Why I’m So Sad (& It’s Not Because Of Libya, Israel Or 9/11)

Ilana Mercer, September 14, 2012

I AM SO SAD—and it is not because a justifiably angry crowd of Libyans in Benghazi stormed an embassy that represents the brute force that destabilized their lives for decades to come. I feel for my countrymen who perished in that embassy, but the truth remains that they acquiesced in leveling Libya. And by so doing, they invited into that country the very lynch-mob that took their lives.


The Americans targeted had become an irritant to the long-suffering Libyans, who will use any US provocation, real or imagined, to expel the people who “came, saw, and conquered.” To those who imagine the death of our diplomats in Libya turns on American free-speech, I say this: You have no right to deliver your disquisition in my living room. You have only the right to request permission to so do from this (armed) private-property owner.

By extension, you have no universal right to “free speech” on another man’s land. More so than to America’s diplomats—Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Iran belong to the people of Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Iran.

I AM SO SAD—and it is not because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen a most inopportune time to insert himself into the middle of a rancorous American election season, and by so doing, make Mitt Romney’s foreign policy bellicosity look good to a war-weary people that can ill-afford it. Now is not a good time, Bibi. Israel is a wedge issue in the coming election. If Israelis love Americans as Americans love Israel, they need to understand that, “The Titan is Tired”:

We Americans have our own tyrants to tackle. We no longer want to defend to the death borders not our own—be they in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, wherever. And we don’t need our friends looking to us to do so.

I AM SO SAD—and it is not because another 9/11 has come and gone. The polls indicate that Americans want to move on; have moved on. Perhaps Americans have realized that it behooves our “overlords who art in DC” to keep them stuck in grief. By stunning us like cattle to the slaughter, the statists have been able to perpetrate in our name crimes way worse than 9/11.


I AM SO SAD because my sweet, kind friend, Thomas Szasz, has passed away. Tributes merely touch on Prof. Szasz’ unmatched genius and attendant achievements. (Professor of psychiatry emeritus, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York, and author of the seminal work, “The Myth of Mental Illness.”)I attempted to word what Thomas Szasz did over decades, in the advance praise he requested for one of his many magisterial masterpieces, Coercion as Cure: A Critical History of Psychiatry:

“Bit by barbarous and bizarre bit, Thomas Szasz dismantles psychiatry’s rickety scaffolding, exposing over two centuries of physical torture and tortured logic. Professor Szasz takes the necessary analytical and empirical solvents to this state-empowered fraternity of sorceresses. He also supplies the only salve for the psychiatric violence he correctly dubs ‘psychiatric slavery’: abolition: Now, ‘Let the sunshine in.'”

“This will be hard to beat,” Tom quipped. (“Tom” was how he’d sign off.)

Allow me, then, to speak but briefly to the tender friendship Prof. Szasz and I developed over the years. Briefly, for the breezy ease with which my countrymen share their feelings with strangers is alien to me. Abreacting à la Oprah in public bespeaks a shallowness that was foreign to Tom too. Whenever we communicated, it was in succinct, intense and precise language. We spoke a similar language. Dare I say that it was our shared ancestry as European Jews that accounted for these cultural commonalities?


For example, we came together—yet stood apart from libertarian mainstream—on the all-time moral litmus test: The state-sanctioned, slow execution of Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo. Even eerier was the way we both drew on the allegoric power of William Faulkner to capture the late Ms. Schiavo’s plight, before knowing one another. “A Rose for Emily” was Tom’s source of inspiration, in June of 2006; mine was “As She Lay Dying,” in March of 2005.

“Kindred souls” was Tom’s reaction.

Late in 2009, we decided to meet near Huntington Beach, where, Dr. Szasz, nearing 90, was to address a conference. Alas, he was detained on the East Coast by bad weather, and my husband and I went on to visit in the vicinity. “Maybe I’ll mobilize myself and visit you next summer in Seattle,” he promised.


I last heard from Dr. Szasz on July 27, this year. Characteristically, it was in response to a column I had written, “‘You didn’t build That’: Obama’s Political Epitaph.” As he would so often do, the great man excerpted his favorite lines. “BRAVO, AGAIN!,” he added in capitals. I replied:

Thank you, my dear. It seems so futile. But I like hearing from you. How have you been?

Tom wrote back laconically but poignantly:

“Yes. Disheartening. ‘Virtue is its own reward.’ – I am OK.”

Would that everyone rationed speech thus; the entire mainstream punditocracy would cease to exist.


Earlier this year—it was in May—I made my way to Manhattan, where it was my distinction to address Victor Niederhoffer’s New York City Junto gathering as featured speaker. I inquired whether Tom would be gallivanting around, as was his wont. Ever sweet and affectionate, there was a finality to his reply:

“Many thanks, dear Ilana. Sadly no. I am OK but progressively weakening and everything is too much of a schlep. I enjoy and agree with all that you send me. Love (without a first sight), Tom.”

“Promise me,” I wrote back, “that this will not be unrequited love.”

“It is NOT,” Tom replied.


September 14

CATEGORIES: Democracy, Foreign Policy, Free speech, Individualism, Israel, Libertarianism, Middle East, Private Property Rights, Pseudoscience, Psychiatry & The Therapeutic State, Therapeutic State