Billy, in his customary illuminating fashion, brings up a phenomenon that I have long pondered, that being the ability, if not seeming determination, for people to direct unnecessary cruelty at others of their kind, whatever the criteria may be for determining that kind-ship.
Believe me, it’s not a behavior reserved for gay men! Women sit at café tables shaking their heads in disgust at Barbie’s inability to lose the “baby weight” – no wonder her husband jumped at the chance to screw Tina when she threw herself at him. Black men call their women “ho” and black women call their men “nigger” and terms of denigration are casually accepted between siblings and friends, parents and children. Entire “reality” TV shows are comprised of watching ramped-up, skinny, hyena-people forcing the “biggest losers” to punish themselves with weekly humiliation until they either comply with acceptable weight standards (and, no, it’s NOT about their health, people) or get kicked off the show; groups of washed-up, semi-celebrities compete for Donald Trump’s alternating abuse and approval by proving they can be the coldest bitches or most Machiavellian manipulators possible; “Survivors” are the ones who turn out to be not the ones who foster cooperation, teamwork and equal sharing of the problems they encounter, but rather the ones who can come up with the underhanded plan, the phony alliance, the way to cheat the odds. And we wonder why corruption rules our governments, our economy crumbles, and 50% of marriages end in divorce?
I recently read a fascinating article about a new movement afoot in New York – Mad Pride, led by the members of the Icarus Project. These people have all been deemed mentally ill by the so-called “normal” society around them. They’ve been (over)medicated, electrocuted and institutionalized. But now, they’re fighting back. Now they’re reframing for themselves, and for those of us open enough to learn from their courageous example, the idea of schizophrenia and manic-depression, among others, as horrible illnesses (and the HIV/AIDS community talks about stigma!) and turning them into “dangerous gifts,” conditions that can be ecstatic, creative, productive and even spiritual. As the author of the article, Alissa Quart, spent some time with the Icarus group, she began to see that through all that these people had gone through, both from their actual conditions as well as the treatments they’d been subjected to, they have, as she said, “taken their suffering and created from it as all-too-rare thing: a community.”
Here’s hoping that in this crazy world, these well-intentioned madmen and women find a way to hold onto their humanity towards each other more tenaciously than way too many of us have.