Crazy for Cryin’, I’m Crazy for Tryin’…


By Jeff Fecke | September 1, 2009 • Generally speaking, I try to avoid using the word crazy to mean “bizarrely wrong.” It wasn’t always so, but after years of online discussions with people smarter than I am, I’ve come to the conclusion that that usage of the word reinforces negative stereotypes about people suffering from mental health issues. As a person who suffers from my own share of mental health issues (depression and ADHD, plus a grab-bag assortment of behavioral issues related to those two), I should be the last person perpetuating the myth that being mentally ill is a moral failing. Being mentally ill is like having cancer — it’s probably not your fault, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Unlike, say, hoping God smites Barack Obama with brain cancer and sends him to Hell. In earlier years, I might have called Pastor Steven Anderson crazy. But he isn’t crazy. Just evil.

But while I have decided that I’m not going to use crazy to mean evil, I still intend to use crazy when I mean to describe someone as, well, crazy. After all, some people are crazy.

Take Michele Bachmann. Please. Because Rep. Bachmann, R-We There Yet, is crazy.

I don’t mean she holds a lot of bizarre right-wing views, though she most certainly does. But holding bizarre right-wing views doesn’t make one crazy. That falls more into the “evil” category, and I’m only too happy to talk about them as such.

No, I mean Michele Bachmann is crazy. She has serious, deap-seated, untreated mental health issues that are deeply affecting her ability to carry out her job.

Last night’s speech in Colorado is a fine example. Bachmann, as could be expected, spoke out against health care, using rather typical Republican rhetoric:

“Something is way crazy out there,” Bachmann said in her remarks, billed as a “personal legislative briefing” by the Golden-based Independence Institute, which bills itself as a “free market think tank.”

“This is slavery,” Bachmann said after claiming many Americans pay half their income to taxes. “It’s nothing more than slavery.”

In a speech filled with urgent and violent rhetoric, Bachmann — who proudly acknowledges she is the country’s “second-most hated Republican woman,” behind only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – drew a clear line on health care reform.

“You’re either for us or against us on this issue,” she said after deriding U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, a Fort Collins Democrat, for “[sitting] on the fence” about health care proposals at recent town halls.

Okay, well, that’s overheated and over-the-top. But it isn’t crazy. Sadly, it’s only slightly to the right of mainstream, right-wing discourse on health care these days.

No, crazy is this:

“This cannot pass,” the Minnesota Republican told a crowd at a Denver gathering sponsored by the Independence Institute. “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”

That’s crazy. As in completely disconnected from reality crazy.

Now, I don’t know if Michele Bachmann meant to call for mass suicide to stop health care reform; I frankly don’t know what exactly she was trying to say. I do know that, from calling on Americans to rise up against tyrrany to declaring that health care reform will be defeated “on our knees in prayer and fasting,” Bachmann is reaching new, messianic heights in her rhetoric, and slipping the surly bonds of sanity in the process.

I mean this sincerely: I believe Michele Bachmann is mentally ill. She’s certainly demonstrated a strong paranoid streak, including this charming anecdote from her time as a state senator:

Bachmann said both women stood in front of the bathroom door and then one woman put her hand on top of the door and her other hand on the door handle and leaned her body weight toward the door to hold it shut. The other woman put her hand on the door as well. … [Bachmann said she] was absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her.

These were not just women, of course, but lesbian women. (The complaint was dropped, as there was no evidence anybody had done anything but talk to Bachmann.)

And of course, who could forget this classic:

Michele Bachmann has a mean streak.

On May 6, 2006, the day she was endorsed by the Sixth District Republican Party for the nomination to become a U.S. Representative, she threatened to retaliate against a woman who had opposed her nomination.

“You will pay, you will pay,” Bachmann said to the woman in front of a dozen or more witnesses. The woman grew increasingly upset at the non-specific threat and demanded to know how Bachmann was going to make her pay. She didn’t get an answer. But Bachmann, continued to repeat “you will pay” until the woman was led away from the incident, in tears, by her husband.

I witnessed the confrontation myself. It was in the lobby of Monticello High School, just outside the auditorium where the delegates were in the process of endorsing Bachmann.

Quite simply, Michele Bachmann is not sane. She’s able to function in society because her insanity has been channeled into service to conservative politics, but that doesn’t mean that she’s well.

Unfortunately, rather than living in a society where this sort of behavior would lead to one’s loved ones suggesting counseling, and perhaps a psychopharmacological agent, Bachmann lives in a society where Republican politicians claim with a straight face that a provision in a health care plan to give people control over end-of-life decisions will lead inexorably to death panels. Yes, most of the Republicans know they’re lying. But Bachmann doesn’t. She believes it, with the white-hot fervor of a true believer.

I am concerned about where Bachmann is heading. She has come awfully close to calling directly for violence against Democrats, and I have a feeling that at some point, she will. Not out of malice, exactly — but because she doesn’t really seem to understand that her words have consequences. I’d pity her, except she’s got a say in how the country runs.

Ultimately, I don’t wish ill on Michele Bachmann. I’d like to see her get help, and get stable, and heck, maybe even become an effective legislator. But until she does, her behavior and her words will get more and more bizarre. And there will be at least one politician in America who I can say, without judgment or anger, is crazy. Oh, she’s evil, too. But that’s something separate entirely.