I overheard a curious conversation in the politics section of Blogcritics the other day, and instead of throwing my two cents into a comment section I’ve kind-of, sort-of given up for Lent, I’ve decided to opt for the loophole that submitting an article provides. The curious conversation sprang forth from the comment section attached to an article identified by its author as a rant against the religious right, and centered on the question: What to do with people who, having neither property nor source of income, do have access to cars that they, uninsured, crash into other cars? I respond as a sort-of, kind-of, member of the Religious Right, subject to rants from both left and right alike, in a sort-of, kind-of, satirical fashion, vulnerable to rants from both left and right alike.
The most compassionate solution (for them and the wider society) is to put them, not in jails or work camps, but in a Peter Pan (dys/u-)topia colony with like-minded, responsibility-free individuals. Every colonist receives, gratis, his own Radio Flyer Classic Bumper Car, fueled by pedal power, which he is free to crash to his heart’s content with other bumper cars on a large circular track encircling the Big Rock Candy Mountain. The BRCM is constructed of day-after-the-event Halloween eyeball gumdrops, Valentine’s gift boxes, candy canes, chocolate Easter bunnies, et al that businesses would typically deep-discount. Instead, (with an appropriate government incentive, of course) capitalists arrange for this consumer-preferred food supply to be collected and airdropped periodically right in the middle of the Peter Pan Towns, where every citizen has almost everything he needs, if not everything he wants. That’s right. We don’t kill babies in Peter Pan Town; neither do we encumber the grownup ones with any responsibilities at all (for instance, the responsibility for using birth control). That’s why there’s a girl Peter Pan Town and a boy Peter Pan Town, separated by several hundred miles of uninhabited wilderness. (Imprisonment? No. You’re forgetting that each colonist is furnished with a vehicle.)
Now, there are many would-be colonists who were neither Intelligently Designed, nor Evolutionarily Evolved, to feel fulfilled living this way. Instead of warehousing them in housing projects or jails where they are given the illusion that they are fully functional adults who have just been given a tough break; the collective, occasionally nonpartisan we could provide them with pre-colonization mental health screening and treatment (bear with me here, you members of the radical religious right who are skeptical) in recognition of the fact that most of them would be fully functional adults — if the source of the tough break were identified and its impact addressed directly. Some of them would have to remain in expensive treatment for a rather long time, but hey, if we have the heart and resources to offer our military in compassionate service to whichever inhabitants of a foreign land our government tells us are on the “correct” side of a civil war, then we have the heart and resources to show compassion to our own walking wounded, don’t we?
Not all tough breaks are mental illness-related, and not everything that looks like a mental illness is one. Example: the reasonable depressed state resulting from a lack of fulfilling work to look forward to, few prospects except signing on as a soldier in modern-day wars, the wars the Republicans get behind, and alternatively, the wars the Democrats get behind; both kinds leaving in their wakes a trail of mentally scarred vets. There are rivers to clean up, new kinds of energy to develop, HIV- and crack-orphaned babies to care for, and a nationwide megalopolis of Peter Pan Towns of people who could be doing those jobs. Hook them up? Rant away in the comment section, or not. What care I? For me, it’s Lent again.