Sunday, April 22, 2018

To all DSH staff

Most of you just do your jobs, collect your pay and try to stay out of trouble. There’s something noble about that, especially in the context of working for the state. It harkens back a bit, to the Greatest Generation of Americans who boarded ships at age nineteen or twenty in 1942, went overseas and fought the war just because they were told it was their job.

Then in 1946, they were suddenly told their new job was to come home, make money and have babies. So they followed those orders and did that, too.

My father-in-law spoke of how everyone who was over there knew MacArthur was full of shit with his “I have returned!” moment, in front of all the cameras in the Philippines. Bob also remembered landing in a Japanese village a few days after the Nagasaki bomb, and while out in his Jeep scouting for fuel, arriving at the perimeter of what had recently been a city but was all dust in a flash. His cousins saw things just as bad in Europe. They all had good reason for utter, life-long cynicism and chronic depression.

I knew these men when they were fighting over the check for dinner in suburban restaurants, with their families there laughing at them. They’re all gone now, but I remember them as wonderful, noble people. They never wanted a better compliment than simply that they did their jobs.

Maybe some of you guys can imagine that as you respond to another code white, or check your computer for correct authorization or change the wording of your clinical note at the request of a superior, you are doing a job as right and as important as driving a Higgins boat full of terrified men toward a beach, or straining to see the approaching Panzers through a dark, frozen forest.

But I rather doubt that. Maybe it would be a symptom of major mental illness anyway, don’t tell Malis, he’ll drug you for sure.

When you see something that you know is wrong, somebody lying, somebody covering up, abusing patients, failing and refusing to help, you have to report it. That’s your job. It might seem hard and dangerous once in awhile, but it’s not as bad as being in a cold foxhole or almost to a beach.

It’s a funny thing, too, how putting all your attention and all your effort into staying out of trouble can make you a real magnet for bullets.

Psychiatria delenda est!

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