Homelessness and the Mentally Ill

The other day in class I was lecturing about the advent of anti-psychotic medication and how it has been both a blessing and a curse.

The blessings are obvious. Before the discovery of anti-psychotic medications in the 1950s, those suffering from severe mental illness were locked up and put in straight jackets. Schizophrenia was treated with lobotomies and electroconvulsive (i.e., shock) therapy.

So great hope accompanied the advent of anti-psychotic medication. A hope that promoted a process called deinstitutionalization where, starting in the 1960s, the large, publicly-run psychiatric hospitals were emptied out so that families and local communities could treat the mentally ill with psychopharmacology.

But both families and communities were unprepared and ill-equipped for this burden. Good intentions and a handful of pills were not enough. Infrastructure was required. And lacking this, deinstitutionalization effectively created the mentally ill homeless population.

To this day, estimates have 1 out of 4 homeless persons as suffering from severe mental illness. And while deinstitutionalization is not the primarily or sole cause of homelessness, deinstitutionalization did make the mentally ill much more vulnerable to homelessness, particularly among those with lower incomes.

The legacy of deinstitutionalization is still with us. You see it on the streets of every American city where the mentally ill sleep in doorways and on park benches. It is a reality I see every week at my church Freedom Fellowship where we feed and worship with the homeless.

As I was describing this problem and its history to my class one of my students raised his hand, clearly distressed by the plight of the mentally ill in America today, and asked, "Dr. Beck, is there anything we can do about this?"

And I said, "Socialized medicine."

In retrospect, I answered that question a bit too quickly and provocatively. Most of my students are conservative, politically and religiously. So they are not too keen on the notion of "socialized medicine." That's a bad thing in their eyes.

Regardless, the fact remains that in America today there is no public safety net for the chronically and/or severely mentally ill. Mental illness brings about homelessness among the economically vulnerable. And once on the street the mentally ill will remain there until they die. There is no way for them, given their mental illness, to secure employment and the income necessary to pull themselves back out of homelessness.

And yet, wanting to address the beliefs of my most conservative students, after mentioning socialized medicine I went on to say that, if you are conservative, that churches (rather than the government) should step in to care for the mentally ill of the community, especially those who are homeless.

And yet, I noted, I know of no churches (in our city at least) that actually do this work in any consistent and comprehensive way.

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42 thoughts on “Homelessness and the Mentally Ill”

  1. We do have socialized medicine for certain groups of people--Congress, the President (and past Presidents), active military, people over 65, and the working poor and disabled. What we don't have is universal health care for everyone. People in this country don't understand how not having to worry about the availability of health care is so freeing, promotes creativity and economic risk taking, and also produces a healthier citizenry.

  2. If I were in your position--one who is a conveyor of insight and wisdom--I would make it a point to upset my politically conservative inclined students who are like as not parroting their parents.

  3. My mother told me, back in the 1940's, early 1950's, in Montgomery, AL, about Will who "wasn't all right in the head" but he had a little place to live and would do odd gardening jobs for people. Montgomery was a small town then, and everyone knew Will. He was able to live independently, and people could help him without just giving a handout. He was black, but that didn't seem to affect what they did. We have managed to hold people in need at a distance now so that they're just scarey blobs on the sidewalk.

    I've been lurking for a good while, just not had anything to contribute til now.

  4. Then again, British conservatives would fight and die for the NHS. There is no particular reason that conservatives should oppose socialized medicine...in America, the trouble is that since Reagan 'conservative' has broadly come to mean something closer to 'anarchism'. This is a good example of that. To be conservative. in this context, means that you don't want the government to act in order to fix the problem. But that isn't historical American conservatism. It isn't even historic American Republican politics. (Right on up through Nixon, conservatism wasn't identified with anarchism in this way). It was Reagan who tapped into widespread discontent with governance, following the Vietnam war, and set this popular redefinition in motion. His popular redefinition managed to pull in a lot of the hippy generation as well. I tell this story to point toward the very real possibility that the meaning of 'conservatism' can change again. I would very much like to see an American conservatism that is grounded in Jesus re-emerge, to reclaim the term from those who have essentially identified it with something very much like 'anarchism.'

