So, we have a coalescing of white male repressions projecting outward by way of a latent Puritanical reflex, one that must keep someone in the stocks, with an insidious white nationalism out to create hierarchies within hierarchies regarding passports and citizenship — in the interest of controlling surplus populations, and a neo left anti-communism made up of a structural Ayn Randian Capitalism, with equal parts Lyndon LaRouche, and Hannah Arendt by way of Noam Chomsky.
— John Steppling, “Communism, Fascism and Green Shaming“
Gunning Down a Vet – Turkey Shoot 101
Watching a dozen SWAT members donned in full Robo cop gear from Clackamas County Sheriffs and Beaverton Police departments play with a drone, laughing the evening away while the Army veteran writhed in pain with their seven bullets inside him was one trauma moment (PTSD-inducing event) for me working as a social worker.
The day before, the veteran was in front of the homeless shelter where I had worked for almost a year – a transitional center run by the Salvation Army, which has come to be known by me and others around the world as the Starvation Army — walking the sidewalk with sign in hand: “The Salvation Army and Veterans Administration kill veterans.”
He had been exited (forcefully evicted) from the homeless shelter two weeks before, based on arbitrary and punitive reasons, and he was in full PTSD and suicidal mode. He had been handcuffed a few days earlier after seeking treatment at a mental health facility. His wife and their service animal are still living in the facility he had called a temporary home while working with case managers on getting mental health care, bettering credit scores, and finding suitable housing using section eight or other vouchers set up for struggling vets who have experienced homelessness.
Before the male executive director of the facility in Beaverton had called in the SWAT team, the veteran was in his full-sized pick-up truck, with a handgun, seeking solace, and wanting a hearing about his eviction. The Ford 150 dually was parked on Salvation Army property. He had been living in the truck, away from his wife and emotional support dog. The ED, himself a combat veteran with poor people skills, and self-professed as having major PTSD requiring heavy doses of SSRIs and at one point admitting to case managers he might be borderline personality disorder affected, was a rotten choice to talk to the rejected veteran. Once the 20-plus police officers with guns drawn set up their shoot-to-kill perimeter, this executive director started yammering on how he was getting amped up for a fight.
Less than four hours after the streets had been closed, after the schools had been alerted for complete lock-down mode, and after our 80 residents were forced by flak-jacket wearing officers to hole up in the facility’s cafeteria, seven of 13 shots from strategically set-up (and wholly out of harm’s way) sniper positions ripped through the veteran’s body. There was nowhere any of his pistol’s bullets could have gone to cause human harm since the multi-force police brigade had rammed his truck with one armored vehicle and had another one pinned up on the passenger side.
The veteran never pulled his gun on or shot at police officials; he was in his truck, crying out for help. The executive director was a trigger that precipitated this event, and he was worthless at the SWAT site. The veteran was willing to surrender his weapon to his wife, but the macho male force denied that request.
Traffic diverted for half the day, a big show of multiple policing agency force, a militarized operation, and the result was a wounded veteran face down in the dirt facing attempted murder charges and almost a hundred veterans and staff and family members assaulted emotionally by the big stand-off and sniping. Unfortunately, the Salvation Army felt it necessary to move this Executive Director (one of my former supervisors) onto an even higher position in the Portland area Salvation Army corps. He’s now called the social services director for the Cascade Division.
At midnight, April 25, 2018, more than 12 hours after the veteran with a pistol (plea for help) started his own trauma-reducing pleas, a firetruck tanker came in and sprayed a few hundred gallons of water onto the blood-soaked earth where the veteran lay with small-caliber slugs in his body while cops and paramedics took their time administering first aid before the EMT arrived.
One physically intimidating veteran with mental health distress goaded by the facility’s director who allowed a maintenance man’s unruly and poking behavior toward this fellow continue for weeks had been shot down because he was seeking help – from us, from the VA, from any mental health facility. I was there during the lock-down with a few staff trying to quell the anxiety. I was outside when the soldier was shot. I was there watching cops bruise him and handcuff him as the veteran yelled out in pain from the entry wounds.
