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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stupidity 'R Us

When the Klaudt charges were revealed I was still reeling from the Virginia Tech massacre and the stoning of the 17-year-old Kurdish girl in Iraq. There are troubled people in our midst, and little brain power has been expended on recognizing and providing help of some kind to the very troubled. Over the years I taught writing, I came across numerous students whose papers reflected serious and threatening problems. I was teaching during the worst hours of Viet Nam and many danger signals came flaming out of student papers at the time. I had a number of soldiers on leave and veterans who reflected problems, and this was before we recognized Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a serious affliction. At the time, I taught at a denominational college. The pyschology department was little help. All they could do was disparage and dismiss any English professors who were alarmed at apparent psychological problems. But we had a college chaplain and a faculty in the religion department, as well as pastors who worked on campus, who took troubled people under their wings and helped them find solutions to their problems. Another department that was unusually helpful was the speech therapy department, whose members were accustomed to dealing with symptoms of problems that took verbal form. Faculty in other departments also contributed support and effort.

Many of the syndromes that were haughtily dismissed by members of our psychology department are now recognized as psychopathologies, and treatments have been developed for them.
In today's social climate, however, I see us losing ground. The number of kids dropping out of high school, particularly since the implementation of No Child Left Behind, is alarming. Many kids are not being left behind; they are simply being discarded. And even progressives who claim great sensitivity and sympathy are so caught up in the webs of their own egos that they dismiss the plight of kids and the social factors that create that plight.

As someone who has taught, including as a soldier, I know that problems can be recognized and dealt with in young people if their instructors have the time and support to work with them. That does not mean acting as a therapist. It means getting them to the right kind of help.

And then comes a case like that of the 17-year-old Kurdish girl in Iraq, above, Du'a Khalil Aswad. She was dragged out of her house by her own relatives and stoned to death while security forces stood by and watched, some of them recording her death on their cell phone cameras. A member of the Yazidi sect, she was killed by her own kin in an "honor killing" because she fell in love with a Sunni Muslim boy.

The Kurds are considered our major allies and supporters in Iraq.

In a late development, the Iraqi government has announced the arrest of t some of the perpetrators of this stoning, but the whole affair leaves
America's foreign policy appearing like the shambles it is.

We talk about moral authority. We don't talk to opponents and freeze them out of negoation. But we cozy up to religious sects that stone their own children.

Our country has brain power that knows other cultures and other countries and could help build a dialogue that establishes America's eminence in social justice and freedom for all.

But someone will have to discover America again.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States