When Eric Le Clown of A Clown On Fire asked me to write something for his mental health oriented blog, Rx Black Box Warnings, I knew what I had to do. I had to Come Out. I’ve come out Bipolar to everyone who Needs To Know. I’ve come out Bisexual to everyone to Needs To Know. But I never felt a need to reveal my Alien Self, until this last bout of random mayhem where a “weird boy” shot up a school and killed innocent babies, and suddenly he’s not just “weird,” he’s “mentally ill;” and the press is going wild with speculation regarding what brand of “mental illness” he has, or rather had, because he is no longer alive. Dean Obeidallah, “a former attorney,” commented on CNN’s website:
[ L]et’s show some anger about the fact that almost 10,000 Americans died in gun violence last year and still Congress hasn’t passed a universal background check to ensure that criminals and mentally ill people can’t legally buy guns. (Emphasis mine.)
Criminals and mentally ill people, in the same sentence: in the same breath. For this moment, I ask you to set aside your personal stance on guns and gun ownership, and just look at the bone-chilling message: criminals and mentally ill people are juxtaposed, separated only by the article of speech “and.”
The “former attorney” was issuing a call to action, that we lay aside our outrage at trivial issues like the size of Kim Kardashian’s behind, or what faux pas Joan Rivers made this time, and turn our attention to serious matters like criminals and mentally ill people. Let us lay aside the issue of whether these two groups of people should or should not be permitted to purchase lethal weapons; let us look instead at the intrinsic meaning in juxtaposing the two in the same gasp.
What do criminals and mentally ill people already have in common?
Marginalization. Stigma. Alienation from “mainstream society.”
Who says the young man who opened fire on the movie theater was mentally ill? The media does.
Who says the young man who opened fire on the school was mentally ill? The media does.
And what did the neighbors, the school chums of both of these young men have to say about them? They were nice young men, they were shy, they were loners, maybe bullied because they were “weird.”
I want to know: is “weirdness” a mental illness? Is it in the DSM?
And what about the rest of us weirdos, who do happen to have DSM diagnoses: does that automatically put us on a level with criminals?
I find this bone-chilling. I am definitely weird, and I am definitely not a criminal; but I find that the recent flurry of feet running to limit the constitutional rights of “weird people” lessens my inclination to disclose my diagnoses to anyone who Does Not Need To Know.
And that makes me even more of an Alien: a Stranger in a Strange Land .(1)
Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life on this planet.
|Alien=Anyone who does not belong in the environment in which they are found
||interloper, intruder, trespasser
1. Robert A. Heinlein borrowed his title from God, who told Abraham in the Book of Genesis that his people would be “strangers in a land not known to them.”