Farewell, old friends

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A friend is feeling sad these days because of the loss of her long time companions. People who know you from 30 or more years ago are really special. The people who were there through different hair colors, relationships, songs, concerts, having children and having grandchildren and stuff in between. The ones who you could tell anything. People who know what to bring and what not to say.

We meet these people at a certain stage, maybe when we have just arrived in the city and are wondering what will happen. Or maybe we meet them when they move into our neighborhood at a potluck and ask, who made that dish. And before weknow it we are sitting down and talking together.

A lot of this is theory for me because I have difficulty maintaining close friendships. I remember an old girl friend asking me about who were my close friends and not being able to figure that out. But for people who do remain close over a long time, letting go is so painful. But at some point our bodies give way. It can be sudden, in an accident or it could be the gradual wearing away due to diseases. And then there is sadness.

You will always have those many years of memories but you won’t always have those friends. This is the circle of life. Farewell, old friends. Know that you are loved and will be in one another’s dreams.

 

Old Friends

by Simon and Garfunkel, who ironically, were not friends

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears

What went wrong

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I just realized that I was still thinking about the story of the young man who committed suicide in a New York State prison. So many things in the system failed leading up to that tragedy. How did Lonnie Hamilton III,  end up in the Marcy Correctional Facility and what stories had been written before I found the article in the New Yorker. If you google Lonnie Hamilton death, these are the stories you will find

http://bronx.news12.com/news/family-says-it-wasn-t-told-that-man-died-in-prison-1.11826349

http://jezebel.com/seven-months-later-still-no-answers-for-family-of-man-1787820640

We have traveled the road from the usual tragic story of a young man’s death to the possibility that the corrections officers played a role in worsening his mental health issues. The failure of the officials to disclose his worsening condition to his family is inexcusable. If my son was breaking down I would sure as hell want to know. And there was contact between Lonnie and father for some time while he was in prison, so I would think it would have been easy to find him and arrange a visit. Separating a person from their family and then not providing the proper mental health treatment is surely a way to kill our young incarcerated people.

America,we have a problem here. We have the problem of removing people from our community to be sent away in white rural communities fr extended periods of time. We have the problem of inadequate treatment in these facilities. We have the problem of the discretion parole and probation officers use to re-incarcerate people who don’t re-offend. And we have a problem of preventable deaths. This is the issue. Although the original focus of this blog s mental health I find that I am missing the big picture if I don’t look at how mental health intersects with criminal justice. You can expect more stories such as these.

Time, time, time, what’s become of me?

weirdos

Well I just could not resist going back to see what the Unitarians were doing and I must say they have become a little more diverse. I took a picture. Not, not really, but you know this group picture might fit in. I had posted something last year about meeting Mary Devitt and John Hagendorn at Colectivo Coffeehouse. They are relatively new members of the First Unitarian Society and active in Black Lives Matter. They are community activists and raising children who present challenges. When I met Mary she was recovering from an injury that did not seem to slow her down. However, John had an accident on his bike resulting in a brain injury and other difficulties. He is a researcher who has worked on issues related to gave violence and prevention. One of his books is on sale at the church.

People of a certain age will recognize the title of this blog from the Simon and Garfunkel song A Hazy Shade of Winter. I heard the song booming at me as I came down from listening to a forum speaker from Lutheran Social Services tell about her work with refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, it was a hazy shade of winter with barely a patch of snow on the ground. But the music was quite a bit different from the old days of hearing the choir most weeks several years ago.

It is sad that some things had not changed. It seems that our government policies are creating more and more refugees. The new administration has responded to the crisis by issuing an executive order imposing a ban on travel from seven mostly Muslim countries. Fortunately, our heroes from the ACLU sprang into action and a 3 judge panel of the federal court has blocked the implementation of this unconstitutional mess.

I have all kinds of different emotions about what is happening as time passes. A woman I knew, Molly Cisco, died recently from a brain aneurysm. She was an activist for the rights of people with mental illness, a small business owner and an avid dog lover. She was only 59. People are sharing their thoughts of her on Facebook. I am quietly looking to find a way to become more involved with real life activism and tear myself away from social media. I am meeting new friends and trying to keep up with the old ones. I was very excited to see a picture from my old high school which is putting the finishing touches on a weight room. It is encouraging to learn that one of the oldest high schools in the country is making a comeback.

The sky may be a hazy shade of winter but sometimes you can rock to the beat.

