I truly appreciate your paper’s coverage of the mental health [coverage] cuts and the recent rally to protest them (“Mental health cuts stir controversy,” Oct. 4).
I truly appreciate your paper’s coverage of the mental health [coverage] cuts and the recent rally to protest them (“Mental health cuts stir controversy,” Oct. 4). However, I was deeply disturbed by information in the article that is incorrect and damaging to people living with serious mental illness (diagnoses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, etc.) and the movement to ensure their care. A local CEO/organizer was quoted stating that perhaps 80 percent of her clients with mental illness could become violent if off their medications. It’s very disheartening that such misinformation persists even in people who serve this vulnerable population.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people disabled by SMI are, in fact, 10 times more likely to be the VICTIMS of violent crime than the general population. Only 3 to 5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with SMI diagnoses. Multiple peer-reviewed academic journal articles have replicated these statistics.
I have worked clinically with people experiencing SMI since 2004, and the vast majority of them have violent trauma backgrounds (histories of being abused/neglected in childhood, raped/sexually assaulted, experienced domestic violence, muggings/beatings, etc.) They are not scary or dangerous people, but they often have survived scary and dangerous assaults. We should not ensure the funding to provide their care because we fear being victimized by them, but because it is the just and human thing to do. If we are looking for fiscal reasons to do so, paying for emergency room visits and homeless shelters is far more costly than providing regular outpatient mental health care. And while it’s true that prisons are the largest providers of “inpatient” mental health care in our country, that is due to systemic deficiencies in the mental health system, not because people living with mental illness are violent. The vast majority of people with SMI in prison are not there for a violent offense. It’s also important to note that with appropriate treatment, people with SMI diagnoses can lead productive and fulfilling lives, with the same family, employment and citizen participation as everyone else.
In his comments on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said attempts at “mob rule” by left-wing protesters to disrupt the Kavanaugh hearings cannot become the “new normal.” Really, senator? Consider the new normal your party has brought to the White House and America in the form of Donald J. Trump. Consider the rise of very ugly elements in this country embodied by various white supremacy groups, groups emboldened by this administration.Please tell us all about the “new normal,” senator.
An open letter to Boozman, Cotton
This is the last communication that I will ever issue to your office. In the past, I have sent the occasional online message or even telephoned to discuss certain concerns with your very helpful and respectful staff. I have had the belief, perhaps wrong, that your staff actually entertained my concerns and understood them to be valid, even if you yourself later voted contrary to my wishes. However, I cannot maintain any longer the fiction that you actually respect your constituency, and thus I see no purpose in contacting your office and sharing my concerns in the future.
The catalyst for this decision is your vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Let us dispense with the compelling allegations against him regarding both reported sexual assaults and his documented history of drinking alcohol to excess. Let us focus, instead, upon his opening statement at the Sept. 27, 2018, hearing, during which he made unfounded accusations against people on the left end of the political spectrum and asserted, without proof, that the Clinton family had orchestrated a campaign of revenge against him. In that moment, he signaled to the whole United States that, as a judge, he would be serving not the interests of all Americans but, instead, the interests of the Republican Party only. By voting for him, you, too, signaled your approval of the idea that the mechanisms of justice are likewise to be reserved only for members of the Republican Party.
As a political independent, this means to me that you have no interests at all in representing me or other Arkansans who are not members of your political party. I have, for perhaps longer than was realistically feasible, believed that people of different viewpoints could come together and actually implement policies that would make the lives of ordinary Americans better. I was raised by military parents with values that could generally be described as conservative and cast my first presidential vote for Sen. Bob Dole in 1996. Even though I had significant disagreements with President George W. Bush’s policies, I could admire his creation, like President Bill Clinton before him, of a Cabinet that “looked like America,” as well as the respect with which he treated his political opponents, as when he turned to Nancy Pelosi during a State of the Union address and expressed pride in being the first president to say the words “Madame Speaker.” In my own line of work, I labor greatly to get input from people with a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints, to represent a world beyond my own ideas, to not only change minds but allow my own mind to be changed when new information arises. In short, I believe that there are a variety of ways in which we can make this world a better place and that attaining anything like the abstract concept of justice entails being willing to listen to one another and being open to a wealth of evidence.
You, however, do not, as you have made clear with your vote for Kavanaugh. By putting on the bench someone who operates as such a rank partisan, with no interest in justice beyond how it serves his own narrow, privileged clique, you have demonstrated a willingness to pollute, with your own partisan anger, an institution that once had as its central concern the benefit of all Americans. Too, by holding up the nomination of Merrick Garland for more than a year, and by threatening to hold up any nomination for the next four years had Hillary Clinton won the presidential election, you made public your private conviction that democracy only “works” when it is working for Republicans. You have demonstrated that because I am not a Republican, someone like me should not expect justice at the Supreme Court — and thus, I should not expect representation by you in your official capacity as a senator, even if my concern touches upon matters personal rather than political questions.
As I mentioned, I was born to military parents. They met at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where my father (U.S. Marine Corps) was studying Thai, while my mother (U.S. Army) was studying Czech. Both of them had the aim of serving in military intelligence, and although my mother had to leave the Army after marriage, my father continued his service. I was born in the 1970s at the Naval Air Station on the island of Guam during a period of great tumult for Southeast Asia. My parents told me that the language instructors at DLI were often refugees now working with the U.S. government with the hope of aiding in the defeat of those regimes then ruling their respective home countries. In the eyes of communist-run Czechoslovakia, my mother’s teacher would have been considered a traitor, but he, as you might expect, viewed his “betrayal” in a different light, hoping to see his nation freed from partisan tyranny and made whole again with a government that could represent all of its people.
I have lived under several different presidents in my life, and never have I agreed with all of their policies. However, even in my darkest hours, I have never entertained the thought that I could one day turn traitor upon this country. But now is different. Now, we have a president who openly encourages white supremacists and who mocks survivors of sexual assault. Now, we have government agencies rolling back protections for individuals in the name of removing “burdensome regulation,” even though American companies are reportedly doing better now than they have in the past decade. Now, we have an internal policing agency placing immigrant children in cages and deporting their parents. And now, we have a Senate that has eagerly embraced a nakedly partisan hack and promoted him to a job that should be reserved only for those who believe that justice and truth just might lie beyond the narrow prescriptions of a political platform. In other words, you have de-legitimized the U.S. Supreme Court, and in the process you have also de-legitimized your own position as a U.S. senator. You have made it clear that the interests of Arkansans and Americans as a whole do not lie within your purview, and thus you have made it clear that you only represent members of the Republican Party. I therefore see no reason to appeal to you in the future.
Goodbye, senator. You will not hear from me again.