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America’s Broken Psyche

Dan O’Connell

A story based on actual events

It was a glorious morning and America woke up to read the news. The stock market was up, real estate values climbed and runaway unemployment statistics were a memory. But alas, life is not all sunshine and roses, smelling the coffee or practicing random acts of kindness. There it was, on the front page, a story of horrific proportions; ghastly, sinister and dark. A story titled “Duck Slaughter!

Hard to believe, the article revealed the grisly details of a crime that took place the previous evening. Several ducks had for years been frequenting a local Laundromat from a neighboring pond. The ducks, defenseless and innocent, a happy group of winged creatures were wont to spend many a pleasant afternoon utilizing the facilities therein.

A number of them had just finished 20 minutes on the low heat fluff-dry cycle to put a final sheen on their finely, fluffed, full-feathered figures. Others could be seen finishing a swim in various sinks throughout the facility; some were milling about telling human jokes, sharing the latest duck news or seeing who could quack the loudest. Another idyllic afternoon for our winged friends was coming to a close.

Then it happened. As the red Honda low rider pulled way from the nearby Starbucks, the caffeinated driver suddenly whirled the steering wheel and in the blink of an eye he was up on the side walk; forward, reverse, forward reverse! Feathers flew everywhere and in another blink of the eye he sped away leaving behind the unspeakable, the heinous duck slaughter.

Meanwhile, the eye witnesses of this ghastly horror were speechless. The effeminate, of both genders, fainted. While, the virile, of both genders shook with rage! How could this happen in broad daylight and the driver of the vehicle manage to get away? The witnesses began to feel a certain guilt and self-loathing welling up inside.

Two ducklings swimming

News channels ran regular stories on the "duck slaughter." A reward to find a "guilty" motorist reached $24,000.
Over the next few days, while thousands of angry out-cries were heard across the country, money poured into a reward fund to mount a manhunt for the unknown assailant. People gave generously, draining their IRA’s, signing over trust accounts, mortgaging their homes with lines of credit, anything to get the guy guilty of… “Duck Slaughter”.



Meanwhile, back at the Laundromat, federal agents from the DOL had assembled to commence their investigation and to administer grief counseling to the witnesses. The Department of Leo, or DOL had been formed a number of years ago in response to the tragic death of a beloved white poodle, Leo. Leo had become the victim of road rage when an irate motorist callously threw him from the freeway overpass. The agile pup actually managed to dodge 31 oncoming vehicles in a span of six seconds before the inevitable occurred. Splat!

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Leo the dog
The man who killed Leo, above, received a 3-year prison sentence. Pictures from Leo's website memorial
So now the DOL counselors were present. Ever steady and with tender compassion they worked gently with the distraught witnesses guiding them through a series of grief-release exercises. After a segment of slow, deep breathing, the counselors led the group on a guided meditation where each participant was encouraged to “quack” softly to himself and then in a sensitive way, “quack” to his neighbor.

Elsewhere, Shani Fletcher, a nineteen year old girl of Afro-American descent, an average girl, a good girl ran as fast as she could. She did not know where she was going she just knew she had to run! She was running like her life depended on it.

Shani’s trouble started like it starts for many young women; with her boy-friend. She never meant to get pregnant, it, as they say … just happened. At the Happy Family Clinic she was assured the $250 fee to terminate “the problem” was a lot better than the tens of thousands of dollars it would cost, should “the problem ever… well, turn into a child.” Nervous and uncertain, Shani signed all the papers.

Even though Shani felt herself, as her educators had taught her, to be an adult woman of consciousness, in charge of her own destiny with the ability to be anything she set her mind to, she could not shake a certain bad feeling. Nor could she ignore the many changes she began feeling in her body over the previous weeks. But what did that matter, after all it was her body and she was in charge of it! She would deal with the problem the way it needed to be dealt with. Why should thousands of years of male dominated cultures be allowed to come between her and her goals just because she was a woman?

On the appointed morning, the procedure at the Happy Family Clinic was performed with routine precision. No one doubted Shani had done the right thing and was on her way, unfettered and unhampered to her maximum potential. No one doubted this, except Shani. Being wheeled from the procedure room, Shani felt very thirsty. As the attendant pushed the gurney down the corridor, she lay looking up at the bright fluorescent lights that passed by and realized she felt hollow. She felt as if part of who she was, was gone.

