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Cancer, Car Wrecks, and Crazy People

“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

I have said over decades that except for cancer, car wrecks, and crazy people, we pretty much get what we deserve in this world. I can add to this, and it won’t be alliterative.

If you smoke or play with nuclear waste you are inviting cancer, but let’s say that most people don’t care for those two habits. No one deserves cancer. But it won’t go away. It can only be managed. Every day there are new improvements to treatment with as many differing results as there are people’s medical reactions. Sadly, we all know of someone with lung cancer who never smoked a cigarette. Cancer isn’t fair, cancer isn’t just, and it cannot be cured, per se. It can only be treated. And COVID-19 for good measure.

Most people in car wrecks didn’t cause them. The guy who drives too fast or drives too slow may force actions that he never anticipated others had to take. People drive impaired, run lights, weave and don’t pay attention, but sadly the product of that irresponsibility is an innocent person having the burden of car repair or personal physical harm At least someone can be held accountable, but that won’t make you feel better if you’re dead because of a drunk driver. Car wrecks aren’t fair, aren’t just, and will likely not go away soon.

Which brings us to crazy people. The intention, the mens rea, of an illegal act is required to assign responsibility, yet the standard is a moving bar. On one hand if a person can assist in his own defense he may be technically sane, even if he ain’t right in the head. On the other hand, even if he is found to be completely nuts he must still be held accountable in some fashion, removed from enjoying many freedoms.

In the US, almost half of all adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, 46.4 %, according to the Pew Research Center and the Treatment Advocacy Center. The following stats are also from those sources.

Five percent of the population over 18, over 234 million adults, will experience a mental illness in any one year… nearly 12 million a year. Most come out of it.

Of adults with mental health disorders, 14.4% have one, 5.8% have two, and 6% have three or more demons bouncing around inside their heads.

Bad things happen to good people, and in the interest of fairness, using the above stats, around one in 500 people, those with three or more illnesses, are struggling mightily or just plain cuckoo.

Many of them fall into a broad spectrum of the psychopathic, the manipulative sort who acts normal, minimizing personal risk and avoiding criminal activity, or the sociopath who is erratic, rage prone, and unable to lead a normal life.

Consider this: 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated through the entire prison system, one percent of the adult population. It is credibly estimated that 400,000 are seriously mentally ill, ten times the number currently housed in state mental hospitals and institutions. Nearly one in five of all incarcerated Americans need a hospital, not a cage.

Here’s the point.

Bad things happen to good people. We can manage much of it, but we can’t completely prevent it. Minimize it we must, and we do. I know cancer, car wrecks, and crazy people can cause great unanticipated distress in our lives, terrible stuff no one deserves.

Add racism to the alliterative list.

We can’t eliminate cancer or car wrecks or crazy people. We manage some of these things better than others.

We can’t eliminate racism either.

It isn’t fair, it isn’t just, and it won’t go away soon. Racism exists.

Shelby Steele puts it succinctly, and I quote: “You can’t eliminate racism anymore than you can eliminate stupidity.” And racism is basically stupidity squared.

We need to educate ourselves.

Except for cancer, car wrecks, and crazy people, and racism, we pretty much get what we deserve in this world.

There are no guarantees of happiness.

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