Cops were laughing less than five minutes after the ambulance carted off the shot-down soldier to be thrown into an ER handcuffed and guarded by empty-headed cops. Overtime and redneck comradery and the power of the badge make for some joyful times for cops.
In a 24-hour period, the Starvation Army and the executive director, who went MIA the next day and shunted his self-professed Army credo of “leave no man/woman behind,” failed to provide any trained crisis response teams and social workers and counselors to come to the facility to help us – staff, social workers and residents – deal with one of our own being mowed down on our facility’s grounds. Even the proverbial Salvation Army canteens with hot food and coffee and chaplains never showed up in a phalanx of solidarity and support.
I was there, talking to the residents who had been holed up under police orders listening to the cop talk in real time as police radios were picked up on their personal phone apps. An entire spectrum of thoughts and feelings came rushing out. It took my long letter of complaint to the Starvation Army’s head officers to get any response around the shooting validated with my protestations forcing the big wigs to get professionals to come out to our community to counsel us, the vets and the respective family members. It took a week! Seven days had gone by with no VA psychiatrists, no civilian experts in PTSD and post shooting trauma, yet the high anxiety and PTSD triggers and deeper resentments had already been embedded in every one of the veterans and their family members living at the homeless center.
The first thing out of one of the top dog’s mouth (they call themselves majors and captains) more than a week later at a short staff meeting was how pleased he was as the Cascade Division’s ranking major that his team of propagandists working for the Army had contained the media “damage” (AKA journalists’ attention) and that the Army’s brand was still intact. This major actually told us that the goal of the Portland area Cascade Division was to be seen as the best non-profit in the state.
This occurred two months in my role as a case manager at the homeless/transition center, called the Veterans and Family Center. I should have cut and run then, as the incompetence and callousness of the facility’s director and the Salvation Army’s big-wigs came at me like a constant cloud of hydrogen sulfide, daily.
Social Services 101
I can go way back in my career as a journalist in small towns (Tombstone, Sierra Vista, Bisbee, et al) or as a teacher in adult basic education classes, gang prevention programs or in prisons where my first linkage to being both writer-teacher and social worker-counselor was galvanized. I’ve worked with Central American refugees during the Reagan fascist years of killing fields in Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua. I’ve worked with children of migrant workers whose lives outside of college were lived in lean-tos and fields where both my students and parents worked the chili and tomato fields. I’ve worked with gang-influenced youth with sexual assault and abandonment deep in their lives. I’ve run a writing program where some of my elderly students had death camp numbers stenciled on their arms. In prisons as a teacher, on military compounds as an instructor, and with homeless youth and adults facing addiction, criminal backgrounds and psychiatric and developmental learning narratives, I may have been deemed the instructor-teacher-professor, but half or more of my work was around counseling people in various forms of crisis and recovery.
Ironically, getting in with the Salvation Army was a process of ending my short-lived unemployment benefits after having a go with another poverty pimping outfit where I worked to mentor and counsel youth 16 to 21 in Oregon’s foster youth support system called the Independent Living Program. Yet it was another program where I was railroaded out of a job (see: “My Fate as a Social Worker Seal by a Vaccine Named Gardasil”). It’s poverty pimping run on the shoulders of mostly women staff and directors and management.
Getting the job meant that same Army veteran director — who was largely responsible for the spiraling down the drain of another military vet at his facility who is now in jail charged with attempted murder – attempted to understand inside his restricted cognitive arena how and why someone with all my experience and with one extra graduate degree than he has was going into such a lowly paid social services job.
As a Marxist and socialist, I run into that capitalist shit all the time, and head first into this retrograde thinking and these bosses (not my bosses but in their own minds they feel as if they are lording over everyone) who are dumber and meaner than an out of work syphilitic gunslinger from Tombstone. Seriously, the social services arena I have directly launched myself into for more than 10 years has been both compelling to me for all the services and learning curves I’ve been involved in and also disheartening to know so many people who call themselves social workers or social services providers who are not just mean as cuss but antithetical to any radical social work paradigm I have been taught under.
For the most part, largely because of the screwed-up labor force and sexism around employment in certain arenas like teaching and social services, I have been around some messed up people, mostly women, who treat clients like convicts, and who see their roles in life as punishers, gatekeepers of services, holders of the purse, scolders and possessors of the get out of jail passes or keys to the forced living hells of mental health programs and addiction treatment regimens they peddle.
