Author’s Note on Mental Illness
Before making a few remarks about mental illness for which this writer is preeminently unqualified, his claim to have watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest a dozen times or more is entirely true and should be noted.
Society has yet to overcome its aversion to mental illness, a broad class of afflictions that, if ever freed of its historical demons, might enable us to finally recognize the disgraceful inhumanity with which we treated our fellow who suffered from a variety of mental illnesses. Medical science of the day simply did not understand. Early mental institutions, such as England’s “Bedlam”, were no more than collections of cages in which the mentally ill and criminally insane were caged as if wild beasts.
No human being is born with intent and physical ability to harm another. Children can and do, however, become mentally ill-an unpleasant fact that, like the general occurrence of mental illness in society as a whole is stigmatized and hidden away.
Not every outrageous criminal act is committed by a “madman”. Mental illness is not a singular phenomenon; there are many instances in which the afflicted retains the capacity to distinguish between “right” and “wrong”. Others, not quite as “fortunate”, are overwhelmed by the erasure of their basic life blueprints; their moral compass now compromised, they are at the merciful discretion of life’s most unmerciful forces.
This appears to be the case with Yishai Schlissel. As with any criminal case in which the perpetrator used violence to achieve his ends, a court has already ordered the accused to undergo psychological examination to determine the state of his mental competency-whether or not he understands the crime(s) of which he is accused and the charges being brought against him.
Obsessed with those whom, he fears, are determined to mock and thereby destroy the Torah in the holiest of all places on earth, what “religious Jews” call “ir hakodesh”-The Holy City of Jerusalem, a man like Sclissel, who already has one foot in the next world will stop at nothing to achieve his end. Remember that men like Yishai Schlissel are more than willing and able to kill in defense of God. He told that to Israeli police in 2005 after his first knife attack on gay pride marchers.
What kind of man kills over a difference of opinion?
Theological extremism invariably produces the same result again and again: lots of dead, mostly innocent people. And it matters not in whose head it finds refuge: Jew, Muslim or Christian, they all begin to look, sound and act alike. Each would cringe at the suggestion of their relative equivalency, that whatever tiny fragment of the truth each may possess is negated by the indisputable truth that theological extremism-regardless of whence it derives-remains the greatest threat to Mankind’s tomorrow.