Monday, June 30, 2008

Pay Now Or Pay Later - A Warning For Parents Of Traumatized Kids

The voice whispered in my ear, "pay now or pay later."

I didn't wanna hear it.

Instead, I kept with my plan: Work full-time and the mandatory two evenings a week, while Xavier went to kindergarten and afterschool daycare. A babysitter picked him up and kept him until 9:30 on two of those nights.

All of that year and the next, the voice was persistent, "pay now or pay later."

I continued to ignore it and raked in a fat income.

Meanwhile, this little boy who had been through friggin' hell in two shitty foster homes and looked like a near-starved child from an impoverished African nation when I got him at three, was suffering, and I, a mental health nimwit therapist, was too selfish and blind to see it.

I rationalized, I justified.

"He's done okay so far,"
I'd whisper back to the voice of my conscience. "Daycare and my mom pitching in to babysit hasn't hurt him so far, and now he'll be in a good private Christian school."

"Not good enough," the voice whispered back.

"F you, what do you know?", I'd retort. "You're just my fears talking to me. He's doing fine... most of the time."

The voice would fall silent at my denial, and I'd try to fall into slumber. This was hard. I could hear Xavier in the next room, banging his head on his pillow, trying to bang away the demons of past neglect so he could fall asleep.

Sometimes at night, the many pillows I had lined against his wall at the head of his bed would fall away. His wall would literally shake as he banged his head into it, again and again and again in his effort to fall back asleep. I'd run into his room, grab him by the ankles and pull him downwards, then place the pillows against the wall again because he'd always edge back up to it in his sleep.

My mother, like me when I first witnessed his head banging behavior in his foster home, was initially aghast. Later she'd joke about it.

"I can picture him on his honeymoon now," she say laughing. "His poor wife won't be able to get a lick of sleep."

We often laugh and crack jokes to lighten the load.

Most children outgrow this form of self-soothing behavior by age three. Boys are three times as likely to do it as girls. However, he's 19 now and still rocks himself to sleep by gently banging his head on his pillow before passing out.

I had a different type of hard head, common to the career mom addicted to a comfortable lifestyle, good money, and having the convenient belief that this emotionally damaged child didn't need a real sacrifice from me: to sell my house and live off the profit as a renter, quit my job for a year or two and and become a stay-at-home mother to give him the undivided attention he missed in his primary years.

I ignored the voice, and I remember the day I noticed he had lost a chunk of his soul. I could see it in his eyes.

We were on a long, Florida vacation in October when the lines are short at Disney & Universal. Xavier was six years old and I hadn't given a second thought to pulling him out of school for the trip since I never met an adult who couldn't spell cat, hat and rat.

In downtown Orlando, I discovered a spooky house of horrors to die for. You'd go on a tour with a group of only six or eight people through dark corridors and into rooms designed to shock you silly. Real actors re-enacted terrifying scenes from classic horror movies and would pop out of nowhere. They were so convincing that adults cringed and screamed and young children unlucky enough to be there hid behind their parents.

Hey, I didn't know it was gonna be that real. Fo' real.


Xavier didn't bat an eye through
any of this.

He was too busy obsessing on the cool, macabre shit he'd glanced at in the gift shop, but couldn't get to because it was our turn to do the tour. Immediately afterwards and while the group was still sweating and tittering over the blood, gore, torture chambers and monsters they'd seen, he couldn't get to the display counter fast enough.

"Xavier," I asked, "didn't any of this scare you?"

"Nuh-uh. I wanna buy somethin'."

It was beyond weird. It was unhealthy and a signal that he had turned a very dangerous corner - torture scenes (evil) didn't scare him. His unnatural greed for possessions scared me.

In the hotel, I watched him role play both good guys and bad with the collection of toy swords, guns and other weapons. It's like he couldn't make up his mind what to be.

Most boys are attracted to superhero figures, but he was equally comfortable slipping into the role of the powerful bad guy. Males in particular and women in general are attracted to raw power. It fits in with the law of survival, aka survival of the fittest.

In politics this usually plays out as voting for the perceived strongest and smartest who claim to the ability to protect us and win any war. In poor urban 'hoods where kids are routinely traumatized from everything associated with poverty and have few visible positive leaders, it manifests as an attraction for the head gangstas in charge.

I studied his behavior with new eyes, and also wondered why the hell this kid seemed utterly fearless. I thought of how he had never been afraid of monsters, but went into full-blown panic attacks if I put him my car and said that where I was taking him was a surprise. I chalked this off to early abandonment issues. That was his monster and he'd been through it before - three times.

The first time he was a few weeks old. As an infant, he had bonded to his birth mother who breast fed him. Someone drove her to Social Services where she willingly signed him over to foster care because she was old enough to realize that her crack lifestyle and raising an infant weren't compatible. It took her four kids to get to this point, but even then she couldn't let go completely. She suckered me into an open adoption.

I honored the deal, which in hindsight, was stupid after she missed half of her once a year Christmastime visits until he was nine. He perceived her no shows as rejection and was going nuts from wanting to know her better. He destroyed everything in sight to have full day or weekend visits at her home.

I should have moved far away to put the burden of buying a plane ticket to see him on her, but I have family in the area and had a good job. After seeing how hard open adoptions with a highly dysfunctional birth mother or family can be on a number of kids including my own, I don't advocate them, but that's another story.

As an infant, he had to bond with his new foster mother because she was all he had. The county closed her home down for neglect when another parent complained and Social Services agreed. Removing a child from his primary caretaker is usually traumatic, even if that person is neglectful or marginally abusive.

At a year old, he was moved from the frying pan and into the fire of another home where this foster mother immediately stripped him of his pacifier and nearly starved him to death. She didn't do this intentionally; she worked long hours, took care of six kids to pay her house note, and didn't have the patience to nurture a picky eater.

The outcome was still neglect. I never had the sense that he bonded with her, and wondered if his ability to emotionally attach to others was going to be an issue. This serious impairment is now called Reactive Attachment Disorder, and word up, it can look like bipolar disorder.

When he left for the last time, he knew it was the last time. He didn't even look back or say goodbye.

I had the best of good intentions, toys, art, puppets, educational games, books. He developed a strong attachment to me and his new grandmother, but this took time.

Puppets and art are an excellent and quick way to get into the mind of child and used in play therapy, which is one of my strengths as a therapist. Be very careful though; when they say shocking things, you absolutely must not 'interrogate' them or you'll freak them out. Leave the gentle probing to a child therapist.

Video games were fairly new as the rage in the early 90s. I bought him several. They distracted him from reality and he could be the powerful character in the video. That's all Mario, Zelda, Street Fighter and the newer video games are or ever will be. You live on the edge and live and die by your mistakes, but you always come back to life.

Limited doses of the tamer games are great for a kid, but children can over-identify with the characters. If the games are violent, they easily become desensitized and lose varying degrees of their capacity to be empathetic.

Xavier was in a Christian summer camp just before he turned five. This was in 1993 and before people knew much about the effects of them. I thought one of staffer was nuts when I overheard her say to another, "Marva, I swear, one of these days, they're gonna find out that Satan lives in those games. That's how he's getting to these children."

This staffer listened to her inner voice and intuition, and shared what she'd heard. I thought it was funny, but over time I wondered, because that lil' mo-fo was tough as nails and for some reason, had no healthy sense of fear. He acted like he an immortal game character and couldn't get hurt.