  5. I do think socialized medicine can go a long way toward addressing this issue, but I'd be curious to see the statistics on homelessness and mental illness in countries that do have socialized medicine. I'm in Canada where there is socialized medicine, but I've been told by mental health workers that funding for mental health is not nearly adequate to meet the needs. The even more difficult question, I think, is what to do with those who refuse treatment. The movement away from forced treatment at asylums has been a positive thing, but it leaves us with this open question of what our responsibility is towards those who refuse treatment for their illness because their illness makes them paranoid, afraid, etc. I don't know the answer.

  6. For a variety of reasons, I want to be careful in this and I want to be charitable to every student in my class, even those who disagree with me most strongly. I'm in a position of power in a class and I don't ever want to browbeat.

    My job, as I see, is to promote critical thinking. In this case, after sharing with and explaining why I think a public safety net is the most effective way to address the problem I turned to the solution most of the students would have "parroted": private, faith-based charity. That's what you should do in a college class. Turn to both views and look at them in pragmatic, non-ideological ways. As far as charity is concerned, theoretically that's a fine notion I pointed out. But no faith-based charities (in our town) are doing this work. Nor, I expect, are the home churches of the students. The focus here then shifts from ideology to pragmatics. If we want to help the homeless and the mentally ill something must be done. Either in the American safety net or in the local faith-based outreach efforts. Thus if your church isn't doing anything along these lines you should at least be sympathetic to people working on other solutions to the problem.

    Basically, my job, as I see it, isn't to change the mind of that student who asked the question but to fan the flames of advocacy in his heart. I want him to grow passionate and convicted about the problem. Maybe that means he starts voting differently. Or maybe it means he starts up a food pantry as his church. I don't know how it would look. But my job is just to say, "Hey, you care about this. The church is failing. Decide what you need to do as a consequence."

  7. Dan: I'm intrigued by your comment. But, I'm not especially savvy in the world of politics, so I need to ask for a clarification. How would you define historical American conservatism if the current brand is more akin to anarchism?

  8. I'm curious how socialized medicine would do much, if anything more than what's happening now, except the pills would be free. Are you talking about government run mental hospitals, or re-institutionalizing the mentally ill in psych wards at the local hospitals, or government paid in home care? Could you flesh out what you mean a little?

  9. I'm not sure of what Richard will say, but I think that "housing first" policies and supportive care would help a significant number of people. As Coleman pointed out, though, some people are afraid of getting services, and sometimes this is related to their illness. So if you want to completely avoid coercion, I don't think you can make sure everyone has a home. But I think the problem could be substantially reduced. For the remaining homeless population, I think a very relational approach is needed to draw people back into society...I think this is the role that the church can and should play best.

  10. I wanted to jump in and agree that, as a Canadian, even the most staunchly conservative Canadians dont want to get rid of our health care system. Of course there's always talk of how to make it more efficient, and some think that adding privatization would relieve some of the burden on the public system, but seriously - NO ONE thinks we should get rid of it.

    So respectfully, I'm with Dan Heck, in that I dont think your students need to be reassured that their political beliefs are valid - I'm sure they already accept services such as firemen and police, which protect people from circumstances which are by no means their own fault. The United States is incredibly bizarre in that, for some reason, some of you see sickness as something you deserve to succumb to if you dont have enough money - despite the incredibly high costs of your current system.

    So no, go ahead and tell them "Socialized medicine", because its the only legitimate and feasible answer to his question. If the United States is a Christian nation, what is socialized medicine, but the hand of the Church?

