Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category
Alex Morris writes in Rolling Stone:
At 6:35 a.m. on the morning of March 4th, President Donald Trump did what no U.S. president has ever done: He accused his predecessor of spying on him. He did so over Twitter, providing no evidence and – lest anyone miss the point – doubling down on his accusation in tweets at 6:49, 6:52 and 7:02, the last of which referred to Obama as a “Bad (or sick) guy!” Six weeks into his presidency, these unsubstantiated tweets were just one of many times the sitting president had rashly made claims that were (as we soon learned) categorically untrue, but it was the first time since his inauguration that he had so starkly drawn America’s integrity into the fray. And he had done it not behind closed doors with a swift call to the Department of Justice, but instead over social media in a frenzy of ire and grammatical errors. If one hadn’t been asking the question before, it was hard not to wonder: Is the president mentally ill?
It’s now abundantly clear that Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail was not just a “persona” he used to get elected – that he would not, in fact, turn out to be, as he put it, “the most presidential person ever, other than possibly the great Abe Lincoln, all right?” It took all of 24 hours to show us that the Trump we elected was the Trump we would get when, despite the fact that he was president, that he had won, he spent that first full day in office focused not on the problems facing our country but on the problems facing him: his lackluster inauguration attendance and his inability to win the popular vote.
Since Trump first announced his candidacy, his extreme disagreeableness, his loose relationship with the truth and his trigger-happy attacks on those who threatened his dominance were the worrisome qualities that launched a thousand op-eds calling him “unfit for office,” and led to ubiquitous armchair diagnoses of “crazy.” We had never seen a presidential candidate behave in such a way, and his behavior was so abnormal that one couldn’t help but try to fit it into some sort of rubric that would help us understand. “Crazy” kind of did the trick.
And yet, the one group that could weigh in on Trump’s sanity, or possible lack thereof, was sitting the debate out – for an ostensibly good reason. In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson had foreshadowed the 2016 presidential election by suggesting his opponent, Barry Goldwater, was too unstable to be in control of the nuclear codes, even running an ad to that effect that remains one of the most controversial in the history of American poli tics. In a survey for Fact magazine, more than 2,000 psychiatrists weighed in, many of them seeing pathology in Goldwater’s supposed potty-training woes, in his supposed latent homosexuality and in his Cold War paranoia. This was back in the Freudian days of psychiatry, when any odd-duck characteristic was fair game for psychiatric dissection, before the Diagnostic and Statistical Man ual of Mental Disorders cleaned house and gave a clear set of criteria (none of which includes potty training, by the way) for a limited number of possible dis orders. Goldwater lost the election, sued Fact and won his suit. The American Psychiatric Asso ciation was so embarrassed that it instituted the so-called Goldwater Rule, stating that it is “un ethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination” of the person under question.
All the same, as Trump’s candidacy snowballed, many in the mental-health community, observing what they believed to be clear signs of pathology, bristled at the limitations of the Goldwater guidelines. “It seems to function as a gag rule,” says Claire Pouncey, a psychiatrist who co-authored a paper in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, which argued that upholding Goldwater “inhibits potentially valuable educational efforts and psychiatric opinions about potentially dangerous public figures.” Many called on the organizations that traffic in the psychological well-being of Americans – like the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Psychoanalytic Association – to sound an alarm. “A lot of us were working as hard as we could to try to get organizations to speak out during the campaign,” says Lance Dodes, a psychoanalyst and former professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “I mean, there was certainly a sense that somebody had to speak up.” But none of the organizations wanted to violate the Goldwater Rule. And anyway, Dodes continues, “Most of the pollsters said he would not be elected. So even though there was a lot of worry, people reassured themselves that nothing would come of this.”
But of course, something did come of it, and so on February 13th, Dodes and 34 other psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers published a letter in The New York Times stating that “Mr. Trump’s speech and actions make him incapable of safely serving as president.” As Dodes tells me, “This is not a policy matter at all. It is continuous behavior that the whole country can see that indicates specific kinds of limitations, or problems in his mind. So to say that those people who are most expert in human psychology can’t comment on it is nonsensical.” In their letter, the mental health experts did not go so far as to proffer a diagnosis, but the affliction that has gotten the most play in the days since is a form of narcissism so extreme that it affects a person’s ability to function: narcissistic personality disorder.
