Monday, May 21, 2018

No attempt, a poem, May 20, 2018

No attempt was made to save her life.

Everyone knew he was troubled.
Wearing a trench coat for a year
Hiding his shame before his guns,
His self-loathing and rage after being
Bullied, beaten up far too often.

She had befriended him, trying
To be an open, tolerant person,
Until he misread her signals and cues.
She had broken his heart without
Even knowing it.

Until he shot her dead inside the school.

There she learned all there is to know
About life and death, love and sacrifice.
He on the other hand didn’t have the courage
To kill himself after murdering so many others.
No courage at all to turn the gun on himself.

No one tried to stop him, they all thought
It was just a fire drill, staying glued to their phones
As they wandered outside the school building
Only to learn later of the havoc, the horror
10 people dead,10 wounded.

It is time to talk about guns. It has been time for so long.

How many children, how many people need to die
Before we say,


We will not allow our children
To go to school scared that the next shooter will be
One of them, when that kid has just had enough
And goes out with a bang and no whimper.

When will we protect the children,
Who are slain so damn often, cut off at the knees
Before they have a chance to live?
Who will stop the shooters if we don’t do something
Really drastic to keep guns out of these shooters’ hands?

No real attempt has been made to save any of their lives.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Loneliness: a need for Connection and Community

Loneliness can be deadly. Loneliness is a looming problem in our highly technological American society. If people don’t die from loneliness, they sometimes appear to walking around dead inside, or silently starving for connection and community. Sometimes, lonely people hurt others.

Loneliness has probably been around for as long as people have but it may be getting worse, more prevalent and more pervasive.

Why does loneliness occur? For as many reasons as there are people. Some suffer from traumatic backgrounds, families sometimes acting more dysfunctional than a Gothic horror movie. As a psychotherapist, I see many lonely people even from good families, some who suffer with anxiety and depression, crippling them at times. The stigma of mental illness often keeps people at home, unable or unwilling to attempt to deal with their distress.  But worse is the lack of available and affordable services, making getting help nearly impossible for some.

What are the answers to solving the loneliness crisis in our nation? Not only funding expert mental health services for all people in our society but even when services are found, loneliness is not just an individual problem with an individual solution.  It is a problem with connection and community as well.

I propose that all healthcare providers not only screen their patients for cancer, STI’s and other medical issues, but screen them also for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and loneliness. Health care systems need to help patients find access to services instead of just starting them on psychiatric medications without offering or recommending counseling, 12 step programs, or psychotherapy as options as well.  Although many health care providers strongly support counseling for their patients, oftentimes follow through is difficult.

Many other problems in our country and around the world can be better managed when people have access to counseling for individuals, couples, families and organizations. Excellent counseling targets a wealth of problems like obesity, alcohol and drug dependence, gambling, compulsive porn behaviors, violence, and how badly some people treat each other. Issues like sexism, genderism, ageism, racism, and religious bias are rampant.

People are not flocking to churches these days and many human needs are not being met in our mobile world where nuclear families are geographically and emotionally distant from their extended families, long term friends and often from financial security. We Americans have many needs for connecting with each other and within ourselves in all sorts of ways, including spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, vocationally, and more.  The time to work on this problem is now and we are the ones to do it.

Please reach out to anyone you know who seems alone, lonely, or distressed and help them explore possible services available to them. Let’s also create more affordable and available services so that we can support human, family and community growth, becoming a society full of connected, committed and healthy individuals working together to create more peace and harmony in our world.

Friday, February 16, 2018

And Then There Were Guns

Weapons, tools to hurt each other, have probably been around since human life began. As have other issues like poverty, mental illness and addiction. However, now people can so easily buy weapons of mass destruction, that too often criminals, men and even children sometimes mow down large numbers of people in a rapid fire moment.

How do we deal with our need to keep guns out of the hands of anyone who misuses them? Even when Americans try to develop regulations and controls about weapon sales, they have not been good enough so far.

There is no possible way to accurately screen anyone’s potential for acting violently even though criminal history may be one indicator. People shoot weapons at other people in times of crisis, especially when heightened financial, mental health, and romantic stressors occur. S0me follow extremist groups that urge its members to use violent force in the name of some political or religious ideology. Some also use weapons to kill themselves in a moment of impulsive and/or planned actions of despair, anger or pain.

How do we decrease mass shootings?  One solution is to end the sale of guns except for military and law enforcement personnel.

This would be a drastic change and some will think we are taking away their rights. The financial impact of such a change might resemble how the economy would suffer if we banned pornography, another money making and dangerous but acceptable American business. 