When Xavier began kindergarten that September, he told me about a bigger boy, a bully, at the school bus stop.

"He's beating up kids. He says I'm next."

"Really?", I replied.

I had to think how I would handle this. The bully's parents were bullies too. One of my good neighbors had the miserable luck to live next door to them. She witnessed the father, a mean-looking cab driver, run over her cat - on purpose - then lie in her face that he didn't and she better back the fuck off. His wife equaled him in being an out and out bitch.

I like to avoid people who love to intimidate and start shit. Easier on the blood pressure and frees up my mind to worry about other things than if they're poisoning my dog when I'm at work.

I finally told him, "Then you go stand at the other bus stop from now on."

"I ain't worried," Xavier said. "I'll fight anyone, anywhere, anytime."

"No you won't," I said. "I mean it."

He defied me and the bully with his screw fear attitude. The next day, he popped that kid in the back of his head as the boy got off the bus in front of him. Then set his azz up to take the fall by running to his house telling his mama, "He tried to hit me. He's hitting all the kids. They gonna kick him outta school."

I'm laughing now. Lil' nigga was political. Forty-five pounds and knew about manipulation and social politics. Xavier stood outside this 3rd grade boy's window and laughed loudly when he heard him get a major azz-whipping, 'cause these folks had too much shit going on for the school to get involved with their life, and then he taunted him outside his window.

I was mesmerized.

"What he do?"

"Opened his blinds and looked mad at me. I gave him the finger and walked away laughin'."


"He's gonna beat yo' azz tomorrow," I said worriedly.

"No he won't, not if knows what's good for him."


And the bully didn't. He must've known that my kid, far smaller than himself, was friggin' possessed. It didn't hurt that Xavier could run fast and laughed the whole time like it was a game. To him it was, and his lack of fear commanded a lot of respect.

How does a human being lose the fear of getting physically hurt in dangerous situations that make others cautious?

Young children who live in high stress, non-nurturing environments are forced to look loneliness and despair in the eye. They often respond to this with extreme behaviors, such as crippling shyness or reckless fearlessness. When they have no fear of adults as well as other kids, they're a pain in neck. Problems at school compounds the problem.

Professionals will resort to a lot of name-calling:

"His poor reading and math skills show that he has learning disabilities."

"He has ADHD, which is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is why he can't sit still or pay attention."

"His chronic non-compliance indicates he has Oppositional-Defiant Disorder."

"It looks like Depression."

"I'm sorry, the mood swings indicate your child suffers from Bipolar Disorder."

"Well, he might be mildly Conduct Disordered. That's the kiddie version of Anti-Social Personality Disorder."

Their remedy: Load him or her up with lots of medication.

Other name-calling may be heard from your folks and neighbors:

"He's bad."

"He ain't depressed. He's just playin' you."

"He's from bad seed. The fruit didn't fall far from the tree. I told you that you were crazy to adopt."

"Maybe Satan gotta hold of him."

"He's just crazy."

Cartoon by Gary Larson

Their remedies: beat his azz, take him to church, strip him of all privileges until he gets his shit together, or worse - send him back to foster care, or if they won't take him and you've got the money, put him a 24 hour facility for out of control children.

Except for sending him away, I tried most of the above remedies by professionals and regulars folks alike. Few worked or worked for long.

It was years before I seriously considered that these formal or informal diagnosis weren't true, even though most never quite felt right. My mind kept returning to the one diagnosis that not a single therapist or hospital considered: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Back then, PTSD was thought to be a soldier's disorder. Even in 2001 when he was 13, they thought he was too young to remember what he experienced up until the age of three and that those events didn't matter too much. Instead, I was told, the fault must lie with his brain. I've always been a free-thinker and and wondered then if they were wrong.

Memories that occur before we are able to think in terms of language generally remains inaccessible to us.

Our five senses, however, remember them. A certain smell, sound, tone of voice, taste, or being touched a certain way can trigger a response and the person has no idea why.

"I've always feared dogs," a therapy client says. "I was told I witnessed one attacking my sister, but I don't remember this."

"I don't know why the smell of cigarettes and beer on a man turn me on," a woman says.

Later she reveals that her father, a good man who died when she was two, smoke and drank a couple beers as he cuddled and played with her when he got home from work each day, but she never connected this with the present.

PTSD is a condition that mimics a lot of different illnesses. The diagnosis is critical because this is what determines treatment.

This brings me back to my very demanding job. The loads of stuff I bought him and variety of caretakers were a poor substitute for what he, and many newly placed foster and adopted children need: intensive mothering. They initially need lots of lap time, cuddling, cookie baking, reading, walks in the park, daily naps, and a peaceful environment with toys, books and games that don't stir up aggression or further desensitize them.

Do this 24/7 and until that voice whispers in your ear that he or she is ready for a half-day school or daycare setting. It may even require a year of home schooling.

Are you thinking ouch yet? Are you picturing those dollar signs disappearing from lost income you wouldn't be making if you bit the bullet, quit your job, and stayed at home?

Pay now or pay later.

PTSD is a monster of gigantic proportions for both the child and his family to deal with. Until the 90s, the mental health profession reserved this diagnosis mostly for emotionally damanged soldiers returning from combat. In children, it looks an awful lot like a lot of disorders including bipolar illness, where the person's mood is a yo-yo and a damnedest things can trigger all sorts of strange behaviors.

It can appear to be a classic Oppositional-Defiant Disorder where he won't do a damn thing you ask no matter how reasonable. The person stuck in this toddler stage of development behaves like a spoiled brat not only to get his way, but more importantly, to avoid feeling like a victim.

I didn't figure this out until he was 13 or 14, and spent a lot of time trying to teach him about the word yes.

"Xavier, saying yes to a reasonable request does not mean you're a sucker or punk.

"But I feel like one when I do," he replied.

It was an a-ha! moment. It still took him nearly four years to move him out of this mental no man's land and to develop insight.

The child scarred by trauma needs to learn this or he'll spend years no'ing you to death and will play your azz to get what he wants or thinks he needs.

Add in ADHD, your kid is impulsive. His nervous system excites easily. These kids can't handle large doses of being tickled, and monotonous activities - like sitting still in a chair for six hours at school - drives them nuts. They need to have a calm environment when they're very young (not always possible). Later they have to master their internal need for excitement and have frequent breaks and with physical activity. A one or two mile walk to school can do wonders for many of them - and you too, if you need exercise.

ADHD behavior looks crazy as shit. You're cooking or cleaning and think he's playing with his toys on the deck, only to discover he got the bright idea to impulsively skateboard off it. Explain that to the doctor whose treating his sprained ankle and lecturing you to keep a constant eye on him, and argue back that this would require a dog leash.

Then there was time he quietly tried to cook an egg on one of those fat candles, then tried to put the fire out with a paper towel, and when that caught on fire, threw it in the trash can - all while I was one room over trying to have a half hour break watching a sitcom. Try explaining that shit to the fireman.

This kind of stuff and a lot more happened to us before he was six and I'll admit it - it made me tough as nails as a mama. I had to be or I'd have been a weepy-eyed basket case. I loved his curiosity and appreciated his machismo, but his recklessness and impulsivity drove me nuts.

