Wednesday, February 28, 2018

False accusations

In fourth grade, we had a system where we had student lunch monitors in each class who would keep an eye on students and report their misbehavior.

Our teacher had given us a number of slips of colored paper that we kept at our desks.  For each "demerit" we got for lunch misbehavior, we were supposed to give our teacher a slip of paper. 

One day, after I had brushed come cookie crumbs off my part of the table, we came back to class and one of the lunch monitors reported that I had earned a demerit for "shooting crumbs". 

I knew I hadn't, and some of the kids knew I hadn't either.  Someone told me to "write a complaint", which we were allowed to do. 

Instead, after finishing my work, I took the prettiest sheet of paper I had--a bright pink one--from the slips we'd been given and took it to my teacher.  I said, "Here."

She held the sheet of paper in her hand and asked me about what had happened at the lunch table.  I said, "I was only brushing them off."

At the end of our conversation, she gave me back that sheet of pink paper. 

I can't remember who the lunch monitors in our class were now, but I do know that at least one of the lunch monitors had used that false accusation to bully me.  I'd been bullied since first grade, and it would go on until 12th grade.

Nearly twenty years later, I sat in a counselor's office and cried because I said, "She believed me."

What if she hadn't?  What if she had thought that I was the person who was lying? 

I thought about that incident in the wake of this article, where a group of students used social media to spread a rumor that another student had threatened to "shoot up" their high school. 

That group framed the accused student.  They accused the student of doing something that they hadn't done--just like the lunch monitor did to me in 4th grade. 

This is just another way to bully students.  And it's very frightening, because often it comes down to "they said, they said" and you have to make a decision on who to believe.  I've often thought that the anti-bullying hotlines, where you can pick up a phone and dial a number to report bullying; or boxes where you can put in anonymous tips, could also be used to frame students who hadn't done anything wrong.

And even if the person is cleared . . . there's always the taint of suspicion.  Especially when you lob a false accusation of sexual misconduct against someone.  I know that the majority of accusations of sexual abuse are true  . . . and there are some that are false. 

In another situation, if the lunch monitors had been a group of "the cool kids", and if I had been a kid from the "wrong side of the tracks", so to speak; or if the teacher had liked the lunch monitors and hadn't liked me . . . she very easily could have not believed me.  She could have believed a false accusation.

In this day and age of social media, all you have to do is type a person's name, say, they did such-and-such, hit the "send" button . . . and presto, you have turned someone's name into mud. 

Some things have not changed since I was in fourth grade.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

So how many school shootings have there been?

There's been a meme going around Facebook showing the locations of 18 school shootings so far this year:

Eighteen school shootings.  That sounds bad. Even one school shooting is too many.

That statistic comes from Everytown for Gun Safety, which is an advocacy group that keeps track of incidences of gun violence.  Their definition of a school shooting is, according to the CNBC article,  "any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds".  The article goes on to say that when this happens, it counts as a "school shooting", whether or not that shooting results in injury or death.

Whenever I hear the term "school shooting", I usually think of someone on the grounds of a public PK-12 school that, while a school is in session, picks up a firearm, points it at someone, and, with the intent to injure or kill, fires.  I don't usually think of colleges, although those are also schools and I shouldn't ignore shootings that happen there.

The "eighteen school shootings" statistic from Everytown includes the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and another shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky.

That statistic also includes:

  • a suicide at a school in Sierra Vista, AZ
  • a shooting in a school parking lot in Oxon Hill, MD, after school hours
  • a rifle that went off at a school in Los Angeles; a 12-year-old brought it to school and she was charged with "negligent discharge of a firearm".  Four students were injured.  I'm unclear if this was a case where the person pointed the gun at anyone with intent to injure or kill.
  • a case in Maplewood, MN, where a third grader pressed the trigger on a school liason's gun.  The gun was outfitted with a trigger guard, but it discharged anyway.  No one was injured.
  • a case in Denton, TX, where a college student picked up a gun belonging to an advisor, and, thinking the weapon wasn't loaded, discharged it.  She ended up shooting through the wall.  No injuries were reported.  (Note:  The gun is always loaded!)
  • a suicide by a man in St. John's, Michigan, where a man died by suicide in the parking lot of a school that had been closed for the past seven months.  (Everytown has removed this incident from their list of school shootings.)
Definitions matter.  And a closer look at the circumstances behind each shooting matters.  But sensationalism sells and gets attention, and if you can define a "school shooting" as "any time a firearm is discharged on school grounds", you can get more "school shootings", you can get more attention, more outrage . . . more donations?

