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Letters to the Editor: August 20, 2014 

Militarizing the police; call for Civilian Review Board; remove the shame around depression

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Militarized Marin

With Homeland Security's help, the Marin County sheriff buys a $700,000 tank to use against Marin citizens "just in case," and our supervisors don't even say a word, they just write the check. The sheriff reportedly told Alan Barnett's Peace & Justice group that the sheriffs were not just a police force but a "paramilitary force." Do we intend our tax dollars to pay for this?

Our government at all levels has become terrified of its own citizens. This is a cruel irony, as Americans overall are pretty much a mild bunch: generous, concerned, willing to take a lot of stuff off of the people who run things, be it government officials or Wall Street.

Police are meant to "protect and serve"; soldiers are meant to kill. Outfit police like soldiers, give them a military posture, and you create a dangerous element within society which our forefathers recognized when drafting the Constitution. There was a reason for insisting on no standing army.

The Pentagon itself was a big mistake, institutionalizing war and subverting our language by renaming the War Department the "Defense Department," creating such anomalies as the "National Security State," the oddly named "Homeland Security Department" and now a $50 Billion a year mishmash of over 20 spy agencies that are out of control.

Why isn't our Congressman standing up to this excess?

Lagunitas

Policing the Police

The Women's Justice Center fully supports the establishment of a robust civilian review board in Sonoma County to deal with complaints of law enforcement misconduct. However, the experience of cities around the country makes clear that simply focusing on individual problem officers doesn't get at the deeply rooted structural causes that keep regenerating law enforcement problems.

We've put together a petition of four remedies we believe can begin to address some of the underlying issues that plague our local law enforcement agencies. For more on the petition and how you can help, see www.justicewomen.com/petition or email tandersonstevenson@gmail.com.

Santa Rosa

Survivors of Suicide

When I found out the news about Robin Williams, I was in Montana with my family. We took a trip together to celebrate my dad's life; to bring his ashes to his final resting spot, and to mark the two-year anniversary of his death. As a survivor of suicide, I often come across people who will tell me that my dad's actions were "selfish." Not only is this an incredibly hurtful comment, but it could not be further from the truth. Unless you are one of the countless people who struggle with depression or bipolar disorder, you cannot imagine the amount of debilitating pain and heartbreak he suffered his whole life. Unfortunately, we do not live in a society with a solid foundation for addressing or understanding such issues, and a majority of the people who suffer from such illnesses do not even know how to begin to get help or do not feel comfortable asking.

Disorders such as depression and bipolarism are serious medical conditions that need to be dealt with as such. If you were diagnosed with cancer, you would go through all of the necessary treatments to rid yourself of the disease. Depression is no different. And sometimes, we must accept that much like cancer, depression may sometimes be what ends up killing our loved ones. On a physiological level, depression hijacks its victim's body and mind, making their attempts at living a normal life and finding peace damn near impossible. The only wish my dad had in life was to be happy, and tragically that is not something he could ever find despite his valiant efforts at doing so. This did not make him weak. It made him a victim of a nondiscriminating disease.

Not many who knew my dad would describe him as sensitive, but in fact he was one of the most sensitive people I've ever known. They usually are. They hide behind a tough exterior. They use comedy as a means of distraction. They do this so they can protect themselves behind a facade to keep people from finding out how truly dark their demons are. My point in writing this is to give you all a better understanding as to what depression and bipolar disorder really are. People throw the terms around so casually that their significance begins to lose meaning. Depression is no joke and it should not be treated as such. I know there are many of you reading this who suffer from either bipolar disorder or severe depression or know someone who is, and I ask you to do what you can to begin addressing the issue. It is not our fault that we are suffering from such disorders, and it is not OK to make people feel ashamed of them. We must be patient and understanding and not judge those who are living with these disorders. And for the loved ones who are left behind, do not make them feel shame either. Suicide is a taboo in our society, but I will not allow you to make me feel humiliated for something that neither my dad nor I had control over. I am a survivor of suicide, and I cry for all those who stand along side me.

Santa Rosa

Write to us at letters@bohemian.com.

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