Many voices make one think

Back when I worked as a therapist in a mental health center, a psychiatric clinic, we charted our contacts with our patients. The medical model soon took over other approaches to “community mental health” work and we charted by identifying the “presenting complaint” and following that with a diagnosis and prescription for treatment. It was called a treatment plan.
Fortunately, after several years of that, we started a program specifically for children and families and our director was a behaviorist. I was in no way a behaviorist but much of that approach as a therapeutic model presented itself.
What stood out was the formulation of the treatment plan. Rather than eliminating the complaint, the problem, the obstacle to life adjustment, we were to focus on engendering alternative behaviors in the client – note the change in terminology from patient to client. In fact, it had the effect of flooding the client with positive behaviors, often building on already existing behaviors but amplifying them (“What do you like to do? You like to hike. Well, how about getting that friend you talked about and just going out to Papago Park with a lunch,” etc.).
In reading the recent (Nov. 5) issue of the NY Review of Books with its multitude of short reflections by many people on the looming election and the results of the last four years (and back beyond that), the citations of disasters besetting us led me to that old place where I composed a treatment plan, one for US.
We have so much positive in our country, so many wonderful people (dare I say, like Joe Biden?) who can stand with us for all that the Trumpers have tried to destroy: decency, honor, respect, brains, friendship, learning, science and scholarship, integrity, truth-telling, gentleness, kindness, generosity, in short, all that Trump has submerged in his rallies and in his administration.
True, some of us did not know how bad it was. Others of us have tried to talk about it without much resonance. But Trump tore the bandage off, pulled the blinders off, removed the cone of forgetfulness.
We must rebuild on the basis of the values that have always been extant in this nation. For many, the blinders have indeed fallen away. A personal example but from the NYRB issue:
Over a year ago, my wife and I attended a lecture by Mark Lilla, a prominent liberal. See my Mark Lilla Encounters My Wife blog entry for 10/10/18 – Lord! Two years ago). His message was that Democrats were embracing identity politics and that was a bad idea. Those reading the NYRB may have read his article on that some time back. When he descended from the dais, my wife made a bee-line for him and buttonholed him for 20 minutes, kindly pointing out the biggest and longest-lasting identity group in the country: White people. He looked a bit stunned and quickly left.

In his piece for the NYRB, he wrote the following gut-punch comment: “On your laptop you saw a Black man, George Floyd, murdered by a police officer. You were aware that these things happened, but now you knew it in the marrow of your bones. And I was ashamed that it took me this long to get it.” !!!

So he admits that when my wife was haranguing him, he didn’t get it. Progress.

Sadly, he follows that with citations of riots and looting and all those occasions for deviance that accompany any mass protest in the streets. To complain about these is like citing drunks at football games as a reason to ban football. Unless one throws up on you, ignore him. Looting and rioting do need attending to but they are not what is going on; several hundred thousand people marching through American streets all over the country, people from all backgrounds, to say “enough” with out-of-control cops and D.A.s is what is going on.  shows the fear of the cosseted liberal whose reading schedule might be disturbed.

Nevertheless, Lilla wants a good country. He is not enough afraid to wish for Trump to be reelected. Besides, the antifa and anarchist folks would be emboldened, as George W. used to say.

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