Life lessons at the intersection of melodrama and mental illness

Most of us have had a small nagging pain or unresolved problem that bugs us. At times, those small things can suck up large portions of our thoughts. Inevitably, we hear about someone who is experiencing something far worse. That’s when most of us realize whatever was bugging us pales in comparison.

I’ve been bugged for years by the Kardashians. All of them. I have been unable to find anything merit-worthy in what seems to me to be a wholly vapid, vacuous, vain group of valueless ninnies “k”areening, “k”avorting and “k”rashing around TV and social media.

My biggest gripe is their evident lack of awareness or empathy for the lives of the regular folks who are their fans. Their fans are legion. The five sisters, brother and mom have tens of millions of Facebook followers, and hundreds of thousands more fans on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

These multimillionaires — yes, even the little sisters are multimillionaires, which I verified on Forbes — do virtually nothing to give back. They made a whopping $122 million in 2016. For the record, they make some donations and they do attend some benefits. However, it’s not lost on me, for one, that this small effort is always displayed in a big way on their TV show. Philanthropists, they ain’t.

My latest beef is about their recent romp through Cleveland, all duly filmed for an upcoming show. Somehow, they paid off the IX Center to shut down so the girls could skip, jump and slide their way through the amusement park. Oh, c’mon! You mean to tell me it did not occur to them to invite kids from Boys and Girls Clubs or another youth-serving nonprofit to join them? These are kids who cannot afford the price of a ticket, much less the total shutdown of the facility. They present no security threat. Their inclusion would have made for good TV. Perhaps the notion of viewers seeing happy, cute kids — other than those named Kardashian — ruffles their tresses.

Then, that “something worse” hit. In this case, it could not have gotten any worse. On a beautiful Easter Sunday afternoon, a 74-year-old Cleveland man, just out for a walk, was murdered by a madman.

Robert Godwin Sr., was a dad, grandpa and great-grandpa. He was a retired foundry worker. From all accounts, he was a good person. Photos of him hugging family members or being hugged by them could not eradicate the images some of us saw of his murder, posted live on Facebook.

He was targeted at random because his killer wanted to send a message to the woman who jilted him.

“That’s just crazy,” we will say to each other. Indeed, it is. At the same time, we reached for our cellphones to make check-in calls to friends and family. I worked with police officers for more than 10 years, so my thoughts also turned to what was going on with them. If we, as civilians, feel a heightened sense of wariness, how must a police officer feel during incidents like these? “Way more vigilant” is how one police chief described it to me after it happened.

Only foolish people will label this “just another black-on-black crime.” Anyone can snap. That means anyone in any neighborhood — including ours — could become a victim … or a perpetrator.

It’s impossible to predict when these things might occur. However, we can — as taxpayers and voters — insist our state and federal governments properly fund high-performing (evaluated) prevention and intervention programs for the mentally ill.

We can educate ourselves about signs that someone is struggling with life or reality. Similar to what I recently wrote about suicide, we should not ignore changes in behavior or personality that cause us to be concerned for someone: a family member, neighbor or work colleague. As I suggested then, if we are not sure, we can seek help from professionals. In Lorain County, the Nord Center is a significant force dealing with mental health-related issues.

The country now hopes for an apprehension with no further violence to innocents or harm to police officers. Like so many others, my thoughts and prayers are with the Godwins. I hope they will be able to think about those joyful moments they had together to sustain and strengthen them through their grief.

In a split second, the Kardashians and their melodrama became insignificant. In the wake of Mr. Godwin’s murder comes the stark reminder we need to be careful about how we use the word “crazy.” An event can be crazy, a person is mentally ill. This horrific incident also points to the stark difference between TV that’s real and reality TV. Perhaps this horrific incident can prompt the Kardashians to write some big checks to our nonprofit organizations working to address mental illness. If and when that happens, I could change my mind about whether it makes sense to keep up with the Kardashians.


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