Responses to Kanye’s latest episode are mostly devoid of the mockery you might have expected five or 10 years ago, ranging instead from pity to concern to blame directed at those in his immediate circle. “We’re watching an unwell man, a husband and father, unravel. I wish someone could reach him to help him,” tweeted political commentator and writer S.E. Cupp. “Patients with bipolar disorder need compassion, not judgment. Even rich celebrities are human beings with families,” a doctor added. “Where are his friends and family at?” jumped in rapper Mike Baggz. But hand-wringing can quickly morph into judgement about a situation we, as armchair observers, know nothing about: Kim Kardashian has been slammed for supposedly enabling or encouraging Kanye, although Kanye himself suggested in his rant that she has been trying to help her husband get better behind the scenes. While there’s always been some glee around the prospect of their divorce, the two have four children together; a separation would be nothing aside from deeply sad.
Compassion is the best response to Kanye at this point. As Halsey, who also has bipolar disorder, explained, “a manic episode isn’t a joke. If you can’t offer understanding or sympathy, offer your silence.” That doesn’t mean Kanye isn’t above criticism, she continued, but “you can hate someone’s actions or opinions without contributing to stigma that damages an entire community of sometimes vulnerable people all for a couple of laughs.”
Where things start to get tricky is conflating Kanye’s condition with his talent, a trap that Kanye himself has fallen into and dangerously perpetuates: “That’s my bipolar s–t, n—a what? That’s my superpower, n—a ain’t no disability,” he rapped on 2018’s Ye.