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Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder By: James Taranto
Opinion Journal | Wednesday, November 27, 2002


Earlier this month we noted a Boston Globe report that a pair of social workers and a psychologist "are writing a book about what they call 'post-traumatic slavery disorder'--a derivative of post-traumatic stress disorder." Social worker Sekou Mims's 16-year-old son had a psychotic breakdown in which he suffered from delusions that white people were menacing him. Psychologist Omar Reid told Mims that, as the Globe reports, "black and Latino males were showing up 'in droves' with similar symptoms." Reid and Mims, along with another social worker named Larry Higginbotham, came up with an imaginative theory: that somehow these young people were traumatized by things that happened not to them but to their ancestors--or, in the case of "Latino males," not even to their ancestors.

History, of course, has no shortage of peoples who have suffered oppression and trauma, so the Reid-Mims-Higginbotham approach, with its narrow focus on American slavery, is only the beginning. Reader Mark Schulze, for instance, is part-Irish, and he e-mails us that he may be suffering from "post-traumatic potato disorder." In the interest of promoting advancement in medical science, we asked readers to submit suggestions for other possible psychological disorders. We received nearly 500 responses; here are some of the best ones.

Roger Butters: Pre-post-traumatic reparations disorder. The present fear of being held responsible in the future for actions that aren't in your past.

Sheryl Veazey-Rudy: Post-traumatic trailer disorder. This theory proposes that low educational attainment, tattoo abuse, multiple remarriage to the same partner or his siblings, poor dental hygiene, a fondness for Jerry Jeff Walker music and a hankerin' for pork rinds can be linked directly to the trauma of growing up in modular housing.

Pat LeBlanc: How about post-traumatic Big Bang disorder? Why waste time with a multitude of lesser excuses, errr I mean "disorders"? This one goes right to the atomic level and supersedes all others.

Bill Odom: I suffer from pretraumatic middle-aged white-male disorder. As I grow older I become increasingly traumatized by the mantle of responsibility that I will acquire. It will soon be my fault that African-Americans were forced into slavery. It will be my fault that Native Americans were stripped of their heritage and lands. It will be my fault that women were second-class citizens and don't earn as much as I do. It will be my fault that Muslims around the world must face Zionist aggression (and I'm a Methodist!). It will be my fault the homeless have no home, the pro-choice have limited choice, and the poor have fewer tax breaks. And I'm supposed to laugh all of that off on the way to the bank?

Paul Coates: PTPD, post-traumatic paradise disorder. My ancestors were thrown out of the Garden of Eden when Eve bit into the apple, at the prompting of the serpent, both of which were placed there by the Supreme Deity. The eons of suffering and pain that befell men and women can be directly linked to this event. Wars, famine, disease, drugs, Michael Bolton--every bit of suffering came from this. You might call it the "mother of all root causes."

Benny Goodman: I've got PTID, post-traumatic Inquisition disorder. After Spain threw out all the Jews in 1492, my family lost all their money and had to wonder around Europe for years. I can't even hear the word "Spain" or "Spanish" or anything even close to that without going into convulsions. I cannot enjoy My Fair Lady ("The rain in S---- stays mainly in the plain"). In high school I had to take French, because the other language offering was S---ish, and you can't believe how much I hated that. Even the word "Danish" gives me the creeps; it ends in "nish"! Thus, I can only eat cookies, and cannot enjoy a good Blueberry da----.

Rob Lyman: Post-traumatic Santa Anna disorder. The Mexican branch of my family (mother's side) still has horrifying pseudomemories of this war, and wants reparations from the U.S. That means me, of course. And we'd like to be retroactively declared illegal aliens because they're so much cooler than boring old legal immigrants.

Don Clevenger: Post-traumatic coliseum syndrome. You see I am a Christian and I can still feel the effects of my Christian ancestors that were horribly killed by lions and other wild beasts in the Roman coliseum during the first and second century. It seems I should be able to sue the Italian government and force them to redress these horrible wrongs of a mere 1900 years ago. I can't even visit a zoo or a circus without being overcome with anxiety! Its horrible.

John Kuszewski: PTSD--Polish something, something . . . darn, what was the question?

N. Cagney: As an American of Japanese and Irish extraction, I would be happy to claim post-traumatic potato and internment disorder, even though my Irish ancestors arrived here well before the potato famine and my Japanese mother didn't arrive until the 1960s. But hey, I can't even watch "Tora! Tora! Tora!" without feeling bad, nor can I watch a commercial for Potato Buds without feeling angry at the pseudo-spuds usurping the real potato's rightful place! Say, my Irish relatives came over as indentured servants--can I make it a post-traumatic potato/internment/slavery disorder? Especially if it will mean some really cool entitlements! Maybe going to college and earning a B.S. and a master's in order to get a job that puts me into the top 10% of taxpayers was all unnecessary! Heck, since most of the previous generations in my family didn't graduate from high school and none went to college, I could probably prove a very good case. Vindication is ours!

