Mentally Ill America

Paul R. Ehrlich | June 17, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Photo by Sailko

Well, America has had one more senseless slaughter by gun.  The Santa Barbara disaster will be discussed for a few weeks but, if the past is any guide, nothing significant will be changed in our gun-soaked society. As a result, I must agree with my Republican friends that gun violence is a mental illness issue.[1] There has been continuing debate about the intentions of those who wrote the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Was this intended to empower the states to have military forces available in case the Federal government became dictatorial, or was it intended to give all citizens a right, granted by that government, to keep and own guns?  It’s pretty clear that the citizen’s rights meaning was the original intent of many drafters of the bill of rights, but that’s now virtually beside the point in the face of the mental illness epidemic.

What is certain about the Second Amendment is that the “arms” the founders were talking about were primarily muskets, weighing around 7-10 pounds, with barrels aboutfive feet long.  Before firing the musket, a paper cartridge containing powder and a lead ball were taken from a cartridge box on the shooter’s belt; the end of the cartridge was bitten off and a small amount of powder put in a little covered panat the base of the barrel, below a spring-loaded “cock” topped by a flint held in a little vise.  Then the rest of the powder was poured down the barrel and the paper and ball crammed in after it.  The ball surrounded by paper was shoved home by a ramrod which then was replaced into sockets on the barrel.  When the trigger was pulled, the flint was snapped against the plate cover, called the frizzen, exposing the pan and simultaneously generating sparks which ignited the powder in the pan.  That flash traveled down a small hole at the base of the barrel, setting off the main charge of powder, which then propelled the ball out of the barrel. To load and fire one shot, accurate to about 25 yards, took a skilled shooter perhaps 30 seconds.  And after a few shots the barrel got so fouled that it had to be cleaned.  The whole process was in fact so slow that many considered the bayonet (which could be mounted on the end of the musket barrel) to be the primary weapon in combat.

One might guess that James Madison, George Mason, or their colleagues never even imagined that the right of Americans to “bear arms” would include a Glock 17 automatic pistol with a 33-round magazine – an easily concealed eight-inch-long weapon capable of killing 25 people or more in the time it takes to load a musket, with a killing range that exceeds a couple hundred yards.  Or worse yet, a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, capable of full-automatic fire, accurate to 300 yards with a 75- or 100-round drum magazine.

A person with severe schizophrenia might think she heard voices telling her that the authors of the second amendment would have given citizens the “right” to possess and use such weapons for self-defense in a crowded city.  But, of course, today only crazy people, criminals, or law-enforcement officers would carry such a weapon for protection, and then justify doing so because of the access of the mentally ill to powerful infantry weapons that “outgun” the six-shot .38 revolvers traditionally carried by police.

But crazies are ubiquitous at all levels in our society.  In Texas the governor, Rick Perry, is a caricature of a Texan who claims he carries a pistol when jogging to “defend himself against snakes.”[2] (Having worked with snakes extensively and encountered them around the world, I can testify there is almost no conceivable circumstance in which a gun would help “protect” you from a snake).   In Perry’s state there is an “open carry” law that allows thugs to carry automatic weapons and intimidate people.[3] In Georgia, incompetent (and likely corrupt) Governor Nathan Deal signed a law that allows people to carry guns in security lines at America’s busiest airport.[4]

Mental illness in the U.S. is not restricted to officials in backward states.  Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thought the court should examine the issue of whether the constitution protected everyone’s right to have shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles – since one could “bear” such a weapon.[5]  The disturbed leaders of the National Rifle Association, the lobby for Murder Incorporated (also called the “arms industry”),[6] even opposed a ban on “cop-killer” bullets and automatic weapons.  And NRA lobbying has been extremely effective in the United States Congress, which famously features “the best politicians money can buy.”  Consider a nation that, on the basis of one failed “shoe-bomber” attempt, makes millions of airline passengers remove their footwear, but refuses to do anything significant about tens of thousands of annual gun deaths caused by an industry run by ethically-deficient individuals that have helped saturate the world with close to a billion small arms, and with almost one per person in the United States.