  11. There is a group in Atlanta called the Mad Housers http://madhousers.org/ who build individual shelters with a locking door for homeless people. They say, how can anyone pull themselves up without a safe place to sleep? The shelters are tiny, and all is done by volunteers.

  12. Mynta, you wrote, "If the United States is a Christian nation, what is socialized medicine, but the hand of the Church?" That dog, as we say in these parts, don't hunt. As to the premise, liberals will deny (and qb will join them in so doing) that the U. S. is a Christian nation. And even if it were, we go to great lengths to keep "nation" and "church" fully distinct. And even then, the "hand of the Church" does not stick itself into OTHER PEOPLES' POCKETS to accomplish the Church's ends.

  13. With all due respect, Dan, that's nonsense, especially that last half-paragraph or so. Your picture of the Tea Partier's world view is certainly consonant with MSNBC's caricature of us - US, qb being a card-carrying Tea Partier - but there is not an anarchist's bone anywhere in qb's body, nor does he know of any anarchists that do not already define themselves as libertarians OVER AGAINST Tea Party conservativism. We TPCs are, largely, Madisonians, and you should feel free to take Madisonianism as your most charitable, historical piont of departure for understanding the Tea Party. If you want to get up to speed on the pre-Nixonian roots of the modern Tea Party, you need look no further than Goldwater's _The Conscience of a Conservative_.

    Your understanding of the Tea Party, its ideological and intellectual roots, and its ties to the Founding needs some, er, fine-tuning, to say the least

  14. Healthcare in America is messed up that I can only see that it is those who profit from the current system are using fear to cause people to believe that Socialized care is worse that what we have today. Fear is all that is driving politics in America today.

  15. Since the fundamentalist marriage to conservative politics has intensified in more recent years, the latest heresy is that by increasing healthcare and assistance to the poor, we might commit the terrible sin of creating "dependence." Yet the application is never made to corporate welfare (such as agricultural price supports that began more than 85 years ago). The belief was that these large farming operations would eventually be independent, yet they are today "dependent" on these subsidies (welfare) more than ever (which has made them quite wealthy). We spend 17 percent of GNP on healthcare and yet around 50 million of our citizens don't have it. Some European countries spend around 12 percent and cover everyone including medication. Jesus said that sick people need a physician (Matthew 9:12). Throughout his ministry he demonstrated time and time again his concern for the physically and mentally ill. Most scholars agree that "demon possession" in all likelihood referred to some form of mental illness or epilepsy.One of the six questions at the judgment will be about our taking care of the sick. Seems we are left without excuse.

  16. I spent around 10 years working in areas of mental health. A vast number of involuntary hospitalizations was the result of preachers and church members telling their mentally ill members that they needed to get off their medication and read the Bible and pray more. Such ignorance! Sort of like the Good Samaritan going over to the man who was beaten, robbed, and lying half-conscious, arousing him and telling him,"You need to go home and read Phil. 4:13 and that will do you a world of good."

  17. There is a town in Belgium called Geel that has an adult foster care system for people who are living with severe and persistent mental illness. This is a tradition that is roughly 600 years old for this town, and it should be noted that the foster care system is one component of Belgium's socialized health care system. It should also be noted that there aren't homeless individuals in Geel. Here's a link to a '60 Minutes' piece from the early 2000s about the town. It encourages me, as a Christian and US citizen, to push my imagination on ways we might adopt the spirit of Geel.


  18. Thank you Dr. Beck. My wife's ex husband took this journey. He would go through phases of unwillingly not taking his medication. In th he end he died alone in his bedroom tired off chasing the demons at the age of 56. He left 3 w wonderful daughters and three grand daughters. Many people tried to help, is a sad story that wears people of in the living of it. R. I. P. John Harris.

  19. There is so much more needed than just socialized medicine (although I would be quick to add that without adequate medical care available to all, especially adequate mental health care, we will get nowhere. So this is a necessary minimum). There needs to be a shift in the consciousness of society in regards to mental illness and homelessness. It seems that those who are homeless are viewed as less than human, which is how we justify ourselves in allowing homelessness to continue.

