I’ve been thinking a lot about crazy people, which is an interesting thing to do because it’s very hard to get a handle on what constitutes a crazy person. I know for pretty darn certain that the guy who used to stand on a corner in downtown San Francisco all day longer talking gibberish to the invisible guy next to him was crazy. Indeed, he made a really nice, bright line example of what’s crazy: a complete disconnect from reality. He was functioning entirely in an alternate universe.
Yesterday, while I was sitting around in court learning whether or not I’d be a juror (not), one of the members of the jury pool earned the appellation “crazy” from everyone in the jury room. But she wasn’t really. She knew what reality was, but she lacked ordinary controls. She talked out of turn, was incapable of separating her personal needs from the proceeding before her, and was swiftly dismissed, to a collective sigh of relief from the entire room. None of us liked sharing space with a “crazy lady” whose acting out made all of us feel uncomfortable. Still, she spoke English, was connected to what was going (although she put her own spin on it), and seemed to lead a functional life, at least outside the courtroom.
Crazy people come up a lot in criminal law, because of the insanity defense. If you can prove you were insane at the time you committed a crime, the law will not convict you. The legal standard of crazy is yet another way of looking at profound imperfections in the human mind, because it tries to ferret out an individual’s capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. If you think your mother-in-law is the devil incarnate, but you nevertheless know murder is wrong and that it is wrong to kill as a matter of law, you’re not legally insane. However, if you’re convinced that the object in front of you is a tree, and that you need to cut it down with your chainsaw, only to discover later that you murdered your mother-in-law, you’re legally insane. Your reality is so profoundly altered, and your intentions so separate from the deliberate of murder, you are absolved from responsibility.
Ever since the 60s, liberals have been trying to expand the definition of crazy to include people who are driven by compulsions (such as the prospective juror) but are still completely able to distinguish right from wrong. They content that, in true freudian style, we’re all insane, with some of us handling it better than others. Given that we’re all a writhing mass of actual or potential dysfunctions, we should go easy on the formerly abused child who just blew up and killed someone. Sure, he knew it’s wrong to kill, and he knew at the time that he was engaging in this wrongful act, but he should nevertheless be forgiven, since had a damaged, if not crazy, mind.
Ordinary people are loath to go down that liberal freudian path. They know a slippery slope when they see one. Those of us who fall into this ordinary category like to think that we are independent individuals who have some mental brakes. An unhappy childhood might justify an excess of ice cream (or cigarettes or sex, or whatever) in our lives, but we still see ourselves as sufficient sentient that we won’t cross the big lines, no matter our childhood trauma. Just because we eschew self-control for the small or medium things, justifying our past hurts for our indulgence, doesn’t mean that we, as self-aware, intelligent, moral beings, get to sever all semblance of control over ourselves. Once we, as human beings, start giving ourselves permission to do that, it’s all over, not just for each individual, but for society as a whole. Anything goes. Each psychic hurt in our own lives justifies a free pass to unending violence or immorality. That way lies true madness.
And then, of course, there are the stories we read about daily: the guy who is obsessed with an evil government who flies his plane into an IRS office, the man who enters a Jewish agency and starts shooting, the student who runs amok on a campus killing as he goes, the two women who strap on explosive vests and try to kill scores on a Moscow subway. Are they all crazy? Are none of them crazy?
Well, one of the problems is the way in which the media instantly assigns or hides labels, in order to confuse us as to the killers’ motives and ideology. With regard to the Russian story, the headlines tell us that “two women” are accused of setting off the explosives. You have to read deep to learn they were Muslim. In America, every newspaper trumpets that “Christian” militia men were arrested for plotting deaths. In America, no mention is made in the headlines of the fact that the guy arrested for threatening (Jewish) Rep. Eric Cantor is an Obama follower and possible Muslim convert. Also in America, the headlines withhold any information about the guy who attacked the IRS in Austin, although it’s suggested that he’s an anti-government nut. Well, yes, he is, but his anti-government hatred bloomed as much in the Democratic, Obama-rich world of his imagination as it did anywhere else.
