Hating is not fair

jail behind barbed wire

“I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I believe that for every person on the planet. I think if somebody tells a lie, they’re not just a liar. I think if somebody takes something that doesn’t belong to them, they’re not just a thief. I think even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer. And because of that, there’s this basic human dignity that must be respected by law.” – Bryan Stevenson

For those few who’ve never heard of him, Bryan Stevenson is a Harvard trained lawyer, social justice activist, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor of law at New York University School of Law.  And in my opinion, an absolutely wonderful man! Someone I regard as being a true Humanitarian and Christian in the purest sense. I hope to someday write a full tribute to him, but today, I only want to reflect on his words captured above.

Anyone who has read my blog posts already knows that I am a woman with a mental illness. I have bipolar disorder. Though not all people afflicted with this awful illness face the same set of drawbacks, some of its symptoms tend to be prevalent in many sufferers. Among the more emblematic ones are irritability (which can range from just foul mood, to outbursts or tirades), hypersexuality (ranging from a mild promiscuity to serial adultery), hyperspending, grandiosity, impulsivity, and to a much lesser degree aggression (towards things, oneself or others). Bipolar disorder is not just depression or high energy elation. There are these negative symptoms, as well as absence of drive, social withdrawal, lack of concentration, and others which often affect the lives around them, in addition to those of the patients. As a consequence, discrimination, prejudice and stigma against people with bipolar disorder are as strong as against people with other serious mental health problems.

So, which other diagnosable mental illnesses often carry the strongest stigma?

  • Schizophrenia
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders
  • Disruptive, Impulse-Control, and Conduct Disorders (i.e. Pyromania, Kleptomania, Pedophillia, and others)

These disorders may not exhibit any of the negative symptoms I listed above for bipolar disorder, but all have some (or even many) negative, or even very negative, symptoms of psychopathology.

Negative attitudes toward people with mental illness prevail to this day and scores of men and women with the aforementioned disorders are shunned, divorced, hated, punished, abused, jailed, or even killed in the electric chair. Yes, some people with mental illness commit crimes, but neither the judiciary nor society at large are often eager to show mercy to them. It is no coincidence Mr. Stevenson’s memoir (beautifully written I might add) is simply titled “Just Mercy.” Some people, who call themselves religious, will never forgive; while others, who avow justice for all, willingly pervert it when it comes to the mentally ill who break the law. Even though the vast majority of the mentally ill are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, the minority who act in immoral or criminal ways usually do so as a direct result of their psychopathological symptoms.

In the past, particularly before 1955 when the psychiatric deinstitutionalization started in the United States, people with grave mental illness who committed crimes were held in psychiatric institutions. These establishments were definitely far from being desirable places, but they weren’t literally jails or prisons. As the deinstitutionalization progressed over several decades, many of the circa half a million critically ill patients ended up on the street or in prison. Between the woefully underfunded Community Mental Health Act signed by President Kennedy, and the Mental Health Systems Act signed by President Carter, but later repealed under President Reagan, the deinstitutionalization has been a social experiment disaster.

To this day, the crisis continues with far too many people with mental illness incarcerated, one too many in solitary confinement, and some even on death row. Seriously ill patients in need of an in-patient care have to wait months for available space. According to the World Health Organization’s data, there are about 23.5 mental health hospital beds per 100,000 population in the US, which is roughly the same number as in Guyana. For comparison, the numbers are 52.1 in Germany and 82.4 in Czech Republic. As a person with a mental illness, I find this to be extraordinarily sad and unjust. As an American, I find it inexcusable.

Let’s not just give forgiveness to the mentally ill…

Bryan Stevenson certainly thought of the mentally ill when he spoke the words I quoted above, but he also counted in those who’ve been desperate (abused, hungry, homeless, sick) or horribly terribly misguided. He said “everyone on the planet”! To me, I interpret that as EVERYONE! I can’t speak for Bryan, but I’d think he even embraces the most heinous criminals that the mind can conjure up. After all, don’t these criminals usually always fall within the categories of desperate, misguided, or mentally ill? When the criminal code calls for imprisonment, which is obviously needed in so many cases, the punishment is meant to be the restraint on a person’s liberty to keep society and their possessions safe. Yes, it is meant to be a form of punishment, too, but there is no need to take away all rights, dignity, love, life. I believe even the worst crooks deserve some degree of compassion and hope, not lethal injection, solitary confinement, or other inhumane acts of savagery. Don’t civilized people believe in compassion anymore?

