More on "Mencken's Revenge"; A lot of trouble for something that means so little; Response to "Is This Man Crazy?" 


More on "Mencken's Revenge"
Jim Watkinson wrote citing Mr. Mencken's perception of Southerners as stupid and worse Back Page, March 14. After reading the article, my first thought was to send Mr. Watkinson some tranquilizers to help him relax.

Although much of what he says is correct, every state in this union has its share of "porcine politicians, tinpot evangelists, fundamentalists and the booboisie." It's sad to have to admit that your own city and state have their share. But Richmond and Virginia are also filled with good, honest, kind and intelligent people.

During the civil rights era, television's nightly news berated many of us for being Caucasian people living in Southern states. Many came to believe they were awful. These people still flagellate themselves and others today for wrongs committed by past generations.

Years ago, while collecting first-person accounts of those living between the Civil War and civil rights, I found stories of good people — both white and black — enduring hard times, helping those of both races make the best out of a region left in ruin. They worked hard, kept a sense of humor and prayed for better times.

Around the turn of the century, two private citizens asked Andrew Carnegie for money to build a public library for Richmond, and Mr. Carnegie offered $100,000. Richmond had to supply land on which to build and $10,000 annually for library maintenance. A local "anonymous donor" offered $50,000, and others offered lesser amounts. While there was much support for the library, many, including the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, were against it. City Council decided there was no way to raise the money and rejected a proposal by the library board to purchase land. The sad end to the whole affair was that the Carnegie Library was never built.

Several decades later, citizen lobbying, 50,000 petition signatures, and a $200,000 bond issue produced enough money to stock a public library, and Mrs. James Dooley donated funds for building.

One wonders how, given the "eptitude" of the politicians of the time, Richmond ever evolved into any kind of city. If we look beyond many inept, so-called leaders "running things," we find people living with personal honor and individual kindness, who want the best for all of us. They are the South's dignity — our finest treasure, and it is they who will save us after all.

Ann A. Clarke

A lot of trouble for something that means so little
I found Mark Forster's letter regarding Tom Allen's article Back Page, April 18 about the existence and importance of God interesting, and puzzling Letters, April 25. Forster says Allen's article presumes, in a subtle sort of way, that those who believe "are somehow better or more moral than those who don't." From my perception, however, it seemed that Allen was simply saying that if one believes in God it should make more of a difference in one's life. Not that those who believe are better, but that those who believe should be better — that they have more responsibility because they believe.

It just seems really strange to me that someone would go to the trouble to write such a strong letter, so full of feeling about something that means so little to him.

April Blue

Response to "Is This Man Crazy?"
As Sean Church's psychotherapist for three years I was incredibly underwhelmed by Rob Morano's article about him and puzzled by his decision to go the "scapegoating the victim" route Cover story, May 2. I consulted with a colleague who, like myself, is an expert at working with trauma survivors, and he agreed that this letter would be therapeutic for my client. I am sending you this letter with my client's permission.

Mr. Morano interviewed me in my office. I gave him copies of letters I had sent to the Veteran's Administration urging them to take a therapeutic approach with Sean. I went on to describe meetings that I attended at the VA where I attempted family therapy style interventions with VA medical staff to facilitate an appropriate therapeutic solution. As a way to illustrate why I supported Sean's decision to be interviewed for the article, I gave Mr. Morano a copy of a quote from Judith Herman's book, "Trauma and Recovery," explaining that receiving public recognition, support and validation are often essential to a full recovery of a trauma survivor. We discussed how Sean's main goals from the beginning have been for the VA to take responsibility for their actions and for an apology. He contacted many agencies that are supposed to hold an agency like the VA accountable, with no success. Since even a mentally ill person could see that the VA was not going to hold itself accountable (and neither was anyone else) and I was out of intervention ideas, Sean has chosen the only other alternative our society allows, going through the court system. And none of us needs to be a civics expert to know that the courts deal in money.

Sean's psychiatrist and I are the only two people who treat Sean in a mental-health capacity currently and are therefore the only two people qualified to give him a diagnosis. Sean meets the criteria for the diagnosis of bi-polar disorder (manic-depression) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He works very hard in and out of therapy to not only manage his symptoms, but to heal them as much as possible. On two separate occasions since I have been treating Sean, the VA has treated him in an abusive and shaming manner, triggering flashbacks, major depressive episodes with strong suicidal threats, and psychotic features (psychotic for Sean does not mean dangerous, it means his thinking becomes very illogical and distorted). Sean and I worked very hard to help him weather those episodes and to grow from them. The fact that the public abuse and shaming of Sean has not triggered a full-blown suicidal episode proves that Sean is much more than a "pain in the butt" slacker. Sean is an intelligent, energetic and big-hearted man who has the obsessiveness of a manic depressive and the determination of a trauma survivor to not be victimized again.

The article made me want to switch the title to "Is This Man Brave?" Which man is brave and has more integrity? Morano, who chooses to flex his journalistic muscles by using Sean Church, a man with bi-polar disorder and PTSD, as a punching bag, or Sean Church, who chooses to be a survivor instead of a victim and takes on a multimillion-dollar agency such as the VA?

Laura E. Sabatini, LCSW

I personally know Sean. Your article in so many words depicted him as crazy, selfish and a jerk. Sean is none of those things.

I trust Sean and can say from personal experience that I have never met a man as strong, lucky, or well put together as he. He is incredibly playful, enormously genuine and very intelligent. He has a light about him that is very comforting to those around him. His fight is not a selfish, one-man fight. His fight is for anyone abused and mistreated. It just so happens that the only thing the state and the VA understand is money.

Matthew Paul

I am writing to offer some clarification and a postscript to your article on one of Richmond's true characters, Sean Church:

In the piece, Jack Richford is identified as the person who runs Aikido in the Fan dojo. Richford is an instructor and board member, but the president and chief instructor is Steve Earle.

And now for the postscript. At press time, Sean was getting ready to take his first test in Aikido — he passed.

Ann Furniss, Secretary
Aikido in the Fan

Sean Church is not crazy. He is, however, a contumacious, egotistical jerk with an overblown sense of entitlement who is depriving other worthy veterans of needed care and services for their legitimate, service-related medical maladies.

The majority of those of us who served our country in the armed forces served out of a sense of indebtedness and obligation to the United States for all the blessings and freedoms the country has provided. We did not serve out of some meretricious desire to gouge an already insolvent Veteran's Administration for every last penny of its worth, while failing to take any responsibility for problems that we, ourselves, might have had some hand in creating.

The sad part of the entire story is that Church is, and will continue to be, blissfully ignorant of the damage his delusional "quest" has created. His pathological need for attention blinds Church to the fact that his frivolous lawsuit not only draws away needed resources from being used to help veterans already seeking treatment, but will also force the veterans who come after him to deal with a Veterans Administration that is more skeptical and jaded than the one we presently deal with.

To paint Sean Church's mischief-making as anything other than shameless self-aggrandizement and money-grubbing is laughable.

John R. Lowrey


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