Medicating Childhood-An American Zombie Apocalypse

“When I was a child, I thought as a child,” is an old proverb which at one time was also the philosophy society lived by when rearing children.  This was the golden rule practiced by parents, schools and child development experts in understanding that the childlike behavior of children was an intrinsic fact of life; they are not adults. They were not expected to think like adults, behave like adults nor exhibit rational, acceptable adult social skills, maturity or conduct-they were children and so they were allowed to think and behave like them.Childhood dangers

That has all changed over the past thirty years, change accelerated at an alarming rate as we entered the twenty first century. It has become almost universally accepted by parents, schools, child psychologists and even law enforcement that children are, in fact, simply miniature adults and we demand of them to act accordingly. A child who is unable to conform to this new societal standard of acceptable adult behavior is immediately labeled “mentally ill,” and is either punished, medicated or forced into psychological treatment.

A six year old who kissed a classmate was suspended from school and classified by the district a predator for “sex harassment.”  In Georgia, a female kindergarten student was handcuffed and suspended for a childish temper tantrum. A similar 2012 incident involving a five year old Stockton, California boy resulted in the child’s arrest and a charge of battery to an officer. The boy was then “transported to a hospital for further psychiatric evaluation,” according to local NBC affiliate KCRA.

Virtually every aspect of childhood behavior and mischief has been criminalized using an adult standard, to such an extent that a Chicago thirteen year old now faces multiple adult felonies for a stray snowball.

Most often, however, common childlike behavior doesn’t result in such dramatic overreaction. Instead, they’re medicated. Childhood behavior and diverse personality traits result in diagnoses ranging from everything from Asperger’s Syndrome to Personality Trait Disorder, and the actual figures of children being treated for these vary greatly depending upon the source. While undoubtedly some children do suffer the onset of mental illness at an early age, many if not most, it could be argued, are being treated solely for the disease of normal childhood behavior.

Modern society has made parenting and childhood nearly impossible. Overworked and overstressed parents pressure the schools for assistance, but the schools are overcrowded and overworked with the additional pressure of society’s mad desire for every child to be a super achiever. Schools pawn childhood off to the police who, because they are not child psychologists, can only place childhood misbehavior and mischief into a context they understand-the adult concepts of enforcing law and order.

In the end, coping with childhood lands on the lap of medical professionals who deal with it as they are best educated to do-diagnose, treat and medicate something. Thus, childhood and all behaviors related to childhood are now treated as a disease.

Childhood isn’t a disease, though, so medical science is placed in a position of developing a highly subjective and vague default diagnosis for the mental illness of immaturity. The symptoms required for a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD as it is commonly known, are as broadly defined as the name itself implies.

Marie Hartnell-Walker, ED.D. has over thirty five years experience as a psychologist, family therapist and with parenting education. She’s authored numerous pieces on psychology for Huffington Post, along with an ebook, and is a regular contributor to the highly regarded site Psych Central. In a 2006 article entitled; “How to Drive with Kids without Driving Yourself Crazy,” she describes how common childhood traits can make traveling nearly unbearable;

“Kids have energy. Kids have short attention spans. Kids get wired. Kids—even the nicest sweetest kids—usually tussle with siblings. Kids don’t like to be confined.”

One could assume, as Dr. Hartnell-Walker is a psychologist and not a veterinarian, that the word ‘kids’ is referring to the normal behavior of children and not baby goats.  Also put aside for a moment that all of the traits she lists as intrinsic to a child are exactly the same traits deemed inappropriate and abnormal in a twenty first century classroom.  Instead, consider how her equally respected and qualified collogue Margarita Tarkatovsky, M.S., describes ADHD facts on the very same site;

“Its hallmark symptoms include hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Children have difficulty concentrating, following instructions, sitting still and interacting with others.”

In other words, virtually, all of the same behaviors Marie Hartnell-Walker, ED.D., classifies as normal, Ms. Tarkatovsky maintains with equal credibility are the symptoms of ADHD, but expressed with far more professional and diagnostic language.

