The preachers and lecturers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves. Why, a free-spoken man, of sound lungs, cannot draw a long breath without causing your rotten institutions to come toppling down by the vacuum he makes. Your church is a baby-house made of blocks, and so of the state.
…The church, the state, the school, the magazine, think they are liberal and free! It is the freedom of a prison-yard.
― Henry David Thoreau, I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau
First, I am thinking about the systems of oppression designed by bureaucracies, by the middlings who are both gatekeeper and controller. They have a “get out of jail” card for anyone showing just the right compliant behavior and level of genuflection to authority. They want their pound of flesh in the form of restitution and restorative justice. They are the 12-step people, in various iterations of that broken system, who feel that one is flawed if they drink or have mental illness or get arrested or find themselves on the streets or in piles of debt. This is the puritanical nature of America, and the bible is replaced by pseudo crap, big long classes on harm reduction and trauma informed care, when, in fact, for many social services practitioners, they are not informed at all about the various pathways to ending up in the poor house in this country.
To truly work on the brokenness of America or England or Australia, outfits like the Salvation Army have to keep people hungry and in check to remind these godless miscreants that they are one bad move from being back on the streets or back in the poor house.
The poor house includes two or three bad jobs at a time, slipped disc, high rents, forced eviction, no public services, the wrong medicine at the wrong hospital, addiction, the wrong school, the wrong zip code, the wrong census track from which to live. The first bad cards one is dealt is right when the papa sperm hits the fallopian tube. Then, the environmental factors of mama’s ingestions, her own mental duress during gestation, and then, bam, the moment of gravity and air, the delivery systems of western quackery industrial medicine, and then the vaccinations, and on and on, until the first moment when papa and mama are at home, whatever that may be, and the interactions of papa with mama, mama with baby, baby with papa.
By the time the child hits three of four, these holders of the “get out of jail/trouble/counseling/services” card are looking down their noses hard at the little youngster. They might give them a green light for another few years, but by the time the “juvenile injustice” bones in those Josef Mengele’s and Nurse Ratched’s start creaking, these controllers turn up the judgement dial on their machines of bureaucratic bile.
This is not to say all social services people/workers are bad, and many start off great and end up upended by their own brokenness and fears, and disillusioned by the supervisors and administrators who are folks Dante reserves for the inferno of the lawyers. Not all bad social services workers are women, for sure.
I have run into a big hulk of a guy director of the entire agency in one County in Oregon who tells his case workers that he will not provide the services of Planned Parenthood or any contraception funding for those young female charges (foster girls) because, one, he is Irish Catholic through and through and is against such terrible ungodly interventions, and, two, he feels providing contraception or even decent counseling around sexuality just encourages the foster girls to go south, or even more south, since this Catholic white guy thinks there is a lot of “bunk” to the foster youth’s continual complaints about mean, coercive, corrosive, abusive foster parents, who are paid a pretty penny for taking in one, three or even ten foster youth.
Men and women in the foster care system reminding their charges they could be out in the cold, reminding them of their bad bio parents, reminding them they could end up in jail and to just enjoy the PB&J sandwiches and two-week old milk.
Always reminding people they are failures and that the key to undoing that abject rejection by society is a set of arbitrary and many times counter methods and programs to undo the fatal flaw of being flawed. It’s as if the unsuccessful Alcoholics Anonymous motto is tattooed on half these social workers’ asses —God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
The 12 steps are so deeply ingrained in the United States that many people, including doctors and therapists, believe attending meetings, earning one’s sobriety chips, and never taking another sip of alcohol is the only way to get better. Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers use the 12 steps as the basis for treatment. But although few people seem to realize it, there are alternatives, including prescription drugs and therapies that aim to help patients learn to drink in moderation. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, these methods are based on modern science and have been proved, in randomized, controlled studies, to work.
