POET:Nico Wilkinson
PIECE: Mental Illness Testifies
TOPICS DISCUSSED:
Health and Medicine
SUMMARY:
This poem is about how we ascribe mental illness as the reason for mass shootings.

Key Lines/Phrases

Key Line/Phrase
Discussion

“here I am on the stand, always the target, I’m starting to wonder if I’m being gas lit because I’ve got plenty of alibis during Charleston, I was a woman having a panic attack before she took the LSAT”

Nico Wilkinson addresses the issue of the mass shootings that have taking place and how people want an easy answer. Essentially people want to know the reasoning for people doing such acts as they do. This being that they are mentally ill but that not the case for every single one of them. She explains how society itself has shaped them into who they are and gave them a reason to do what they did. She compares society to a machine that takes people in and programs them to think and act a certain way. When a machine fails, the public, uses mental illness as way out and make it seem it’s the individual’s fault. Even though that’s exactly how society told them to react to a certain situation.

Full Transcript of Poem

And now the case of the people vs mental illness
On the charges of Charleston Colorado Springs and Orlando
The prosecution calls the defendant to the stand
Mental Illness how do you plead?
Not guilty your honor
I’ve taken the blame for a lot of bloodshed but this
I don’t think I did this
I mean it’s hard to me it’s hard for me to be sure, but this doesn’t sound like me
But here I am on the stand always the target
I’m starting to wonder it I’m being gas lit
Because I’ve got plenty of alibis
during Charleston I was a woman having a panic attack before she took the LSAT
during Colorado Springs I was a homeless veteran being arrested for standing on a median
during Orlando I was a youth committing suicide
don’t get me wrong your honor I don’t think I’m a saint
any more than a hurricane thinks it’s a breeze but this
see I tend to make it, so people don’t fit too well
like a cog that keeps slipping until they’re removed from the machine but this
this seems like the outcome of the machine working perfectly
like you programmed a code and you were surprised when all the functions came together the way they were meant to and here I am on the stand and entitlement prejudice supremacy walking free no one’s looking for them
they’re not even hiding they’re getting athletic scholarships
they’re at the top of the class at the police academy
they got a license to open carry
I’m pretty sure they were just made president
Pretty sure I shouldn’t be here but huh
I’m a good scapegoat, right?
For all your white cloaks
your good old boys, your boys will be boys, will be boys, will be boys will be what is I again
men who grew up with what up programed into them and what’s that saying
if you teach a man to fish and you teach him his life is worth more than an entire ocean, he will leave nothing, just a red sea of thousands of bodies floating
I’m just saying if you insist on blaming me on offering them an out on calling them poor boys don’t be surprised
There will be a next time and my hands will still be clean

In-depth Analysis

When you think about the health of yourself or even the health of someone else you think about their physical health. Such as their weight, heart and lungs function things of that nature not really about their mental health. Furthermore, it wasn’t until recently that people deeply began to take mental health seriously. Before you would go to the doctors and they would ask how you felt physically if anything hurt questions like that but now you go in for a checkup and they ask if you have been feeling depressed or sad. So why now? Well in the past couple years mass shootings have been taking place at schools all over the country. Starting with the Sandy Hook shooting where a man murdered 20 young children and 4 adults. It was later found that he was a schizophrenic, and people began to use his illness as reasoning for his actions. Essentially it brought to light the idea, that maybe, it wasn’t the society that failed to create a normal human being, but his illness made him that way.

In Nico’s poem, she talks about putting mental illness like these on “trial” for the crimes that these individuals committed. The Government needs someone or something to blame for the actions of individuals that stopped them from following the simplest of social norms. As they do not want the blame to fall on them, they create new groups to blame. This is referred to as scapegoating.

Mental illness causes dysfunction in one’s life and creates the illusions of unsafety. With this, the individual is only trying to save themselves. Most of these mass shootings were in tribute to the government and what it stood for. Nico gives “alibies” for each shooting that was done by some that had no record of mental illness. They had thought up plans that took time and effort to complete. Someone with a mental illness wouldn’t be able to do something like that. It creates chaos in someone’s life, not order. Sociologists would consider this deviant. They are going against what is correct and acting out against it. Once someone is labeled as deviant there is no going back.

The way Nico explains society in her poem has many things in common to the Structural Functionalist theory. That society is made up of smaller groups that all play a part in the larger group. In her poem, she refers to there being a machine that creates programs people. This can be seen as a way that society teaches people how to act and what to say and placing them into different classes. People that are good are placed in different social class than those that are considered mentally ill. This divide creates a society and shows us how without one group the other wouldn’t be the same. Finally, Nico was just trying to point out that you can try to blame others for your problems, but in the end, you’re the only one to blame. (student analysis)

Follow-up Resources/Discussions

Resources
Discussion/Follow-up Questions

Follow-up Sociology questions:

  • How come these types of statistics are not shared in today’s media outlets?
  • Shouldn’t the government come up with better ways to solve this problem and assist people with mental illness?
  • What is the reasoning for using mental illness as an excuse for modern crime committing?

Artist Comments

This space is reserved for any comments the author of the piece may have about the points he was trying to get across and the background of why he wrote the poem.