The police arrested a “Detroit man,” a white real-estate agent living downtown, for what they called credible threats against the governor, attorney general, mayor and Rashida Tlaib. His Facebook page is public, and still is, and it’s interesting to see the outlines of his obvious-but-not-too-obvious mental illness – paranoia, threats, conspiracies, etc. It reminded me of something that’s interested me for a while, i.e., how mental illness is shaped by the times.
In fact, I think we’ve talked about this here before, how once, people claimed demons visited them in their sleep, usually having sex with them. Today, they’re more likely to claim aliens did it. A transparently obvious memory of, or reaction to, sex abuse of some kind gets wrapped in the trappings of the time.
We’ve also talked here about Edward Bodkin, the Huntington castrator (Google it). I still remember the debriefing from a colleague who’d just hung up the phone from interviewing the editor of Ball Club magazine. He was trying to get an idea why men would go to a grimy house in rural Indiana and willingly let someone cut off their testicles (free of charge, but you had to agree that the procedure be videotaped). The editor explained that some might have been transsexuals (we didn’t use terms like transgender then) who couldn’t afford sex-change surgery (we didn’t say gender-reassignment or gender-conforming then), and figured getting rid of part of the offensive anatomy was good enough.
But then he went off down a rabbit hole about the whole cult of body modification. These are people who simply don’t think the body they’re in is the one they’re supposed to be in. They’re not trans, just…unsatisfied. If there were a spectrum, at the mild end might be tattooing, with extreme plastic surgery closer to the middle, and at the other, people who use shotguns or saws or other implements to do enough damage to a limb that a doctor might have to just amputate what’s left. Because in their minds, they are amputees.
(You might put fitness freaks somewhere on that continuum. Rare is the person who is 100 percent pleased with every pore on their face, but I also think there’s a reason so much fitness activity is dressed up in the virtuous clothing of better health. Certainly it is better to be active than sedentary. But if you’re spending hours and hours a week in search of a different pair of arms, maybe you belong on that scale, too.)
Hoarding – was that a thing before the last 20-30 years? We’ve called people pack rats forever, but there’s something about the great, post-1980 age of Getting and Spending that seems to fold into hoarding rather neatly. Animal hoarding, ditto.
And so now we’re in an age when people in the highest offices in the land freely talk bullshit about American carnage and Qanon and pedophiles in pizza joints, and suddenly we have all these very suggestible, mentally fragile people making threats against the political enemies of those who, just to use one example, imply that a U.S. senator is a pedophile, and, well, you see what happens.
(The president’s eldest son, I have zero problems diagnosing from this distance, has extreme daddy issues and, I am sorry to say, these tactics won’t work to make daddy finally love him.)
Back to the guy who was threatening the Michigan politicians. If he hadn’t included the mayor, I’d think he also has…problems with women, shall we say. Actually, I will say it: He has problems with women. The other day I was emailing about this with a former colleague, who didn’t think the complaints about Gretchen Whitmer are motivated by sexism. I said, what are we to think when the expressions of those complaints are so often made with gendered insults? TYRANT BITCH, etc. Hmm? No answer.
Of course, part of the problem is, there are far fewer gendered insults for men. “Prick,” maybe. But even “asshole” doesn’t work; we all have them, after all.
OK, then. How was everyone’s weekend? We had one perfect day and one rainy day. Rode my bike on both. The Spotify mix tossed up “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” which is always amusing, and I regret to say that was the high point of Sunday’s ride, because then it started to rain and the now-predictable right-side lower-back pain came in right behind it. Saturday’s was better; I went with a friend and when it was over, got a couple of tall boys from a nearby likka sto’ and that was the cool down. We sat at opposite ends of a bench and talked about different types of feta cheese.
And Friday was our 27th anniversary. There was cake, there were flowers, there was a mushroom risotto. It was all quite nice.
And now the week ahead awaits. Let it be peaceful and healthy for all, but if Barack Obama’s gentle reproof in his virtual commencement address makes a particular skull explode, yeah well shit happens.