I have crossed swords with so-called supervisors and co-workers who have little regard for nuancing the role of epigenetics and lived experiences have on people in various iterations of struggle. It’s always been rule-abiding young and older women, and female supervisors who have no wits about them around how each person in each and every one of their individual struggles is unique and can’t be dealt with along some strict battery of DSM-V or mental health dictums and series of “treatment modalities.”
According to the prepublication materials, the essence of the new DSM consists in the modifications it introduces in the extensive psychiatric nosology, specifically adding diagnostic categories to diseases of unknown biological origin and uncertain etiology. But the real problem lies much deeper—in the understanding of such diseases itself; it is the problem with the old, fundamental, and universally accepted diagnostic categories of thought disorder vs. affective disorders, or schizophrenia vs. manic and unipolar depression, on which all the other diagnostic categories of mental illness of unknown etiology, new and not so new, are based. DSM’s approach is similar to attempting to salvage a house, falling apart because built on an unsound foundation, by adding to it a fresh coat of paint and new shutters. What is needed, in contrast, is to dismantle the structure, establish a sound foundation, and then rebuild the house on top of it.
DSM-5, and DSM in general, is just an expression of the increasing confusion in the mental health community (including both researchers and clinicians, and both psychiatry and psychology with their neuroscience contingents) in regard to the nature of the human mental processes—or the mind-—altogether.
— Liah Greenfeld, author of Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience
These neoliberal Americans are trained to respect credentials, white lab coats, plethora of made-up and warped diagnoses in that hyper-flawed world of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, 5th edition.
There is absolutely nothing redeeming in Ken Kesey’s Nurse Ratched in his book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, yet I have run into variations on a theme applicable to Ratched’s role in re-traumatizing and redirecting clients-customers-patients into living Hells. I don’t make this sex-gender observation lightly or with glee, but I do know from direct experience for four decades in dozens of different jobs in education and social services that Americans, whether male or female, are warped by capitalism, by our punishment/penury culture, this AA 12-step “giving up one’s self to a greater power” folly, and anything tied to exacting some sort of set of regulations and rules on people to teach them they are in a perpetual restitution to society for their scarlet letter lives.
It has not been a pretty thing to see 26-year-olds all the way to 75-year-olds acting like turnkeys around grown men and women, leveling both a patronizing and demeaning attitude toward people in crisis and various stages of recovery and trauma, while playing the PC and LGBTQ cards with a gusto not equaled by their almost resentful personages around the very people who have directly given them a job in social services: the broken, relapsing, disenfranchised people they call clients.
Poverty Pimping and Retributive (In-)justice and Forced (lifelong) Restitution and a constant bullhorn of reminders to the traumatized and broken and mentally and emotionally fragile people that they are indeed “the other” promotes a very warped system of social services delivery in this country, from Veterans Administration professionals to half-way house counselors to street preachers.
If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.
Portlandia, Hub of Homeless, Center of Social Services Students in Debt
The irony is that Portland has many colleges and universities catering to the social services majors and graduate schools, whereupon young people come out to Keep Portland Weird land from all parts of the USA, and end up bunking up five to a studio since rents are criminal, and housing stock minimal. Portland State University, University of Portland, Willamette University, Concordia, Pacific Lutheran, George Fox to name a few, and a large community college system crank out BSWs and MSWs (bachelor’s and master’s of social work) with debts in the upper (or greater than) $80K for these jobs that pay $17 or $18 an hour.
I have a friend who is working on a program to provide room and board for nursing students who are attending the various colleges around Portland since many of them attend class night and day and sleep in their cars. Her goal is to match aging in place seniors with young students willing to do the room and board and companionship thing to get through college. We have a nursing shortage in the US, of over 100,000, and that figure is going up daily.
Oregon ranks 51 in the US on social services outcomes, and the so-called social work/social services labor force is in constant flux, with people (like myself) going from one poverty pimping outfit to the next. All those great seminars at the colleges on radical social work and revolutionary community participation and reform, and all those hands-on classes around self-empowerment, peer support, harm reduction and trauma informed care taught by tenured (and mostly part-time faculty) go out the window as soon as they get hired on.
