The Crazies

I have a lot of respect for crazy people.

In my world, we’re all crazy. Some of us are secretly crazy, carefully containing the crazy inside in the hopes of presenting a non-crazy exterior. Some of us let our crazy all hang out, forwardly flaunting it for all to see.

Many of us are somewhere in between.

I take mental health issues very seriously, so I want to be clear that as I cavalierly throw “crazy” around, I mean something different than mental health. To me, “craziness” is…something like a lack of control over your public perception.

Some people are overtly crazy because of mental health issues, while others are overtly crazy because they choose to be so. And again, many are in between.

One of my childhood heroes, Emperor Norton, almost certainly had serious mental health issues. For those of you not from California – Norton, a gold-rush era San Franciscan, proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States, continually called for congress to be dissolved, and printed his own currency.

He was totally crazy.

But, his currency was accepted by the businesses he frequented and he was well respected by the colorful characters of San Fransisco. When he died, it’s said, 30,000 people attended his funeral.

Norton is something of an icon for crazies, but I think (with respect) a lot of activists are crazy too.

Another hero of mine, who as far as I know didn’t have mental health issues, is Raphael Lemkin.

Lemkin was a human rights lawyer. He coined the word “genocide.” He drafted, and basically single handedly passed, the UN convention on genocide.

And he was totally crazy.

When everyone wanted him to shut up and go away, he kept pushing. When governments wanted to go back to their own affairs and maintain their sovereignty from human rights concerns, he kept fighting to ensure that genocide would be denounced around the world. Facing a problem that continually makes the world’s most powerful institutions throw up their hands and say, “well, what are you going to do?” Lemkin presented a solution and never stopped fighting for it.

When he died, 7 people attended his funeral.

It take a lot of guts to choose to be crazy. It takes a lot to stand up and say what you believe – and to keep saying it whether it’s popular or not. In theory, people want to be that person, but really…no one wants to be that person. No one wants to be the crazy. It’s so much easier to be part of a crowd.

So, my crazies, this one’s for you. Thanks for all you do, and you go on – keep being crazy.


One thought on “The Crazies

  1. Dennis Fischman

    Crazy has social dimensions, too. The “loud” black woman, the “pushy” Jew, the old person who has gotten tired of being nice, the young person who hasn’t even learned to censor yet…all of these can do things that people around them read as crazy. If they had more social power, they’d be called unique, daring, honest.


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