The experts say that the condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) shows up three to seven years after a veteran's return from war. Five-and-a-half years since the beginning of the Iraq War, seven years since the abuses at Enron and the shock of September 11, could the stock market's crash last week and the country's humongous deficit be symptoms of a serious national psychiatric disorder, a dysfunction that happens to a country when its leaders choose to ignore the stress potential of our looming housing and credit crisis? In other words, my friends, our economy - and maybe our entire country - could be suffering from a collective case of PTSD.
We have already stopped listening to the words of calm the president and his minions offer up as as if it were a narcotic salve for our economy's ills. Wall Street itself has begged the administration to just shut the heck up. As the NY Daily News put it in an October 10 report:
If the trauma inflicted by George W. Bush has had this kind of effect on us, pity poor John McCain. Bush's shortcut to the White House in 2000 ran right over him, before body checking Al Gore, and systematically dismantling the financial infrastructure of our country for the benefit of his cronies. Now the actions of the lame duck Bush administration have put their Haliburton supplied truck in reverse to run over him again. They must have something against him. I bet that's the way McCain feels."Just as he did on Monday and Tuesday - and three other times last week -Bush told the country he was on top of the growing crisis. Each time,the market tanked."
What must it be like to be locked in a Viet Cong prison more than thirty years after you were physically released? This is an idea that came from one of my friends who does counseling: John McCain suffers from PTSD. Really, it would explain a lot about his legendary rages and his manipulability at the hands of his masters - I mean campaign staff.
Sarah Palin was just another emotional outburst for Johnny Mac. Now that the zealots her rhetoric has inflamed are talking about anger and violence, Senator McCain is doing a little anger management style calming, deflecting their rage as he has learned to deflect his own.
Back in May, 2008, when the McCain campaign released the candidate's medical records, it was only since 2000, and did not "speak directly to the [psychological] effects of his years as a prisoner of war," according to several articles published at the time.
But these accusations are not new to McCain. According to a May 2008 article on salon.com:
"During McCain's first White House run, his unsuccessful battle with George Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 1999 and 2000, he faced a whispering campaign from rivals that suggested his Vietnam ordeal had permanently damaged his psyche -- specifically, that his famed outbursts of temper might be a sign of something serious, like post-traumatic stress disorder."
It is hard to imagine what McCain's five-and-a-half years of deprivation, torture and broken bones in the Hanoi Hilton may have done to the senator's young mind. It is also hard to imagine that every time he tries to raise his damaged shoulders, he is not reminded of his time in captivity and his two suicide attempts.
The McCain campaign assured the Washington Post that their candidate "has never received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder," even though salon.com points out that "they failed to note that it would have been impossible for McCain to receive such a diagnosis -- since the term 'post-traumatic stress disorder' was not in use until seven years after McCain's release from captivity."
That is something left out of the Washington Post's pre-analysis of McCain's May release of medical records. They cite research from the Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies, which follows its mission, "to aid, comfort, and ease the repatriation of past and future prisoners of war by means of lessons learned from the evaluation of former prisoners of war." The Post story says that the Pensacola based the Navy research center found that Vietnam fliers were somehow different:
"The naval aviators who were imprisoned in Vietnam are in their 60s and 70s. Both now and in the years immediately after their release, they have seemed unusually resistant to psychological damage from the experience.
"The lifetime prevalence of PTSD in all the Pensacola POW studies [since World War II] is 24 percent. In the naval aviators, however, it was 4 percent from 1979 to 1983, when the disorder was most likely to appear."
They go on to say that the center has found an anomoly in officer POWs as a whole. "Research on World War II prisoners found that officers as a group had far less psychological trauma than enlisted men."
This exception may have been what Cindy McCain was referring to in a recent interview with Fox News reporter Marie Claire. In response to a question about her husband's POW related trauma, whether or not he had "night sweats," the senator's wife said, "The guys who had the trouble were the 18-year-olds who were drafted. He was trained, he went to the Naval Academy, he was a trained United States naval officer, and so he knew what he was doing."
Other researchers, however, have found that while PTSD may not be prevalent, they were able to "identify something called 'late-onset stress symptomatology' or LOSS, which came to light after 562 combat veterans -- about 300 of them POWs -- answered a long questionnaire. The syndrome involves the return of troubling memories late in life, along with emotional anguish and guilt, often triggered by retirement and friends' deaths."
A 2007 study by Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, and National Center for PTSD at Boston University describes LOSS as:
"a phenomenon observed in aging combat veterans who (a) were exposed to highly stressful combat events in their early adult years, (b) have functioned successfully throughout midlife with no history of chronic stress-related disorders, but (c) begin to register increased combat-related thoughts, feelings, and reminiscences commensurate with the changes and challenges of aging."
So is John McCain suffering from PTSD? It is difficult to say, however it is entirely possible that he has shown, is showing or will show signs that he is suffering from LOSS as he ages and encounters "the challenges of aging." Perhaps his scrapes with the politics and policies of George W. Bush present the Republican nominee wityh just such a challenge.
One can only hope that when we are a lifetime away from this presidency, that we are further along in our recovery than the soldiers who have been traumatized by the wars they fought when they were young.