 

 

I am the fortunate son

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As many people know, mental illness runs in the family.  All of us in my family have experienced different types of illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia and manic depression. I was more fortunate than my brother in being able to recover and develop resources. I have friends who struggled along with their siblings cycling in and out of the hospital including forced treatment.  i was never subjected to a mental hospital or picked up on the street for engaging in some bizarre behavior. Instead, I recognized that I was not the person who I had been told I would become.

I saw all the warning signs and decided to heed them. Again, I see a positive in my deciding I didn’t want to live like that. Recognizing that you need help and then actually need help can be painful. Some people literally may need to crash into a wall. And others unfortunately, may crash through the wall, leaving their loved ones behind to cry and wish that there something more they could have done. I am a peer support specialist certified by the State of Wisconsin and I can help see you through the woods.

What more is there to say?

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This has been one of those horrible weeks where one looks out into the city and sees chaos. I am not going to repeat everything here because if you have been awake you have seen the murders of two black men and the equally horrendous murders of police yesterday. It seems that we are making the same move over and over. A black person encounters the police for seemingly innocuous reasons: routine traffic stop, for example, and the police officer becomes unusually aggressive. When the black person attempts to respond he or she is either pulled out of their vehicle or shot while still in the car. The person may also be tackled, pepper sprayed and shot dead. The family becomes angry and asks for justice for their loved one. There is an investigation, very rarely a trial and even there there is no conviction for the taking of black lives on the street.

The president is often part of this scenario as white racists claim that having a black president has divided the country. One former congressman even threatened to kill President Obama and then deleted it. This most recent tragedy was twisted by the fact a one or more snipers in Dallas took advantage of a peaceful protest to begin opening fire, killing and wounding.

So, those are the facts. The NRA and the politicians they own will saw, how dare anyone try to limit unfettered access to deadly weapons, high powered magazines and everything that goes with it. One possible answer came during the press conference held by the Dallas chief of police and the mayor who mentioned that their police department is trained to de-escalate conflict. That was part of the sadness that they must be feeling. They want to be able to protect citizen’s rights. That sounds like a reasonable and sound approach to take.

It is not time for war, as the New York Post screamed. It is time for comfort, sorrow and solutions. Black lives matter is not about murder. It’s about freedom and dignity. We want the police to treat us the way you would want to be treated.

This changes everyting

retirement

Debby Irving traveled a path from isolated childhood to involved and doing good work in the inner city during her adulthood as she explained in Waking Up White. She raised money, taught school, attended diversity workshops and generally was a good person.  But it seemed that her experiences were h0llow. The hollowness resulted from the fact she had not confronted her whiteness. She had grown up thinking that childhood was like every else’s. The baby boom men came home from the war, got married, went to school on the GI Bill and bought a house financed with government assistance. But her aha moment arrived when she enrolled in a course at Wheelock College in Cambridge, Massachusetts on racial identity.

She saw  a move Race-the Power of an Illusion that uncovered the history of government enforced discrimination in housing, education and almost every area of life. We have been running in an uneven race. In the white privilege workshop, Dr. Eddie Moore illustrated the concept of white privilege by using a movie that showed a white person at the starting line several steps of the black runner. As history progresses from the 1600s until the 1960s the black man finds himself slipping further and further behind. Finally in the last 20 years, the black man begins to break new ground only to be struck down by shortened life spans. African Americans die much earlier than white people in America. The black man in he race was Patricia Raybon’s father and the white runner was Debby Irving’s father with generations of privilege.

 

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We must do what we can to help remain in the race. The picture above is the famous jazz musician John Coltrane who died at age 40 after a life struggling with heroin addiction and alcoholism. So, this blog entry has many purposes. One is to tell of the racial awakening of Debby Irving as she understood the various advantages she had enjoyed and was unable to see for so many years. But another purpose is to encourage African-Americans, including me, to live healthier lifestyles. My mother is 92 so I have a long way to go before I sleep.

Are you excited about the end times yet?

I  have heard that there are Christian evangelicals who thinking about the so-called end times in which there will be a major battle between Christians and Muslims. When I worked for a progressive agency years ago one of my coworkers discussed this idea. I was scared and repulsed by the idea.

In a fight between two religious beliefs I would choose neither one. I’m not surprised that the so-called Islamic State is drawing on the idea of the big war between Christian and Muslim forces in their version of an end times. Humans, for your own sake, you must choose neither. Atheists don’t start wars and we don’t enjoy blowing ourselves to bits.