From West to Boston to China: Terrible Things Happen. You Have Two Weeks to Get Over It.
Just so people won't get caught unaware, I want to point out that the town of West has until a week from tomorrow to grieve. That will be two weeks from the time of the industrial accident that blew up their town, took the lives of loved ones and left behind a legacy of bloody suffering and agonizing recovery.
According to the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly called the DSM-5, significant symptoms of depression after two weeks, including weight loss, concentration and memory problems, as well as more serious manifestations of sadness, may cease to be considered normal bereavement and could render the people of West susceptible to diagnosis and treatment including psychoactive drugs.
The people of Boston are under the same kind of deadline. It's OK for them to be really really crazy sad for two weeks. After that, according to the DSM-5, they may not get away with grieving any more. They could be deemed disordered. Just saying.
The diagnosis explosion is obviously a good thing for diagnosticians, and maybe it's a good thing for us, too. Could be. For example, I'm a gun-control libtard. There's been all kinds of talk lately about ginning up better records of people's mental states in order to keep guns out of the hands of disordered persons. But I have this question: After you stick a diagnosis on somebody, what exactly are you going to do about it?
There's a story in The New York Times today about one of our fellow Texicans who hijacked a Yellow Cab in Manhattan yesterday and crashed it in New Jersey after a big police chase because he thought he was a spy escaping the KGB.
His brother is quoted: "He goes off and says stuff off the wall, that he's a DEA agent, that the KGB. is after him. He was in a mental hospital in Nebraska for a while. They helped him out real well there. But once he got back to Texas, he wouldn't take his medicine and he'd just get lost in the system."
In terms of public safety, exactly what good did it do to put a diagnosis on that guy? Didn't keep him from going to New York and hijacking a cab. I'm not saying he shouldn't be diagnosed or there shouldn't be an effort to help him. I'm just saying it's not going to help the rest of us much, because we lack the ability to do much about him.
Look: There's another good one in the Times today saying the FBI didn't keep track of the older Boston bomber brother even after the Russians told them he might be a dangerous terrorist, because after doing some web searches and an interview with him the FBI lacked legal authority to stay on his case. I think the same story also provides another clue to the government's lack of interest.
He wasn't interesting enough. Books have been written about Lee Harvey Oswald defecting to Russia in 1959. But in 2013, a guy moves back to Russia, worries Russian intelligence enough to warrant a warning to the CIA, then comes home and posts jihadi videos on the web. He's sort of interesting. But not that interesting.
The Times piece quotes an American intelligence expert: "I tend to view this stuff [the videos] as certainly interesting, and evincing some degree of extreme beliefs, but probably not exactly a flashing warning sign."
What does that mean? It means there are too many guys like that. The FBI has to pick its battles and husband its resources. Guys like this just happen. Things like this happen. Our ability to protect ourselves from danger is like our ability to protect ourselves from grief. Limited.
Can we do better? Should we try? Of course. A story in The Dallas Morning News today (they're kicking ass on the West explosion and getting themselves cited all over the linkosphere) details an incredibly sorry half-assed record of state regulation in West -- a complete failure by the state of Texas to enforce even the rules and regulations already in the law. It's disgusting.
Hey, sorry to jump you all over that linkosphere, but let's dip back into today's Times for a look at another story, this one about the incredible plague of air pollution in China. The story includes this paragraph: "I hope in the future we'll move to a foreign country," Ms. Zhang, a lawyer, said as her ailing son, Wu Xiaotian, played on a mat in their apartment, near a new air purifier. "Otherwise we'll choke to death."
Don't move to Texas, Ms. Zhang. You won't be improving your lot.
In the coverage of West, especially in the stories about how close the plant was to a school, nursing home and houses, there is a barely perceptible suggestion that the people of West must share responsibility for allowing that arrangement to occur. Makes sense logically, I guess. My least favorite part of our city's only daily newspaper, the editorial page, is off on a crusade again about how industry should not be allowed anywhere near neighborhoods.
Yeah. I grew up in the Rust Belt, where you could write on your windshield with a magnet every morning because of the fine film of steel dust. Not saying that was a good thing. Just saying I know why people in West kept their mouths shut about that plant.
It was work. It was money. Doesn't do any good to have clean lungs if you're starving to death. Life gives us a lot of really tough choices and trade-offs. Sometimes you breathe steel so you can eat. Oh, now I have to jump back into the links and mention a piece also in today's Morning News, actually in that same section I just talked bad about, by a writer with whom I have crossed keyboards in the past (a reference to crossing swords, get it?), Tod Robberson. Robberson writes very movingly today about the families of terrorists and the awful burden of shame they must survive. He describes a couple cases in which the surviving family members, especially fathers, have dealt with their shame by drinking heavily. I believe that's called self-medication these days. In Detroit it was called a toot. I wonder when the DSM-5 will get to toots.
Terrible things happen, and there isn't always a way we can prevent them from happening. There are cases where we even know really bad things might happen, and we take the chance anyway. We do the best we can. We do what we can do. That's not an excuse for not trying to do better. But maybe in our desire to render some mercy on the people of Boston and West, we might all confront and recognize that one simple, terrible reality: We do not write all the rules. Never did. Never will.