Opinion » Shredder

Now or never

We get instant gratification, but delayed justice



A Snapple bottle once advised me to “Know Thyself.” I wound up smashing the bottle against a nearby parking meter because I don’t like being told what to do. Self-knowledge is over-rated. Also, patience. In truth, I mostly smashed the Snapple bottle because I couldn’t get it open quickly enough and lost my temper. Sure, I had to buy another Snapple at the gas station. But I didn’t have to wait 10 seconds for something I wanted. So there.

Before you judge me, take a quick look in the mirror. Odds are good that you—and everyone around you—are as complicit in creating a culture of instant gratification as I am. You want your pizza delivered in 20 minutes or less. You want expedited shipping on the carton of romance novels you ordered off Amazon.com. And they don’t call ’em instant messages for nothing.

Apparently you can’t even arrest someone, seize his assets, and subject him to six years of legal purgatory without the punk complaining that his Sixth Amendment rights—speedy public trial, for those of you who sill haven’t surfaced from that Big Mac you dove into at the drive-thru—aren’t being respected. The truth is, Charlie Lynch has no one but himself to blame. He could have sat at home and smoked pot recreationally—like everyone I know—and none of this would have happened. Instead, he had to start a business that dispensed pot to sick people, join the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, and generally conduct himself and his business like an upstanding member of society.

Or he could have waited until Captain Reasonable—former sheriff Pat Hedges—was out of office and opened his upstanding business under a much more rational administration. Odds are as good as your instant-gratification complicity that none of this would have happened. Of course, it doesn’t speak well of our “justice system” when what you get arrested for is primarily dictated by the whims of a single individual, and the difference between being a happy home and business owner and a convicted criminal is whether some dude has a bug up his butt about medical marijuana. As it turned out, Hedges had bugs up a lot of people’s butts—that’s a reference to Hedges’ illegal phone tapping, by the way, if the fast food has made you a little slow on the uptake.

Unfortunately for Lynch, we’re all so busy instantly gratifying our every impulse and whim that most of us have forgotten about him entirely. Frankly, I figured the whole mess was over with—an embarrassing blight on our local law enforcement’s record. Instead, he’s waiting, waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting on the outcome of an appeal he filed four years ago. The federal government seems more than content to string the guy along, filing four extensions between August 2012 and May 2013, delaying a decision that would allow Lynch to attempt to resume what’s left of his life. In the meantime, medical marijuana industry stock is being freely traded on the Internet. Justice, thy name is hypocrisy, and you’re slower than that slug monster in Monsters University. Also, you should probably invest in some Spanx.

While we’re hypothesizing about the nature of justice and the fact that it’s just about the only part of our culture that doesn’t adhere to our demand for instant gratification, let’s solve a riddle of how many Big Macs, pizzas, and expedited overnight snuggies we can acquire in seven months. Go ahead. I’ll wait here … Singing some Morrissey … counting the gray hairs on my knuckles … How many did you get? All right, I’m gonna ball park it between too many and way too freaking many.

So how is it that we have prioritized our ability to acquire empty calories and functionless hybrid blanket-coats with no wait time whatsoever, but a grieving mother has spent the last seven months trying to acquire information about her late daughter’s mental health?

You might reasonably expect that mental health records would take longer to acquire than, say, a Double Double Triple Lutz with Fries, but a seven-month wait time—with no progress to speak of—doesn’t speak to the efficiency of SLO County Mental Health Services. Of course, it’s not like they do anything important anyway—just piddly crap like monitoring, assisting, and caring for county residents suffering from mental illness. It totally makes sense that our local fast food joints would be run more efficiently than an organization that’s supposed to care for one of the county’s most vulnerable demographics. And protecting a patient’s privacy is important, right? So when the Sheriff’s Department (now Hedges free!) requested the patient history of Julie McDougall’s daughter in order to help them close the investigation into her death, it was more important for County Mental Health Services to say no and protect a deceased person’s privacy than for the Sheriff’s Department and family to finally determine how and why she died.

Of course, it would be a little easier to believe that SLO County Mental Health Services cared about its former patient if it hadn’t tried to follow up with her after she died. After. Or if they’d bothered to actually keep the patient the entire duration of her 72-hour psychiatric hold instead of turning her loose early. SLO County Mental Health Services seems to have proven more committed to defending a dead woman’s privacy than it ever was to protecting her while she was still alive. Which raises the question: Who are they really trying to protect by refusing to release those records? And why is our society set up so that we can acquire meaningless crap so quickly whereas substantial endeavors, like justice and closure, are nothing more than a mirage off in the distance?

You can’t spell Shredder without edder. Send Spanx to [email protected].


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