Okay, so I’m finally over my infatuation with that reddish yellow place enough to step up and venture writing something with the Meeses. Not the brilliant, insightful political analysis you guys knock out on a regular basis. I leave that to you experts. Those of you who were familiar with me at that other place know that I’m mostly about slices of life and veterans affairs. This is kind of a little of both.
I went to the VA today. To the Mental Health Clinic, where I spend a whole lot of time. As often as my head has been shrunk over the years it’s a wonder I can still find a hat small enough to fit. First session of what is for me a brand new program, they call it Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
It’s kind of a hybrid between group therapy and straight up classes. We’re supposed to learn stuff, and put it into action between our fellows (gender neutral, one female participant). The range in my group seemed to run from barely holding it together to doing pretty well, but still needing some help. Pretty typical for VA therapy groups I’ve participated in.
It’s a two hour session, with a fifteen minute break in the middle. Most guys used the head and came right back. The facilitators took the entire fifteen.
So while we’re waiting for the boss ladies to come back some of the guys got to chatting. One said something or other about how things “used to be”, maybe the conversation was about technology, how we “oldsters” weren’t up on game boxes, or X boys, or whatever that stuff is called. And then this little dude, late fifties, maybe sixty, younger than me, said “Before Obama”.
It wasn’t so much what he said. It was how he said it. I plainly heard “before the n*****”.
Anger management has never really been one of my strong suits. Not all that many years ago I’d have leapt across the table and bounced his scrawny butt off the wall before explaining, in a Lyndon Johnson lean, that “You’re in a United States Government VA hospital. To get in this building you had to walk past his picture hanging on the wall. That’s the President of the United States you’re talking about, the Commander in Chief. He deserves your respect”.
There would have been little fear of arrest. Unless you draw blood or break a bone the folks at the VA are pretty understanding. It’s the Mental Health Clinic fer gawd’s sake. Crazy people are run of the mill. They’d have called security, I’d have been escorted off the property, maybe even banned for a while, and only allowed back under promise of good behavior. But that would have been about it.
But my better angels prevailed and I sat there in silence, not even glaring. I waited until the rest of the group returned, including the facilitators, and immediately commanded the floor.
“We need a rule,” I said, “no partisan politics inside that door,” pointing at the door to the conference type room we were in. “What happened,” the lead faciltator asked, “did somebody say something?”
“Yes, ” I replied, “I’m not going to single anyone out, but a remark was made that clearly didn’t belong in here.” And the rule was declared.
The sawed off red neck squirt hardly muttered a word for the remaining hour, occasionally shooting me an unfriendly glance, but everything about his demeanor and body language said he won’t be back next week.
After all the stuff that’s been going on about race this past while I was in less than no mood to listen to racist spew. I don’t know if I’ll ever be again.
Believe me, it pains me to see another veteran not get the mental health help he needs. I hope he gets it, somewhere, sometime, down the road. Before he runs into another vet, maybe a Black one next time, who hasn’t been working on anger management as hard as I have.
It might not be the mental health clinic he winds up in.