Rapid turnover rates and high caseloads create havoc in both the practitioners’ lives as well as the lives of the clients-customers-residents-patients. How many military veterans whom I have worked with call me brother, a rock star, a go-getter yet have had to say goodbye when I left (December 21, 2018) to move onto the next poverty pimping gig? The number of people (social service workers) in the lives (starting at a young age) of adults with developmental disabilities as they grow older and reach “retirement” age is staggering really, and in some cases it’s hundreds of different people (in some instances, a thousand or more) over a 40-year period of a severely autistic or developmentally disabled adult’s life.
One can only imagine that many people controlling one’s life and being part of one’s social and emotional network coming in, bonding, absorbing all the client’s personal, physical, emotional and spiritual core, and then leaving like a turnstile line at Walmart.
The boomerang effect on we the practitioners is we have lost ties to some vital people in our lives, and our own lives are fragmented, broke up by going from one non-profit to another public agency, never long enough to embed ourselves deeply to affect systemic and social change.
That ground-truthing is what we bring collectively to the table, but we are overworked, overburdened and overmanaged by a system of repression and retaliation. The millions of front-line social workers, et al, should be a force to be reckoned with at state capitals, in community meetings, on boards and in political office. But like everything in America, the workers en mass have little sway over the bulldozing minority — the bosses.
The fact is with 89 million baby boomers, 10,000 of which a day turn 65, and the large grouping of young and old with multiple chronic diseases (some estimates put it at 150 million citizens with one or more chronic illnesses), with the exacting structural violence and structural subservience of the One Percent’s plan for more victims, marks, patients, the need for social service workers is at a high level.
However, low pay, bad work environments, and plethora of dictatorial administrators and out of touch directors and petty front-line supervisors, we can see the system is already flawed from the start. Radical social work means peeling apart the layer upon layer that have broken people, broken families and broken communities. Being on the ground and in the faces of the gatekeepers and the Little Eichmann’s is the only way to make significant deep change. In the USA, there is no great history of radical social work, or any sort of human services.
Radical social work means working WITH clients, not against them.
Human Resources departments in these non-profits are staffed by Little Eichmann’s, bean counters and people who lord over the lowly $18-an-hour BSW’s/MSW’s lives. Directors, some of whom took those same radical and progressive seminars in the same universities and colleges, are now task-masters, warped on their little bit of power over both staff and clients, and broken themselves, working from a place of dictatorial inhumaneness and non-trauma informed management.
The Bosses’ “issues” and their “recovery steps” become everyone else’s problems
I’ve read much about and studied closely the panopticism of warehouses (think Jeff Dildo Salesman Bezos), bureaucracies (now every courtroom and city hall has closed circuit eyes and pat downs and metal detectors), hospitals and mental health clinics, schools and corporations, all designed as institutions of oppression, control and putting us in our sheeple and scared places. In the past 50 years, this country in particular, but not exclusively (look at the peeping Tom British and their CCTV, like a Stasi wet dream), is okay with anal probes, mouth swabbing, background and credit checks, lie detectors for employment, signed loyalty oaths and forced arbitration clauses and right to work sign offs.
Being surveilled — normalized by PK12 schools with flak-jacket armed guards, and the shit that is Hollydirt, allowing for a deep normalizing of anal probing reflected in all the shit-show military-fawning, Blackwater-loving, CIA/FBI-respecting, Muslim/People of Color-hating movies churned out daily in this carnival of deep state compliance sadomasochisms — is not just tolerated but regaled in fraidy cat USA.
The veterans are used to every word and action while in the military being dictated and recorded (and used against them), and they are even more broken down when they end up as users of substances (self-medicating) and on the streets or in tents or backseats while begging to get into a homeless shelter (transitional housing program). They will submit, begrudgingly and with a large amount of anti-authoritarianism thrown in, to rules, no matter how arbitrary and capricious they may be.
