Thursday, November 6, 2008

How things change

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The recent election made me think of how things change.

I grew up in a place the likes of which does not even remotely exist anymore, a 1940's and 50's mental hospital.

For twelve years, I was a teacher, and we used to watch what I called the parade of standardized tests. First there was one test, and then another to test children's competency. Why did that occur? Mainly because people wanted to make their mark on the system. They wanted to say, "The old way doesn't work. I know a better way."

That's a natural human tendency, I guess, to want to make your mark on the system, but sometimes it leaves out the people who should be served. The purpose of anything we do to serve others is not to elevate ourselves but to make things better, more hopeful, more peaceful or whatever. Barack Obama said that. I hope he governs according to that principle.

A few days ago, I wrote about Kirkbrid Buildings. They were created in the hope of reforming a horror-filled system for the care of the mentally ill. And they themselves became, at least in many places, buildings filled with difficulty and sometimes even horror. But is the system a whole lot better today? In some places, surely, but in others, really not. Our prisons are filled with the mentally ill. And many mentally ill people live under bridges and on heat grates.

When I think about my motivation for writing the Roy Rogers novels, it is to do my little part in reminding people that mentally ill people are just people. There are good ones and there are people who have gotten off the moral track, but they are just people. They deserve the same care and justice that all people deserve.

I am no expert on mental illness. I am just a person who grew up in a particular place and I want the people I grew up with remembered. I have come to love my Roy Rogers, Harry, Nevaeh and the others. They are all fictional people, but they remind me of all kinds of real people. All those real people were individuals who were very different than my characters, but they were real people.

So some things change, and some things still need work. This society needs to pay more attention to bringing humane caring to the problems of the mentally ill. The mentally ill are still among the left out and forgotten. And that's not as it should be.

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