The most current iteration of the DSM classifies narcissistic personality disorder as: “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.” A diagnosis would also require five or more of the following traits:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., “Nobody builds walls better than me”; “There’s nobody that respects women more than I do”; “There’s nobody who’s done so much for equality as I have”).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love (“I alone can fix it”; “It’s very hard for them to attack me on looks, because I’m so good-looking”).
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions (“Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich”).
4. Requires excessive admiration (“They said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl”).
5. Has a sense of entitlement (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy”).
6. Is interpersonally exploitative (see above).
7. Lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others (“He’s not a war hero . . . he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured”).
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her (“I’m the president, and you’re not”).
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes (“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters”).
NPD was first introduced as a personality disorder by the DSM in 1980 and affects up to six percent of the U.S. population. It is not a mood state but rather an ingrained set of traits, a programming of the brain that is thought to arise in childhood as a result of parenting that either puts a child on a pedestal and superficially inflates the ego or, conversely, withholds approval and requires the child to single-handedly build up his or her own ego to survive. Either way, this impedes the development of a realistic sense of self and instead fosters a “false self,” a grandiose narrative of one’s own importance that needs constant support and affirmation – or “narcissistic supply” – to ward off an otherwise prevailing sense of emptiness. Of all personality disorders, NPD is among the least responsive to treatment for the obvious reason that narcissists typically do not, or cannot, admit that they are flawed.
Trump’s childhood seems to suggest . . .
The Four Horsemen Signaling the Death of a Relationship: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling
I”ve been reading with interest some stuff from Gottman.com and thought I’d point out this post on the Gottman website:
Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to continue The Four Horsemen series by providing you with a strong foundation of understanding before we go into further depth about each specific communication style. Consider today’s posting an overview of what is to come over the next four weeks.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.
The first horseman of the apocalypse is criticism. Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint! The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an ad hominem attack: it is an attack on your partner at the core. In effect, you are dismantling his or her whole being when you criticize.
- Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
- Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish! You never think of others! You never think of me!”
If you find that you are your partner are critical of each other, don’t assume your relationship is doomed to fail. The problem with criticism is that, when it becomes pervasive, it paves the way for the other, far deadlier horsemen. It makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt, and often causes the perpetrator and victim to fall into an escalating pattern where the first horseman reappears with greater and greater frequency and intensity.
The second horseman is contempt. When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean – treating others with disrespect, mocking them with sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.
“You’re ‘tired?’ Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic computer games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid – try to be more pathetic…”
In his research, Dr. Gottman found that couples that are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than others, as their immune systems weaken! Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner – which come to a head in the perpetrator attacking the accused from a position of relative superiority. Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce according to Dr. Gottman’s work. It must be eliminated!
The third horseman is defensiveness. We’ve all been defensive. This horseman is nearly omnipresent when relationships are on the rocks. When we feel accused unjustly, we fish for excuses so that our partner will back off. Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses just tell our partner that we don’t take them seriously, trying to get them to buy something that they don’t believe, that we are blowing them off.
- She: “Did you call Betty and Ralph to let them know that we’re not coming tonight as you promised this morning?”
- He: “I was just too darn busy today. As a matter of fact you know just how busy my schedule was. Why didn’t you just do it?”
He not only responds defensively, but turns the table and makes it her fault. A non-defensive response would have been: . . .
It’s a very bad sign when the state actively works against the interests of its citizens while hiding its actions from the courts. Joaquin Sapien writes in ProPublica:
A federal judge in Brooklyn has accused state officials of secretly trying to subvert a landmark court order to improve care for thousands of mentally ill residents of New York City.
Three years ago, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ended a prolonged lawsuit against New York state by ordering the Department of Health to begin moving as many as 4,000 mentally ill residents housed in group homes to less restrictive environments where they could live more independently. As part of his order, the judge had laid out a timetable for the state to meet its obligations to men and women who had long lived in homes marked by neglect and abuse.
But at a hearing last month, Garaufis angrily charged that officials with the Department of Health appeared to have hatched a plan with the operators of the troubled group homes to get out from under his court order.
