Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “mental illness”

The Least of These

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply,Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 10: 35-40

Nowadays they are called behavioral health facilities.  Formerly, they were known as mental hospitals.  I have been leading some “groups” at one.  The groups are on a different topic every day, such as “Asking for Help,” and “Healing from Anger.”

Some of the patients are very depressed.  Some of them have made suicide attempts. Some are bi-polar.  Some are psychotic, hearing voices and seeing things that others do not.  Some have dementia.  Some have post-traumatic stress disorder.  Some are addicts.  All are God’s children.  All, at one time at least, had parents.  Some, at one time, were accomplished people.  Some have dealt with mental illness their entire lives.

Often, one or more thank me for what I said in group.  You, Dear Readers, might be thinking that I am doing something kind for “the least of these.”  But I am going to tell you a secret.

These patients, all of whom have suffered, can display great wisdom.  These patients, all of whom have suffered, display great empathy for one another, almost without exception.  And when they share their wisdom with me and the rest of us in the groups, and when they show empathy for one another, and when they appreciate my contribution, then I am blessed by us being in each other’s lives.

The secret is this:  I am one of the least of these too.  And there is another secret: So are you.  I think, at times at least, we all need help and we all need empathy and we all need to heal.  All are sinners who have fallen short.  We all may be counted among “the least of these.”

Back to the Piano

Recently, on June 30th,  I posted something called Denver’s Got Talent (https://cowboylawyer.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/denvers-got-talent/), in which I wrote about people we met on the 16th Street Mall in Denver while my wife had a booth to sell jewelry at an art event.

Well, we went back for another event.  We got the same booth we had before, the one by the outdoor piano.  We looked forward to seeing Billie, Phillip, Michael and Franco, who had taken turns playing the piano when we were there before.  We had made friends.

The weekend before, at another event, the Black Arts Festival in City Park, we saw Michael, who had a job at a food vendor booth.  I bought a funnel cake from him and later, on  break, he came over to Sugar’s booth.  Michael is a young black man who is a talented pianist.  He plays for tips when he does not have a job, but he does not live on the streets.  The food vendor goes to Michael’s church.  Michael is a student at a community college.  It was good to see him.

It was not good to see Phillip.  He did not come around until the second day.  He looked bad.  He smelled bad.  He did not remember us at first.  I thought we had made a connection on our previous visit.  This time he talked to me without recognition about being homeless because his buddy kicked him out — get this — after Phillip spent all his money on beer for them.  There might be more to the story.  I reminded Phil about our time together last month.  Then he seemed to remember.  However, he was slurring his words and not really playing the piano very well, just one song.

He told Sugar that he had not eaten in four days.  She gave him $10 and told him to get something to eat and then come back.  He did not come back.

I met some new folks.  One lady is running for President of the United States again.  She said that she ran in 2008 and 2012.  She has written a new constitution to replace the one the founders wrote.  She is calling for a new constitutional convention.  She brought me a draft of her proposed constitution.  I read it.  I told her I could see that she had given it lots of thought.  The founding fathers had neglected to have a provision about not urinating in alleys.  Her constitution prohibits that behavior and calls for more portable toilets as well as free health care.  Divorce would no longer be allowed.  The proposed constitution is very specific about a number of issues.  I suppose most ideas arise out of personal experience.  The candidate put many hours of work into drafting it.  She made some amendments this weekend and brought me a revised version on the second day of the show.  She is a hard worker, which I admire.  She faces an uphill battle.

I met a Lakota Sioux who told me that he is a lawyer licensed in Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota.  He showed me some newspaper articles about his work for native people.  We talked for quite awhile.

We never saw Billie or Franco or the gal from X Factor.  We did see the same street mime and talked to him.  He showed us his swollen ear.  He said he had gotten into a fight.

Life is rough anyway, but especially rough on the streets of a big city.

Perspectives on a Problem

Is it the best time or the worst time to debate gun control in the immediate aftermath of a gunman killing innocent schoolchildren?

A mentally ill young man used guns to kill little children, an unthinkable tragedy.  There is no debate about whether the killer’s murderous actions were evil.  What he did was certainly criminal.  We have laws against murder.  We have a commandment against it as well.  Still, murders occur too often, in spite of the laws and commandment.

