Crazy. Insane. Lunatic.
All words I’ve used to describe the first half of the Montana Legislature’s session, some of the bills, and even a few of the members of the Republican caucus, and all words I regret using. I don’t regret their use because I’ve come to realize that the Republicans are making sense and developing consistency, but because the language is unnecessary and perhaps even damaging.
I have serious disagreement with the direction the GOP seems to want to take the state. Their vision of Montana is one I don’t recognize—one with draconian cuts in social services, religious intrusion into healthcare, and more guns than any state could ever need—to name a few issues. I think their agenda is reactionary, extremist, and dangerous, but they’re not “crazy.” They’re just wrong.
As bad as the proposals get, though, it’s no reason to use language that stigmatizes people with mental illness. Far too many people suffer from mental illness in silence, at least in part because our language delegitimizes their experience and shapes the perception that mental illness is a more shameful illness than a physical ailment.
I’ve struggled with it in post after post, and often catch myself when I post headlines, but I’ve used these terms for too long as easy shorthand for concepts I don’t mean to convey. As George Orwell put it in his masterful Politics and the English Language, “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.” Simply put, language matters, and I’d like mine to be better.
I hope this post doesn’t come across as condemning anyone else’s writing or as something self-righteous, as I probably used the language here as frequently as anyone and am quite likely to slip up in the future. I just would prefer not to.
Tinfoil, though? I’m keeping that one.