20/20 hindsight toward history
The Gazette columnist, David Ramsey, in his June 16 opinion article, revealed his anti-Southern bias and lack of knowledge about why young Americans respond to the call of military duty. As a Vietnam veteran, I had responded to President John F. Kennedy’s words to “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I suspect that my three great-grandfathers who responded to their country’s calls to arms felt the same, as did World War II, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. But they were all American soldiers, and we should honor them.
Ramsey focuses on General Robert E. Lee as an American traitor and presents a revisionist view of one of the greatest soldiers produced by America. Gen. Lee was a top graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, recognized as a hero in the war with Mexico, later selected as the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, then assigned to Texas to protect Americans against raiding Indians.
When his state of Virginia seceded in April 1861, he was conflicted. Unlike many Southerners who expected a glorious war, Lee correctly predicted it as protracted and devastating. Lee’s objection to secession was ultimately outweighed by a sense of personal honor toward his state. He went on to command a Southern army deficient in numbers of men, arms and supplies and defeated most Union generals and forces until overcome by numbers and Union Gen. Ulysses Grant.
Was Lee “another flawed American slaveholder,” as Ramsey states in his opinion piece? No more so than every one of our Founding Fathers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others who wrote the Constitution and formed our country. But one cannot formulate judgment of these men and Gen. Lee based upon today’s enlightened standards, as Ramsey has done. Nor can a writer cherry pick examples of 1850s slave mistreatment based on abolitionist newspaper articles of the time.
Was the Civil War a grave mistake that resulted in the deaths of thousands of young Americans who are buried in graveyards throughout the U.S.? Yes. Was the war in Vietnam the same? Yes. The decisions that led to those wars were made by politicians far separated from the soldiers. Let us honor those soldiers wherever they now lay. And let us not believe writers who apply today’s standards with 20/20 hindsight toward history and our ancestors.
This country’s selective history
“Confederate flags fly over the graves of Colorado rebels:”
I applaud David Ramsey’s insightful, sensitive, and logical column of June 16, in the face of an increasingly entrenched “sophist” stance of a great many in this country about its selective history. I hope that it is read widely and that it will spur some to considering this point of view.
The broken mental health system
First, I want to congratulate The Gazette for shining a light on our broken mental health system. You editor’s excellent article on Sunday highlighted some of the problems and offered some excellent solutions.
As a licensed psychologist since 1976, I have been fighting to fix the mental health system in Colorado for many years. Here are some of my ideas on how to fix the broken mental health system in Colorado.
First, we have to spend more money on programs that focus on the prevention of mental health problems. Most mental health problems start in dysfunctional families and that is where we should focus our preventative efforts. There are lots of effective prevention programs that have significantly reduced child abuse and neglect.
The most effective prevention program in the country, that reduced child abuse and neglect to zero, was Hawaii’s Healthy Families Program. In Colorado, Bright By Three is a similar program. Research shows that every dollar spent on prevention of mental health problems costs taxpayers $5-8 more for treatment of these problems. We also need paid family leave so parents can do a better job of parenting.
Editor Vince Bzdek called for more professionals. I say we need more paraprofessionals. We need Peer Support Specialists whose main characteristic is their ability to relate to clients because they have been there themselves. These are people who are recovering from a mental illness or a substance abuse problem. Colorado has been slow to develop training programs that certify Peer Support Specialists. This should be a top priority.
Screening is also an issue that Editor Bzdek mentioned. What needs to happen is that physicians need to screen patients for mental health problems. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Self-Inventory has been used successfully to screen millions of patients with hidden mental health issues that are affecting their physical health. At a California Clinic, the only thing they added to their intake protocol was the ACE Inventory. So when a patient was examined, the doctor asked questions based on the results of their ACE Inventory. The result was a 30 percent reduction in patient visits in the following year. This should be required in Colorado.
Finally, another area where the mental health system is broken is focusing on treating symptoms and not causes of mental illnesses. When you treat the causes of the problem you have a better chance at full recovery.
For example, we know from extensive research findings, that the long-term effects of childhood trauma is the most common cause of later mental illnesses. Mental health experts say it is too expensive to treat these causes; all we can do is relieve the symptoms of mental illnesses. This, in my opinion, is a very short-sighted approach. There are many new treatments that effectively help clients heal these effects, if treated by mental health professionals and paraprofessionals trained in trauma-informed care.
Barry K. Weinhold, Ph.D.