In all the cases I mentioned above, the people were monomaniacal (Islam, Christianity, antisemitism, antigovernment), so I guess they were all crazy. Except that you and I, as ordinary people, know that its one thing to hold beliefs, and another thing to do acts that are immoral and illegal. You can hate the government, but you don’t kill innocent people in the IRS office. You can love Islam, but you don’t try to murder as many people in the push of a button as possible. Unlike the guy on the San Francisco street corner, you know that what you’re doing is killing people against the law. These are not soldiers on the battlefield you’re killing, but ordinary civilians, living ordinary lives.
So, no, I’m not sure any of them get the crazy pass. Sure, their ideas are crazy, but even having crazy ideas doesn’t justify immoral or illegal acts. Each of these people knew that he or she wasn’t just mowing down trees but was, instead, actually killing (or planning) to kill real people in violation of real laws and rules of civilized conduct.
What should frighten people isn’t the crazy person here or there, who latches onto the tropes of modern society to justify an already existing blood lust. What should worry us is an organized effort to brainwash ordinary people into becoming Angel’s of Death despite each individual’s knowledge that what he is doing is wrong. In this regard, think long and hard about the difference between these two documents.
First, the Mt. Vernon Statement, from the Tea Party:
We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.
These principles define us as a country and inspire us as a people. They are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other in the world. They are our highest achievements, serving not only as powerful beacons to all who strive for freedom and seek self-government, but as warnings to tyrants and despots everywhere.
The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed. It recognizes man’s self-interest but also his capacity for virtue.The conservatism of the Constitution limits government’s powers but ensures that government performs its proper job effectively. It refines popular will through the filter of representation. It provides checks and balances through the several branches of government and a federal republic.
A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.* It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
* It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
* It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
* It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
* It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.
Read the rest here.
Second, think about what is taught to the average Palestinian child, a message that is similar in content to what is taught around the world to all Muslims:
‘Alloush: “Uncle Hassan! Uncle Hassan!”
Uncle Hassan: “My God, why are you so happy, ‘Alloush?”
‘Alloush: “I am like the grown-ups, watching the news.”
Uncle Hassan: “Good, I hope it will be a good day to watch the news.”
‘Alloush: “I’ve heard a very good report. Very good.”
Uncle Hassan: “That good?! This report will make us happy?”
‘Alloush: “Yes! Do you know the Ibrahimi Mosque [in Hebron]?”
Uncle Hassan: “Who doesn’t know it? We all do.”
‘Alloush: “Well, they have turned it into a museum.”
Uncle Hassan: “What?!”
‘Alloush: “So the people – all the Jews and the Christians – can visit it.”
Uncle Hassan: “Are you sure that’s what you heard? Are you sure?”
Uncle Hassan: “And you are still happy?!”
‘Alloush: “Yes, this way they will protect it and stop destroying it. People will be able to see it, but not to touch it.”
Uncle Hassan: “Are you out of your mind, ‘Alloush?”
Uncle Hassan: “No, they are telling the truth in the news, but as you can see, the whole world is in turmoil over this. This is sad news, a real catastrophe for the Arab and Islamic world, ‘Alloush.”
‘Alloush: “Those Jews want to steal the Ibrahimi Mosque?”
Uncle Hassan: “Yes, they want to steal it, and then make it like their false temple. They want to add it to their legacy for their future generations, ‘Alloush.”
Uncle Hassan: “Unfortunately, ‘Alloush and dear children, the Arab and Islamic nation is in a slumber. A deep slumber. We must stand up. We must awaken. ‘Alloush and dear children – each one of you must tell his father, his grandfather, and the rest of his family that they should all arise as one. They must rise up against the criminal Zionists, who are planning to destroy Jerusalem, and to turn the Islamic waqf into something bad. We must rise against the Zionist criminals, the enemies of Allah, and liberate Jerusalem and all the holy places. We should liberate them. Do you hear, ‘Alloush?”
‘Alloush: “Ah, now I get it. I thought the Jews wanted to enable people to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque, but it turns out that they want to steal it.”
You can say that the religion is crazy, and that the people who follow it are not delusion, they are misled. Even if this is true, eventually, for our own self-preservation, we must accept that their mass delusions are unsustainable and unforgivable. After all, they’re not crazy.