Episodes

#14 – Laughing at Tragedy – Survival Coping Skills

“Comedy Is Tragedy Plus Time” ~ Steven Allen

For a long time, I thought I had not inherited the funny gene from my father’s side of the family until later in life when I met tragedy. Growing up with the Fox family meant an endless stream of both story and one-line jokes, witty word play infused with a broad spectrum of comedy, depending on the tone of the hour, and almost nothing seemed off the table, even during serious moments. During the holidays, or other family gatherings, there would be endless laughter as family members seamlessly rattled off their style of humor, building on whatever had been said before, as if they had rehearsed their lines for a sitcom. I heard everything from the light and goofy to dark humor, insults, and satire. My dad, in particular, liked to clown around, especially for the kids. My study of our family genealogy revealed that some of our family’s sense of humor originated from German “gallows humor” (galgenhumor), also known today as schadenfreude, and British humor with New World American twists. Schaden (“damage, misfortune”) + Freude (“joy”) = “joy in the misfortune of others”.

To an outsider, this probably sounds like a lot of fun. And it was for the appropriate times. But, humor also includes sometimes being the butt of humor, which can be embarrassing or humiliating. Humor can also be used for punishment, which is not the least bit funny, but the people adept in its use seem to have perfected using humor as both a shield and a sword.

Try having a serious conversation during a serious time with someone who’s coping skills, like cracking jokes, interferes with their ability to have a serious conversation.  It requires immense patience and tenacity to stick to the subject. Humor is an excellent evasive tool for avoiding serious discussions. And so I was labeled the “serious” one, which was probably inherited from my mother’s side since she rarely uses humor.

“THE MORE ONE SUFFERS, THE MORE, I BELIEVE, HAS ONE A SENSE FOR THE COMIC.”

~ Søren Kierkegaard

Even while my dad was at death’s door, he was cracking jokes in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital. Most of his humor went over the heads of hospital staff, who tend to be a serious bunch, but a few did get him and played along.

As you can see from the SnapChat photo I took of him doing one of his many funny poses, he was very entertained by the smartphone app that changes the appearance of the user’s face. He, after all, at least for the interim at the time, had survived a widow’s maker heart attack in November 2017, something most people immediately die from. Many of us didn’t think he was going to survive his upcoming major heart surgery in May 2018, which he successfully did, but there was some residual damage to the heart that could not be repaired, leaving him with some limitations. As of January 2020, he has exceeded all expectations; he is ambulatory and living independently, but it is difficult for him to walk for more than a mile, or to walk upstairs, because of the weakened heart.

While my dad was hooked up to multiple machines and tubes, the first thing that came out of his mouth, when he awoke after surgery and barely conscious, was a joke, which was really a request for a strawberry milkshake. He could barely say it due to the tubes coming out of his neck. My ear was right up against his mouth. Humor is a language all on its own, and it has taken me years to decipher what my dad is really trying to communicate to me.

Meeting Tragedy

For months my dad had been in and out of the hospital while the health care professionals tried to figure out what was wrong with him, tried to stabilize him, and ran a series of tests to determine if it was worth doing surgery. It appeared the odds were in his favor. But just in case he didn’t survive the heart surgery, my dad wanted out of the hospital for a few weeks, so he could enjoy what could be the last days of his life.

So I took my dad to get manicures, pedicures, massages, meals at nice restaurants, and other short trips that he could physically handle because he was quite weak. Unfortunately, at the same time, he had to deal with a family member who was illegally selling his home and other possessions and was poisoning other people’s opinions about him. My dad was literally and figuratively heartbroken.

I too, since youth, had been poisoned by others against my father. My parents divorced when I was a teenager, and for years I had very little contact with him. I really only “knew” my dad through other people. And when I did have contact with my dad, my perspective of him had been so severely skewed by other people’s opinions about him that it negatively affected our relationship. His heart attack brought us together to heal both the physical and emotional heart. We spent almost every day together for months. We laughed and cried together over hours and hours of conversation. I learned a lot about him and our family history. My dad is a simple guy, not a malicious bone in his body, and deep down, he just wants everyone to get along.