Gale Nichols: As a Jew, I, too, can claim to experience PTSD--post-traumatic slavery disorder. In my case, though, it is related to the oppression of my ancestors as slaves in Pharaoh's Egypt. With the recounting of the tale of our forebears' experience as slaves and their liberation from slavery each year at Passover for the thousands of years since then, the sense of trauma and stress has had a considerable opportunity to develop and build.

Michael Thomas: I have PTMD, post-traumatic Mafia disorder, because of discrimination against my Italian heritage on my mother's side. I was traumatized as a child watching "Batman"--whenever a bad guy threw a punch the screen would show "WOP!" And that was compounded by some actor in a commercial saying "thatsa speecy spicy meetaball." Every time someone mentions "The Sopranos" or the Corleones, I sob uncontrollably. And of course, I collapse in grief when someone says "Where'd the day go?"

Everett Priestley: I am the founder of the Norman Conquest Reparations Organization. As an Anglo-Saxon-American I still suffer from predations and deprivations dating from 1066 A.D. Shouldn't I be compensated appropriately by all non-Wasps?

Pat Hajovsky: I have post-traumatic crucifixion disorder. Because of the killing of Jesus Christ, I am forced to go to church for one hour every week, suffer immense guilt over my sins, and worry ceaselessly about going to Hell. PTCD is also known as post-traumatic creation disorder, post-traumatic exodus disorder and post-traumatic Messiah disorder. There is no known cure.

Dave Rennie: Post-traumatic birth disorder, brought on by the pain, insensitivity, embarrassment and forced relocation that the victims had to endure as a result of the birth process, not to mention the indignity and violence associated with that first spanking. The pain of all of this is multiplied by the realization that it all could have been avoided through termination of the pregnancy. The added benefit of PTBD is that it allows everyone to be a member of an injured, violated minority.

Jonathan Brown: As a person of Germanic descent, my neck of the wood in Europe was often overrun by those notoriously selfish Romans. The Romans not only oppressed my people, but whipped our butts good (at least for awhile) and carted many of us off into slavery. I can honestly say that my memories of all this are at least as vivid as those suffering PTSD from events 4-5 generations ago. For example, because of my post-Roman-Invasion stress disorder, I suffer from a puzzling aversion to getting hit on the head with the flat of a sword, being hauled before cheering masses in a caged cart, being chased by lions, being burned alive for Mars or Juno and being attached to crosses I will begin forming a group to seek compensation from the Romans for this unfair treatment of my ancestors. Naturally, we will seek compensation from whatever descendants of the Romans we can find. Hey, isn't "Taranto" Italian?

Ray Young: Post-traumatic straight white guy disorder. The guilt of causing all problems for homosexuals, nonwhites, feminist, abortionists and Islamic terrorist doesn't allow me to sleep more than 10 hours a night. I need some help. If I could just change my sexual preference, color, sex, morality and religion I'd be right with the world. Help me! I'm suffering from PTSWGD.

Rusty Little: I am suffering from the newly discovered post-traumatic adoption disorder. The United States Government, meaning the people of this country, owe me a lot of money; let's say $10 billion. The point is not that my adoptive parents, who adopted me at less than two months of age, gave me lots of love, support and discipline, a home, an education, etc. The point is that someone discarded me. I will never get over that and I must be compensated.

Stuart Glasby: Post-traumatic chad disorder. The sight of a pregnant woman or someone with dimples causes viewer to curl up in a ball and repeat "Let every vote count!"

Crampton Helms: Post-traumatic déjà vu disorder: The feeling one gets after one has experienced trauma before it happens.

Scott Payne: My great-grandfather, a corporal in the Army of the Potomac, suffered a leg wound during the battle of Gaines' Mill outside Richmond, Va. I just found this out a few weeks ago and, ever since, have walked with a painful limp. I also learned he was a prisoner of war in Libby prison (inside Richmond) for six weeks, explaining my chronic claustrophobia since childhood. The commonwealth of Virginia owes me reparations because it illegally seceded from the Union, necessitating my great-grandfather's involvement in the Civil War and thereby directly inducing my post-Civil War traumatic afflictions. Please send my stipend to me in Muskegon, Mich., by either check or money order.

