Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Police Databases and Stigma

February 16, 2013 1 comment

Christ, just write something already!

According to this (admittedly old) article, if you live in Canada and you have a police report that includes the fact that you have a mental illness, it will be shared with the American Department of Homeland Security. You could be denied entry to the USA until you get a doctor’s note ($250) indicating that you are not a risk to others.

After the horrific events at Sandy Hook, gun enthusiasts were desperate to transfer the blame for the tragedy from easy access to guns to something else. They chose violent video games and the mentally ill. They called for a national database of the mentally ill similar to the one for sex offenders. If such a database ever came to fruition, I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think that getting put into the police database in Canada would eventually find one put into this database as well. Luckily for the moment it is nothing more than a rhetorical smokescreen.

Just a quick aside: I think it’s all too possible to over-simplify the causes of mass-murder. I don’t want to point a finger at any single cause and say that the killer’s mental state was irrelevant. It’s not an either/or situation. However, the vast majority of mentally ill people are harmless, as are the vast majority of legitimate gun owners, and the vast majority of video game enthusiasts. People want easy answers but there are none. Every person is a complex individual with a myriad of factors contributing to make him or her who he or she is.

Back to the main point: it is already true that getting the police involved in your mental illness in Canada can get you stigmatized in the USA. Now add to that the possibility of a national database and it means that the stigma can not only occur at the border, but potentially anywhere in the country. No one wants to live with the fear that a routine traffic stop could turn into a major incident. Furthermore, for many Canadians travel to the USA doesn’t just involve vacations or shopping, but also business trips or visits to family members–that is, trips that are harder to do without. Sometimes it’s not a matter of just staying home.

The result is that some mentally ill Canadians with ties to the USA will be (perhaps should be) motivated to hide their illness from law enforcement on both sides of the border. The national database the NRA and others are talking about is unlikely at the moment, but should it ever become a reality (there will always be more tragedies and people love scapegoats), the motivation to hide just becomes greater. Instead of seeking help, some mentally ill people will suffer in silence and fear.

Luckily the NRA’s database exists only in an uncertain future. Unfortunately the Canada/USA police database exists today.


The Strangest Things Tick People Off

April 17, 2012 3 comments

A paving contractor left a flier in my mailbox today and on the back was a handy set of “Canadian-to-Metric” conversion tables. He’ll never get my business; and here’s why.

There is not, and never was, a Canadian measurement system. We were part of the British Empire and so we used the Imperial measurement system. Whoever made up the flier has just spat (undoubtedly in ignorance) on a part of my heritage. Yes, I’m serious. Anyway, I think the word they were looking for was “American”. So many people use “Canadian” and “American” interchangeably these days. Another pet-peeve. I have nothing against America, but Canada is not America. I doubt America wants to be mistaken for Canada either.

In the early 1970s the USA was making moves to adopt Metric, so Canada followed suit. By 1976 Canada had officially switched over while the USA backed out. The Canadian system of measurement is Metric and has been for 26 years. I wish troglodytes like these pavers would face reality at long last.

Yes, I am a Metric snob. I think Metric is better. I understand that many people work in industries (like paving) dominated by American products and the American measurement system. Still I go to Lowes and Home Depot in Virginia. Many American products these days are trilingual and have Metric measurements alongside American ones.

It drives me crazier (than I already am) to see people in Canada still dragging their feet about Metric at this late date. It drives me even crazier when they make up stuff and get it wrong. Ignorance burns!

By the way, I know American measures fairly well. I spend a lot of time in the USA and I think in American while I’m there. It’s easier than converting all the time. When in Rome, after all…

On Bullsh*t and the Truth

March 25, 2012 3 comments

I’m going out on a limb and writing a post not directly related to being bipolar, except at the end.

I have been reading a short (20 pages) but excellent essay called “On Bullshit” by Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University. You can read it online here. If you’ve made it this far and you’re offended by the uncensored word “bullshit”, then go no farther. If you can look past surface appearances, it is an extremely serious essay.

Frankfurt’s main premise is that liars have a specific agenda of concealing the truth. Bullshitters are different because they are not specifically concerned with the truth. They have their rhetorical agenda, which may be compatible with the truth to a degree, or not. It doesn’t matter. If bullshitters coincidentally tell the truth, or if they coincidentally lie, all that matters is winning the argument.

According to Frankfurt both the liar and the bullshitter deceive us in representing themselves as telling the truth. The difference is that lies are specifically untrue, while bullshit is merely constructed without any particular regard for the truth. It may be false, it may be true, it may even be “truthy”–to borrow from Stephen Colbert. The bullshitter doesn’t care as long as it serves its purpose.

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