There are a lot of reasons to not like Mike Huckabee if you’re a progressive. He’s an extreme social conservative who’s terrible on subjects like reproductive justice and marriage equality. His understanding of the separation of Church and State is that he doesn’t like it and it shouldn’t exist. He continues to insist that climate change isn’t a real thing. That’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Like I said, lots of reasons.
But if you’re a progressive who makes an effort to be an ally on issues of race, gender, and more, you should be equally enraged that when it comes to attacks on neurodiversity, Mike Huckabee is an unapologetic jerk. As USA Today reports:
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee came under fire Monday for using a disparaging reference to mental illness in describing a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
The criticism came from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which took issue with a comment the former Arkansas governor made Friday on Des Moines radio-host Jan Mickelson’s conservative talk show.
Huckabee said Chief Justice John Roberts “apparently needs medication for schizophrenia” for his allegedly inconsistent opinions in two prominent cases last week.
Only an emotionally dead and illiterate tool would make such a statement. For starters, it shows a gross misunderstanding of what, exactly, schizophrenia is, based on factually incorrect stereotypes promoted in media and propped up by colloquial use of the term. Most frequently, it’s used to disparage someone with labile moods and seemingly divergent or rapidly shifting perspectives. This characterization would be laughable if not so inappropriate. As advocacy group Mental Health America explains:
Schizophrenia is a serious disorder which affects how a person thinks, feels and acts. Someone with schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary; may be unresponsive or withdrawn; and may have difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations.
Contrary to public perception, schizophrenia is not split personality or multiple personality. The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are not violent and do not pose a danger to others. Schizophrenia is not caused by childhood experiences, poor parenting or lack of willpower, nor are the symptoms identical for each person.
This isn’t the punchline to a joke. Individuals with schizophrenia comprise more than a third of America’s homeless population. Their symptoms can be so terrifying that they are sent into a deep depression that is too often fatal. As Schizophrenia.com points out:
People with the condition have a 50 times higher risk of attempting suicide than the general population; the risk of suicide is very serious in people with schizophrenia. Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia, with an estimated 10 percent to 13 percent killing themselves and approximately 40% attempting suicide at least once (and as much as 60% of males attempting suicide).
You’re not laughing now, are you? That’s because jokes like the one Huckabee made aren’t funny. They’re offensive, and more importantly, they’re dangerous. When mental illness is cast as something worthy of mockery, is it any surprise that people don’t seek out health? Is it really all that shocking that our leaders don’t take it seriously enough to fund the public health initiatives we so desperately need when diagnoses make such convenient political barbs? Can we blame the neurodiverse for feeling shame and despair as they try desperately to find their way to stability and fulfillment when we’re laughing at them for their courageous efforts?
Mike Huckabee is an asshole. And if you can’t understand why, then you are too.