Normalizing Lists, Depriving Rights

The word “normalize” has become totes trendy, and so commonly misused, even by the press secretary for Rep. Keith Ellison, who seeks to be the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Isaiah Breen’s twit, which began “honor Carrie Fisher,” included:

-normalize mental illness and its treatment

As press secretary, Breen is someone who should be a wordsmith, and so its misuse is noteworthy. I took note. So too did nearly 200,000 others who “liked” or “retweeted” his misuse of the word.

In response, people “explained” to me what he meant. Their explanations differed, but that’s not the point. If he meant to say “de-stigmatize” mental illness, then that’s what he should have said. One response I received was, “Pretty sure you know what he meant and you’re kinda just being a dick.”

That’s the point. That words and concepts have been so watered down, fuzzied, reduced to their most vague and simplistic notions, that we “feel” meaning. It need no longer be right, as long as it feels right. And this is being used to “normalize” the deprivation of constitutional rights as well.

During the presidential debates, one of the very few things the candidates shared was their love of lists. The no-fly list. The terror watch list. If a name was on it, then it was a foregone conclusion that the person was unworthy of constitutional rights. How the name got on the list troubled neither candidate. Nor did how a name got off the list if it was there without basis. Or if it just happened to be shared by more than one person. As long as it wasn’t your name wrongfully placed on a list, but then, you would never be on the list because you’re a good person. Bad things never happen to good people.

When lists serve a purpose people favor, we blink and squint a bit to overcome our rational objection to government agents putting people on lists at will. They have official criteria, but that’s just to cover their butts. No one vets the lists to be sure the criteria are met. And the public is far more concerned with their own safety and comfort, their own political desires, than about people wrongfully put on a list. You have to break some eggs to make an omelet, right? And they probably deserve it anyway. We have tons of cute phrases to justify error.

But the government is busily crafting more lists, knowing full well how the public is good with them. Josh Blackman raises another list that’s being put together under our noses by the Obama administration, while we’re obsessed with anticipating the apocalypse with his successor. It’s a list of the “mentally defective.”

On December 19, 2016, the Social Security Administration (SSA) finalized new regulations that will create a process for transferring the records of those who seek a “representative payee” (legal proxy) under the Social Security disability benefits programs to NICS, so that they may be considered a “mental defective” and thus lose their Second Amendment rights.  The SSA rule is arbitrary—there’s no evidence that someone who needs help with SSA paperwork can’t be trusted with a gun—and inconsistent with the regulatory and statutory scheme, not to mention blatantly unconstitutional. Nor does the rule attempt to make that connection.

The regulations will be effective January 18, 2017, two days before a new president takes office, and populate the list of “mentally defective” people with those who use a representative to obtain social security disability benefits. Shades of Buck v. Bell. The list is then used to exploit “Heller’s ‘mentally ill’ dicta” by depriving those on the list of their fundamental constitutional right under the Second Amendment.

Wait a sec, you say. That’s a “no-gun” list, and much as you would love to “normalize mental illness,” you hate guns. Any list that means fewer guns is a good list, because fewer guns is good.

Sure, this is a conflict in the scheme of the marginalized victim hierarchy, as being “mentally defective” should be normalized, and yet being “mentally ill” shouldn’t serve to deprive a person of their constitutional rights. The notions are irreconcilable.

But with a quick blink, wink and squint, we can put this conflict out of our heads because the Second Amendment is the evil constitutional right. It’s not as if the government would use the exact same concept, the creation of idiot lists, to deprive people of rights under the other amendments, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth. They’re the good Amendments. We like those rights. Well, maybe not the First, but only when people we don’t like try to use it to hurt our feelings.

Is there any necessary connection between people who use a representative to get SSDI and mental defects? Hardly, but it’s close enough that you won’t notice because you won’t think that hard, and you like the deprivation of rights anyway. And surely, if someone is wrongfully deprived of their constitutional rights, there is a mechanism that survives due process scrutiny.

What about due process? The disabled can only seek relief after their name is transmitted to DOJ for inclusion in the NICS.

An individual can request relief any time after the adjudication is final but we cannot delay fulfilling our obligations under the NIAA to provide relevant records to the Attorney General while the person decides whether to request relief.

And how long will that relief process take?

We will work in good faith to respond to all requests for relief promptly and within the 365-day period. . . .  If we fail to resolve an application for relief within that period for any reason, including a lack of appropriated funds, we will be deemed to have denied the relief request without cause. In accordance with the NIAA, judicial review of any petition brought under this paragraph (d) shall be de novo.

If you, or just your shared name, ends up on a list, it’s not like there is nothing you can do. Just wait until it’s finalized, then ask nicely, then wait a year, after which it will be deemed denied,* upon which you can go to court for judicial review. De novo!

In a weird way, Breen got his “normalization of mental illness.” Under this regime, the mentally ill (or defective, if you prefer the old Buck v. Bell-type characterization) can be deprived of their constitutional rights as arbitrarily and capriciously as anyone else. When it’s a list of people who are denied their fundamental rights under the Second Amendment, though, you will turn your head the other way because those aren’t rights you care about. But should the same list, for the same reasons, be used to deprive people of other rights, say the right to vote, will you feel the same? Too bad. so sad. If it works for one, it works for others. Now that’s normalization.

*This is actually a good thing, since you’re required to exhaust administrative remedies before you’re allowed to seek relief from a court. Without this, the agency can just ignore your request for relief and you’re hung up in administrative purgatory forever.

12 thoughts on “Normalizing Lists, Depriving Rights

  1. Patrick Maupin

    A researcher told a bureaucrat that people receiving SSRIs shouldn’t have guns, and the bureaucrat’s minion couldn’t read his handwriting properly, and thought the “R” was a “D” with a smudge next to it.

    What happened next is fully explained by the government’s vast, competent, conspiracy to do bad things to people everywhere.

  2. DaveL

    Nobody likes a pedant. They still had bloody well better appreciate them, though, because pedants are the people who care about whether a load limit was in pounds or kilograms, where the decimal point goes in your bank account balance, and how many surgical sponges went into the patient.

  3. celsee

    I know I will be drawn and quartered by our dear editor for not following the rules, but this should be the JDog post of the year.

  4. Calvin

    The most insidious aspect of this is the fact that the government forces elderly and disabled beneficiaries who just need a friend or relative to help them deal with the bureaucracy, to appoint a representative payee against their wishes, thereby declaring themselves mentally defective in the eyes of the government, all because the government itself arbitrarily refuses to recognize a beneficiary’s appointed power of attorney, for the purposes of dealing with the SSA.

    So the elderly or disabled person who has trouble dealing with the SSA on the phone, or going in to the district office to correct a mistake on their benefits, has two choices, either appoint a friend or relative to be their representative payee, so that the SSA will talk to them, or try to find an attorney at law who is willing to represent them, which is impossible, because fees are strictly capped, and not worth an attorney’s time for routine problems.

  5. KP

    So somehow your lack of ability to read a form because you’re dyslexic translates into not being allowed to own a gun because… you can’t tell a deer from a cop? ..can’t tell a squirrwl from a congressman??

    Actually, all those losing their guns go on ANOTHER list- the one of first draftees when the army is desperate for warm bodies in a few years!

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