Hope for Humanity?

As all of you can gather from my previous blog-post, and comments on other’s blogs about this last weekends multiple mass shootings and massacres, I was much more effected by them than in others past. That is not at all to say that the long, long list of all our country’s prior mass shootings, going as far back as 1966 at the University of Texas, Austin tower massacre, are any less crushing to me. They are! Every single fatality, every single wounded survivor scarred, perhaps permanently maimed, and those families having to deal with the life-altering aftermath and long, long, road of recovery, are all remembered and they all deeply effect me. This past weekend was especially gut-ripping heart-piercing because of how quickly they occurred in about one week. That is extremely disturbing for me. Actually, beyond disturbing.

But as luck would have it, in a small way, I was fortunate to catch last night on PBS American Experience their excellent documentary about Woodstock 1969. How timely it was. However, as I watched, my own memories of what took place at Woodstock were clouded, not like this show. It was different in some/many ways compared to what these actual attendees, band members, event coordinators, and journalists (actually there the entire 3½ days) interviewed and they interviewing fans, filming, photographing were saying in 1969 and was now made into this documentary. Clearly, I had been shown and told a distorted version and reports about the festival from what I now suspected were anti-Woodstock people, anti-Hippie people, anti-freedom people, pro-Warring people, all of whom would’ve had me believe their perceptions. Their presupposed conjectures while, ironically, not even there or within 5-miles of the ’69 festival. Imagine that.

I was determined to watch every single second of Woodstock: Three Days that Defined A Generation! Why? Because I wanted to know with all the major potential disasters I was foreseeing, I had to know the end results, about the injuries, the utter failures, Mob-panics turned into sheer chaos to survive, and therefore, probable casualties/deaths. What was going to happen and how bad was this going to end?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

If any of you plan to watch it—and I highly recommend you do—then I won’t give too many spoilers. But there were two segments I found deeply profound, spiritual in the sense that had one been there, in those days and nights, by early Sunday you would have known beyond any doubt… you were part of something incredibly monumental, uplifting, and proof of what a half-million or so decent men, women, young boys and girls, and children, toddlers and babies, were all capable of doing, having received, and gave, helping… because it was just the decent thing to do. All these human virtues were undeniable, unavoidable as told by every person there.

When Jimi Hendrix came on stage Monday, (calm down Arkenaten!) toward the end of his set, he played The Star-Spangled Banner, a once-in-a-lifetime version of the national anthem. Spectators said it was an artform beyond verbal description. Hendrix had added his styled sound-effects dispersed throughout the anthem, like ‘rockets and bombs bursting in air.‘ Many fans picked up on his guitar-violence, death and carnage of war, the Vietnam War, and broke down in tears. The thousands there had lost dear ones, family members, brothers, husbands over there in the jungles and rice-fields. Other fans were speechless for several minutes after he finished, frozen in their postures their mouths gawked by what they just heard, felt, and witnessed.

Jimi’s encore song was Hey Joe. Perhaps one of his greatest songs ever.

As the end of the festival was drawing near, much of the crowd wanted to see/meet and hear from the owner of the farm and land they were on:  Mr. Max B. Yasgur. He was politically Conservative and had had serious reservations about what he had approved and more so when he saw how so much bigger and challenging the event became in just the first day! In the end, even he was astonished:

Today, in our current state of affairs in the 21st century, I would have been dumb-founded by what happened and more… by what did not happen! I would’ve been speechless given those 1969 events and what happened between July 28th and August 4th, 2019… and too many other times since 1966 on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin. Amazed would be an insane understatement.

Woodstock 1969 showed me that even during one of our nation’s most turbulent, bloody, violent two decades in the Cold War, the 1960’s and several major assassinations of peacemakers—John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy—that about 400,000 to 500,000 “people” (labelled derogatorily Hippies by pompous Conservatives) CAN INDEED conduct themselves exemplary over 3-days and 3-nights crammed onto one little farm to share music, fun, love, drugs (of course), and peace—only one accidental death during the 3½ days—and exhibit kindness to total strangers.

Yes, humanity’s best is absolutely possible! Half-a-million people packed into a few acres, outdoors, with security/police named “Po-lease” (i.e. hospitality) not legitimate police officers, and so potentially volatile to panic and countless other possible flash-points, proved it does happen, and ended instead with no violence whatsoever. Better yet, no serious problems to the chagrin of Conservatives who prior wanted to shut down the festival or were hoping it would have horrible injuries and fatalities! That is what they had warned to newspapers and TV reporters.

What really moved me was that when natural weather-forces moved-in coupled with the opposition of bigoted, arrogant, slandering Conservatives labeling the event a pending or complete disaster and certain subsequent humanitarian rescue… the Hippies of Flower-power, cannibus, and LSD helped each other for FREE! They worked together, volunteered to resolve many arising problems! Apparently it was contagious. The tiny town of Bethel’s residents pitched in to provide food for all the festival-goers! Are you FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME!!!?

