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27 July 2007 @ 01:16 am
In which I pick up an interesting hitchhiker  
Longish entry below the cut.

This afternoon I drove down to Santa Cruz from Felton to go swimming with my friend Irene and her two little ones.  I noticed a man standing by the side of the road.  I took another look at him in my rear view mirror, and saw that he had a white beard, and his thumb out. 

I don't generally pick up strangers when I am alone in the car.  But I try to be generous about giving rides to people I know, because I have been without a car for much of my life, and I know how much I appreciated people doing it for me.  The white beard decided me to turn back and offer him a ride.  If I remember the criminal profile info off the FBI website accurately, violence against strangers is almost exclusively associated with male gender in combination with youth.  Well, as it turns out, he didn't give me a moment's anxiety for my safety.  But I did find myself concerned for his welfare.

He got in and started to chatter.  And chatter.  Within a minute or two I found myself thinking "Pressure of speech.  Mania?  Possibly bi-polar?"  It has been a long time since my psychology training, and a long time since I briefly worked in that field.  It rarely occurs to me to contemplate diagnoses of people I meet. 

He said he was on his way to Santa Cruz to  help a Spanish speaking friend of his who is making a movie, but doesn't speak that much English.   I asked if he spoke Spanish, and we talked in Spanish for the rest of the drive.   He said that he is a linguist specializing in Meso-American languages, and that he was secretary and treasurer for ten years for the Endangered Language Fund.  Okay,  so now I like him.  He is smart, educated, and a language geek.   And I'd really like to see endangered languages saved for future generations.

I told him about linguaphiles on live journal, though I think I got the link wrong.  He wrote down his website URL for me. Then he announced that he is a candidate for president of the United States.  I said "Oh yeah?" in a friendly tone, meanwhile thinking, "gotta be hard to put together a campaign if you don't even have the money for your own car."   He elaborated that he had been fired from the University of Montana for speaking against the Iraq war.

Six miles and maybe 10 minutes after I picked him up I dropped him off in Santa Cruz.  

My thoughts have returned to him time after time throughout the day.  I checked out the website he gave me.   Rambling, disorganized thought.  No one had replied to any of his posts, far as I could see.  That made me sad.  Then I googled his name.  Sure enough, Wikipedia described him as a linguist specializing in Meso-American languages, who had held office in the Endangered Language Fund and had been fired from the University of Montana for speaking against the Iraq war.  So, his information on himself was reliable. 

I found an article in the U of M student paper in which the administration explained they didn't suspend him from his position for his political opinions, but because numerous students in his class had complained that his comments about the war were emotional and rambling, and his behavior was "erratic, bizarre and crazylike."

I guess we will never know whether his dismissal was due to his political views or perceptions of him being mentally unstable.  From what I could make sense of on his website agree with much of his assessment of the war.  But I share the impression that he is mentally unwell.  He said on his webpage that he has run through his savings, and has almost exhausted his retirement fund, etc. 

He seemed like a smart, good-hearted, Henry David Thorough type, who is losing his grounding in reality and facing probable poverty.  The whole thing really made me sad. 
Current Mood: sadsad
graeco_celt: Damfino!graeco_celt on July 27th, 2007 09:45 am (UTC)
My two cents
Hmm, according to Wikipedia, he's also an accomplished poet and translator.

It's a cliché, I know, but 'genius' is often accompanied by what appear to be a variety of forms of 'madness'.

I have to say, though, that I've known a number of people who are deemed 'crazy' by society whose only social failing, as far as I can see, is not holding back on their real feelings and beliefs about things.
There are plenty of topics that I could speak absolutely freely and fully and honestly about, that would probably see people advising my husband that I 'need help' and maybe need to be put somewhere that can give me that help.

Society trains us not to act freely on our feelings and emotions. You can pretty much get away with such things, as a child, on the basis that you don't know any better but once you're an adult, you'll be labelled crazy if you don't pull your head in and behave 'normally'. :S
graeco_celt: Damfino!graeco_celt on July 27th, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)
Also (because I'm anal)...
zabsterzabster on July 27th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Also (because I'm anal)...
Oops! Thanks!!

I hope you are right, that he is a genius whose unpopular ideas (at that time and place) resulted in him being seen as crazy when he wasn't. But I don't know. He struck me as being on the edge of losing it. And I guess I don't understand why someone would decide to be a candidate for president when he doesn't have a shot in hell... I doubt he can get more media attention for causes he cares about because he is running for president than by some other means...