable of true help. It’s a true story but not a complete story. It’s ongoing... complex... and unsolved. I don’t have the answer but I know what isn’t working.

My (Black) middle son has significant mental health issues that as a kid made it impossible to do homework, function in class or participate in sports.  He has been treated for mental health issues since he was 5 and been in the hospital more than once for trying to kill himself. As a child he would throw hours long temper tantrums. H O U R S long. Sometimes as long as 6 hours. He was known to sit and bang his head on the door and scream and cry. I took him to thereapists and child psychiatrists and we tried any number of meds and techniques. He was diagnosed with Sensory Integration disorder and they recommended brushing and pulling his arms, having him suck on straws.


He was diagnosed with Mood disorder-- unspecified (they said in children they couldn't say Bi-polar which is probably best as he isn't and I have a better sense of what he is now) but that meant they tried all kinds of mood stabilizers, non of which worked.

In 4th grade they kicked him out because he kept taking off and hiding when he became overwhelmed. Later in middle school he was referred to the Mental Health Corp of Denver to their treatment center because the special needs department at his large public school couldnt help him.

It wasn’t long before MHCD kicked him out because THEY couldn’t manage his behaviors.

As an adult the situation worsened. His inability to control his emotions and process prevents him from him from holding a job, being able to pay bills, maintain a residence, and all the adult things. More problematic is that the general attitude towards mental health in this country is that people should medicate and get their shit together.

But medication comes with its own set of problems. They often leave the person out of it or tired all the time (just a few of the side effects) which means it’s still hard to work or keep track of the things you need to do. Many medications used for mental health problems have been in use for a long time and do little to actually help. For example we still administer drugs for bi-polar disorder that we used 30-40 years ago (primary drug of choice is lithium). But lithium can cause blindness in some and has many other terrible side-affects in others. But we don’t care that it doesn’t really help as long as they’re drugged up enough to stop being a nuisance.

Ultimately, the expectation is that families should take care of their struggling family members. But for all the advice and all the tips& strategies I was given over the years, I was not capable of helping him calm himself down, learn to think things through and handle the next situation better. So, fifteen years later, many of the same issues trigger him into a deep depression, or worse, into aggressive behavior.

Which then leads me to the next problem....

Over the years his teachers, social workers and other professionals always told us to call the police when he was escalating- meaning he was breaking things, yelling or being threatening. And I did a few times- guiltily knowing it could go very poorly for him- for all of us. Mostly the police said there was nothing they could do and I was always relieved that it didn’t result in police taking him away in handcuffs but that was generally when he was younger. There didn’t seem to be anything anyone could do. I certainly don’t feel safe when he is punching walls and telling me he wishes I would die but it never feels criminal either. When he was living with me and I called the police he was always protected by my whiteness, my calm and he was never arrested. However the last time I called the police, they told me I needed to evict him because they weren’t coming to my house anymore.

He did move out- out of state and now there is a different situation...

Now that he's in relationships with women his own age and they're arguing or he's just being who he is when he's losing it. the police aren't likely to just check and make sure he's not suicidal. They are more likely to assume it's a domestic dispute and he is more likely to get arrested. Generally I hear, “well he has to face the consequences of his behavior” or “he’ll have to learn...” I’m never sure what to say to this.  

Police are expected to be mental health experts , social workers AND to negotiate highly volatile situations like the Columbine shootings or Aurora shootings and often with less training on these issues than a hair dresser. Mental health crisis are the TOP reason police are called to a scene. In this high stress world MORE of our population are struggling with crippling anxiety and depression and other mental health crisis. We need change. Real change.

In my sons case involvement with police has just added difficulty on top of difficulty — he now has to follow court orders, see a PO regularly, find and keep a job and whatever else the court orders. He starts with good intentions and quickly becomes overwhelmed and then either gives up, or worse, looses it again- which then means he winds up interacting with police again. It’s a terrible vicious cycle. And no real help in sight. Just a vague hope that the medication he has been ordered to take will make him docile enough to stay out of trouble. But will it really help him do the basics? Help him negotiate negative interactions? (or just his inner dialogue that tells him he’s worthless?)help him find and KEEP a job? Pay the rent? Pay the electrical bills? Keep his phone on?