These are not always easy pieces for me to write, since I write them from the deep well of narrative reality, mine, in a struggling world myself struggling with the fact that all organizations, all non-profits, all for-profits, all government (county, city, state, federal) agencies are corrupt at the top and infected in the middle and ruined at the bottom with this society of broken thinkers who judge-judge-judge a book by the proverbial cover. The injustices of the systems I become a part of end up being injustices to all, including me. One written warning away from termination for me seems to be the common theme of my work life, and certainly in a world I live in, run by overpaid administrators, middling broken men and women and co-workers who are mostly women and never going to stay long at these places I work at, I have major issues just sitting by witnessing injustice.
Too many times I am counseled by supervisors for speaking up, speaking out of turn and for being too passionate. Too many times my unfortunate clients-patients-students tell me that I am gifted, doing god’s work, or have a calling and special life pathway that has brought me to them. As I say, that Almighty Force-Power-God just isn’t there to pay my rent, shoulder my gasoline bills and put food on my table.
This is my current last past experience working with veterans and their families at the Salvation Army’s Veterans and Family Center in Beaverton (Portland, OR). For a millennial’s look at the “Army,” go here: “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Ever” !
I am also thinking about the proverbial lack of logic of the rules these bureaucrats play by, those that are with the Veterans Administration who never speak up and for which I just did a stint with as a social worker working for that religious cult bureaucracy, this one religion behemoth with the bell ringers and women in caps — the Salvation Army.
I left December 21, after witnessing so many ails of a broken religious organization utilizing the stiff paddle board of an executive director who in a nutshell treats combat soldiers, non-combat soldiers, spouses and their kids like criminals. I was fighting uphill battles with every aspect of the veterans homeless center, from the lack of clean air in each of the veteran’s room because of black mold invested window air conditioners, to the penalties thrown upon them (sometimes 7-day eviction notices) for not showing up to inane community meetings where the director goes on and on about herself, the higher power of her AA god, and then she’d attack anyone at this community for daring to make some suggestions on how the shelter and rules might best fit the population’s needs.
Bad food, wasted food, internet WiFi taken away by the dragon lady for one guy’s downloading of illegal music, veterans on edge ready to be evicted on a moment’s notice. This woman director (I emphasize woman because all the other staff are female and the majority of the residents are men) looks at all the shelter residents as former addicts and Jonesing boozers when, in fact, most do not have addictions issues.
Soldiers daily were telling me how much they hated her, how they wanted her censured and bad ways stopped, how they wanted respect, and how some felt there was no other resolution other than suicide, or offing her. Then, my cohorts, damaged social services workers all who back-stabbed the director, ending up kowtowing to her until I was the lone outlier making the complaints and formal grievance.
What I am now embroiled in are residents and former clients texting me hourly, emailing me, calling me by phone with every sort of anxiety and PTSD triggered realities of their lives, steamrolled into their lives by a civilian former Betty Ford clinic supervisor with zero military experience, now running roughshod over them at a VA (taxpayer) supported outfit where there is religion beaten over the heads of former soldier.
She told me and several others that Muslims would not be coming to the shelter. She continues to make fun of transgender residents.
She told me and two residents that their simple electric Menorah could not be displayed among the thousands of insipid Christmas stuff plastered throughout the facility. The Anti-Defamation League of Seattle got involved, and basically some Major higher up defended the director’s action and told the ADL that the couple could have their electric light Menorah in their room, with the door shut and not in their window for anyone else to see.
Cops have been called to facility for the paranoia of this new director, and the fear she has infected these supposedly trained social services workers with has turned them into sycophants. She has not gotten good food or decent toilets or new mini-fridges for the place, the place is a dirt-bag that is never thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, airborne diseases run rampant there, but she has instead installed more security cameras, new listening devices and a coat of paint in a public area where outside guests are sometimes hosted. The place is a harbinger of PTSD triggers, and the VA has been notified and elected officials have been emailed as have the high brass of this religious cult.
No positive changes have occurred, except threats of eviction by the female director if any of the veterans or family members talk to former residents . . . or me!
There will be a killing there, mark my words. I’ve told the VA and others. I have encouraged several donors to look for other non-profits for which to support with their thousands of dollars. There will be more cops called, and that will induce residents to react, naturally, to the strong jackboot presence of the law in this three-story facility. This new director herself is living in fear but has gained a new sense of power with the religious cult leaders giving her carte blanche decision making power. Her husband is now wandering the facility as her bodyguard.