Beware of labels, but be twice as careful of greed.

If you can figure out a way to quit your job or at least cut back on your hours and still get by financially, but don't, then you're putting your comfort before your child's needs and sanity.

Most of the reading out there is pro-women working and thus, pro-daycare and pro-afterschool programs. They don't guilt trip mothers by speaking frankly that her absence will increase the odds of her child becoming an F'ed up individual with issues galore, even when the child has special needs.

By the time I realized this, Xavier was seven, addicted to materialism and undisturbed by violence. It would take a decade to undo the damage.

Being a mother of a special needs child requires enormous sacrifice. I finally bit the bullet when he was 14 and acting out all the rage from the mistakes others made before I met him and the ones I put him through afterwards. I sold my house, moved into an apartment, and quit my full time job and got by on working 10 or 12 hours a week.

I had to. By 14, Xavier was crazy and getting battier by the day. He had all the labels. Social Services and foster care had failed him, the school system failed him, the hospital over-medicated him, therapy wasn't working anymore, and I finally had to tell my inner voice, you were right. I shoulda listened to you a lot sooner, 'cause I failed him too.

His drama continued. He hated me more because now I was home 24/7 and he run the streets or skip school without me finding out immediately. A simple request such as "could you please clean up your dishes?", or "hell no, your gang-banging friends are not allowed in the house", could and did result in police intervention more times than I can remember. He was a master at escalating nothing into something.

Teens are rebellious by nature and most re-enact the stage of their life called the 'terrible twos'. Whatever steps and stages they didn't master when younger becomes a potential battlefield in adolescence.

Xavier was reliving his chronic feelings of powerlessness as a baby and toddler when he couldn't say no. He couldn't even say no to himself. He resisted attempts by me, his teachers, and therapist to teach him how to put brakes on his behavior. He banded with other youths with similar histories, and exported this behavior to the streets, where I almost lost him many times.

In one of our darkest moments when he was in 8th grade and I was considering sending him away to a boarding school, a school therapist said one thing I truly valued.

She said, "I've never met a human being who got better, who wasn't truly, truly loved."

The words resonated. She didn't say them to guilt-trip me, she said them to teach me.

I had to ask myself, what if his life was my life? What if I gave up but it meant the death of my own soul? How hard then would I try? What sacrifices would I make to save my own life? And if really love him as much as I love myself, what would I do differently?


That's when I heeded the voice and did what I should've done a decade earlier, throwing caution to the wind that it might be too late and that I'd plunge from wealth to working class.

The first two years of this was hard on both of us because of the constant arguing and my trying (usually unsuccessfully) to set limits on him, but he made teeny-tiny improvements such as no longer punching holes in the walls and breaking up my stuff. This would happen when I'd try to give him a consequence:

Me: You ran up the cable bill by ordering pay for view movies at night. I'm taking away your PlayStation.

Him: Fuck you. (Phone flies across the room, misses my head by inches, and breaks on the wall. That's gonna cost me another $100.)

Me: I'm calling the police! You're out of control.

Him: I'll kill myself! (Runs to get steak knife and slashes his arm superficially.)

Police - when they catch him an hour later: We'll take him to the mental hospital.

Psychiatrist: I've changed his medications around and added two more.

Me: He's on six now? That's insane.

Psychiatrist: Well, he is bipolar.

Xavier during a visit: Can I have my PlayStation back?

Me: Hell no.

Xavier: But what happened isn't my fault.

Me: Bullshit.

Hospital Social Worker: You're kind of hard of him. I've worked with him for three days now. He's a great kid. We haven't had a single problem with him. Maybe he can do a little extra housework to get back his PlayStation.

Me: He refuses to do any. The last time he was here was because he threatened to kill me when I told him he had to wash the dishes. His dishes. Read his record.

Xavier: You're picking on me.

Me: I'm tired of being played.

Now that's an example of Oppositional Defiant Disorder at it's best. Refuses to anything he doesn't want, and sets up situations and people to continue this modus operandi.

The genesis of the behavior in the child or teen with PTSD often comes from very early childhood trauma and an unconscious decision to never be a victim again. Saying no or not accepting no from others is how they empower themselves and get in control of their environment. However, it's a negative survival strategy in normal social situations.

Xavier must have been 16 when I confronted him with all his labels.

"You are not crazy," I said in a heated argument. "You're real good at acting that way, though. You excel at it. You've never been bipolar, depressed, and I don't even believe you're LD (learning disabled). You're grades suck because you stopped studying back in elementary school. You've been sad and pissed suffering from foster care trauma and learning too much from meeting your birth family and seeing their problems, and have been saying fuck you to everyone since you were three. Nuh-uh. You ain't crazy. Ain't a god-damned thing wrong with you other than PTSD."

Of course he had to prove me wrong by getting a knife, making superficial cuts on an arm and threatening to commit suicide in the bathtub - and conveniently leaving the door open so I could save him.

People hang on to their labels. I'm a woman. I'm a man. I'm black (or insert race). I'm American. I'm educated. I'm working class. I'm liberal (or conservative or free-thinker).

Such is the case too with negative labels. I'm stupid. I'm helpless. I'm shy. I'm a victim. I'm a bad person. I'm mentally ill.

I stripped him of the negative labels and he panicked. And naturally, the next three trips to the hospital restored them. One was a real doozy. The first love of his life broke up with him. They had lost their virginity to each other gone steady a year. But he was bossy and verbally abusive - just like he'd been with me and his sister. He was 17 when his girlfriend got tired of it and said goodbye.

Did he respect this? Hell no. He went to her house and tried to talk her out of her decision for the umpteenth time. The girl's mother asked him to leave, and then she did something that triggered his pre-verbal lifestage when he was abandoned, but couldn't express or define it for his lack of language skills.

She slammed the door when he left and shouted, you're not wanted here anymore!

This action was symbolic and triggered feelings of rage over previous major losses. Xavier attempted real suicide with his handy-dandy knife right in front of her house by plunging it into his stomach.

He was in the ICU for three days, followed by another two in the main ward, and five days in the mental ward.

It must have been on Day 4, after the girlfriend had visited him. She said she was sorry and that they could keep going together.

After she left, I looked at him with hard eyes. "You still can't take no for an answer," I said. "It's all about you and the drama. You ain't crazy. These are foster care issues getting played out with her. It's so unfair. What if her mother had yelled at you in her house instead of waiting until you were outside? That knife could have ended up in her instead of you. You need to stop this shit before you kill yourself or someone else."

Boy was he pissed. "Mom! Stop talkin' like a therapist to me! You should feel sorry for me!"

"Fuck that," I said. "I wish the hell a therapist would talk to you like that. You ain't never gonna have a decent life for yourself as long you believe you're not normal. Neither will anyone else associated with you. Foster care issues fucked you up. Period. Have the courage to deal with it."

He wept. He said I didn't understand, yet he allowed me to hold his hand and he held on tightly to mine. I'd have cradled him in my arms but he was in the hospital bed and it wasn't possible.

"Why ain't I dead?", he whimpered.

"I guess the Lord and Satan are still fighting over you," I answered softly. "You've always been a lil' hellraiser, but you've also got a core of decency and general love for others. When you love, you love hard. You always have. You've been in pain a long time from the love you lost or didn't get long ago. You'll be okay if you want, but it's your choice. Fo' real."

