All WE WANT ARE THE FACTS
In the TV series Dragnet Sargent Joe Friday had two phrases about facts”. “All we want to know are the facts” and “All we know are the facts” Joe Friday didn’t ‘t beat around the bush-all he wanted to know are the facts (if you are too young to remember “Dragnet”-google it). A comedy/crime movie starring Dan Aykroyd & Tom Hanks called “Dragnet” premiered in 1987. Dan Aykroyd played Sargent Joe Friday-the no-nonsense Los Angeles detective; Tom Hanks played a modern new-breed of cop named Pep Streebeck.
Consequences and political divisions of America’s Civil War is still with us today. That’s why it’s dangerous for us to throw around the phrase “civil war” today. More than likely those who throw around this term have never seen the horrors of war. War is not glamorous, war is not a game, it is utterly devastating for those who have lived through it-just as the Ukrainian people. The facts are-those who fight in wars are never, ever the same. Talk to any veteran of any war and they will tell you-war is hell. You cannot cause or see the carnage of war and not be haunted by it-no matter how justified you believe the cause is.
When I began contemplating why history as we learned it may not be correct the phrase by Sargent Joe Friday, “Just the facts Ma’am” came to mind. When it comes to getting history correct, all I want to know are the facts-so here are the facts from historical “source documents”. Just the facts, without political spin.
Because I love history and have interest the Civil war and the two World Wars America has fought in, I like to get the facts straight. Let’s consider the legacies of the two most famous generals of the of the war, Grant & Lee. These legacies, at least the way I learned them, are incorrect. For instance, I had always taken as truth that Grant was not a particularly impressive general. I realized that I, and maybe you too, did not really understand the man, Grant. Ronald C. White in his book, “American Ulysses” aims to set the record straight and introduce us to the real Grant. White relies on seven years of research and primary source documents previously ignored by other historians to and have interest introduce his readers to the Grant, the man. Grant is described by White as a gifted general, and adamant defender of equal rights in post war reconstruction. As president, he fought to put down the Klu Klux Klan and succeeded.
I have often heard it said the United States (the Union) only won the Civil War because of overwhelming manpower, and/or because of vast resources. The United States did have both, but they, in and of themselves, did not win the war. The facts are -Rebels (the Confederates) had their own advantages, geography (750,000 square miles), fighting mainly in their own territory (home field advantage) seven of the eight military colleges were in the South (training). While Grant is often underrated, Lee is often overrated. The facts are-Lee refused to alter his battle plans or listen to his generals concerning the folly of frontal attacks (Pickett’s Charge-not sure what this is? Look it up) and ill-fated offensive maneuverers (two attempted northern invasions) were failures. Lee bore an astounding 209,000 casualties in one theater. With 55,000 fewer casualties than Lee in, not one, but two theaters, Gant simply out-generaled Lee. In Grants memoirs, considered by many to be a literary masterpiece, he sums up his thoughts about the Confederate cause “one of the worst for which people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”
Fact-America is deeply divided today-it does not have to be, but it is.
Fact-the roots of these divisions go back further than the Civil War but culminated in it.
The war was fought over making sure the American democracy experiment continued. What was the American experiment you ask? That “all men (“persons” in today’s vernacular) are created equal…” Every person, no matter their race, religion, or ethnicity should be free to live life as they wish-and to pursue whatever makes them happy. If we/they respect the rights of others to live as they would like, and do not attempt to nullify those rights, we are all free!
Not a political statement-its historical truths-not as you or I may want them to be. “All I want are the facts…”.
ARE YOU AWARE
In May of every year, we acknowledge Mental Health Awareness Month. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary awareness means, “the quality or state of being aware, knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.
It is still amazing to me that we stigmatize mental health concerns and downplay our need to get some help at times. Why do we do this? Where did we get the idea depression, anxiety, and the like are things to be ashamed of? Ashamed of? Really?
I recently saw a public service commercial on television put on by the Indianapolis Colts called, “kicking the Stigma”. It is quite amazing, it warmed my heart, to see NFL players and Coaches, and Team Owner Jim Irsay acknowledging that mental health is important. They talk about their own struggles with mental health issues-if you have not seen it, you should google it. You will be moved as I was.
