Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been in the news recently due to a book release. The resulting focus has been on his legacy, his many heart procedures, some while in office, and the possibility of impaired judgement as a result. What isn’t being talked about is an additional relevant question: did Cheney have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Have any of you read the book, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals,” by Jane Mayer? First sentence:
If anyone in America should have been prepared to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it ought to have been Vice President Dick Cheney.
A few pages later:
“Cheney was traumatized by 9/11. The poor guy became paranoid.” … “He thought that perfect security was achievable…. He was willing to corrupt the whole country to save it.”
The trouble with a traumatized society is it has trouble recognizing itself as such. Additionally, it fails to perceive when decisions being made at the top are likewise being driven by a traumatized mindset. How would this country’s post-9/11 policies have been different if our leaders got help recovering from their own trauma instead of making long-lasting destructive policy decisions affecting us to this day based on a traumatized template? How would we as citizens view our leaders differently if we held in mind their human fragilities? Sometimes consequences show up in faraway places. Post-9/11 policies went soft on the genocidal government of Sudan during the Bush administration in part due to the supposed gleaning of terrorist ‘tips’ from them, a country in which Osama Bin Laden had once resided. What role did PTSD play in these decisions? Knowing many from Sudan personally, this remains immensely troubling for me. Many of my activist friends make a loud outcry about “greed” and “oil” and “corporate interests”. Personally, I am dying to hear the outcry switch paradigms and begin to take a look at the trauma underneath that drives destructive policies. In a traumatized mindset people are prone to extremes. While some live in paranoid hyper-vigilance, scanning the environment for any sign of danger, others fail to recognize when a genuine threat is actually present. Within that there are variations where mistakes get made, pinning the “danger” sign on the wrong thing. Stereotypes get created and innocents are unfairly punished. Amidst great insecurity, we have normalized reactivity, acting out, humiliation as entertainment, and to an extent, cruelty. We see “others” everywhere, feel enraged by them, and they scare us. Our defensiveness, denial and insistence on being superior, paradoxically, weaken us. 9/11 could have been the grand teacher. After the shattering of our former worldview, it could have been the much needed invitation to evolve toward increased wisdom and compassion. It’s not too late. We can change the path we are on. Life is uncertain. “Perfect security” is not possible. We are vulnerable, and coming together within that is our greatest strength. Little attention is paid to the risks we are taking by not increasing awareness and deepening the understanding of trauma in mainstream societies. And yet, just think about how many places on this earth have traumatized societies? How can we continue to ignore this? In keeping with that theme, here is another Carl Wilkens event trailer, well-worth watching. Please join us November 3rd for Eyewitness to Genocide: The Journey of Carl Wilkens – An Event to Highlight Trauma, Refugees and Recovery. Buy tickets » Warmly, Barbara English, LMFT Founder & Executive Director, Living Ubuntu http://livingubuntu.org (949) 891-2005
[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.