    In addition, the major underlying causes of homelessness, mental illness, and addiction issues, are stigmatized to the point that also allows for further dehumanization. This dehumanization leads to a situation where those who are homeless are not seen, thereby becoming ever-present and yet somehow invisible. In such a situation the humanity of these individuals needs to be reclaimed, so as to shed the stigma, shift the consciousness and lead us to the realization that the well being of these individuals is our responsibility, because they are one of us, fellow humans.

    I think the church, if she were to take seriously her vocation, is perfectly situated, theological and philosophically, to bring about this shift in consciousness. Christians hold it foundational that all humans are crafted in the image of God and are valued and beloved. We also hold it foundational that the recognition of this divine image in others, borne out in care for the cast aside and dehumanized (Matthew 25), is the guiding ethic of how we live our lives.

    The church does not typically do a great job embracing or living out these convictions. But imagine if we did. Imagine if we stood up and said, "These folks who are living in agony in our streets are the beloved of the good Creator God and therefore we are going to see them and take responsibility for them." This might mean that Churches partner with local community health agencies and organizations like NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness). It might mean that churches advocate for better infrastructure and government funding for mental health care, housing, and recovery-centered holistic care. It might mean that churches provided education, for their own members and the community at large, that push against the stigma; this training would also include practical instruction on how to interact with those who are living with the overwhelming realities of illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizophrenia, BPD, and depression. These are things that are within the power of the church, and we wouldn't all have to become mental health professionals to bring them about.

    But again, there will be no impetus to bring this things about as long as we continue to place homelessness, mental illness, and addiction in categories of stigma and derision that allow us to dehumanize and cast aside those beloved individuals who are living, and dying, on our streets.

  20. Thanks for the reply. Just so you know, I'm not trying to argue at all, just trying to understand what you mean.

    When you say significant number, and substantially reduced, do you have in mind a rough estimate of folks who would accept the help without coercion? Are we talking 10%?, 50%?, 90%? In my admittedly limited experience with the mentally ill homeless, a common (almost universal) theme is the refusal of treatment of any kind when there is any ability to function at all independently. I can't imagine a socialized medical system where housing is paid for under the umbrella of medical care without some kind of care/treatment/pharmacology/therapy as a conditional requirement. Am I wrong about that?

  21. Many of the housing first approaches are in fact unconditional. The thinking is that you get people off the street FIRST, and THEN you deal with all the other stuff. Living on the streets is incredibly stressful, so you are not going to make much progress on your addiction or mental illness until you have some basic safety and housing needs met. It's a big emphasis in LA at the moment, and whether or not it is succeeding depends on who you talk to. (The specific numbers I've seen are all over the map.) Here's a link to one story about it:


    Something to keep in mind, though, is that the majority of homeless people aren't chronically homeless and severely mentally ill- one guy in the story makes that point - so the housing first model won't necessarily greatly reduce overall homelessness, even if it's successful for the people it reaches.

    As for your original question about socialized medicine and what it would do, I think a big piece of it is prevention. It's WAY harder to get someone off the streets when they've been there for 20 years and self-medicating with drugs or alcohol than it is to provide medication and therapy and case management up front to keep them from becoming homeless in the first place. More community mental health centers with qualified personnel that are actually affordable and accessible to everyone would go a long way. The deeper you fall into a hole, the harder it is to climb out.

    Right now, mental health care is out of reach for many people, either because they are uninsured or their insurance doesn't cover mental health care. For example, I spent nearly $20,000 out of my own pocket for several years of therapy for my PTSD because my health insurance only covers 10 group therapy sessions per calendar year. That treatment changed my life, and is the difference between barely being able to function and having an actual productive life.

