Try a little compassion

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Last week, a Van Buren man rammed down a statue displaying the 10 Commandments at the Arkansas State Capitol building. Iíve read a lot of misinformation about this case, and Iím hoping to clear it up in this column. Letís start with the facts.

Michael Reed, a born-again Christian who calls himself a ďJesus freakĒ on his Facebook page, filmed himself driving into the monument and live-streamed it to social media. He wasnít trying to hide what he was doing. This isnít the first time heís done something like this. In 2014, Reed ran down a similar monument in Oklahoma. He was arrested and ordered to receive mental health treatment, but he wasnít formally charged for the offense.

Taking those facts into consideration, I think itís clear this man has serious mental health problems. Some will say the way he repeatedly targets Christian monuments shows these acts are premeditated, but Iím not so quick to jump to that conclusion. My uncle has schizophrenia, and the voices inside his head have compelled him to do the same thing over and over again. That doesnít mean heís in his right mind while heís doing these things. Reed said in 2014 the voices in his head encouraged him to run over that monument. I wouldnít be surprised if those same voices caused him to destroy the one in Arkansas, too.

Iíve seen several comments saying Reed hates Christians or God or both. But heís a self-described born-again Christian. He even said in a Facebook post before the incident that heís a firm believer in Jesus Christ. You could say his actions show how he feels toward God more than his words do. It could be easy to make that assumption. For those of you who feel Reed has attacked your beliefs, I can understand feeling angry with him. Itís incredibly easy to respond to this situation with the way it makes you feel, especially if that feeling is anger.

Please donít do that. Please show Reed some compassion. Many people wonít look into this story enough to know he has mental health problems. Some of those who do will respond by saying heís pretending to have mental health problems to avoid the repercussions of this crime. I just canít believe thatís true, not after what Iíve seen with my uncle. The voices in his head are as real to him as these words on this page are to you. He once broke into a womanís home in the middle of the night and watched her TV, just because the voices told him to.

No, heís not out there destroying property. That doesnít mean he isnít capable of it. If the voices told him to, Iím sure he would. Like my uncle, Reed has a history of acting erratically because of his poor mental health. This has been documented. Itís not a way for him to excuse his actions. It is the reason he has acted this way, period.

Every time a mentally ill person does something like this, I secretly hope we can start having that all-important conversation about the way mental health is treated in our country. Thatís the way weíll prevent things like this from happening again Ö not with political rhetoric or anger, but compassion and understanding.

I hope this column compels you to have a little compassion for Reed and others like him. After all, isnít that what Jesus would do?

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.