My mind is not for rent — or for renovation
Last week was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
A week of solemn remembrance and events let up to the date, as those who were there and those who only read about the day shared their thoughts on Camelot, on how tragedy unites us as Americans, and of duty to country.
Of course, my attention-deficit brain jumped back and forth from all of these topics, and started mentally Wikipedia-ing anything associated with Kennedy and his legend. All of the articles, TV specials, books and talk shows discussing the late president offered a veritable cornucopia of JFK factoids. All of them, of course, pointed toward vast government conspiracy.
One of the factoids that always sticks out to me whenever I hear the names of the Kennedy clan is the fact that JFK’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy, had a prefrontal lobotomy.
A quiet young lady later became erratic and acted out under scrutiny focusing on her more famous siblings. The best option, of course, was to jam a butter knife into her brain and swish it around, cutting off those parts of the brain that make you, you know, you. Not unlike snaking out a drain for a stubborn clog. Brain drain, if you will.
Now, there are few things in medical history more terrifying to me than lobotomies. I saw a PBS documentary about Dr. Walter Freeman, a lobotomy guru who was present for the procedure on Rosemary Kennedy. He later used a procedure that went behind the eyeballs instead of through the skull.
Now, just imagine that. You’re going through a bad teen phase, acting out and being generally hard to handle. You’re a boy who’s getting into trouble, or a wife who’s sick of making meatloaf. Some loved one calls the ice pick man, and next thing you know your brain is being jabbed and swirled around like a straw in a frozen Frappucino.
Just thinking about sharp nails being shoved behind my eyelids makes me want to pat my eyes reassuringly. Eyelids feel like the thinnest, papery delicate wafers and should definitely be kept far away from sharp instruments.
Aside from the whole brain-surgery-for-convenience thing, lobotomization was a horrible crime against free thinking. Imagine if Albert Einstein or Jim Carrey had been lobotomized because of their unorthodox ideas and wacky facial contortions. The brain is better off being a little weird, a little wired, a little unpredictable. Firings of the free-thinking brain plant seeds of genius.
The weird have always had to contend with the societal ice pick man, trying to blot out their nonconformist thoughts. The Ramones wrote “Shock Treatment,” “Psychotherapy” and “Teenage Lobotomy” about the pressure on teens (or punk rock bands) to think happy thoughts. The FBI kept a file on journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who often wrote and spoke his mind unabashedly, painting psychedelic new ideas in readers’ minds.
As Rush frontman Geddy Lee sang in “Tom Sawyer,” my mind is not for rent. Nor is it open to ice pick renovation. You are free to think your weird thoughts, people. Be unique. Be yourselves. Your brain is your own, and ain’t nobody gonna swirl up my brain Frappucino but me.