Tag Archives: murder

The Constant Struggle to Counter Crazies

 

It’s a little-discussed truth that “mentally ill” does not apply solely to people who have been so diagnosed. Instead, and especially given the dearth of American mental health facilities and aid, plus the stigma that – when will we grow up? – attaches to those who seek help for themselves or their loved ones, we call someone mentally “ill” only when there is a prior diagnosis.

 

Let’s change that. Let’s instead use the expedient, all-purpose, “Who in their right mind would ….?” evaluation, which has the virtue of being accessible at any time. As opposed to experienced and insightful mental health professionals, who are (there’s that American health market again) thin on the ground.

 

However, just as juries once utilized a “reasonable man” standard and now take into account a benchmark labeled “reasonable person”, we do need to specify that the “who” needs to be a healthy adult of at least average intelligence and with a good dollop of emotional understanding.

 

While there are certainly more than enough examples of men tormenting men (the so-called Islamic State comes to mind, though nearly all of their latest victims have been women and children attacked at random; boys watching soccer; and educated women simply because they had, well, more education than the killers themselves), the following exemplars of “who in their right mind would…?” come from the copious files of non-Islamic men tormenting women and girls. It’s important that we recognize these as illustrations of the failure to do good thinking, not using one’s brain, and in fact, trusting a mind that is dangerously askew:

 

In the UK, one-third of female university students report having been subjected to sexual assaults or harassment. Who in their right mind does that to a fellow student?

 

Although his sentence is under review, a 44-year-old high school teacher has walked free after a judge decided he was sexually “groomed” by his 16-year-old victim. No one in their right mind would determine that a teenager possesses more power than an adult man intelligent enough to teach.

 

One woman decided to fight back after she was groped on public transport. Who in their right mind thinks it’s okay to touch a stranger, to appropriate that person’s body for their own use?

 

In a hospital, a male police officer punched and kicked a woman at the bedside of her chronically ill child, an assault his colleagues deplored as “horrific” – they gave evidence for the prosecution – after which he was acquitted of actual bodily harm. We can only hope an appellate court will hold him responsible for the victim’s more than 40 injuries, but no one in their right mind, especially a police officer, would make such an attack.

 

Then there are the numerous instances of women and/or their children murdered by a man related to them and whom they trusted, like here and here and here. Those murders are horrifying, and committed by someone who was not in his right mind . . . obviously.

 

Just the tip of the iceberg, of course, but you get the picture. There are a lot of undiagnosed crazies out there with whom 75% of the population (children plus women) have to deal every single day. Just because these offenders have not been diagnosed as mentally ill does not mean they aren’t. Their behavior speaks for itself.

 

We need to speak out and challenge the thinking that assumes that until someone has been formally diagnosed as mentally ill, they are mentally healthy.

 

Because no one in their right mind would . . ..

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Conflict-Free Divorce Is Just As Damaging To Children As Conflictual Divorce? Really? And Is It More Damaging Than Living In A Home With Both Parents But Filled With Conflict, Rape, Abuse . . .?

A child’s brain

 

A recent article suggests that what used to be called “European divorces” – where the parents act civilized and put their children’s needs first and foremost – is just as damaging to kids as conflict-driven divorce.

 

Ha. Ha. Ha.

 

When my eldest daughter was a college first-year, early on in the fall semester she and her hallmates engaged in a meet-up moment in the dorm, trading histories in a circle with coffee. Many of them had divorced parents. Lots of those parents had handled the circumstances badly, despite their educations (high) and wealth (ditto). The girls spilled tales of nastiness, verbal abuse, can’t-be-in-the-same-auditorium-together and vengeful holidays.

 

When my daughter’s turn came, she hesitated, then told of her parents: how they not only attended her sports events but actually sat together; how holidays were conflict-free; how they worked hard to make sure the children whose lives they had disturbed experienced as little pain as possible.

 

Wow, said her listeners. We would give anything if our parents would act like that.

 

In my work as a mediator, I’ve seen too many divorcing parents who are at each other’s throats, with – as we examine the effect – surprise that their children are hurt by their immaturity. Sometimes one ends up murdering the other – and/or the children, too.

 

I’ve also seen collaborative parents whose older children actually tell them how pleased they are to be living with less furor than their peers.

 

Case closed.