On the other hand, take away the six shootings I listed above, and you still have twelve shootings that have happened on school property since January 1, 2018.

That's twelve shootings too many.

One shooting is too many.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, February 16, 2018

If there is no God, then . . .

"If there is no God, then . . ."

I've been mulling over that phrase lately. 

One of my biggest questions is, "Who's right?" as in, "Everyone believes they are right and can prove it by Scripture, but too often, people come to diametrically opposed conclusions.  They can't all be right.  So who's right?"

One answer I thought of was, "If there wasn't a God, I wouldn't have to worry about that question!" 

Well, that would be easy.  If there is no God, I wouldn't have to worry about the question of "who's right?" 

Last night I Googled the phrase, "if there is no God" and one of the hits I got was from a Huffington Post article by Sam Harris, an outspoken atheist who's the author of many books, including The End of Faith.  For him, the argument against a God boils down to:  If there is a God, he either has no power to prevent or end suffering and disaster -- or he does and just doesn't care to use it. 

I am going to pull what is probably a cop-out and say, I don't know why God doesn't prevent pain and suffering.  That is way beyond my pay grade, and I am very impatient with simplistic answers to the very real problem of evil. 

But last night, as I noodled the question of, "if there is no God, then . . .", it hit me that if there is no God, then any wisdom, any knowledge, any comfort, any strength I have can only come from me and from the people around me.  If there is no God, no Supreme Being, no Higher Power, then all I have to rely on is outside knowledge I get from the world around me, and the only people I can rely on are those around me.  And if they are anything like me, they may not have the wisdom I need or the answers I need.

I know myself.  I am a poor source of strength, wisdom and knowledge.  If I only have myself to rely on, I am going to get in real trouble, real fast. 

There are a lot of answers I don't have.  I haven't fully solved the question of "who's right?" and I can't even begin to give anyone answers to the questions of "why evil?"  I can tell you that Adam and Eve screwed up in the Garden of Eden and we've all been paying the price ever since.  I can't tell you why the shooting in Parkland, Florida happened on Wednesday.  I can't tell you why a mother and son died in a freak accident in 2009.  Oh, I can give you the clinical details--a 19-year-old picked up an assault rifle and started shooting; a tire blew on a freeway and a van flipped over.  But why that van?  Why a shooting in that particular place?  I don't know.

And I can't say that I'll never revisit the dark valley of depression.  I have the illness, and it strikes at very inopportune times.  It's why I visit a doctor and a counselor and why I take medicine. 

But if I have to rely on what is only within myself, I won't make it.  I have to have--I need to have--something that is outside myself, something that is greater than I am, stronger, wiser, and a lot more compassionate than I am. 

Why the God of the Bible, then?

I confess that part of it is the fear of hell--I'm not a fan of eternal punishment--but if I understand Christianity, God gave first.  He gave Himself first, in the form of his Son, Jesus, and He asks us to give ourselves back to Him in return.  Other religions ask us to give, but did their god give themselves first?  Do they demand sacrifice and adherence to their way of living without giving them the supernatural power to do so? 

My questioning isn't over.  But I do have at least one answer to, "if there is no God, then . . ."

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Just let me lament!

Yesterday was the 18th school shooting in 2018.

This one killed 17 people.

Some of those 18 shootings include incidents where a gun was accidentally fired on campus.  But of the remaining, I don't know the number of casualties (horrible to use that word, as if I'm talking about a war, which maybe I am!) but ANY casualty of a school shooting is one too many.

