Despite what many say, the election of President Trump may well end up being a blessing in disguise for all of us American mad ones. At no time in U.S. history has it been clearer that factual reality is subjective. At no time in U.S. history has it been clearer that there is no reliable, agreed upon consensual reality. This is not just a matter of the Presidency. The U.S. Congress is not legislating the same factual reality. The U.S. media is not publishing the same factual reality. The American people are not voting in the same factual reality.
In other words, if present day politics do nothing else, they expose how clearly factual reality can become a matter of opinion between people who do not trust or like each other. They also expose the extent to which concepts like factual reality (‘the truth’) and public safety (‘danger to self or others’) are in the eye of the beholder.
If this is the case for the most important institutions in the United States – the Presidency, the Congress, the electoral process, the media - then how much moreso for Hometown USA? Our national level institutions have nearly unlimited power and resources available to them to ‘clear things up’, yet they still can't get on anything close to 'the same page’ on factual reality or the common welfare. So how can we expect Hometown USA - with its comparatively small resources and plethora of communities, neighborhoods, families and organizations - to have anything like heterogeneity with regard to such issues? To the contrary, when people from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances mix and mingle in all kinds of life situations and contexts, who really knows what goes on behind locked doors or shuttered windows, in dark allies or attics or basements, in abandoned buildings or schools or offices, in isolated cells or back rooms or bathroom stalls… ? Who is to say what is ‘really real’ here and whose angle on what is ‘true’ is more valid or less self-serving than anyone else’s…?
Equally important, who is to say who or what constitutes a ‘danger to self or others’ in the modern era? The American people arguably elected the veritable definition of 'danger to self and others' as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military. Yep, we elected a rash, reactive, aggressive, confirmed self-dealer who many believe is out of touch with conventional reality as President of the United States. Since the election, our elected representative of choice has unilaterally acted to drop some of the most powerful bombs in the world on other sovereign peoples. By all appearances, he made this momentous decision while entertaining foreign dignitaries and eating dessert. This same elected representative has ordered the displacement and deportation of thousands of vulnerable people who have virtually no recourse. He has appointed heads of agencies who may well destroy the missions and purposes that their agencies were founded to protect, leaving the American people irrevocably damaged and with little recourse. Adding insult to injury, the President and Congress we elected are in the process of dismantling national healthcare, asserting as justification that ‘nobody every died for lack of healthcare.’ All the while, these decisions which literally affect the safety and welfare of millions, rest on unsupported factual assertions that countless citizens dispute.
Suffice it to say, where ever you are on the political spectrum, the implications for ‘mental illness’ are pretty clear. There is no longer a legitimate government interest in pre-emptively stripping citizens of rights on ‘mental illness’ grounds. Here is why:
1. Factual Un-reality in Normal
If the President, the Congress, the media, and the American people can’t agree on factual reality – and seemingly don’t care – then why should it matter if ordinary folks don’t agree either. The day has come to recognize that being out of sync with conventional understandings of reality happens for all kinds of complicated reasons. This can no longer be assumed to be a sign of illness.
The mental health system has not even begun to grapple with the implications of this. It has simply assumed that factual unreality meant illness. Either (1) that is no longer the case, or (2) half the USA should be institutionalized. And if #2, then who should decide which half?
Unless and until the mental health system begins to grapple with questions like these, its labels can’t be said to be reliable or to indicate anything. Ergo, 'mental illness' is no longer a valid criteria for separating mental ‘wheat’ from mental ‘chaff.’ It therefore may not be used to impose treatment or supervision without consent.
2. Danger to Self and Others is Normal
If the President, the Congress, the media, and the American people can’t agree on major issues like national security and public safety – i.e., what makes citizens safer and what doesn’t – then we should reasonably expect that ordinary people around the nation won’t agree either. The day has come to recognize that being out of sync with conventional understandings of public safety – and what kind of thoughts, feelings and actions constitute a danger for self or others - happens for all kinds of complicated reasons. Conventional and majority understandings of safety can no longer be assumed correct or accurate for all citizens.