 

Yet there’s another aspect of this: Even if conflict-free divorce were hard on children, would it be harder or more dangerous than life for children where both parents stay married to each other, but where the family home is rife with conflict, abuse, assault and rape?

 

That cannot be. Because living in those homes is terrible for kids. Sir Patrick Stewart, now age 74, still recoils from memories of his father’s physical rages against his mother, beatings that local police did nothing to help, for which local ambulance staff even blamed the victim.

 

Because Ray Rice is in the news, let’s think for a moment of his little daughter’s experience of life. So far, her parents have been in conflict. There’s been verbal abuse. There’s also been horrifying physical violence perpetrated by her father. Since it was clear from Rice’s behavior on that dreadful video that it was not the first time he had punched the mother of his child, chances are that their toddler, Rayven, has already witnessed violence.

 

Every act of violence, every word of conflict, acts on children’s minds just like a drug does. Agitation and fear wash through them, setting up a cascade of neurochemicals that have the power to change circuitry. It alters their brains.

 

If the abuse is directed at them – physical abuse like that suffered by Adrian Peterson’s little four-year-old son, whom the football player (6-foot-1 and 217 pounds) assaulted with a whip-like branch; rape and sexual assault; the daily slaps common in some cultures – children’s brains receive an even greater neurochemical flood. Now the brain itself is under attack. The changes in it may never recede. It may be primed to run, to attack, to freeze, rather than rationally approach life. It is no longer a healthy brain. It is the damaged brain of a survivor. Just as a scar tells of a wound to the skin, a child’s behavior can reveal what she endured at the hands of people bigger than she.

 

So, is conflict-free divorce worse than that?

 

I don’t think so.

 

 

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America The Boycotted

As American as apple pie

 

The recent horrifying murder of Christopher Lane, a young Australian man – killed by “bored” Oklahoma teenagers looking for “fun” and evidently unwilling to read a library book or hang out at the local McDonald’s – is rapidly coming to symbolize everything other nations despise and fear about the dearth of effective gun laws in the US.

 

Lane was a 22-year-old on a baseball scholarship, praised as a good friend and son. He was shot in the back as he jogged, by three teenagers who intended to shoot him from their car and follow his murder with others.

 

He had no chance to even see his killer. So much for the NRA’s vaunted “more is better” stance on firearms. Even if Christopher Lane had owned a gun, he would not have had time to use it.

 

His murder brings to mind two British tourists, men in their 20s, killed in Sarasota several years ago, for no reason other than that their killer, another teen with a gun, felt like doing it. The murderer was convicted of those crimes, but the mourning parents – whom the vacationing men were visiting – suffer their own life sentence.

 

New York City just pulled off a sting operation using undercover cops to purchase weapons smuggled up from southern states (in this case, North Carolina) where guns are cheaper and easier to obtain. The smugglers hid the weapons in suitcases and gym bags and took inexpensive, “no ID required” buses to New York, where they displayed and sold their wares to undercover police.

 

A gun used by a New York City 14-year-old – killed by police this month when he fired at them – had a murky history. The last time it was registered was in 1997 in Kentucky, by a man who then gave the gun as partial payment for rent. Absurdly, he assumed its new owner would register the weapon. That man did not, leaving unknown its whereabouts, and victims, in the intervening years. Until it ended in the hands of a teenager.

 

The ease with which guns can be bought and sold in the US with no registration or ID is appalling to citizens of other countries.

 

Now, one of them is proposing action.

 

The New York Post reports that “former Australian deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has urged Australian tourists to boycott the US in the wake of the shooting murder of the Melbourne baseball star. Mr. Fischer said he was deeply angered by the latest tragedy and said Australia turning their backs on America would help send a stern message about the need for tighter gun control.”

 

There’s a message many around the world can get behind. If not for education or work – and there are people who candidly say no to high-paying jobs in the US because of their fear of gun violence – then a boycott for play.

 

Florida beaches are wonderful . . . but so are Greece’s, and goodness knows Greece needs the money. New York is exciting and fast-paced, yet the same could be said of any country’s largest city.

 

There’s nothing like Disney, but why should the Mouse in California or Florida reap more dollars than it deserves? Disney says it prohibits guns in its parks, but does not use metal detectors or pat down its guests, leading to a loaded pistol discovered on a Disney dinosaur ride in its Animal Kingdom.

 

In fact, while much foreign tourism in the US concentrates on glitz and glamor, there is a great deal to be said for the benefits of relaxing closer to home in a nation where vacationers can be fairly certain the next person to drive by is not equipped to kill from the safety of their vehicle.