Of course the lack of gun control is only one area that illuminates our society’s mental health problems.  Other examples abound.  Sarah Palin actually was nominated for a position that would have put her within the famous “heartbeat of the presidency.” Rupert Murdoch’s presstitutes struggle, using outlets like the Wall Street Journal and False News Network,to confuse people about the lethal threat of climate disruption that Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe still claims is a hoax.  Most congress people still support fighting wars to control fossil oil and gas supplies, even though continued burning of fossil fuels might well bring down civilization.  Neocons and other hawks justify the United States (and Russia) maintaining thousands of useless nuclear weapons at the ready, most of them far more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[7] Such “leaders” cannot see what is apparent to normal people –that their actions are severely threatening to society, their friends and descendants, and even themselves.  One technical term for their mental deficiency is anosognosia[8].  Other terms for the mental defects that plague our nation are “greed,” “cowardice,” “ignorance,” and “stupidity.”

There are, after all, individuals so mentally confused as to believe that the American economy can grow forever, just as can America’s (or the world’s) population.  Almost half of Americans haven’t grasped that human beings evolved in Africa from other animals and that if they could meet their own ancestors of ten million years ago they would doubtless describe them as “monkeys.” And society as a whole sees nothing wrong with the whole range of mental impairment.  No sign, for instance, of an attempt to transition to an evidence-based world.  The hallucinatory world invented by the Murdochians and the Limboids seems just fine to many, if not most, people. So I must agree with those who claim that the reason the United States differs from Canada, Australia, Western Europe, and Japan, by having roughly three times the gun violence per capita, is simply that we have proportionately many more crazy people.[9] The endarkenment is upon us.


[7] E.g.,

[8] Roughly recognizing that your brain doesn’t function correctly.

[9] E.g.,;

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  • FiendishGOPlardass

    The Heller decision was a sensible one. It allows guns in the home. It further suggested that states could prohibit or regulate guns fully outside the home to further public safety. Ban guns outside the home? Yes, the SCt said in that states may do so.

    Of course, gun nuts eg NRA members won’t read this decision generally because it doesnt support their argument for guns everywhere. Nor do they bother with history for the same reason. C. 1776 states were the sovereigns and states [not private persons] put provisions similar to the 2d amendment in state constitutions to assure state militias [not assure hunting or target practice or self defense]. Later, in 1791, the 2d Amendment was drafted based on these, to carry them into the federal government, with the same intent- to assure and gaurentee and support the states militias.

  • FiendishGOPlardass

    If the homo sapiens is at the end o’ the day simply a predator species programmed to waste other species and waste resources, notwithstanding the intermittent or infrequent willingness of groups to brake these behaviours and act rationally, then there should be no surprise if “irrational” actions predominate and tend to doom alot of species.

  • Dullhawk

    ” …was it intended to give all citizens a right, granted by that government, to keep and own guns?”

    No. Rights are not “granted” by government. That would be a privilege. A right exists independent of whether anyone gives you permission, just by virtue of you being alive. A person in North Korea has the same rights as a person in Wyoming- it’s just that the “authorities” violate those rights in different ways with their counterfeit “laws”.

    What the Second Amendment did was to recognize that a right to “keep and bear” (to own and to carry) arms (guns, knives, swords, bombs) pre-dates any government, and can never be legitimately violated in any way. It made “gun control” a serious crime.

    But, if you can get people thinking about things in an incorrect, way the answers they come up with (constrained by your false borders) will serve your purposes better. You must realize that, and it’s why you started off down the wrong path.

    • Ned Weatherby

      But then, if this is the same Ehrlichs whose conclusion in “The Population Bomb” about millions of people starving to death, it’s clear that he has a twisted world view.

      If a writer chooses to opine about something he clearly knows nothing about – equating rights to privileges, the flawed nincompoopery displayed in this article is the result.

      New chairperson for the Department of Pernicious Propaganda?

    • FiendishGOPlardass

      Actually, the 2d Amendment originally was not a guarentee of private gun ownership. In 1776 state constitutions limited the right to bear arms to state militias. Later, in 1791, the 2d Amendment was passed to assure the states that the federal government would not impinge on their right to operate state militias.