    Nearly four years after finishing therapy, I'm still paying off the credit card debt that resulted. (Goodbye, discretionary income!) Worth every damn penny, because without it I would not now have a job and a husband and a daughter, but not everybody has a credit card with a $25,000 limit. If I had not had access to that resource, I don't know where I'd be right now, but I'm pretty sure I'd be broke, alone, and in the general vicinity of a bottle of vodka.

  22. Thanks for the helpful reply ChristyinLA, Hadn't thought too much about prevention as a major piece to this puzzle. I'd been focusing on current folks on the street.

    Sounds like both prevention and current treatment options are a long way from having the infrastructure and staffing, let alone the funding to get up and running. I don't even know if they're touched in the current Affordable Care Act.

    Really glad you had access to resources too! Like you said, lots don't. I'm glad things are good for you now.

  23. I agree, the relational approach is the role the church can play best. Seems to me to be the best role the church should play in many areas.

  24. QB, I think the point is fair...and I was going to include Goldwater as the sort of starting point for the trend. When I say that it resembles anarchism, I just mean this: in a typical conversation, it is often taken for granted that 'conservative' simply means 'against government.' Richard's blog post is one of many examples. I think the intellectual constructs that lead to this identification are worth discussing, and you're right that we didn't get here by conservatives reading Mikhail Bakunin. (Although maybe Ayn Rand did.) At any rate, I think you make a good point of clarification. When I describe the ideology as anarchistic, I mean how it functions in practice. And I think it is more than fair to say that a lot of people seem to think that being conservative, in practice, simply means being opposed to almost any proposed government action for a significant share of self-styled conservatives.

  25. There are quite a few strands. There is a strand that goes back to Abraham Lincoln, focused on conserving the union, a skeptical view of human nature and institutions more generally, and a cautious, humble, post-Enlightenment sort of faith. (Lincoln's faith journey was an interesting one, from rejection of a harsh Calvinist background, through a sort of agnosticism, to a strange and ironic appreciation of providence.) There is a populist strand that you can see in Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose party...a trust-busting, egalitarian, heroic, militaristic, frontier populism. There are the Rockefeller Republicans, who believed in a kind of noblesse oblige, a sort of American Red Toryism (for those thinking of Canada), which is pro-government, pro-market, pro-institutions in general, and relatively egalitarian. There is an intellectual conservatism that would trace its roots to Edmund Burke, a reforming, sometimes 'crusading' (or crusading) conservatism that is also rooted in skeptical inquiry, respect for institutions. Many of these strands connected up with Christian abolitionism in a lot of ways, and one of the main fault-lines in American conservatism has been between the Northern and the Southern varieties. After all, if you have a tendency to defend existing institutions, that means that you are pro-slavery in the South and anti-slavery in the North. Since Nixon's Southern strategy, in particular, we have seen conservatism defined in an almost entirely 'Southern' mode, with its hatred of Federal power (because...well, you know why), its insistence on state's rights (meaning, historically, the state's rights to institute slavery), its insistence on the sanctity of private property (meaning, historically, the people who were property). This surfaces when you see the strange, confusing, confluence of Confederate sympathy and 'libertarian' or (more accurately) propertarian ideas. "Protect our property" was also the rallying cry of the Confederacy...and Nixon's Southern strategy flipped the historic association of Republicans with abolitionism. So you had Reagan standing at Confederate memorials, emphasizing the importance of state's rights and private property and opposition to the Federal government, and the message was clear as day. Because Reagan was such a popular figure, he managed to set in motion a process by which these Southern conservatives came to fully lay claim to conservatism. A lot of other things happened too, of course...abortion and culture war issues and women's rights drove a lot of Christian conservatives into what I consider a kind of pharisaism, and stagflation in the 70's drove a lot of Rockefeller business Republicans to abandon the post-war social contract. So the broader story, I think, is that the 70's were a pivotal period when these various strands were pulled together and conservatism was redefined into its current potent cocktail of anarchistic and pharisaic ideas. I think that part of what is needed, if conservatism is to recover from its current madness, is a recovery of the conservatism of Lincoln, Eisenhauer and Burke.

