Thanks for your note A. And I saw your note regarding the importance of these conversations. That’s something we definitely agree about. Way too invisible, and glad to be having them.
To answer your first question: I appreciate how you put it, but I don’t know what it would mean for me to “disagree” with the coercive methods Liza Long has resorted to. “Resorted to” is certainly the right phrasing, but no, I wouldn’t say “disagree”.
To me, that would mean that in a situation where my own efforts to compassionately triage a violently mad situation were failing to make a dent, that I would refuse to call in coercive intervention in an effort at self/other-preservation (given the lack of other interventions to call on). And that, instead, I would choose one of my other immediate options: (2) attacking the person (3) letting them attack me (4) fleeing and leaving the person alone to (4a) possibly attack/kill themselves or (4b) be harmfully reacted to by a stranger or (4c) possibly calm themselves down.
I do not envy anyone these options. Who wants to take the chance that any door other than 4c be the door that opens? I have been in a situation where I was all too aware that I may have to call this question (not to mention that “waiting out” these horrible options means staying in a traumatizing situation).
I “disagree” with all of them in the sense that I don’t wish them on anyone, including Liza Long’s hurting son and including Liza Long. Including me and including the person I was in the situation with. And everything you have shared about your own situation and story makes sense as well. And neither of us knows if this exactly articulates Ms. Long’s and her son’s particular situation.
It’s true that it’s all very personal — to a point. And the situations encompass meaningful differences, like whether the people are children or adults in a given circumstance. But we have a responsibility to think beyond personal experience to the wide spectrum of situations at play, including yours, mine, Liza Long’s, and so many others. And I think that is an important part of compassionate action, which I think “thegirlwhowasthursday” failed to display in her post.
I sit for now with a few more things also related to what you wrote:
1) The fact you point out that in most circumstances coercion generally tends to promote ostracizing and further violence does not to me mean that in a given situation someone must be willing to sacrifice themselves or others to avoid coercion in the absence of other options. That fact, however, does to me mean that someone should, if at all capable, compassionately do what they can to make alternative options actively available for when people need. Both in their personal communities and structurally for all.
2) Speaking of feminism, it’s important to me to make visible the fact that in the vast majority of these kinds of situations, women — whether as partners, parents, or adult children – are the people left/expected to absorb the brunt of these circumstances (and often violence) alone, in the absence of decent structural support. I do not shame individual women — for reaching out for the only options they can find, for the other person when they decide their own capacities/abilities/resources are spent, or for saving themselves. Myself included.
3) I do not think that everything different, deviant, or unusual is “ill”; much like certainly everything that’s normalized is not well. But I also think that some things labeled “ill” – be it a diagnosis or a hunch – are ill and cause great suffering in and of themselves, albeit compounded by other factors. Both for the person at the center of it and for the people close to them. And in terms of violent action, I will emphatically repeat the fact that people experiencing “mental illness” are much more likely to be a victim of violence than to perpetrate violence on someone else. But when it does occur, I do not expect loved ones and caretakers (usually women) dealing with disturbed violent situations to live out the double-bind current society puts them in by never reaching for coercive action.