by Jack Bragen
We live in challenging times. Those who have power over others are waging a detestable war against the innocent, against those who merely want to make things better for themselves and their families, and those who make sacrifices to help others.
But those who have power over others cannot win—it is physically impossible. They could destroy all life and everything else, but they can not ultimately maintain a malicious dominance over the innocent.
Meanwhile, those who work for good and have good intent are on the other side of this war; our biggest weapons are the truth, the ability to see the truth and think clearly, and courage.
Among the first casualties expected to be harmed and killed by bad people are the mentally ill, the neurodivergent—aka “the crazies.” I, for one, am terrified, but I must speak.
A while ago, as I wrote a preliminary note for this work, I spotted two old ladies seemingly terrified of me because I was sitting in my car smoking, not far from them, when it was dark out. Do I really look that scary to people? I doubt it.
Former President Trump has perpetrated a disservice to humanity in his creation of fear and hate towards people with mental health diagnoses. Hate is a cornerstone of Trump’s political platform. He finds vulnerable demographic groups that have difficulty vocalizing for themselves and casts them as villains. They have difficulty fighting back and become hated by mainstream society. The two examples are Spanish-speaking people and mentally ill people. Other groups can do a better job of standing up for themselves.
These two old ladies will go home and tell tales of how brave they were. People who appear mentally ill have become objects of fear, hate, alienation and dehumanization: a direct result of Trump’s hate speech about “the crazies.”
The following is conjecture:
Here, I’d like to make a distinction between two types of mentally ill people, each in Trump’s crosshairs. The first group is made up of unhoused, untreated mentally ill people who are either gradually falling apart on the street or just barely surviving.
The second group of neurodivergent people consists of those who are probably in treatment, are in remission from severe symptoms, are housed and may be actively participating in society.
That second poses more of a threat to Trump’s power, because we probably have most of our rights intact and we may be capable of activism as well as whistleblowing.
A potential second Trump Administration might take different approaches to attacking each of the targeted groups. The groundwork for rounding up mentally ill in both groups, in both cases, could be completed quickly.
In the case of mentally ill people whose health has grown better, the strategies entail overcoming more obstacles. Since I don’t want to give out ideas on exactly how this is to be done, I will only comment that governmental structures seem to have been created.
We are probably not looking at a scenario resembling the Holocaust with a different target—mentally ill people rather than Jewish people or members of the LGBTQ+ communities. Instead, it could resemble the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The latter was also a crime, and imprisoned American citizens paid profoundly.
Admittedly, I’m making a conjecture with highly limited evidence to back it, might seem far fetched. But then again, who would have expected a deadly attack on Congress while in session to ratify the election of a new President? We are in uncharted waters.
Trump’s rhetoric— when he advocates reopening the state hospitals or calls us “crazies”—adds fuel to the flame of hate, and it also makes us seem less than human. Trump probably wants to come after us “crazies” more than he wants to go after Spanish-speaking workers. In practical reality, our economy won’t function if we deport all the people who do hard work for us for the privilege of staying here.
There are limits to what I can do to protect myself. If the government truly wanted to come after me, there is not much I could do about it. But for now I can speak out, and that’s the most powerful tool I have.
We have to push through the mass misconception that “the crazies” are dangerous and depraved people. The PR campaign I’m proposing is accomplished by getting out in society, rejecting attempts at segregating us, and participating in the world, even if we’re just getting some iced coffee at the Starbucks drive thru. Going to the library and finding a book that interests you is another activity. It doesn’t involve caffeine, and usually it won’t cost you anything. You don’t have to read an entire book, especially if the book goes on too long and when the last two thirds of it are too boring.
When we go out in public, we should try to behave in the same ways others do, and we should try to conform to the norms that people have created. Being social is a skill. I admit to being deficient at it because I have spent far too much time at the computer and not interacting with people.
Many people with mental illness have become attracted to writing self-published books. If you are not careful about it, the cost can be huge, and you won’t make any money at it. If you want to write, here is my suggestion: I got my start more than thirty years ago through submitting letters to the editor. If enough mentally ill people can just do that, it makes a big difference. People read letters to the editor. You don’t have to be a best-selling author to write a letter to the editor. All that’s needed is an articulate opinion, in the word length the newspaper or magazine specifies, and with spelling and grammar errors corrected—bear in mind that your first attempt at it might or might not work. Also, you should never pay any money to be published.
The above are concrete, stigma-busting activities that can reshape public perceptions about us. We need to begin now, because Trump is coming, and he’s coming after all of us crazies, unless we can produce enough shifts in people’s perceptions to make the public skeptical of Trump instead of us.
For mentally ill people and our families, the risks are real. And this can be a hard thing when we often have to overcome paranoia. We can’t always afford to let our guard down. And we must remain brave, remain kind, and remain good. And this is a tall order. But many of us have done this before. And many of us have looked death in the face, and death backed down.
Lastly, we should not give up on human beings to be intelligent and able to think. Americans just need to take a closer look at what we’re getting with Trump. I know people are unhappy with Biden. But we could do worse than Biden.
Jack Bragen is a fiction and essay writer, and lives in Martinez, California.