Yesterday, 17 people died in a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in Broward County.  This comes on the heels of the January 23rd shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, where two people died and 18 were injured.  Less than a month ago.

When does this madness stop?

My son was two months old when the news broke about Columbine.  Columbine was not the first school shooting, but it was the one that seared itself into the nation's consciousness.  We now refer to "since Columbine" or "post-Columbine".

This Sunday, my son turned 19.

We have learned nothing since Columbine.

The cycle has become all too familiar:  Someone opens fire on a school campus.  Children die.  People express shock and horror.  Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.  The arguments about gun control start.  The speculation about the shooter's motives run rampant.  Eventually, everything dies down . . . only to start up again at the next school shooting.

I am truly in despair.

I see nothing changing and nothing ever getting any better.

I have my own questions about faith, about Christianity, and that is not helping matters any at all.

Right now, I just need to lament.

We have lost our way.  We are an angry, broken country and I am just waiting for the spark that will ignite the Second Civil War.  I sometimes feel that if I express my feelings and my opinions, I am the one that will be bashed, blamed, and shamed.  I am the one that has to change.  No one else does.  A close friend posted a meme about how good people voted for Clinton and good people voted for Trump--and she got such pushback from people, including members of her own family, that it made her cry.  And I have a problem when something makes a friend of mine cry. 

And nothing changes.

Lawmakers take the microphones and the floor of the House and Senate and pontificate about the need to keep our children safe . . . and nothing changes.  Nothing.

Fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy was shot, and in the coverage of the event, several commentators spoke of the need for gun control.  (I believe a bill about gun control was in Congress at the time, June, 1968.)  Fifty years.  Half a century.  And nothing has changed.

Yes, I can speak of the need for God, I can speak of need for changed hearts, I can speak of the need for individual change, I can listen to those who talk about faith and the need for faith, I can read the Bible and listen to Christian music . . . but right now, all of that is not going to help me.

Today, I believe only one thing can really help.

Just let me lament!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, February 5, 2018

11:19 P.M., Sunday, February 4, 2018

(Warning:  This blog entry contains major spoilers for the February 4th episode of This Is Us.  If you don't care about the show or haven't seen it yet, do not read!)

Sunday, February 4, 2018, at 11:19 p.m., a doctor said to Rebecca Pearson, "We lost your husband."

Rebecca Pearson's response was to bite into a Twix candy bar and tell the doctor that, "you'd better go find him."

And then her next response was to go looking for her husband where she'd left him, in a room in the hospital's emergency department.

When she saw him lying on the bed where she'd left him, she broke down sobbing, along with millions of Americans who stayed up after the Super Bowl to watch This Is Us (or who, like me, just turned in to the last part of the game just so that could see the following show!)

11:19 p.m. was the time of the Great Reveal, the moment that This Is Us has been teasing since Season 1, Episode 5, "The Game Plan", where we found out that Jack had died but didn't know when or how. 

The writers and producers teased us again with flashbacks to Jack's funeral, then a flashback to a burned house, and then with more and more references to the death. 

Last night, it all came together.

It started with the house fire, with Jack rounding up the kids and safely getting them to his bedroom, then lowering them and Rebecca down to the ground . . . and then, after hearing Kate's dog bark, going in to get him . . . and bursting through the front door moments later with the dog and a pillowcase full of memorabilia.

Okay, he didn't die in the fire. 

What he ended up dying of was a heart attack caused by smoke inhalation.

Everything seemed so normal; well, as "normal" as everything could be when your house has just burned down and you've lost everything.  The kids would go to Miguel's house (Jack's best friend); Rebecca would go with Jack to the hospital, he'd get treatment; everything would be okay.  Right?

Remember, this is This Is Us we're talking about, the show that has a tendency to kick you in the gut when you least expect it. 

This is 1998, Super Bowl Sunday; and even at the hospital, Jack is interested in the game.  His final words to his wife, as she is ready to leave to make some hotel reservations and other arrangements?
"You're standing in front of the TV."

She chuckles and leaves. 