So few prisons and jails have adequate programs for rehabilitation of people who have committed crimes. We all know that often they are released just to return to their unlawful ways. So many people with mental illnesses and addictions are also inadequately treated. It is a very sad reality that plagues these people.

I do not believe people are born evil or born hating. In fact, President Barack Obama recently tweeted a Nelson Mandela quote that read “No one is born hating a person because of the color of their skin or his background or his religion…” This tweet is the most liked ever, to date.

Mandela’s quote goes on “…People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps for just a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.

As a final note, let us be aware of the many people in jails and prisons that are wrongly accused. Various factors lead to this that need to be improved, just one being the abolishment or atleast reduction in racial predjudice among some police and the justice system. Many also have prison sentences way beyond the severity of the crime. Often drugs are involved. And think of the many children/adolescents who break the law now punished so harshly, as adults. Children and adolescents are not adults!

Recommended reading/interviews on these topics:

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”, by Bryan Stevenson

Charlie Rose’s interviews with Bryan Stevenson and Bryan Stevenson TED Talks available through https://charlierose.com/guests/5864

“Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness” by Pete Earley

 

 

 

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36 thoughts on “Hating is not fair

  1. Mark Holley March 25, 2017 / 11:21 pm

    Those who know me know that I’m quite liberal in my views. I agree with what you’ve posted, with the following exception:

    For those convicted of some of the worst crimes against their fellow human beings, I believe the death sentence is warranted.

    Murder or rape a child? Bomb a church, mosque, clinic, or shopping mall and kill/maim a bunch of people? Murder a police officer? Convicted and out of appeals? As grisly as it sounds, I’d volunteer to pull the trigger myself. Some people just don’t deserve to be walking around, inside or outside of a prison.

    Liked by 2 people

    • updownflight March 25, 2017 / 11:37 pm

      Mark, I know that a lot of people feel the way that you do, but I truly feel that no one is 100% without good. I do not believe in the “Eye for an eye” law of retaliation. I just don’t. Obviously I do agree that people who commit crimes must be penalized. Kept off the streets. Living in prison is definitely not a weekend in The Bahamas.

      What I think is also terrible is that prisons in the USA don’t always do enough (if anything) to help educate or rehabilitate. And in the case of the mentally ill, often do not even adequately medicate them. Instead, those that get out find themselves returning again and again.

      The criminals that have committed the most heinous crimes do so for many reasons. Some are mentally ill (Ted Bundy had Antisocial Personality disorder) and some do so out of some desperation, I believe. I don’t personally believe any person is all evil and that we as men/women should be taking their lives as an ultimate punishment. If there is actually a Hell, then they would probably go there if they were all evil. If they are not all evil, then why can’t they have the chance to repent?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. bingskee March 28, 2017 / 1:56 am

    Initially, an individual’s first reaction to heinous crimes is to retaliate or take an eye for an eye. Eventually, I have learned to accept the fact that we are a diverse lot with different backgrounds, experiences, emotional makeup, etc. that could lead to contrasting reactions to various stimuli and influences.

    It is actually not an easy process to accept that fact and to forgive, especially if you are the one who is directly affected. This is the reason I chose to believe that there is room for hope, that there is always a chance to rehabilitate.

    Liked by 3 people

    • updownflight March 28, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      I agree that there is always a chance to rehabilitate. I do think much more should be done than is done now, though. I wish more criminal psychologists/therapists and psychiatrists were employed at prisons and jails.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Coping September 21, 2017 / 8:23 am

      Bingskee… you hit it with that comment. I have become almost animalistic now and have had to do some things that I could not have to do just to get the bills paid and food that now adds $80 onto the grocery expense because I need to take a cab there and back. Suburban big box stores are located on the edge of the burb, cities are designed to accommodate a driving human as I’ve been abused verbally by the very people I have dedicated my life to. Everyone and I mean everyone is driving, it’s almost impossible to conduct day to day business without a vehicle. I have now become the very criminal that the pillars of society are out to get. I hate myself more than anyone ever so to read your comment and more so the very blog itself is helping me to at least feel again. ⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sally April 1, 2017 / 6:35 pm

    I have heard it said that a sociopath or psychopath cannot be treated or rehabilitated at all because their activity is a character flaw. It is not a mental illness like say depression or bipolar. No amount or medication or psychotherapy will make a jot of difference even if they were to subject themselves to either one of these things. Actually, I can attest to this because I was married to a sociopath and he would be amazed if anyone had accused him of being one.

