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Slick, Sick Trumpery: or Maybe it is more complicated than Crazy is as Crazy does

Today, my faithful and faithless followers, the Good (and Not So Good) Words asks you to look at the margins. To not focus on the spectacle at the center of the three ring circus of national politics. Trump is a bad clown act, but he is not the Ring Master.

Trumpery = Showy but worthless.

Today, I ask you to refrain from calling him crazy. Today, I ask you to think carefully about what it means if he lives with a mental illness. Today, I ask you to ask yourself who benefits if he is called crazy. Today, I ask you to ask yourself how you benefit if he is called crazy.

If he is mentally ill, then he deserves our pity, even if his mental illness is one of the nasty ones like narcissistic personality disorder. Mental Illness is not something you shake off. It is not a character flaw. It is a complicated system of conditioned behaviors and chemical reactions that affect the whole body. Mental Illness is a long-term health condition that seldom, perhaps never is cured. Instead, those of us who live with one (or more) adapt more or less successfully to living with it.

You can be a nice person and have a mental illness. You can be a bad person and have a mental illness. You can an extra heap of suffering because you live with a mental illness and also are from an oppressed group. You can be in denial about your illness if you are privileged enough that your extreme behavior is at the far end of what your allowed for your group. Old, white, straight, nominally Christian men can get away with a lot- and so it is easier for them to make it despite mood or personality disorder.

But unless you have been in the grips of an extended, ugly episode, you can’t know just how badly mental illness warps your personality. It brings out your worst. It will make shitty choices your only choices. Some of us will come out of an episode and grieve for the ways that mental illness harms those around us. Others will never, ever understand the impact of their actions, because of the nature of their illness. They may never be well, their condition is not episodic, or their illness makes it impossible to care for others. And some are shitty, selfish, and short sighted even at their healthiest.

So if he does live with a mental illness, he deserves our pity. It does not absolve him, but it makes it more complicated when we look at him.

But as I said, we shouldn’t be focusing on him. He is not the ring master. Power is never just about the figure head. Mental Illness is never just about the person who is ill.

To understand my political point, I have to get personal. Please understand, I am not simplifying the political to say that it is the same as my personal experience. I am juxtaposing to pull out patterns.

My mother lives with borderline personality disorder and epilepsy. She and her sisters suffered severe physical and emotional abuse. Momma is mean. Momma is emotionally abusive. Momma twists bits of half remembered information and outright untruths into bizarre, nonsensical narratives. And if I disagree, and I often disagree, then I am the enemy. I have been the enemy since I was a young child. (And I am only now realizing why the current political climate has set off an extended, paralyzing depressive spell). Momma is short sighted, selfish and shitty, even at her best.

But Momma is not the only reason my childhood sucked. Daddy also comes from an abusive family. Daddy lives with a mood disorder, though he has not been diagnosed, and if you add in his hoarding, he probably lives with at least two mood disorders. When I was a child, the adults in my life did not lie about my mother’s illness. They did not have fancy DSM words for it; they said she was crazy. They did not protect me and my sister from her. They did not help her live the best life she could. They held her in contempt. She was the bad guy.

You see, all the adults in the Bishop Family Compound were living with histories of abuse and mental illness. And they all got something out of her being the problem. They could feel better about themselves because at least they were sort of (not really) functioning. Everything my mother did, everything she liked, every time she was angry, it could be labeled wrong or bad because she was the crazy one.

My mother loves tomatoes, cottage cheese, and coffee. My mother loves Perry Mason and Disney. I was taught to hate those things because the crazy person liked them. It took years for me figure out what I actually like and dislike. (I like coffee. I like cooked but not raw tomatoes. I like cottage cheese in some things, but don’t really want to eat a cup of it. I can tolerate Disney and Perry Mason). I still am untangling myself from this warped, bullshit family narrative.

My father, my Nana (his mother) and my Uncle Eddie were less ill (at the time) than my mother. And they took unconscious advantage of her illness. They centered the drama of her illness because it meant that they did not have to see their own. My father is an amazing person, but he still uses my mother’s illness to hide from his own disordered moods, to excuse not getting help with his hoarding. He benefits if she’s the problem. I don’t think Daddy would consciously choose to do this. He also has been shaped by his history and his illness. But he, as the slightly more well person, bears a larger responsibility for trying not to replicate bullshit.

If we shift back to the political, what does it mean if the people working around Trump believe that he lives with a mental illness? If he has a mental illness, and they know it, they bear a larger responsibility for what is happening in our country. It is worth asking how they plan to use his possible illness as a way to excuse their bad behavior. If he is the bad guy, if he is called crazy, then he can be pushed out after they’ve used him as a wrecking ball.

If those of us in the center and on the left, call him crazy, if he is the bad guy, it is easier to ignore how we all are warped by poisonous, abusive systems. It is easier to believe that we do not benefit (to greater and lesser degree) from those systems. It is easier to pretend that what is happening now is new, not just an extreme expression of what has been happening all along. Our recent, former presidents,-Obama, both Bushes, and Clinton- were more stable than our current President, but all were culpable for supporting fucked up social, political and economic systems.

Today, I ask you to not call him crazy. Not just because it is offensive, but also because it hides the more complicated, painful truth that we all are complicit in crazy making systems of inequality.

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