WOOTEN COLUMN: Pardon the Freudian slips
Crazy people should not have guns.
Or swords, daggers, nuclear arsenals, cell phones, airplanes, trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles or skateboards.
OK, so that last prohibition sounds nutty.
Then again, H.L. Mencken warned: “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”
Fortunately, Mencken, though a barb master whose writing graced the Baltimore Sun for more than 40 years, wasn't always right.
Unfortunately, while many Americans on both sides of the gun debate agree that the mentally unbalanced shouldn't have firearms, figuring out how to impose such a ban is a long shot.
Sure, our senior U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham hit a chilling bull's-eye Wednesday when he said:
“Long story short — someone who pled not guilty by reason of insanity to [threatening] to kill the president of the United States in 2005 passed a background check to buy a weapon legally in South Carolina.”
That “someone” was Alice Boland, who on Feb. 4 allegedly pulled the trigger of a handgun several times while aiming it at staff members of Ashley Hall just outside one of the school's Rutledge Avenue gates.
As columnist Kathleen Parker points out on this page, Graham cited that potential “tragedy” as “Exhibit A” for his case that we need stronger enforcement of the gun laws we already have — and stronger laws to prevent the mentally unbalanced from having guns.
Yet he added that he's still OK with gun-show firearms sales not requiring a background check. That sounds like Exhibit Z for this case:
Politicians routinely indulge in kooky contradictions to keep their elective jobs.
Beyond such self-serving inconsistencies and the ongoing gunfight's range, though, lie these puzzles:
What should — and can — we do about, for, to and with the mentally ill?
Well, we can no longer call any of them, in our U.S. Code of laws, “lunatics.”
The Senate, by unanimous consent, passed a measure deleting that word last May.
The House approved it by a 398-1 margin in December.
That lone “nay” came from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who said: “Not only should we not eliminate the word 'lunatic' from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy, we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness also wants the term “mental defective” removed from the code.
In the bad old days, we routinely removed the mentally disturbed (can we still use that term?) from our midst by dumping them in insane asylums (can we still use that one?).
In theory, the threat of being “put away” motivates sane conduct.
In practice, it frequently scares those who need mental-health help away from seeking it.
Still, there must be a fair middle path between the cruel extreme of confining those with mental problems to institutions and letting the truly deranged run loose.
Who's mentally ill? Who's not?
How mentally ill are they?
Who poses enough danger to be locked up?
Those are maddening riddles.
Back to our increasingly manic politics: Some overly partisan Americans detect an Exhibit A of contagious mental defectiveness in the electorate's judgment.
And in these alarming times, our community, state, nation and world do at times appear to be on the brink of a collective nervous breakdown.
Meanwhile, anybody who's seen “Poltergeist” should be nervous about the City of Charleston disturbing long-reposed human remains in the “conversion” of the Gaillard Auditorium to the Gaillard Center.
Friday's horrifying spectacle of a giant meteor injuring 1,000 people or so in Russia's Ural Mountains should make you a bit jumpy, too.
This, however, is Exhibit A for why we all should have a serious case of the nerves:
The crazy people who run Iran are creeping ever closer to obtaining nuclear weapons. The crazy people who run North Korea already have them.
But hey, we all occasionally feel at least a little crazy.
Er ... don't we?
Lest your answer to that question send you over the edge, keep in mind that we're all in this crazy mess together.
And if your — and our — neuroses are unhinging you, find reassurance in this enduring mental-health insight from the late Rodney Dangerfield:
“My psychiatrist told me I was crazy, and I said I want a second opinion. He said, 'OK, you're ugly, too.' ”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.