    I pondered the difference between sociopath and psychopath because they are often used interchangeably. I have come to the conclusion that sociopathic people are charming and manipulative whereas psychopathic people are those that torture animals when young and plan and plot heinous crimes against society. As for my husband, he was the most charming man you could ever meet. A drop-down-gorgeous Latin who had women hanging onto his every word. He had a way of manipulating people into believing that he was really interested in them. My brother says to this day that he was such a wonderful man because he took the time to ask him all about his work.

    But after all the thefts, the gambling, the infidelities, the drug smuggling (Looking back I can’t believe I even fell for this myself) he has now ended up in prison with a 28 year sentence. Even to this day he sits in his cell charming the visitors and the guards to get what he wants.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. jacquelineobyikocha April 10, 2017 / 8:44 am

    This is a tough call. I don’t advocate in taking anyone’s life at the same time there are some heinous crimes that don’t bear thinking about and the thing is that sometimes the perpetrator has no plans of turning a new leaf even if they are given the chance to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight April 10, 2017 / 12:43 pm

      Hi jacqueline. I know there are people who commit crimes repeatedly and can’t seem to get past committing such acts, but I personally won’t call them totally evil or totally worthless human beings. It’s a shame that a horrible childhood or an illness like Antisocial disorder had to mold such people in such ways. Of course dangerous people must be imprisoned, but I agree with Bryan Stevenson and can’t write them of as wastes for life. I think about if such a person was my son or daughter.

      I know this post of mine is controversial.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Po' Girl Shines April 18, 2017 / 11:36 pm

    Good post. I have long believed most in jails and prisons are very ill and in need of help not incarceration and fines to make money for the state that uses it to support them in jail anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight April 19, 2017 / 3:23 am

      Thanks for commenting on this, Po’ Girl Shines. I have read that as many as 50% of people in jails and prisons are mentally ill, and most do not get the treatment they need. It is also sad to read of the alarming high number of wrong or inappropriate convictions there are, often based on racism and mental health stigma.

      Of course there are more than enough prisoners that do not show clear mental illness and are legitimate criminals, but I can’t help but wonder what in their life brought them to such points. It is sad to see so many people molded from youth into people who get so desperate as to kill, rob or commit other crimes. I think the worst of the worst are criminally insane. That is my view on it. I agree with Bryan Stevenson that they are not just the worst thing they’ve ever done.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. updownflight August 18, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    Reblogged this on Bird Flight and commented:

    I decided to reblog this old post of mine after adding some additional important points and quotes to the end. I think this post is very relevant considering what recently happened in Charlottesville, Virginia and in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain.

    Like

  7. zlotybaby August 18, 2017 / 2:37 pm

    You make a lot of good points here. If you take a course in social science they teach you that rehabilitation is one of the goals of punishment. Only that it isn’t really in most modern societies. Incarcerated people not only go through hell in prison but also get stigmatized afterwards. As former convicts they struggle to find work and often quickly go back to the life of crime. Have you seen “Moonlight” by any chance? It’s a movie that talks a lot about related issues. I don’t think a person should pay all their life for a mistake they’ve done. We all make mistakes, hell, each and every one of us has done something illegal in life. The difference is that we didn’t get caught and many people feel that allows them to judge others…
    When it comes to incarceration of mentally ill people I think it’s wrong. There should be special prisons/wards for such prisoners where they get help they need. It reminds me of this recent case in Poland about a guy dubbed as the Polish Hannibal Lecter. He killed a woman “just to check how it feels like” and then but a few people during his escape. Eventually he got caught and diagnosed as a psychopath. Apparently he is physically incapable of feeling any emotions. And yet, as it’s a personality disorder and not a mental illness he’ll be charged as a sane person…

    Liked by 2 people

    • updownflight August 18, 2017 / 2:57 pm

      Thank you for recommending Moonlight. I have never seen that, but will look it up.

