Monday, September 28, 2009

What to do with the insane?

Ninety-two year old woman
celebrates her birthday by
sky diving from 13,000 feet.

What to do with the insane? I am becoming more and more convinced that we have a growing problem of insanity in this country. I would certainly not suggest that anyone who disagrees with or dislikes President Obama is insane, but I believe that many of those currently engaged in anti-Obama-ism may well be. It is difficult for me to believe otherwise. Take, for perhaps the simplest example, the “birthers.” It has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii of an American mother. His birth certificate has been produced and its authenticity has been verified by the proper Hawaiian authorities. There are still those, including a couple of Senators, who seem to be unable or unwilling to believe this. How would one explain this? Either they do believe it but have some ulterior motive for claiming otherwise, or, I suggest they are insane. At least this would seem to fit most ordinary definitions of insanity. Merriam-Webster, for example, defines insanity as follows:

1. A deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder.

2. Such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility.

3. a. Extreme folly or unreasonableness b. something utterly foolish or unreasonable.

If nothing else the birther belief is, under the circumstances, totally unreasonable. Consider also the belief that Obama is going to take away our guns. Obama has done nothing about doing anything about guns. Yet this belief continues widespread and may even be growing. Is this the result of the arms manufacturers simply using this as a means to increase their sales, or is it just insanely unreasonable? And do not forget those who seem to actually believe that the President of the U.S. is designing a health care program that will contain “death squads.” This is an idea so absurd on its face as to be little more than a form of hysteria, and yet it persists. Perhaps this, too, is simply be used by some for political purposes and is thus merely dishonest rather than insane. There are other areas in which the claims may be the result of incredible ignorance rather than actual insanity. Claims that Obama is a socialist-fascist or a nazi-communist clearly would come under this category. Either those making such claims are ignorant beyond belief or they are dishonestly using them for partisan political purposes. I think we could be pretty certain that claims about women with breast cancer being targeted, or veterans, are merely political ploys, either that or they are just plain delusional. Mike Huckabee’s recent speech in which he suggest we should jackhammer the UN and float it down the East River would seem to be pretty crazy, but it, too, is probably just political grandstanding to a sympathetic base (I think one might well argue that anyone like Huckabee, who in the 21st century doesn’t believe in evolution, might be considered insane, along with those that believe the earth is but 6000 years old, and that humans existed with dinosaurs, but that is for a different place and time).

I fear our current situation is far more complex than simply the sane versus the insane. We have managed over the past few years to create a mixture of ignorance, politics, and insanity in such a way that it is increasingly difficult to delineate one from another, which makes the problem of what to do with the insane more difficult than it might ordinarily be. What might be politics for some might well be insanity for me. The very idea that Sarah Palin might become President I personally regard as insane. That George W. Bush was elected for a second term I also regard as insane (I will ignore for the moment his first term when he was not really elected). That the current Republican party has allowed itself to be primarily represented by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck is also, to me, at least political insanity. On a more fundamental level, the idea that health care should be a for-profit enterprise is truly insane.

One of my favorite quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald is relevant here: “But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike.” I’m sure Fitzgerald was led to this metaphor by the experience of watching Zelda, but to me it also suggests how and why the current insanity seems to be spreading so quickly among right-wing Republicans. These insane ideas are both insidious and contagious, and manage to spread no matter how absurd they may seem to most of us. What do you do with people who simply refuse to believe anything no matter what the evidence against it? Trying to reason or even argue with such people is completely impossible as they cling to their insanity no matter what. Usually when this happens to a family member they end up committed to an institution, but when you cannot easily separate insanity from politics or ignorance that is not a possibility. On the other hand it is difficult to ignore them, especially when they have the MSM on their side. A better educational system, and a healthier attitude toward learning, would help overcome this problem, but with our ethos of anti-intellectualism this would take some doing.

As I was walking among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity. I collected some of their Proverbs.
William Blake
Samuel Colt invented the first revolver and was issued a patent for it in 1836.

1 comment:

fortboise said...

And here I thought you were going to talk about keeping killers away from County Fairs...