Here in Eugene, Oregon, in the middle of downtown, there is a small public square with a statue of the late author and local legend Ken Kesey. I knew Ken, famous for writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, one of the main novels celebrating counterculture and challenging psychiatry.
I organized a small protest in Kesey Square on January 29, 2016 for two reasons: First, developers threaten commercial expansion. Second, I encouraged people to speak out against the climate silence that paralyzes the general public. Below I expand upon the speech I delivered in the middle of the eccentric chaos.
Europe is laughing at us. You, the whole world, laughs at us. With Trump and Sarah Palin dominating the news, and with gun-toting militants taking over an Oregon bird sanctuary, hell, we are laughing at ourselves! We do look crazy.
I am an American nut. So I feel qualified to reply to the world about the USA’s mental health. The diagnoses I received throughout five lock-ups in psychiatric institutions back when I was a student at Harvard in the 1970’s include “psychosis,” “schizophrenia,” “bipolar,” and “depression.” Somehow, I graduated with honors anyway in 1977. Since then I have been a psychiatric survivor activist working in our little-known social change Mad Movement. I still see a psychotherapist regularly with my diagnosis of “PTSD.”
And I am thoroughly American. I grew up in the south side of Chicago. I lived on the east coast for eight years. I have close relatives down in Texas. And for the last 33 years I have lived here in Oregon.
Ken Kesey worked in a psychiatric institution in Roseburg, Oregon and this helped inform his 1962 book One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Ken had a favorite phrase in the story, “Bull goose loony,” which referred to the alpha-crazy on the ward.
We Americans are giving Donald Trump, through all the media obsession, the status of bull goose loony. I have learned during my lifetime working for human rights in mental health is that we are all a little crazy, from womb to tomb, 24/7. I am very glad that the voters of Iowa rejected Donald Trump tonight in the presidential Iowa caucus, by coincidence the moment I finished and sent in this blog about my speech on Friday!
Yes, Donald is nuts. But we are all nuts. The real question is, “What kind of nuts are we?”
Hey world, sometimes you want us American nuts. The good kind of nuts.
My dad was in D-Day in 1944, as Americans and Allies ran into machine gun nests on the French coast. Dad told us a story about D-Day several times. Dad arrived on the fifth day of D-Day as an MP, military police. He watched a lot of young Americans head into battle. Dad was struck by how one young man was so frightened about the war that when he pulled up his shirt, the muscle spasms in his abdomen went up and down, up and down, like the waves on the sea. World, you wanted American nuts then as they headed on roads to Berlin to take out Hitler.
In 1963 Martin Luther King gave his famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” But did you know that he did not deliver his written speech that day, and it was called “Normalcy — Never Again”? That sounds a little nuts, the good kind. The world seemed to like Martin, who got his Nobel prize in 1964 in Oslo, Norway. Dr. King talked a lot about “creative maladjustment.” He often said that the world was in dire need of a new organization, the “International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.”
Now the World is in a Tipping Point Toward Chaos.
Positive feedback loops in this climate crisis, such as methane release, may lead to a worst case scenario, which I call “Normalgeddon.” A smarter quad than I, Stephen Hawking, said that because of the risk of runaway greenhouse effect he is worried there is a chance of boiling oceans.
Talk about explicit madness! If the word “madness” has any meaning at all, then risking all life on earth would seem to qualify.
At a time when even the Pope says that the climate demands a global revolution, Trump is a distraction from where we should be directing our attention. There are far more fascinating stories that are far more important today.
For instance, the Kogi Indians in Colombia, South America, warn us about how the “younger brothers,” as they call the West, may ruin the world. They have had villages for thousands of years, that somehow escaped European invasion and remained intact. See the absolutely-riveting 2012 documentary “Aluna” on Netflix, in which the Kogi leaders use a gold-colored thread to illustrate how all of nature is inter-connected. That is the kind of good madness that I like to see! Why have most people not been informed about the Kogi’s message?
The “butterfly effect” gives us each potential, enormous power. We need something far bigger than D-Day to save the climate, and this time we are all Ike. That is, because of the butterfly effect we are all Supreme Commanders, as crazy as that sounds.
Yes, I Have Many Disabilities.
In 2012 I fell down and broke my neck, and now I am a quad in a powerchair. I have been here before. I remember being on the floor and feeling the paralysis coming over me, unsure if it would kill me. I looked deeply into the eyes of my darling Debra. Today, world, you seem paralyzed. I have some familiarity with paralysis.
I try to empathize with you, world, and love you all. But generally we, the world, seem spiritually sick. We seem morally paralyzed. Our collective disabilities seem far bigger than mine.
There is no assurance we will win this global revolution. But at least we can break the silence, and make it undeniable that we are seeking revolution. Yes, we are all nuts but the question is:
What Kind of Nuts are We?
I challenge Donald Trump to prove that he should be our bull goose loony. What are we nuts for?
I am #Nuts4 love!
I am #Nuts4 Debra!
I am #Nuts4 revolution now! Now! Now!
* * *
At the end of my speech, several of us walked the half block from Kesey Square to Summit Bank. In the bank lobby about five employees stood ready to help. I asked to speak with the bank’s President, Craig Wanichek, who also served as the chair of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. Several times I have tried to ask Craig to speak about the US Chamber, and how they are complicit with the climate crisis. He has maintained silence and now I know why.
“Craig is right behind you,” said the employees. He was. Craig quickly walked to the door and invited us to leave. Instead I turned around and said, “I would like to open an account.” Craig came back and threatened to call the police if we did not leave. For more information about the chamber and climate, search the web for this term: Normalgeddon
You are invited to tweet what you are most mad for. Use: #nuts4 as in #nuts4life
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.