“There’s some sort of a deal,” Garaufis said. “That’s how it appears. And we’re going to find out exactly what the deal is, because if there is a deal, I would consider it a fraud on the court.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said there was no secret plan, and that the state remained committed to meeting its obligations under the court order. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office, which has represented the state in the litigation for more than a decade, denied its lawyers were complicit in any effort to subvert the court order. The attorney general’s office has in recent weeks sought to distance itself from the Department of Health.
The development amounted to a remarkable moment in a case that began 15 years ago with a series of exposés in The New York Times. The articles portrayed a life of misery and exploitation for vulnerable people who had been discharged from state psychiatric hospitals only to wind up effectively warehoused in for-profit homes run by operators little interested in the well-being of their residents.
Lawyers for the residents soon filed suit, and what followed were years of hearings, depositions, a lengthy trial, a successful appeal, and eventually the intervention of the U.S. Department of Justice. Ultimately, Garaufis issued his order, and installed an independent monitor to make sure the state made good on its promises to first assess, and then relocate, residents from some of the biggest and most troubled adult homes in New York City.
Garaufis was alerted to the idea that the state was working to undercut his order in February as the Department of Health prepared to update the court on its progress in relocating residents. Garaufis said the scheme, as he saw it, involved efforts by the adult home industry to have critical regulations at the heart of the 2014 settlement effectively voided. The regulations limited the ability of home operators to accept new mentally ill residents.
In laying out the alleged secret deal, Garaufis said lawyers for the adult home operators had met with officials from the Department of Health, and that they basically worked together to have a state judge issue a temporary restraining order governing the regulations. The action by the state judge, Kimberly A. O’Connor, triggered a provision in Garaufis’ order.
Under the terms of the federal order, any dispute over the regulations that cannot be resolved in 120 days would mean the entire consent decree governing the residents of the homes would be voided. Why the fate of the settlement was being litigated in state court without his knowledge, Garaufis said, was incomprehensible.
Furious, Garaufis held a hearing on March 22, one he required be attended by the state commissioner of health, the commissioner of mental health and the counsel to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. He excoriated the group and said he was enraged that the residents of the homes were caught up in politics.
“If I sound dramatic, it is because it is dramatic,” Garaufis said. “It’s about them. It’s about 4,000 people.”
“I will not allow the kind of political, legal activity that is going on in this case behind my back and behind the backs of the plaintiffs to continue,” he said.
ProPublica sent requests for comment to Cuomo’s office, but got no response. A request to speak directly with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was denied.
At the hearing in March, Garaufis authorized lawyers representing the mentally ill residents to depose an array of state officials and said if a new trial was required, he would conduct it in July, and he would require the state commissioners to attend it. He also said he was intent on exploring possible sanctions against the state.
Lawyers with one of the city’s most prestigious law firms, Paul, Weiss, Rivkind, Wharton and Garrison, have worked on behalf of the mentally ill residents for more than a decade. At the hearing in March, Garaufis allowed a lawyer from the firm to respond to the state’s conduct.
“I don’t even know how to catalogue my outrage,” the lawyer, Andrew Gordon, said. “I mean, whether it’s the court’s efforts, Paul, Weiss’s efforts over the last 10 years, whether it is the fact that it appears that a federal order of this court has been ignored, whether it is the fact that the Department of Health and Office of Mental Health — who are charged with protecting one of the most vulnerable populations — appears to be in cahoots with the adult home industry. I don’t even know where to start.” . . .
Jeff Guo makes an excellent point in his report in the Washington Post:
For the past year and a half, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have been ringing the alarm about rising mortality among middle-aged white Americans.
The pair have attracted a bit of controversy for pointing out these facts. Recently, Pacific Standard’s Malcolm Harris suggested that their research, and the way it was presented, put too much emphasis on white mortality — when black mortality has always been worse. “American white privilege is still very much in effect, and no statistical tomfoolery can change that,” he wrote.
Sam Fulwood III, a fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, worried that Case and Deaton’s work would further amplify a growing narrative about white working class woes, to the exclusion of the African American experience. “I worry about how political people will manipulate Case and Deaton’s findings to argue for more aid for white people, but ignore the same, long-standing concerns of people of color,” he wrote last week.