Those rules-regulations-policies-dictums-routines-contractual agreements then become the defining limitations (and daily work) of the overlords and their minions, AKA social workers. They are there to make sure social order is maintained, that deviations from the rules go noticed and punished, that compliance reminds the veterans they are one or two broken policies from being thrown out on the streets. This system of social engineering and denuding of one’s emotional and reactive landscape is what many of the people I have worked with and worked under get their proverbial identities from: making grown men and women follow rules and program milestones and ending any self-actualization and self-identity.
We are at the whim of the VA, state agencies, the Salvation Army and the lord (Jesus Christ), who can giveth and taketh away on a flip of a coin!
If the inmates are convicts, there is no danger of a plot, an attempt at collective escape, the planning of new crimes for the future, bad reciprocal influences; if they are patients, there is no danger of contagion; if they are madmen, there is no risk of their committing violence upon another; if they are schoolchildren, there is no copying, no noise, no chatter, no waste of time; if they are workers, there are no disorders, no theft, no coalitions, none of those distractions that slow down the rate of work, make it less perfect or cause accidents. (Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish)
I have found that as a radical second wave feminist that many of the people I work with constantly remind me of my “looming and privileged” male voice, my white male patriarchal “position” in this country and my over-the-top experience and depth of travel. I have been told I have the luxury of socialistic beliefs, the pedigree for espousing revolution and anti-authoritarianism, the birthright of muckraking and whistle blowing. This isn’t just a matter of reverse sexism, which I am not sure is the operating principle of these people. There is some deep misandry, for sure, and many (most) of the people I work with are steeped in the rottenness of the Democratic Party and their own patriotism and war mongering; and as truly consumerist and capitalist through and through, even if they struggle daily to keep up with student loan payments, the usury of the Portland rental market, and the high cost of living in Keep this City Weird, they have relationships based on power, privilege (or wanting both) and materialism.
An Occupy Camp Doesn’t Make the Place Left-wing or Accepting of Anarchy
Another warping of one’s self-worth (or over-worth in the case of social services’ supervisors and ED’s of the non-profits, both religious in origin or secular) is the fact that a modicum of things happening in Portland are leftist on the surface. That gets a warped amount of media attention, usually rife with false balance/false equivalency and reactionary reporting. The draw to Portland and the four-counties it holds sway over disenfranchised and misbegotten folk around the country is the number and breadth of social services agencies assisting young and old with homeless services, addiction counseling, recovery programs, and criminal record expungement.
In reality, there is nothing highly progressive or leftist, let alone radical, in the make-up of Portland. It’s a city and a metropolitan service area with outlying communities that draw in some of the more reactionary types from California, Texas and mid-west. Techies are libertarian at best, racist and anti-socialist at worst. They bring their knee-jerk conservatism to this great mossy, green place of dead progressive ideas. Portland is mired with constant freeway gridlock 24/7, and the number of people barely making it — living in vans and sometimes 30-year-old RVs, and working two jobs — is steadily rising. Then add to that the rush of the poverty pimps and their battalions of college graduates needing-work-with-heaping-school-debt-to-deal-with, mired in a cradle-to-grave negative outlook that harangues them daily as they attempt to square some meaning in their lives of rents that are criminally high, no-cause evictions, a deep class divide, an embedded racist history for both the city and the state, and a social services system that is a band-aid on the gaping chest wound of neoliberal assaults.
Like the Salvation Army’s propagandists in power, their big PR brokering to get more government (federal, state, city) grants, and their social media savvy techs, the others in the getting to the Top 100 non-profits in Oregon game are loaded at the admin level with HR specialists, VPs, legal crews, grant writers, development directors and giving (begging) aficionados. You’ll see plastered on their Facebook and web pages, and inside their year-end reports and fancy printed pamphlets, the very people in crisis they serve who are many times denigrated behind their back and to their faces as the scum of the earth.
But millennials and information managers don’t use such overtly dehumanizing terms to couch their consternation of, impatience with, and misunderstanding for their clients. Social services is a hard row to hoe, and when you work the arena believing the crap of a punishment society with Big Pharma and Big Criminal Justice running the show, the holistic approach and systems thinking necessary to understand the gutting out of families-communities-cultures-individuals go to the wayside.
Too many times at the Salvation Army (a billion dollar a year outfit anchored in every corner of the world which started more than 150 years ago in England), fellow social services workers, in the religious poverty pimping outfit and others with the VA and state agencies, roll their eyes when confronting some of the clients. Many have nicknames for people in crisis, negative or infantile ones, and for the most part, I have seen grown adults — and in the case of combat veterans — treated as children or dicks, as several staff members have put it as their philosophy of male veterans.
The new executive director of my old outfit, who replaced the embattled and PTSD-riddling former combat vet ED, lords over the residents and calls them her little flowers (if she doesn’t like them), and on many occasions, she has outright lied to clients, promising them things she never delivers. The food at the place is dangerous for most people, especially those with medical conditions like diabetes, heart failure, obesity and liver and kidney disease. I’ve proposed new healthy food programs, where I was promised by local vendors fresh produce and decent alternatives to the starch, sugar, dough, fat and salt crap served at the Center, but to no avail, because the new ED, like others, say they are following some screwed up rule stating a diet of meat (fatty ground round), starch (potatoes and pasta) and veggie (canned peas) has to be served daily. The amount of food waste at the Center far outpaces the typical 50 percent wasted food stat in the average American home.
What’s Draconian about this shelter is, first, it is the only shelter in the Portland region of the Starvation Army that “makes” money, and it is a unique one in the USA with very few that take on both single vets and their families. The issue is all clients, once they get into the shared kitchen-less studio apartments, they are treated like children and damaged goods, and they have to follow arbitrary rules, and they have a clock ticking which hangs over all their heads – they have limited time to get their shit together or else they are exited, back to homelessness. The fact is, veteran homelessness is going up, not down. The number twenty-two also hangs like a reaper’s scythe over them: the number of veterans who commit suicide each day!
The shelter is a holding tank, where all the paranoias and anti-social behaviors come trickling out. While I implemented writing courses, effective communication classes and movie discussion classes, and a raft of outings, the bottom-line for the management is “butts in beds” gets the $60 a day per homeless person paid to the billion-dollar non-profit. I’ve had to go toe-to-toe with the gatekeepers about fighting for my veterans who want overnight passes that go beyond two nights, for veterans who want to reconnect with long-lost adult children or who have a chance at a family reunion out of state.
You come in, the VA pays $60 a day for each vet to the Starvation Army, and you get paunchy from all the bad food, you are constantly reminded of rules-rules/violations-violations/ infractions-infractions and you have this Christian façade to work with, and, bam, your 120 days are expired, and you might end up being evicted (that’s the constant fear of veterans, especially those with amputations, chronic pulmonary and cardiac issues.) Worse, though, are those veterans who do get housing through the graces of punishment bureaucracies and the good auspices of case managers and others working hard on their situations: they end up reverting back to homelessness.
The idea of follow up care and case management for months after a veteran leaves with a lease or mortgage (in rare cases) is lost, and there are no fancy grants or non-profits that provide those services. So, the facility they are in is a community of sorts: literally has a hundred folk, 19 dogs, and a lively glow. I used to run classes, documentary and movie nights, and there are recovery and non-violent communication groups and activities.
Then, once a single veteran leaves, his struggle with mismanaging paltry monthly fixed incomes, his own struggle with medical/medicine issues, the abuse of booze and drugs, and rising depression are magnified and recharged once a sense of community and friendships are taken away.
The system is flawed from the beginning – no holism, no systems thinking, and, alas, the vicious cycle of recidivism feeds the poverty pimps, allowing and promoting for shitty paying jobs to continually go advertised and many times unfilled.
I have had to recently file a five-page single spaced whistle blower set of grievances on the way veterans are treated at the facility, with these overlords not just chastising them for being addicts, but downright attacking them. Since it’s a clean and sober environment with random UA’s and twice-a-day breathalyzers, this new overlord comes out in public community meetings saying, “I can smell a user a mile away . . . remember, I once was a cocaine addict, and I worked at a Betty Ford clinic, so I know all the tricks, all the excuses. I will eventually find you out if you are using in my facility.”
