* Re the article titled “Capitol Suspect Had Made the ‘List’,” July 27:
“Democracy” in the United States appears increasingly to have been replaced by an insidious status quo based on a sort of politics of fear, in which a person could unwittingly find himself on the Secret Service’s “list” as a potential security threat for expressing dissent--in essence, exercising one’s freedom of speech.
Clearly there’s evil in the world, as amply demonstrated by the horrendous actions of Russell Eugene Weston Jr. in the Capitol building. However, by overemphasizing the actions of a few unfortunate individuals, the media are feeding a climate of fear and suspicion that suggests that virtually anyone might be capable of hostile actions against society, or the state.
This nation is confronting important issues such as crime, gun control, treatment of the mentally ill, etc., which must be decided by consensus. Increasingly, policies related to such issues are being decided instead by the narrowly defined sociopolitical agendas of special interest groups, and not by the will of the people.
The possibility of incurring governmental scrutiny, with the media appearing to play the role of Grand Inquisitor, has no doubt served to silence a significant portion of the nation’s citizenry in the democratic discussion of ideas.
* Kim Murphy’s story (July 27) regarding the quality of follow-up treatment in mental health care does a great service in keeping an extraordinarily important problem in the public eye.
Our current mental health care system’s greatest vulnerability lies in the gaps existing between the hospital care, community outpatient care, the access to care itself, and the home lives of people who, like Weston, suffer with devastating illnesses such as paranoid schizophrenia. When the symptoms of these illnesses include the rejection of available care, these gaps merge into an abyss.
Governmental and privatized mental health budgets have been cut for years because of the clear need to contain health care costs. But public tragedies such as those of Weston, his family and the slain officers, John Gibson and Jacob Chestnut, and their families force us to acknowledge unreported tragedies of similar magnitude stemming from our inadequate systems of treatment for severe mental illness.
BARNET D. MALIN MD
Member, Los Angeles
Psychoanalytic Society and Institute