Everything happening there is contrary to informed consent, safe space philosophy, trauma informed care, harm reduction and the tenants of giving all people the right to self-agency, the right of free association, free speech and freedom of movement.
Women (wives of soldiers) are being patted down by staff if a staff member has an unfounded suspicion that a resident might have made a 7-11 run and stashed a bottle of beer in a purse or under a skirt.
The VA knows about this, and the blood and fire Salvation Army ethos is running rampant, and with the added trauma she is creating, more and more vets are straddled with suicidal ideations.
We’ll delve into the 12 reasons to reject the Salvation/ Starvation Army soon, in a post by a New Zealander. Ironically, I got the job because the social services arena, including a cult like the Salvation Army, is a field where the worker like me can get hired on without a loyalty oath or bullshit mumbo-jumbo praying or believing the smoke and mirrors of these oppressors.
To add to the irony, both my Irish and Scottish grandparents (on my mother’s side) were sent to Canada as part of the Salvation Army’s colonization program they carried out for England/UK.
Little did I know the true history of the Starvation Army now, as a billion dollar a year industry of thieves, or pawn brokers of people’s lives in the name of fleecing them of their free will and free minds. The founder of the cult was pro-capitalism, anti-socialism, and a believer in all souls the products of original sin that never goes away until blood is let and fire destroys the body.
Here’s the father of the Starvation Army:
Salvation Army founder William Booth spent years evangelising before he realised that he would never achieve his goal of banishing the ‘three As’ of “Alcohol, Atheism and Anarchy” from England’s underclass if he did not first keep them from starving. The Salvation Army’s social work efforts can be directly linked to Booth’s failure to convert the poor through more conventional means.
A former pawnbroker, Booth was aware that poverty largely stemmed from the structure of society that he was in. However the social system that created conditions of poverty and inequality was not to be improved or replaced via social revolution. Instead Booth hoped to promote a “kinder, gentler” form of industrial capitalism, one with the “Christian values” of hard work, abstinence and charity. Booth characterised the revolutionary Christianity of the Diggers and Levellers as “utopian” and believed that Salvation Army members could earn a large profit from businesses and still keep a good conscience. In his view (and contrary to many others) the Bible was detached from social and economic change. For him the work of a good Christian was to piously tend to the poor rather than work with them in the hope of transforming a society based on poverty for some people and profit for others.
Regardless of their attitude towards social structures the primary aim of the Salvation Army was not to provide charity, but to win souls from the devil. Booth stated that what was important was not “whether a man died in the poorhouse but if his soul was saved”. Dispensing the absolute basics of food and temporary housing to the needy was motivated by the need to recruit rather than by anything in the Bible. Any of the poor who were unfortunate enough to go against the Army’s morals were quick to discover themselves out on the street, hungry or not.
Ahh, look at that last sentence – “quick to discover themselves out on the street, hungry or not.” So, as taxpayers, you and I pay the Starvation Army here in Oregon $60 a day per veteran to be in this Religious Cult Prison, and, these veterans, all with PTSD and co-occurring ailments to include a plethora of mental and physical and intellectual maladies, are being threatened daily with being kicked to the curb.
Imagine the terror of a fellow or gal with military sexual trauma or two legs amputated being threatened with forced illegal eviction if they say a word against Nurse Ratched or come to the facility with a fifth of vodka. Imagine the nightmares on the cold streets in the wet nights of Portland after being kicked to the curb for not abiding by warped rules from a former addict who is a paper tiger. . . the bum’s rush from a supposedly trained (sic) social services leader.
The streets of Portland are not kind, Dickensian, and the cops here in all three counties are sadomasochists who enjoy prodding and poking and pushing veterans (all homeless) to the hilt so they can put another notch on their Jack Boots of more warm bodies in the private prison industrial complex.
So many veterans have sent in complaints to the VA advocate, grievances to others, but to no avail – the starvation minded effete men and women of the Army, with their circus barker uniforms and epaulets and carny hats, want the blood and fire (their motto) to spread to our veterans.