Perhaps he could listen to me because of his near death experience. As skinny as this boy was at barely 17, the knife missed every major organ.

I lucked up about the same time and found a psychiatrist who also wasn't into the excessive labeling or over-medication thing. You can read about that on my first ever post here, When Therapy & Blackness Collides.

It took more time and a drug rehab program before he finally began to "get it" at the age of 18 that he wasn't mentally ill, and to buy into the belief that stress can make ya look crazy when you ain't.

Take note that stress may start off as an external event or series of events, but even after the child is removed from that situation, the stress has become internalized and his part of psyche. He or she carries it with them like bad baggage.

Therapy is sort of hit and miss; depends on if the client is ready for change and if their therapist is a good fit. When it hits the right spot, the person can let go of that baggage. The 'therapy' can also be attained from a wise friend, the right books, a pastor who understands, etc. As the Buddhists believe, there are many paths to enlightenment.

I'm not financially wealthy anymore. My savings are thin, because I didn't trust my gut, gave into the comfort life and refused to listen to the angel whispering in my ear and saying pay now or pay later.

It took me five years to do with him as a teen when I could have done this in less than two years when he was young child. I try not to be too hard on myself; I wasn't a seasoned mental health therapist back then, and a lot of new knowledge has emerged since the '90s through the past few years.

I shrug off the money; it's only money and I can earn more of that. My intuition, however, tells me - and him - that he would have been dead or locked up for something awful if I hadn't finally rolled the dice and took the ultimate gamble that my child - a troubled kid and emerging thug - could recover from trauma and learn better coping skills. He's still a work in progress and will have many bumps ahead on the road - but at least he's on the road.

When we ask ourselves the big questions, such as what does it really mean to really love a child, part of the answer lies in sacrifice. Ask yourself, what has this child really been through and how might I behave under those circumstances? If trauma is an issue, help those well-intentioned mental health and school professionals as well as your child or teen to understand it too.

In summary, healing the traumatized child, whether your own by birth, relative placement, or adoption, is not for the faint of heart. A lot of people don't have clue to what they're getting into or the sacrifices it could require to heal him or her. I was a young therapist and had done social work, and still didn't know all that was involved. It's one thing to hear about it and help clients; it's a whole different thing to be in their situation and have to live it. It was a humbling experience.

There are loads of labels which are merely guides to healing through treatment. Select a mental health professional familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children and teens. Meet with him or her first without your kid being present, and give every shred of traumatic history or abandonment that comes to mind.

Your child may have a number of problems, but as a primary diagnosis, PTSD is a helluva lot better label than some of the others - and may free him from a lifetime of believing and acting as though he's something that he's not.

Then make whatever decisions you can regarding sacrifices. Think hard and choose wisely, as it may be a matter of paying now or paying later - for both of you.

Good luck and God bless.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The HIV Behind That Smile

My son and one of his friends were watching something on TV when a commercial came on. I was nearby, on the computer and doing my thing when I overheard it all.

The ad was about HIV. The people in it were saying one after another, "I have HIV."

"Man, that's so stupid," Xavier's friend said. "Why would anyone announce on TV they have HIV?"

"Yeah," my son agreed, "but they're probably actors. No one would be that stupid."

I looked up and feigned innocence. "What's so stupid about it?"

I swear to God, this is what his homeboy answered: "None of the shorties would want to get with you."

"Oh, I see," I replied dryly. "If you had HIV and met a girl, you wouldn't tell her."

It was an ah-ha, I gotcha moment. I caught the truth and both of them looked away. Too late; I saw it in their eyes and they knew it.

I glared at my son. "What about you? Is that a secret you'd keep?"

He shrugged, possibly to help his homie save face, or maybe he really feels that way.

"I use condoms most of the time," he said. "You know that 'cause you buy them for me when I'm broke."

"Yeah, I use them too," said his friend.

"Y'all are still trifling," I said, "letting your balls tug on your brains like this. If the girls you mess with think the same way, one day one of y'all might get burned. Won't be pretty."

They looked uncomfortable. Good.
I returned to my computer so they could chew on that shit. Notice that I hadn't said jack like "what about the girl if you're infected?"

This is because appeals of compassion are less effective than appeals to self-interest.

This is how, my sistahs and brothas, it gets played out and we get infected, so much so that HIV is the #1 cause of death for young black women, and after homicide, #2 for young black men in America.

Before my non-black readers get too comfortable and feel safe, White America is only around 20 years behind us and always has been, from losing virginity at a younger age, getting married less, teen pregnancies and having out-of-wedlock children, and sinking into working class status. Blacks only get hit with the bad first because we're the test subjects for how far greedy corporations and inadequate social policies will screw us all.

Now, allow me to give you another spin on the HIV situation.

The most powerful appetite is the one for food, and except for children and the elderly, the second strongest is for sex.

A lot of men will laugh and say, nah, I'd skip a meal for sex. Yeah, but if they hadn't eaten in a week, they'd opt for the plate... followed by the sex. Go ahead and chuckle, you know I'm telling the truth.

We are prisoners to our sexual urges, which is why total abstinence for the unmarried is an impossibility for most. It is for this reason that I don't rush to judgment and label people as necessarily selfish by not telling if they have HIV as long as they use condoms, although if they know they have it and don't use them 100% of the time, they are selfish, cruel, and worthy of being placed before a firing squad.

My own son was tested about two years ago and was fine. I know 'cause I dragged his azz to the doctor after he became sick as a dog, couldn't get out of bed and was having nightsweats. Turned out to be mononucleosis. Even though he was relieved, I had to drag him kicking and screaming for a follow up just to make sure.

He didn't want to know. He had been careless a few times between relationships and didn't know those girls well. He was relieved when he passed, and like many people when they test negative, vowed to use protection in the future.

I can't speak for his friend, but I know that Xavier hasn't been 100% consistent in the past. He has a nice girlfriend now and wants to marry her one day. Neither are promiscuous, but for them, condoms are for protecting against pregnancy, not HIV.

It's not hard to understand why. The world is an F'ed up place with so many mind-boggling problems that the ordinary person can't solve. Every time you turn on the news, you see a Chicken Little newscaster screaming about how the sky is falling:

"Terrorism! Iraq! Iran! War! Global warming! Melting ice caps! Floods! Wildfires! Racism! Murder! AIDS! Food shortages! Mortgage meltdowns! Economy dying! End times!"

In our communities, every bad thing there is only a microcosm of the larger world.

Young adults and teens were bottle-fed on bad news and many have become desensitized to it. They're not oblivious to it, but the negative information over-load has become like the sun. You know it's there but you don't look directly at it because it hurts your eyes.

I first read about HIV in 1981. They called it GRID - Gay Related Immune Disorder and didn't even have a test for it until early 1986. There was a small story in the Washington Post about a puzzling new disease that had claimed the lives of a few dozen gay men in New York and L.A. I read it to my best friend at the time, a gay guy who was also my co-worker.

"This doesn't sound good," I said. "Maybe it's a virus. If only the gay guys have it, it could be an STD. You'd better be careful."

"Pffft," he replied dismissively. "It's probably nothing."

That same year, he met a guy while partying in New York City. He fell for him like a ton of bricks and was going there every weekend.

