They’re Both Wrong; Will Both Own It?

Note: While I’ve been paying some attention to this story, I have not done the kind of thorough research I’d like to do. I’m procrastinating on two papers in order to do this, though. So please forgive me.

In case you haven’t been following the story, here it is in an all-too-small nutshell: During an altercation at the end of a game, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett took off the helmet of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and swung the helmet at Rudolph’s head. Garrett has been suspended indefinitely, Garrett said that during the altercation, Rudolph used a racial slur.

There has been an avalanche of takes about the incident, about the penalties, and lately about Garrett’s accusation. Rudolph issued some kind of denial, and I’ve heard a lot of skepticism about the allegation. Personally, I believe Myles Garrett. In fact, one of my first thoughts about the incident was that Rudolph probably dropped an N-bomb.

That being said, I still think Garrett was appropriately suspended. Myles Garrett himself has taken ownership of his actions and accepted that he has to be punished for his actions. Mason Rudolph was not punished (even though he did clearly attempt to rip Garrett’s helmet off at the beginning of their altercation). On the day of Garrett’s appeal, Rudolph apologized for his part, admitting he acted inappropriately. I took that as a sly admission that he had used a racial slur, although he denied that after it was fully reported. Garrett has said he did not want that accusation to become public.

One of these days I’ll get around to my gaslighting project. As I noted at the beginning, I haven’t done enough research as I’d like, and I haven’t paid the closest attention. Still, the things I’ve seen surrounding that racial slur allegation has got my Spidey-gaslighting sense tingling. I don’t think Myles Garrett was justified in his actions, but I do believe he’s telling the truth.

I used to work with violent offenders, and much of my work was centered around trying to get them to take accountability for their bad deeds. Myles Garrett acted terribly but has since done exactly what I always tried to teach my clients to do. Mason Rudolph started down that path, and I wish he would follow it through completely.

Note: After I posted this, I saw a report that Mason Rudolph was fined $50,000 for his part in the incident.

Sunday Confessions #4

Sometime after the 2016 election, I decided to stop talking politics. It seemed pointless since people weren’t listening to anything I had to say anyway. I’ve done it on rare occasions since with people who are able to demonstrate some basic knowledge of American government. I should emphasize the word “rare” in that last sentence. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not capable of having a discussion about a topic like the Supreme Court with someone who can’t name a majority of the justices. (Hell, I asked an entire roomful of people to name four collaboratively. They failed.)

Sometimes people ask me my opinion of something in the news. I tell them I don’t know since I don’t watch the news. (It’s part of that refusal to talk politics.) It’s kind of irritating. I used to read at least one newspaper per day, often two. I like keeping up on current events. Unfortunately, I find the tribal warfare that has beset our political discourse to have made it unhealthy for me to tune in. And I know I’m not the only one. In fact, I believe a large portion, maybe a majority, of America is right there with me.

I kind of miss talking politics. While my views mostly fit with one tribe, they stray often. Unfortunately, now no tribe is interested in hearing from any other. Each one thinks they know it all. Personally, I know that I don’t know shit, and neither does anyone else. I used to think we might figure some things out if we all accepted that notion. I don’t really have much hope for that anymore.

You Need to Write It Yourself

Note: Today’s and tomorrow’s posts were written well in advance.

I’m reading “In the Gray Area of Being Suicidal” by Tea Jay right now. (And I mean right now. I paused to tap this thing out.) It’s been great, and I’ll try to post a review as soon as I’m done. (I suck at writing reviews, though. Someone might want to remind me.)

In one chapter, she expresses her desire to see super-heroes who are struggling with mental illnesses. This is something I have often heard throughout the years. People advocate for greater diversity, not just in comic books and the related movies but in popular culture at large. It sounds pretty great, but there’s one issue.

At the end of the chapter, Tea Jay writes, “Someday, I know there will be a movie where we’re the hero, even if I have to write the screenplay myself.” I would strongly encourage her to do so and definitely not wait for anyone else.

It reminds me of something I heard one of my old war buddies say. I’ll paraphrase and change some things to fit this purpose: If you want a super-hero movie about people struggling with ADD done right, you should have it done by someone with ADD. If you want it fucked up, you should wait for someone else to do it.

Do you know why war movies suck? Because they’re done by people who have never been to war and made for people who don’t really care. This is kind of a separate discussion, though. The point is there are plenty of people who care about mental illness but not a lot of people in the industry who are going to make this thing happen.

I’ve got a couple of things in the works dealing with war-related topics. In part because of my own mental health struggles, they are a long ways away from being published. However, I know I can’t count on others to get them done.

I’d love to see Tea Jay’s super-hero movie (or comic book or whatever). Her book so far has been great, so I’m sure she’s capable of doing this well. And I also hope she doesn’t wait for someone else to fuck it up.

This is a partially buried, mostly rotted car near a hiking trail in northern Kentucky circa 2012. This picture was selected at random.

I’m Not Sorry for Being a Dick to Addicts

I’ve seen addiction tear apart many lives. It certainly has screwed up mine, more than once. It’s doing so right now.

I’ve done a lot of shitty things while under the influence. I’ve also enabled, and I think I feel even more guilty about that. I’ve lost friends and family to addiction. And sometimes I wonder if that will ever stop.