People… WordPress readers… THAT is what an intelligent species does full of compassion, unity, selflessness, understanding, and embracing pure HUMAN connection. You don’t even have to belong to any nation, any charity, any political party. It’s JUST. NOT. THAT. COMPLICATED.

What a spectacle. What an epiphany those four days must have been… intimately amongst 400,000+ others you had not known before that Friday! Wow. My hope in and for humanity, decent caring people—if any Woodstock-goers would’ve ever been called that by 60’s ultra-Conservative Americans—but human beings being very human, were part of something bigger than self, glad to help each other while having fun openly, loving freely, dancing, smiling and never once considered gun-shots to be a fix, ever. YES… my belief in humanity’s finest virtues were restored, are restored. At least from Hippies in 1969 they are.

However, I think there are some/many today equal to those good Woodstockers who were grossly stereotyped and wrongly judged as useless before anything started Aug. 15, 1969. Because there are many of us today, many decent people like them in 1969, who know violent-hate or verbal-hate can be stopped and will not be tolerated, ever. Let’s not forget we have many, thousands, millions who know what the right thing to be, say, and do is really about, what it actually looks like, sounds like, and behaves like… for anyone from anywhere on this beautiful planet.

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Stop Stereotyping & Hating

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Antoinette Tuff

antoinette tuff

Hero Antoinette Tuff

This will be a news story told the next several days a thousand times, praised a hundred different ways, and likely gone viral on social media.  This last Tuesday in Decatur, Georgia a simple office clerk at an elementary school, full of students, treated a psychologically unstable gunman as a human being and averted a potentially bloody all too familiar school massacre.  The risks that Antoinette Tuff had put herself can only be described as temporarily super-human — the right person, with the right background, in the right place at the right time — possibly saving many more young innocent lives.

If you haven’t yet listened or watched the news footage on all major networks, then do it.  It is well worth the time.  Here’s the CNN link:  click here.

This story and lady hits a very personal nerve and flashback with me.  I have been in (and in some ways am still in today) practically the exact same situation Ms. Tuff found herself.  My personal story with a mentally unstable gunman can be read here:  What Was I Thinking?

I am also an elementary-middle school teacher.  I am a brother to a psychiatric sister who often either gets off her psych-meds or is forced off her psych-meds due to clinical restrictions, bureaucratic tape or “economic policy.”  Our local state hospital and nearby meds-clinic just recently had a woman refused her psych prescriptions (reasons unknown to me) then left the clinic emotionally distraught in her car and crashed it 3-blocks away, killing herself and injuring others at the four-way red-light intersection.  I am also a former 3 1/2 year employee of a Psych-A&D hospital’s Intake Office or Crisis Center/Office.  I do indeed have personal experience with many situations like Ms. Tuff experienced, including her own divorce — for me two divorces — and thoughts of suicide by her self and her gunman; although in my personal experience the suicide was accomplished.

So watching and listening to Ms. Tuff’s situation and 911 call, choked me up and touched a sensitive emotional nerve with me…to put it mildly.

I have three points or questions I want to present to my readers and followers:

  1. Did Ms. Tuff’s demeanor and treatment of the gunman de-escalate his emotional and mental instability, or did the gunman eventually recognize his own insane behavior?
  2. How far should individuals or society allow mental psych patients (on or off their meds) to throw tantrums of highly inappropriate behavior, even violence, to get what they want?
  3. Given that the majority of mental psych patients (and often their families) cannot function perfectly in society or jobs/careers, WHO should foot their treatment bills?  Who suffers most when people like this gunman snap?

With these questions I hope to draw attention to America’s increasingly social dysfunctional problem-solving systems and education, as well as how best to address them.  Do we keep locking them up?  They’ve done that hundreds of times with my sister with little improvement other than temporary band-aids.

Please let me hear your comments, thoughts and feelings.  Because one day you may find yourself face-to-face with the same type of gunman.  What would you do in Ms. Tuff’s situation?

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What Was I Thinking?

ak-47-drink

If you find yourself firmly in an emergency, possibly critical, and had seconds maybe half-seconds to react, how would you react?

As the noon day sun began its decent toward the western horizon, “Bubba” and I walked from the red pick-up truck toward the hospital’s main doors and lobby.  I handed the shotgun to the CFO of the psych-A&D hospital, asked “Bubba” to sit back down, and told him I would hasten the admission to the AAU:  Adult Psych Acute Unit.  After only a few seconds of getting approval from a dismayed, nervous Business Office Director to handle the necessary paperwork back on the unit, I walked with Bubba to the private room.  When I returned to the Intake Office, my supervisor — she also in utter dismay and gasping relief — asked “What were you thinking!?

Ten Hours Earlier

For three and a half years I worked in the intake office for a private psychiatric-chemical-substance-abuse hospital with three units and four programs:  child, adolescent, and adult. Our hospital also had one of the first Dual-Diagnosis programs in the state and nation.  I was also working toward a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at the nationally recognized local seminary.  This job was one of my all-time favorite jobs; never a dull moment or a day the same as before.