 

If you’re not from the US, vacationing near your own nation eliminates long flights over intervening oceans and hassles with US immigration officials. Stay at – or near – home, and you’ll get to miss food that is often bland or ill-prepared, queues of obese Americans, and a struggle to understand the many different accents of English spoken in the US.

 

If you fall ill or are injured on holiday, outside the US chances are you will actually be able to afford healthcare. Visiting America? Good luck with that.

 

Staying close to home means less fear and thus more genuine relaxation. You won’t be able to post your photos of the Statue of Liberty on Facebook or impress the neighbors with your Wild West tales when you return, but is better-than-the-Joneses more essential than coming back alive?

 

Tim Fischer, who joined former prime minister John Howard in proposing and passing Australia’s gun control laws, says choosing not to travel to the US “would help build pressure on the US Congress to finally act. ‘Tourists thinking of going to the USA should think twice . . . people should take this into account before going to the United States. There is a gun for almost every American.’”

 

America the boycotted. There’s an idea whose time has come.

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Is Egypt Hopeless?

 

Just a few months ago, hope rose in Cairo’s Tahrir Square (aside, of course, from the horrifying gang rapes committed there, several against foreign reporters).

 

Egypt would, people on the ground predicted, shake off its past and move into a new, brighter future.

 

Then came the election, in which only 43% of the Egyptian electorate put an Islamist in power.

 

Now, there seem to be no more reasonable answers. President Morsi has left. His supporters battle with the Egyptian military, and over 700 people have lost their lives, including women and their children installed in the Cairo protest-camp tents (presumably to prepare food for the crowds, since women who gather to protest or report are routinely raped), tents destroyed by the army’s flamethrowers and rockets. Photos of the bleeding wounded and rows of shrouded dead are everywhere. Police are allegedly confiscating the equipment of journalists so they cannot file stories, and the scenes are described as massacres.

 

At least one British photographer and one female journalist have died, shot by snipers aiming right for their heads, so that the bloody surge would escape reportage.

 

Egyptian police were hauled from a bus and executed, hands tied behind their backs.

 

The military disavows its actions, claiming they were attacked first (possible – men in the camps stockpiled weapons and fired guns) and responded with restraint.

 

No, they did not. When non-combatants are killed by sharpshooters, self-restraint was lost.

 

The US has cancelled a joint military operation with Egypt, Denmark has halted their aid package (other nations’ governments are under pressure from their own citizens to do likewise), and the United Nations warns that Egypt is dangerously polarized.

 

The pendulum swings over, swings back. Eventually, Egypt – where protests and violence are spreading, such that Western tourists are keeping to their hotels and some countries are advising citizens to cancel their plans to visit Egypt – will be more peaceful. How many more people will die, however, before peaceful disagreement will be achieved? Already, Egyptian violence has affected its lucrative tourist industry. Even the resort town of Sharm el Sheikh, hundreds of miles from Cairo, has seen its tourism vanish. The dearth of visitors with ready cash bounces along the economic road: first, hotels and restaurants and their employees, then the growers and producers who supply them, and on and on.

 

When violence is the way of the day, people get hurt. People bleed, and not just literally. War-created poverty affects whether children are schooled or must toil for abusive employers, the amount of nutrition they get, how they are healed – or not – in cases of illness or injury, and, if they’re girls in a Muslim country, whether their parents will barter them to lecherous men in foul “temporary marriages”, a thinly-disguised form of forced prostitution.

 

Political violence afflicts the next generation. That’s why a strong middle class is the best harbinger of children’s future health, because a strong middle class prevents political violence.

 

The wealthy in Egypt have largely fled the turmoil. They have the money to do it. But ordinary people? They’re stuck. They have not yet tried for refuge elsewhere, as Syrians have done in hundreds of thousands. Yet if Egyptian violence continues, people there will begin to stream across borders to neighboring countries.

 

Which is a guarantee of more horror for children, since refugee status brings abuse of its own by men who protect themselves from violence only to perpetrate it on others, like men from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states who prey on Syrian refugee girls.

 

Is there hope for Egypt? Eventually. In the meantime, both protesters and army need to recognize that their conflict guts their nation’s future, slicing it open for human predators.

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Filed under Cruelty, Egypt, Egyptian beaches, Rape, Violence