Usually I like to post longer posts on Mondays, thoughtful or inspired pieces that sometimes take me weeks to write and other times come to me almost full formed in one sitting. But I haven’t felt especially thoughtful nor inspired this past week so I don’t have one of those posts ready.
I have these floating thoughts that I haven’t been able to flesh out into full posts, though.
I wish that people would stop using words like “stupid,” “idiotic,” etc. to comment on current events or political views that they find dismaying or despicable.
Never mind that lots of highly intelligent people have been responsible for things like genocide, murder, oppression, etc.
Never mind that IQ (which I don’t believe is an accurate measure of anything in the first place, AND which by the way was invented by a eugenicist) is largely determined by genetics, which are in no way tied to your value as a human being.
Never mind that using “stupid” and “idiot” as routine words to express displeasure is a self-esteem destroying cultural virus that hurts children (and adults!) with (and without!) learning or intellectual disabilities.
Being smarter does not make you better. I would hope that this would be obvious, after all I did not coin the phrase “intellectual snobbery,” but I see a lot of people who are otherwise nice people perpetuating this harmful stereotype.
How about you just express your opinions using words that are actually more accurate and have the bonus feature of not being ableist and discriminatory: I think this person is wrong. This policy is counterproductive. This politician is regressive and hateful. This act was careless.
The English language is rich. Choose better words.
Sandra Bland died because of the abusive actions of the police. But let’s not deny her experience of depression as we advocate for justice.
I follow a lot of #BlackLivesMatter stories, and the sheer number of them is overwhelming, which fact by itself is also overwhelming. The fact that I can’t even keep up with how many black people are dying at the hands of police and other racist individuals is horrifying.
But Sandra Bland is one of those people who is just haunting me. I watched the dash cam video, mostly listened to it actually because it was hard to process visually, and the helpless rage in her voice as she knew, she just knew they were stripping her of her power and dignity out of nothing but pettiness, racism, and the ability to do it – and she couldn’t stop them – it shook me to my core.
And then I saw one of her Sandy Speaks vlogs in which she spoke out about why she believed BlackLivesMatter, and I heard the voice of a woman who wanted to make a difference, who wanted real justice and equality. To know that they took that away from her, over nothing, over a trifle, just because they could, is heartbreaking.
But then the justifications for ruling her death a suicide started coming out, including that fact that she had a medical history of depression – which I have to say sounds like a violation of HIPAA rights, I’m not sure – and the counterargument that Sandy would have never killed herself. I have to say that it is okay for Bland to have experienced depression. Let’s not take that away from her. It does not invalidate or in any way lessen her passion for justice, it doesn’t diminish her character, it doesn’t justify her death. Ever.
Not allowing Bland to have been depressed is yet more oppression. Not only should she have been more submissive when pulled over for a minor traffic violation, not only should she have silenced her outrage when wrongfully arrested, she also should have been stronger emotionally and somehow vanquished clinical depression by sheer force of will? Let’s not do that to her. There’s an implication when we say “she would never” that suicide is cowardly and weak. We know that’s not true. And we know that Bland was not weak. The woman in that dashboard cam was not weak.
Whether it was Bland’s own hand or someone else’s that physically extinguished the life from her body, the police killed her, have no doubt. To be falsely arrested, abused physically, gaslighted, and locked up under a bail wildly out of proportion with her so-called crime is a form of torture. Whatever happened in that cell – they killed her.
Also, I would like us to stop blaming every mass murder on mental illness.
Can we just not, anymore?
This is lazy thinking and harms people with mental illnesses. It stigmatizes them and forces them to hide. It prevents people from getting treatment they need (I mean seriously, who’s going to go see a psychologist if they think that they are practically admitting to being a potential serial killer??).
It’s also just incorrect.
Maybe we have just watched too many movies and crime serials, because in those practically everyone who kills someone also secretly wears ladies’ skins or dresses their mother’s skeleton up in a wig, but these are just basically campfire ghost stories that we like to tell to creep ourselves out.
In reality, most mentally ill people are not dangerous, and most are more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators. In reality, most people who kill people are motivated by non-crazy (though wrong and bad) human qualities like jealousy, rage, racism, ableism, misogyny, etc.
Maybe we are just too scared to see those qualities in a serial killer or mass murderer because we know we possess some smaller, less homicidal form of them ourselves. Or we could. Or we know someone who does.
But just as mentally ill people can ALSO be murderers (as sometimes these criminals do have a history of mental illness, yes), they can also be bank tellers, parents, construction workers, CEOs, doctors, teachers, or dog walkers, and they are MUCH more likely to be all of those non-murderer type people.
I think that’s all the ranting I’ve got in me today.
Feel free to add yours in the comments.
Perhaps I’ll have something more coherent to write about next week.