Monday, November 9, 2009

The Therapy Culture Punts on Major Nidal Malik Hasan

It didn't take too long for the therapy culture to weigh in on last week's massacre at Fort Hood.

We should not be surprised that its denizens want us to see Major Hasan as suffering from a work-related psychiatric condition. Nor should we be surprised that the therapy culture wants to use the occasion to promote itself and to find more work for its practitioners.

But do you really believe that lack of therapy drove Major Nidal Hasan into the arms of Islamic extremism? Or has the therapy culture simply punted on its duty to distinguish between mental illness and evil actions?

Psychiatrists insist that they are not in the business of making judgments. If they cannot bring themselves to label a terrorist act a terrorist act, then this can only mean that their call for non-judgmentalism is simply a way to dispossess us of our moral sense.

Many non-judgmental psychiatrists had no problem whatever in declaring that the Bush administration was run by a bunch of psychotics and psychopaths.

When a soldier takes up arms against his comrades, he is a traitor. Saying that he is suffering from stress begs the question and deflects attention away from the moral issue onto a supposedly medical issue.

As soon at psychiatrists heard about the Fort Hood massacres they declared that Major Hasan must have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

But when commentators pointed out that Hasan had never been in a war zone, they were forced to backtrack. They changed their tune and said that he must have been suffering from second-hand post-traumatic stress disorder. He had not been overcome by the horrors of war; he was suffering because he had heard a lot of bad stories.
This from the New York Times. Link here. The title of the Times article says it all: "Painful Stories Take a Toll on Military Psychiatrists."

Of course, as several people have noted, if these painful stories caused Major Hasan to gun down his fellow soldiers, why is he the only one to have committed such an act? Surely, he is not the only one who heard these toxic stories.

Moreover, as one soldier said, this assumes that PTSD is contagious, which it is not. And it would also assume that these psychiatrists are poorly trained. Because, after all, aren't psychiatrists trained to listen to horrible stories?

Implicit in the Times story but explicit in the Huffington Post (link here) is the idea that war is bad, that it cannot be part of a healthy lifestyle, and that it is a waste of resources.

(Keep in mind that the therapy culture is a secular religion. Since its values correlate with those of religious institutions, it is violently opposed to the military and corporate worlds whose values point in a different direction.)

If you were a soldier how would that make you feel? Would it make you feel that you had made a sacrifice for freedom and for America or would it make you feel that you had wasted your time and energy, perhaps even suffering grievous injury, for a lie?

Grant that the military has been having trouble treating all of the post-traumatic stress. Can this problem be solved by enlisting more therapists or, more simply, by redeploying the troops, i.e. surrendering?

Or, is it more difficult treating the psyche's of the wounded because important segments of the civilian population, especially the media and Democratic politicians, thought the war was a mistake, engaged by a perfidious president for no good reason.

Last year we elected an anti-war president. And it was not too long ago that we read that soldiers in Afghanistan were becoming demoralized because their commander-in-chief was dithering over his decision about troop levels. Before that the American Congress voted dozens of times to cut off funding for the Iraq War. The better to cut our losses on what important legislators labeled an abject failure.

If you had participated in that war, if you had been grievously wounded, how would that have effected your attitude toward your sacrifice?

Your wounds would not make you a hero; they would make you a chump.

So, you have to wonder how much the national mood, divided at best, makes it more difficult to treat the psychological traumas of war.

After all, the greatest generation, the one that fought and won World War II, did not come home and go into therapy. It came home and went to work. No one attacked the American G.I. or the war effort during or after World War II. It was, as they say, the good war. It was the last war where the nation came together to back the war effort and to support the troops.

Vietnam was a different story. Soldiers were disparaged, demeaned, and vilified... even treated like common criminals... by an intelligentsia and media elite that insisted that their efforts and their sacrifice had been in vain.

In its lust for peace, the Vietnam anti-war movement encouraged this disdainful contempt of the American military, even to the point of occasionally sympathizing with the enemy.

After Vietnam, even liberals were obliged to accept that their attitude toward the war had aggravated the psychological traumas of combat. Thus, liberals swore never again to find themselves on the side of those who worked to demonize the American soldier.

However much they opposed the Iraq War or even the War in Afghanistan, they scrupulously paid lip service to the nobility of the soldiers. Someone their adulation of soldiers has always felt empty.

By praising the soldier and damning his mission, you can feel good about yourself while at the same time demoralizing the soldier who bases his identity on the success or failure of his mission.

When you admire the soldier's service in a lost cause you are saying that he has acted honorably but for nothing of value. I think it is naive to think that this cultural ambiance, victorious in the last election, helped to sustain troop morale.

Of course, being depressed and demoralized is not the same as suffering from PTSD. Rest assured, however, that the latter is far more difficult to treat in an atmosphere where a soldier cannot believe that his nation is united behind him, and that he has fought to protect and defend his nation and its freedom.

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