"He's got the greatest smile," he'd tell me. "I'm so in love!"

Then one day at work, he was rubbing his throat. He said, "That's odd. My lymph nodes keep swelling as though I'm sick with a cold or flu, and I keep waiting for the sore throat to happen, but it doesn't."

There was something about that moment and his intensity that was unforgettable. Neither of us suspected he had contracted HIV - hell, it was a back page news story - but he had. He died in early 1986.

I ran into one a mutual friend at his service. I hadn't seen him since high school and didn't realize at the time he was gay. He told me he became 100% abstinent because he, too, suspected AIDS was caused by a sexually transmitted virus. A year later he was dead. So was a nice man who my late friend/co-worker dated after the New York love affair bombed.

By the mid-80's, I was fairly new social worker and not long out of grad school. One of our first agency cases became mine in 1988. A grandmother brought her adult daughter and two young grandkids to my office. The young woman, I'll call her Debbie, was thin and weak. She'd gotten strung out on crack and had sex with the wrong person or people. She kept her head on the table while I worked with her mother to get her approved for Relative Foster Care payments. Every now and then she would look up.

I said, "You look awfully familiar."

"I was thinking the same thing about you," she answered.

We did quick exchange of the schools we attended. Bam! Fifth and sixth grades at Catholic school. I remembered her well. We were so cute in our uniforms. She loved to jump rope. It broke my heart to see her come to this.

A college friend of mine was encountering the same thing. He's a doctor, and his first HIV patient was priest whom he'd known for years.

He later had another patient who was also a friend. This guy was successful and in his 30s and often cheated on his wife. He caught HIV and refused to tell her because he didn't want to deal with her anger over the adultery or her pain if she was infected.

"Can't you tell her?", I asked.

"No, it's client privilege, even in cases like this. It's unbelievable. I guess he'll keep right on fucking her until death do them part."

He also had female patient who tested HIV positive. She messed around even though she
lived with her boyfriend. Rather than tell him, she moved.

In 1989, I began working as a therapist and saw a fair number of gay teens. Until the late 90's, we weren't instructed to give them info about HIV, but to focus on family and individual therapy. I did anyway, for the straights and the gay kids, and boy am I glad.

One kid, a 16 year old who had become sexually active, told me a few stories which blew my mind. He had met a 21 year old through this guy's cousin, a girl who was his classmate, at a party. Later, he and the man decided to have sex.

"Something about his dick didn't look right," he said.

"He had sores?", I asked.

"No," he said thoughtfully. "I don't know what it was. Maybe it looked fine, but something didn't feel right. I had one of the condoms you gave me and at the last minute, told him to put it on."

"That's good," I offered, "but you should always do that anyway."

He nodded, still lost in thought. "We had sex. It was just okay. Then afterwards I noticed all these medicine bottles in his bathroom. I called my girl friend later and asked her if he had AIDS. She said yeah. I couldn't believe she didn't tell me this because she knew I was gonna go out with him."

Oh shit, I thought. That's fucking treacherous. With friends like that, you absolutely don't need enemies.

I asked him if he confronted either one about it. He said no, he couldn't. He was too hurt. He wouldn't give me the man's name so I couldn't report him. That's not uncommon.

I ran into him 15 years later at a mall. He was 30, fat, healthy, happy, employed, and driving an SUV. He treated me to lunch and thanked me for saving him. I thanked him for saving himself.


On the flip side, I worked with another teen about eight years ago who had an emerging personality disorder. This kid was as narcissistic as they come. The world was all about him. He was also one the brightest kids I ever met and had the IQ to prove it, but extremely damaged from growing up in a household where his mother and uncle were anti-social and dirt poor. His father sounded functional but lived across the country and rarely saw him. He didn't want custody. My teen recalls how he watched gay porn when he was little with his uncle and straight porn with his father as a teen. At 15, he was well on his way to a promiscuous lifestyle.

When I gave him HIV education mixed in with therapy, he was adamant that if he ever got infected, he'd do his best to spread it around. I made sure he always walked out of my office with condoms, which I routinely picked up on my own time from the Health Department.

One day he walked into my office and gave me a story that made me wonder why some people try to pass for human. He was at the train station, which has theaters and a bangin' eatery. A handsome, young adult male around 20 years old gave him a great smile and patted the seat next to him. He didn't waste any time.

"Wanna fuck?"

"Yeah, okay," my client answered.

He'd never done anonymous sex and the prospect of it turned him on. He was game for anything and thought this guy was hot. They went to the mens room and into a stall.

"Pull your pants down and turn around," the guy said.

He did, and at the last minute, the kid says, "Um, do you have a condom?"

The man sounded irritated when he said yes. He put it on, and performed anal sex on him.

"Did you have a condom with you, in case he didn't?", I asked.

"Uh-huh," he replied.

"Why do you think he sounded annoyed when you asked if he had one?"

"I don't know."

"Use your imagination."

"He doesn't like the way they feel?"

"You said he was grown. Don't you think that by now he knows that anal sex is the #1 one way HIV is caught, or transmitted, or was he a retard?"

"I don't fuck retards," he said indignantly.

"So what else might motivate a grown man to have unprotected sex with a teenager in public restroom five minutes after meeting him?"

He sat quietly. I let the silence build. His face turned stormy.

My narcissistic 15 year old client almost yelled, "No one would dare to that to me!"

"Because you're dazzlingly beautiful, brilliant, and hot, right?"


"Bet he thought like you, too, when he was 15," I snapped. "I'll be blunt. I think you had an encounter with the kind of person you could become one day - infected, vengeful, and dangerous. What are you gonna do to be different?"

He was so pissed that he walked out of my office.

He kept his appointment next week and every week like clockwork for many months. His mother, by the way, refused to come to therapy. I watched him yo-yo back and forth in our sessions. One week he said he'd infect the world, the following week he'd cry and ask how others could be so cruel. He finally got tested and was negative. He was overjoyed. After that he wrote a paper on HIV and gave an oral presentation to his class.

"Nice way of protecting your classmates," I said.

He waved off the compliment. "Oh, it was nothing."

But it was.

I don't know how his life turned out. He always carried condoms, but his prognosis is what mental health professionals call guarded. He had a lot of baggage: moodiness, narcissism, entitlement, sexual addiction, drama addiction, and a tendency toward emotional sadism learned from his family.

At least he learned that HIV could be hiding behind that smile.


Today is National HIV Testing Day. Information and a list of free testing sites are at

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trust Others To Be Only Who They Are

"The things I’ve witnessed over the past 10 days or so, especially tonight, have truly led me to understand why black women remain the most unmarried demographic of females in the entire fucking country... Jesus fucking goddamn Christ…I did not think it was physically possible for me to be this pissed off."

-Chris, Stuff Black People Hate

I read Chris's blog almost daily. I thought his line, "Come on ladies, get the fuck out of your own way" was hilarious. It's funny because like most good comedy, it has a ring of truth to it. However, I wondered what events he was talking about.

He has goo-gobs of fans who leave hundreds of comments on his posts. I scanned through most of them, expecting he'd give a clue by responding. As I read them, I wondered how the sistahs really felt inside, especially the loyal ones who leave comments on a regular basis on this extremely social blog. I could see their bewilderment superimposed over pain in some, which equaled his anger in his post.

I'm fairly new at blogging so this drama was kind of interesting. Like
everyone else, was wondering why this normally funny guy was in such a snit over black women. Maybe he was pissed at the ones who had been R. Kelly's playtoys, yet kept him from doing jail time. I'm not into the celebrity thing, so it's the only big public story I can recall of the past 10 days.

Because I'm middle-aged, the dating game is more a mix of good and bad memories than a central part of my life. With this distance, I was able to read it without feeling threatened. Nothing has changed since I was in my 20s and 30s - the same argument goes on - the woman feels betrayal when a brotha she genuinely likes suddenly lashes out and says something that is perceived as hostile toward black women.

I'll never forget one evening I went to a club with a good friend. We were in our early 20s. She was happy that she'd be meeting her somewhat new boyfriend who was a decade older, had a big job and owned a house. She wasn't a gold digger. She had a college degree and great entry-level job.

I don't why he felt compelled to put her down that evening. We hadn't been at the club for 10 minutes before he said - to her, not us - that black women weren't smart.

She replied, "That's not true. A lot of black women are smart. Look at me. I'm smart! And educated! How can you say that?"

He replied coldly, "You're not smart. You're just knowledgeable. There's a difference."


She tried to talk this brotha out of his sexism. Arguing with bigots is always a waste of time and anyone who has ever argued with a racist on a right wing blog knows this. But we didn't have blogs back then. Hell, we didn't even have chat rooms.

I watched these two in awe. I couldn't believe the anger and prejudice coming out of his mouth. Neither would shut up. It amounted to her pleading her case to a man with years more experience in winning arguments.

Failing to change his belief that all black women are stupid which included her, she drove home drunk. I'd never seen her intoxicated, but she lost track of her drinks while arguing at the club.

Drunk driving is never smart, so we can be unkind and say she proved him right, but then again, she had never been attacked so fiercely by someone she admired and trusted. A good sucker punch to the eye can blindside you, and this is what his words did to her judgment that night. She was lucky; her night could have ended up much worse.

And thus lies the key to avoiding disappointment and/or pain we feel when a black man (or woman) essentially accuses the other gender of being idiots or whatevah, and being shocked when other black women give them the kind of pass that they rarely give to one another.

Here's the key: We can only trust people to be who they are.

To do otherwise is to set oneself up for disappointment. As for the women who appear to coddle a man who has said hurtful things, try not to sweat it.

Why? Because eventually most of us learn to say So what? rather than WTF

This is a glorious stage. Instead you mean it when you say, "Well, that's your opinion. So what? That and a dollar will buy me a cup of coffee at McDonalds, and by the way, thanks for letting me know how you really feel. Light my cigarette and I may even let you rant a little longer."

This philosophy can save you hours of trying to reason with people whose minds are made up and their opinions set in cement.

In a luke-warm defense of Chris, he finally responded deep in his comments section that black women need to stop dating no good men, as though this was the real issue.

Yeah, right. He responded to very few of the over 400 comments. At least one of his last comments was to a reader that was breathtakingly harsh.

She said: I’m a frequent (well, semi-frequent, at least) reader of this site, and I must say I am amazed by the rancor Chris’ comments have caused.

Chris - I say this with love…grow the phuck up, stop analyzing and worrying over other people’s relationship choices (thus, inducing some irrational frustration). If it doesn’t have to do with you, why are you concerned? And why are you generalizing?

Personally…not into thugs, gangsters, wannabes, etc. I love a smart, funny man, who is attractive to me and open-minded. I think I want the same things most people want in a partner (blah, blah, blah). One day I hope to find it. That is all.

Well, he ain't the one, honey, that's for sure. His response:

“grow the phuck up…If it doesn’t have to do with you, why are you concerned?”

Giving a damn about people other than yourself is, to me, a central part of the definition of maturity. If everyone subscribed to your insanely selfish philosophy of “if it doesn’t concern you directly, fuck it”, then the abolitionist movement, emancipation, and the civil rights movement would have never happened. Please don’t breed. We don’t need anymore self-centered apathetic assholes running around in the world. Thanks.

Damn. He took not-giving-a-fuck to whole new level on that one when he told her not to breed, followed by noxious, unwarranted name-calling. It was also dishonest. Just because you don't stick your nose in other people's love affairs doesn't mean you don't raise hell when it comes to broad social issues like the ones he mentioned.

Part of me - the part that's been around the block more than a few times - wonders if Chris was really doing damage control after he saw the firestorm, before he finally said fuck it and got really hostile. He may have been telling the honest-to-God's truth about his anger over black women dating losers, but I swear, doesn't his explanation sound like the kind of lie you'd come up with after sticking your foot in your mouth?


Man: (mutters under breath) "You're such a bitch."
Woman: (angrily) "Did you just call me a bitch?"
Man: "No, I said you were acting bitchy, only 'cause I thought maybe you're on your period. Why do women get like that anyway? I'm gonna go chill with my niggas for awhile."

See how artfully the guy has used denial, then changed the subject and put the woman on defensive?

Women do this to men too.

Woman: (on phone with her girlfriend): "He can't fuck for shit."
Man: (overheard this): "You really think I can't fuck?"
Woman: "Oh hell no, honey! I was telling Dee-Dee what Tamika said that her cousin told her about her new boyfriend. Why you all up in my phone call anyway? Are you jealous? I hate jealous men. They're dangerous. I'll have to dip outta this relationship if you got stalker inclinations."

See how artfully she lied and then switched it around like he has a problem? She even set the stage for making an exit in case the sex doesn't improve. In the future, he'll be trying to be Superman on Viagra in bed - and proving that he's not jealous.

I trust Chris to be funny, write well, and be occasionally offensive to others. Period. At least he doesn't discriminate. He explained on one of his pages that he writes for himself to keep from going insane, not to please folks.

Fair enough; I can relate to that.

He also doesn't censor what others think of his opinions. They can cuss his ass out and it's there for the world to read. This is a big plus to me, because I can't stand it when I write a thoughtful comment that disagrees with the author, who then refuses to print it.

This happened to me the other day when I spent a lot of time writing why I disagreed with a blogger about his negative take on Obama's Father's Day speech. He titled his article, Any Fool Can Be A Politician and repeatedly called and alluded to Obama being a fool.

There are a number of reasons to look long and hard at Barack, but after listening to his entire speech in church that day, I felt that criticizing him for his "any fool can father a child" comment wasn't one of them. If you're going to attack someone, at least do it on solid ground, ya know?

And if the shoe don't fit, don't wear it, and ignore the racist media that chooses to make it an indictment against all black men. We know who the good daddies are and we know who the deadbeat fools are too.

Apparently this man only publishes comments that agree with his. Offended, I wrote him back and pointed out the problem with this. Hell, I'm black and hadn't even used profanity unlike one of the three comments he approved. Doesn't my opinion count? Not on that blog.

That's his prerogative, but I would have appreciated some sort of warning like "Only comments that agree with mine are welcome." This way he wouldn't have wasted my time by giving the illusion that anyone could leave comments on his self-described 'think tank for people of African American descent' where he's a contributor.

