Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Let's stop blaming Trump's policies on mental illness

You can't blame Trump's policies on mental illness just because you don't understand where they've come from.

Okay, let's start with the obvious. Donald Trump is a "bad" dude. Let's all agree that he's a racist, misogynist, prejudiced and privileged man. Okay? Ok.

But does that make him mentally ill?

Well, according to a number of psychiatrists who have been keen to get their names out there, it does.

Criticism of Donald Trump has been veering towards slurs about his mental health for the past week. "He must be mentally ill" to have come up with such policies as the Immigration Ban. The media has been quick to jump on these psychiatrists who claim they have found a diagnosis to fit Trump (side note: let's not even get into why such a diagnosis is unethical and fundamentally flawed). I've also seen a large number of tweets and Facebook posts absolving Trump of responsibility for his actions and blaming it on an illness they suppose he has without any diagnosistic proof.

I have a problem with this. Mental illness is not an excuse for racism, or other bigoted views.
Mental illness diverts blame from a grown man onto a real, serious and life-threatening illness that affects millions of people. Using it in this way is only serving to restigmatise mental illness as something only the 'crazy' other has, rather than something 1 in 4 of us live with on a daily basis.
Mental illness is being used as a weapon against Trump. How can he be a fit President if he's mentally ill? I refuse to accept the label of mental illness as an insult.
Mental illness does not explain how millions of Americans, and others, have flocked to Donald and pledged their support for the way he is governing. Are they all mentally ill? Or just misinformed? 
Citing mental illness dismisses the prevalence of racist, Islamaphobic beliefs.
Mental illness ignores how the far right have gained a lot of popular support. And if we ignore it, how can we learn to stop it?
"In every generation, there are quite firm rules on how to behave when you are crazy." - Ian Hacking 
Here's the thing. 'Mental illness' has been used as an excuse for views that defy the 'norm' for hundreds (if not more) years. During the feminist movement, critics were quick to throw mental health labels at protesters too because they challenged the established society. And now, Trump too is challenging the progress towards a fair, just and equal society that has been made over the last few decades. And once again, 'mental illness' has been used to justify a belief system the rest of us cannot fathom.

The reality is that right-wing rhetoric has been growing for the past number of years all across the globe. The Christian right wing have been on the rise for years in America. Trump's policies have all been born out of that.
Trump was born in 1946.  He was brought up before the 1960's Civil Rights movement. Where black people had to use separate drinking fountains. Where the KKK were still very much active. The last lynching of a black man took place in 1955. He woke up one day suddenly an equal to these same people he had lived with as inferiors. Racism is not a sudden, and new concept to him.
Abortion laws have been rolled back to restrict access to abortion in Southern states for the past number of years. Alabama, for example, only had 3 clinics left at the time of the making of the Trapped documentary last year. Trump's pro-life stance is the natural evolution of such policies.
'Lad culture' has been normalising sexual harassment and rape culture for years; Trump's views on sexual assault are frankly not that surprising.
And he's narcissistic? I challenge you to point out one business CEO who doesn't display some narcissistic qualities. Again, this is not proof of a mental illness.
It's proof that he possess views and qualities based on his upbringing and who he is a person.

Trump may have a mental illness. He also may not. Does it matter? Why do we feel the need to slap labels on something just because we don't understand it? And why do we assume that those who are intolerant must have a mental illness when in fact they are just bigots?

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