Opinion: Potsdam man offended by terms used for people with mental disabilities
characterizationsI’m not alone: I’m deeply offended by the recent use of the term “vermin” to characterize other Americans. I’m also deeply insulted by the continual use of terms such as “lunatics” and “deranged” to characterize other people’s apparent mental stability. These epithets strip people of their human dignity, especially families who live with legitimate mental illnesses.
Decent people can disagree—and sometimes bitterly—and still remain civil in their disagreements. But certain people violate this central American spirit when they reduce others to animals and/or target their mentalities. It’s easy for certain people to embrace these strategies as a way to divide our great country. What’s much harder is sustaining the decency that’s needed to move our country in the right directions. This hard work requires that we respect each other, listen well, and rely on our reason to solve the real challenges that a great nation will always face.
When I hear certain people dismiss their political opponents with contempt as “mentally ill,” here’s my civil reply: living with mental illness requires courage in a society where such conditions are often misunderstood at best and, at worst, demonized and degraded with ugly stereotypes. Too often, such stigma leads to stunning mistreatment of good people who suffer from mental disorders. You’ll understand what that means if you’ve lived in a family who’s had to work for decades with dedicated medical professionals to make certain that your loved ones are cared for and treated with compassion.
And then along comes a certain individual who’s now directing his bigotry at families like mine in a transparent attempt to further enrage his supporters. This is obvious, what our Founders would call self-evident. Other terms come to mind for me this week, but I’m going to remain civil. Here’s what I know to be true: mental illness is a medical condition and it’s treatable. Evil is its own manifestation, a conscious moral choice. Yeah, go ahead and call me a “snowflake,” if one is so inclined. My family has lived through and overcome heartbreaking challenges that most people couldn’t even imagine.
Decent Americans need to stand together and maintain the boundaries of our core decency. These boundaries are now under direct assault and unquestionably from within. Being decent and civil demands honest hard work, patience, and interpersonal respect. We can disagree as a people, even bitterly when we need to, but let’s always disagree civilly.
Again: people who aspire to (re)gain power by using terms such as “vermin” and “deranged lunatics” are un-American and evil. They must be denounced as such, and their behavior must be rejected and condemned. For decent people everywhere, this is self-evident and beyond debate.
Donald J. McNutt