Monday, January 2, 2023

A Reflection on a Legal Holiday from Many Years Ago

 

A Reflection on a Legal Holiday from Many Years Ago

In my first year of seminary, at our annual off-site retreat, an event occurred, that still sticks with many of us. In many ways, it was deeply personal to me, because I had retired from a 22-year career in the Navy just a few years prior, and this day was Veteran’s Day. For me, the gesture was very powerful and meaningful; the colleague put a flower in a vase on each table at lunch, in honor of the veterans who had served the US in years past. The poppy was a symbol of honoring veterans for many years, but they were not available, so roses were used in their place.

I was deeply touched by this gesture, as I understood the historical significance of the flower, and what it represented. Most of those present did not understand or appreciate it, because it appeared to endorse the extant wars at the time, the “Global War on Terror.”

There are a number of things that those who haven’t served in the military didn’t recognize. First off, until the end of the Viet Nam era, soldiers were conscripted, they didn’t volunteer to serve. This meant that if your number was called, you went, or you had bigger troubles!

With Desert Storm, even though no US assets had been attacked there was a huge surge of patriotism stirred up, and the war was highly supported. It had broad global support as well – after all, how could we sit by and watch one country gobble up another one?  Ironically, we are doing just that these days with the Russia/Ukraine war, since intervening against Russia bears risks and results beyond catastrophic.

After 9/11, of course the surge in patriotism was unbelievably high, and the numbers of people enlisting was unprecedented. Yet even so, the military still needed to call up Guard and Reserve forces like never before to have adequate numbers to staff the battle forces that were called for by President GW Bush.  Were these wars necessary? That’s a topic for another discussion, though.

Since Viet Nam, however, a new phenomenon occurred in the US. Instead of blaming the President, Congress, or the National Command Authority, where blame lies for going to war, American citizens blamed, and attacked, returning soldiers. This attitude continues today. It is considered the military’s fault that we are at war, and if the military would just stop being so militaristic, well, then we could have peace, after all.

The rub is that the Constitution mandates a defense force. We must have a military. The issue is how it is used. And almost every president who has been to war himself understands the significance of that, and has been hesitant to commit to war, and has limited the military actions. On the contrary, presidents who never served in combat, including Clinton, GW Bush, Obama and Trump have kept the military engaged in the Middle East continually for over 30 years.

So, when we want to cast blame, it needs to go inside the Washington Beltway for sure, but it needs to go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NOT to the Pentagon.  The Pentagon does not make the decision to go to war, and it does not declare war on other countries. That is the President and Congress.

And the military troops and veterans at the bottom of the chain of command?  They were following the LEGAL orders they swore an oath to follow. To not follow those orders carries other problems. The military does have procedures such as the conscientious objector, and I have a friend who filed for that status after returning from the Afghanistan war. So PLEASE, do not blame the military personnel and veterans – give them flowers. We really are trying to make peace in the world.

It's the politicians in the White House and Congress who try to make war. Please remember that every election year.

Trans Generations and Generational Trauma related to the Biblical Book of Genesis

 

I recently submitted a scholarly paper for review about generational trauma in the Book of Genesis, in the Hebrew Bible.  Anyone who has ever read Genesis is aware that we are taught to revere the main characters in the book. Yet, if we read the book closely, that just does not make sense.

A husband who sells his wife into sex slavery.  A father who exiles his wife and son, then tries to sacrifice his other son. The “sacrificed” son who then copies what his father did. His wife and their younger son conspire to steal his blessing. That son, Jacob, steals his father-in-law’s flocks. Jacob’s sons conspire to kill, but eventually kidnap and sell into slavery their brother Joseph, while they do many other horrible things.  Their sister Dina, unaware of the risks, walks into a trap, and is taken advantage of by a smooth talker, or raped, depending on which commentaries you read.

This reads like a night-time soap opera! And this is biblical text. What is going on here?

After the Holocaust, the field of generational trauma was developed. Survivors didn’t talk about their experiences, but it was noted that their offspring showed signs of trauma, even when they had not experienced direct trauma themselves.  If that trauma was not addressed, it could be transmitted to the third generation, etc.

We have been aware of PTSD in various forms since WWI, with “shell shock” and its other names. But it wasn’t studied with any intensity until the post Viet Nam/Desert Storm era. Then we began to really understand PTSD. This is about the same time that third generation survivors – people my age, started showing trauma signs.

In my paper, I took these seemingly random and disastrous events, and put them within a framework. Each generation had experienced trauma. That trauma had not been treated and it was transmitted to the next generation. That generation in Genesis experienced more trauma and so on.

By reading Genesis with this lens, we are able to gain an important understanding of this book. We are also able to gain an important pastoral tool.  In my research paper, I show the implications of this knowledge in treating survivors of generational trauma in historically oppressed communities such as Black and Indigenous communities in the US.

But friends, the trans community fits this mold as well. I know quite a number of trans/NB folx who have trans/NB offspring. Quite frankly, I have yet to meet a trans person who does NOT have cPTSD, and for most of us, it remains present to some level or other. So, for those of us who have kiddos, we are at risk of transmitting this trauma to our kiddos as well, whether we are aware of it or not.

Complicating this, as the NTDS details all too well is the denial of adequate mental healthcare for trans/NB folx in the US. Thus, it is really difficult for many of us to get our trauma into remission. And for those who are both trans/NB AND BIPOC? The trauma load is almost unbearable.