Americans are slow to change any of our culturally acceptable norms like the current state of our electoral process, neocapitalism, and plutocracy.  To change any of these systems of belief and behavior is highly complex and complicated and takes much work over many years if most Americans and their leaders, in fact, support such changes.

American racism, classism, and inhumane beliefs and practices about how we treat women and LGBTQ populations have changed a little over time, but not enough to provide us all with rights like life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the rights to be who we are and to love whom we love. All of these ideologies must continue to change.

I fear that we cannot significantly decrease our large numbers of injuries and deaths without the removal of guns from most of our population.

Let’s explore how Australia has gotten rid of their weapons even though controversy exists about whether their gun violence has decreased.  We also need to elect leaders who are not highly influenced by corporations and the wealthy but who will represent all voters. We need to challenge our own opinions, beliefs and attitudes about the need for guns for protection and/or sport.

Perhaps those who love guns can instead develop their bow and arrow skills. Let’s get rid of these weapons before any more children and families suffer future accidental and mass shootings.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Corruption, Scandal, Lies and Sexual Harassment: Change begins with me and you

We as the United States of America harbor secrets much like any culture, society or family.  One secret is based on the fact that we need governance and need to govern ourselves effectively, and instead, we have created a system rife with corruption, scandal, lies and sexual harassment.
Living in a patriarchy, so rigid in its formal and informal rules, we all suffer.  When women gained the right to vote as an evolutionary step, when birth control became more available, and when women became tired of being pigeon-holed into only being mothers, home-managers, and supporters to husbands and the like, the times, they began a’changin’.  More women started working outside of the home, women planned their families, women fought for equal rights and equal pay, and now women are standing up, as do oppressed minorities, saying: “We won’t take this anymore.”
The United States elected a highly complicated and suspect person to be president in 2016.  An entertainer, narcissist (and possibly sociopath), sexual abuser of women, corrupt businessman who broke contracts and deals, a man illustrative of everything wrong in human beings: a gloater, an erratic child-like adult, a man who says “if you don’t play my way, I will call you names and try to destroy you,” a man who can walk up to a woman, grab her crotch and kiss her without asking just because he wants to and can, and more.  Such a man is not fit to be president but he garnered support from all the other men AND women who believed that he would help them.  A master of disguise, deceit, and broken promises, seen so clearly every day in his absurd actions.
Today, some decent, competent, highly intelligent and might I say “good” men are falling by the wayside (at least briefly), as we women tell them that they cannot hold such power when their shadows, their dark sides include acting like this president, when they threaten, cajole and force women to service them sexually so that women can get and keep their jobs.  Even with these so-called “good” and effective men, we say STOP. Along with those men who don’t seem to have such power, but who try to act strong and controlling by abusing women, minorities, animals, anyone or anything seeming to be lesser or weaker than they.
Corruption, lies, sexual harassment and scandal have gone on as long as there have been people on earth.  Perhaps longer.  How can we change this continual human behavior that oppresses, humiliates, embarrasses and abuses people less fortunate than we; less powerful, less rich, less important that we?  Yes, we all participate in such behaviors. I am speaking not just about how men treat women, but about how each of us treats others, like immigrants, the poor, and those who have different beliefs or skin colors other than mostly white.  How can we change these age old ways of being, feeling and acting?
Some people walk into churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions on holy days only to walk out of these same buildings acting in ways that hurt others, that demean, devalue and debase others, somehow finding it fitting to act in such ways. Sometimes not knowing how their actions affect others in such painful ways.  Most religions preach about love, harmony and peace.  I imagine that the very design of human beings creates our continually acting in such ugly, hostile ways at times while we attempt to pray or meditate on the good hoping for change. Maybe this is just a design flaw, but if so, what can we do about it?
Who am I to judge?  Well, I sometimes do.  And, so do you.  We all judge and evaluate each other, and ourselves at times, whether we are conscious of it or not. We often do not help the poor, we do not stop racism, we do not create a better world where more people can live in peaceful states of harmony and compassion, fed and sheltered.  After all, we each have limitations as to what and how much we can do. 
At times, we compete, we curse, fight or pout when we don’t get our way, we step on or over others to make ourselves feel better because we all feel too often not good enough, not smart enough, or not pretty/handsome/competent/effective enough. We are constantly comparing and contrasting, feeling better then worse, high then low, confused and distressed.  We seek for power over our own lives, we seek to meet our and maybe our family’s needs, but can we meet those needs without hurting others?  Too often, we fall short.
Each of us lies sometimes.  Those who claim to never lie frighten me, their being so out of touch with reality.  My hope is that we can decrease our condemnation of others when they are just different from us.  But, when a man who is so corrupt, hateful, childish, probably mentally ill, and perhaps demented, gains power over our whole country, we all need to stand up and say STOP.  We will not stand for this.  We will not let you and your supporters set us back hundreds of years, change the very bedrocks of our nation. We will not let you prompt nuclear war by your silly, infantile antics, your tweeting on a telephone while sitting on your golden toilet, your throne.
Am I angry?  Yes, I am angry and fearful and not sure what to do to make healthy changes. And why don't I show more compassion for Trump?  Because he endangers us all.

