72 hours earlier

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“Excuse me?” I said, somewhat incredulous.

“We’re going to have to commit you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You exhibited signs of mental deficiency and imbalance, so we’re taking you in for a voluntary 72-hour hold and examination.”

“Signs? What signs?”

“Signs of mental deficiency and imbalance.”

“Yes, you said that,” I said. “What did I do? What are the symptoms?”

“You said something inappropriate to a co-worker.”

“What did I say?”

“I’m embarrassed to repeat it.”

“Which co-worker?”

“That’s confidential.”

“OK,” I said, dubious. “What else?”

“What do you mean?”

“You said ‘signs,’ plural. What other evidence do you have of my mental deficiency and imbalance?”

“Well, for one thing, you’re raising your voice.”

“Wouldn’t you?”

The other paused a beat too long. “No.”

“You wouldn’t raise your voice if someone falsely accused you of being crazy?”

“Please; we don’t use that word.”

“Well, I do,” I said. “THIS is crazy. I’m not going.”

“You have to.”

“You said it’s a voluntary 72-hour hold and examination. If it’s voluntary, I’m not going.”

“We’re taking you in to protect yourself and the community. Under the court decision Sherman v. Peabody, we have the right to detain you voluntarily for 72 hours while we –”

“It’s not voluntary if I have to be detained!!”

“See? This is why you need help. You’ve lost an understanding and respect for authority.”

Disclaimer: This is fiction, as far as I can determine.

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the safe place

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Here in the safe place, I am protected from all the hate and rage and pinpricks and shoves and the microaggressions. You can’t touch me in here. It’s not allowed.

I see you out there, but I am safe. You run away, free, flying in the wind, turning your face to the sun, smiling, with all your dangerous thoughts and risks, but I am safe.

I can no longer see the world in all its colors and I can no longer hear the words that challenge what I believe, and I can no longer feel the wind that would turn my direction toward some other and new and challenging place; I am safe.

Safe inside these four walls with only this worldview, this way of life. No one here to tell me I am wrong or mistaken or misguided. I am safe.

You keep your freedom, I don’t want it. Nor do I need it, here in my safe place.

W.B.’s Book Report: Men in War

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The first book I’ve read that was recommended by Haunted Bookshop owner Roger Mifflin, Men in War by Andreas Latzko is a scream of rage and unimaginable pain, a primal scream against the inhumanity that Latzko endured as a soldier of Austria-Hungary on the River Isonzo front against Italy in 1916. If I didn’t understand what men in war have been through, now I have an inkling. The book is a powerful, life-changing experience that I must force myself to read again soon.

Men in War is a novel with six chapters, more accurately described as six short stories, linked mainly by the front and by the unrelenting despair and senselessness of the situation. This is a book that should shake the reader to the core. No wonder the Hitler regime had it burned – it exposes far too much of what the war machine is all about.

“My Comrade (A Diary),” the fourth chapter, is a bomb – a rant of common sense from a man diagnosed as mentally ill because he carries the memories of the men he has seen destroyed by war and he cannot fathom the insanity that did them such harm. It’s a clear peek behind the haunted eyes of those who have seen the same: We see that such memories cannot possibly be compartmentalized or tucked away forgotten. I would guess they can only be endured a best as one can.

Latzko wrote Men in War (Menschen im Krieg) during his rehabilitation from physical and psychic injuries sustained during his service; he served on the Isonzo front during 1916, suffering malaria and then severe shock from a heavy Italian artillery barrage. After eight months in the hospital, he moved to Davos, Switzerland, for further recuperation and rehab, where he wrote the book in 1917.

This is the book that Christopher Morley, through Mifflin, says “was so damned true that the government suppressed it.” One prays Latzko got some relief by letting the words pour out of his fingers. He does a service to humanity by sharing the inhumanity he witnessed and by letting us see and feel the damage done to his heart and soul.

Here is a link to the book at Project Gutenberg.

(Photo: © Andrew Emptage | Dreamstime.com Preserved trench network at Sanctuary Wood near Ypres on the Western Front battlefields of the first world war. Photo taken on March 10, 2010)

So this is how liberty dies: With thunderous applause

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Senator Padme Amidala’s line during Emperor Palpatine’s speech, above, is the most chillingly effective moment in all of the Star Wars prequel movies. It’s also as true an observation as in any 21st century work of art.

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 around the same concept: Tyranny often happens by popular demand. Bradbury’s society that banned and burned books evolved because books made people uncomfortable enough to want them gone. The government didn’t impose book burning; the public demanded it.

It’s fascinating to watch, whenever Something Happens, as discussion emerges around what laws could be instituted to prevent a similar Something from Happening again. These proposed new laws are always even more restrictive than the laws that failed to prevent the Something that Happened. The underlying proposition is that the solution to evil acts is further shrinking freedom for those who are not inclined to commit evil acts.

Talking heads with nothing to say repeat the mantras that have accomplished nothing to date, in an endless insane kabuki dance. The laws are enacted to thunderous applause, which ends the next time Something Happens, and then the dance begins again.

One day, people stop talking about liberty altogether. Freedom is just too uncomfortable, too dangerous to be allowed.

And soon, Something Happens anyway.

Iron Fist: Not terrible

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An interesting battle is raging in the land of binge-TV watching that reflects, to a certain extent, the professional wrestling match that U.S. politics has become. The people are tired of accepting what an elite group of thinkers tells them to think.

Marvel’s Iron Fist is the fourth in a series of 13-episode television series based on some of the comics megacorporation’s second tier of superheroes. The movie blockbusters get Captain America and the Hulk; Netflix gets Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, with Daredevil – who flopped financially with what I thought was a pretty good movie – the most well-known of the bunch.

In the days before the show’s March 17 debut on Netflix, the critics spoke, based on a preview of the first six episodes of Iron Fist: They hated it. Continue reading

Exorcising the bogeyman

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My experience is that people just want to carve out a niche, to make a living, to enjoy this life, to to seek a better live, to live and let live. Everything goes fine until it doesn’t, and it’s usually the bogeyman’s fault – except it isn’t.

Who is this bogeyman? He comes in different shapes and sizes. Once upon a time he was an evil villain or monster used to scare children into staying in bed where it was safe (more or less – also to be avoided was under the bed!) – and as time went on, we find that politicians and less subtle warlords use bogeymen to create fear and anger. We also use bogeymen of our own making to scare ourselves into not venturing forth into new territory.

Sometimes, though, we take steps despite the fear of the bogeymen. We actually go off to fight the bogeyman and discover he is really a creature much like ourselves, as the fighters in World War I discovered when they had a spontaneous Christmas Truce and interacted in comfort and joy until the holiday ended and they went back to the butchery.

One person’s bogeyman, carefully examined, is usually just some other person trying to carve out their niche – if you look without fear and hate, you find not bogeymen but just folks trying to live and let live.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all looked around and discovered that the bogeyman never existed? Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t blame anyone for our troubles (except maybe ourselves) and instead took those troubles and just worked through them?