  26. Richard, I think you're doing what I suggest as "upset" your students by emphasizing the pragmatic challenges in view of ideology. You do your job very expertly, whereas I'm more of a "ready, FIRE!!, aim" guy.

  27. This has been an excellent discussion.

    iMonk is also having a good discussion relative to health care;

  28. In order to trouble using "anarchism" and "Tea Party" as synonyms:



  29. I think it is fair for left-wing anarchists to try to lay claim to anarchism, and prevent Tea Partiers from becoming solely identified with it. At the same time, anarchism, like liberalism, conservatism and progressivism, are all complex and contested concepts. The self-styled anarchists that the TP are influenced by are folks like Murray Rothbard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Rothbard . If an ideology is owned by the people who lay claim to it, then anarchism is also owned by these anarcho-libertarians, whose ideas you frequently find among TPers.

  30. Thanks for engaging, Dan! I’m not wholly attached to the
    word “anarchism,” and I agree that words are complicated, contested, and open
    to interpretation. “Anarchism” is a good example. But I don’t think it “basically
    means against government”: etymologically, it means “without rule/a head,”
    which can be interpreted variously, especially since many anarchists aren’t
    against governance. Also, in my experience, most Tea Partiers aren’t really against
    the government. Anarcho-capitalists, as you note, lay claim to the term, which should
    complicate pure and easy definitions. But this claim can be compared to the
    historical and social praxis of anarchism, which often emphasized horizontal
    and decentralized (but extremely networked) radical democratic practices and cooperative
    social processes, involving much more than an isolated critique of the state. I
    agree that we have no neutral or stable place to stand, which means that we
    engage in conversation by juxtaposing stories and ideas. In this case,
    juxtaposing the Tea Party with more detailed descriptions of anarchist praxis
    leads me to think that conflating the two isn’t very helpful. I think a more interesting example of modern “anarchism”
    would be the Zapatistas, and they’re a far cry from the Tea Party.

  31. I think there are a surprising number of parallels that can be found between the TP and the Zapatistas. They are obviously very different movements in a lot of ways, but they are also both largely agrarian, anti-globalist, traditionalist, concerned with land issues, advocate limited use of violence but generally eschew violence, have secessionist impulses, etc. While the Zapatistas style themselves as "left" and the TP styles itself as "right," I think they have more in common than different. So are they opposites? Sure. I consider opposites to be two things that are alike in a great many crucial dimensions, but that differ dramatically on one dimension. In what sense are they opposites? Although both movements are post-racial to some degree, I would suggest that in a post-racial sort of way, the Zapatistas are animated by 'Mayan' nationalism, while the TPers are animated by 'white' nationalism. Personally, I'm quite skeptical of all types of ethnic nationalism, which isn't to say that Mayan and white nationalism are just the same. There are obvious differences in the underlying power dynamics. However, I don't think the different power dynamics eliminate the similarities that otherwise exist, and surface in various ways. And whether ethnic nationalism is embraced by those with relatively more power or relatively less power, I am always skeptical of it.

  32. Good words, Dan! I'm very sympathetic to your reflective concerns, and you'll get no argument from me that many radical groups have an anemic analysis of authority and power! I would, however, narrate those histories and differences very differently. I see little similarity between the Zapatistas and the TP; for example, I don't see anti/alter-globalization or land ethics in the TP. I do see indigenous sovereignty in the Zapatistas, similar to Idle No More in Canada, but that's an extremely different category than TP white nationalism (I'm drawing more from bioregional praxis, human scale development, and community resilience than anarchism, which I think is less a pure ideology than a diverse set of practices). I see many more differences than commonalities :). But the commonalities don't *necessarily* concern me; instead, I'm concerned with how those common threads are framed and enacted. The Zaptistas are strongly connected through global networks, so their indigenous agrarian localism is one that is highly "ecumenical"; they recently convened their first organizing school which gathered people from across the globe to collaborate and learn. Another example would be the Zapatistas' neighbors, Las Abejas, which is an indigenous Christian pacifist civil society of Maya committed to nonviolent resistance against neoliberalism and militarism.