  • alanstorm

    So much fail to work with…I’ll pick one. It’s been debunked repeatedly, but I’ll have another go.

    “What is certain about the Second Amendment is that the “arms” the
    founders were talking about were primarily muskets, weighing around
    7-10 pounds, with barrels about five feet long.” Etcetera, etcetera.

    These were the common military long arms at the time. If you take this approach, then, to be intellectually honest, you must either:

    1) Admit that fullly-automatic weapons should not be heavily regulated, as these are the common long arm today, or

    2) This should logically also apply to the 1st amendment, and the only “free” press should be handwritten broadsheets or those done with a hand-powered press.

    But then, I qualified it with “intellectually honest”, so that leaves the citizen-disarmament crowd off the hook.

  • nylon76

    98% of the mass murders are Democratics. Being a Democratic is a mental disorder.

  • C. Chastain

    re: Ehrlich – Mentally ill in America:

    Let’s not confuse mental illness with aspects of current U.S. culture.

    The terrible mass shootings in the recent past were eventually shown to be rooted in mental illness affecting the perpetrating individuals. However, the guns obsession of NRA members & others is an aspect of culture. For protection of the public, both need to be addressed, but in appropriately different ways.

    It’s unfortunate that relatively few social scientists see environmental protection as an important area of research. However, barriers between the several social sciences unfortunately inhibit effective linkages between the social science subsets (H. Ginitis, 20xx) & development of comprehensive perspectives. Similarly, barriers between the so-called hard sciences and the social sciences inhibit development of effective strategies for environmental protection.

    Environmental scientists continue to document how humanity is shooting itself in the foot through piecemeal destruction of our supporting ecosystem. However, environmental scientists’ inadequate understanding of how the human mind works and the complex role of social interactions makes devising effective action challenging at best. But — we can be good scientists, and research whatever we need to know — even about human behavior, and formulate useful problem statements which can then enable us to focus on devising effective solutions for protecting H.sapiens from itself.

    Environmental scientists must not wait for our government representatives or social scientists to become cognizant of the broader significance of H.sapien’s environmental destruction and the dynamic role of culture. It won’t happen — because statistically they are trapped in their cultural subsets — as we all are (deWaal, 2001)

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Culture presents us with much that is real and also less that is illusory. From a psychological standpoint, because humans are shaped early and pervasively by cultural transmissions in our perception of reality, it is an evolutionary challenge for humankind to see the world as it is. When a psychologist thinks a patient is suffering from a mental illness, that is an evidence-based clinical judgment.
    However, general standards of normalcy are not clinical judgments, but matters of socio-cultural norms and conventions that are full of correctly perceived aspects of reality as well as some misperceptions of reality. Deeply disturbed mental patients distort reality drastically. “Normal” people pay no attention to them. Or if attention is paid to them, it is usually just long enough to put them away. After all, they are crazy; they cannot distinguish what is fantasy from what is real.

    By contrast, organizations like nation-states, as well as cultures, appear not to misperceive reality so sharply, yet distortions of what large aggregates of people perceive do remain. A term of art in psychology is useful here, “folie a deux.” The term means that two people share an identical distortion of reality. This understanding leads to other terms, “folie a deux cent million” for a social order or “folie a deux billion” for a culture. These terms refer to a misperception of reality commonly held by many people of an organization or culture. One way to define the highest standard of what is “normal” for the individual and for human aggregates could be looked at in terms of what is free of illusion, what is in scientific fact real.

    Even experts, I suppose, can and do confuse ideology with science, contrived logic with reason, self-interested thinking with common sense. Science regarding the overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities of the human population appears to be ignored when ignorance of the world as it is serves to support established power, greed-mongers, social order and religious dogma. I would like to submit that on occasions such as these, conscious and unconscious thinking in the service of a status quo leads to distortions of what could be real and perversions of science. In such instances, fantasy is embraced by many people; knowledge of what could be real is eschewed.