What I do know that I can only make changes in myself.  How can I act in more just, honest and compassionate ways?  How can I not stoop so low seeking to sustain my own privilege without thinking about those who are so much worse off? Do I give all I have away and live on the streets? Do I walk in protests, practice nonviolent resistance, and work with others to participate in momentous actions and movements that may or may not help make the needed changes?
How can we change the ways things are, protect ourselves and others, and create a surge of energy, enthusiasm and support so that we can all carry the banner and do something instead of staying silent, nesting in our own spaces with our own people, either too despondent or too frightened to take a step toward increasing the health and well-being of all people? 
Please come along with me, organize and join ongoing groups and coalitions that are fighting for justice in nonviolent ways.  Fund those organizations that seem to be the most effective in carrying out excellent, humanistic missions and goals. Walk the streets, talk with others, get to know those unlike yourself, put yourself in uncomfortable situations trying to understand those who are different.
And, then, let’s try to work through our conflicts, moment by moment, and pay close attention to this difficult process of change which can take a lengthy amount of time, over a long period of time, in order to promote the common good, blessing us all.

Friday, November 3, 2017

"Me, Too? Time for Change"

I am glad that the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment charges have stirred up this nation and the planet. Men with power assaulting women has been such a normal way of life, a shock may help us create a cultural change, a shift from tolerating to criminalizing this closeted behavior.

The new allegations that Weinstein hired Israeli private intelligence investigators, like Black Cube, to intimidate and to get dirt on some of this victims is not only appalling but clearly illustrates the gravity of his crimes, exemplifying extraordinary behavior.

I have often heard, “Boys will be boys,” while living in a society where this type of “power over” others happens far too frequently.

The ”Me, Too” Movement has prompted most women to review their lives for such assaults, some memories being very clear and some not so much.  Trauma affects our brains, spirits, and bodies in interesting and painful ways whether a man “just” puts his tongue in an unwilling mouth or conducts a violent rape.  Trauma is trauma.

Many men may be feeling nervous and worried, asking themselves if the whistle may be blown on them.  Even worse are men who won’t even imagine that they could be identified as a sexual assailant.  They tell themselves that a relationship was consensual or that because they married their secretary or nurse, there was no offense. Isn’t it OK to touch an employee’s body without asking, imagining she wants it?

In 1976, I was a 5’ tall, 24 yr old small woman, he a 6’ tall, 45 yr old large man, a graduate school professor at a well-respected university with a scholarship available.  Having worked with him before and because some professionals I trusted seemed to hold him in high esteem, I inquired about the scholarship. We decided to dine at the Gerst House but met at his Green Hills apartment.  After serving bourbon on the rocks, he kissed me. Big tongue, big man.  I suggested we move toward supper while he pouted but agreed.  Needless to say, I didn’t get the scholarship.  The good news is that I had said “no” indirectly, and he didn’t push too hard.

I am not sure what helped me say “no” to him and to a few other powerful men in my life. Not being desperate for the scholarship and having supportive parents both helped.  I didn’t have to compromise my values or my body because I am privileged in many ways and he was smart enough not to overpower me.

Are these men just little boys begging their mothers to praise and adore them, displaying their extreme neediness and insecurities? Are these men so frail and feel so badly about themselves that they need extreme adoration and worship, asking women to pleasure them physically because they are desperate for illustrations of their power? Where is the line between crime and consent?  Don’t we women learn early and well to submit or to please to get what some of what we want?

Some men’s methods for building self esteem are disgusting, deplorable, and deceitful, manipulating if they have power over their prey.  Women often suffer even when some women are attracted to men in power.  But, that's another story.

Why do these predatory, powerful men continue to assault and sexually harass women?  Because they can.  Because they can also afford to settle complaints out of court and keep women quiet.

I ask women and men to change this pattern, knowing it will take time and much effort because in our lifetimes, unfortunately, it has always been this way.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Letter to Mayor Barry, Metro Council and Nashville citizens

Dear Mayor Barry, Metro Council Members and Nashville citizens,

Did you know that NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) and Community Oversight Now have been working together on creating a Community Oversight Board (COB)?

Did you know that most other major U.S. cities have such boards?

