On September 11, 2001 a brilliant and insane plot was carried out to take down America. Not only were buildings destroyed and lives lost, but what was also shattered that day was the innocence of our nation.
After an initial rallying, we’ve had a rough go. Our reactions to our grief and anger have been varied and not necessarily effective in helping us move on. In fact I think a case could be made that as a nation we are still suffering from these attacks in a very unacknowledged way – similar to the way some military personnel struggle after seeing combat or a woman might react after being raped.
It’s called Post-Traumatic Stress.
Post-Traumatic Stress causes a shake-up in the sufferer’s ability to feel safe. People, situations, daily tasks that once seemed routine and benign can no longer be taken for granted. If untreated, this hyper-aroused state can cause, among other things, irritability, anger, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency to being startled, and hyper-vigilance to threat. Think raising the terror alert system to orange.
Add to these the fact that PTSD symptoms can become chronic and you’ve fast forwarded to today in America. According to Medicinenet Chronic PTSD includes: “problems regulating feelings, which can result in explosive anger, or passive aggressive behaviors; persistent feelings of being completely different from others; feeling the perpetrator of trauma is all-powerful and preoccupation with either revenge against or allegiance with the perpetrator”.
I think we’ve seen all of these symptoms. In our conversations with family, friends and perceived foes such as _____ (fill in your own blank: liberals, tea partiers, Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Obama, Beck, Palin, Maddow, Fox News, Jon Stewart etc.). From the political machines that blast their messages, to the difficulties in enacting reasonable legislation, at our airports and our borders there is a tension, a fear, a sense of threat that is palpable.
The biggest challenge with PTSD is separating out unreasonable from reasonable fear. And that is what we have been struggling with ever since 9/11/01. There is reason to be fearful. But we have lost our ability to regulate this fear. Our take on whether that shadow is a sniper or a rapist or a terrorist is not always accurate.
So what to do about it?
Take back our power as a great nation. Take it back from the fear-mongerers in the media whose job it is to keep us worried so that we will keep tuning in. Take it back from the Koch brothers and similar behind the scenes players who have exploited our fears for their own purposes. Take it back from the political extremists who – while often having very valid points – are too fear-based and myopic to hold the nation together as a WHOLE.
September 11, 2001 showed us that this is serious.
Now we need to be serious about our recovery. We need to lead it and not just continue our knee-jerk reactions. Challenge yourself first. Work with good FACTS not divisive spin that sees a bomb in every baby carriage. Be open to hearing others who speak with reason – even if they have a different take on things. Manage your own symptoms.
Invite others to manage theirs. On the airwaves, on blogs, in the media, in our legislation. Communicate in a reasonable manner to those around you. Insist on hearing from reasonable leaders. Vote for reasonable representatives. Encourage reasonable laws. Respectfully, reasonably (and much more loudly) challenge unreasonableness where you find it.
Come on people. We are better than this. Now let’s start proving it.