Veterans and their families are being threatened with evictions if they don’t find housing quick enough or aren’t saving their pittances of income in large enough quantities. There is a constant Damocles sword over the heads of people who 100 percent hands down have diagnosed PTSD, and most of the women vets are going through the nightmare of reliving military sexual trauma (assault); on my case load, male veterans have opened up in bigger and bigger numbers to their own MST during boot camp or in a war theater.
However, the Salvation Army workers treat these people like the enemy, like thieving and conniving people trying to get one over on the pathetic lives of social services agency workers. When one acts outside the punishment model, outside the Abu Ghraib plans and beliefs, as a revolutionary like myself, I get singled out, called a vegan communist, and continually told I rock the boat too much or act not as a team player. I do not reluctantly but most assuredly call them what they are: the pipsqueak poverty pimps working for the big johns in the head office. Mix that with a Nurse Ratched (the notorious and now closed Oregon mental health facility called Fairview is where Kesey set the narrative of his Cuckoo’s Nest novel) set of operating systems and beliefs, and the system is rotting from within!
Built on a 670 acre plot, Fairview was specifically charged with “the care and training of such feeble-minded, idiotic, epileptic, and defective persons as have been or may hereafter be committed to its custody.” Nothing politically-correct about their verbiage and they didn’t hesitate to put people on the intake roll.
Many of the first patients were epileptic; few of them were severely physically handicapped. Therefore, an emphasis was placed on training them for practical work. Developing skills and learning a trade is a valuable asset to any individual, and there was no question that it was appropriate to put these folks to work. Without a daily wage, they were also a very good value.
Fairview was more than an institution; it was also a large farm. By 1920, 400 acres were used for crops and 45 acres for orchards, the patients also raised hogs, chickens, and both dairy and beef cattle.
In 1917, a commitment law was passed to standardize admissions and to insure that valuable space was used for the “feeble-minded” and not the “insane.” It also stated that no one under 5 years of age was to be admitted. This age limitation was removed four years later. Children by the score were “raised” at Fairview.
The Ultimate Betrayal
In 1923, the Board of Eugenics was formed. Roughly based on the idea of “natural selection”, eugenics was the belief that society should be “improved” by keeping “unfit or unwanted” people from having children.
The institution’s superintendent served as an ex-officio member of the board that provided for the “sterilization of all feeble-minded, insane, epileptics, habitual criminals, moral degenerates, and sexual perverts who are a menace to society.” The board examined the mental and physical condition of institutionalized individuals who could “produce offspring inheriting inferior or antisocial traits” and decided who should or shouldn’t have the right to reproduce.
Many were forced by state law to undergo sterilization surgery before they could be allowed to leave the institution. Others who were sterilized included criminals, homosexuals, and teenage girls who “misbehaved.” By 1929, 300 Fairview residents had been sterilized.
Parole for residents was established in 1931. Parole had five requirements:
a surety bond filed by the resident’s guardian/overseer;
the guardian’s net worth must be at least $1000;
the guardian must have been a resident of Oregon for six months;
the parolee must have been sterilized;
home or workplace for the parolee must have been inspected.
— Bonnie King, Salem-News
That rot, unfortunately, presents itself as desperation: many veterans I have worked with want to off themselves. Many veterans keep the feelings closed in. Many veterans, under this constant fear of being thrown back out onto the streets, are holding in so much that I fear that there will be another shooting, another incident, another end-of-his-rope veteran willing to let loose with a machete, crossbow, pistol or AR-15.
For that sense of self-worth and self-preservation, and for the sanctity of people being treated and case managed in a homeless center, my conscience disallowed me to continue working with retrograde, punitive and dangerously ignorant people.
Today, it’s not that easy to take the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe or all the self-help gurus who go on the attack of suicidal and successful suicide veterans:
When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
Part Two: Systemic Radical Change on the Ground and from Within; Angry Veterans & Mass Shootings; Shot in the Heart. It’s a look at the connection to Gary Gilmore and the power of family and epigenetics to determine the life of a teenager and adult: whether the abused child comes out as an adult Desmond Tutu or Charles Manson. The history of the Starvation Army’s negative activities. What is exactly a “wounded warrior.” What it is that makes the VA flawed, a behemoth, a killer of dreams, people? More!