Doug McRae: As a Scots-American (scotch is a drink), I am haunted by the clearances visited upon my Highland Scots forebears by the brutal English colonial empire. The clearances emptied the land for the raising of sheep. The burned-out ruins of the Macrae church near Kyle of Lochalsh stand as a silent witness. Now, every time a store announces a clearance sale, I suffer from the need to drink scotch, wear a kilt and listen to bagpipes. My job performance is being affected. No one will come into my office if I'm in a skirt.

Gleb Tschapek Jr.: As a descendant of Russians who suffered from Stalin's purge, I am still coming to grips with my post-traumatic communism disorder or PTCD. Every time I see snow, trains, socialists, red flags, government employees at the door, long lines at the supermarket or tax increases, I get an urge to flee the country and go to America.

B.R. Burns: Post-traumatic Sioux disorder, My father was Indian and poor, pitiful me--I became a lawyer.

Bill West: I suffer from RWD, reflected white disorder. I experience anxiety when I look in the mirror and see a white, middle-aged, middle class, middle-level executive from Middle America. I'm thinking of suing myself.

Bill Reid: As a descendant of apes and a proud Ape-American, I get very agitated while watching Animal Planet describe my ancestors in such a hurtful, ridiculing and insensitive way. I told my lawyer that Animal Planet has addicted me to their programming, which pains me to no end, and he strongly suggested a class-action suit on behalf of all other Ape-Americans. To be sure, someone, somewhere, owes me a big check every week for the rest of my life.

Danny Hurley: I suffer from PTJD. This is post-traumatic Jell-O disorder. It is a Mormon disorder. My ancestors were driven from state to state until we fled to Utah. Here we were finally free to embrace the finer things in life, but our residual shame from persecution makes us obsessively eat Jell-O. Utah is the highest Jell-O consuming state in the union. We deserve to be compensated for being driven into the culinary pit that is Jell-O.

Aaron Yunis: Post-post-traumatic stress disorder, the stress I experienced thinking about my post-traumatic stress, after I finally got over my post-traumatic stress.

David Schlosser: I have post-traumatic Depression disorder. I believe that my ongoing and occasionally successful efforts to get a good education, dedicate myself to an occupation, earn a good salary, acquire a home and the material comforts to furnish it, and keep as much of my income as possible, can be directly linked to the trauma of my grandparents' and great-grandparents' financial struggles in the Depression.

Tom von Gremp: Whenever a Democratic Party pundit compares a Republican to a Nazi I get whiplashed with a double blast of Germanic and conservative trauma, which sets off a chain reaction of partisanship, oppression and unilateralism. God help me.

John Noble: As an American of Danish ancestry, I experience the trauma of opening the funny pages every Sunday morning and seeing "Hagar the Horrible," which slanderously portrays Viking men as being gluttonous, unintelligent and dominated by their wives. My psychiatrist agrees with me that in this glorious age of multiculturalism and diversity, Danish-Americans are still victimized by ethnic prejudice and intolerance.

Bruce Chang: Post-traumatic coolie disorder. Because Americans of Asian descent still get the willies when we hear people making fun of "flied lice." As Uncle Benny said (in "Lethal Weapon 4"), "It's 'fried rice,' you plick!"

Joseph Wilkinson II: A while back, an article called "The Royal We" appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. According to this article, if the work of a certain computer scientist is correct, every modern person of European descent is descended from William the Conqueror--in fact, is descended from about 80% of the people who were alive in the 11th century. The article didn't consider this, but surely that means that every last Euro-child is surely descended both from slaves that existed then and their owners (if you consider the near-universality of slavery world-wide before the 18th century, of course, this should apply to everyone else, too). Couple this with the reparationists' dedication to Sippenhaft and Kollektivschuld, and the fact that I have just become a lawyer, and perhaps you will feel a touch of pity for those of us suffering from compulsive autolitigiousness syndrome. Every morning, when I wake up, I want to sue myself.

Arthur Stern: I have long suffered from post-traumatic hillbilly disorder, resulting from being laughed at in English class at Cornell in 1957. The laughter was a direct result of my Virginia mountain accent. Even now in the mountains of Vermont, I suffer nights of sweat and days of hillbilly rage when my grits and grunts (corn mush and fried fish to you flatlanders) are not prepared correctly. Do I qualify for reparations?

Fredrick Brohn: Post-traumatic kraut disorder. My parents (both German-American) suffered from this when, during World War I, people referred to sauerkraut as "liberty cabbage." Clearly I deserve reparations for such slander!

Alex Duncan: Bystander trauma. This originally showed up in a "Saturday Night Live" commercial satire staring Phil Hartman. While it was never really explained, it would seem that it would allow me to sue asbestos manufacturers even if I've suffered no ill effects directly attributable to asbestos. The mere knowledge that people are made ill by asbestos is traumatizing to me, and I deserve compensation! Every time I think of this, I wonder how long it will be before we really see it.




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