Let us be totally transparent here-we ALL have experienced some sort of mental issue. No, it does not mean that we are weak. No, it does not mean that we are somehow “less than”. No, it does not mean that we should feel we have to “pretend” things are ok-when they are not. In my own family I watched my mother and father struggle with depression. Others in my family have also struggled with it-myself included.
Are you aware?
Ass I thought about the importance of the month-I recalled a time when I was asked to speak at a “celebration of life” service for a family. I noticed to my left the family was sitting apart from the rest of those gathered at the church. The family was behind a thin curtain. Why, I thought. As I looked over toward the family, I could see them sitting there, but could not make out their faces. My thoughts at the time were, how tragic it is that we are so uncomfortable with human emotion that we would rather not see it. That we would rather hide ourselves behind a curtain-a curtain that hid us from others seeing us in this profoundly vulnerable, deeply human, moment. When someone is grieving over the loss of a dear, precious, loved one. We hear others, and ourselves, say things like, “Look at them, they are doing so well” what does “so well” mean? It means they are not weeping outwardly, showing emotion at their immeasurable loss, but just “handling it”.
Are you aware?
I need to ask-why is suppressing, denying, pretending, feigning, so extoled? The only answer I can come up with is-because we are simply uncomfortable with basic human emotions, in whatever way they are expressed. How sad for the person grieving to believe in front of others they must deny they ever cared about the dear one they lost. Better to deny emotion than display it right? Wrong! It’s the same with mental concerns-better to deny them than acknowledge them, right? Wrong!
Are you aware?
If we are to ever, ever, ever, to get past the stigma of experiencing mental concerns they must be acknowledged. Acknowledged in the sense that they are allowed, confessed to, and genuinely appreciated. Mental concerns must be seen as common, as ordinarily human, as common as the common cold. Because they are! Are you aware?
We are as much emotional beings as we are physical beings. We emote all the time, we are never not emoting, we just do not always admit to it. I am tired of pretending-I would venture to guess you are as well. How about we begin, right now, to not deny, to not pretend, to not “make believe” we are fine when we are not.
Are you aware?
Can we embrace mental health and stop not admitting when we do not feel up to par? Can we finally bring mental health concerns into the light of day? Can we stop the unnecessary denial, the unnecessary pain, the unnecessary suffering that happens when we are afraid to admit that I too struggle with my mental health? The answer to these and other questions concerning mental health is a resounding, Yes! We must make a commitment to embrace all that it is to be human. Our mental health is a big part of what it means, in the deepest sense, to be human.
Are you aware? Maybe you should be!
“What cannot be cured must be endured”
My grandma on my mother’s side had a favorite say, “what cannot be cured must be endured”. As a child I never really liked it when she would tell me that because it usually meant, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I’ve been thinking about my grandma lately. I have to say the women in my family have always been very strong, sometimes stubborn, very practical, and always, well mostly, no nonsense.
My grandma before she passed away left all her grandchildren a little money, and her life story. When I called to thank her for the money, she told me she wanted to give it all away before she passed. My grandmother had Leukemia, she had already decided, she didn’t t want treatment. I never really knew why-but she didn’t. A few months later, on a Sunday morning as she was getting ready to go to church, she told my mom and my sister that she was tired and wanted to lie down. She laid down on her bed and passed away that morning a couple of hours later. My grandma-strong, levelheaded, stubborn, deeply religious, had outlived two husbands, raised 7 children (my mom being the youngest) was gone, just like that.
Grandma was a child of the 1920’s. She was born in Protection Kansas in 1914. She died in Grand Junction Colorado in 1990. She married my grandpa in September of 1931 when she was 17, he was 28. She married during the great depression (1929-1933). My grandpa was a dairy farmer. He, my grandma, and the children who were old enough, milked the cows every morning and delivered milk to the surrounding community in the afternoon. My grandpa continued to deliver milk during the great depression, even to those who could not pay. My grandparents were not well off by any means, but they had food, and they all worked.
