Monday, August 18, 2014

#1371 The Scarlet Letter

We ban things that scare us.  Sometimes its official, sometimes it’s an unspoken agreement.


There was a time you couldn’t legally buy James Joyce’s Ulysses or Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.  They were banned.  Too racy.  They’re pretty tame by today’s standards.


TV’s Ozzie and Harriet had separate beds.  So did Lucy and Desi.


Then there’s mental illness.  No official ban there and a lot of people -- professionals, supposedly -- who preach about it.  But most of the so-called mentally ill suffer in silence and secret as long as they don’t exhibit obvious symptoms.


Robin Williams’ death removed the ban, at least part way.  Depression.  Mania. Addiction.  The walls didn’t come tumbling down.  But Williams in maybe his final act put some holes in them.


We admit to friends and family now that we’ve been popping Zoloft or something like it. It’s okay.


It really didn’t take the tragic death of a beloved public figure to do that.  But in the short term, it helped.


Mental illness -- an unfortunate term to begin with -- is stigmatized. People are often shunned when they are discovered to have tangled chemicals in their brains.


It happens to some cancer patients, too.  We fear we will catch what they have even though cancer isn’t contagious.


These conditions are seen as flaws, and they are.  But they’re not character flaws, they are biological. Chemical. Genetic.


You have a headache, you take a pill. It goes away.  Even a migraine is looked upon as treatable, although that one’s borderline scary.  Migraines are not contagious any more than cancer.  But we’re cautious.


No one faults you for having diabetes and treating it with insulin and better diet.  It’s a chemical problem, you treat it with chemistry.


No one faults you for having acid reflux.  It’s a chemical condition. You take a pill. It goes away.  Same with hypertension, too much cholesterol and hay fever.


But admit you take Prozac, a wall goes up around you.


Depression is a chemical problem, not a mental illness. You’re not crazy.  You just have something wrong.  It’s more like cut that doesn’t heal or a bruise that lasts too long, except for the part about longer lasting.


Putting aside so-called spiritual aspects of the human machine, you are an electrochemical mechanism.  So what’s wrong with fixing you in an electrochemical way?


Remove your scarlet letter.  Now.  Right now.


Shrapnel:


--Fourteen people were shot at in New York City last night, including at least one by a cop trying to stop  someone from stabbing someone else.  This is unusual for the city as a whole but not for the neighborhoods in which they occurred.  No riots broke out, no looting took place, no tear gas was fired and no armored personnel carriers were deployed.


--Does that mean we’re more civilized or more jaded than the people of Ferguson, Missouri?  Does that mean the NYPD has better relations with the communities it patrols?  None of the above.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2014

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