The evidence is not on his side.

Too many people on our streets are struggling with the same issues* (my son is unhoused btw). Their families can’t live with them. Medication didn’t help enough to enable them to do basic functions in a high functioning society and so they sleep where they can, eat when they can scrounge up enough money- either on the corner with a sign or doing odd jobs- and do what they need to do to stay safe. There is no stand your ground law for the unhoused and the streets are dangerous- not just from other unhoused who may be desperate but also from those who see unhoused people as less than, non-people, and decide to take things in their own hands. Police are either less than helpful or a threat.

We live in a troubled world and it is becoming more difficult to negotiate by the day. As I said at the beginning, I don’t have all the answers but I do know that what we’re doing isn’t working and we need to change. We need complex answers to an increasingly complicated issue. I also know we don’t like having to admit the problems are complex. We want simple solutions- follow this diet to lose weight, read this book to become a millionaire, follow these steps to become a happier you.

If only life weren’t, well, LIFE....It might be that easy.

I hope, before you jump to a knee jerk reaction against calls to defund the police that you find out the details of what they mean. They don’t want to just eliminate police altogether- they want to change what police do. We definitely need police to arrive at a scene like Columbine with the training and experience they need. We don’t need police to deal with a mentally ill person the same way they do Timothy McVay. Better yet they shouldn’t have to get involved. That is part of the defund police plan- having the properly trained person at the scene of our emergencies.

*not all unhoused people have mental health problems. Some are caught in other societal problems such as eviction which then makes it incredibly difficult to get another place to live.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Smash the Patriarchy

Early archeology of Biblical history reveals that there were multiple religions in the Palestinian region well into the early days of the monarchical period, one these being the female goddess Asherah.  Biblical references to to Asherah, a goddess who some scholars argue was the consort of El or Yahweh, others argue was the consort of Ba’al, can be found in I Kings 18:19, Genesis 49:25 and 2 Kings 23:4. The worship of Asherah and other deities were seen as “artifacts… a source of inspiration and comfort” rather than “as Pinocchio that might come to life.” Religious leaders of the period would have us believe that sexual depravity was rampant among the pagan religions of the region, in fact, archeology tells us another story. The writers of the early text describe the people as deluded and gullible. They told the people that Yahweh was the one and only god and it is their waywardness, their faithlessness that leads to Yahweh finally turning his back on them.This is widely seen by scholars as a way to get the people to turn away from the worship of pagan gods and pull them into the national religion of Yahweh and it was, coincidentally, god who ordained the kings of Israel. Interestingly in later writings, Yahweh is a loner, in sharp contrast to other religions, he has no consort. Most deities of the regions had a female consort but in Judaic mythological imaginings there was no divine female to be by his side. Later Israelites tell the stories of the female divine in the Shekinah and as one scholar points out the text seems to indicates the “Israelites experienced the same goddess-hunger that can be found in peoples and cultures around the world.” Unfortunately, these references to the god-mother have been lost to Judaism and today there is only the barest reference to the feminine deity.

In the New Testament, there is little distinction in how they perceive the Father deity although we do see women gaining more prestige in the early church because of their proximity to Jesus and testimony of his teachings. Women were engaged in prophesy and ecstatic experience. However, resistance to women’s leadership in the church follows pretty quickly. Paul writes to the Corinthians and sets all straight with a hierarchical chart, "But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." I Corinthians 11:3

As the church gained political power after Constantine’s death bed conversion, the king/god relationship becomes a way for the church to wield political power. Roman emperors shift away from the Pagan gods and there is a move to cleanse Roman society of their deities and the Roman lifestyle- one that allowed men whatever sexual pleasures they desired. whether male or female, while women were largely regulated to serving men. Within the  Catholic tradition there is an introduction of the Virgin Mary at this time so the pagan rituals are folded into the new state church but Mary relegates women to motherhood and childbearing rather than giving them a goddess.

The Pope’s influence over the Kings was potent. In 800 Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish ruler Charlemagne as Roman Emperor, a major step toward establishing what later became known as the Holy Roman Empire: from that date on the Popes claimed the prerogative to crown the Emperor. If the Pope condemned a king the whole country was condemned to hell. When King Henry the VIII decided he wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (she could not give him a son and he, meanwhile, had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn), what ensued was a major crisis as Henry appealed to the Pope to try and get him to annul his marriage and the Pope attempted to maintain control of the English head of state by disallowing the dissolution of his marriage. Finally Henry broke from the Catholic church and aligned himself with the British reformation. Since this was more for convenience than from doctrinal change of heart, as king he is now the god appointed King and the head of the newly formed church of England but not without great consequence for England which would later become embroiled in a battle between the two religious powers. (Anne Boleyn has been immortalized as a protestant saint for being beheaded for her protestant leanings when in fact she was beheaded when Henry’s roving eye moved elsewhere).

From the beginning the Biblical myths created a religion that deified a great Patriarch in heaven. If God is in his heaven and is a Father ruling his people, then it is in the nature of things that society be male dominated and later, white since the church was interpreted and translated by Greco-Roman men. Marriage, sex, all societal roles are seen within this context and, as a result, the oppression of women is right and fitting, the natural order. This is so pervasive that even people who do not believe in god are influenced by this ancient patriarchal order.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

In the beginning was the word

"and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him..."

I was raised with those words as a foundation to my being. Jesus died for my sins and his Father loved me so much that he sent His Son to die for me so that I could live. It was simple... 

As a woman the image of God as Father meant a lot of really complicated things to me and the connection between the white Father figure in the Bible was something one didn't really need to think about- it just... WAS. The sad reality is that it is so ingrained in the culture that you don't even have to articulate that you think god is white or male but the feeling that God is indeed male and white is just there. 

As I grew older I questioned that belief and it led me away from the church, away from belief in a male deity. Any deity actually. I won't go into a long theological diatribe about my own belief system I have had some thoughts I have been left with today that I thought about posting to FB but it would take up too much of a post and also, it's not necessarily something I want to share with everyone. So for those who clicked on the link, I assume you have some interest. 

If God is our father (and let us admit that the preponderance of images of the all the ancient texts show god as male- the female images that women worshiped in pre-bibical times were wiped out by the men, the men who wrote the bible and the few that are left are quite scant.) then men take on a relationship to God that women don't have. It's undeniable and it's subconscious. Men can try to deny this or reorder how they interact with the people in their lives so they more accurately align with who they believe God is, but the intention is still the same, the Men and God have a particular relationship and it is deeply ingrained in our culture. And that's just one of my observations: Men are too close to being God-like no matter whether you are liberal or conservative- it is deep in the religious psyche. So much so that it infects the non-religious. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


You called me ‘white’ the other night. You called me white and negated everything our life has been about. You might not have realized what you were doing or what you were saying but it was the green bile of what separated your father and I when we were at our worst, fighting about you kids, particularly you- the son, the heir apparent, and my part in your upbringing. And what would ultimately lead to divorce.
The last and most significant time was right after “the sexual harassment” phone call from your elementary school. The principle called for a meeting about our son. “He exposed himself to a little girl on the bus” a very disapproving voice spoke into the ear piece. I was alarmed. Douglas had difficulties with knowing what boundaries were appropriate in the best of scenarios. He walked away with strangers and tried to hold hands with people he didn’t know. He exploded over the slightest discomfiture- real or perceived. Life had been complicated for him since he was three let alone now as he hit the the pre-teen stages. It’s not fair that we assumed it was him without asking any questions but he was already well known for inappropriate behavior and it wasn’t unusual to get a call from school saying he’d thrown a temper tantrum or run out of the classroom so here we were- one more thing.
The problem was that we weren’t quite sure how we were going to get through to him. Your dad was ranting about how Douglas was going to be labeled a sex offender, police would be called, he could wind up in jail or even dead, that’s how boys wind up shot if he didn’t learn to behave… (those were days before Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile- a time before there was a national conversation- or avoidance of one depending on who you are talking to- about how many young black men were killed for being black in America) I agreed hesitantly but pointed out that the even bigger problem was that we couldn’t seem to get him to see how his consequences were related to his behavior at all. How was that going to change now? We were at our wits end when we sat down with the teachers and she began, “So, we need to talk to you about the incident that occurred on the bus with Mack.”
As the teacher told it you pulled your pants down to show her your underwear. The school was very alarmed at this “sexual harassment” toward one of the little girls. I am not one to explain away your behavior, saying you were “just being a boy” but it was a bit of an overreaction considering that at six years old we had not yet had occasion to explain to you that exposing or even threatening to expose yourself to other people, let alone girls, was not appropriate. But schools don’t really take that into consideration and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter because it falls upon the parents to react appropriately- or not.