I went up against the Salvation Army when the cops came into our facility, locked it down, brought in SWAT and armored vehicles, guns drawn, closed down schools and major thoroughfares, and then shot a veteran seven times while he was in mental health overload and crisis in his vehicle.
I was there, witnessed the shooting, worked with clients with their own trauma and triggers, and then dealt with the male director who left the next day, and then no Marching Band or Canteen Dragging captains and majors in rear guard to come out to give nutritional and spiritual and psychological solace to the veterans who witnessed the thug cops doing their shooting and targeting.
This Religious Cult and their married officers all talked about, a week after the targeting shooting by cops called in by the Salvation Army, how the Salvation Army’s brand was still intact.
This putz of a small-minded man, Major Zielinski, yammered on and joked while one of our own — my own (being ex-military) — was in a hospital, handcuffed and facing attempting murder of police charges. Read about him in our Portland weekly!
Ahh, the Starvation Army, and George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara. Barbara is the daughter of Undershaft, a millionaire arms merchant who believes what he believed in then in the Victorian era (1905 when the play was first performed) which is the exact same as what is believed by today’s miscreant felons in the billionaire and millionaire class – In the Guardian:
In a speech that resonates with today’s concerns about global corporate power, he [Andrew Undershaft] tells his son Stephen, who wants to go into politics: “I am the government of your country … When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman.” (Guardian)
Socialist Shaw does some fine tuning of the vast (supposedly) gulf between the rich and the poor. He himself stated the obvious for 20th Century England and Ireland:
The poor, Shaw wrote in his preface, “do not want the simple life, nor the aesthetic life; on the contrary they want very much to wallow in all the costly vulgarities from which the elect souls among the rich turn away with loathing. What they desire, Shaw wrote, is precisely what, by definition, they don’t have: money. “The crying need of the nation is not for better morals, cheaper bread, temperance, liberty, culture, redemption of fallen sisters and erring brothers, nor the grace, love and fellowship of the Trinity, but simply for enough money.” (O’Toole)
The Salvation Army is all about recrimination, from the early roots of the Booths who started the for-profit charity. It’s a cult, intolerant, evil, and we the taxpayer foot the bill for these shelters where some of those like myself want to help and use the training in trauma informed care, motivational interviewing, self-determination/ self-advocacy, harm reduction and radical social work to assist veterans in crisis in finding alternatives out of the years of failing in a punishment society. Instead, the Salvation Army hires on the abused and abusers, and when you read the article by the New Zealander Reddebrek, you should come away chilled, and devoted to never ever putting a dime or shekel into one of those red metal buckets (kettles) or giving up your used furnishings or clothing to one of the SA’s stores.
So from the very beginning the Salvation Army was in favour of a world made up of bosses and bossed. Its own organisational setup reflected this love of authority, with a military structure complete with uniforms and an army band. Control of the Army passed from Booth to his oldest son and stayed there, until high-ranking officers pulled a coup. The organisation’s basic dictatorship stayed untouched, with little power at the grassroots and almost total control at the top.
The moral code that was enforced was extreme, even by the standards of society when it started. There was no drinking, swearing, smoking, premarital sex or gambling allowed. The only permissible pleasure was praying and playing in the Army band. This was justified by saying that the Bible had described drinking etc. as sinful. This is highly debatable, as the Army itself has been forced to admit. The basis for these teachings is more likely to be found in Booth’s hang-ups than in the Bible.
This moral code had a dark side, in that it allowed the Salvation Army to blame the victims of poverty for their own situation. They could argue that the symptoms of poverty – alcohol abuse, prostitution etc. – were really its cause. This let their rich backers off the hook. It also meant that any of the poor who broke their moral code were denied access to food and clothing, a practice which reportedly continues today.
As Britain’s social problems increased, it was recommended that the poor be sent off to colonise other countries (regardless of the feelings of the people who already lived there, of course). As a solution to poverty this ignored the fact that Britain already had more than enough resources to clothe, feed and house all of its population. Its real aim of colonisation was building a bigger British Empire. Booth was one of the first to draw up detailed plans for how agricultural colonies be designed to soak up Britain’s mass of unemployed and it’s arguable that his plans had some influence on the people who ran the Empire. Big businessmen and politicians like Cecil Rhodes and American president Theodore Roosevelt lent their support. (Reddebrek)
So, a living testament to the Salvation Army’s starvation tactic, I had to lobby and prod the despicable leadership, including one director who touts himself as a combat veteran, to not hold food as a weapon for veterans who utilized the save-a-meal program but failed to pick up their slop from a fridge because any number of reasons. Imagine, telling veterans if they have a job, or appointment, and don’t make it back to the shelter for a 12 to 1 and 5 to 6 lunch and dinner chow call, they would have to find fast food or any food outside the facility to eat. Again, no kitchens in the facility for residents. Holding back food as a weapon. Social Work 101 in Proverbial Chapter One states this is a no-no.
I’m also thinking about Prison Nation, USA, as my former clients are daily being treated more and more like inmates, but this publicly-funded Veterans and Family Center is also a tax-free shelter for this cult. I am thinking also about the Catholic Community Services, and an interview I had just today (1/18) to work for a measly $18.13 an hour to be a personal agent and case manager for adults with developmental disabilities. Three women in a room judging me, using their aplomb to bias me with my age and my gender and maybe my advanced degrees. Note that the job would be doing the things I know how to do, but alas, this punishment and somewhat broken society shines through as this outfit, through the giant Catholic Community Services, manages almost 600 clients/customers who go through the for-profit brokerage for eight Oregon counties. Two hours after a trip to Salem for this face-to-face interview, the three stern, crass and unanimated women said no to me to be part of their team. We are talking a lot of money from various sources adults with developmental disabilities get to help them manage their lives, from cradle to grave, from work to daily activities of living.
Catholic Community Services, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, the Arc, all the same cults of punishment and exploitation, fitting well in their tax shelter status.
Again, as I stated in the previous article, this social services scam is rife with broken women, and my younger sister is a long-in-the-trenches social worker and now a director in Arizona and validates this perspective. She time and time again talks about how underrepresented men are in the social services, largely due to the bizarre and openly misandry-riddled women nurses, clinical workers and social workers. She is attempting to recruit more men in this very large agency she works for, because, in her words, men have their own valid and perfectly compatible perspective that make social services a truly inclusive profession.
So, another three or five or eight women in a room (just in the past month!), interviewing me, for some $18 an hour job, college degree required, caseloads out the roof, and, bam, I never get the call back for a second look or for the job offer. It is exasperating to my sister and to my female friends and significant other who is in the profession of staffing.
It doesn’t do me much good to hear time and time again from women I respect that “women can be the most conniving and ridiculously hard to work with coworkers . . . I hate working with them.” Really, the professions I have chosen – journalism, creative writing, English teacher, teaching adults, social work, and even environmental activism – are all front-loaded with women or those who identify as women.
You think they would see the efficacy and prudence in having experienced, worldly, capable and effective male colleagues. Nope.
This all now gets me thinking about the roller coaster of bad policy, bad services and bad judgment we as a society lay at the feet of students, the infirm, those living with disabilities (over 150 million Americans have one or more chronic illnesses), those who are house-less/home-less, those that are working the most insanely brutal jobs to keep a pittance of bad health insurance and fifty percent of their shekels spent for shitty housing; i.e., rent. I am thinking about how this society has everyone – except the elite, the managerial class, the One Percent, the legal class, and the compliant ones with two-income earners pushing them upwards at $400 K a year combined income – over a barrel, at the end of the barrel of a gun and under the screws of Capitalism’s Inquisition.
I’m thinking about my precarity, my shitty position in society because I have done the shitty jobs, gotten the shitty degrees (English, Journalism, Urban Planning), decided not to be a shitty human being whose goal in life is money-land-things-power-control.
I am living on the edge, in Otis, Oregon, in Lincoln County. Here we are, my significant other, looking at an incredibly beautiful Oregon coastline with dramatic sheer cliffs and migrating whales and swell after swell with sea lions, birds and crab boats on the horizon. Climate change’s front seat as the crabs are not doing well with acidification, as the sea stars are dying of limb rot, and as the tidal wetlands will be inundated by rising sea levels. But still, paradise of sorts . . . .
And, the big houses and fancy B & B’s and the RV’s a big as World War Two bombers. Food, booze, fun. One B & B is $600 a night with a Spago’s level restaurant overlooking grey whale coves while the largess of the locals work their fingers to the bloody bone shucking oysters and packing salmon and cleaning toilets for the rich.
Ahh, yet the contrast of Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford’s America: There are homeless, those squatting lone wolves, entire families without electricity, people wandering the roads at night for a quick break-in to feed their broken selves. Drug abuse. Methamphetamine insanity. Epigentics that have pushed young people to have no skills for life, who have lived under parental tyranny since Pampers, who have had role models that are burglars, car thieves, pimps, prostitutes, users, abusers, and retrograde thinkers.
Yet there are forty-foot brand new RVs, second homes on cliff-sides, endless nights boozing and dining. Could be Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque.
Lincoln County is rural, so there is a public health service here. There are so many young and old with developmental-psychological-intellectual-physical disabilities. Bad teeth, bad diets, bad habits, bad everything.
Kids that are never given the chance to be honored, cared for, regaled, complimented, supported. Never shown the way, that is, how you end up early in life as a product of the old adage – you are/become what you eat, see, believe, say, read, do, think, hope for, drink, entertain yourself with. You are the sum total of that bad shit in your gut, lungs, head, heart, brain.
So it goes, now that the Starvation Army and I have parted, and my daily writing and handyman work and introspection take me to the same old radical places I was fuguing at when I was 16, a communist heart and soul in Tucson, Arizona. And daily, too, now, my former clients report to me the more draconian and penal-like conditions of the place that is supposed to be a transition center for house-less or home-less. Most of my veterans got there because of disease and/or bad debts, evictions, and lost jobs. They are there, after a few years in the military, mostly as an LZ (landing zone) for their lack of choices in small-town America. The so-deemed economic draft.
This place is not a dry out center or one where everyone is facing substance abuse.
The Salvation Army has had thousands of employees and many more clients or people who received their services complain. We are talking about major investigations, going nowhere, because it is a cult, like Scientology, and the backing of the feds and the tax-free status and the stiff arm salute to Booth and this pennyante marching band shit make the kettle ringing outfit one of America’s big basket of charity donations.
Before we look at the connection to the rash of national shootings and pipe bombing conspiracies tied to military vets, and more deeply connected to the military adventurism of this country since time immemorial and the blind patriotism of F-18 flyovers and Golden Knights parachutists at football games, (even at PK12 events, through to college stadiums all the way to the pros), we have to consider the deeper implications of how a punishment state makes money off of the pain and suffering of others shackled to unpaid levies, fines, taxes, surcharges, rents, bills, tolls, arrears all racked up in neoliberalism’s chamber of horrors.
I write about this ALL the time, making the connection to this “underperforming economy” in the USA, as Manfred Max-Neef writes, and the abhorrent fear that has shackled Americans (not including leftists, IWW, communists, anarchists) since “the beginning.”
And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now. I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying – and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house – thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem.
We have to drill even deeper into the implications of how one’s formative upbringing and one’s current census track and zip code can determine all sorts of roulette factors that will either produce an Oprah or Precious, a Gary Gilmore or Mikal Gilmore.
The people I work with – the professionals and staff, that is — have a shallow or zero understanding of how the implications of birthhood and early life will taint and most assuredly guide consciously and subconsciously the human being into adulthood. Once most of these Nurse Ratched’s see an adult male like Gary Gilmore with his armed robberies and two murders under his belt, all compassion, understanding, empathy and deep wisdom around all the extenuating factors that turn people like Gary against themselves, their families, society at large and against all the institutions of oppression, authority and bureaucracy. All social services logic and compassion for one’s circumstance, in the case of a Gary Gilmore, go out the proverbial window.
Stealing, getting into fights, drinking, petty crimes, that’s the Gary Gilmore pedigree coming from a violent family, a father who daily beat the shit out of him, from the turmoil of a father and stepmother verbally abusing him and themselves, daily. His story and his younger brother Mikal’s life are compelling and illustrative of the hardwiring of epigenetics linked closely to formative years struggling with a violent father.
