The Text for Today (And remember what the Rev. Norvel Goff said on June 21 about everything before being context, and yes, you were going to listen to the text, and if you got restless or sleepy, he was going to start with Genesis): “What Makes a Shooter Do It?” By Mike McIntire, NYT Sunday Review July 26, 2015, page 3.
I have a mental illness. And I tell everybody.
Forget whether I should or shouldn’t; if it’s hurting my chances at better jobs, stronger relationships, more public respect. Forget the lesson of Thomas Eagleton. I have a real thing, albeit invisible, that is part of me, and I refuse to pretend it isn’t there.
Forget if I “deserved it” or “did it to myself.” Forget if I could be happier if I thought nice thoughts or didn’t dwell on the negative or counted my blessings or got over myself or snapped out of it or had had to struggle to find work or food or paid my own way through college or any of the other things that make good, sane, hardworking, sensible folks.
Don’t think for an instant that I haven’t berated myself. If you’d had to dig ditches or clean toilets for a living, I tell me, you wouldn’t worry so much about abstract social injustice and deep metaphysical questions. You’d be too busy and your feet would hurt, and you would be a real person.
I know I’m not the deserving poor. I’m undeserving. — Alfred Doolittle, Pygmalion, G.B. Shaw.
Let’s just grapple with one piece of the equation today. People like me — people who struggle with mental illness — on some level are expected to behave badly. Criminally. Dangerously.
Why did he do it? He was mentally unbalanced. Ah.
Gilbert Gottfried does an imitation of Charles Manson at his parole hearings: “Is it hot in here or am I crazy?”
Students write me paper after paper about the narrator in Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.” He is paranoid, delusional. He hallucinates; sees the old man’s evil eye; hears the dead man’s beating heart. A good percentage of the students also conflate the unnamed narrator with Poe himself, committing first a crime against proper literary form and a sin against New Criticism: “Edgar believes the old man is watching him during the night.”
Bertha Mason, the “madwoman in the attic” of Bronte’s Jane Eyre, is both homicidal and suicidal. She likes to play with matches.
As I was just plugging in my bluetooth keyboard in order to write this, I was reflecting that even outdoors on a beautiful summer Sunday I am dependent upon electricity. And I thought of the character on the Muppet Show obsessed with electricity. His name? Crazy Harry.
Crazy. Dangerous. Padded rooms; nothing with which you could cut yourself, hurt yourself, hurt others. Sharp objects, live wires, lighter fluid.
You want to take away dangerous objects from most of us? Take away social media. I’m more likely to hurt myself or others with that than I am with dangerous pointy things.
First, I hate open flame. Ask anybody. No fireplace in my house. Only approved candles (the non-tippy kind in deep, high-walled glass, set on a fire-resistant plate). And even then only in blackouts. No hibachis. No smores. No Weber grills. NO CAMPFIRES. No citronella. Smoke outside and crush the life out of your butt or better yet empty the ashtray into the toilet and flush twice. Use a match to light a reluctant stove? OK, but run the match end under the faucet for a minute and a half.
House Rule #1: DON’T BURN THE HOUSE DOWN.
And for God’s sake, do not leave a lighter in the carpet-lined console of your two-door Pontiac 6000 and then try to put the subsequent fire out with Diet Coke while I’m in the back seat with no escape.
Smokey the Bear stands outside the volunteer fire department in my town and yells at me that fire danger is MODERATE today, and I run home and water all the plants.
I’m not allowed to play with knives, either, because a little blood loss, as I believe I have reported in this blog before, means a very dizzy me, due to genetic aenemia. Actual conversation in a phlebotomy lab:
Me: How many vials are you planning to take?
Phlebotomist: Only five.
Me: I can’t spare that much.
Phlebotomist: Tee hee hee.
Phlebotomist: …think you should bring a wheelchair.
Me: Wheelchair. What a funny word. Like a chair that has wheels on it.
Nurse: See if you can’t get her up from there. Get some water.
Other Nurse: I don’t think this blood pressure cuff is working.
Dentist. There’s just a little bleeding. Pack it with a tea bag when you get home.
Let’s face it. The flesh wounds that Bruce Willis wipes off with the tail of his tee-shirt would send me to Mount Sinai for a day and a half, to quote Mel Brooks.
And I think that all of that together would make me a perfectly horrible hero. And, incidentally, an even worse villain.
I’m afraid of my hot glue gun, for god’s sake. Yes, the irony. I have a craft room. Scissors, pins, crochet hooks, knitting needles, soldering iron, sewing machine, leather awl, beading needle, rotary quilting cutter, paper trimmer. I don’t know if I am always on high alert when I’m in there, but I’ve never actually injured myself or any other living creature during the creation of crafts.
I have major depression. Sometimes (ok lots of times) I think the world is a pretty lousy place. I suffer from complicated grief. I question the justice of the universe. I have survivor guilt and low self-esteem. I cried when Maggie-Dog got into a fight with an Irish Terrier (sounds like a dog-walks-into-a-bar joke) and got a quarter-inch cut on her ear that bled.
I am not in any position to evaluate the complex correlations between violence and mental illness; between mass shootings and gun culture and social ills and flags and fear and victim-blaming and lone-wolf psychology. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to worry about violence from every psychiatric patient.
I never even bought a salad shooter.
What a wonder is a gun. What a marvelous invention. First of all, when you’ve a gun…Everybody pays attention. — Charles J. Guiteau, Assassins, Steven Sondheim.