I will shed zero tears for the passing of Nancy Reagan, one of the more destructive personages in recent U.S. government history. Folks may have noticed that I tend to be rather outspoken when it comes to politics. That is partly Nancy Reagan’s fault, and in her case my venom is VERY personal.
In addition to a vast array of crimes that included the promotion of the prison-labor complex, covering for an increasingly addled president, and adopting a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude with regards to her mix of astrology and evangelical Christianity, Nancy was the chief promoter, defender and apologist for a cult called Straight Inc. And for that, I will never forgive her.
In the mid-80s, my then-girlfriend was just shy of 18. [I will leave her nameless here, but her remarks, and a link to her story, can be found below at footnote #1.] She had a wide array of problems at home, but drugs were not among them. Her now-late brother did have drug problems, though, and following a harrowing event in which an intoxicated friend of his did something truly inexcusable, their parents decided to take action.
That wound up being a serious mistake.
By that time, Straight Inc. – a supposed drug-rehab organization that had zero connection to medical practitioners or supervision – had already racked up a series of lawsuits and criminal charges. Their activities included beating kids, snatching them off of streets and dragging them into cars and vans, forcing kids to go without food or sleep for days on end, and various forms of physical, social, psychological and emotional torture. They SHOULD have been shut down long before my girlfriend’s parents attended a presentation by a Straight Inc. spokesman.
Instead, they were celebrated by Nancy and Ronald Reagan, who even brought their friend Princess Diana of Wales to see how magnificent Straight Inc. was supposed to be. Thanks to the Reagans, lawsuits were hushed, charges were dropped, and media stories about the group were buried or killed. Nancy Reagan trumpeted Straight Inc. as the salvation of American youth, and so when my girlfriend’s parents came back from that meeting, they had a plan.
The brother, being over 18, was told that he could join the program or move out. Given what had just happened, this was reasonable.
My girlfriend was told she would be “enrolled” as well – no choice involved – even though she was not doing drugs. When she called me in a panic, I assured her that her parents were more reasonable than that. And I was wrong.
The next few months become a horrorshow. The details are long and ugly; I’ll suffice to say that she and her brother – along with every other kid in the program – were deeply fucked with.  I, who had taken her parents’ side initially, was accused of being a drug addict myself, and was kept as far from her as Straight and her parents could keep me. Almost all of her belongings – her records, her books, her posters and stuffed animals, even most of her clothes – were seized and destroyed by order of the program, on the grounds that she (who had tested negative on the day she was “admitted”) was using them all as drug paraphernalia. Fantasy fans, take note – all forms of fantasy entertainment were considered “druggie behavior,” and were forbidden. Thanks to her younger sister, we were able to save a few things, but not very much. Every gift I had given her was destroyed.
What happened to her and her brother in that hellhole is not my story to tell, but I lived with the aftermath of it for many years.
On her 18th birthday, I went to talk to her; Straight was not permitted to keep the kids living inside the Straight Inc. complex, and so each night, they’d bring the kids out in physical restraints to take them to “safe houses” run by higher-ups in the program. I tried to talk to her in the parking lot, and was immediately grabbed by several guys, slammed into a brick wall, and held there while a dude waved a baseball bat in my face while threatening to “break your fucking druiggie neck.” Thankfully, I’d brought my friend Randi Kruger with me as backup, and she jumped from my car and rushed to my defense. 
By that point, a crowd of “Straightlings” – or, more accurately, the parents and upper-level kids – was converging on me. A Straight supervisor said “Leave now or we’ll call the police.”
“Fine,” Randi yelled. “Call the police! Let them see what’s going on here!”
Several people had pulled out tire irons and a billy club, and were advancing on me. One guy apparently had a knife. According to Randi, several folks wavered at the thought that the cops might not look kindly on what was going on.
The supervisor, though, was unmoved. “I have a parking lot full of people here,” she said with chilling calm, “who’ll swear we never touched him.”
And then she added, “You’d better get him out of here before they tear him apart.”
Randi talked me down, and the guys who were holding me hauled me to my car, shoved me in, and told me that I was dead meat if I ever showed up there again. They followed me home, and called my mom’s house several times (having gotten her number from my girlfriend’s parents) to assure me that they had their eyes on me.
My girlfriend signed herself out the next day. Straight Inc. told her parents to disown her, and to refuse any contact with her. A Straight rep took her to the edge of the property and left her by the side of the road. She hiked to a nearby church and begged them to let her use their phone. Then she called my mother’s place, and once Mom had come to get her, they called me to let me know my girlfriend was safe and free.
Again, long story. The short version is, she moved in with me, we remained together for years, and the massive PTSD and physical damage that place had inflicted on her was our constant housemate. Thankfully, Straight had stopped beating kids by that point, but she had been fed poorly, was subjected to months of constant psychological abuse, had been refused her anti-depression medication, and had spent a large part of her time in there under what they called “suicide watch”: a euphemism for forced sleep deprivation. Minus physical beatings (but sometimes including sexual abuse), the treatment doled out by Straightlings to their peers was identical to the abuse inflicted on Bush-era prisoners of war.
(Straight kids “motivating” – a ritual enforced by physical abuse, as described at 5:54 and 6:25 in the 60 Minutes link below. My then-girlfriend describes it thus: Days spent sitting in a blue plastic chair throwing our arms around WILDLY (did you know that if you fling your hands around enough and with enough force your fingers will hit together with a snapping sound? If you weren’t snapping, you weren’t “motivating” hard enough) and if your back touched the back of the chair you got a FIST shoved down your spine. This was done every day at Straight. To kids. By kids.)
Thirty years later, my then-girlfriend and her fellow inmates still live with the psychological and often physical scars of their abuse. Some of them didn’t survive. Her brother is one of them. After the insurance refused to pay for more “treatment,” he was released from Straight, supposedly drug-free. He died a few years afterward.
THAT was Nancy Reagan’s America.
THAT is what she left behind.
Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of children who were abused by – and often abusers in – a program run by demented fanatical profiteers, under the banner of a treatment program that didn’t even fucking work.
Dozens, maybe hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of “Straigthlings” who have since committed intentional or subconscious suicide to escape the pain inflicted by that cult.
Straight, having lost its presidential sponsorship when Reagan left office, was shut down in the early 1990s. The attached links can offer more information for those who want it. Nancy Reagan was repeatedly asked to apologize for the crimes committed by Straight. And repeatedly, she refused. 
But that’s one reason why my hatred for the Reagans and their kind burns every bit as ferociously now as it did back then. I have seen the damage they did first-hand. And it did not end when Ronnie left office. It lingers, and continues to hurt.
I hope that, in some way, in some place or afterlife or incarnation, Nancy and Ronald Reagan are getting back at least a little bit of the pain they put into the world.
Good riddance, hag.
The world is better off without you.
1. From her response to the original version of this post on Facebook: My story is on here. More specific details have come to the surface (like the actual number of “strokes with a hairbrush”, having my hair forcibly cut by someone who had a pair of KITCHEN SHEARS because of the mats, the actual number of minutes they “allowed” me to “sleep”, being put into a small room in the building with my PBJ lunch and literally being packed in like sardines with other “first phasers”) … I limp along as best I can. Nancy Reagan’s death is bringing a lot of memories to the forefront and a TON of rage because all of the news stories are rosy and full of crap about how “wonderful” she was…
2. Again, in her words: It’s hard to describe what happened “in the building” … I saw people get limbs broken from “restraining”. There was a Chicken Pox outbreak while I was there and the kids with CP were put into one room during the day but NO medical attention was given to them. We were in the building from about 6:30 or 7:00 am (so the “oldcomers” could get to school) until after 8:00 pm – and on Fridays it was frequently after midnight before we would leave the building due to the “open meeting” where our parents stood us up and told us how disappointed and angry they were with us and all we could do was respond “I love you”… I know there was at least one kid there who was diabetic and they withheld INSULIN since it had to be injected… I still have a lot of “blank space” in my memories of that time. I get flashbacks once in a while but I’m NOT looking to recover a lot of memories of those months. I know that part of PTSD recovery lies in healing those wounds … but I just can’t. I can’t go back there in my mind. I can still complete a shower within 5 minutes from the time the water starts to the time I turn it off.
But the flashbacks and memories of the insanity of that place are horrible and leave my heart pounding in fear.
3. Randi’s account: When the crowd of men pinned Satyr against the wall, they tried to threaten us with the police. They seemed quite surprised when I said “go ahead, call them. Call the police!” I saw their faces turn fearful. Satyr was pinned and so couldn’t see them as I could. In retrospect I realized that THEY had serious doubts about the legality of their own behavior. Not only did they have a bat, they also had tire irons, a Billy club and at least one large knife that I saw. They were completely on “lynch mode.” If I hadn’t been there they might well have torn him apart. They were out of control, completely.
For me, this was a formative experience. I learned that one loud voice could stop a horrible thing from happening. One witness is enough to give pause. My life’s motto has been “not on my watch. Never on my watch.” I’m sure this experience shaped me.
If one has never seen a mob, never witnessed a lynch mob in action, there’s no way to explain to them how terrifying, how utterly wrong the whole thing is. I am by no means surprised my friends were damaged by just this one experience. And then I imagine Cat going through months of this, I feel unspeakable creeping horror.
4. As shown in the link above, Survivors of Straight Inc. received one apology, from former executive Richard Mullinax. In his apology, he admits the following:
By publishing this this letter in a public forum, I publicly acknowledge that
Straight, Inc. unjustly committed various crimes, abused children, and utilized
extremely unethical practices against innocent young clients, which included,
but were not limited to the following:
1) Brainwashing (aka coercive thought reform);
2) Physical abuse;
3) Usage of illegal and or unethical restraints – children routinely restrained children at the direction of staff for minor infractions (i.e. not motivating, not paying attention, etc.);
4) Unethical forms of extreme humiliation, including but not limited to; beltlooping, no privacy/watched while urinating, defecating, or bathing, motivating;
5) Food deprivation (ie. peanut butter diets, inadequate portions of food);
6) Sleep deprivation – caused by unwarranted, prolonged daily group hours (12), other time spent in the building (up to at least 3 additional pre and/or post group hours), lengthy commuting time, and in many cases, due to intentionally withholding sleep as punishment for not “cooperating” to coerce compliance;
7) Verbal abuse – unduly harsh confrontational tactics that included swearing, screaming, yelling, spitting, belittling, humiliating, etc., a child in front of a large group of child clients;
8.) Sexual abuse; (while I was not aware of this while on staff, in recent months I have become aware, through the testimony of other Straight survivors, that this did happen)
9) Psychological abuse;
10) Coerced confessions;
11) Unjustifiable and lengthy isolation in intake and/or time out rooms;
12) Denial of necessary medical care;
14) False Imprisonment;
15) Accepting clients with little/no drug history (the so?called “dry druggie” theory);(Specifically, I was personally responsible for conducting client intakes that resulted in children with little history of drug or alcohol use);
16) Employing uneducated, unprofessional teenage staff. Specifically, I allowed myself to be employed by Straight as a counselor, knowing full well that I had no outside training and no education.
Additionally, I apologize for the allowing the abuse, unethical practices and
crimes to continue for years, and lending my name to, sponsoring, recommending,
and endorsing Straight Inc., and for admitting children, their siblings and
parents to Straight Inc., and for failing to properly and adequately oversee
and monitor Straight, Inc.
I regret my decision to go on staff and I regret my actions as a Straight staff
member. I made the decision to go on staff and I made the decision to advance
to Executive Staff. I am responsible for these actions and take full
responsibility. As a former Straight client myself, I, of all people, should
have known better.
I am aware of several former Straight clients who have taken their own lives.
Many of these people I knew personally. I can’t begin to understand the
circumstances of each death, but I have no doubt that in some of these deaths
Straight had a role in this. My heart aches for the victims of suicide and
their loved ones. I wish I could bring them back.