UPDATE: March 29, 2021
It seems as if there might have been a good reason for Dr. Lee’s erratic “organizing” over the last year or so. At some point during 2020, she was fired by Yale for her Tweets about Trump (and perhaps about Alan Dershowitz’s “shared psychosis”). It seems as if she spent the better part of 2020 trying to fight that dismissal, which may have caused her to be extra-careful about overstepping ethical bounds. Now she has filed suit against Yale. The basic details are in this March 27, 2021 article by Richard Painter, Was a Trump critic’s 1st Amendment violated by Yale?
Since I know very well what it’s like to have no income (and, in fact, to be forced out of a position based on bad faith power struggles, without much support from colleagues, friends, or family), I can now sympathize with Dr. Lee’s predicament and inability to learn how to organize on the fly. I also re-affirm my own conclusion articulated in this blogpost, that promoting a mental health intervention would likely not have been successful. Knowing what happened on January 6, 2021, it might indeed have backfired. I wish Dr. Lee the best. END of UPDATE
THINKING ALOUD re TRUMP: 23 days to go
Apologies to anyone who may have been influenced by my two-week lapse in judgment regarding Trump’s final days in office. After the November election and against my better self-counsel, I allowed myself to get sucked into the fear-mongering about the dangers of Trump’s lame duck presidency and to promote an intervention as soon as possible. The result of my bad judgment was my last blogpost, THINKING ALOUD re Trump: 31 days to go.
To be clear, most of the concern (expressed by numerous scholars, journalists, grassroots groups, etc.) was and is completely real and legitimate and most was intended to keep us on high alert and be ready to act (if the need arose). So far as I can see, only one group of people were producing prodigious amounts of tweets (on at least 3 Twitter accounts), articles, videos, town hall meetings, etc., to stir up public interest in a direct intervention — 25th amendment, arrest, or mental health hold — to remove Trump from office ASAP. This group is the World Mental Health Coalition, co-founded and led by Dr. Bandy Lee, a mental health professional.
Whether Dr. Lee and WMHC are still calling for Trump’s removal I do not know.
WHY I STOPPED FOLLOWING DR. LEE AND WMHC
I do know that no other grassroots organizer or group that I follow has been promoting WMHC’s or Dr. Lee’s messaging. This fact and the personal email that I received from Dr. Lee on Dec. 24th prompted me to stop following their messaging.
The email was in response to (a) my Dec. 20 suggestion to WMHC that, if they wanted to get the public organized around an intervention ASAP, they should begin to lay out a process so that the public could understand the details and take any necessary action to initiate an intervention, and (b) my Dec. 23 Twitter Thread about WMHC’s lack of action (combined with on-going Tweeting, including criticism of people who weren’t paying attention to WMHC’s call for an intervention) that began “I am confused”.
There was some typical Twitter exchanges in response to my thread. Of the 100 or so separate Tweets (replies, likes, re-Tweets), more than 80% seemed to be from people who had not actually read my thread (which included my suggestion for WMHC if they truly wanted to mobilize the public to action). In one Tweet, Dr. Lee requested that I re-send my proposal to her. I did. In response, the following day, this is the email that I received:
From: Bandy Lee
Subject: Re: Question re next steps (Action Alert ?)
Date: December 24, 2020 at 11:16:28 AM CST
To: Debbie Hillman
This is a very good idea. Since each state differs, would you be willing to research the legislation on mental health holds in both Florida and DC? We can then help explain portions on your request. The difficulty we have as experts is that we are not supposed to advocate a certain procedure, which has to come from you (public/lawmakers/other authority).
I leave it to the reader to decide if Dr. Lee and WMHC really want to (a) intervene and remove Trump from office according to their own professional protocols, and (b) engage with the public about an intervention (which would need public support). Or is all their Tweeting, articles, videos, etc., serving some other purpose? In my 69 years, I have been witness to the frustration of numerous experts, academics, and other U.S. voters who do not feel part of the body politic where important issues are discussed and decided. In fact I would say that Trump’s popularity derives directly from his willingness to express his anger and frustration from a big platform, thereby giving permission to others to not only feel frustration at being denied their adulthood but to express our anger at the hypocrisy of an empty democracy. Whether this is the source of Dr. Lee’s and WMHC’s non-stop Tweeting, etc., 23 days before Trump leaves office, I cannot say for sure.
I have not replied to Dr. Lee, nor do I plan to at this point. It seems to me that Dr. Lee and WMHC have ready access to the legal requirements for a mental health hold in Florida and D.C. They don’t need me to do their research for them. Even more confusing is a professional who says that they “are not supposed to advocate a certain procedure”, suggesting that the client should be the diagnostician.
I should note that my original suggestion to WMHC about a draft Action Alert included an alternative version. Instead of drafting a Trump-specific alert, WMHC could draft a generic fact sheet that would inform the public about a mental health hold, without naming names or states or specific reasons. I think it clear that WMHC has some other agenda in mind than informing the public. Maybe one day I will learn what that is.
I thank Dr. Lee for her early warning to the U.S. and to the world on Democracy Now! and for providing a great deal of helpful information over the last 4 years as a founder of the World Mental Health Coalition. It may be that Dr. Lee’s main legacy regarding the Trump era will be that of a whistleblower about the APA (American Psychiatric Association) which seems to have neglected their duty as mental health professionals vis-a-vis an incapable U.S. president. If indeed they have also gagged other mental health professionals as well as profiting as an organization during the Trump era (as Dr. Lee has suggested) it would be good for some investigative journalist to look into those accusations.
To get back to the matter at hand — a deranged, dangerous U.S. president trying to do anything he can to exert his will and stay in power — I think we should all remain on high alert. It may be that nothing else will be required of us in the moment other than to be active witnesses so that we can learn from our collective and individual mistakes. In the near future, we will certainly be called to implement that learning in a variety of ways.
Meanwhile, my current best judgment — 23 days before the inauguration of our next president and vice president — is to remember that Trump’s henchmen are abandoning him (albeit rather slowly) and that Trump himself is a coward. His spiteful energy is dissipating, even as it’s sounding ever more pathetic. As Roslyne Sophia Breillat wrote in Womb of Wisdom, “When indigenous female elders do not know what to do, they wait. They do nothing. And they are completely relaxed and open and at ease within this timeless place of surrender and being.” I think this wisdom applies in the current moment.