Saturday, August 25, 2007

A moment with Justine

We were discussing Ezra Pound that summer afternoon, just a few weeks ago, my partner and I and some customers, when the people ran in the door in a rush of confusion and shouting. Call the police! Violence! Craziness!

My instinct in these situations is always the same--to rush out, to see for myself, to see what can be done. And this is what I did.

By then the action was right in front of my bookstore anyway, in what we term our violence free, drug free, peaceful zone--"hey, do what you like, but not here, guys, okay?" The wild eyed blonde was grappling with the sweet checker from the market down the street. My partner had come out behind me. He pulled the checker away, and she ran back to work. I laid my hands on the wild girl's shoulders. She'd been screaming a lot, and as she whirled to face me she screamed "I want to die, no one cares about me!"

I do, I said, and used her name. I care about you. And she started to sob as I held her , there on the sidewalk, the crowds around. Oh baby, I said, I know it is hard, it is so hard. But I care.

We got her into the shop, and I had her sit down and have a cup of water as my partner called 911. She was shakey, she was on some drug trip or another, she'd just been left by her current male friends who'd driven away laughing, and she'd exploded into that whirlwind of anger and grief.

We'd hoped to get some medical attention for her, but of course it was the police who came instead. I helped her to the door, I earnestly asked the officers--please, please, will you see that she gets some medical attention.

They told me about the check in process at the county jail, where...well, I've had a number of my friends from the street die. I wasn't too impressed. It showed on my face, yeah, you bet it showed.

How do you know this woman? asked the cop. Are you her mother? I was tempted to claim her as one of my own, but I knew that would certainly complicate I introduced myself to the officer and commented that I hadn't met him before.

Of course you know me, said he, I've been in the newspapers.

They cuffed her and drove her north. She never saw a psychiatrist. She never saw a doctor. At 3 in the morning she was released, because no one was pressing charges.

And today she's in the field again, a bit dazed, smiling. "oh, I'm trying so hard to be good" she tells me, and says, yes, she had something to eat today.

She grew up here, child of an old family. Pretty girl, with her bright blue eyes and lovely body and her bright gold hair, though she cut her hair off today. She's been raped, sometimes by those she's trusted. She's been hurt in a hundred ways. Her brother killed himself a couple years ago, and she was there.

She has the soft trembling mouth of a four year old, and a mind that is perhaps stopped at about age 10. For months I've talked with her, as she's wandered through. For months I've tried to watch over her just a bit.

And the other day the governor of my state cut all the funds for mental health services to the homeless.

"oh, I'm trying so hard to be good. Won't anyone help me?" How do I answer those blue eyes?

Labels: , , ,


Blogger David said...

Justine's story is quite sad. Also, I am astonished that the State of California would cut funding for mental health treatment. I have always thought of California as a bastion of liberal thinking and action. I suppose that is a very simplistic view. I know that Gov. Arnold is not the first Republican elected to the State's highest office. Well, it may not be all Arnie's fault. I know that Californians have voted themselves huge tax cuts. Maybe they imagined that social services would continue as before despite the lack of funds to pay for them.

It is a rediculous myth that cutting the size of government will make things better for everyone. Lets take for example the recent food and toy scares. A couple of million spent on hiring or retaining competent government inspectors could have prevented some of these problems. I have heard that there are hundreds of billions in unpaid taxes owed to federal and state governments. Well, once again, a few million spent on tax auditors to catch the deadbeats would bring in billions of dollars that could them be available to fund useful social programs. Well, who am I kidding, the politicians would probably just squander the additional funds anyway.

I hope that something will change so that Justine can get the help she needs.

10:24 AM, August 26, 2007  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Well, gee, I don't recall California voters passing a bunch of tax cuts, though Arnold approved a 45 million cut for the owners of yachts at the same time he vetoed the mental health care for the homeless and cut the other programs for kids and families below poverty level.
It is simplistic to think of California as purely liberal; we are a huge state and a varied one indeed. The Enron scandal really hit us hard (and we still haven't been paid back as a state or as individuals).
Ah well. Pretty day here today; I can feel the autumn coming closer.

6:35 PM, August 27, 2007  
Blogger David said...

I guess that I was thinking of Proposition 13. I just looked it up. I can't believe that it was enacted 25 years ago! Well, I have a very long memory for some things. ;)

Arnie has a rather skewed sense of fiscal discipline! Wouldn't surprise me if he declares The Hummer an endangered species and eliminates the license plate tax on Hummers to encourage its survival. :)

8:22 PM, August 27, 2007  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

Not that I begrudge others what they have, but is that truly the best area to pare funding from? From a personal standpoint I really don't care if someone has a 4.5 million mansion or a fleet of Maybachs. I may not understand the desire to have it but I don't think it is necessarily wrong. It's a choice. I think it is well within the rights of a governing body to say that if you can afford a $345K car, you can afford, say, an additional tax connected to yearly 2% license plate renewal. That could go for funding for her. But that's just an idea. Like many you've had. I think there is always a place to find funding but it depends on if there is a true desire to allocate said funds to these areas. This makes me think of Karl Marx and his ideas. It makes so much sense yet it seems unattainable in times like these.

**Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case. ** (

10:01 PM, August 27, 2007  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

My partner would love it that you are quoting Marx, LiveWire.
Actually, in California we passed prop 65 not long ago, which is supposed to add one percent to the taxes of those who have over a million dollars of taxable income, and that money is supposed to go to fund mental health programs at the county levels.
Problem is--well, somehow the money never quite made it through, or got diverted oddly.
There must be a solution, you are correct. I'm going to be meeting fairly soon with local cops and healthcare workers and teachers and see if we can come up with something, even a tiny something. Meanwhile on a person to person basis a few of us do what little we can.

11:51 PM, August 27, 2007  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Just a quick drive-by to say how glad I am about your partner feeling better, and how if I were in your part of the world I'd bring some tea and cookies by so you could take a little break.

And as always, lovely post that gets to the heart of the important, big questions.

Hope you have a peaceful weekend!

10:56 AM, September 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never quite gotten the hang of logging into Blogger, so I will just use anonymous and sign my name.
I don't really understand much about California's politics, seeing that it is across the county from me, but I have heard that all the voter approved pettitions tie the hands of the government, and that they then have to work around all the things the voters have voted to keep, even if they cant find the money.

Like I said, I don't really know the deal there, but I do have some sympathy for the predicament if that is the case.
(Oh, as with my own blog, please excuse any spelling mistakes)

6:25 PM, September 09, 2007  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

cemetaryconsort--you might have noticed I have the same problem when visiting Livejournal pages! (and don't worry about spelling--it has always been difficult for me as well; I envy those who wrote in the 1700's when one could spell at whim, and capitalize that way as well.

Politics in my state are very complicated; you are thinking of the initiative process perhaps (that has resulted in some interesting moments). I'm going to be meeting this week with some so called Important People on this issue; we'll see.

Lori--always so good to have you stop by, thank you.

9:00 PM, September 09, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home