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Unfulfilled dreams have a way of playing tricks on you....
October 4, 2013 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Rob Meline always dreamed of being an astronaut. He became a teacher instead. But the beloved faculty member at Camas Prairie Elementary in Spanaway, Washington kept a family secret. When he fell victim to it in October 2012, he became the symbol of a flawed judicial system. What his students did next was out of this world.
posted by zarq (43 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's a video of the launch.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:58 AM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks! :)
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on October 4, 2013


What's this in my eye?
posted by figurant at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Brb, sobbing. And I haven't even watched the video.
posted by halcyonday at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I could affect one single person the way that Rob Meline did, my entire existence on this planet would be worthwhile.

Thanks for posting zarq.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:15 AM on October 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


You're welcome!
posted by zarq at 11:22 AM on October 4, 2013


For your convenience: considerably shorter version of same story.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:22 AM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Consider this comment a long rant about how we should (but are not) treating schizophrenics in this country.
posted by Melismata at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Here I am in traffic's slow flow
Where the needle touched down
Carbon planes draw a cage round the air force base
Where the needle touched down
My foot on the brake, it's ok to fly low
Over poor Spanaway"

Neko Case - The Needle has Landed

Having lived in Tacoma for two years and driving through Spanaway hundreds of times, this is all so poignant and touching and connected on a deeply personal level. The pain and tragedy lived by people in South Tacoma and Spanaway breaks my heart.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:33 AM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


What a touching article. Thanks for the link.
posted by flatluigi at 11:40 AM on October 4, 2013


I consider my tears a tribute to all the incredible teachers who let their students know that they are human beings full of awesomeness.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:49 AM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh wow. I read the whole story before scrolling back up to the top and realizing it was in Seattle Met. I used to work with another of their senior editors. I'll have to let him know it's making the rounds—this is great stuff. *blink*
posted by limeonaire at 12:06 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Goddamn, people.
posted by Madamina at 12:18 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Consider this comment a long rant about how we should (but are not) treating schizophrenics in this country.

Holy living fuck, this. When I got to the part where the hospital decided ("definitively") that they couldn't cure his schizophrenia and thus had no choice but to release him into the custody of nobody in particular I almost put my fist through a wall.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:18 PM on October 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


.

And to all my teachers: Thank you.
posted by seyirci at 12:59 PM on October 4, 2013


O>-|

Wow. Well done, class. Bravo.
posted by petebest at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2013


Kudos to Mr. Birdseye for his truly awesome project.

.
posted by Mojojojo at 4:01 PM on October 4, 2013


.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:31 PM on October 4, 2013


I'm really bothered by the framing of this situation as a "gap in the justice system". The justice system wanted precisely enough treatment so they could incarcerate the son, not enough treatment so that he could be a functioning member of society or, given that that wasn't possible, at least keep him safe and well-cared for. For some reason, the take away message from the article is supposed to be that we've failed to protect ourselves from those dangerous mentally ill people and that's why Rob Meline is dead, not that society failed his family so badly that he was killed by his own son.
posted by hoyland at 4:40 PM on October 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was able to keep it together until the photo of the little rocket at the end. Wow.
posted by Polyhymnia at 4:51 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The media never misses an opportunity to further demonise one of the most underfunded and isolated minority groups on the planet. It's a tragedy Rob Meline died, but let's turn the victim into an unsung hero and the, "psycho" into a terrifying monster (whom, of course, should have been institutionalised for life in order to protect society). Why not? It's not like there are any vocal/powerful activist groups which attempt to provide balance and shield the severely psychiatrically ill from such deliberately emotive and biased journalism.
posted by Nibiru at 5:03 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really understand the idea of 'not competent to stand trial'. How does that fit with the existence of the verdict 'not guilty by reason of insanity'?
posted by jacalata at 5:57 PM on October 4, 2013


A lack of competence to stand trial can be found by the judge before trial commences. Referring to a verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" is then a misnomer, for that reason. Although under some circumstances it can be up to the jury (or a judge) to decide that a defendant lacked the ability to form the requisite intent (or similar) because of mental illness, but only after a trial of the issue. (Which is when it would be correct to refer to an actual insanity 'plea.')
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:15 PM on October 4, 2013


"[Kim and Rob Meline] were told that state budget cuts made it highly unlikely their son would stay in the hospital for long."

Someday, hopefully in my lifetime, the phrase "state budget cuts" will be an artifact of a darker time, of an era before we as a society realized that, hey, society is expensive and so is our duty to our fellow human beings.
posted by fireoyster at 11:23 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


A very sad and very sweet story, but I want to point out how exceptionally well told it was-- it tied both stories together very well and managed to juggle all the people in it really successfully. Journalism-as-storytelling is hard, because the real world is messy, and this really managed to weave together a lot of things at once really nicely.
posted by NoraReed at 12:35 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a great article. Sad and uplifting. Thanks for sharing.
posted by shoesietart at 7:01 AM on October 5, 2013


Yeah, I will say, while this was well-written, it did bother me a little how the writer was so sympathetic to the notion of "let's make sure we put the mentally ill away so they can't hurt us." I couldn't articulate a good argument against keeping this particular person from being put away so he couldn't hurt people. But it did seem like this case was potentially being used for fodder to push through laws that would restrict the rights of the mentally ill there in general.
posted by limeonaire at 7:05 AM on October 5, 2013


I couldn't articulate a good argument against keeping this particular person from being put away so he couldn't hurt people.

I could.

For example, could you imagine the outrage...the rain of fire of brimstone...if any journalist composed a similar piece in regard to an African American (essentially suggesting African Americans should be incarcerated for life at the first sign of, "trouble" in order to protect society)?

I don't doubt such a piece involving an African American would too bring tears to eyes were it posted on Metafilter, but I would be extremely surprised were they not tears of utter rage.

Yet, statistically, African Americans are significantly more likely to commit violent crimes than those with psychiatric disorders.
posted by Nibiru at 3:15 PM on October 5, 2013


Nibiru: Being African American is not an illness.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:31 PM on October 5, 2013


How is that relevant, Annika?

Ah, I see...it's acceptable to further stigmatise and demonise one minority group on the basis of an illness and be sympathetic and empathetic to another on the basis of ethnicity/skin colour on Metafilter.
posted by Nibiru at 3:52 AM on October 6, 2013


You seem to be assuming we'd be fine with Meline's son being locked away in a cage somewhere, as opposed to, I don't know, helped. What that facility did was the equivalent of telling someone who's been in a serious car crash, "your injuries are so severe that we're fairly certain you'll never walk again. So get the hell out of our hospital. Doctors are for winners."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:42 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not, "assuming" anything, Holy. The tone of the article was very obviously as discussed in my initial response to this topic matter. Again, were the journalist attempting to manipulate emotions (mission accomplished) at the expense of another (more popular) minority group, the responses to this post would have been at the other end of the spectrum.
posted by Nibiru at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2013


It's false equivalence.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:41 PM on October 6, 2013


I agree with you, the article does marginalize schizophrenic people unfairly. You don't need to create logical fallacies in order to make that fair point.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:44 PM on October 6, 2013


This kid wants to make beer in space.
posted by exogenous at 9:42 AM on October 7, 2013


Nibiru: "I'm not, "assuming" anything, Holy. The tone of the article was very obviously as discussed in my initial response to this topic matter. Again, were the journalist attempting to manipulate emotions (mission accomplished) at the expense of another (more popular) minority group, the responses to this post would have been at the other end of the spectrum."

Jonathan Meline hacked his father to death with a hatchet because the voices in his head told him to. He also apparently shouted at strangers and tried to run over a car salesman with a Jeep. He had been in and out of hospitals for 10 years. Given these facts I'm really not seeing how he's being exploited or misrepresented in this article. Nor do I think focusing on the small, yet poignant legacy his father left behind with his sixth-grade students -- his effect on them -- should be considered problematic.

