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Friday, June 1, 2012

We've All Been Told To Shut Up

June 1st, 2012

If you have an internet connection, it's a safe bet that you've read someone or another conflating certain recent acts of horror with the zombie apocalypse. I did. Nearly everyone I know personally has. Well, over at Jezebel, Lindy West is appalled with all of us and thinks we should be ashamed of ourselves. She writes:
"Stop. Make a new thing. But more specifically, please stop aggregating gruesome crimes committed by mentally ill and/or drug addicted people so you can make some big har-har zombie punchline on your Facebook wall. Zombies are not real. Human beings are." EMPHASIS HERS
Okay. Fine. To be fair, it never occurred to me that zombies were "real." I also agree wholeheartedly with her arguments that massive improvements need to be made to both access and funding for mental health services in our country.

But that's not her real point. She's offended at how millions of us have chosen to deal with our own fear in the face of the incomprehensible. She hedges her tirade with a "but" about how she doesn't think we should never "respond to unthinkable tragedy with macabre humor."

She just thinks we should do it when she thinks its okay to do it. Or something. With all due respect, the reason so many of us responded in the manner we did was to preserve our own mental health. This isn't some radical observation. This isn't some excuse I am making. It's established psychology. Alex Lickerman M.D. explains it better than I ever could:
"We're signaling ourselves that whatever horrible thing we've just encountered isn't really as horrible as it appears, something we often desperately want to believe.
This may explain why some psychologists classify humor as one of the "mature" defense mechanisms we invoke to guard ourselves against overwhelming anxiety (as compared to the "psychotic," "immature," and "neurotic" defense mechanisms). Being able to laugh at traumatic events in our own lives doesn't cause us to ignore them, but instead seems to prepare us to endure them."
I, for one, am not going to apologize for dealing with the media exploitation of this terrifying set of events with humor. It's also worth noting that, aside from quoting a writer in her hometown paper who blames "right wing propagandists" for the lack of resources available to the mentally ill, she doesn't address the systemic failures much and offers not one solution whatsoever.

What's more, I suffer from major depression. I have been through the process of seeking help for myself for years while I found most doors closed and others simply too expensive to walk through. Perhaps Ms. West would be kind enough to follow up her diatribe with a few pieces that would actually help us do something about that?

In the interim, if I need to laugh to survive being trapped in this particular culture, I am going to go right ahead and keep on laughing. As she pointed out herself without realizing it... there really aren't many alternatives.

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