Mental illness of some as yet undefined sort is the cause of the crime.  As a nation, we can, I suppose, do more for the mentally ill.  We could do more, perhaps, to identify potentially violent people in order to stop them from harming others if not help them with their illnesses.  We do not have a law or commandment that “Thou shalt not be mentally ill.”  Even if we did, it would not stop mental illness.  Rather than a law against being mentally ill, which is futile, we can have legislation about improving how we deal with those who might be a danger to themselves or others.

It is easier to focus on objects rather than persons.  It would be easier to control who gets guns than who gets to be mentally ill.  Certainly it is easier to pass laws than to stop crime or mental illness.

We have in the Bill of Rights to our Constitution a guaranty of  “the right to bear arms.”   See  the Second Amendment.  It cannot be ignored, but it is not an absolute right.  It is not intended to promote crime.  It is intended for protection of our citizens.

I have some things to say that will alternately please and offend each side of the gun control debate.

First, I will remind the gun control advocates that even banning guns altogether will not prevent evil acts of killing.  My wife taught a middle school student who used a hammer to bash in the heads of his mother and grandmother.  Timothy McVeigh used a van rented from U Haul to kill dozens with a bomb.  We have daily killings with knives.  Recently, in China there were horrible multiple murders at a school — by a person using a knife to slay his young victims.  We do not talk about outlawing hammers or vans or knives.  It is clear that it is the person using those items who is the criminal, not the items themselves.  It is more like drunk driving.  Cars are not illegal.  They are useful.  The crime is  operating a motor vehicle when drunk because that is dangerous to others.  Also, we do not have anything in our Constitution about the right to transportation via motor vehicle.  Therefore, it is even more perilous to curtail a constitutional right than a mere convenience.

The debate about gun control would take a different turn if a citizen bearing arms had protected victims of violence.  What if the Aurora theater shooter had been shot by a movie goer shortly after he started shooting innocent unarmed people?  What if the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School had shot the killer rather than bravely lunging at him unarmed? Then one person would be using a gun to protect people from a person using a gun for evil purposes.  The Second Amendment is for that purpose of protection.

Having said all that, I acknowledge that guns are more efficient weapons than hammers and knives.  The shooter  in Connecticut would not have killed so many if his weapon was a hammer because it would be easier to overpower and stop him.  On the other hand, a car bomb driven into the school or a plane crashing into the school would have been even more destructive.

I also note that automatic or semi-automatic guns are more dangerously efficient than weapons which require pulling the trigger for each shot and reloading individual bullets rather than using ammunition clips holding many bullets that can be fired in seconds.   The military-type assault rifles are not meant for hunting, but can be used either for mass killing or protecting from mass killing in order for it to be a fair fight.  Executing unarmed first graders is obviously not a fight at all. However, the Founding Fathers contemplated a citizen militia when including the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment.  The idea is that citizens should be armed in order to protect themselves and also protect our nation from enemies.  I add that protecting ourselves and others from well-armed murderers might justify citizens being armed with military type weapons.  Decent citizens are wary of how criminals might use such weapons for evil.

Similarly, our country is wary of other nations who want to develop nuclear weapons and other “weapons of mass destruction.”   Why?  Because we don’t trust how they will be used by others.  The more destructive the weapon, the scarier it is.  We all get that, even without being scholars of the history of military weapon development.  The U.S.A. tries to prevent other nations from possessing nuclear bombs because the more who have such weapons the more dangers exist that they will be misused.  We argue against proliferation of such weapons.

I understand and probably agree with the arguments against proliferation of dangerous weapons.  I am an NRA member and a SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) member and gun owner.  As the U.S.A. trusts itself to possess nuclear weapons as a deterrent against our nation being attacked, I trust myself to use guns for recreation or, if necessary, protection.  I sure don’t want mentally ill people to have access to guns like I do.  I sure don’t want criminals to have guns, nor do I want terrorists to fly airplanes into buildings or use car bombs.

The problem is that we don’t know who is a criminal until the crime has been committed.

We live in a world with many law-abiding people and some evildoers.  We are literally engaged in a war between good and evil.

The children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School were victims of evil.  When President Lincoln dedicated the cemetery after the Battle of Gettysburg, he urged his listeners to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”  Let us, the living, highly resolve that the little children who were murdered in Connecticut shall not have died in vain.  Let us do what we can to make our country a safer place.   May God give us wisdom to make changes that are sensible and effective.  They won’t be easy or simple.

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