One thing I know will stop is I will not say I’m sorry for being a dick to addicts. Maybe if I had been more of a dick, I wouldn’t have lost at least one friend. But who am I kidding? Of course, I would’ve. I just wouldn’t have to carry around any of the guilt over his death.

It’s been a rough couple days, and the drama isn’t quite over yet. I’m dying for some peace.

Taking My Place

My wife is in love with Bruce Springsteen. This is not a joke. She would unquestionably leave me for Bruce Springsteen given the chance. I have learned to live with this fact.

Today she watched his new Netflix special, the title of which I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you it was filmed during one of the performances of his Broadway show. I watched with her so I could demonstrate my security or something. (Or maybe I was scouting the competition. I can’t really say.)

At one point in the show he recounted his experience with the draft process and men he knew who were drafted and died in the Vietnam War. He spoke of meeting Ron Kovic and visiting the Wall in Washington, D.C. At the end he said, “Sometimes I wonder who went in my place… because somebody did.”

That, in a nutshell, is why I enlisted. Some day I will write that whole story. Today I was given a little reminder and just needed to let that out.

This is the bed I slept in during much of my time in Afghanistan because I am feeling lazy and nostalgic today.

I Had Such a Good Day That I Almost Forgot To Not Give a Shit

I had a great day today. In fact, it was so great that I almost forgot to write something for today.

I had to get up much too early, but that wasn’t so bad. I ran into a former client on my way into work. He’s off probation several months early and was spending time with his family. These things were made possible in part by his doing some right things and learning how to be a better person.

Soon after arriving at work, another now-former client arrived to do his exit interview. He’s doing much better in life and expressed his gratitude to me and my boss for our help in his getting to where he is now. I reminded him that he was the one that put in the work to make those changes.

My work day was comprised mostly of a special session for people who have missed recent group sessions. It was a mixed bag of dudes from some of my different weekly groups. Despite their unfamiliarity with each other, they were able to open themselves up and share about the things that brought them to my program, some things they’ve learned, and how their lives have improved. Again, I reminded them all that it was their own work that really made the difference.

I’ve been doing this job for just shy of a year now. I’ve shared a few success stories here. There are plenty of failure stories. Lots of people wash out. Many of them end up back in the criminal justice system. It’s sad to see, but they’re also a reminder of how little power I truly have.

Often the people who succeed express their gratitude and appreciation to me. I always remind them that it’s because of their own work because that is part of what I’m trying to help them learn. My clients who learn to take responsibility for their own lives are the ones who succeed. The ones who fail are always the ones who don’t.┬áThe most miserable, least successful people I know all fail to take responsibility for their own lives.

I tell my clients all the time that the key to the rest of their lives is not to convince the world that they’re innocent. (Besides, they’re not.) Similarly, it doesn’t really matter how bad their offense was. The key is to acknowledge what they’ve done and demonstrate that they’ve learned.

I’ve been all across the world and met all kinds of different people. All of us (emphasis US) are capable of doing terrible things. In fact, I told a client recently that I’d rather fix someone like him up with a loved one than I would with some other people I’ve known with perfectly clean records.

I don’t make excuses for violence. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The people who come into my program have no excuse for what they’ve done. So may of them, though, don’t even try to make excuses. They don’t want a pass for what they’ve done, and they accept the consequences for their bad deeds. And that to me is what makes me want to help them achieve a second chance.

(Having come to that point, some might think I’ve changed my mind about the Listening Ear allowing convicted rapists to answer their crisis lines. Absolutely not. I’ll write more about this in the near future.)

One Year Later I Feel Fine

On this day a year ago I was fired for advocating on behalf of a co-worker who had been sexually harassed.

I was thinking about writing the whole big story, but I’m tired and lazy. Worry not, though. The time will come when I tell it all. Today I’ll just focus on the aftermath.

I was out of work for just two weeks. I happened upon a Craigslist ad for a group facilitator/educator. That sounded right in my wheelhouse, having spent so many years facilitating groups for a crisis center about which I’ve written a fair amount. (I’ll let you look around for that.)

The job is difficult but incredibly rewarding. I work for a boss who is honest and supportive. As I’ve written about before, my work weeks can be crazy and busy, but I have to say I love my job.

The irony is I was fired for threatening a supervisor (not true), and now I work with people who have committed violent crimes. I help them learn how to live better lives and (hopefully) stay out of trouble. Many of them do (although definitely not all), and better yet, I constantly learn how to live a better life myself. It often leads me to speculate how I might’ve done things differently a year ago. Ultimately, I have no regrets and hold my head high, knowing I stood up for what is right.

As for this supervisor I allegedly threatened, he was allowed to keep his job and go right back to work after admitting to his sexual harassment. At least for a while. He was demoted some weeks later and fired within a few months. (I’ll let you speculate as to why.)

My former employers offered me several paychecks’ worth of money to delete that and not speak ill of them. “But I’m glad to choose integrity over a paycheck.” Such were my words right after getting fired. I didn’t forget, nor will I ever.

The road to justice is sometimes a long one, and mine certainly has been. The truly important thing, though, is that one year later I’m doing fine despite my bump in the road.