I bring up Gilmore for several reasons: I have had dozens of Gary (or Genna) Gilmore’s in my life as clients. I have seen people come out of the military, hit the streets, do gunning and running in the big city, and end up on Measure Eleven or Three Strikes You Are Out prison sentences that kept some in for more than 29 years.
Just what formative years’ event or events can turn a child’s wiring into something completely antithetical to childhood dreams and innocence? Just how many drops of alcohol or draws on the methamphetamine pipe turn a pregnant mother’s womb into a festering cauldron where significant cognitive and behavioral changes are passed onto the child? How many strikes with the shaving strop by daddy or hours of exposure to pornography can turn a child into an abuser or victim, or both?
Gary Gilmore was born in Waco, Texas, and then he moved with his family to Portland, Oregon. Gary’s brother said their father was a “cruel and unreasonable man.” Frank, their father, believed he was the illegitimate son of Harry Houdini, a myth passed down by Bessie Gilmore, their mother. Mikal said he doesn’t believe the story.
Gary was gifted, with high scholastic and academic scores, an IQ of 133 and defined artistic skills. He dropped out of high school at age 14, ran away from home to go back to Texas, and returned to Portland running a small car theft ring which got him his first arrest. Another car heist got the 14-year-old admitted to Oregon’s notoriously sadistic MacLaren Reform School for boys, and after that release, he ended up in the Oregon State Correctional Institution on another car theft charge.
Fast-forward to my life – I remember this 37-year-old life’s cut down in January 1977, when I was a newspaper reporter in Arizona. The newsroom was all full of debates, with anti- and pro-death penalty sides arguing our merits; then the sadistic Utah and Mormon blood-letting demand for eye-for-an-eye justice, as the executioners were at an abandoned cannery, with loaded rifles, all five (one was supposed to be a blank but it wasn’t this time) with live rounds. Then there was Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1979 Pulitzer Prize), adapted for TV with Tommy Lee Jones who landed the Emmy portraying Gilmore. Gary Gilmore’s brother, Mikal, wrote a memoir, Shot in the Heart, which was made into an HBO movie with Sam Shepard as the father.
It was clear to me then decades before I even got into social services that Gary Gilmore was a product of a really bad upbringing and a broken education system and a broken society of machoism as a rite of passage, in Gilmore’s case, armed robbery and killing.
Running and gunning and drugging and womanizing and scamming and assaulting and stealing and, well, sometimes second-degree manslaughter; i.e., all pumped up on drugs and emotions, and the wrong (or right) cross punches and uppercuts can pummel a grown man (bad guy just like the offender) down a flight of stairs. Snapped neck, bleeding out, and a murder charge.
I’ve made friends with clients who spent decades in solitary confinement, after two tours in Vietnam, after breaking the law, breaking themselves and breaking the systems of oppression on the outside until they were locked up by the prosecutors and judges that deemed them sociopaths.
My job was to find some semblance of sanity in their releases from dungeons of hell, some sense in their shitty probationary limits, to the continual and repeated punishment. I had to get them into moral reconation therapy (MRT), enroll them into domestic violence classes, pester them to take drug rehab classes and attend group therapy sessions. then my job was to prep them for job training, help them learn computer software, and convince them that a round hole was perfect for their square peg selves.
Grown and old men, bodies broken from years of torture in prison, and they come out and face a phalanx of men and mostly women probation officers, counselors, employment navigators, skills trainers, financial advisers, judges.
This all makes for a bizarre out-of-whack system of soft and hard repression and recrimination. They have to go pay the ferryman many times over, yet, there is no soft landing in a harsh society of high rents, bad work, shitty transportation, expensive living demands, and an abandoned society and family ties.
I’ll end this part two with a short interview with a friend, former marine, whom I met while we both worked with foster youth as case managers in an independent living program, run by another non-profit riddled with petty and in some cases dangerously out- of-touch and uncaring women leaders and workers. We’ve been to meetings in Salem, where we were two lone men out of 60 women in the conference, and any piping in or participation by one of us equaled white male patriarchy privilege. Amazing.