Meeting Tragedy From The Past

Confirmed by documents I obtained and other corroborating evidence, my dad had been the victim of government experiments conducted on military service members in the 1960s, all of which had negatively affected his entire life. As a boy, he had dreamed about serving in the Navy as a long-time career, like his uncles. But all of that was cut short. He was a Sea Cadet for a long time and went to boot camp the summer between his junior and senior years in high school. Immediately after graduating from high school in 1964, he trained a few short weeks on Treasure Island and then deployed to Japan, where he boarded a ship headed to the Gulf of Tonkin. My dad was there during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that led to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Shortly after, he was stationed at U.S. Naval Radio Transmitter Facility in Tarlac Province, Philippines, where someone slipped PCP into his drink at a bar.  The events that followed have haunted my dad for a lifetime. Our goal is to write a book together about it. My dad’s father and mother (see below), Harry and Virginia Fox, had both worked as civil servants for the Army at Fort Ord, California.

Harry had worked as an electrical foreman for 30 years at Fort Ord, after ten years of honorable Naval submarine service before WWII, and he helped to build the growing Army base. In addition to working as a foreman during WWII, Harry worked with the Army as a German translator for the Nazi POWs encamped at Fort Ord.  Virginia worked for the Army G-2, assisting with investigations and was active in the local Parent Teacher Association for twenty years. The couple had purchased four lots in Del Monte Forest in 1938, and with the help of his coworkers from Fort Ord, they cleared the thick forest to build the Fox family home. It took several years to finish the house because building materials were hard to come by during WWII.

A few years after my dad was honorably discharged from the Navy, he went to work for the Army Corp of Engineers at Fort Ord as a heavy equipment operator for almost 20 years. My dad had been a whistle-blower in the mid-1980s after witnessing months of egregious stealing by civil servants at the base. My dad grew up hearing all kinds of stories about what went on at the base, and so did I, from not only my father but also from kids whose parents worked there. It was no secret that people stole supplies from Fort Ord, either by the workers who brought home Army supplies or by contractors who were paid inflated prices. Since Fort Ord had been undertaking massive building projects for decades, some of the building supplies were used in building projects for private homes in the surrounding cities. I was even surprised to discover after I had enlisted in the Navy, that even my grandfather’s old metal stapler was a military stapler.

My dad called the fraud-waste-abuse hotline and reported what he had seen, but the people who he reported to did not protect his anonymity. In retaliation, the people he reported on tried to force my dad to drive a water truck that needed new brakes, which my dad refused until the truck was fixed. Fort Ord may have fewer hills than the rest of the area, but it sure wasn’t flat, and there was no way he was going to drive it on the hilly dirt back roads. My dad’s story is not much different from other civil servants who report wrongdoing. And that’s why I found the stickers pasted all over Navy supply cabinets that demanded personnel to report stealing and claimed the person would remain anonymous, to be misleading.  My dad had followed the instructions of similar stickers, and look what it got him; death threats directed at his children, destroyed his marriage, and he took early retirement from civil service. Fort Ord closed shortly afterward, and a lot of people became unemployed or had to relocate. Today, I have a greater understanding of what my dad went through back then. It’s not easy to be a whistle-blower. The retaliation breaks many people, including their families. As author Tom Mueller can attest to, he interviewed several whistle-blowers and featured their stories in his new book called Crisis In Consciousness.

Revenge Tragedy

While I was trying to help my dad and spend whatever remaining time left he had on this planet with him; I was being harassed under the disguise of official business by my former coworkers and managers, who work or had worked at the Oakland Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO). I had been trying to get assistance through various government and non-government channels to stop the retaliation that had been directed at me as a Veteran, which included driving around the state of California, and flying to Washington DC.  As the proverbial phrase goes, “revenge is a dish best served cold,” which expresses the notion that vengeance is more satisfying when exacted some time after the harm that instigated it.

In my case, Oakland VARO officials had found a way to punish me for coming forward as a witness for a former coworker, and other whistle-blower activities that had made the front cover of some California newspapers, and aired on local news channels. I was told Oakland VARO officials had been infuriated by investigative journalist Aaron Glantz’s 2012 story. I had come forward because that is what our training told us to do. I didn’t realize federal agencies treated whistle-blowers like the military.