Granted, some children legitimately do suffer from ADHD, and according to the CDC the figure is actually only around 5%.  They go on to point out, however, that over 11% of all American children, and 20% of boys alone, are being treated for the condition. Depending upon the state, the figure is even higher. Over ten years, the number of American children being treated for ADHD is growing at a staggering pace of 48%.

The gap between legitimate, serious ADHD versus children being treated for it demonstrates just how much of birdshot diagnosis this is for any normal childhood behavior deemed inappropriate by adult standards. At some moment of any given day, any child will display the symptoms of ADHD.

Vague and broad spectrum medical diagnoses for normal, everyday human behavior aren’t just confined to children, however. Over the past twenty years, professional organizations such as the Royal College of Psychiatry and American Psychology Association have attached a serious psychological disorder for every known personality trait or eccentricity known to man that may possibly be of annoyance to someone else.

You’re that cranky old man down at Wal-Mart, or the political, overzealous young hipster just waiting for an argument with conservative Uncle Fred at the next family gathering–“Antisocial Personality Disorder.”

Maybe you’re the guy who danced naked on the pool table at the office party, singing ‘We Will Rock You.” Well buster, you are not really the life of the party, after all– “Histrionic Personality Disorder.”

Perhaps you’re the bragging windbag down at Norkies Tavern who hits on girls half your age like you really have any chance at all, and who I thought was just completely full of bullshit. I am so very sorry for laughing you off the barstool, knowing that you suffer- “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”

There are now so many diagnosable disorders for the natural, ordinary human condition and behavior, they fill volumes. While doctors, psychiatrists, parents, schools and law enforcement all play a definite destructive role in this, in the end, they are only a symptom, in and of themselves, of a much greater disease.

Americans are the most overmedicated society on earth because by and large, they’re medicating just to survive Capitalism.  Given this culture and modern conditions, one is more likely to be living out the Medicated Capitalist Zombie Apocalypse than the American dream.

Children come home, exasperated, from one overly structured environment to another, and simply want to let down their hair and be children. But parents are equally exasperated from often working two jobs, just trying to survive in an industrialized, modern society which makes it impossible to exist on a single income.  Few parents are afforded the luxury of remaining home and the mobility of modern society necessitates limited, or no, local extended family support system, so parents wish Billy could just sit quietly and watch Spiderman.

Family doctors, child psychologists and psychiatrists are not going around knocking down the doors of schools, colleges and employers, shoving medication down everyone in sight; Americans are demanding it. The vast majority of working class America is overworked and underpaid, bogged down by student loan debt from an education that was supposed to lead straight to financial freedom but instead landed them at the temp service, groveling for whatever income they can.

Further manipulated by corporate interests, who have convinced them that consumerism is the path to true happiness, over fifty percent of Americans are now buried with credit card debt. So convinced by the delusion that good credit equals success, many parents probably spend more time worrying about their credit score than their child’s report card. Survival in an economic Darwinist society takes energy-all of your energy.

Parents are so tired they can’t cope with even the most fundamental of child misbehavior, so they beg the family doctor to medicate them into submission. To add further complication, the job market is now so cannibalistically competitive that even the slightest negative or eccentric personality trait leaves one at a disadvantage, so they seek to medicate their own personalities away, as well.

Legitimate mental illness is serious and obviously needs to be treated, preferably early.  We need to work even harder to diagnose those who are potentially at risk to themselves and to the larger society, without resorting to a mass diagnosis of treatable childhood. Moreover, we need to fearlessly address head-on the conditions of our modern industrial and technological society that has made life so unbearable that the natural human condition must now be medicated.

Above all, we need to protect and comfort our children from today’s adult world and make a conscious decision to end this medical war on childhood. Celebrate and cherish that these are children and not mini-adults. Parents and schools need to recognize that you just can’t schedule or predict a child’s daydreaming or mischief. We must recognize that law enforcement should only be a last resort, under very extreme circumstances. By all means, we must end the criminalization of childhood behavior and mischief.

By removing these expectations from them, children can be free to learn, to play and to squabble like kids again. Our entire adult society needs reflect on the beauty and innocence of childhood and collectively whisper a reminder; “When I was a child, I thought as a child.”


