Slip on your 3D glasses and take a front row seat. Welcome to the asylum – not the funny farm on the inside, the one on the outside that we all call home sweet home. Bedlam has arrived, again, in our urban enclaves, in the White House, in our cereal boxes, and in our shampoo bottles.
Then there is the more reserved, private bedlam, that we know as mental illness; the garden varieties of depression and delusion which had taken root long before COVID-19 came along. The spread of the virus though, and its lingering threat, has precipitated a mental health epidemic of its own.
“It may be that we need to, as a population, do more to relieve the stress,” is the revelatory insight of researcher Jennifer Leiferman, at the Colorado School of Public Health. Not a minute too soon. (Another bold and brilliant administrator penciling-in our tax dollars).
Yet if we loiter long enough, we learn that 23 percent of Colorado’s adult population has symptoms of clinical depression – and that number is usually 6 percent.
The Well Being Trust estimates that as many as 150,000 “deaths of despair” from suicides and overdoses are linked to our new COVID-19 environment. This is over and above the alarming number of suicide and opioid-related deaths that have continued to numb us over the past decade.
We would be deceiving ourselves to assign blame for the uncorked rage and despair – which has been internalized by so many – to the force of a knee on a collapsing windpipe or a pink slip due to a business closure or even to a microscopic alien virus.
This most recent variety of bedlam is all too real. The causes have deep and bitter roots that extend over four centuries. In a recent interview about the race riots, Spike Lee made reference to the first slave ship that landed in Virginia in 1619. We live in an age of tweet-induced amnesia.
Our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was forged from the wholesale massacre of those who lived on this land for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. And what of the world’s greatest economy built on the backs of shackled slaves sold from auction blocks? Wasn’t this long before union busting, McCarthyism, and race riots? And what was that nasty business about internment camps for Japanese Americans? My Twitter feed must have missed that.
The recent tally of $55 million in Minneapolis property damage has a complex, sordid history. This “I can’t breathe” society is an asylum of our own making. Slavery may seem to have been outlawed and a Civil Rights Act passed by the legislature in 1964, yet the economic and social conditions of indentured servitude are alive and well. Its persistence is proof that no government can legislate equality.
We all have a hand in America’s social and economic bedlam, in creating the conditions for society’s bottom feeders, thousands who are now but one needle away from an ER visit, a morgue. Disempowerment and hopelessness now take on a wide range of skin tones.
No, we will not be able to legislate our way out of the madness, the outrage, the depression. What ought to seize the attention of decision-makers is recent research that shows that for every 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate, there is a 3.6 percent increase in opioid deaths.
No politician (or consumer for that matter) cares to look at the system itself; far easier to fling cash like confetti in the form of a tax stimulus.
The American experiment has been exhilarating for the scope of what it has taken on. For all its well-meaning passion though, the Empire is showing signs of confusion and exhaustion, and a penchant for mental illness to boot. The MAGA and Manifest Destiny delusions of progress have taken their toll on the public’s psyche.
For the time being, we can rest easier guided by the spiritual wisdom and comfort provided by our finely-coiffed, bible-toting American Pontiff who assures us that George Floyd is in heaven and “is looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing happening for our country.’ A great day for him, a great day for everybody. This is great day for everybody.”
After years of globetrotting, Todd J. Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His policy briefs can be found at US Resist News: https://www.usresistnews.org/.