Oakland VARO had found a way to punish not only me but my family, by exploiting my family’s vulnerabilities. I have since learned that my case is not an isolated incident. Apparently, when Veterans Affairs (VA) officials retaliate, they also go after the people around that person. I have even heard this from other federal agency whistle-blowers. VA officials have access to a tremendous amount of data on Veterans, everything from military records to health records, and more.

Trying To Prevent Tragedy – The Stealing Of A Home

My dad was supposed to have been protected by the Veterans Affairs Fiduciary Program, but apparently, this program is fraught with corruption as well.  Chris Attig, who hosts Veterans Law Blog, has a plan to help those interested in advocating for state laws that would help protect Veterans from the VA “Fraud-uciary” program. Elder financial abuse is a growing problem nationwide that is severely under reported. To learn more, buy Michael Hackard’s book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, which presents both overview and in-depth analysis of several topics. Among other issues, Marti Oakley regularly interviews people about guardianship abuses and keeps her listeners informed of emerging trends that affect everyday people via Blog Talk Radio.

While I was trying to prevent a family member, who the VA had given fiduciary responsibilities to, from illegally selling my dad’s home, VA officials did everything they could to block me. It’s quite cruel and sadistic what they did. It is virtually impossible to get VA officials held accountable for wrongdoing.

First Tragedy, the VA fiduciary hub, claimed my dad had to show proof of abuse by filing a county Adult Protective Services (APS) report. Then he was instructed to submit the report to the VA fiduciary hub BEFORE the VA would help my dad. These are lies. There is nothing in VA fiduciary regulations that state this. In fact, what the regulations do say, is that all a Veteran needs to do, is to ASK to have their VA fiduciary changed. In other words, a Veteran does NOT need to show proof of fiduciary abuse in order to get their VA fiduciary changed. My dad did not want to get this family member in trouble; all he simply wanted was to remove the powers that had been granted to her so he could prevent anything further from happening.

Second Tragedy, since my dad had been in the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) hospital during this time, by law, the hospital MUST file an APS report. But the hospital social workers REFUSED! Which is against the law. Hospital staff are mandated reporters. That means when a patient or family member reports abuse, hospital staff are legally obligated to file a report. The VA social worker, named Stephen Rogers LCSW #21540, wanted me to submit to him all of my dad’s evidence so he could determine if it met criteria or not, to warrant filing an APS report; this is NOT true. It is not a hospital staff’s responsibility to investigate allegations of abuse before submitting an APS report. County APS officials conduct all investigations, NOT hospital staff. The responsibility of VA social workers is to make an APS report by filling out a standard form, and helping the Veteran fill and submit paperwork to have the VA fiduciary changed. Instead of helping my dad, Stephen Rogers refused, and wrote a bunch of lies about me in my dad’s medical records. During our in-person meeting, Rogers tried to make the meeting more about him than helping my dad by sharing very personal stories about his life, such as how he had been sexually molested as a child. A healthcare professional who shares their personal problems with their patients is exhibiting very inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, especially given the time-sensitive crisis my dad was going through. I legally (per federal regulations at the time) recorded our meeting, which is irrefutable evidence that shows Stephen Rogers is a liar. Most of what he stated in a medical note for my dad’s VA health record, regarding our meeting is untrue. Later, when the Sonoma County district attorney became involved, the D.A. subpoenaed the county APS records, which proved Stephen Rogers never filed an APS report that he claimed he did in my dad’s health records.   I later learned that the county APS only releases APS reports with court orders or subpoenas, which means the instructions the Salt Lake City VA Fiduciary Hub gave me were wrong. There is absolutely no way a Veteran or their family could have provided an APS report to the fiduciary hub. And like I said before, a Veteran does NOT need to show proof of abuse to change their VA fiduciary.

Third Tragedy, the family member, who did not want to give up VA fiduciary responsibilities, was falsely reporting to the VA that I had kidnapped my father, despite him being at the hospital, and later at a board and care while he waited for heart surgery. Even though the healthcare side of VA (VHA) had my dad’s contact information, including a durable power of attorney for healthcare, which listed me as the primary healthcare agent, my dad and I were never told at the time that she was making these allegations. Instead, I was contacted via Skype over my VA work computer by a Salt Lake City Fiduciary Hub, Misuse Investigator, named Eddie Quijano, who accused me of hiding my father and refusing to cooperate with the VA. This was the second time I was being accused of the kidnap of my father, but I hadn’t figured it out at the time until Quijano came right out and said it. Just a few weeks prior, an SFVAMC hospital staff person, told me that people were concerned my father was going to “elope” from the hospital, and it was for this reason they had moved him into a room with another Veteran, who needed to be watched 24/7. When I would assist my dad in walking the halls for exercise, we were also followed. I was really perplexed at the time as to why all of a sudden, my dad’s doctors were treating me differently, even though I worked in the same VA system as a social worker.

