I am beginning to sympathize with honest policemen.
What with all the cops who have been implicated in killings over the past few years, it must be hard to be a good cop. I have never doubted that they are out there — even as there are cities with horrible histories of police brutality, such as Cleveland or Baltimore, there are cities who firmly believe in treating the community respectfully. Richmond, California comes to mind.
But being a cop in those cities must be made immeasurably harder by those responsible for the deaths of Freddie Gray, and Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, just to name three of the African-American men and boys killed senselessly. You can add the suspicious death of Sandra Bland to that list.
But I am currently thinking about those good cops right now because of the shooting in Chattanooga. Recent news reports state that his family was worried about his depression, and that he wrote in his diaries of wanting to kill himself.
Given that and the Germanwings pilot earlier this year who committed murder-suicide, I can just hear the the discussions now about how people who are depressed or suicidal pose a danger to everyone about them.
I am sure that there are those now who will think twice about being friends with people suffering from depression; employers who would not hire anyone with such a history. It’s illegal, of course, but what’s the law — especially if you know that it is unlikely that you would ever be caught — against what you think is personal safety? The fact that most people who are depressed (even most men) are a danger to no one but themselves — and, depending upon their circumstances, maybe not even that — might weigh very little. It’s why most people cannot talk about their disability at work. It’s why I am now going to take one of my two publications off my resume.
It should be unnecessary for me to say it but the truth is that most people who commit violent crimes are not mentally ill. Dylann Roof, for example: driven by a evil ideology, he gunned down nine people in a house of worship. In the ensuing debate about his mental health, I lost a friend. In this case, it was my choice not to remain friends with someone who insisted that “anyone who commits murder must be mentally ill” and who refused to see how so many people take that statement and reverse it.
A doctor I saw recently told me how brave I was to be open about my disorder. Funny but I never felt brave. I felt driven, and committed. I knew that I had lost people who had decided being friends with someone like me was too much trouble, or too scary. I decided it was worth it to be honest, and to hopefully be a counterweight to all the news stories about violent mentally ill people. I told the doctor in question that I looked for inspiration to the generation of gay men and lesbians who had come out of the closet and eased the stigma of being gay. Maybe, by coming down from the attic, I could help do the same.
I have felt resolute.
Right now, though, I feel worried. And I tell myself that I am overreacting, that, the Chattanooga shooter notwithstanding, things are getting better.
I tell myself that, but I don’t think I believe it.
Edited to add: Almost like they read my mind, Cracked.com published a very perceptive article on bipolar disorder from a woman who suffers from it.