Monday, January 13, 2014

Poor Jimmy

Calling all spiritual gurus, good Christians and all others who fall into the non-judgmental, forgive everyone, we are all “God’s children,” everyone deserves another chance, camp. This is a warning - and maybe a challenge: If you don’t want your belief system rocked, if you can’t stand any challenge to your world view, if you are so set in your “spiritual” ways that you cannot be bothered to rethink them or at least defend them, go away. Do not read any further. Seriously, just don’t do it. Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. Go back to your comfortable, head-in-the-sand, don’t bother me with reality, existence. And have a nice day.

But for those who have a pair, for those who are willing to engage in actual, reasoned thought regarding their beliefs and their defense of them, welcome. As my friends all know, I do not adhere to any specific religion, but I do have a spiritual grounding that is in a constant state of flux. It morphs regularly as my journey through this life goes here and goes there. I suppose it’s possible it could one day transition into what is recognized as some form of organized religion, but I would not hold my breath waiting – I prefer to think for myself. However, despite my resistance to organized religion, I am on board with many of the professed tenets of most of them, essentially the idea that I am here to contribute, I am not to do any harm and that love is all powerful. I also agree that forgiveness is important and that all people are equal - to a point. Until something happens to change that. I also understand, from personal experience, that resentment is poison. These last points and those similar to them are the ones I struggle with.

And maybe y’all do, too? Lets see…

First, many of you are familiar with my recent past and the domestic disaster that defined it. For those who are not, the brief recap is that those who were trusted violated that trust in epic proportions – some might even say biblical proportions. There were only a handful of people who had a direct hand in it, but through the social place that the world is, there are far more mutual “friends” who have been caught in the crossfire. Some of them have been stuck in the loyal-to-my-friend/but he-is-a-dirt-bag quagmire. That sucks, but I get loyalty and I totally understand how we can much more easily forgive a friend for serious transgressions – especially if said transgressions do not affect us personally. But some of you feel it necessary to continue to proclaim how “nobody is perfect” and that “you must forgive to attain freedom” and, my personal favorite, “we must not judge.” This is the “empathy” you desire from me? I bet it would be a far different response if your “friend” did to you what he did to me, but lets not make this personal – lets explode it. Lets make it global.

Have you forgiven Adolf Hitler? How about Mussolini? Too distant? Okay, how about Osama bin Laden? Can you find it in your heart to forgive him? Is he one of “God’s children?” Is he just misunderstood and deserves a second chance (if he was not already dead)? Was he treated unfairly? How about Jeffrey Dahmer? Charles Manson? Child molesters and woman beaters? Do you judge them? Does your God? Y’all shaking your heads right now thinking that I have just taken the argument to a ridiculous extreme. Okay, I'll grant that. 

Then tell me, where do you draw the line. We can step back from mass murderers, terrorists… what about lesser crimes? How many “second chances” does one get with you? How many people have to be hurt? Where are you going to draw the line and to what degree does friendship and loyalty influence where that line is drawn. Some of y’all want me to find forgiveness, but really you don’t care about me or how I feel. You just want me to leave your friend alone. My friends want me to find forgiveness, too, but because they care about me. Same forgiveness? I think not. And despite what this rant might sound like, I have found a definition that has allowed me to put it all in perspective and move on. Still a little pissed off? Obviously, but in a good way. But this is not about me anyway - this is about you spiritual high-roaders, something I never claimed to be. Many of you chose up sides a long time ago (despite your claims to “neutrality”). That’s perfectly okay.  Friendship loyalty is powerful and can be an asset, but do not expect me to be some spiritual giant when it comes to him. He is a fucking dirt bag lowlife piece of shit and no matter how “good” or “spiritual” or loyal his friends are, that will never change. It’s much more than a judgment; it is a fact. Someday I might leave “poor Jimmy” alone. Today is not that day.