A few hours before Eddie Quijano had contacted me on my work computer, a VA Field Examiner, named Ronnie Booker, out of the Oakland VARO, had just seen my dad and me at the board and care. Booker had promised my dad that he would not allow his VA fiduciary to sell his home. I called Ronnie Booker right away after Eddie Quijano made his baseless accusations, and Booker told me he would handle it. As a parting comment, Quijano remarked my family dynamics were too confrontational. I never had any contact with him before. It appears his comment came from interactions with my dad’s VA fiduciary at the time, who had texted me and claimed that my dad was “stuck” with her, and that she had the “backing” of the VA.  I also received a text from my dad’s VA fiduciary that same day, who claimed Eddie Quijano told her she had the “authority” to sell my dad’s home. Then, I received a call from Ronnie Booker a few days later, who reported the VA had authorized the VA fiduciary to sell my dad’s home, and that he was looking up the value of my dad’s mobile home on Zillow. Say what? There is absolutely NO VA official that has the “authority” to give anyone, including a VA fiduciary the “authority” to sell a Veteran’s home, especially when it is against the Veteran’s wishes. The ONLY authority the VA has over a Veteran’s finances is strictly limited to VA benefits. Not social security, not any other property or assets. I was told every Veteran has the right to ask for a “subject matter expert” in order to provide information on the specific laws, policies, and regulations governing any action the VA takes. But the VA fiduciary hub refused to provide a “subject matter expert.” They refused to return my dad’s telephone and written communication, and even just hung up on us when we called. All we were asking for was a copy of the documents that allegedly gave the VA the “authority” to sell his home.

Fourth Tragedy, to make matters worse, the crooked real estate agent, named Steve Curtis [CalBre license #01260515] and owner of ASG Investments Inc., (C3597501), who was working with this family member to illegally buy and sell my dad’s home against his wishes, threatened my dad and I over the phone. Fortunately, he called back and left a threat on my voice mail, which I had turned over to the police. The title company tried to block the sale, but Steve Curtis went around the title company by becoming the seller, the buyer, and the broker. Whenever a sale of a home is disputed, the real estate agent MUST notify the title company so the dispute can be investigated first. Steve Curtis claimed the power of attorney this family member was using was valid, despite us telling him it had been revoked. Steve Curtis then paid someone to expedite the paperwork at the state offices in Sacramento and claimed on the documents he had paid ZERO for my dad’s home, which is FRAUD (see photo). The family member claimed she sold his home for $41k even though a different real estate agent had just appraised it for $155-$165k. My dad had just done about $30k worth of upgrades to the home at 6891 Redwood Avenue, Sebastopol, CA 95472, so where did the remaining money go? My dad is now stuck paying high rent in an apartment.

My dad and I made a complaint to the California real estate board, but we never heard back from them, which is so typical! Most of the complaints we have submitted to government agencies go UNANSWERED! I always see people saying that the government is there to protect people, and that is why we need more government. Seriously? Have any of these people who say that ever tried to get help from the government? Just about everyone in the government system failed my dad and I. My dad was forced to file a police report to try to stop the sale of his home, and now there is a criminal and civil case pending; all which could have been prevented if government workers had just done their jobs. Everyone knew ahead of time what my dad was trying to avoid.  My dad never wanted to get this person in legal trouble; he only wanted to save his property.

Fifth Tragedy, I helped my dad submit a VA OIG complaint regarding the VA officials, who had illegally authorized my dad’s VA fiduciary to sell his home. VA OIG refused to take his complaint. At the time, the Department of Justice website instructed Veterans to contact VA OIG to report abuse. As of today, it appears they have updated their website to instruct Veterans to report to the VA fiduciary to report VA benefit abuse.

