Re: Sources: Sanitized/Repressed Vietnam
Wed, 28 Feb 1996 11:35:45 -0500

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 04:15:35 GMT
To: sixties@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: Re: Sources: Sanitized/Repressed Vietnam

On the question of social trauma: Marc, I've just finished writing a book
tracing the parallels between traumatized veterans' individual
recollections of combat and our national responses to the war. Entitled
by Anchor/Doubleday this fall. As I've spoken at various conferences
(including Vietnam Generations in Connecticut last October, on a panel
chaired by Ted Morgan), I've found folks fairly willing to acknowledge the
horrors of the conflict. With the exception of veterans and their families
though, I've met few people willing to any responsibility for those
events. At the social level, that refusal is analogous to the individual
"avoidance response," in which a traumatized person turns away from what
he or she can't bear. And yes, I think it has added to Americans'
collective preoccupation with the war.

One caveat: The parallels that exist between individual and collective
memories of the war are real, but complex. As a conceptual system, PTSD
offers a useful way to think about collective experience, but it's
important to keep in my mind the fact that the diagnosis itself came about
in response to the war (a development I trace at length in the book).
Moreover, as a lived illness it is excruiatingly personal. So: as we think
about collective responses to Vietnam, I think we need to be careful
neither to underestimate the power of the individual experience nor to
assume that because it has been codified in DSM III (and DSM IIIR and DSM
IV), PTSD constitutes an objective, scientific approach to either
individual or social phenomena.

-- Fred Turner