I came up in with the anti-war, Civil Rights generation when differing opinions stimulated fantastic discussions and occasional riots. Folks could agree to disagree, especially them there hippies, and all the black folks were going back and forth over whether they should be called blacks or Negroes and if afros were cool or not, and wondered WTF were we fighting for Vietnamese to be free when we weren't free ourselves. Lots of debates over everything. I like open discussions, and only review comments here before posting to keep the klan and loony right-wingers off my back.

The best blogs as a rule have this spirit of minimal censorship, and this includes Chris's SBPH blog and many others, which I'll continue to read as long as they're entertaining.

But back to the war between brothas and sistas, and men and women in general.

In a nutshell, it takes time to really get to know people. This is particularly true in dating. If it starts to look and feel like a relationship, decide how much energy you're willing to invest in trying to alter some of his/hers unexpected and highly unnerving opinions, or if that fails, whether their pluses exceed their minuses.

It is only after you get to know someone that you can really trust that person. I don't mean to trust who you want them to be, but to trust them to be who they are.

If the two of you are comfortable with that, then you're friends. Not fuck friends or make believe friends, but fo' real friends who agree to disagree without becoming too disagreeable.

Now, anyone want to light my cigarette or pass the matches? If so, I'll take another sip of coffee, and I'll listen to you...


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mother Nature Could Care Less

We are deeply sexual beings designed to reproduce, and Mother Nature doesn't give a shit about emotional consequences. Her role is to keep us from becoming extinct.

That being said, some of you may disagree with this post, but I'll say it since I've yet to read it elsewhere. Here's my quick take on the 17 or 18, unmarried, white high schoolers who allegedly made a pact to get pregnant.

These young women - not girls, but women who are fertile and of child-bearing age - live in a "fiercely Catholic" Massachusetts fishing town that is no longer economically viable. We're talking working class and struggling, and most of these girls and the boys who impregnated them grew up hearing dinnertime tales of financial despair, watching bills collect and parents whispering or yelling at each other over how they would get paid.

I see their behavior as a symptom of social stress, not poor parenting or lack of sex education or religious or moral training. People who are chronically worried, stressed or poor have less hope for the future, and what brings more hope than new life?

This is an unconscious human reaction to stress and why the poor have always had more children, or at least, pregnancies. Young black American women had an explosion of out-of-wedlock births in the 80s when drugs flooded their communities, men were (and still are) racially profiled and locked up in never before seen numbers, and unemployment became higher than what mainstream whites are sweating over now.

From a psycho-evolutionary perspective, breeding more during periods of turmoil is what kept our species from extinction.

It seems to defy common sense to get pregnant when times are hard. That's the reasoning of the intellect, but the primal part of our brain tells our bodies to breed like bunnies and either multiply or die.

Don't forget either that historically, most young women were married off at 14 or 16 years of age. This biological survival strategy served humanity well during the hundreds of thousands of years when we died young and were hunter-gatherers, and later, an agricultural society. I mean really, who gave more than a minute's thought that Romeo's Juliette was a mere 14?

Every time our society moved up a stage, i.e., from agrarian to industrial to technological, and looming on the horizon - a post-peak oil society - there have been fewer jobs and a greater need to warehouse the young and recategorize them from adults to minors. As per usual, it's always about the money and resources: fertility control in Puritanical England, pushing up the age of majority in western countries, who can do what and go where, education, voting, war, etc.

Although our social system has changed dramatically in the past 100 years, along with our life spans, our biology and the way our brains are hardwired have not.

This is why policing adolescent sexuality has always been such a pain in the ass; we're fighting biology and evolution - which includes unconscious psychological survival mechanisms that we only get to peek at through the cloudy lenses of whatever culture into which we were born.

Now we have the media speculating that movies like Juno and the recent news of Brittany Spear's sister's pregnancy were negatively influential.

Superficial bullshit. That kind of behavior isn't rooted deeply enough in mainstream white American culture. At least not yet.

These white girls are unconsciously listening to the law of nature to reproduce now because their tomorrows are so damned uncertain. They are just the second wave of canaries in the coal mine.

The first can be found the inner cities.


Friday, June 20, 2008

In World War III Even The Birds Won't Win

I created a blog back in late 2005 and wrote only one article for it:
Will Bird Flu Preempt Bush's Option On The Table?

I didn't continue with that blog for a variety of reasons. I had synthesized available information into a plausible scenario - which I hadn't seen written anywhere else - and my family and a handful of friends who heard or read my views frankly thought I was insane. This was depressing.

After all, who was I? Just some ordinary person and a black woman to boot. No high social status = no credibility.

So what?
, I would also think. From my personal experiences, a reader of history, and my work as a therapist and social worker, I know the dark side human nature, and it's a beast.

The U.S. and Israel are joined together so thoroughly that it's impossible to separate them politically. Thus, I'm re-posting my article with minor edits and have added pics as food for thought since we may be nearing a new war as evidenced by Israel's war preparation with Iran as the target. Should they carry out an attack, the world will be at grave risk for WWIII for reasons outlined in the article.

And a word about avian flu.
We don't read much about it anymore, but it hasn't gone anywhere, anywhere at all.


Will Bird Flu Preempt Bush's Option On The Table?

Friday, October 7, 2005

President Bush reportedly took time this past August to read the book, "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History" by John Barry. It’s about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed slightly more than twenty percent of humanity. In one week alone in Philadelphia, for example, nearly 5,000 people died. Given the President's busy schedule which include fine-tuning contingency plans for a new war with Iran, this was remarkable.

The invasion, also known in Bush-speak as an "option on the table", will put the world at risk for a nuclear war. It will be complicated by an unexpected bird flu pandemic on the war planners menu for world domination. The convergence of these two catastrophes threatens to annihilate most of humanity, and this is also sitting on Bush's table, right next to his "option".

The original 1918 Spanish Flu is now thought to have been a bird flu, and this new strain is called H5N1. It appears to be a Frankenstein mutation eerily similar to the original, but more than twice as lethal. As with the 1918 flu pandemic, the U.S. is at war, this time in Iraq. Preemptive tactical nuclear and bunker-busting bombs are available to be dropped on Iran’s new nuclear facility and all other strategic military locations. During WWI, the Spanish flu was spread faster by the military movement and we can expect the same this time.

Iran has two strategic partners, China and Russia, and they’re likely to protect and defend Iran—and their multibillion dollar oil and gas interests that are critical to their own national security—like two pit bull guard dogs.

Both countries sent a strong message to the U.S. this year when they teamed up together to perform joint military exercises for the first time. They have a lot to lose if Iran is lost to the U.S., because China signed $100 billion dollar energy contracts with Iran this past December in what was called "the deal of the century", and Russia has been deeply involved for over a decade in building a multi-billion dollar nuclear reactor in Bushehr, Iran, which is expected to finally become operational in 2006.

Iran's stated plans, if sincere, is to become a nuclear-powered society. This will help them save a bundle on oil and have more of it to sell to others - and they plan to do so in currencies other than American petrodollars when their Iran Oil Bourse (oil stock market exchange) kicks off in March 2006.

No longer will every country in the world need to cut special deals with the U.S. in their trades of tangible goods, such as clothes, electronics, and steel, to buy America's paper money - which they would then use to purchase Iranian oil or gas.

Other nations will be able to use euro dollars, or perhaps in the future another currency, such as the Chinese yuan to purchase oil from Iran. The White House and Wall Street are acutely aware of this problem and knows that this loss of global dollar power will be a lethal knock-out punch to the American economy.