The saying, “What cannot be cured must be endured” is a quote from Robert Burton’s book “The Anatomy of Melancholy”. I never knew where my grandma got the quote until I discovered it in Burton’s book. As I thought about the quote, and what it might have meant to my grandma, I realized that my “no nonsense” grandmother never complained about anything-I mean literally, nothing. She was not always a glass half full person, but she never, ever looked at tragedy as the end.
In her life story you got a peek behind the curtain of this no “hogwash” women. As she is explaining the circumstances of her raising her seven children she says, “even though I didn’t always say it I hope all my children realized how much I loved them”. She had a hard time expressing feelings, probably viewed the expression of feelings as weakness-I wish I could have told her that its ok to express what you feel-but I never got the chance. There is another memorable, deeply touching passage in her life story. The passage is about a mother mouse. As my grandmother tells the story, “Mice were always a problem on the farm and in the farmhouse. We did our best to rid the house and farm of these nasty vermin. One early morning I was in the kitchen and noticed a mouse running across the floor, I went to get my broom to kill it. When I got my broom there it was again, scampering across the floor, but this time it had a baby mouse in its mouth. This little mother mouse paused, and just looked at me for a moment, as if to say, “go ahead do your worst”, then it ran to the other side of the kitchen. I was astonished to say the least. But what happened next was even more astonishing-I watched as this little mother mouse run three more times across the floor and retrieve three more babies all the while looking at me. I couldn’t bring myself to kill it-I thought if this little mouse was brave enough to risk being killed to retrieve its babies, it deserved to live”. The story made me well up with tears as I envisioned this little mouse braving death, my grandmother standing there, broom at the ready-but stubbornly, and bravely, scampering across the floor time and time again to rescue her babies. My grandma, being the type of person that she was, admired bravery, perseverance, tenacity, and hard work. It appears the little mother mouse reflected all of that to her. As I said my grandmother rarely showed feelings, but here, from her own hand, was a rare glimpse of her caring heart.
Now back to her favorite phrase-I see now that she used the phrase to convince herself that she could make it through anything. Extreme loss, horrific financial times, and at times, I am sure, struggles with depression. I find myself thinking about that phrase today in my own life. I take solace in the fact sometimes I may not be able to do anything about somethings I wish I could change. But just like grandma, I can endure it-maybe you need to hear that as well! Maybe we all need to hear the message, “what cannot be cured must be endured”. Meaning you, me, and everyone else will make it. Just like the little mother mouse-endure. persevere, keep going, don’t give up-even in the face or seemly certain tragedy.
“There’s something happen here…”
The 60’s hits, “For what it’s worth” (1967) by Buffalo Springfield, and “Get together” (1967) by the Youngbloods, are more relevant today than ever.
The lyrics from, “For what it’s worth”, say “There’s something happening here…There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. Young people speaking their minds, getting so much resistance from behind…Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid.”. The most infamous lines are, “I think it’s time we stop children, what’s that sound? Everybody looks what’s going down.”
What does this mean? As in all art meaning is in the hearts and minds of the viewer, or listener. As I ponder the lyrics I think of the deep divisions in our country, politically, racially, and financially. These divisions pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, brother against brother, sister against sister, liberals against conservatives. Maybe it is time we “stop”, take a look around. Really see what divisions are doing to our hearts, our minds, and our very souls.
Divisions are nothing new. History bears this out. But if history has taught us anything it’s that we, unfortunately, don’t learn from our collective past. Each new generation does not look to history as a guide. New generations perceive history as bygone, and no longer relevant. So, it is summarily ignored. Why does this happen? The only answer I can come up with is, each new generation thinks their situation is unique. When in fact, it is not. If only history was actually studied, and examined, we would see, the only thing that’s changed, is time. Nothing else. Unfortunately, because we refuse to regard, and learn from our past-we repeat the same mistakes. We embrace baseless theories. We disregard the lessons. So, we end up with the same divisions. Where does that leave us? you ask. It leaves us in an endless cycle of see, act, repeat; see, act, repeat… It is a fact, each new generation, suffers through what previous generations have already, learned, concluded, and moved past.
Past generations have learned divisions do nothing but deepen bitterness, entrench falsehoods, and leave us, (you, me, and everyone else) with a sense of despair. Despair is the last thing we need when we are already dealing with a pandemic.
