The American Cuckoo’s Nest

The past week brings back memories of visiting inmates of state mental hospitals, including a state hospital for the criminally insane. I was their pastor.

As we sat together within these secure institutions, it was clear to them and to me which of us was free to leave. I was sane. They were not. I could leave. They could not.

On the way home I pondered the similarities between life outside the gates and inside the secured walls of these institutions, and the slim thread of difference that separates the outside from the inside.

080715-cuckoos-nest-hmed-1p-grid-6x2During the last two weeks, it feels as though the thin thread line has disappeared.

We are all in the insane asylum now.

The difference between Ken Kesesy’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and America today is that Randle McMurphy, who organized the inmate revolt, is in charge, re-writing all the rules, ordering a lock-down that appalls the rest of the world.

The world looks on with horror. No visitors allowed. And we’re all inmates locked inside without a vote or effective voice.

Who will be our pastor now?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Jan. 29, 2017.


11 thoughts on “The American Cuckoo’s Nest

  1. I don’t think Mr. Trump is mentally ill. I think he’s sharp as a tack — or at least his alter ego is. Let’s recognize that every move he’s made has taken us closer to dismantling America as we know it. Assuming mental illness sends us down the wrong path to fighting the undesirable — even frightening — consequences of his first days in office.


      • I think he’s a wily fox. My daughter just reminded me of the basic rule in negotiation. Ask for more than you expect, so when you pull back a little it leaves the other party feeling like the’ve won something. Lesson: go ridiculous enough that even moderately ridiculous feels like a victory — or acceptable — or normal. I think he knows very well what he (or his alter ego) is doing. That, I believe, is really scary. So, I still think we are better off not thinking of him as crazy or impulsive or ignorant. I believe our survival depends on our assuming every move he makes is pointed and purposeful.


          • It depends on which piece of the DSM one wants to focus on. Character disorder? Impulsiveness quite in keeping. Mental illness as people are tending to portray it in terms of cognitive confusion, major depression, paranoia, I’m not so sure. Yes, paranoid character disorder, but that’s different — the overwhelming suspicion thing.

            Most of all, I don’t want anyone to think I feel free to diagnose him. I just believe we are in trouble if we dismiss his abilities. Whatever his disorder, I still think he’s a wily fox. Don’t forget, he’s spent his career moving people into accepting his positions. He’s smart at that. (Maybe even smart at leading us to believe he really has all that wealth.)

            My point. Don’t write his “craziness” off. It could defeat us and really tear our country apart. We’re much better off assuming he knows what he is doing — a wily fox — and do our strategizing accordingly.

            And if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, the power behind the Emperor’s chair does — and there’s a real wily fox.


  2. Ever since Woodrow Wilson was President, we have known that our has no way of determining when a President is ill and how to handle it. Now we have a President who is mentally ill, and we certainly have no way to handle that. I never thought that I would decide someone I have never met is mentally ill. Now I do. Fear knocked at the door. When I opened it, faith was there.


    • Two of this morning’s sections — Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 51-12 — seemed to speak directly to this moment. If I had been the preacher, I would have focused on “Blessed are the poor in spirit…., those who mourn, and the meek. Such a contrast to “blessed are the rich, those who have nothing to mourn, and the proud/arrogant.”

      Enough. Glad Faith was at there when you opened the door.


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