      I’m glad you reinforced some of my points, especially about rehabilitation and fighting the stigma of not just mental illness, but of prior criminal actions. There are plenty of people who do get out of jail and need support and not suspicion and worse.

      I agree that the mentally ill should be kept separately from non-mentally ill people in prisons/jails. Actually, sometimes they are and in many cases they have worse treatment in the prisons than those without mental illness. A good book to read about this is “Crazy: A father’s search through America’s Mental Health Madness” by Pete Earley.

      It has come to the point in the U.S. (not sure how it is elsewhere) that there are almost no verdicts of innocent by reason of insanity, even when the crime was committed while insane. Especially serious crimes. Mentally ill who commit serious crimes are now often sent to prison as if they had not been insane at the time of the act.

      Liked by 2 people

      • zlotybaby August 19, 2017 / 5:52 am

        It’s the last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, really worth seeing.

        Yes, well, the system is rotten. I think it’s mostly Scandinavian countries that succeed in rehabilitation and reintroduction of the ex convicts to society.

        Thanks for the recommendation!

        Yes, well, I’m not exactly a fan of American mentality inane ways. I don’t believe in capital punishment, for instance because it requires dehumanization of a human being to perform. In a system that allows it (at least in certain states) it’s not difficult to see how empathy would be lacking in the cases of mentally ill people. If someone’s done something horrible, the instinctual response is to disown them and say “He’s a monster and not one of us”, case closed. It may be convenient at first but long term it just doesn’t work.

        Liked by 2 people

      • updownflight August 19, 2017 / 9:50 am

        I completely agree with many of the views you expressed. It’s a shame that many people in my country have such attitudes.

        I’m embarrassed that I didn’t recognize the movie Moonlight. Now I remember it. Obviously I haven’t seen it and will see it soon. My husband and I don’t get out to the movies that often, I’ll admit, and when we watch them at home they are usually foreign films rented from Netflix.

        Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby August 21, 2017 / 7:36 am

        Hopefully, it’ll change one day.

        Don’t worry, I’m a bit of a movie geek 😉 I’m a bit jealous of your Netflix in the States. In South Africa it’s very limited due to licensing issues. I prefer non-mainstream movies in general but I do try to watch all Academy awards nominated movies and winners.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 21, 2017 / 12:19 pm

        Do you have DVD rental shops? With Netflix in the U.S. they have all mostly closed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby August 21, 2017 / 1:19 pm

        DVDs like VHs were unfortunately things that couldn’t last in the digital age. There are some DVD rental shops here but they’re as pricey as cinema so I prefer to watch movies there (plus, I LOVE popcorn). A decent option is also buying movies for one time watching from Google Play.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 21, 2017 / 2:48 pm

        I like the movie theater sometimes, too. One theater even upgraded their seats to leather recliners. That’s nice.

        Glad to read you’ve got Google Play.

        Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby August 22, 2017 / 7:30 am

        Wow, sounds fancy. We have VIP areas in cinemas here with leather but they’re just not worth the money. Plus if a movie i boring there’s a risk of falling asleep 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight August 22, 2017 / 12:27 pm

        My husband falls asleep easily sitting on those seats, too.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Coping September 21, 2017 / 7:22 am