But what happens when VA fiduciary officials are the ones doing the abuse? In April 2018, we were told by VA OIG, that the only people who investigate the fiduciary hub, is the fiduciary hub. Sound familiar? Government investigates government, and finds government not guilty. Executive Order 12196 rears its ugly head again. Executive Order 12196 essentially allows the fox to guard the henhouse. Of course! It makes so much sense that Eddie Quijano would get to investigate himself, and find himself NOT guilty! And if you couldn’t tell, I am being facetious.

Sixth Tragedy, I contacted the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) and gave them my dad’s evidence. Crickets! The committee is supposed to provide oversight! There is no oversight when Veterans and whistle-blowers are in communication with staffers but never hear anything back.

Seventh Tragedy, my dad contacted his Congressional Representative Mike Thompson, who has been doing casework to help him obtain copies of all of his VA fiduciary records, which are needed so he can get back his stolen home via civil court. It took the VA almost year before they released some of his fiduciary records, but the ones they are currently withholding, the VA claimed were lost. Before the “lost” record excuse, my Congressman caught the VA in a lie. The VA told my Congressman that my dad’s records had not been scanned into the computer yet and were waiting for the records to be scanned. And the “lost” records excuse is bogus on many fronts. First, if the VA indeed did “lose” some of my dad’s VA fiduciary records, that means they were not providing oversight, which means the VA just admitted negligence. Every year a VA fiduciary must fill out and submit paperwork so that the fiduciary hub can monitor them. Secondly, records that have been scanned into the computer cannot be lost. Thirdly, the VA fiduciary hub claimed they had conducted an investigation, but how could they if the VA had allegedly lost several years’ worth of documents? That means the investigator Eddie Quijano did not conduct a proper investigation because how could he with several years worth of missing fiduciary documents? Really what all of these inconsistencies mean is that VA officials are trying to cover up their mistakes. Like I have said before, the bigger crimes are in the cove-ups. You can’t make this shit up, folks! Truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to what the government does. But apparently, the VA can just make up whatever shit they want to! I a call it shit because some of what the VA does is just plain old bullshit.

Representative Mike Thompson is helping my dad with making an inquiry into why VA OIG had declined to take his complaint in 2018. It appears this time, HVAC is interested in helping. We’ll see. We have our fingers crossed.

Below is a video I had uploaded to Twitter in July 2018, which to date has received about 3k views, and I recently uploaded it to YouTube.

Biggest Tragedy Of All

For all the reasons above, I am forced to blog and post it to social media accounts, and a book will be forthcoming since it appears nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable. There indeed seems to be no recourse for Veterans. The VA just gets to do whatever it wants because there is very little oversight and accountability.

Insult To Injury Tragedy

2018 and part of 2019 were harrowing years for me, and at times I didn’t know how I was going to survive it; I was juggling so much at one time, I was exhausted. There was so much I couldn’t do; I just apologized to people and told them, “I have no bandwidth.” There is a lot more that was happening in 2018/2019 than I am saying here, I plan to write about it in future blog posts and a book. I wouldn’t have to if all the watchdogs were working right. But I believe it is my civic duty to use my First Amendment rights to warn the public about what happened to my dad and me because if it happened to us, I am sure it has happened to others. And I was right; it has happened to others. Since going public, I have connected with other Veterans and whistle-blowers with similar stories.

I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), which was caused by two life- threatening traumatic events. Since both of these traumatic events occurred as a surprise, in that I had no warning before they happened, I have what is known as panic disorder. Some people may only have one or two panic attacks in their lifetime, but what makes it a disorder is that my body’s threshold for flight/fright is already elevated. I am hyper-vigilant and easily startled. I have undergone hundreds of hours of therapy trying to manage them because I am a very social person, I like being with people. But it can be very difficult, sometimes impossible when all my body wants to do is leave a room. I have tried several different types of medications over the years, but I simply hate being on medication because of the side-effects. I was practically medication free in 2017 until I learned Oakland VARO was seeking revenge against me disguised as official business.