Meet former case manager, Brian Hanson:
Paul Haeder: Why did you get into social services? When?
Brian Hanson: After completing my BS is psychology. What(why?): Helping and service have been cornerstones of my identity since I was little. The more people beat me down the more I gave them a big “fuck you” by helping others I knew needed me.
PH: Highlight working in social services?
BH: The kids, always the kids. The youth of this world are the only ones still with any natural wisdom left.
PH: Why did you get out of social services?
BH: The bureaucracy. Most workers were pretty good, some were really bad. The good ones got shit on by their supervisors and the rotten apples. The entire structure at DHS (the entire State honestly) is a culture of secrecy, lies, and hubris. I’ve actually heard a supervisor tell a worker not to support a youth in crisis, because he was rude to the supervisor who got into a power struggle with the youth.
PH: Example of a low point in the profession.
BH: The worst point was watching a lawyer lie about a client in court (the lawyer was unconnected to the case. Representing a former foster parent that had abused the client) during a regular review process (oh and this lawyer was at every single review throughout this kids life, literally allowing an abusive foster parent to continue to exert fear and control) The lawyer only said a few things, but repeated it every chance he got. “The case against my client was only unfounded”. The problem here is that the lawyer was specifically and intentionally confusing unfounded with unsubstantiated. Neither the case worker, case workers supervisor, nor the judge seemed to even notice the language change or its meaning to the case. This young lady was seized by uncontrollable fear and crying. She couldn’t represent herself. And the supervisor didn’t care, because she was difficult, her life amounted to an annoyance to him.
PH: What needs to be done with veterans in need of trauma and substance abuse care?
BH: Firstly, clinical anything in this country is a flawed premise. This is due to the artificial separation imposed by any clinical practice. Further the vast majority of clinical practice focuses on isolated issues, rather than systems. This is dehumanizing. Period. A good analogy is taking your car in for an oil change and being told that you need new brakes, new drive boots, and oops we cracked the drive shaft while under there, so that needs to go too. Most practitioners are trained to only address the main issue for the session. They are trained to keep the client on a positive progression track designed to accelerate healing and get them back to functioning (out of the therapist office). Instead they stretch out their sessions over months or even years. Sometimes because they like working with the client. Sometimes literally to fill empty work hours. Veterans especially don’t need this BS. They need dignity and to feel useful. And above all they need connections over pills. If we spent more time giving value and worth to Veterans, we would have a massive reduction in harm. Period.
PH: What’ s your background in military?
BH: Four years in the Corps. Field wireman. Went in a punk, came out a devil-dog.
PH: Do you have trauma? Yes, what? No, why?
BH: I have some traumas in my life. A near fatal and debilitating motorcycle crash over a decade ago. A moderately abusive childhood (I got too big before it got bad). Of course, there is my military service, wasn’t a real picnic. The worst was when my daughter was sexually abused. The piece of filth responsible was given leniency because he cried in court about his own abuse. He got three years, six years afterwards and my daughter still suffered from his abuse. She had to spend her entire elementary school in a self-contained classroom. Substandard education, behavior focused teachers, and very high behavior classmates. She was routinely traumatized on a near daily basis. I had to quit my job at Youth Villages because I had to constantly pick her up after just a half day. It has taken a near lifetime to undo the damage that piece of shit did to her. And it only cost her childhood, every friend she could have had, every relationship, and most of her learning.
PH: Anything else to add after reading my first part of this series?
BH: Social service has long been about warehousing those with needs. Vast sums of money and resources go into training and supporting staff. The services offered after all this graft typically are poor. Staff get burned out and service turns into a hassle. The client suffers because the worker won’t take a look at their own fucked up psychology, work place, or profession. I cannot tell you the number of so-called professionals that I wouldn’t lift a finger to help. But damn I bet I’d be happy to have a beer with just about everyone of their patients. That says something.
Next – Part Three – Military veterans at the Salvation Army speak out and give solutions to the homelessness/ suicide issues tied to vets.