I was listening to the Orange Polyp’s niece, Mary Trump, discuss the collective PTSD we have been recently suffering as a nation, as a planet. When her uncle, always the selfish, abusive prick he is now, was declared president in 2016 she had a full-blown PTSD reaction. She pointed out that the trauma her PTSD awakened was not related to her infamous uncle, it was just that the election of somebody so rotten, narcissistic, unethical, racist, nakedly “transactional” and unconcerned with the well-being of anyone but himself, filled her with terror. She knew that the worst among us had once again been elevated to a position of immense power. She was not wrong to feel that way. Donald Trump’s power over others is based on terror of his inevitable reprisals, backed with barked threats of violence and revenge, actual outbreaks of violent pay back, and continual atrocious betrayals of public and private trust that her famously transgressive uncle has never been held accountable for.
Covid-19 arrived just in time for her insane, powerful uncle to weaponize it, killing hundreds of thousands, who died needlessly as the former president divided the country on how to deal with a deadly pandemic, based on personal loyalty to him and a twisted notion of “freedom from tyranny”. The pandemic, he insisted, was a hoax perpetrated by Biden’s puppet masters in the Chinese Communist Party, that threatened the controversial incumbent’s undeniable landslide re-election strategy. Dr. Fauci is seen as a Commie traitor by tens of millions of Americans who continue to follow the former president’s scattered thoughts on the pandemic. How the Polyp is still walking around a free man, with the many serious crimes there is probable cause to believe he committed, including electoral interference, obstruction of justice and incitement to insurrection, is a mystery out of a dystopian science fiction novel.
Think of a childhood nightmare, like any good horror movie, where the monster finally leaves the scene and you can take a breath and wipe the sweat off your face. The next part of the dream happens under a beautiful blue sky, birds singing, a gentle breeze wafting through the flowers. Suddenly the bloody hand of the monster bursts up out of the earth, followed by the hideously muscled body, and the fucker is back, more terrifying than ever, and chasing you to your death by heart attack. In a healthy sequel to this nightmare your subconscious might have you suddenly stronger than the monster, grabbing the fucker and shoving it into a strong box you then lock, chain and throw into the middle of the deepest ocean. More often, though, the monster simply waits its next opportunity to chase you to a gruesome death. The terror this triggers is PTSD.
When someone rules by terror, an abusive parent, a partner, a bullying boss, a political leader, PTSD is always waiting. When you are in the grips of an abuser you don’t have time to process the trauma, all of your life force is focused on survival, particularly when the abuser appears to be all-powerful. Any moment the abuser can re-traumatize you, you have to be constantly vigilant, which is exhausting. Every abuser demands silence from his victim, snitches get stitches. If the abuse becomes well known the abuser risks people stronger than him coming to stop him from acting out against those weaker. In our current system we appear to have a shortage of people strong enough to resist the societal pressures to get rich, maintain privileges, etc. and strong enough to call bullshit on abuse in a way that can’t be ignored.
I’ve got no answer to the ultimate question of how we fight systemic abuse, except to keep finding allies and keep fighting, directly addressing the traumas we all face, with whatever means are at our disposal, in spite of how exhausting the fight is. In a nation of laws, as we are always told this is (and it’s certainly a nation of strict, even draconian laws when it comes to poor people and minorities) enforcement of the law against criminal abusers is the only protection the rest of us have. If criminals can openly threaten any reprisal imaginable, and send goon squads to harass and threaten direct violence, at say, school board meetings, and there is no consequence for this — the results are grimly predictable. We don’t actually live in a nation of law, we live in a nation of slaveholders and slaves, with a militarized army of slave catchers ready to use deadly force to enforce the bloody status quo and wink at the “crimes” committed by the protected class.
Of course, to speak of slavery in a nation that long ago outlawed it, except as punishment for a certain class of law breakers, is like comparing any other form of harmful abuse to rape. Rape is rape, slavery is slavery, a death camp is a death camp, certain things are indecent to compare other things to, we are often reminded. Indecency, of course, is famously in the eye of the beholder. Ron Deathsantis in Florida killing 69 children, and counting, with his Trump-inspired orders against reasonable pandemic precautions in his state, a hero to his enraged base, is an indecent motherfucker. The sassy Republican woman who heedlessly governs another Covid-19 hotspot, South Dakota, the muscular worm who governs the Hang ’em High state of Texas, heroes to some, indecent, irresponsible reckless killers to others.
PTSD is an illuminating frame to see things in — we are all suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a nation, in a flooding world that is also on fire and subject to drought, where there is now no penalty for public lying, even spreading lies that incite deadly violence and the dismantling of our democracy. The First Amendment protects the right tell even the most disgusting lies, we know, just as the Second Amendment, per Antonin Scalia, protects the right of zealots in Texas to outlaw all regulation of guns, including the need for a permit to carry or use one. The lack of accountability for and “rehabilitation” of our wealthiest criminals, top war criminals, traitors like Robert E. Lee (unaccountable for his treason and leading an armed rebellion that resulted in 700,000 American deaths, honored in his lifetime and pardoned posthumously by Gerald Ford…), adds to the power of our collective trauma. Our collective trauma is cumulative, since traumas of past generations get passed on in the form of reality-based terror, and ongoing reality-confirming violence, and each generation adds new layers to the constantly evolving, never-addressed trauma.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is exhausting, and debilitating, and can only be overcome with hard, patient, painful work, usually involving other PTSD victims. Most of us, of course, are famous for not wanting to do hard, painful work, particularly if it takes tremendous patience. More challenging still, because this is collective, national PTSD, based on collective, national traumas, it will require much of this hard, painful work to be done a public level, in full view of everyone. It will require painful admissions, apologies and reconciliation. It will require objective justice. Let’s fucking do it, I say.