Case and Deaton point out that the trend of increasing white American mortality — higher death rates in middle age — is noteworthy because those death rates have been going down for nearly everyone else: for African Americans, Latino Americans, for people in the U.K. and Germany and France. When we’re used to life getting better, it’s unusual to see life getting worse.
“It’s not as much news if people’s mortality rates are falling the way you would hope they are falling,” Case said in an interview Monday. “What seems like news is when mortality has stopped falling, and no one has noticed that it has stopped.” That’s what happened in the case of white Americans, she said.
But the critics on the left do have a point, which is that the statistics about black mortality may have not gotten enough attention in the media. So it’s worth straightening that out right now: Black Americans have long been dying faster than white Americans. They’ve long been less happy than white Americans.
Now, though, the two groups are starting to look more and more alike. Particularly among those on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, class has become equally — if not more important — than race as a predictor of people’s health and emotional well-being.
Case and Deaton have a chart showing the declining mortality gap between black and white people without a college degree. Back in 1995, black Americans with a high school education or less were dying at more than twice the rate of similar white Americans. Since then, black mortality has been declining, while white mortality has been climbing. In recent years, the two groups have more or less met in the middle. . .
Continue reading. The article includes some charts that show what he’s talking about.
Why states should allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses: Hit-and-run accidents fell after California gave those here illegally driver’s licenses, study finds
The facts overwhelmingly support allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, assuming you want to decrease hit-and-tun accidents, but sometimes people are not persuaded by facts. For example, some will want hit-and-run accidents to go down but still refuse driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, though they cannot offer a rational explanation.
This is similar to the finding that offering comprehensive sex education in schools from an early age and make sure that contraceptives are readily available greatly reduces abortions. So you’d think that those who oppose abortion would be strongly in favor of comprehensive sex education in schools and readily available contraception. You’d be wrong. Those against abortion also favor abstinence-based sex education (despite clear evidence that it simply does not have any effect on the abortion rate) and dislike making sure contraceptives are readily available to those who are sexually active. Thus they favor measures that keep the abortion high, and oppose measures that lower the abortion rate. And yet they say they are against abortion. That simply makes no sense to me.
Benjamin Oreskes reports in the LA Times:
California law giving immigrants here illegally the ability to get driver’s licenses appears to have helped decrease hit-and-run accidents, according to a Stanford University study released Monday.
The controversial law, part of a larger effort by state officials to provide rights and services to California residents in the country illegally, resulted in more than 850,000 people getting driver’s licenses since the law took effect in 2015.
Supporters of the measure argued that it would make California roads safer because those here illegally would be forced to take driver’s tests and would be less likely to flee from accidents out of fear of being arrested or deported.
The Stanford study estimated that the rate of hit-and-run accidents decreased at least 7% in 2015 compared with 2014. Using a complex formula, the researchers concluded that there were 4,000 fewer hit-and-runs that year because of the new law.
The Department of Motor Vehicles would not release data on who got the new licenses on a county-by-county basis. So the research team of Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller and Duncan Lawrence had to estimate how many new licenses in each county were given to people here illegally.
Hainmueller, a political science professor, said in an interview that the team looked at driver’s licenses issued in the years before the law took effect. In 2015, the number of licenses issued in certain counties with large populations of people here illegally jumped dramatically. They then compared those data to hit-and-run records in those counties and determined they had decreased.
This marked the first time researchers had tried to measure the effects of this policy change.
“We were really interested in part because California is not the only state to have implemented this law,” said Lawrence, another study author and a political science researcher.
The license is intended for people who cannot show proof of legal resident status in the United States. This license though has limits. For example, a Californian couldn’t use an AB-60 license to board an airplane or cross into Canada.
There are 12 states and the District of Columbia with similar laws on the books. Hainmueller pointed out that New York state is currently debating a similar bill, and that the debate there is occurring without much evidence about whether these laws are helpful.
“It’s shocking to see how you have these controversial debates and everyone is flying blind in terms of evidence,” Hainmueller said. “People in favor of it love it, and people against immigration hate it.”
Researchers posited that this new law would give people who may have been driving without a license a new confidence about being on the roads. Before, if they had been in a fender-bender, they may have been worried about waiting for authorities to arrive. These results suggest “that, if anything, providing unauthorized immigrants access to driver’s licenses reduced their incentives to flee the scene of an accident,” the authors of the study write.