The people talking around her all seemed normal but distant; they were nice and asked how she was doing. She said, “I’m fine.” But in her heart she knew she wasn’t fine. She realized something had been taken from her, something that once gone began to consume her with longing.

Suddenly, Shani let out a loud, deep groan. The staff was startled. Next, she sat upright and bolted off the gurney. Down the hall she ran in her blue clinic smock, right past the receptionist and out the front door…, some of the staff chasing her.

She ran and she ran; past the school grounds where all the children laughed and pointed at the lady running by, dressed so funny and barefoot. She ran past cars that honked at her and swerved so as not to hit her. She ran by the homeless man, muttering aloud to himself. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to hide or if she wanted to die.

A protestor against duck hunting

A society, above, that is intolerant for killing ducks... but, tolerant for killing babies in the womb, below,

A tiny aborted baby
As she rounded the corner of a building, a woman with her back to Shani was just reaching into a baby stroller, lifting an infant to her shoulder. Then, in a split second as Shani ran by she saw the baby’s face and the baby looked at her. The look from that face pierced her heart. Like an Old Testament prophet receiving infused knowledge from on high the mystery of life seemed to pierce the vale of confusion in her mind. It shot past all the media lies, the MTV, the rap music, the American Idol all the unceasing electronic chatter that bound her humanity and obscured any true self-reflection; it caused her to stagger.

Her ears were ringing; she could not tell if her feet were making contact with the pavement. She didn’t want to be seen; she fell to the sidewalk. She lay sobbing realizing she abandoned her child, realizing she let others carry his life away. As her face hugged the cool cement she did not notice there were people all around her. It was a protest, a sit-in; Shani had fallen in front of the Laundromat.

The protesters, a crowd of 40 persons or so, were in full swing. A middle-aged Caucasian woman with short hair was giving a tearful plea over a megaphone eulogizing how Nature had been violated and ducks must be protected. The leader of an ecology group from Berkeley, “People for the Interplanetary Preservation of Animals” was present with an attorney threatening to sue the negligent owners of the Laundromat for failing to provide a safe environment for the ducks.

The local State congressman showed up to show his support to the protesters and make appropriate comments to the media. As he walked thru the crowd he almost tripped over Shani. He reached out in an attempt to help her up. Sensing she was distraught he said “I can see… you feel deeply about this… as many of us do”. Somebody from the newspaper snapped a picture while the congressman held Shani and a look of compassion. The next day the newspaper ran the photo with the caption: “Congressman comforts duck mourner”.

Suddenly, three men yelled in unison “Stop duck slaughter” and threw balloons full of red paint at the front window of the Laundromat. Smack! smack! Smack! Shani watched as the paint, spread unevenly across the window started running down distorting the Laundromat slogan “Make a Clean Start!”

Then the chanting began. Slowly at first… “Defend all Ducks”, “Defend all Ducks” etc. and built to a crescendo “DEFEND ALL DUCKS”! A group of police officers who had been watching from across the parking lot moved in to control the crowd and apprehend the three who threw the balloons. The protesters were about emotionally spent on this busy afternoon distributing truth and justice to the public and started to disperse.

Just then the staff members in pursuit of Shani drove up in the Happy Family Clinic white van. The side cargo door slide open and out stepped nurse I. C. Berg. She approached Shani with two male, staff members. Nurse I. C. Berg explained to Shani that she was surprised after the preparatory counseling she had reacted the way she did. “Sometimes Shani,” she said “new found happiness has an adjustment period. Like when someone wins the lottery, they are in shock for awhile but they adjust.

But to run away from happiness is always wrong.”

Shani began to cry and remained silent as she saw the emptiness in Nurse Berg’s eyes and heard the hollowness of her words. She did not want to reveal to nurse Berg that in her grief she had realized the tragedy of what she had done and she had made up her mind she would not try to fool herself or deny it. She would embrace the grief and the guilt; take the emotional blows and seek redemption anyway she could. Bravo, Shani! Truth seekers always find the Way.

And so it was on that tragic day as the white van sped away from the duck protest. The day that Shani Fletcher stumbled… but embraced truth; while America slaughtered truth and continued to stumble along with its broken psyche.

Posted January 17, 2007

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