Juxtaposition of the Opposites: Funny and Sad

This column will be a little different from  my continuing overall mission to highlight issues of mental health reform in this country and in my home state of NC.

I had finally decided to take a digital camera with me a couple of weekends to a local mall and take a picture of one of the more public goofs I have seen in years. For the last three years whenever I drive by this mall and this particular strip of stores within it, my family and I always “hoot and holler” as is said in the South at this unbelievable contradiction in stores and signage.

Beside each other have long been a nationally famous weight loss chain store?/clinic and then next to it, the all too famous nationally revered doughnut store. And this is one of those doughnut stores that has the famous complete doughnut making machine and its automatic line of grease flat vats in which the doughnuts are fried and then the frosting unit that soaks them in that mouth watering glaze. Ever since I was a kid I have never lost my fascination with watching the doughnut machine crank out battalion after battalion of fresh shiny glazed doughnuts, an endless army of fat laden bombs.

But this past weekend as I drove over to the mall to hit the book store and other geeky stores, I saw that the two stores were no longer there juxtaposed right beside each other so I could take my picture and stick in a humorous blog post for the world to see this gastronomic health contradiction. One of the stores had closed. You guessed it, it was the weight loss store that bit the dust. I guess that says the national epidemic of obesity in this country is still going strong.

The other juxtaposition that was very sad and totally unfathomable was as follows. This past weekend on one of the cable television networks there was an incredibly well done documentary on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans returning from the Middle Eastern theaters of war. The interviews were humanely and considerately done and the vets and their families, ordinary people, were incredibly gracious to allow the all seeing, often unflattering television camera/camcorder eye into their lives. They were articulate to the point that I was moved to quiet tears and gut wrenching waves of anger at the still lagging lack of services they should be receiving, spasms of pain and sorrow for their suffering. My wife had the same reactions as we watched this program together since she is a retired social worker psychotherapist who practiced with me for many years until her M.S. and chronic fatigue forced to her stop working. We had read complimentary reviews of this documentary and had decided to schedule it into our evening time which rarely includes much television at all. (As the bumpers stickers might say: “We Still Read.”)

What was nothing short of appalling is that in the commercial breaks, over and over again, the network aired ads for joining the Armed Forces. I am not an anti-military type at all but the crass lack of consideration for the subjects of the documentary and families was shocking. Here was a superb documentary on their PTSD derived from their service to this country, cheapened by the presence of the ads for “joining up.” Whoever the top brass at the networks and advertising flacks that decided to stick these ads into this program were not thinking at all and had their minds elsewhere. What a colossal ‘politically incorrect’ and insulting boo-boo that must have struck many other viewers as puzzling, if not just plain incomprehensible. And I would not expect anyone to take credit for this scheduling display of idiocy. And I am sure the armed forces whose ads appeared in this context were not pleased either.

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