The study finds that this reduction in hit-and-runs had a marked economic benefit. “Because AB60 led to an annual decline in hit and run accidents by about 4,000, not-at-fault drivers avoided out of pocket expenses for car repairs (physical damage) of about $3.5 million,” according to the researchers.
That’s on top of $17 million per year that . . .
Why are legislators so uninterested in evidence? Because it might change their views? (But wouldn’t that be stupid?)
Tamsin Shaw in the NY Review of Books reviews Michael Lewis’s new book about Tversky and Kahneman:
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
by Michael Lewis
Norton, 362 pp., $28.95
We are living in an age in which the behavioral sciences have become inescapable. The findings of social psychology and behavioral economics are being employed to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part. Aspects of human societies that were formerly guided by habit and tradition, or spontaneity and whim, are now increasingly the intended or unintended consequences of decisions made on the basis of scientific theories of the human mind and human well-being.
The behavioral techniques that are being employed by governments and private corporations do not appeal to our reason; they do not seek to persuade us consciously with information and argument. Rather, these techniques change behavior by appealing to our nonrational motivations, our emotional triggers and unconscious biases. If psychologists could possess a systematic understanding of these nonrational motivations they would have the power to influence the smallest aspects of our lives and the largest aspects of our societies.
Michael Lewis’s The Undoing Project seems destined to be the most popular celebration of this ongoing endeavor to understand and correct human behavior. It recounts the complex friendship and remarkable intellectual partnership of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the psychologists whose work has provided the foundation for the new behavioral science. It was their findings that first suggested we might understand human irrationality in a systematic way. When our thinking errs, they claimed, it does so predictably. Kahneman tells us that thanks to the various counterintuitive findings—drawn from surveys—that he and Tversky made together, “we now understand the marvels as well as the flaws of intuitive thought.”
Kahneman presented their new model of the mind to the general reader in Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), where he characterized the human mind as the interrelated operation of two systems of thought: System One, which is fast and automatic, including instincts, emotions, innate skills shared with animals, as well as learned associations and skills; and System Two, which is slow and deliberative and allows us to correct for the errors made by System One.
Lewis’s tale of this intellectual revolution begins in 1955 with the twenty-one-year-old Kahneman devising personality tests for the Israeli army and discovering that optimal accuracy could be attained by devising tests that removed, as far as possible, the gut feelings of the tester. The testers were employing “System One” intuitions that skewed their judgment and could be avoided if tests were devised and implemented in ways that disallowed any role for individual judgment and bias. This is an especially captivating episode for Lewis, since his best-selling book, Moneyball (2003), told the analogous tale of Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, who used new forms of data analytics to override the intuitive judgments of baseball scouts in picking players.
The Undoing Project also applauds the story of the psychologist Lewis Goldberg, a colleague of Kahneman and Tversky in their days in Eugene, Oregon, who discovered that a simple algorithm could more accurately diagnose cancer than highly trained experts who were biased by their emotions and faulty intuitions. Algorithms—fixed rules for processing data—unlike the often difficult, emotional human protagonists of the book, are its uncomplicated heroes, quietly correcting for the subtle but consequential flaws in human thought.
The most influential of Kahneman and Tversky’s discoveries, however, is “prospect theory,” since this has provided the most important basis of the “biases and heuristics” approach of the new behavioral sciences. They looked at the way in which people make decisions under conditions of uncertainty and found that their behavior violated expected utility theory—a fundamental assumption of economic theory that holds that decision-makers reason instrumentally about how to maximize their gains. Kahneman and Tversky realized that they were not observing a random series of errors that occur when people attempted to do this. Rather, they identified a dozen “systematic violations of the axioms of rationality in choices between gambles.” These systematic errors make human irrationality predictable.
Lewis describes, with sensitivity to the political turmoil that constantly assailed them in Israel, the realization by Kahneman and Tversky that emotions powerfully influence our intuitive analysis of probability and risk. We particularly aim, on this account, to avoid negative emotions such as regret and loss. . . .
