This is a postscript to my post “And Here I Thought That Louie Gohmert Was the Most Ridiculous Congressman from Texas” [https://academeblog.org/2013/06/20/and-here-i-thought-that-louie-gohmert-was-the-most-ridiculous-congressman-from-texas/].
One of the few bills to receive overwhelming bipartisan support over the past three years has been one that eliminated the use of the word “lunatic” in all federal legislation.
Paralleling the 2010 bill that eliminated the use of the word “retarded,” the bill was supported by a broad spectrum of mental-health professional organizations, who argued that the term has become not just meaningless but offensively so in an age that seeks to treat mental illnesses in more much more nuanced and sympathetic ways.
The bill passed the U.S. Senate unanimously, and then it passed 398-1 in the U.S. House.
The lone negative vote was cast by Louie Gohmert, who explained his vote in the following way:“Not only should we not eliminate the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy. We should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”
So, in the context of an effort to reduce the use of a word that most people have come to regard as offensive, Gohmert actually saw an opportunity to be flippant, suggesting that the word ought to be used more indiscriminately and applying it to any of his congressional colleagues who disagree with his ideology.
That stance goes a long way toward explaining why this bill has been one of the very few to receive bipartisan support and why the level of civility in the Congress seems to be approaching, if not to have already reached, an all-time low.
Gohmert’s remark brought to mind the late George Carlin’s observation about road rage: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
The corollary here would seem to be the choice between being labeled a lunatic and embracing Louie Gohmert’s version of sanity.