Phony Frenzy over Russian Gay Rights

To the United States in recent years Gay Rights has become a priority and has moved into the forefront of the national debate and conversation.  But fueled by the Obama administration, these passions have been manipulated in order to inflame and greatly exaggerate the perceived plight and persecution of Russian Gays for Obama’s own personal gain.

Following the American media these days, one would think Russian gays are being rounded up and thrown into concentration camps-or worse. The accusations against Russia on this issue range from ridiculous to the truly absurd. Gay activist and writer Harvey Fierstein went so far to suggest in a July, 2013 New York Times op-ed piece, that even people suspected of being gay are being arrested.

Tonight Show television host Jay Leno even compared the current state of Gay rights in Russia to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. Right or wrong, apparently the Gay Propaganda Law, which basically insulates children from images or literature that do not portray traditional sexual relations, is akin to the extermination of six million people.

As if that were not enough, the myth is now being spread that even Gay athletes will be arrested as they arrive for the Sochi Olympics. All this is occurring with the blessing of and to the satisfaction of President Obama.

Russian President Putin humiliated him, and it’s payback time. Obama is willing to initiate a perceived cold war over Gay rights because he’s embarrassed. First, Russia offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Putin then forced the US into a position where Obama had to seek diplomacy with Iran. But the real game changer is Syria.

Obama was publically chomping at the bit for an attack on Syria, but it was Russia who craftily built a world coalition and blocked the attack. It was Vladimir Putin, and not the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who devised a workable plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons and possibly avert WWIII.

As Mitt Romney aptly noted during a recent NBC interview: “Putin has outperformed our president time and time again  and,  to Obama, this is humiliation on a global stage.

In order to deflect from his own human rights and foreign policy failures, Obama seizes the Gay cause.  He personally and theatrically boycotts the Sochi Olympics, perpetuates the myth of some sort of wide spread government oppression of Russian Gays, and then selects a Gay delegation to represent the US.

Let’s face it. Obama isn’t passionate about the cause of international Gay rights-his interest lies in insulting the conservative Christian Russia and improving his lagging popularity at home with an issue Americans feel passionate about.

If international Gay rights were such a priority to President Obama he’d challenge Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals face life imprisonment or execution, or he’d cut off aid to Africa, where homosexuality is completely illegal in seventy percent of its countries.

There are eighty three countries where homosexuality is completely illegal and punishable with imprisonment or death. Such is US hypocrisy, that while it scrutinizes Russia over a relatively minor restriction, openly Gay American soldiers risking their lives in Afghanistan face stoning or imprisonment from the very government they are defending.

The reality is that Gay life thrives in Russia, and homosexuals are constitutionally protected.  The Gay Moscow Travel Guide site rates at least ten clubs in that city alone.

There’s also Central Station in St. Petersburg, which sports two stages, and is not only popular with Russian Gays and straights but with tourists as well. There’s also Club Culture, located in the former Palace of Culture and featuring a transvestite show. There’s yet another called the Bunker, which also is reputed to be quite lively.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t hate crimes through attacks on Gays. There have been some widely publicized incidents involving the teen gang Occupy Gerontophilia, and the far more dangerous Occupy Pedophilia, led by Maxim Martsinkevich, who previously served time for hate crimes and recently fled Russia to avoid further prosecution.

There is also the matter of Russian sitcom star Ivan Okhlobystin, who can’t seem to keep his mouth shut about anything.

But these are individual despicable actions and views toward minority groups that any country has to deal with.  The FBI reports that hate crimes against LBGT individuals in the United States have increased to 1295 in 2011, the last year for which complete statistics are available.  The US has also experienced its fair share of homophobic celebrity speech. Most notably, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, and most recently, comments made by Juan Pablos Galavas, star of reality show The Bachelor.  Galavas referred to homosexuals as perverts.

But it must remain clear, that although a more conservative nation, the  persecution of Gays  is not the prevailing view of most Russians and contrary to American myth, Russian Gays are not hiding out in barns and basements fearing for their lives or hiding from authorities