showed me the diagnosis "paranoid schizophrenia"
in black ink on our mutual friend Willy's discharge
paperwork. The hard black words sucked the air out of my
chest, gravity pulled harder.
Willy had been a star
halfback at our high school with a promising academic
future. Now in the late 60's-early 70's his psychedelic
and poetic persona made him popular among the street kids
Marcus and I ran with. Willy and I helped with Marcus's
band. We hauled equipment while the band played Jimi
Hendix, the Doors and the Chicago blues, trying to push
the limits and "break on through to the other
side" ( The Doors). Willy even looked the part, you
could mistake him for Hendrix.
"liberated" our town of all those
lantern-holding little statues folks used to put alongside
the driveway, as well as a whole van full of chrome balls,
concrete ducks and other yard ornaments, even a smiling
Buddha. The next night they all re-appeared at 4:00 a.m.
on the town square, lanterns held high, Buddha's serenity
undisturbed. Willy laughed about the lantern-holder
figures " That was my Grandpa holding the light for
your Grandpa coming home."
Willy described a barrage
of chuckholes on I-71 at 70 MPH as
"anti-aircraft fire". I had signed him out
for a weekend from the Cleveland Psychiatric Institute.
The Thorazine and Stelazine, the first generation
anti-psychotics given Willy, thank goodness we have better
drugs now, helped but also took away his spirit, his
creativity. He seemed sad. I know I was.
I brought Willy down to
Circleville for my wedding in 1990 and try to visit when I
am back in the Lorain County area. His diagnosis now I am
sure would be "Schizophrenia- Chronic
Undifferentiated Type". Willy is a hollow shell of
the poet he once was, or maybe it was only the late
Sixties times and our youth that romanticized his
zaniness. I think of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Van Gogh,
Hemingway and Hendrix and Vonnegut, all thought to be
mentally ill. Willy sincerely congratulates me on having
such a wonderful marriage, so many kids and grandkids. As
we talk about the wild days, I am sorry that Willy will
never be so blessed with domestic happiness. I think of
Willy when I see psych patients in the emergency
department, living in cold orbits, far from the sun.
In Mattthew 25:40
Jesus clearly states that how we treat the
"least" among us is how we have treated Him.
Ezekiel 16:49 eminently prophesies against the current and
convenient interpretation that the Bible demands only
private charity, thereby excusing us from acting though
our collective selves, aka, the city, state and federal
governments to take care of our unfortunate ones. Sodom
and Gomorrah were destroyed, not as individuals but the
whole governmental unit, as Ezekiel writes :"Now this
was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters
were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help
the poor and needy". St. Augustine, initiating a
long-held Catholic theology of social justice, disparaged
only of late as so often happens when the Church accommodates
to culture, taught " Charity is no substitute for
With great sadness and
anger I read "Regional Mental Health Center cuts
Staff, Services" ( Herald, 6 June). Only
patients with insurance coverage will receive treatment as
"indigent care no longer can be accommodated".
Are those in need just supposed to disappear or simply go
away , suffer and die quietly, away from our eyes?
What would Jesus and Ezekiel say of us? We don't have to
look far for the answer: read the parable of Lazarus and
the Rich Man. Our nation is wealthy, but we have allowed
almost 70% of that wealth to be grabbed up by 2% of
the population, like Robin Hood in reverse, taking from
the poor and giving to the rich. We don't have a
spending problem, we have a moral and revenue problem. One
out of 100 of us suffers from schizophrenia. We, all of us
together, are to look out for all the lost sheep among us.
Cotton, member, Physicians for a National Health Program