By Tom Burns
We need to take it easy on Kanye West.
That can be a hard thing to say without rolling your eyes. I get it.
The man is a bombastic showman. He’s wealthy, known for egotistical interruptions at awards shows, and rarely shirks away from the spotlight.
So, why should we take it easy on Kanye?
Because mental illness isn’t funny.
That’s not me making a joke at Kanye’s expense. I’m not saying he’s crazy. But, in the light of several troubling public appearances and the news yesterday that the rapper has been checked into a Los Angeles hospital for “his own health and safety,” we have to realize that this is not the time to laugh about Kanye West.
Sensationalizing what’s going on with Kanye right now trivializes the toll that emotional distress can take on ANY of us, even those of us married to Kim Kardashian.
I know it can be hard to sympathize with the 1%, but take a look at some of the events in Kanye’s life recently.
His wife was robbed at gunpoint in Paris last month. He ended shows early. He went on extended, barely coherent rants. He canceled his Saint Pablo Tour. And all of this happened around the anniversary of his beloved mother’s death.
That’s a hard couple of weeks for ANYONE, rich or poor.
If masked gunmen tied my wife up and held her at gunpoint, I’d be inconsolable. I’d be broken. I can’t imagine that I’d feel a moment of peace, safety or contentment for a very long time.
I find myself needing to remember that. I find myself placing myself into Kanye’s shoes, because even if they are very expensive shoes, they belong to a human being.
He’s also a dad and a husband, just like I am.
But the big thing we all need to remember in this moment is that mental illness is an ILLNESS.
It’s not an affect or an eccentricity. It’s an illness. The man is fatigued, under duress. The man is in need of medical care.
If we all knew that Kanye West had cancer and he came out on stage and collapsed, we’d feel TERRIBLE. We’d be praying for Kanye all night.
But if he shows signs of mental or emotional distress, we mock it. We share his rant transcript on Facebook. We giggle about Jay-Z sending a team of hit men after him.
The thing is — those two scenarios are exactly the same thing.
In both, a man showed symptoms of illness in public. What defines those scenarios is how we, as the public, respond to them.
For a change, let’s actually embrace the better angels of our nature in 2016. I think we can all agree that it’s been a rough year.
Let’s not snark, troll, or laugh about Kanye being sick.
Let’s look kindly on people who have gone through similar experiences recently — like Kid Cudi, who just released a beautiful letter thanking his friends and family for their support during his recent bout of depression.
Let’s act like the kind of people that Kid Cudi would write a “thank you” letter to — not the kind of people who make fun of someone for showing signs of emotional fatigue.
Because we’re better than that.
We know that if we can laugh at Kanye for needing psychological support, that means that we are willing to laugh at ANYONE who’s struggling to keep it together … and that’s not the world I want to live in.
We need to support people struggling with mental illness, regardless of who they are and what they do for a living.
So, yes, it can be hard to give Kanye the benefit of the doubt because of his big personality and puffed-up persona.
I’m sure he’ll be back on his feet soon, saying something provocative and ego-drenched and impossible to defend.
But, for now, try to show the man some empathy. Regardless of what you think of his public persona, he’s a father, a son, and a husband who’s having a difficult time at the moment.
Let’s be the kind of world that supports a man who needs help, rather than turning his pain into a meme or a cheap status update.
It’s a kindness we should owe any human being — especially one who wrote something as fierce and important as “Jesus Walks.”
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