While she's on a pay phone trying to make hotel reservations, we see the frantic running of doctors and nurses behind her. 

We hear Jack's voice calling, "Beck?"

We see her standing in front of a nearly empty vending machine, finally selecting a Twix bar (from slot B3, naturally--B3, Big Three, get it?) and as she gets it and turns around, that's when the doctor shows up. 

She suspects nothing and keeps talking until the doctor says "cardiac arrest" and "we lost your husband."

Rebecca heard him.

She did not hear him.

If she had, she probably wouldn't have bitten into that candy bar. 

Then comes the shock, the scream of grief, shots of where she has to sign papers and take away Jack's possessions; and the moment where she tells Miguel that she has to go inside and ruin her kids' lives, and she was going to be strong for them, and if he couldn't, he needed to take a walk around the block until he could. 

In the present, 20 years later, Rebecca, Kevin, Kate, and Randall have their own ways of coping on the anniversary. 

Rebecca makes Jack's favorite lasagna and looks for a reason to laugh, which Jack sends her every year without fail.  Miguel--now Rebecca's husband--gives her space.

Kate watches the last tape of her and Jack together--a tape Jack rescued from the fire.

Randall throws a Super Bowl party.

And Kevin?  In past years, he would have hooked up with a model and gotten drunk or high.  Not this year.  This year, he's committed to sobriety . . . so he goes out and finds "Dad's tree", a tree where I think some of Jack's ashes were scattered, and makes the apologies that he wasn't able to make when Jack was alive. 

He promises to be a better man.  And then he calls his mom . . . and in the middle of the conversation, he says, "I think I'm at the wrong tree."

Through her laughter, Rebecca says that this was Jack's way of making her laugh.  "This year, he sent me you."

There are other parts of this epsiode that were also poignant. 

For now, the biggest question in TV history since "Who Shot J.R.?" was finally answered.

As my son would say, "Time of death," 11:19 p.m., Sunday, February 4, 2018.

R.I.P, Jack Pearson.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ruh-roh, Tina's off her meds . . .

I screwed up.
No, I mean, I royally screwed up.

I've been dealing with a skin rash for a number of months, and my dermatologist suggested a drug washout, meaning, get off of all my meds and see if that helps the rash clear up.

My regular doc doesn't think that's such a good idea, given that I'm on antidepressants and also hormones.

Well . . . I take a particular antidepressant, two pills a day, and figured that maybe I could do a gradual drug washout by going to one pill a day. 

Bad move.
Very, VERY bad move.

I dropped the dose several weeks ago--I'm not sure how many--but I think between that and being sick with the flu about a week ago, that sent me into a very nasty, downward spiral and kicked my OCD into major overdrive.

Last night my BFF messaged me, and when I started screaming at her online, she called me. 

Everything culminated in probably the most spectacular meltdown of my career.  All I can say is that I am very thankful that I have a very understanding BFF.

I am going back on my regular dose of meds, and I see my psychiatrist on Friday for a regular meds check and new prescription. 

The moral of this story is rather obvious:
One, never, never, never, never adjust your meds unless you have a long talk with your doctor first.  Especially if they are antidepressants.
And two, if you have a BFF that starts screaming at you online and you decide to call her, make sure that you have a very large supply of very effective earplugs.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Why did it take so long?

It took 158 women and 20 years to stop Larry Nassar.

Why did it take so long?

Why were the complaints and concerns of so many girls turned aside?

Why were they not listened to?

Why were they not taken seriously?

Why, in gymnastics especially, is there such a culture of silence around abuse?

Why is verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse tolerated in our locker rooms, in our churches, and in our schools?

Why are victims blamed when they speak up?

Why are victims told that "you need to ignore it" or "you need to stand up for yourself" or asked "why did you let them treat you that way"?

Why are victims told that "you need to forgive and let go of your anger" when a perp says, "I'm sorry," with no sign of repentance?

Why is the burden always placed on the victim?

Why are the perps never asked, "Why did you do this in the first place?

Maybe the answers to those questions are exactly why it took 158 women and 20 years to bring down just one abuser.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.