So what do we do? First of all, we can’t give up hope.  Now that we know this is an issue, we can deal with it.  If you are the trans/NB parent of a trans/NB kiddo, then watch your kiddo for signs of trauma. If they show ANY signs at all, get them help ASAP. Whether it’s at the Center, the Crisis Center, or if you are fortunate enough to have insurance, your doctor, you MUST act. Your life and your child’s life depend on this.

I have struggled to find meaning and value in Genesis for many years. I know others have as well. I hope this offers some people meaning and hope, and I hope you will take this lesson to heart.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The “Opioid Crisis” and What it Means to Me

    

 

The “Opioid Crisis” and What it Means to Me

 

Most of you who read my blog know that I am a totally disabled veteran and that I live with chronic severe pain. Because of that, I have a very different take on the “Opioid Crisis” than most do, and I’d like to share that here.

There have been a recent spate of settlements in Federal and State lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and large pharmacy chains for producing and dispensing opioids in various fashions.[i] Among these is the vilification of long acting opioids such as MS-Contin, OxyContin, Opana and Avinza.

Avinza was a 24-hour morphine capsule, but it is no longer available in the US.[ii] I can tell you, however, that Avinza enabled me to get my life back. Thus, I deeply resent the way the Government vilified this drug and others like it. Further, the long and delayed release drugs were formulated and constructed in such a way that it was very difficult to break them down to get the drugs out of them, so abusers really had a difficult time with them, contrary to what we may have seen on TV. It is much easier to abuse the immediate release pills, which haven’t been so much of an issue.

The push has been away from opiates to non-opiate therapy. In my case that has been an epic failure.  I have tried every alternative therapy at least twice with no success. Due to my genetic makeup, I do not respond to the drugs used to treat neurological pain (off label usage of anti-seizure drugs). Worse yet, it was just revealed that these drugs are not really effective against neurological pain anyway![iii] And when people suggest I try alternative drugs, my response is that I’ve tried cannabis and psilocybin under doctor’s orders, and they didn’t work either. I will not buy street drugs for many reasons.

The biggest impact that the government actions have had is on those like me, who suffer chronic pain. When the government first acted, it was a “knee-jerk” reaction, and most of us were cut off, essentially cold turkey, from our pain medications. I went through three months of withdrawal, and I literally had several life-threatening reactions to drugs meant to counter the effects of the withdrawal symptoms.

When we are cut off from the narcotics, and after withdrawal is complete, we have three choices.

1        1) Attempt to just live with it, which is what I did for about seven years, until things got so bad, and the pain got so unbearable, that I had to return to a pain doctor and go back on opiates. Yet, despite updated prescribing guidelines, he is still under-dosing me, so most of the time, I am still living with out of control, unmanaged pain. There are, in fact many studies that show that chronic pain literally kills. So this is a horrible option!

2        2) Use alternative therapies – if one is fortunate enough to find an alternative therapy that is successful, that’s wonderful.  As I stated above, none of them worked for me, but I’m sort of unique. Others are more fortunate.

        3) Turn to street drugs. There is, in fact, unfortunately a drug newer than fentanyl on the streets as well. Isotonitazene is a drug reported to be several times stronger than fentanyl, and also imported from China.

Those who have turned to street drugs have brought about (not by their own fault, however) the TRUE Opiate crisis.

Like me, all chronic pain patients develop substantial tolerances to opiates (and in my case Ketamine as well). This means that we need progressively larger doses for effective pain management.

Standard heroin turned out to be largely ineffective for many pain patients. So, the drug cartels contacted the Chinese producers, who mailed them Fentanyl, the extremely powerful synthetic opiate. The cartel then started cutting heroin (and everything else as it turned out) with Fentanyl.  For some users, Fentanyl wasn’t even strong enough, so they accessed CarFentanyl (designed for elephants and rhinoceri).

The issue is that these drugs are so powerful that if non-users such as first responders or others who try to render aid, inhale or touch the drugs, they can instantly go into respiratory arrest. Most do not know the protocols for treating overdoses in this case, and there is usually not enough Narcan (Nalaxone) available on scene to treat a heavy Fentanyl overdose anyway.

The government CAUSED this crisis by ill informed decisions and ignorance. And they refuse to walk it back because of egos. Further the damage has been done with the Fentanyl on the streets.  It’s just too lucrative, so I do not see the cartels willingly making a change, unless they are hugely incentivized by the DEA to do so (and I really do not see that happening either).

But as with all things, change can only come about by an overwhelming push from the electorate, so PLEASE contact your senators, congresspeople, governors, etc., and get the laws changed. Change the course of this opiate crisis so we stop killing people.

And stop prosecuting and persecuting those who provide opiates.  The result is that providers close and patients lose ability to get treatment. There is never a positive outcome from these actions.

I am quite certain that, like many things I say, people will disagree and argue with me vehemently, and that’s fine.  But I’m living with this issue. Unless you are living with it yourself, or have CONSTRUCTIVE ways of addressing the issue, please keep your comments to yourself or post them elsewhere. If you would like me to directly reply to a concern of yours about this, please use my contact form at http://www.rabbahrona.us/p/contact-me_27.html.

 

Thank you, Rona