      I cannot even describe what has happened to me, my family, my soul after being convicted of a DUI. Completely immersed inside my mania I don’t even know or remember what possessed me to drive to the corner store 2 blocks from my house to get some smokes and the next thing I remember was having my brother and sister picking me up from jail. That mania has destroyed me so in ways I cannot get over it. The DUI laws in Canada are mandatory minimums and no one can do or say anything to defend themselves. I lost my license, and my whole world. Mother of 3, suburbia, minivan, the whole 9 yards, and losing my license and having ONE DUI is the death knell. The consequences of this law (I am talking about a victimless crime, no accident, damage) are so severe that I have been reduced to the depths of depravity. No employment ever for the rest of my existence, no chance of going back to school ever, cannot even volunteer for pizza day at the children’s school ever, cannot travel to any first world country ever, cannot even get the license back unless you have an alcolock installed for 1 year, cancelled insurance because I am now branded as a menace to society, to reinstate the insurance policy is $9,000 per year for a car that is worth about $3,500. No life insurance, ever because and I quote “because of the crime committed rates you as a person who has no regard for human life including your own”. And a family to run, groceries, sports activities, play dates, Drs appts etc etc are all to be done on buses, several, connections later is now a 2 hour public transit nightmare vs. A 15 minute drive. What this stone cast at me by society has created ripple effects that will last for generations as the childhood that a first world country’s society has created as “normal” and “preparing these children for adulthood” has to come to a full on stop now forever and the guilt and pain and manias and depression that I have no words for, is suicidal most days. I applaud you for your support, insight, sheer humane empathy that no one will address, because telling anyone that you are the heinous criminal that everyone has been so disgusted and vengeful is the last “taboo ” subject I think there is. A DUI and a registered sex offender are now on the same level. Anyhow sorry for this ridiculously long reply but I can’t believe I found this blog and your comment has stirred up emotions that I have not felt since this amputation was performed and I thank you for that 😇😇😇

      Liked by 3 people

      • updownflight September 21, 2017 / 11:39 am

        Coping, thank you so much for sharing your story. I had no idea how harsh the laws are in Canada regarding DUIs. That sounds horribly excessive! I can tell you that during manias I have driven drunk, too. Very, very drunk. I was very lucky I didn’t get caught, and thank goodness didn’t hurt anyone, but as long as I didn’t do the latter I don’t believe the penalty would have been quite as harsh as yours.

        There are just too many crimes or “crimes” that are just too harshly punished for.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Coping October 13, 2017 / 8:11 am

        Thank you for saying that. Almost everyone I know that has a dui is also bi polar. My psychiatrist wrote the court a 3 page letter explaining why I did what I did that I too was in a bipolar mania and made a poor decision because of the illness not because I’m a menace to society. Judge said sorry not my problem. Duis are all treated with the same brush and all are mandatory minimums. So I don’t care what her story is throw her in jail. Yeah Canada is brutal and the sick part is that no one and I mean no one realizes how severe the consequences are. Until I edify them the are in shock

        Liked by 2 people

      • zlotybaby September 22, 2017 / 1:54 pm

        I’m sorry to hear your story. As much as I disapprove of DUI, I don’t think that it should be a stigma with which you have to live all your life. Sure, I get the authorities: there was no accident but there could have been and you could have been driving with your children. I’m not saying it to make you feel bad (which I’m sure you already do) but because this is how they look at it. At the same time, one mistake shouldn’t define your life. Perhaps they should come up with a system where a license is taken away for a time being and then it’s re-evaluated? South Africa, for instance, has a lenient policy for first time DUI offenders. You can even adopt a child if you didn’t do it again for five years. It is sad that the society you live in prefers finger pointing of this kind, rather than mature policies. Let’s be honest, I’m sure a lot of your family members/neighbours/seemingly perfect parents of other children are guilty of DUI as well, the difference is that they didn’t get caught.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Coping October 13, 2017 / 7:04 am

        Thank you for writing a reply. Drinking and driving is absolutely wrong…. but it is absolutely LEGAL. You can drink and drive just make sure the BAC is under 0.08. Adopting a baby. Wow. In Canada they take your children away and put them in foster care because you are a no good drunk with no regard for human life. Oh well. Thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 2 people

      • zlotybaby October 17, 2017 / 8:42 am

        Right, well, most people here struggle to have only one small beer and end up being “just a bit” above the legal limit (= they’re not drunk) and then may end up in actually serious trouble. Anyway, I’m wishing you all the best.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Coping October 18, 2017 / 9:10 am

        Thank you!!! I need it✌🏻

        Liked by 3 people

  8. adkinsdomain August 21, 2017 / 8:18 pm

    Love the quote you started off with! I totally agree, are shortcomings do not define us. They are one fact about us perhaps, but not the whole person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight August 21, 2017 / 8:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing that, adkinsdomain. I think that it is a kind-hearted attitude. There’s been so much hate on the news lately. Too much hate.

      Liked by 1 person

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