I started taking a new prescription medication for the panic attacks, called duloxetine, which is a generic form of Cymbalta. It worked great for the panic attacks but created a whole set of new issues for me. After a year of taking it, with progressively increasing dosages, I began to have more migraines and severe gastrointestinal distress. I was under so much stress that I just thought it was the stress that was causing me to be jailed to the toilet with vomiting and diarrhea. Another factor that prevented me from becoming aware of the fact that it was the duloxetine that was the source of my GI distress was that I had recently undergone two GI surgeries within the past year. Sometimes I had to come into work late, because I was in so much pain on the toilet, and I carried a change of clothing with me for those times when I didn’t make it to the restroom in time. All of this was extremely embarrassing and added additional stress to my already stressful life.

Even though the Veterans Affairs had all of this information, and I had told the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP), including Whistleblower Specialist Brandon Coleman in October 2018, it didn’t matter to them, because this is when they decided to retaliate against me in one of the most egregious ways; when I was at my most vulnerable.  Instead of allowing me to obtain medical care with my primary health care provider at the VA, they sent the FBI and a VA Police Criminal Investigator to my home to harass and frame me with false evidence. I was already dealing with a health crisis, and they made it worse by giving local officials where I live, a fake mental health diagnosis of me, which I will write more about in the future. I won a confidential no-fault admitted by VA settlement as a result of the loss of my job as a VA social worker. It took almost a year to get approval from the VA to be seen by a non-VA community provider. There was absolutely no way I could trust the same VA police, who had lied on their reports about me, to escort me like a criminal to my health care providers.

By that time, I had figured out on my own that it was the duloxetine that was wreaking havoc on my physiology. But when I tried to come off of duloxetine, the withdrawal symptoms were more severe than the side-effects. It took about a year to slowly titrate down from duloxetine, which was one of the most painful experiences I have ever had to deal with in my life. The brain zapping is no longer painful since, over time, the intensity, frequency, and duration becomes less and less, but the residual symptoms still linger. It was almost nearly impossible for me to get things done, and the things that had to be done took all my energy.

And since OAWP had used my GI distress against me in the most appalling of ways, is the reason you may see memes or videos I created referencing diarrhea. I tease that in October of 2018, when I was falsely accused of being a domestic terrorist, I would have needed to wear diapers and a barf bag while I was allegedly going to carry out horrific acts of violence because at the time I had been spending a lot of time on the toilet.

TO TRULY LAUGH, YOU MUST BE ABLE TO TAKE YOUR PAIN, AND PLAY WITH IT!”

~CHARLIE CHAPLIN

Pile On The Tragedy

Probably only pet owners will understand this next tragedy that piled on grief to my already overburdened load. Just a few days after being informed that I was being terminated from a job I loved, and had planned to be at for the next twenty years, with only two weeks to respond, my beloved fur baby cat woke my husband and I up at 3 AM screaming. His lower body was paralyzed, and he flopped around, screaming in agony. He was no regular cat. He was one of those rare and extra special cats, who had slept in my neck every night for the last seven years. We rushed him to the 24/7 veterinarian hospital emergency room, only to learn that he had suffered a saddle thrombus, and the most humane thing to do was have him euthanized. My husband and I were bawling so much in the clinic that we made both the vet tech and doctor cry. They were kind enough to wrap him in a warm blanket and give him a little pain medication, so we had a few minutes to say our goodbyes. My husband and I were heartbroken. We adopted two new kittens to fill the void, but even together, they weren’t enough. We had to ride out grief with time. A few months later, I had to euthanize my 19-year-old cat. It’s times like these when you look up to the sky and state: WTF?! God, if there is one.

Laughing At Tragedy

One of my survival coping mechanisms is my ability to laugh at myself. I had been through the gamut of appropriate and oscillating emotions, given the various situations I found myself in, such as crying to being terrified, but after experiencing my initial emotional response to an event, I tried to make light of my situation, by re-framing it. All anyone needs to do is shift their perspective to see things a little differently.

It is, for this reason, I try to remember to inform the public during interviews that if you hear me laughing about my tragedy, it’s not because it wasn’t difficult, its because I have already cried profoundly and extensively about it. I just chose not to be a victim over it. I want to be able to heal from the situation. I don’t want anyone’s sympathy. Empathy would be helpful, but sympathy can be foul, especially when it comes from someone who has no clue about what you have gone through or how you are feeling; and probably doesn’t care either.

