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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 29 November 2013

Catching Fire, Importing Nuts

Quite frankly, this is nuts.  

First, let's recognize the fact that both Canada and the US (and countless other countries, and the private sector) have recognized there is a global mental health crisis, largely because we're doing mental health wrong.  Despite the tools, drugs and practices ranging from workplace accommodations to cognitive behavioural therapy, we still think of people with mental illness as either weak or contagious.

We've been stigmatizing mental health in the same way we used to stigmatize leprosy, causing pain, loss and suffering where it could be easily avoided.

Beyond that, though, does the US seriously want to stop people who have been diagnosed with mental illness from crossing their borders?

Sorry, Russell Brand - no more working in Hollywood.  Too bad, Catherine Zeta-Jones; you don't belong here.  Hey, future Einsteins, you're not welcome in the US - take your crazy notions elsewhere. Foreign leaders are welcome, so long as they aren't hounded by black dogs like Winston Churchill was.

If they disqualify the crazies from entering the country, they surely don't want them in the Oval Office - it's a good thing Abraham Lincoln wasn't diagnosed in his lifetime.

The drivers, the innovators, the leaders in society all have something abnormal about their psychology.  If they didn't, they would be normal and we'd still be questing for fire.  

We celebrate the cognitively disparate just as much as we vilify them.  We eat them up on Homeland and Dexter and Community and Monk.  People with mental illness are our new superheroes.  

You know how Jennifer Lawrence keeps talking about being crazy and weird and craving a diagnosis?  Note the brilliance of thought and performance that comes out of her?  Exactly.

"Mental illness" is a gift, a divergence, a disruption, a catalyst.  Like any naked flame, it can blaze out of control and cause a brushfire, but with a bit of structure and the right fuel, you can get both heat and light.

We want access to these cognitive forces of nature; we want to help them reach their maximum potential safely, not watch them burn out and fade away from afar.  If the US had so stigmatized their exceptional people for the entire course of their history, well, they wouldn't be such a loved/hated power today, would they?

But it gets even worse.  From the same article:

MP Mike Sullivan said what has happened to his constituent is "enormously troubling... How did U.S. agents get her personal medical information?"

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212, denies entry to people who have had a physical or mental disorder that may pose a "threat to the property, safety or welfare" of themselves or others.

I wonder how they define "threat to property, safety or welfare?"  Through their own ignorance about mental health, US Customs (granted, following US law) have threatened the financial investment Ellen Richardson made for her trip (property) and caused potential harm to her safety and welfare by rubbing salt into her pre-existing, but well-managed condition.

Beyond that - how did they get Ms. Richardson's information?  It's private, in someone else's hands.  They would have had to either do some serious espionage to get information like that on average citizens, or have been provided access to that information by someone else equally paranoid about the masses.  It's obsessive, it's compulsive, it's anti-democratic.

Why would they do such a crazy thing?

It could be the general anxiety about the economy.  Perhaps it's residual fear from 9/11 or connected to the rash of domestic shootings.  It might have something to do with the increased radicalization of their Political Right.  Either way, there's definite paranoia in position.

Sounds a bit like the Department of Homeland Security, doesn't it?

Perhaps that's why the US is trying to firewall themselves off from the crazies - they've got enough problems dealing with their home-grown nuts.

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