The lyrics from “Get Together”, say “Love is but a song to sing. Fears the way we die. You can make the mountains ring. Or make the angels cry…Some may come, and some may go. We shall surely pass”. Then the chorus harkens us to look past our divisions, “Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another, right now.”
Don’t you think its time that we stop, and look around at what’s happening? I mean really, really, look. Look into the faces of those who are being discriminated against. Look into the faces of the children who are bullied. Look into the faces of people suffering from mental illness. Look into the faces of those who are dying of COVID. Look into the faces of those who have lost loved ones from COVID. Look into the faces of those who are scared for their futures. Look deep into the faces of all these, and then, tell me we don’t need healing from our divisiveness! We must confront our divisions. Now, more than ever.
Let’s do some collective soul searching here. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of being, sick and tired. Aren’t you? I’m tired of the divisions. I’m tired of the hateful messages. I’m tired of intolerance, I’m tired of the selfishness. I’m tired of the bullying. I’m tired of the racism. I’m tired of hearing from those who say, “my way is the only way”. I guess I’m just tired. I’ll bet you are too!
Perhaps it’s time we start making the choice to love one another, rather than hate each other. Maybe now is the time to remember what binds us, instead of what divides us. Maybe, we need to remember the times we pulled together as Americans and defeated, Nazism, and Fascism. The times we came face to face with our national racism and vowed to change. The times when we felt a sense of duty, honor, and resolve to bring the 9-11 terrorists to justice. The times we collectively mourned, and still are, over the tragic loss of a life to virus (Most recently the tragic, and shocking loss of Commissioner Gary Stamper).
Let’s decide today to, “stop…and look at what’s going down”. Let’s decide today to, “smile on your brother”. Let’s decide today to, “get together. Try to love one another, right now.”
What do you say?
From studies and news after Columbine:
“Attackers were as likely to be rich as poor. They are from all ethnic and racial backgrounds (though three-fourths were white). They had intact and broken families, good and bad report cards. A few felt isolated but just as many had a lot of friends. Most were suicidal, but only a few had been diagnosed with mental disorders.” -U.S. Secret Service Study
“Killers do not just ‘snap’. They plan. They acquire weapons. These children take a long, considered, public path toward violence.” -USA Today
Columbine 1999 (13 died), Aurora 2012 (12 died), Boulder 2021 (10 died). My heart felt heavy and sad as I watched the news. I probably should have avoided watching the news, as I have often advised others to do, but I didn’t. My emotions readily welling up, as I watched the scenes of people running, people crying, red & blue lights, law enforcement, and spontaneous hugs. Why did I watch? I’m not sure. Maybe to remind myself of my own demons. I am not trying to make a political statement-this is not about gun rights-it’s just what happened. I’m writing because of my own struggle at answering the “Why?”.
I grew up in Colorado, my family is there-my parents, grandparents, and numerous relatives are buried there. My sisters still reside there. I began my mental health career there. I was first licensed as a therapist there. My first job in mental health was there.
I left Colorado in 2000 to come to Washington State. I was in the Army Reserves at the time-my unit was being deployed. I was given the option of going on deployment or finding another unit. Because of family reasons I choose the latter. The only unit I could find was is Seattle-but before I moved I experienced a life defining event. An event that would haunt, define, give meaning, and shape me for the rest of my life; “Columbine”.
I was working for Aurora Mental Health in the Crisis Services Department when the shooting happened. A week before the shooting, myself and my colleagues had trained in “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing”. We didn’t realize we would be using that training so soon.
I recall the events of April 20th, 1999 as if they happened yesterday. I watched the horrible events unfold in real time. I saw students running out of the school-I didn’t realize what had just happened-no one did. But I, like the rest of the world, would soon learn active shooters were at large.
In days following the shooting, local newspapers and area news made it known that mental health professionals from various agencies were available. We fanned out across the city and County and waited to see who would show up. Soon teachers, students, community members, curiosity seekers, as well as news reporters came. Some to talk-others to process-still others to share their story. One teachers’ story was so vivid and moving, I still recall the details of that conversation today.
In the weeks following, mental health workers from all area agencies were asked to volunteer to walk with students and parents returning to the school. In the fear, confusion, chaos, and mayhem students left backpacks, books, personal items-literally everything and ran. When I arrived at the school hundreds of students, with their parents, were standing outside of every school entrance. As I escorted students and parents into the school-bullet holes were still visible in the walls and ceiling. Each hole circled in red, and numbered.
Some of the students and parents just couldn’t do it-so they turned around and walked away. I remember thinking at the time-if I walked away I wouldn’t have to see the students faces, see the bullet holes, feel the heaviness in the air-I wanted to run, to just get out…but I stayed.
Hundreds of backpacks lined the floor in the gym-the gym was the last stop for the students as they left the school that day. I don’t recall how many students and parents I walked beside-all I remember, we were at the school most of the morning and late into the afternoon.
During a student/parent escort later that day I exited one of classrooms on the second floor-I noticed several teachers cleaning a storage closet. The storage closet was full of textbooks on gray metal shelves. The teachers were sorting and discarding ones with bullet holes. As I stood in the door way a teacher said, “these books saved lives, had these books not been here the bullets would have gone through the walls hitting students on the other side…. As I turned to walk out of the room, I noticed the library just down the hall. The library was where the majority of the students were killed, and where the shooters, Klebold and Harris took their own lives. I stood there for a brief moment imagining what it must have been like for the students and teachers that horrible day.
I sometimes relive those moments when shootings are in the news, especially when they happen in Colorado. The “why” remains even we understand the reasons. It is true-that memories fade with time. However, there are those memories that last a lifetime-Columbine is one of those for me
“All the Lonely People”
Two songs came to mind as I thought about the isolation, we have all experienced in the last almost two years. The Beatles song, “All the lonely people” and “Here” by America. The lyrics for All the Lonely People are particularly compelling, “All the lonely people where do they all come from? All the lonely people Where do they all belong? The song goes on to describe the lives of two people, Elanor Rigby, and Father McKenzie-two people that no one notices. The song by America is a little more optimistic as the lyrics tell people who are experiencing loneliness to not give up, “This is for all the lonely people, thinkin’ life has passed them by. Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup And ride that highway to the sky. The second refrain tells those who think that love has passed them by to not give up and ends with, “you never know until you try.”
Even though many pandemic restrictions have been lifted, some still face loneliness. Although loneliness is nothing new, it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. No one should experience loneliness, but they do-we do. The question that loneliness asks is, do you see me? Do you care? Or perhaps you are the lonely one. Are you wishing others would see you?
My wife received a card one time. The handwritten message simply said, “I see you”. As I contemplated what the message meant, I realized that the writer was simply saying, “I see you, for you”. That’s profound. Its profound because, we don’t see people for who they are, nor do people really see who we are. Because we are not, truly seen, or for that matter, understood we are lonely. As humans we long to be seen, to be appreciated, to be cared about. If no one cares-we don’t care either. One thing I’ve learned about myself, and about other people is that we long to be seen for who we are. Not who we think we should be, or what others want us to be, but just simply for who we are. We all need to hear the message, “you are spectacular for just who you are”.
If you are one of the lucky ones who has tons of friends let me challenge you to see beyond the skin color, the gender, the ethnicity, the body type, the sexual orientation. To really see someone, we need to, we have to, we must, move beyond our, often wrong, first impressions.
My mom was a nurse, most of her career she worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. For a time, she worked at a Nursing Home. For many years on Christmas eve my sisters and I would pile in our white Rambler station wagon (if you are not sure of what a Rambler station wagon looks like-look it up) and travel to the nursing home. We would walk up and down the halls, going room to room, singing Christmas Carols. Never mind that my mom and I were the only ones that could carry a tune-we did it anyway. We would all try to sing over dad, he tried, but he was really, really bad at singing. But he loved to sing. My mom would tell us there are people at the home that no one comes to visit-that made me sad as a child. The lesson was clear, reach out to others, see people, let them know you care. Later in life as a teenager I would go to the homes, just to visit.
“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” The fact is they are all around us. If you are one of the lonely ones, don’t give up, “you never know until you try”. If you know someone, or believe someone is lonely, reach out. People have amazing stories; you may just make a new friend.
In this new year, please, please remember, you are spectacular! Other people are spectacular! Be who you are-not what others expect you to be.