Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jimmy, We're All Going Mad

"It's a wonder we haven't gone stark raving mad."
--James Baldwin

It was a cold December, 1968, when I interviewed James Baldwin. There was no heat in his New York apartment , but let it be known that forty years later his prophetic words have come true. Our sanity these days is highly questionable--of perhaps we should say that what used to be regarded as sanity is no longer valid, for what is normal in an abnormal world?

A few days ago I warned that this holiday season would be violent as usual, leading up to and including the climax on Superbowl Sunday, when women will be knocked upside their heads by irate, drunk mates when the love starved women stand in front of the giant HD TV to divert attention from the big game.

Indeed, we entered December with a bang: killings at the Mall, at the church and the school, along with persistent killing in the hood by the young savages we created, our loving children many of us abandoned for one reason or another--and not all were abandoned due to poverty--I know rich children who have been abandoned in their parent's mansions--of course their parents have other places of abode, but the children have been discarded and their mansion has been turned into a homeless shelter for their friends who are lost and turned out as well.

I visit them from time to time, give them any wisdom they seek from me, otherwise I say very little, just observe their pitiful attempt to make sense out of their madness. I see how they turn the mansion into a garbage dump and dope house. Of course they are crying out for love, and since their parents are unavailable, having thrown up their hands long ago, the children fend for themselves, eating cold cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or pizza three or four times per week, for they have not learned the art of cooking. I tell them I will teach them but the kitchen is too filthy to cook and I refuse to wash their funky dishes that have been on the counter since the last time I visited some weeks ago. The boy keeps telling me his girlfriend is going to wash the dishes--a mantra I have heard for months--they are both 16 and living together--she ran away from home--her father is in prison, her brothers are thugs--don't know what the mother is but obviously the daughter doesn't want to stay with her.

Their friends are other discarded children, one young man is twenty, with a bullet lodged in his back that cannot be removed. He asked me if I always wanted to be a writer. I say yes, and what about you? "I don't know," he says with the utmost sincerity, "I don't know what I am or what I want to be." Poor child, I know I was never this lost, deaf, dumb and blind.

And so our children go to school, a totally meaningless endeavor, then spend the remainder of the day smoking blunts and God's only knows what else. I don't even want to know. Some things I don't bother to ask--I simply don't want to know, but I do know it doesn't bode will for their future or our future. The TV stays on BET, especially the American Gansta series that they watch repeatedly—perhaps in their dream to become the same. And then again, maybe it is just a sign of the times and we will get over this mountain and everything will be all ite. And maybe I’m dreaming too.

After taking a mother to the mental hospital to visit her son, I saw other youth who were so far gone they had to be committed: schizophrenia, paranoia, manic depression, you name it, they had it. One brother pranced about with a du-rag and cap, in tennis shoes with no strings--hell, if this is a sign of insanity, we have an entire generation dressed like him--surely he is quite normal! A mother was sitting with her daughter who repeatedly ran off and disappeared for days, and then returned to sit in a stupor. I gave her one of my books to read. Another young brother sat down near me. In fact, several of these young nuts were gathering around me as if to say, "Please help us." I gave the brother near me one of my books but he said he needed reading glasses. I promised him I would bring him some glasses. Another brother stood in back of me, making me somewhat nervous since he said nothing. I nodded, letting him know everything is all right, and he nodded in return and walked away. There was an Asian girl playing cards, and an Arab boy with a towel around his head.
We never got to see the mother's son; he had been sedated and put to sleep. And so it is, in the Crazy House Called America.

--Dr. M

On Saturday, Dr. M will conduct a session of his Pan African Mental Health Peer Group to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy. You are invited: Saturday, December 15,4pm, Black Repertory Group Theatre, 3201 Adeline Street, Berkeley, one block south of the Ashby BART station. Call 510-355-6339.,,

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