Fortunately, other people have also been exploring the benefits of being able to use humor as a coping skill. The University of Colorado has a Humor Lab. Psychology Today has featured articles about it, such as Humor or Laughter Therapy. Crisis resources have recommended it; people have dedicated entire websites on it. Healthcare professionals blog about it. College students write theses papers about it; and researchers study it.

James Belarde’s blog post titled, Crying Until You Laugh: Finding Humor in Personal Tragedy, discusses George Bonanno’s book The Other Side of Sadness, which makes several good points: By experiencing happiness after tragedy, it puts those around the sufferer at ease, which will allow the sufferer to maintain support networks. In other words, our tragedy can cause the people in our lives to pull away from us so that they can spare their feelings. Bonanno suggested the tendency to find humor in dark moments facilitates healthier outcomes by providing a reprieve from constant gloom.

Tragedy Fodder For Memes

When faced with some of the most absurd situations, as I had just been through, what else is there to do? Make memes. It was clear the corrupt VA officials did not like my memes. After all, they had just sent the FBI and VA police to my door without a warrant to ask me to take some of them down. During my court case, evidence obtained through discovery showed my internet accounts had been under surveillance. To stop me from warning the public using my First Amendment rights, they made it appear as though I was making threats of violence towards the people who I had reported were breaking the law by pulling some of my memes and words out of context. The only thing these people were afraid of was exposure. They further abused their positions of authority to discredit me, so people would not believe me. It’s an old tactic but an effective one, which maintains the corruption status quo.

So to make sure nothing could be further misconstrued I started making “The Naked Truth” memes, which have several layers of meaning and intent; none of which are threats of violence. In fact, I am against all forms of violence. One of the people I highly respect, and studied his work, is Marshall Rosenberg, who started the Center for Nonviolent Communication. The VA had not only stripped me of my dignity, but they had also stripped me of my civil rights, my father’s home, the job that I loved, and the ability to feel safe within my own home, and while receiving health care at the VA.  Like I said before, there is a sadistic and heartless bunch who work at the VA that ruin everything for the rest of us.

Absurd memes for absurd corruption is how I describe it. The VA tried to discredit me, as they do to other Veterans when they criticize or complain about the VA, so I will just wear that label as my badge of honor. Most Veterans hide under a rock somewhere, after they have been further stigmatized and falsely accused by the VA, but that’s what they want Veterans to do. The VA wants to maintain its narrative, and in order to do that, they must silence criticism rather than improve the system, despite their doublespeak claims.

It has become quite ridiculous to have to write notices on everything I write or create to make sure VA bureaucrats do not misinterpret anything. Below is a sarcastic notice I inserted on one meme since it contained some symbolic weapons:

Notice: This meme is for entertainment purposes only. It is not a threat. I do NOT own any weapons, nor do I intend to hurt anyone with anything represented or not represented in this meme, including sending fireballs from the sun. It is for the exclusive purpose of exercising my God-given right of freedom of expression, which is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment.

Many Veterans do not understand what they are up against. When a VA official claims they fear a veteran, it really only boils down to two factors: 1) VA officials are so disconnected from Veterans that their fear skews their perception of reality; or 2) VA officials are using fear as both a shield and sword to silence Veterans, so they do not have to do anything. Of course, there are VA officials who are empathetic and good at what they do, like everything in life; no blanket statement is correct. It depends on the official and the Veteran.Whatever the case, the spider meme accurately represents how VA lawyers are interpreting and presenting Veterans and VA whistle-blowers internet posts of criticism in court. Really, what is so intimidating about the truth? The real monsters are very insulated by layers of bureaucracy and funded to do what they do with taxpayer dollars, such as monitoring Veterans’ and VA whistleblowers’ internet accounts. One of my favorite Gifs to use, for all those monitoring my content with malintent, is a clip of Peter Quil, the main character from Guardian of the Galaxy, winding up his middle finger. It’s pretty pathetic when there are people above the law, who get to break the law, to terrorize someone who has done nothing wrong, and the only thing a Veteran can do is say, “sit and spin.” And somehow that qualifies us as angry veterans who allegedly scare VA officials. It’s all very maddening, and that’s one of the reasons Veterans get so frustrated.

Related: Veterans Terrorized by VA Police

And so, with one of the last civil rights I have left, I make videos and memes to help me and others laugh at the absurdity of it all, while hopefully, just hopefully, our messages will be heard and heeded.

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