Waging war, like most other endeavors, begins with a mental decision. It helps to try to put oneself in their position. To attack Iran, the war planners in the White House and Pentagon would first have to conclude that regime change is their only viable solution to maintaining dollar hegemony, world superpower status, and keeping Iran militarily neutered. Alternative solutions would be unacceptably inferior in their minds, and ideas, diplomacy and negotiations by others rejected.

Secondly, they’d have to hedge their bets that China and Russia would not militarily defend Iran once they 'shock and awe' the Iranians with small tactical nuclear weapons.

If Bush and Co. really plan to do this, it is crucial that the U.S., China and Russia make a behind-the-scenes agreement that the latter two countries sit out the invasion as spectators. In absence of this, hedging bets would be a bad gamble based on wishful thinking, the kind of gambling that could get us all killed in a nuclear world war.

Thus, if the war planners go through with this, we can assume that they do not expect China and Russia to jump on stage and turn an ordinary invasion into Armageddon.

Somehow, the White House and Pentagon might judge that a military intervention in Iran would be more successful than Iraq,

and as usual, they'd have confidence that this war would be geographically contained to the country(s) they bombed.

If they are wrong and China and Russia attacks the U.S. in defense of Iran, the Last World War will have begun.

Allies and enemies of the three countries will become sucked into this vortex of massive nuclear destruction, and that's a pretty long list of nations.

It's a given that dyads such as India and Pakistan, North and South Korea, and other countries that hate each other will jump into the mix like lemmings leaping off a cliff.

If the delicate ozone layer hasn't ripped apart and left Mother Earth burned to a crisp, the aftermath of a nuclear world war will leave behind Nuclear Winter, starvation, disease, the usual natural disasters, along with the Avian Flu pandemic finishing off many remaining survivors.

In 1983, the late great astronomer Carl Sagan stated that “it is generally accepted, even among most military planners, that a "small" nuclear war would be almost impossible to contain before it escalated to include much of the world arsenals.”

Sagan wrote and co-authored several well-known books and articles, including Nuclear Winter, which details the brutal aftermath of nuclear war.

Summary Excerpt:
"Cloud cover from smoke and nuclear debris would leave our skies as dark as night for days. There would be brutally cold weather lasting from several months to a year or two. Most food crops would die. For example, a one degree temperature drop would mean wheat would stop growing in Canada. Many survivors will have weakened immunity from radiation exposure and hunger. Growing or finding fresh foods, and fighting off illness will be the newest of the new normals.
People would become familiar with the horrific sights and stench of the unburied dead people and animals. Feeding yourself and your children would be a challenge. Insects will multiply greatly from feasting on the dead."

For those who want to leave chaotic cities that escaped being nuked, like the exodus from Houston just before Hurricane Katrina or Rita, they will only get as far as traffic and available gas will let them.

And like one town in Louisiana, some areas will be closed off to outsiders and aggressively guarded by its inhabitants with vigilante mentalities. Guns will be locked, loaded and trained on brown and black skins, but ultimately no one will care what race strangers are as resources dry up.

Everywhere, everyone will be fighting off the multitude of dope fiends and cold-blooded criminals, corrupt security forces, and even close friends and relatives who try to steal your stash of food, water, medicine, weapons, or house.

Even an arrogant, super-rich depopulationist survivalist will be deluding himself if he thinks his well-stocked bomb shelter built in the side of a Colorado mountain will allow him to pretend he's living in retirement rather than a nuclear nightmare without health or dental care.

In cities across the land, shortages of just about everything and inadequate rescue plans will turn honest survivors into potential victims.

Martial law is meant to save lives, but is it so far fetched to wonder if shoot-to-kill orders would include the sick and contagious? Could a sneeze cost you your life?

War planners like manageable, winnable wars. This may explain why North Korea wasn’t attacked and Iraq was. Even though the script for Iraq hasn't gone exactly as they planned, at least the battles and bloodshed are contained in the country they shocked and awed.

We can assume that if the U.S. orders attacks on Iran, that they don't envision a nuclear world war script where containment is impossible and victory serves no one.

Instead, they’d have the complete confidence that they could destroy Iran’s nuclear facility and military arsenal, topple their government and install a transitional one until new elections could be held…you know, pretty much like they planned the Iraq War.

Without cooperation from China and Russia, an attack on Iran would be the ultimate all or nothing gamble.

Does the U.S. and its allies really need more soldiers in another land, fighting a war that can wait, or perhaps, be postponed? Wouldn’t those soldiers need to be in their home countries, quarantining the sick, rationing food and medicines fairly, escorting orphans to safe havens, collecting and safely burying the tens or hundreds of millions of dead?

There are no vaccines, and if this disease is all that it's cracked up to be, this pandemic will make survival harsh, dangerous and unbearably sad. In combination with a nuclear war, it would be an unthinkable human catastrophe.

The spread of Avian Flu is thought to have progressed too far for there to be an option to stop it. Scientists say it is only a matter of time, and President Bush asserts that he's made planning for it his top priority. It is on the wings of flocks traveling to a destination near us, all of us, and the timing for a new war couldn’t be worse.


This is what my worse case scenario imagination conjured up in October 2005.

The only significant things that have changed is:

1) last week, a new vaccine appears to work - but it's not available to the public yet. Betcha the most rich and politically powerful will get it before a major war hits home.

2) The U.S. seems unwilling (so far) to take the lead attacking Iran and has left any decisions to Israel, but if Iran retaliates, chances are we'll be in it thick... along with the Russians and Chinese.

I personally hope the Iranians surrender their entire nuclear programme or at least put it on hold for a long friggin' time since the Israelis said this month that an attack is 'inevitable'.

I mean hell, it's not like Iran doesn't have plenty of oil and natural gas, but they're as stubborn as their genetic cousins. A simple delay for a decade could be chance for the paranoia, warranted or not, to clear the air, and give the rest of us on the planet a chance to live.

Perhaps new leaders
who are better at diplomacy in all three countries will replace the do as we say or die politicians running shit now, who in conclusion, aren't so different from the hardest, most dangerous criminals and gang bangers across the world's ghettos who don't lose a minute's sleep at night if their spray of bullets kill the innocent.

I hate to simply describe a problem without offering concrete solutions for the ordinary person who is utterly powerless to stop what the folks in charge decide. Life After The Oil Crash Forum offers survival strategies for massive societal meltdown. Even if you don't take it seriously - and I understand, it's overwhelming - the huge variety of information is interesting. Ignore the fanatics; they read it too.

Also check out this early 2006 article, Collapse of the US Economy Imminent
to understand what's coming.

Lastly, many of my readers are black, and I'll tell you all, we are extraordinarily vulnerable. Only the elderly, ill, and the handicapped would be more vulnerable than us in the event of nuclear attacks on our cities.

Forget not the lesson we learned from governmental neglect and the way we were treated in Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.

That was just a dress rehearsal and no one can convince me that the neglect wasn't intentional so we could be studied like lab rats. Seriously, if you're managing a society, you need to consider how people will respond in emergencies. Katrina gave those in charge an opportunity to do this on a population with no political or economic power.

The coming Great Depression II and possibly a nuclear world war would make what went down in New Orleans look like a spring shower. Plan for it.