The mental health system has not even begun to grapple with the implications of this. It has simply assumed that majority standards equated with ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe.’ As we have seen at the national level, either (1) that is no longer the case, or (2) half the voting public constitutes a danger to self or others. And if #2, then who should decide which half?
Unless and until the mental health system begins to grapple with questions like these, its determinations of safety and danger can’t be said to be reliable or to indicate anything. In other words, so long as people are acting within the law and exercising their lawful rights as citizens, risk to self or others is no longer a valid criteria for pre-emptive detention. It therefore may not be used to impose treatment or supervision without consent.
3. Political and Public Figure Privilege is DiscriminatoryThere is a huge double standard in American political and public life. The little guy who is in dispute with family or neighbors can get removed from life and hauled off with a simple call to 911. Not so, however, with politicians who bomb other countries, abolish residency status or wipe out access to healthcare for millions of Americans based on faulty premises. Politicians, public figures and media personalities can invent reality and use their lawful power in ways that literally terrify thousands and threaten domestic security. In contrast, the little guy with an unconventional view who lawfully exercises power in ways that scares family or neighbors can be yanked out of life, forcibly detained and forcibly treated by psychiatry. Even worse, to regain their civil rights, they must satisfy authorities that they no longer present any significant risk to self or others.
Why is there one standard when politicians, public figures or the media see facts differently - and another standard when individuals see facts differently from families, neighbors and psychiatrists…? Why are psychiatrists and mental health professionals routinely allowed to bully ordinary people but not politicians, public figures and media personalities?
These arbitrary distinctions violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. They are especially unfair when you consider the amount of harm the little guy can effect - which frankly pales by comparison to the destructive power of national level actors.
4. Legitimate Government Interest is Gone
Under federal constitutional standards, deprivation of rights must be rationally related to a legitimate Government purpose. Thus, to deprive citizens of rights like freedom, privacy and personal integrity for mental health or public safety reasons, the Government must have (1) a rational reason, and (2) a legitimate purpose. In view of recent political events, the Government can no longer make this showing.
Fictional Realities No Longer Qualify
Again, the American people either don’t care – or can’t agree - about factual reality at the ‘big’ level of national security and national survival. So how is it rational to meddle in the comparatively minor factual realities of local citizens who have far less influence and can do far less damage?
Lawful Dangers No Longer Qualify
Again, the American people either don’t care – or can’t agree - about the public safety risks presented by national-level political, public and media actors. These groups are allowed to exercise their lawful discretionary powers with no requirement that they demonstrate safety to self or others. So, how is it rational to insist that local citizens – with far less reach and potential impact - prove they present no appreciable risk to self or others as a pre-condition of accessing and exercising lawful rights?
How it All Adds UpIf you’ve followed this so far, I hope you’re getting more than a good chuckle We used to do math proofs in high school algebra based on the idea of reductio ad absurdum. Essentially you show that an argument - taken to its logical conclusion – leads to something ridiculous, impractical or absurd.
Well, here's one fer ya!
Who would ever think that Corporate America and the Republican Party would lay the foundation for the recognition of diverse realities – much less the personhood of those of us who live them?
At the same time, I like to think that the tools we need to dismantle injustice are built into the very societal structures that have been used to maintain it. Quite possibly that is what we are seeing here. At the very least, the American bedfellows of free market enterprise and semi-representative democracy have produced some remarkably inane results of late. The collective insanity they have hatched is now so prevalent and pervasive as to make insanity 'normal.' They have so convincingly cloned the cultural parameters of ‘mental illness’ that the historic boundaries used to differentiate 'sane' from 'insane' no longer make any sense.
The U.S. Constitution requires at least some modicum of legitimate, rational purpose to deprive citizens of civil rights. Given the current state of the nation, governmental entities can no longer make this showing related to 'mental illness.'
Q.E.D. Quod erat demonstrandum - 'which was to be shown.'