America’s Mental Illness

The school district of Arlington, Texas, would not allow its schools to show President Barack Obama’s speech to school children this week, but it sponsored a field trip and bussed district schoolchildren to Texas Stadium to hear former President George Bush, among other people.

A Christian pastor in Arizona says he hates Barack Obama, and says it is not HIM who wants Barack Obama to die, but God. God wants the president to die, he says. God wants him to get brain cancer. God wants Michelle Obama to be a widow and Sasha and Malia to be without their father.

An Ohio congresswoman whispered to a distraught woman that she agrees that Barack Obama shouldn’t be president because he wasn’t born in the United States (which is, of course, not true.)

A white congresswoman who visited my church and explained the House version of a bill for health care reform said that she doesn’t believe all the complaints about both the House and Senate versions of the bill is all about health care. She left it up to us to form our own conclusions.

Jack Cafferty of CNN, criticizing troubled Charlie Rangel for misusing his power, said that Rangel was “playing the race card” by suggesting that racism is at the heart of the debate on health care reform, and said it was a “cheap shot.”

But let’s talk, Jack and others. Racism IS at the heart of everything that is going on.

Some people in this nation are so bothered that Barack Obama is president that they cannot see straight. The desperate cries of “I want my country back” show a fear of this man, who is at least partially black, because of that same fact.

All their lives, Americans have been taught that black people are inferior, are lazy, are … well, fill in the blanks. Blacks and whites believed the hype. And now this black man (his white mother notwithstanding) is on the American throne, and people are scared and mad.

Why the fear? I think at least part of it is a fear that what whites have done to blacks and others will be done to them. I remember hearing and reading about white slaveowners who, thinking they were going to die, would give deathbed confessions of their treatment of black people. If they recovered, many took back their confessions and reverted to their past patterns.

White people in America have known that their treatment of blacks, and the American government’s treatment of blacks and sanction of illegal, immoral and unethical bebehavior as regards blacks (and Native Americans) was not right. Perhaps part of the fear is that their actions have come back to haunt them?

Fear causes irrationality, and fear which is fed produces frenzy. It is irrational for people to be out buying guns en masse because they think this black man is going to ban the sale of all guns, and as people buy guns in record numbers, they simultaneously feed their fear that a “bogey man” is out to get them, and they won’t go without a fight, dag nammit!

Irrational fear, fed by talk show hosts on both radio and television, is producing people who almost emotionally paralyzed.  The black man in America is not a favorite son; Americans have been taught that The Black Man is a force to be feared. And now one “of them” is in the White House. Hannity, Beck et al know exactly what they are doing.

The saddest fact about all of this is that it is pulling the veil off of America’s not-so-hidden secret.  America is ill; she has a mental illness called racism that nobody has ever wanted to deal with. America has been able to retain a facade as the nation where all are free, but with the election of Mr. Obama, the veil is slipping off, and America’s racism is rearing its head a bit more every day.

Jeremiah Wright was right. He didn’t preach hatred, he preached truth about what America’s fabric is. It is one of racism, a racism which has affected every single aspect of life, depriving literally millions of people over the years of their “certain inalienable rights … life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

Decisions made by American courts, many of them, have been racist at their core, but because white people were in power, and the decisions bode poorly for black people, nobody cared. I still cringe when I think of the Dred Scott case, where Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote that “there were no rights of a black man that a white man was bound to respect.”

Even now, that sentence gives me chills.

The American South may have lost the Civil War because of racism. CNN did a report recently about a black man, William Jackson, who was also a slave and who was the personal attendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Davis considered Jackson nothing more than a piece of furniture. The slave could not read or write, after all, and whites rested comfortably in the ignorance which they pushed on the men, women and children from Africa.

But Jackson, as did other slaves, developed a keen memory and listened to Davis as he had strategy talks with Confederate soldiers in his house, in front of Jackson. In 1861, Jackson fled the South and went to Union forces with important information which helped, eventually, the North to win the war.

Racism has given some people a false sense of security and has caused, ironically, their present insecurity.  They feel like their world has been shattered, and it has destroyed their sense of calm.

Today is September 11, and no doubt, the fear of terrorism, combined with the fear of the black man in the White House, will fuel even more irrationality.  Some rabbis in New York are arming themselves in preparation for attacks by Muslim terrorists, but I would suspect that a greater concern now is anti-government, racist white people who feel like they are losing control.

Mental illnesses, untreated, only get worse.  Symptoms which at first seemed manageable become unmanageable, and when that happens, bad things happen. Remember the shooting at Columbine, the shooting at Virginia Tech, and others. I have to believe that those who did the shootings were mentally ill, and probably not being treated. In the case of the Virginia Tech shooter, we know that to be the case for sure.

Sane people do not kill innocent people.

But sane people, driven to mental illness by circumstances they themselves do not understand, need to be treated, and in America, there are a lot of people infected with and affected by racism, a state of mind which has given them a warped sense of reality.

I don’t know what to expect as the pressure and tension from America’s untreated mental illness mount. I do know that people historically in this country and in the world have used violence to try to kill the object of their pain. Forget civility and respect and conversation and compromise.  The best way out of pain… is with a gun shot.

It seems to me that that’s what mentally ill people do.

And that’s a candid observation.

One thought on “America’s Mental Illness

  1. You are so right it is a mental illness in America and until we all understand that the behavior of this country has to change well … they will remain in fear. I think that President Jimmy Carter was also on point with this same observation and until we all acknowledge the problem well it will not go away.

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