    I think you make an extremely important point about the distorted conscience of purity, which can haunt any gathering. The other is always among us; the strange is always in our midst. We should acknowledge and critique when a purist understanding of group loyalty is the moral foundation of anarchist organizing. Certain interpretations of Jesus that highlight inversion/conversion can be important correctives. However, I'm slightly skeptical of the prevailing uses of “there is neither male nor female, slave nor free . . .” That Pauline passage can be used well, but it also has a tendency to homogenize and whitewash power disparities. I've worked in Israel and Palestine, and friends there told me about Western missionaries who said that there are no ethnic divisions in Christ, so they should trim their cultural trappings and apparently be like the universal race. Ironically, that passage can justify white nationalism. I take a deep breath when white guys like me say that there aren’t any more race barriers, even in Christ, who was a Galilean Jew with a strong accent. The gospel is enculturated all the way down.

    If I can (shamefully) self-promote, I recently wrote a series on nonviolence which indirectly deals with some of this: http://www.politicaltheology.com/blog/the-impossible-becoming-possible-nonviolence-and-democracy-by-jonathan-mcray/. Also, a series I've been co-authoring with two friends might address this conversation more directly: http://www.restorativetheology.blogspot.com/2013/10/still-and-still-moving-radical.html.

  33. Yes! I don't believe in dissolving difference or ethnicity, and I have a lot of sympathy for "the bees." The inversion of purity and in-group loyalty doesn't dissolve difference, but completes it...or, in the already-not yet where we find ourselves, both completes it and points toward its completion. I'm completely with you in being skeptical of efforts to dissolve ethnicity, and would instead say that ethnicity needs to seek its center outside of ethnicity, instead of becoming a center itself.

    I would point out that Las Abejas and the EZLN are not the same movement at all, even though they have a lot of similarites. In this sense, we might say that they are also opposites: the same in many crucial ways, but diverging dramatically at a crucial point. I'd note that the Abejas have sometimes been harassed by the EZLN. I would (and I know that this is provactive) draw this analogy, Las Abejas:EZLN::Me:Tea Party. Like any model, this analogy is not one of exact 1 to 1 correspondence, but correspondence on key points that are selected out as important. I am deliberately drawing the analogy in a way that transgresses current, popular right-left divisions, in order to help highlight the historical contingency and transformability of those divisions.

    Regarding the Zapatista distinctives you pointed to: the TP had a training of global TP activists last year, in Dallas...while the center of the movement is clearly contested, it is clear that one of the main impulses is an international right-wing anarchist movement in the mode of Murray Rothbard. Understood in these terms, it really is a global and internationalist movement. I imagine that both the EZLN and the TP have elements who are less focused on this global element, and elements that are more focused...I'm not sure which is more international and globalist in its focus, and that could be worth investigating. Either way, both movements have internationalist aspects to them.

    The right-wing anarchists also have a sustained critique of militarism. Their critique of Keynesian economics is frequently made in an anti-militarist mode...and among the various factions that have any influence at all in Washington, they are one of very few who actually have people interested in cuts to the military. It isn't just window-dressing. Now, I think their critique of Keynes by association with militarism actually has some merit; in a depression situation, militarism really can provide an outlet for the unemployed, and this is a major concern. In this sense, they tend to be more militarily isolationist and defensive than pacifist. Like the EZLN, they believe in the use of violence to defend what they consider traditional property rights regimes. While the EZLN's traditional property rights regimes involve collective bodies, and the TP generally idealizes property held by individual bodies, the notion of violence applied defensively, to protect a property rights regime, is central to both movements.