I think hospitalizing and treating him would have been prudent. First and foremost, to make sure he got whatever help and care he needed. Second, to prevent him -- even if only temporarily -- from being any sort of a threat to anyone else.
posted by zarq at 12:55 PM on October 7, 2013


I could be incorrect, but it appears your Mental Health System in America is no better than ours in Australia, zarq. Funding is minimal and inadequate. There a few, if any, groups which stridently and publicly advocate for this particular minority group. Whenever we read a piece in regard to a person with a psychiatric disorder, it's generally sensationalist garbage rife with negative stereotypes which play into the existing fear society holds for those with psychiatric conditions. The reality is, at worst, those with psychiatric disorders are no more likely to commit a violent crime than the remainder of society. At best, they're, in fact, less likely to commit a violent crime than the remainder of society (the statistics vacillate between the two).

It's not a popular, "cause". I've seen offensive and dismissive language used several times on Metafilter to describe those with psychiatric disorders - "Crazies" and, "Loonies", for example. My, "beef" (for want of a better term), isn't simply with the journalist for his predictable enthusiasm in pursuing this particularly soft target, but too with the mindless responses on this thread within this Website - in my opinion, otherwise one of the most socially and politically aware on the Internet.

Unsurprising...but extremely disappointing.
posted by Nibiru at 2:50 PM on October 7, 2013


I couldn't articulate a good argument against keeping this particular person from being put away so he couldn't hurt people.

@Nibiru: I could.


I have not seen you yet articulate your specific reasoning why this particular person should not have been put away.
posted by jacalata at 1:31 AM on October 8, 2013


This particular person...this human being with an illness...should have been treated. Despite the journalist's determination to infer crazy ex-wielding monsters require institutionalisation (possibly for life) in order to protect poor vulnerable society, there are numerous treatment options for those with severe psychiatric disorders, Jacalata. Most of them do not necessitate institutionalisation for other than very short periods (in order to stabilise their medication and organise a medical team for ongoing treatment post release).

If your next question is, "How do we know he wasn't being treated?" We don't. Discussing medication, programs which allow those with mental illnesses to socialise and learn and practise social norms, other forms of therapy such as CBT, etc...well, as I mentioned, the Mental Health System is woefully underfunded and these programs are few and far between, and, of course, it's not nearly as dramatic as painting them as lost causes from the outset and suggesting we should have just, "put (them) away", is it?
posted by Nibiru at 2:50 PM on October 8, 2013


Actually we have a pretty good idea that he was treated, at least if you read the article. It mentions going 'in and out of institutions' since he was first diagnosed as a teenager, with involved parents, and finally before the murder he had six months of inpatient psych treatment, presumably involving medication, ending when the hospital decided they could not legally keep him there. So your argument is ... that the hospital treating him was wrong to let him go instead of continuing his treatment (presumably against his wishes, or the legal right to keep him there would not have been an issue), or is your argument that he was safe to let go? I think your argument is that it should have been safe to let him go, that with adequate support anyone should be safe in the community, that there is no possibility that this guy was actually one of the few that cannot safely live among people without being restrained. I don't see any evidence for this case whatsoever, rather you appear to be someone who has a pet argument and has brought it out here without regard to how appropriate it is for this particular case.
posted by jacalata at 3:17 PM on October 8, 2013


If you think my argument is and has been, "he was safe to let go", you've entirely missed my point, Jacalata.

Furthermore, we can make assumptions (presumably against his wishes?/pretty good idea?) in regard to his treatment on the basis of periodic hospitalisations, but as the journalist chose not to elaborate upon anything other than, "scary manic!", they're just that...vague assumptions with no merit or substance.

I've attempted to make my, "pet argument" repeatedly. Despite your assertion otherwise, apparently it's been valid enough to have caused you (and others) to bother attempting to address and argue it on several occasions.
posted by Nibiru at 3:50 PM on October 8, 2013


Oh, and by the way, I've noticed the plight of various minority groups discussed from both a social and political perspective as a result of an unrelated incident posted in regard to individual member of that group numerous times on Metafilter. My, "pet" is not Metafilter's, "pet" - okay, I understand.
posted by Nibiru at 3:57 PM on October 8, 2013


I get what you are pointing out nibiru, and yes, there are problems with the way the article framed mental illness. It's a great point you are making and one that I'm pondering as I work through issues with my own minority status.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:54 PM on October 8, 2013


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