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Emotional Problems in Society

            Victoria L. Burroughs


            Thanks to the films we have seen, I now have a much better understanding of the emotional problems in out society.  First, I have learned that we all have emotional difficulties to some degree.  Unfortunately, many of us fail to recognize, accept and resolve these difficulties.

            I learned from the films that everyone has a place and value in our society, regardless of their handicaps.  And it is up to society to provide each with the opportunity and basic resources to deal with their problems.  Unfortunately, society tends to label emotionally handicapped people as their way of disassociating themselves from the problem, even dehumanizing them.

            For example, in the film “Trapped in Silence”, they labeled the boy “Zoo Boy” as a way to quickly deal with his misfortune.  Rather than careful analysis, support, and love, the boy got a label.

            A graphic example of this behavior is the process of dehumanizing the enemy in wartime.  During the Vietnam conflict for instance, Vietnamese citizens were called “gooks”, “gomers”, or “charlie”.  This was a psychological way of labeling someone less human so that you can deal with the emotional anguish of killing.

            In a greater sense, we live in a largely uncaring society, frequently giving up on those who need us the most.  Often, homeless people suffer from complex and difficulty emotional problems.  Yet we have limited governmental resources available to deal with these people, in this, the richest society in the history of mankind.  Without question, some of the problem resolves around available time.  Few of us slow down long enough to adequately deal with our own problems, much less volunteer to care for those less fortunate.  Yet the very process of caring for others provides healing for ourselves. 

            Out generation consumes.  It consumes natural resources and people resources in a fast-paced society that seems to accelerate with each passing year.  If we do not educate ourselves as to the needs of those less fortunate, and build the infrastructure to support them, I fear we will drag ourselves down into a mediocre society, consuming for te sake of consumption, and not for the greater good of mankind.

            Will this generation be remembered for “monuments to excess” or the greatest contribution to quality of life in all history?  It’s up to us and we must choose wisely.  How can we take a proactive role in changing the way society views the mentally uill?  We must start by imbuing out children with a greater sense of purpose. We must show them, by our example, that love, caring and tlerance are the right values.  We must teach our children about those less fortunate and fill them with a clear sense of responsibility on this issue.  We must instruct them about inappropriate behavior and must correct them when they attack others with labels.  If not, our words will ring hollow and they wil just mimic what the see in out homes and in the media.

            One of the films we saw dealt with the life of Lenny Bruce, a comedian who found humor in the human condition.  Bruce, a comedic genius, created a whole new form of humor that is widely used today by the master of comedy.  Unfortunately, in his day he was reviled by much of society and prevented from practicing his craft.  This caused such frustration and deression in Lenny Bruce that he drifted into a life of drugs and then took his own life.  Many people belive that society literally drove him crazy.  It is a clear example of the power of scoety over those who do not “fit in”; those who challenge the meaning of normal; those who dare to be different; and those who dare to speak the truth, whatever the cost.

            In the film “Sling Blade”, Carl is incarcerated for decades for the double murder of his mother and her boyfriend.  Emotionally retarded, Carl witnessed his mother engaged in consensual sex.  Unfortunately, he mistakenly thought that his mother was being raped and killed her boyfriend.  Then, confronted with her anger, Carl overreacted, making her the second victum.

            After his release from a mental hospital, a small boy who overlooks his handicaps, and loves him unconditionally befriends Carl.  Carl begins to emerge from his mantle of guilt thanks to this relationship, forming an intense emotional bond with the boy and the boy’s mother.  Unfortunately, Carl feels that his new “family” is endangered by the mother’s boyfriend and kills him to protect them.  Of course, he is returned to the state hospital

            The film makes a powerful case for early treatment of emotionally challenged children.  Had Carl been properly cared for, he may never have killed.  IT also shows the amazing healing power of love in a family environment. When our society takes steps to help those trapped in despair with quality programs by people who care, we will live the promise of a truly great civilization.

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