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Home > Fred Reed > Archive

Dignity and Respect in America

by Fred Reed    --show me more like this

Fred Reed

The trouble with terrorism is that it produces too many psychotherapists. I'm trying to figure out what to do with them. My first thought was to take them to the sewage treatment plant over at Blue Plains and plunk them in, but I figured it would contaminate the sewage. I am a radical environmentalist, and deeply concerned with the rights of coliform bacteria.

Nuke the shrinks, I say, and save the E. Coli. Bacteria are people too.

Anyway, terrorism. Take for example the time we had a sniper lurking about Washington who killed several people. He also started a moping industry. The media revel in moping. They like it even better than imaginary racism.

There's no escaping. In every bar in Washington the lobotomy box would babble and wring its hands. At Gold's gym, the telescreens that dangle in front of people couldn't stop emoting. If the Washington sniper wanted attention, we fed him well.

A journalistic bimbo interviewed some vapid psychologist about the sniper. He (the psychologist) was the usual droning human hamster with the too-pretty salt-and-pepper beard and the vanity and soft edges that make you want to cross your legs.

Bimbo and Hamster made a matched set. I started thinking of them as E. Coli and She Coli, which shows how bored I was. She asked appallingly stupid questions, and he gave appallingly stupid answers. It's what physicists call conservation of symmetry.

The function of psychologists is to serve as secular priests for an irreligious age. They provide comfort for people who want reassurance from insipid hand-holders who smell slightly of some inner truth. They form a vacuous clergy relentlessly certifying the obvious. Talking to one of them is like being patted on the head and having your face wiped with a warm moist rag. It doesn't accomplish anything, but you feel attended to.

Hamster performed well. Asked to characterize the sniper, he said, "Well, I think we can say that these killings are the work of a disturbed individual...."


I received this insight with gratitude. It was comforting to learn that serial snipers weren't normal. It is well that we have psychologists to study these truths.

The tube then cut to distraught mothers and daughters. The cameraman shot tight in hopes of catching a lip trembling. Television is about emotion. It's about ordinary people having feelings, and being validated. The producers presumably avoided asking little boys what they thought, as they might have said, "Wow! Let's get guns and go look for him!" It wouldn't have suited the tone of unfocused condescending reproof that was wanted.

More consultation about nothing followed between Bimbo and Hamster. He said that fear was normal but that if you couldn't sleep, and became obsessive, and couldn't go on with your life, you should seek counseling. ("Or maybe cyanide," I thought with more hope than expectation.)

Finally our pinnacle of journalism got an expression of dawning insight, such as a chimpanzee displays when it has understood a door hinge. Yes, she had had A Thought. She burbled (and this is verbatim):

"What I hear you saying is that it's ok to feel your feelings."

I thought: This is a society that is going to wage relentless international jihad against terrorism? People who have to ask a bearded parsnip before they feel their feelings, whatever that means?

I remember some years back when a local wit left a package near B'Nai Brith that had "Antracks" or some such misspelling scrawled on it. There was no anthrax. It was a gag.

The city shut down for a whole day. The usual media circus ensued, and all of the participants were solemn clowns. The entire story could have been condensed into a short graff: "It says anthrax, we're being careful, actually it wasn't anthrax, and we don't know who did it. Now go away."

No. Therapists, psychologists, alarm, updates. For a whole day.

Sure, a sniper is a bad and worrisome thing and nobody wants one, except reporters. Still, he has killed few people. And of course the media don't care about death unless they can make it into a therapeutic drama. If nine black drug dealers killed each other over a week or two, the papers would carry a two-inch story on page thirty, just after the truss ads. If a dozen people died in car wrecks, no one beyond their families would care.

This nonsense is now the normal American response to misfortune. The arresting thing is how utterly different it is from what would have been the response forty years ago. It used to be that trouble brought forth strength.

If we were attacked, for example at Pearl Harbor, the country rallied and fought back. When the Depression struck, people slogged through it. When life went sour, the expected response was chin up, keep a stiff upper lip, deal with it. You solved your problems, lived with them, or had the grace to shut up about them.

Today the country curls into a national fetal position and whimpers. No, not everyone does, and yes, lots of residual Americans regard the curlers with contempt. Yet the mainstream response is passive, inward-looking, sniveling. We even have a vast apparatus of psychologists, therapists, and suchlike rabbitry to help us snivel better.

Preposterously, moaning is actually regarded as a sign of strength. If you don't whimper, it is because you are afraid to express your feelings, and therefore need professional help.

What happened?

I saw on the History Channel a while back an interview with a British woman, now ancient, who had gone through the bombing of London. How had she managed, the interviewer wanted to know.

"We had to do it," the woman said calmly. "So we did." She thought that covered it. So did I.

In those days, the British idea of a grief therapist was Winston Churchill. Brits still have some of their old iron in them. One does not easily imagine Margaret Thatcher blubbering to Oprah. She maintained her own and her country's dignity. We don't. The very idea of dignity seems to make us uncomfortable. Why?

Maybe we should again learn dignity. We face difficult times. Across the world the Moslems are blowing up people. A good guess is that we are going to be hit again, hard. I wonder how we are going to handle it when we have more pet-loss grief counselors than we do Marines. And I wonder what the Israelis think of us, or the Moslems.

Come to think of it, I don't wonder.

Copyright © 2002, 2008 Fred Reed.
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