Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Final Solution: PTSD

News reports over the Memorial Day weekend reported an upsurge in social interactions, some of which ran counter to and were blatantly defiant of CDC recommendations about social distances ("Pool Party at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri Draws a Packed Crowd," CNN, 5/24/20). One way to deal with trauma is to pretend it’s not there. Yet such behavior can challenge even the most compartmentalized personality. It’s hard to eradicate the memory of freezer trucks parked near hospitals pile high with bodies. And now there's the Times video ("8 minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody") replaying the George Floyd murder. What did the residents of Auschwitz think was occurring in the camps? You try to deny the knowledge of atrocity for the sake of survival but ultimately the voices catch up. There’s no way to avoid them, no way to get on with the pool party, as if nothing happened, when almost 100,000 Americans have died, with 1.7 million infected? And then despite the years of protests about systemic racism, there's the murder of George Floyd. Will mass depression, anxiety and sleeplessness—all symptoms of PTSD—become the legacy of the survivors of coronavirus and of the continued attacks on peaceful demonstrators. Will survivors’ guilt also be a byproduct of the long period of living through the latest iteration of the plague--a commorbity and noxious cocktail of disease and racial inequality. Boccaccio’s Decameron is attracting a new readership. Its characters tell tales to each other as they attempt to endure the bubonic plague of the 14th century ("What Our Contagion Fables Are Really About,"The New Yorker, 3/23/20). Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year represents a similar attempt to deal with the coping mechanisms amidst a pestilence. One unfortunately expects first responders, doctors and nurses to experience PTSD in the wake of a pandemic, but what will the effect be on the general population? How will collective trauma be processed by the population at large?

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