    I part company with the right-wing anarchists in their analysis of militarism where their thinking seems to stop: if military mobilization is a means of generating demand, that doesn't mean that it is the only or the most efficient means of generating demand. Expanding Social Security works even better. If someone can't tell the difference between waging war and expanding social security, while seeing that both can generate demand, I think their ideological system has blinded them more than it has enabled them to see. At the same time, I think they should be more troubled by their full-throated embrace of violence in defense of their perceived property rights regime. I think everything belongs to God.

  34. Glad to hear your views on the neo-Confederates! I appreciate the conversation and your desire to provide nuance, especially in transgressing simplistic right-left binaries. I have found this to be very useful, and compassion-inducing, in conversations with conservative family members. "The bees" have been harassed at times by certain factions of the EZLN, but they have also collaborated and considered themselves comrades in other circumstances.

    Based on my readings of the EZLN, the Tea Party, and anarchism, I still think that placing them under the same subheading does more obfuscation than clarifying. As I said before, the commonalities don't bother me as much as how those commonalities are performed (which, in functionality, makes those commonalities fairly different). In my mind, an important tension to maintain is embracing diversity with the recognition that "the other is us" while also analyzing the uncritical fetish for inclusivity. Thanks for the conversation; time to harvest some chickens and ducks!

  35. Sobering stats. Yes, the 'dependence' result is very real, but when you are mentally ill, you need someone to depend on. If they could pull it all together, they wouldn't be ill.
    I agree with Richard's last statement, it is time for the church to respond.

  36. My fiance had to badger me into getting treatment for migraines, because my not-then-diagnosed general anxiety disorder, coupled with stress-related depression, were telling me, "Everyone else can cope just fine. They'll tell me my headaches are nothing. I don't want a pill running my life." Etc.

    I am so much happier now, that I wish everyone with a mental disorder had someone trustworthy to tell them, "Maybe you should go to the hospital, because that sounds serious" until they did it. Even if your reason is "at least this will shut Person X up," just going to a mental-health professional, and admitting that you can't do everything alone, is the hardest part.

  37. Which church? Christianity is not one church. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Coptic, Lutheran, Methodist, Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Anglican, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, "Non-denominational Evangelical", Emergent Evangelical, Quaker, Mennonite, Amish, Christian Science, etc. are all Christian churches.

    They all have different ways of worshiping God, but they are all Christian. Some of the churches have beliefs, such as the efficacy of prayer over medical treatment, that can help in some of the milder cases, but severely mentally ill people need to be treated by professionals and need to be accepted instead of being stigmatized. I met a person in a NAMI class that had a mother who's mental illness was attempted to be cured by prayer. It didn't work. I have an adult child that suffers bouts of major depression.

    If you are interested in learning what it is like to be mentally ill, An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison is a good book to start with. It is her memoir. She has bi-polar disorder and is a professor of Psychology at Johns Hopkins, so she knows the disease both academically and personally. I read it when my child was first diagnosed.

  38. This is a really simplistic and, frankly, grossly offensive summation of the disabled rights movement and the fight for deinstitutionalisation. While your point about a lack of infrastructure is obviously correct, your framing the use of anti-psychotic medication as the ONLY factor that lead to the releasing of disabled individuals from segregated living glosses over the hard work of disabled activists. We FOUGHT to get out of institutions that YOU put us in. We FOUGHT for rights that YOU kept trying to strip away. And the way you talk about lobotomies and shock therapy, as though they were just sad but inevitable alternatives to modern medication instead of monstrous acts of medical abuse and genocide, is worrying. You seem to care more about disabled people looking messy and cluttering your streets than you care about our oppression and abuse. Maybe that isn't how you mean to come off, but that's how your coming off.

  39. Also, given how incredibly bigoted most churches are, your assumption that queer disabled people like myself would WANT them to 'step in' is pretty damn presumptuous. Until the church stops being monstrous and cruel, it can stay the hell away from me and mine, thanks.

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