May 11th, 1983 — 34 years later, May 11, 2017
“Why drudge up the past?” “Move on.” “Get over it.”
That’s what some people say in response to addressing the story of Straight, Inc. and other businesses pretending to be legitimate treatment programs. I understand where they are coming from when they say this, but they fail to understand that examining the past doesn’t mean you haven’t ‘moved on’ or ‘gotten over it.’ Conversely, forgetting the past doesn’t mean you have ‘gotten over it,’ or ‘moved on.’
It seems that the people who ask this question should review the reasons government-sponsored (a.k.a. public) schools, as well as private schools specifically, require history classes throughout a student’s educational career.
The explicit purpose of ‘drudging up the past,’ is to learn from it. We learn to avoid repeating the mistakes that were previously made, and we review what went into past successes to relay that knowledge to future generations.
You don’t forget a parent just because they passed away.
Straight, Inc., the ‘not-for-profit’ business that was posturing as a treatment center, permanently changed me and the trajectory of my life. When I walked into that building, I entered a world more depraved than I had ever been exposed to previously. That day May 29, 1982, marked the end of my childhood.
[pullquote]You don’t just get over it. You grieve, then you learn to accept your new reality and go about life accordingly.[/pullquote]Only a few weeks less than a year later, on May 11, 1983, (when I was still in the supposed 6-month long program) an exclamation point was added to the end of my childhood, as that was the day my father died. (Read more about that day here) I was still in the program during this time, and you don’t just forget a parent because they passed on. You don’t just get over it. You grieve, then you learn to accept your new reality and go about life accordingly. This is exactly what I did, both in response to my experience in Straight, Inc. and in response to my father’s death.
While Straight, Inc. didn’t directly cause my father’s death, it undoubtedly hastened its occurrence. The various circumstances in which the program put my father, and the incredible amounts of unnecessary stress this program caused him, without a doubt accelerated his journey to the grave. Straight, Inc., without due process and without a valid reason, stole the last year of my father’s life both from him and me. Do I harbor resentments? No, that wouldn’t be beneficial to me or anyone. Nevertheless, I do not wish for anyone else to be subjected to similar experiences.
Though the story doesn’t just end there. Every phase of my life has been affected by this program in various ways, even after leaving the program permanently in 1985. The ways in which my life was affected are too numerous to recount in this blog post. But suffice to say the program, and its connections even ended up playing a part in my mother’s death (January 09, 2012), though I didn’t discover this until a couple of years later. (This story will be told another time.)
We remember in order to learn from past mistakes and do better in the future.
You see, for some people (perhaps, most?), Straight’s effects never actually disappeared, they just hibernate until a significant event takes place in a person’s life. That person, in this case, me, may not even immediately realize the “straight-effect” is taking place, but that doesn’t stop it from occurring.
So to answer the “Why remember?” question about the Straight, Inc. experience, I have to say the most important reason to remember is to learn from what happened inside that dreadful place, to record what I have learned, and to teach future generations how to avoid making the same mistakes.
NOTE: (Also notice the “in lieu of flowers” blurb on the obituaries. This was printed in two papers in two states, and became a part of my permanent history. Just another reason to address this issue. )
In loving memory of my father.
In memory of William T. Barry (April 30, 1929 – May 11, 1983)
Washington Post – May 14, 1983
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