Friday, January 03, 2014

For Zak's Doctors: What to do When You Don't Know

My Alma mater for my BA and MA is not exactly football powerhouse when it comes to collegiate sports. California State University, Sacramento  (Sac State) joined the Big Sky Conference in 1997 and while its website trumpets, “20 intercollegiate teams that compete at the NCAA Division I level,” football subdivisions are different from other sports and Sac State plays in what was formerly known as Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) while the more prominent teams play in Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A). There are exceptions and variations, but let’s just say that Sac State is not exactly a “football school.” My current school (where I am working on my PhD), Louisiana State University (LSU), competes at the upper levels and places in the national top 10 most every year – and it has won it all more than once. Our arch-rival, Alabama, has an even better record. We don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s a football thing, nothing personal.

Which is why I can tell a non-football story about Alabama’s star quarterback, A.J. McCarron. Do I like him? On the football field, no, although I certainly respect his talent. As a person? I don’t know him; I have no opinion outside of what I’ve read. And there is one story that, while inspirational in and of itself, would not necessarily inspire me to cite it or write about it. However, just before last Christmas that all changed. Just before Christmas, a dear friend’s eight-year old son was involved in a serious accident that has been an overriding concern for many (myself included) for more than three weeks. His mother, my friend, has been on an emotional rollercoaster no one should have to endure and her strength throughout has been nothing short of amazing. Her continued strength is the reason that A.J. McCarron’s story should be told. But first, a little background…

The boy, Zak, was a passenger in a single vehicle rollover accident. He sustained significant head trauma that has had him in a medically induced coma since the accident. His prognosis is… unknown. And that is the point of all of these words. The seemingly irrelevant first paragraph (it’s designed to get my readers’ attention, but that’s not important right now), to the McCarron story set-up, to where we are right now and though the words that follow, they are designed to paint a picture of hope - hope despite some doctors’ penchant to “prepare families” for the worst. The point is that they simply do not know and, more importantly, that they should be stressing that they just don’t know. Telling a family what “might” happen in a worst-case scenario is not helpful. It does absolutely no good. I cannot imagine how losing a child might be easier in the slightest if a parent was informed that it could happen. They don’t know and there are literally thousands of examples that prove they don’t know. I am living proof of one of them. So is A.J. McCarron.

In October of 2000, I was involved in a serious accident that put me in the hospital for a long time. At first, they did not know if I would live or die. The doctors “prepared” my family for the worst. All but one, that is. The trauma surgeon on duty that day was not so sure. He never gave up and even when it was clear I would not die, he continued to make medical decisions based on the best-case scenario – that I would make a full recovery. He fought my insurance company to give me the sort of care such that when (not if) I made a full recovery, I would still have the same quality of life. I was out for most of all that, but I got the distinct impression that this doctor’s optimism was infectious. It gave my family hope. There were many others who did just the opposite. One of them felt it necessary to tell my young boys that when I “woke up” I might not remember them. The word “might” is indication enough that this “professional” did not know – and therefore should have kept his or her fucking mouth shut. It caused my sons more anxiety, trauma, grief, sorrow, etc., it did not help them in any way.

A.J. McCarron was in a serious jet-ski accident when he was a five-years old. He, like Zak, sustained serious head trauma. It might not have been as serious as Zak’s, but at the time the medical professionals “prepared” his family for death, cognitive and behavioral problems, seizure issues and blindness. All of those things could have happened. You know what else could have happened? He could have recovered, gone on to play football at Alabama, won two BCS National Championship rings (once beating LSU) and go on to what will be one of the top picks in the NFL draft. But the doctors didn’t tell his family that, they only felt compelled to tell them the worst that could happen. And they were wrong. They didn’t know. And Zak’s doctors don’t either. A.J. McCarron, myself, and thousands of other examples are all the reason in the world to have hope that Zak will make a full recovery. He might even win a Super Bowl. That could happen, too.

For anyone compelled to help Zak and his family, there is a Facebook page set up for him: