“It must hard for everyone to think you’re crazy … and you think you’re fine.” ~ Jennifer Lawrence, talking about her character, Tiffany, in the movie Silver Linings Playbook
With the tragedies of Newtown and Aurora, the topic of metal illness’s role in gun violence has reared its misunderstood head. In their efforts to divert attention away from the growing tide for gun control, the NRA and its brethren have placed the blame of the shootings on the issue of mental instability. Unfortunately, this dialogue will probably gain momentum. One can only imagine with it will come a universal database containing a “black or white” declaration on whether each of us is “crazy.“
What if we go down this “rabbit hole” of obsessive societal security (at the sacrifice of our civil rights) … who will sit on the throne wheeling the power to declare which of us will receive the Scarlett Letter. Will it be the less-than-qualified school counselors? We have to get to the “crazies” before they inflict too much damage on our perfect little world of conformity. Or maybe it will be the “clowns of the beltway” in Congress. God I hope not! Most of them ARE legitimately certifiable.
And even if we do find a credible pervaiour of judgement – what criteria are we to be judged on. Would the 6th grade boy next door, who’s labeled ADHD (because an inept teacher couldn’t engage him) be considered mentally ill … be considered “crazy.”
What about the woman across the street who attempted suicide ten years ago, but now suffers from nothing but the ostracism of her neighbors in her small town … the ostracism that relegates her to virtually no personal contact outside her home, except only with those new to town. Those who don’t know her past. Is she “crazy.“
What about the truck driver who was injured on the job and then over-prescribed Oxycontin for an acute condition that due a doctor’s negligence turned into a chronic morphine addiction … an addiction that has led him to smoke Marijuana in attempt to break his daily spiral into Dante’s Hell.
Would it be me, who has taken anything but the conventional path down my road of life. This is a life that has included homelessness amongst other bouts with non-conformity. Many, both family and friends (former friends I should say) still can’t look past the “off base” label they’ve attached to me. No matter my accomplishments – past and present, it’s that label they can’t see past.
Or what if you just choose to take the “road less traveled,” a road not dictated by materialistic consumption – but rather one of concern for others and the environment we all inhabit. To many that makes you look “crazy.” Or worse yet, what if you’re an atheist or have sexual preferences detested by many fundamentalist religions, religions increasingly gaining influence in our government.
What would that mean to all of us … us designated as “crazy.” Of course we will be prohibited from owning a gun. But what’s next … voting rights or maybe driving privileges. Pick your punishment – the punishment for you being “crazy.”
Now this all sounds absurd. But throughout history (the United States included) some pretty absurd decisions have been made. For example, with the support of both political parties – our government currently is hell-bent on stripping as many personal freedoms and constitutional rights they can write up and get to the floor. What’s saying a “crazy” data base isn’t next.
The line between normal and crazy isn’t as clear as we often assume. And being judgmental often short-circuits both understanding and ultimately enlightenment.
Throughout history the majority of those who have truly made an impact on society were outliers, considered “crazy” by the normal masses.
Neither people nor life is “black or white.” We all have colors, hues and tones … often changing from day-to-day, from year to year. Pigeonholing someone may make it easier for you. It may make easier for you not to think, to fall back on your ideologies. But just make sure you realize your cerebral laziness, your intellectual apathy, hurts not only the ones you label – but also yourself.
In mid January, the movie Silver Linings Playbook comes out on wide release. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro; the movie depicts a cast filled with dysfunction and various types of “less-than-normal” mental stability. But what it really shows is the humanity behind being different, if not unbalanced. The look it gives into these characters, might very well hit home. You probably know people like these people. Who knows you may even see some of yourself in them.
Regardless ~ do they, or you … deserve the Scarlett Letter?
You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg