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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

It Must Not Happen Here

In my experience, mental illness and Madness are two quite different things.

Michael David Crawford, Baritone,
mdcrawford@gmail.com

Monday, August 6, 2018

It's not always easy to tell when someone is mentally ill, not even many of the other patients that I've met when I've been in mental hospitals. This is especially true of those who experience such delusions as paranoia. Consider what a cheerful, friendly, well-dressed young man told me when he and I struck up a conversation at a Santa Cruz Donut Shop late one night:

After explaining that he and Britney Spears were lovers, he went on to tell me that he was a member of President Obama's Inner Circle.

That was the only time in my entire life that I have ever been truly afraid of another mentally ill person: this cheerful, friendly, well-dressed young man suffered from the very same Erotomania as that which led John Hinckley Jr. to shoot Ronald Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy and Police Officer Thomas Delahanty so as to impress the actress Jody Foster.

Some of my writing arises from my life-long interest in Cult Phenomena that began in 1975 when I read conservative columnist Jack Anderson's reports about Communist Cambodia. Anderson told of how Cambodian schoolchildren were being taught to report their parents to the Secret Police, then not long after that everyone in the entire country who wore eyeglasses disappeared overnight. Only years later did we hear about The Killing Fields, in which millions died after all the city dwellers were forced into the countryside then ordered to grow their own food - without tools, without tractors, without beasts of burden and without even seeds.

Cambodia's Security Prison 21 held 17,000 inmates; only seven survived.

My sister Jean Evans and I were huge fans of the Hogan's Heroes TV show. As I grew older I learned in school and from library books that NAZI Germany was not nearly so much fun as Hogan's Heroes made it out to be.

My mother and I visited West Germany in 1970 and '71 so my impaired hearing could be more-accurately tested at a US Army hospital than was possible at the Navy's hospital in Naples, Italy.

This being the height of the Cold War I was quite impressed by how big the United States' West German military bases were as well as by how many American troops served at them. In our room at the BOQ - "Base Officer's Quarters" - I was puzzled to read the instructions for the proper use of the gas masks that our room was equipped with. Why would a hotel room come with gas masks?

It was not until eighth grade at Fairfield, California's Green Valley Junior High School in the Fall of 1977 that I began to understand the realities of NAZI Germany, of World War II and of the Holocaust when my English class read - out loud - the script to the stage play "The Diary Of Anne Frank". I later transferred to Sullivan Junior High School where my English there class read "Hiroshima".

We studied the Russian Revolution in ninth grade English at Armijo High School. My father, a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, served as an anti-aircraft missile fire control officer in Vietnam. That he was passionately anti-Communist led me to wonder why anybody ever supported Communist revolution. I got my answer from a film our teacher Mrs. Altier showed us - and that was widely distributed by the Soviet Communists: at the same time as vast multitudes of Russian soldiers were fighting in the trenches of World War I, at the same time as vast multitudes of Russian solders were dying of poison gas in World War I, a buck-naked Czar Nicholas was filmed quite cheerfully skinny-dipping in a pond.

Bodies of the victims of The People's Temple mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana.

Those Who Do Not
Remember The Past
Are Doomed To Repeat It.

I later learned in Mr. Batson's World History class that Nicholas didn't even speak Russian: he spoke French.

In the Fall of 1978 I - along with the entire world - was puzzled to learn of the mass suicide of more than nine hundred People's Temple members - one-third of them children - at Jonestown, Guyana, after California Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown to investigate reports of human rights abuses there.

Some People's Temple members followed Ryan's party to a nearby airstrip, shot Ryan and a few others dead then returned to Jonestown to take part in the "revolutionary suicide".

It was only recently that it occurred to me that it takes quite a lot of cyanide to kill that many people. What led Reverend Jim Jones to have that much poison just lying around? Just now I read Wikipedia's Jonestown article: Jones obtained a jewelers license then ordered monthly half-pound shipments of cyanide which he claimed would be used to clean gold. I don't fully understand gold's chemistry but I do know that cyanide is also used to refine gold ore.

In the Spring of 1997 the entire world recoiled with horror when we learned that thirty-eight talented young web designers along with their elderly UFO cult leader all committed suicide with such great enthusiasm that they all wore brand-new Nike high-top sneakers so as to be properly dressed for the occasion. Heaven's Gate made no sense to anyone.

But it made a great deal of sense to me.

Shroud-covered corpse of a Heaven's Gate suicide victim.

Nike: Just Do It.

By then twelve years had passed since my July 1985 of a mental illness called Bipolar-Type Schizoaffective Disorder. My experiences of repeatedly losing touch with reality, returning to sanity led me to understand that even among the very most rational, level-headed people, our grasp of reality is not so firm as most believe: it is all too easy for certain kinds of people to capture the minds of others then lead them into such bizarre experiences as the Heaven's Gate and Jonestown suicides.

Not long after Heaven's Gate I published my first web page about my illness. My real intent was not to explain my own madness but to warn others away from falling prey to such cult leaders as Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite.

As time passed my understanding of the processes by which we as humans experience reality - or lose touch with it - led me in 2003 to explain these cult phenomena more lucidly and in greater detail in a section of my online book "Living with Schizoaffective Disorder".

Now I shall finally get to the point: at the end of The Reality Construction Kit I wrote:

Such pathology, while too horrible for most people to contemplate, is an expected consequence of the reaction of normal human nature to extreme circumstances. Lest you think it's not worth your concern, I want you to consider for a moment the following: If it can happen to Heaven's Gate, if it can happen in Jonestown, if it can happen in Waco, if it can happen to Cambodia, if it can happen even to a large, populous, powerful, modern and industrialized nation like Germany, then it can happen here.

It can happen here: In Donald Trump's America.

It can but perhaps - just perhaps - we can find some way, somehow, to prevent Donald Trump's America from descending into the very same Madness as gripped Pol Pot's Cambodia, Joseph Stalin's Russia, Adolf Hitler's Germany, Jim Jones' Jonestown, Marshall Applewhite's Heaven's Gate and David Koresh's Waco.

Some Way.

Somehow.

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