>This is where being a sentient being comes into play I suppose. Parents who want their children in general and boys in particular to act in the world as positive influences and not as users and takers. As a parent you hope to raise young men and women who make choices that are human but TRY to think of others. I want to reiterate here that boys and girls are human. They will make mistakes along the way and sometimes we learn our most poignant lessons through mistakes. The important thing is to learn via our mistakes and not become trapped in them OR to repeat them.<  

In my mind, the situation then alters. You were and are a smart and sensitive kid. We could talk to you about your behavior and feel with some sense of security that you would understand. I knew you might shed a few tears because you got caught and it was embarrassing, but sometimes embarrassment is as good a consequence as a kid needs to not try that again. As your dad and I walked out -well, I say walked but your dad rarely walks. He pounds the pavement as though he has to beat it into submission. I half trot behind him and climb into my seat and breathe a sigh of relief, “Well that was a shock, it wasn’t Douglas for once!”
“I know. I was surprised too.”
We both laughed a little at the mistake.
“Yeah, it kind of changes how we’ll handle things. Mack can understand the situation a little better although I think they kind of overreacted considering he’s six. But we need to have the conversation with him…”
“He definitely needs to know better. This stuff isn’t going to cut it. He needs to know that a black man can’t get away with that. He could wind up in jail.”
WOAH! I thought we’d were in agreement that our youngest had more sense than to do something that would get him put in jail. Aside from that, was he really saying that the only thing that was important was to make our child, or for that matter any of our children, afraid of the police. What if the police weren’t around? Wasn’t your behavior as a basic HUMAN important?
“Well yeah,” I fumbled with my thoughts a bit. I have always felt like I’m on my back foot at moments like this. “It’s important that he doesn’t do anything that is going to get him in trouble but it’s more important to raise him just to be a good person. I mean just putting the fear of the police in him isn’t enough…”
“You have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.” His voice raised was more intense then I liked dealing with and the dread that came over me was a familiar one. “He can’t run around doing things that are going to get him in trouble with the police. You have no idea what it’s like.”
“I have no idea… “ I have no idea? I’ve been the one to bail him out multiple times through the past 15 years. I have been the one who talked to him on the phone while he was in tears as he sat in the holding cell until we could figure out how to pay because his own family wouldn’t help, and I had no idea…?? “Listen all I am saying is, that can’t be the only thing. I mean yes, it’s important to raise him to abide by the law and to keep himself out of trouble, but he also just needs to be a good person, a force for positive in the world and that isn’t going to happen if all we’re focused on is making him afraid of the police. I want my son...”
    “Don’t tell me how to raise my son. I am raising the boys.”
Your boys?”
“You don’t know how to raise black boys. I am raising the boys. You stay out of it.”  Because I was white
was the unspoken end of that phrase. I’d heard it before. It had come up when he wanted to pull out the ace and take the hand to win the “game” and he always wanted to win.
“Don’t know about raising boys…?” The words made their way up my tightened throat but they were stuck in my soul. Sixteen years of compromise, tears, humiliation and isolation strangled me. Why was I still doing this? Why was this my life?    
And now I sit here in the darkness, the labor of eleven years healing wiped out and olds wounds were now bleeding profusely.
“You don’t understand, you’re white…”
I wanted to burst back in your room, grab you by the ears and say “I’m your mother. I understand more than you think I do and I have carried my share of the burden, even if it was by choice.” But I kept my tongue. No Bandaids tonight.


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