Monday, March 28, 2005

In Pursuit of Happiness: Red Lake, drug company profits, Columbine, Jordan & Jimi Hendrix

The moment I heard about the tragic shooting in Minnesota the other day, my first question was, "What anti-depressant was that kid taking?" The moccasin telegraph supplied the answer immediately.

"The last time [Jeff Weise] saw a mental health professional at the Red Lake hospital was on Feb. 21, [his grandmother] said. She remembers the date because it was the same day he refilled his prescription for 60 milligrams a day of Prozac, which he had been taking since last summer." That's a hecka lot of Prozac!

But what else can we do when we see teenagers in trouble? What can we do to help teenagers like Jeff Weise -- who appear to be extremely troubled? Or even to help more normal teens like my daughter's friend Jordan? What are our options?

I got an e-mail yesterday from a concerned mother I know. "My son is having trouble in school," she told me. "Do you think I should send him to a military academy or a behavior modification program?" Or put him on Ritalin or Prozac or house arrest? Or just lock him in the closet....

Last week at a park located in a "safe neighborhood" in my home town, a teenage girl walked up to an older woman, pulled out a knife and slashed the woman's throat. The girl had never seen the woman before in her life.

It's time to stop talking about what car we're going to buy next or what breath mint is better or whether George Bush is eligible for sainthood and start talking about the mental health of our children.

Let's talk about Columbine and Red Lake and Fallugah and all the other places where American teenagers have gone crazy. Let's talk about Duwayne down the block from me who is back in juevie for the tenth time for -- among other things -- drugs, rape and armed robbery. And he is not yet 16.

And while we're at it, let's also talk about the millions of ADULT Americans who are on anti-depressants such as Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa and Prozac.

Let's talk about the holy aura on the faces of the readers of the Left Behind series and the prescription bottles one inevitably finds in their medicine cabinets.

Why are all these people, living in a time and place that has more opulence than any other time and place in history, turning to violence and/or drugs?

Salt Lake City, Utah is the "Prozac Capital of the Nation". Their use of anti-depressants is three times greater than the rest of America. And their suicide rate is three times greater too.

I only make $15,500 a year and I have a standard of living that would make Queen Elizabeth the First or Julius Caesar turn green with envy.

In America, even the homeless on the street can get silk blouses out of the free box that, in historical times, would have made the Queen of Sheba or Emperor of China positively DROOL.

Yet we have more people on drugs, in prison and desperately unhappy than any country this side of Afghanistan.

Young Jordan's parents make 100K a year -- and they have home equity! Yet Jordan was shipped off to a behavior modification school in the wilds of Montana because his parents claimed that he was "unhappy". And, before that, they tried to get Jordan to take Effexor and Paxil. Jordan obstinately refused but his brother Nathan took them. Did this result in a happy childhood for Nathan? What do YOU think?

Young Eric Harris, one of the shooters at Columbine, was also taking anti-depressants. "Eric was forced onto these drugs," stated Mark Taylor, one of his victims, "and I feel sorry for him, like so many other kids who are put on these drugs. I don't have ill feelings against him since I don't think you can hold him accountable, because he didn't know what he was doing."

Young Jeff and young Eric were crying out for help before they shot up their school yards. Young Christoper Pittman was put on anti-depressants that were too strong for him and now he is spending the rest of his life in jail for murder.

With Bush sending all our money to his friends in high places, our children's schools, recreation centers and libraries are closing. These are the resources we used to rely on to help us when our kids got in trouble. Now we have to look for answers elsewhere. The rich solve their children's' problems by sending them "away". The rest of us just sit our kids down in front of the TV. Right-to-life types read Reverend Dobson and get out the paddle. But is anything working?

Actually, yes.

There are a lot of American kids who are turning out okay. And every single one of these Super-Children have the same things in common -- they are given respect, trust and responsibility at an early age. They are not spanked. They are not spoiled. By their parents' example, they are taught compassion and fairness and justice from an early age. They are given access to the finest teachers and education. They are not put on drugs at the earliest sign of creativity. And they are protected and loved.

Forget about spending our money on buying "empire" for the rich folks. Forget about buying all the stuff we see on TV. Happiness -- for ourselves and our children -- comes from Doing Meaningful Stuff. Everything else is a waste. The SUV in your driveway is a waste. The jockeying for position by the vultures in the halls of our Congress is a waste. Anti-depressants are a waste. Iraq is a waste. These things have obviously not made us -- or our children -- happy.

Instead, let's spend our money on Yellowstone National Park, Parkside School and seeking the ideals of people like Rosa Parks.

If we are going to spend our money creating "Million Dollar Babies," let's make sure that the millions we spend no longer go to arms manufacturers and drug companies.

And, speaking of drug company rip-offs, when it comes to vaccinating our babies, less is more. "But if we didn't vaccinate our children, they would die!" you may say. Sure, four or five vaccines are a good thing but giving 20 or 30 shots to a baby under the age of two? That's overkill.

Tattoo this on your arm, guys. "CORPORATIONS DO NOT HAVE AMERICA'S BEST INTERESTS AT HEART." Maybe that will get you to start thinking about what will make us happy.

So. I've covered just about every other subject under the sun. But what about Jimi Hendrix?

Jimi is my hero. Why? Because he had a terrible childhood -- yet managed to transform his anguish into creativity. Plus somebody just told me that the place I live in was built on the exact spot where Jimi lived when he was two years old. How cool is that? Me and Jimi Hendrix! I should go put a plaque in front of my house.

From "Amy goes to Egypt": Then we boarded the plane to Cairo and it was only 12 midnight -- we had 11 hours left to go! Amy was holding up really well. Even I was. Did I mention that the American Airlines stewardess on the flight to New York went to South San Francisco High School? Just up the road from my high school? South City boys were cute and sexy and dangerous. Sort of the 1950s equivalent of Eminem.