  • Esdavis

    Rather than insanity, perhaps we need a more sophisticated and scientific understanding of human nature and the nature of society. Could it be that humans are non-rational (even scientists)? If so, rather than insanity, perhaps we should recognize that human systems are all rife with bias and distortion. This could give us better clues on how to construct social and cultural systems to help keep us from destroying ourselves.

  • E James Lieberman

    The political oblivion that swallows issues like gun control and global warming seems related to the absence of concern about population overgrowth. When hundreds of thousands are killed in regional warfare that suggests that there is no shortage of human life in such places, but there is an empathy shortage.

  • Dac Crossley

    “Likely corrupt” Governor Nathan Deal? Isn’t he the guy who resigned his seat in the House of Representatives to avoid prosecution for fraud? And so we elected him governor of Georgia. The sad news is — he isn’t the worst of the lot.

    How much more gun violence will be put up with, before people just demand action? The mentality of this group is incomprehensible to me.

  • Robert Gillespie

    As long as we are discussing the mentally ill, what about Condi Rice, Dick Cheney
    and George W. Bush and the other characters responsible for the Iraq and
    Afghanistan wars, including leaders who still believe that drones are an
    effective way of achieving accommodation with tribal groups in Pakistan and

  • jpcarson

    “follow the money” – or “what gets rewarded is what happens” – and not just in gun lobby; military-industrial-security-congressional complex, etc.

    So, this foolhardy nuclear safety engineer – consistent with what he pledged to Admiral Rickover, that he wanted to be part of the nuclear navy because he wanted to be a “better engineer” – blows whistles about serious workplace health and safety issues in Department of Energy (DOE) after they were suppressed – yes, out of “love of money,” by his supervision. He runs the professional gauntlet and, surprise, surprise – “prevails” no fewer than 8 times, contributing to the passage of a law by which about 100,000 DOE workers have received about 10 billion dollars in compensation for being “put in harms’ way, without their knowledge or adequate protection” while building America’s nuclear arsenal during Cold War.

    Now, most of my colleagues consider me mentally ill – because I put my duty to protect others before my $ – something they would not do. Our profession, Paul? mostly AWOL – can’t rock boats with Dept. of Energy, think of how much science it funds. C’mon, Joe, get with the program – “follow the money.” . But “good for you, Joe.”

    So what you describe as mental illness affects all of us, because what is good for me personally, at least in short term, is quite possibly not good for the odds of a desirable civilization existing on planet earth in year 2100.

    So what? Well, the 1% want a corruptible, discredited gov’t – which is why so many of this world’s 200 gov’ts are basically tools of the 1%. A corruptible, discredited gov’t makes people more think “I need a gun to protect myself, the gov’t won’t or can’t.”

    So the science profession, to maximize what it perceives to be its interest in getting DOE’s $, takes no exception to DOE’s law-breaking against foolhardy souls as I, contributing to a corrupt, discredited gov’t, contributing to more people thinking they need a gun.

    Thanks for listening, I’m increasingly as you, thinking civilization is likely doomed in next 80-odd years, given present facts and trends, trying to “move the needle” in positive directions in my spheres of influence.

  • Michael Mielke


    Yes, I agree that the US could be diagnosed as Mentally ill. My clinical background substantiates this conclusion.

    But Paul, the Euro-World was in denial of its own blindness through the 1934 ascension of Hitler until September, 1938 when the Poland invasion made denial no longer possible. Perhaps you know that Hitler was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1938:,9171,760539,00.html.

    The point is that Great Britain under Chamberlain was in as deep, in the do-do as we are now, in denial of reality, or as you say failing “to transition to an evidence-based world.” The threat of Hitler et al was perceived in 1939, Chamberlain resigned then came Churchill and the long road back to sanity ensued. Sixty million people were sacrificed on the altar of that conflagration and humanity found a bit of sanity for a while.

    You remember, you were a boy then chasing and loving butterflies.

    I have not accepted the endarkenment. We can find reality because the threat is even more pronounced now, Evolution is a function of the degree of stress and it is difficult to see how humanity could breed or brew more stress than it finds itself in now. By its own hands.