Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hearing Violence inside our Heads

After Newtown’s tragedy and the recent killing of 13 people in Washington, DC, some of us focus on gun use in the hands of mentally ill shooters. Others cringe and now fear anyone with mental health issues. We all want to blame someone or something for these horrors, but unfortunately, our culture itself, including all of us, may be involved.
The New York Times published an article on 9/19/2013 entitled, “The Violence in our Heads” by T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford. She writes about a study that compared the voices that American schizophrenics’ heard to those in Chennai, India. The researchers found that American “voices” are far more violent than are those voices from India. She suggests that not only do we have a culture of violence here in America, but schizophrenics have incorporated this violence and it plays out in the voices that they hear.
In this study schizophrenics in India heard voices that commanded them to do chores, or sometimes something seemingly disgusting or sexual, whereas Americans heard voices commanding them to do horrific acts of violence, including cutting up people, drinking their blood or killing themselves. Some say the media is to blame but perhaps the media only reflects us, our whole culture.
We all have “voices” inside our heads, surely different in quality and type from the voices schizophrenics hear. Who hasn’t heard an internal critical comment when they make mistakes? Many people in all parts of the world “hear” a inner running commentary about life. Some people who have been traumatized can struggle with demanding and condemning internal voices, but most everyone hears some variation on the theme that we are not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, or rich enough, something along those lines.
Is there any way that America can change its culture of violence, the culture that we and our children and grandchildren experience? Is there any possible way to grow up healthy in such an environment?
Many people go to psychotherapists and psychiatrists to find ways to handle their internal distresses, and therapy and psychiatry can help in some ways. But, we need to change our whole culture including our families, our schools, our economic inequities, our institutions, and our government, and how this government carries out its mission to protect its people. For instance, most people did not want to go to war in Syria, however, when a unexpected diplomatic solution was found, many people were livid that we did not fight, did not fire missiles and kill all kinds of people to teach that dictator a lesson.
I hope it is not too late for us to find some ways to make sweeping changes to our culture so that violence is not the most vivid voice in our country’s schizophrenics’ minds - or, in ours. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Pilgrimage for Jobs, Equity, and Fairness

Nashville is proud of its civil rights history. The Freedom Riders and other college students, who conducted sit-in’s in the 1960’s, gave their energy, time and hearts to the civil rights movement here in the South.

Several groups in Nashville advocate for the disadvantaged much like during the civil rights movement, focusing on the rights of immigrants, women, minorities, and searching for racial and economic fairness. Others focus on poverty, hunger, children and youth, human rights, and the cradle to prison pipeline including nonprofits who work with felons, the impoverished, the disabled, the elderly and the needy. Nashville should be proud of these programs and creating a more coordinated and cooperative collaboration among all these services can benefit us all.

Now, a Pilgrimage March will be held in Nashville on July 21 - 23, 2o13. The Pilgrimage is modeled after the Gandhi Salt March in 1930 and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Selma to Montgomery campaign prompting The Voting Rights Act of 1965. Several activists will begin a 2-1/2 day, 20+ mile march walking from the MLK bridge throughout Nashville, then downtown for a press conference at 4:30 PM on Tuesday, July 23rd. To shed light on communities with entrenched poverty, Pilgrimage Hosts will offer testimonials at 13 stops along the way, particularly in some of Nashville’s most impoverished areas like public housing developments. Throughout the march church and community leaders, residents and activists will present their views of these current struggles. This march will follow the principles of nonviolence taught by Ghandi and King. Everyone who is committed to nonviolent action is invited to participate in the march.

On July 1st, the Tennessean published an article by Sekou Franklin, PhD, one of the leaders of this march. He described the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) whose design neglects to touch many of these same communities, those that would benefit greatly from the BRT. Because council members and residents complained about this, the Mayor now “hopes to start running ‘lite’ bus rapid transit along Charlotte and Nolensville Pikes in about a year:” http://

Please contact your council members and the Mayor to tell them about what still needs to be done to bring more fairness to our transportation and criminal justice systems, and to our educational programs to offer all of Nashville’s people a better place to live. Our message includes the belief that everyone has the freedom to thrive here in Tennessee.

Yes, Nashville has come a long way and has its roots planted firmly in history as one of the best cities in the South for business, education, health care and tourism. Let’s add to those strengths by working hard for all communities, all races, cultures, and religions. Thank you for your part in making Nashville a more friendly, fair and compassionate place to live.