Wednesday, October 17, 2007

American Folk Hero, Or Mental Patient?

From an old obituary:

"The deceased was well known through this region by his eccentricity, and the strange garb he usually wore... He was a native of Pennsylvania, we understand, but his home—if home he had—for some years past was in the neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, where he has relatives living. He is supposed to have considerable property, yet denied himself almost the common necessities of life—not so much perhaps for avarice as from his peculiar notions on religious subjects... In the most inclement weather he might be seen barefooted and almost naked except when he chanced to pick up articles of old clothing."

Add to this the well-documented fact that the man typically wore a tin pot on his head in place of a hat, and you may rest reasonably assured that Johnny Appleseed would've been committed to a Green Acres equivalent if he had lived sometime after the 19th century, or somewhere other than the fringes of the frontier.

I worry, a bit, that in the process of doing a fair bit of good for a lot of people with mental illness, we may also be medicating away the next generation of American folk heros.


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