On this particular afternoon everything started about 2 a.m. that morning.  It was my rotation to be on-call for un-referred assessments for possible after-hour admissions.  I get the page from our nursing staff about a heavily intoxicated male seeking entry into our dual-diagnosis unit.

If anyone is familiar with this type of situation, then you know in a matter of minutes or hours, the heavily inebriated patient could do a complete 180 and figure by their sudden omniscient wisdom that they no longer need any help.  This is often a recurring cycle transpiring over several years in their life; they have a “situational revelation” and can “pull themselves out of the funk.”  Sound familiar?

By 3 or 4 a.m. Bubba (as I will call him here) promises me over and over he will show up at our hospital’s admissions doors.  That is the last I heard of him after an all-night phone conversation, assessment, and pre-admission call.

Eleven o’clock a.m. rolls around.  I arrive at my designated time tired having been on-call all night.  Pamela, my supervisor, briefs me on the day’s events so far…”Bubba has not shown up for his admissions appointment at 8 a.m.”  He has not called to let us know he’ll be late or is coming the following day; nothing.  Experience has shown us time and again that dramatic-drunks often fail miserably on their promises or commitments.  Disappointed, sure, but not surprised.  Work continues and the hospital has 3-4 other morning and afternoon admissions lined-up; two of them already waiting in the front lobby.  I will call Bubba a little later to ask what has happened.

Why Do I Have To Wait!?  *Slurred Expletives!*

gun-rackSome hours into my shift, the receptionist in the front lobby calls me:  Bubba is here and ready to be admitted.  I thought great; better late than never!  I had already walked back and forth through the lobby because one of our tasks involved pre-certification for admission.  I had noticed a slim bony man, I assumed was Bubba; and he had noticed me.  I returned to the lobby and introduced myself.

I explained we had everything arranged about four hours ago, but now we were in the middle of admitting these people who made their appointments.  “Sorry Bubba, you are going to have to wait your turn.”  He acknowledged and then mentioned that he just knew I was the man he had talked to all night because of my long-hair in a pony-tail.  He said kindly that “I liked you when we spoke and now I really like you and your style.”  The smell of whiskey reached my nostrils.  I thanked him, returned to my office,  and let the business office know that the 8 a.m. appointment was now here.  The business office manager laughed.  I knew exactly why:  a drunk’s or addict’s clock is way different from the world’s.

Twenty minutes later the lobby receptionist frantically calls me saying that Bubba has been getting agitated and just walked out to his truck to get his rifle…you better get out here!  As I arrive she points to the front parking lot, “He’s out there.”  I follow.

I reach Bubba at his red pick-up truck – flood-lights across the roof – as he removes his shotgun from off his rear window gun-rack.  “Bubba…hey man.  There is no need to do that.  I’ll get you on back to the unit, but you have to leave the rifle.  That is going to freak some people way out. You won’t make many friends that way” I said calmly.  He laughed but frustratingly asked “Why tha hell do I have to keep waiting so fucking long?  God damn, you told me last night I was ready for admission!”  I grinned at him, You’re right.  That’s why I wanted you here at 8 because we had these other people needing help too.  We’re about ready; I’ll take you on back but I should carry the shotgun.  I don’t look as intimidating and I winked at him.

We stood there for what seemed five minutes talking then he handed me the rifle.  We walked back into the front lobby.  I handed our CFO the weapon. Tantrum avoided.

Back in the lobby I listened to everybody’s scared, shocked, dismayed, emotional explanations of “What were you thinking?  Why didn’t you stay inside and wait for the police to arrive?”…and as I set in my desk chair reflecting, it hits me like the percussion from a 1,000 pound bomb:  everyone is right.  Bubba could have turned on me and began a shooting spree.  I could have made my mother son-less and my sister brother-less.  It could have gone bad…really bad.  I felt weak and dizzy thinking about what if.

Crisis Averted or Crisis Managed?

Why did I do it?  Why did I just walk out there after him without a second thought?  In hindsight I know exactly why.  If I hadn’t known Bubba from Adam, I likely wouldn’t have dared gone out the front doors.  But then I thought, what if I hadn’t and he had walked into our lobby, made our nice receptionist his first victim, then walked back through the business office and made them his second, third, and fourth victims?

None of that crossed my mind the moment she called me “Get out here quick!”  Creating a rapport with Bubba all night, then later that afternoon, I realized I was the ONLY ideal person to go out there, calm him down, and stop a potentially horrific scene.  In those half-seconds, in that particular crisis, I was his “best friend”.

When I reflect back on what could have happened, for several reasons I am very happy I was there, at that specific time, and acted on my instincts.  If I had reacted aggressively or in fear, or any differently, I’m not sure things would have turned out so well.  According to everyone else at the hospital I did a brave stupid thing.  But did I….really?  Was I lucky?  Was I extremely lucky?  Was Bubba lucky?

How should people in “crisis” be handled, no matter how self-absorbed they might be?

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