Children’s Voices and Scars

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Children’s Voices and Scars.”

Unfortunately, we are living in a time when many people are “destroyed” from various forms of abuse: physical, verbal, and emotional. This frequently occurs to those that are more vulnerable in society (e.g. exploited children). It is especially tragic that children–those that are still innocent and defenseless–are made to suffer at the hands of those that are bigger, stronger, and authority figures in their lives (teachers, clergy, etc.).

At the most basic level, we need to:

  • Listen (carefully), empathize, and be supportive.
  • Don’t be dismissive, make assumptions, or jump to conclusions.
  • Yes, everyone deserves a fair hearing and for the facts to be known.
  • No, we can’t as a community run from this uncomfortable issue any longer!

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Everything Else Is Anticlimactic

VeteransDay
We went to a Veterans Day Concert yesterday, and it was quite moving.



Before the music–60’s and 70’s (and some dancing)–started, there were a number of heartfelt speeches by distinguished veterans of the Vietnam War.



One lady was a nurse in Saigon working 16 hour days tending to the wounded and dying from the battlefield. She joined the army after 8 of her high school friends from her small hometown were killed in the war. The nurse told us how on the flight to Nam, they were told to look to the person on the immediate right and left of you, becuase one of you will not be coming home.



Another speaker was a special forces Army Ranger who was fighting in North Vietnam on very dangerous covert missions. He led many draftees, who he said had only minimal training, yet fought bravely on missions with bullets flying overhead and mortars and rockets pounding their positions. He described one situation where he knelt down to look at a map with one of his troops, and as they were in that psition half a dozen bullets hit into the tree right above their heads–if they had not been crouched down looking at the map, they would’ve both been dead. 



A third speaker was a veteran who had been been hit by a “million dollar shot” from the enemy–one that didn’t kill or cripple him, but that had him sent him to a hospital for 4-6 weeks and then ultimately home from the war zone. He told of his ongoing activities in the veterans community all these years, and even routinely washing the Veteran’s Wall Memorial in Washington D.C. 



Aside from the bravery and fortitude of all these veterans, what was fascinating was how, as the veterans reflected, EVERYTHING else in their lives was anticlimactic after fighting in the war. The nurse for example read us a poem about the ladies in hell (referring to the nurses caring for the wounded) and how they never talked about the patients in Nam because it was too painful, and when they returned home, they had the classic symptoms of PTSD including the hellish nightmares of being back there. 



Indeed, these veterans went through hell, and it seems that it was the defining moment in (many if not most of) their lives, and they are reliving it in one way or another every moment of every day. 



Frankly, I don’t know how they did it being dropped on the other side of the world with, as the special forces Vet explained, maps that only told you in very general terms wherer you even where, and carrying supplies for at least 3 days at a time of C-rations, water, ammo, and more–and with the enemy all around you (“there were no enemy lines in this war; if you stepped out of your units area, it was almost all ‘unfriendly.'”). One Vet said that if you were a 2nd Lt., like she was, your average lifespan over there was 20 minutes. 



The big question before we go to war and put our troops in harms way is what are we fighting for and is it absolutely necessary. For the troops being sent to the battlezone, everything else is just anticlimactic–they have been to hell. 



(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Walk Like A Chicken

Chicken Eyes

So I’ve been reading about the use of virtual technology for the military veterans as a way to help the healing process of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


But this was something different yesterday in downtown D.C….


Using virtual reality to “See Life Through A Chicken’s Eyes”–complements of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). 


So I go up and ask the attendant what this is all about. 


She says, “You can take the virtual reality tour and walk around a field as a chicken!”


She goes on, “Only we’re having some trouble with the technology, so can you come back in 20 minutes?”


Uh, okay, but 2 things:


1. Yes, I do believe in ethical treatment for everyone (including animals), and no one should suffer where we can (and should) prevent it. 


2. I did just have some chicken (only Kosher, of course!) to eat just last week (and it was pretty good), and while I am curious to see the virutal reality, I can’t make it back here in 20 minutes, but thank you!


Lesson: Treat all life compassionately, but I don’t have to walk around as a chicken to see that! 😉

When Desperation Turns Deadly

When Desperation Turns Deadly

It was shocking to read that suicide deaths in the U.S. have now surpassed deaths by motor vehicle accidents.

In 2010, there were over 38,000 suicides compared with almost 34,000 motor vehicle deaths (or 14.1 suicides per 100,000 people aged 10 and older versus 10.7 deaths from motor vehicles).

Motor vehicle deaths have been, thank G-d, declining since 1999, while suicides are unfortunately up by almost a third (31%).

Suicide for working adults were double other demographics (and highest for those in their 50’s), while for teens and the elderly, the rates stayed flat.

According to the Wall Street Journal (3 May 2012), for middle-age people 35-64, suicide is now the 4th highest cause of death after cancer, heart disease, and unintentional injury (e.g. drowning).

Suicide prevention efforts that have typically been directed to at-risk teenagers and the elderly are now being looked at for greater focus on middle-aged adults.

The article points to tough economic times (with the recession of 2007) as a potential factor in the increase.

I would assume also that the 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the increase as well due to posttraumatic stress disorder.

Yet, suicide is a very final act of escape for those acutely suffering from economic hardships, the horrors of war, and depression–and we can only imagine how much pain these people must be feeling to do the unthinkable.

I am familiar with teenagers and adults taking or attempting suicide–some have survived and others have died.

For those lucky enough to survive, they have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and try again, while those who didn’t make it, their loved ones suffer with the emptiness that was once a loving and caring individual, part of their lives.

I was taught in Yeshiva that suicide is a very grave sin and people don’t have the right to take the life that G-d granted them, but in my mind, those who suffer so as to attempt or commit suicide are probably not in a state of mind or in full control of themselves to be fully responsible.

It is worth thinking about that if 38,000 actually commit suicide a year, how many more attempt it, contemplate it often, or otherwise consider it occasionally.

People need help coping. I remember learning in English class in college that “all men live lives of quiet desperation,” and I wonder how many are out there suffering inside–at times desperate, but usually putting a smile on their faces.

We need to look beyond the surface of what people are going through, have empathy, have mercy, and give plentifully of your time, and kindness to all–you may just be saving a desperate life from taking that one last and unforgiving step.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)