Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sister Death

What a blessing to give a mentally competent, terminally ill person the right to take pills that will end life in a painless but certain way.

Thank you to the California legislators who made this happen and to Governor Jerry Brown for not becoming a last-minute hold-out.

This legislation will reduce the number of persons who, in desperation, blow their brains out.

In older cultures, most deaths were not prolonged and drawn out in the way they are for many people today as a result of our greater medical resources.

The personal stories associated with California's newly passed and signed legislation are very moving.

St. Francis on his deathbed coined the phrase "Sister Death" to welcome the transition once it had become inevitable.

May we all come to that kind of acceptance, and may we die peacefully.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

50 Shades of Insanity

What's worse, killings by one crazy man or organized killings by the US military bombing a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, for an hour?

I can understand one man going beserk, especially if he has Asperger's syndrome and is being treated with lithium.  I'm not surprised; I can fit this event into my world view and work to increase gun laws and better work with mental illness.

Its's the insanity of war that troubles me more.  My tax dollars support the military who make these decisions about where and when to bomb.  I feel more responsible for these deaths.

Let me go on record:  I don't support US military intervention anywhere.  

I watched in horror as Bush 2 moved closer and closer to bombing Baghdad in March 2003. That bombing was a display of bravado after the September 11 attacks on the US, but Iraq as a target made no sense.  Our government just wanted to bomb someone somewhere in the Middle East.

If the United Nations vote to carry out military intervention somewhere, I might support it.

But I've seen too much "fog of war" decision-making in the last 14 years to support any war anywhere.  

Then there was the US mistreatment of prisoners--the water-boarding and other acts of torture.  

I don't want to be part of a nation that does these things.  

What do I have to do, move to Canada or Norway?

Let's be People without Borders

Down with all border fences and laws!

It is unconscionable that 13 young men have died since June trying to get from France to England via the Eurotunnel in Calais.

Why can't we in the wealthier nations share our resources?

If we add up deaths on the US-Mexico border, the Hungarian borders, the tunnel at Calais, and all other borders in the world, how many would-be migrants have lost their lives in 2015 because they had the hope for a better life?

Students in a classroom in Oregon... doctors and patients in a hospital in Kunduz... young men trying to walk through the tunnel at Calais.

Only one of these disasters was caused by a crazy man. 

The other two were perpetrated by us--the voters and citizens of the US and other nations who approve of US bombing in Afghanistan and approve of the idea that some migrants have legal status, while others have to stay where they were born or lose their lives trying to migrate illegally.  

Doctors Without Borders lost their lives in the Kunduz bombing, probably by the US.  

Let's start a new organization: People Without Borders.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


A new term to me this week: self-compassion.

"You're hard on yourself," my therapist says.  "You need to work on self-compassion."

When I told my daughter about this idea, she said there's a website for it.

Therefore, I present the website:

Check it out--learn the exercises to increase your self-compassion.

Oregon Sheriff Meets Reality

When it happened at Sandy Hook, John Hanlin, sheriff of Douglas County in Oregon, thought maybe it was fake.

Maybe the federal government had staged the killing with actors, as perhaps it had staged the attacks of September 11, 2001, in order to take away people's guns.

Three days before that letter was released, Mr. Hanlin shared a link on his personal Facebook page to a YouTube video, which suggested that the shootings at Sandy Hook — and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — might have been staged by the federal government to provide a pretext for “disarming the public” through gun control legislation.

Yeah, right.

Now that an undisputably real shooting has occurred on his own turf, Sheriff Hanlin blames the media.  The shooter was aiming for publicity, and the media always cooperate by revealing the killer's name and identity.  

No media, no killings--easy.

The difficult job of assessing and rewriting US laws on gun ownership and mental illness needs to be tackled, but for many people it will be easier just to live in a fantasy world where government and media are the real culprits.

Meeting my students

Each fall and spring for many years, I have met two or three classrooms of students, just as Lawrence Levine met his students this week at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

Some drop out, some work hard and become the stars of the class.

Sometimes there is a deaf student in my class, requiring an interpreter.

Sometimes there is a student with spina bifida or some other serious physical disability.  She may arrive each day in a wheel chair and need someone else to take notes for her.  

Often there are students with various types of learning disabilities who require special conditions for testing at a different location.

Always there are students with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.  

There are students who speak almost no English, with perhaps Russian and Persian as their first and second languages.  

There are veterans who have served in the Middle East and have PTSD. 

There are students with anger issues who provoke other students.  Once there was a pushing and shoving match between two women in the classroom.

Each group of students is a unique challenge.

Increasingly in the US there is a student in a classroom who decides to bring guns to campus and shoot his classmates and teacher.

Lawrence Levine was killed by his student two days ago.  Sixty-seven years old, like me, and an adjunct professor teaching English, writing skills--a part-timer, like me.  

Gone because of a student with mental illness and easy access to an unlimited number of guns.

May Levine rest in peace.

May none of us rest in peace until gun laws are changed to prevent sales to men with mental illness and/or criminal records.

Someone else will be called in to finish teaching the course, Introduction to Expository Writing, one that students take who need some practice before they take college-level writing courses.  I've taught that course many times.

The first assignment for the students in Levine's class was to write "an essay where students had to choose a subject and support an argument with evidence and reason," according to the NYT Times.

Apparently this killer couldn't write an essay on his favorite subject, guns.  He used bullets instead of words.  Argument and reason were beyond him.

Some students remaining in the course, and others across the US, will write an essay on gun control this fall.  They will marshal arguments for greater limits on access to guns and bullets, or perhaps they will write against any changes in our gun laws.

It's up to all of us who can write letters and essays to take up the cause.  

We must donate our time and money to gun control organizations in memory of Lawrence Levine, his students, the students of Sandy Hook (2012) and Santa Monica College (2013) and Virginia Tech (2007) and so many others.

David Gregory's Faith

Thank you to my friend Diane H. for alerting me to this book by David Gregory: How's Your Faith?

What an interesting spiritual journey--child of a Catholic and alcoholic mother and Jewish father, now coming into his own faith.

I find it odd that Gregory's spiritual journey was begun by George Bush posing that question to him.  

Not everyone is all bad, nor is anyone all good.  Even Bush 2 has done a few good things in his life, in addition to his historic crime of using the US military to bomb Baghdad in 2003.