Do you know what a Community Oversight Board is and why we need one?

Some history: The Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) has an internal investigatory group that explores citizen complaints, the Office of Professional Accountability, which rules against citizens over 98% of the time.  Many Nashvillians don't file complaints because they fear police power and possible harsh repercussions.

Only recently has the MNPD discarded training textbooks recommending aggressive action against citizens, especially those of color.  A report, “Driving While Black,” found that blacks are disproportionately targeted for police stops and searches.

An external group needs to police our police so that we don’t end up like cities who experience extreme violence following controversial police killings. Our Board will not end crime but if police are trained to handle citizens more fairly and decently, then less criminal activity may occur. When people don’t trust the police, they sometimes act out in violence.

This proposed Community Oversight Board (COB) calls for a new Metro agency governed by a community-representative board, staffed with professionals. The COB will investigate community allegations of police misconduct and conduct policy review for Davidson County’s Criminal Justice system. 

Most professions have an oversight board. Restaurants, health care providers, and even barbers have licensing boards that regulate and investigate allegations of unhealthy food or abuse, protecting the public.

When other major cities have created well-funded boards like COB, excellent results occur.  The Department of Justice after reviewing Nashville’s systems and a recent Grand Jury have both recommended a citizen’s advisory board so that police actions are better investigated.

Martin Luther King, Jr. recommended community oversight in the 1960’s. Nashville rose up in horror after Jocques Clemmons was killed by a police officer in Nashville on February 10, 2017. A 20-page report from the MNPD justified the officer’s behavior and no charges were filed. Many friends, teachers and family members have publicly shared their grief about this young man’s unnecessary death. Thankfully, protests have been nonviolent.


If a COB is created, neutral community citizens and staff will investigate and make recommendations about allegations of police brutality.  Mr. Clemmons might still be alive today if officers had more incentive to monitor their behaviors, if not for the common good then because they may be tried and convicted of crimes.  Police should not be given carte blanche to hurt our citizens.

Mayor Barry and Metro Council members, please pass this proposal to create better trust  in our police officers so they can better perform public safety duties and not prompt such fear and distrust. Help the MNPD treat all community members more fairly and justly.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Fairy Tale of Hope and Justice

Once upon a time, there lived two children named Hansel and Gretel who had endured much stress and trauma: abandonment, a witch, a sugary house, an oven, fearing for their grim lives. Starving and homeless, they ran into the wrong kind of person who lied to them and tried to destroy them.

Hansel and Gretel grew up stronger because of these tragedies but not without lingering PTSD symptoms. They got jobs, married nice partners and had children. For awhile, life seemed peaceful, fun and satisfying.

Then in 2016, a darkening cloud descended upon the land. An eclipse of the worst sort. Hobgoblins and villains lurked everywhere and a new leader was elected to rule.

How did a werewolf get elected, a monster who gobbled up little children and old people?  Even the bravest in the land would not stand up to this werewolf, fearing that he would destroy their lives by his sinister sickness.  There’s no dealing rationally with a werewolf.

The behemoth sprouted ugly, orange hair and became well known for tweeting like a tiny bird, spewing out his venom upon anyone or anything that he couldn’t control. This beast wanted to be a king, or god, someone who ruled the seas, the air, the health care system and the whole planet.

Fire and brimstone, floods, locusts, disease and death rained upon the earth with no place to hide or escape. 

Until one day, Hansel texted Gretel and told her to meet him at Jeni’s Ice Cream store.  There, Hansel and Gretel created a plan about how to save the world from this crazy, treacherous evildoer, a strategy to rob him of his power.  Even knowing they must risk their lives to save all of humanity, they kissed their partners and children goodbye, and entered the dark, scary woods, full of the KKK, white supremacists and armed neo-Nazis.

Somehow protected by a heavenly veil, they witnessed a light beaming down. Kneeling, they gazed upwards and uttered these words in perfect harmony (remembering that prayers leave no fingerprints):  “Divine Goddess, we beg you for help.  We are nonviolent and we hope you can save us from this werewolf, freeing us all to be become even more peaceful and harmonious than we have ever experienced. We beseech you to end our misery and pain. Protect the children, the elderly, the hungry, sick and poor. Transform Trump so he can do no more harm.  And, then, put a woman of color in charge of this land, one who is smart, trustworthy and kind, made in your image, oh Goddess.  We promise we will work hard to help her and we hope to become more compassionate with all people. Amen.”

The Goddess replied, “A piece of (chocolate) cake!” Then came a blast from the heavens as the almighty One turned Trump back into the toad that he had always been. And everyone lived happily ever after. Even Trump. 

The End