I would say “No,” but then I’m not a sports fan. Apparently quite a few people are content to let players suffer from concussions and indeed do not think about it. Reid Forgrave has a memorable article (with video at the end) about the suicide (at age 24) of Zac Easter, a football player from a football family (Zac’s father was a coach). The article begins:
My Last Wishes
It’s taken me about 5 months to write all of this. Sorry for the bad grammar in a lot of spots.
I WANT MY BRAIN DONATED TO THE BRAIN BANK!! I WANT MY BRAIN DONATED TO THE SPORTS LEGACY INSTITUE A.K.A THE CONCUSSION FOUNDATION. If you go to the concussion foundation website you can see where there is a spot for donatation. I want my brain donated because I don’t know what happened to me and I know the concussions had something to do with it.
Please please please give me the cheapest burial possible. I don’t want anything fancy and I want to be cremated. Once cremated, I want my ashes spread in the timber on the side hill where I shot my 10 point buck. That is where I was happiest and that I where I want to lay. Feel free to spread my ashes around the timber if you’d like, but just remember on the side hill is where I would like most of my remains. I am truly sorry if I put you in a financial burden. I just cant live with this pain any more.
I don’t want anything expensive at my funeral or what ever it is. Please please please I beg you to choose the cheapest route and not even buy me a burial plot at a cemetary…. I also do not want a military funeral. If there are color guardsmen or anyone else at my funerial or whatever you have I will haunt you forever.
I want levi to keep playing clash of clans on my account. I am close to max have spent a lot of time playing that game. Though you think its stupid, I ask you keep playing it for me when you can and let my fellow clan mates know what happened. My phones passcode is 111111, so that’s six 1’s….
Levi gets my car, it will need a oil change and breaks/tires done her shortly. Please take care of old red. It will need cleaned out as well because I am a slob.
Thank you for being the best family in the world. I will watch over you all and please take my last wishes into consideration. Do not do something I do no want. Just remember, I don’t want a military funeral like grandpas. It is my last wishes and last rights.
I am with the lord now.
-Look, Im sorry every one for the choice I made. Its wrong and we all know it.
November 13, 2015
Zac Easter texted his girlfriend shortly before 10 A.M.
“Can you call me when you get out of class? I’m in hot water right now and idk what to do”
He typed as he drove, weaving Old Red, his cherry red 2008 Mazda3, down the wide suburban boulevards of West Des Moines. He’d already been awake for hours, since well before sunrise. At 5:40 A.M., he texted Ali an apology: “Sorry about last night.” Then he started drinking. By now he was shitfaced and driving around the suburbs. She called as soon as she got out of class, and he was slurring his words. Ali was scared. She wanted him off the road. She talked him down and into a gas-station parking lot, and then he hung up.
“Do not leave,” she texted back at 11:27 A.M.
Ali Epperson was nearly 700 miles away, at her contract-law class at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland. In football terms, Zac had outkicked his coverage: Ali was an ex-cheerleader but no vacant princess. She had a diamond stud in her left nostril and a knifing wit. They were a pair of scrappers whose jagged edges fit. Zac loved Trump; he kept a copy of Trump: The Art of the Deal in his bedroom. Ali was a budding progressive: a first-year student at a good law school who’d interned at Senator Tom Harkin’s D.C. office. They were just friends in high school; she used to cut fourth-period music class to hang with Zac. After they graduated, they became more than friends.
Sometimes he called her Winslow, her middle name, and only Winslow knew the full extent of Zac’s struggles in the five and a half years since high school: the brain tremors that felt like thunderclaps inside his skull, the sudden memory lapses in which he’d forget where he was driving or why he was walking around the hardware store, the doctors who told him his mind might be torn to pieces from all the concussions from football. She knew about the drugs and the drinking he was doing to cope. She knew about the mood swings, huge and pulverizing, the slow leaching of his hope.
“I’m not leaving,” he texted back.
He pulled into a Jimmy John’s and ate something to sober up, sending Ali Snapchats every so often to prove he wasn’t driving. Then, a couple of hours later, he texted her again: . . .
Do read the whole thing, and ask whether football is worth the cost. (The NFL clearly believes the answer is “Yes,” since they make a lot of money from it and club owners are not in danger. So the NFL with fight change, just as the auto industry fought safety standards, and for the same reason: it may save lives, but it cuts into profits.)