Tom Diaz

“Physician, Heal Thyself!” Or, Is That Guy Carson Crazy? Nah, It’s Just His PTSD Talking.

In Ben Carson, Black Lives Matter, Gun Violence, PTSD on October 11, 2015 at 11:14 pm
carson images

In Worse Days–Young Ben Carson in Detroit

Such a zealous fan base can go to a guy’s head. We start to think that, unlike most everyone else, we actually have something to say. And what’s the difference between treating a malady of the digestive system and treating a malady of the U.S. tax code? Besides everything, that is.

Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, “Why Doctors Make Crazy Politicians

Is Ben Carson nuts?

It seems a fair question to ask, given the chilling nature of his curiously detached observation about the violence done to gun victims and the Second Amendment to the Constitution. According to CBS News:

In a Facebook question and answer session he wrote: “There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking – but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.”

Carson apparently recognizes only this one particular scribble across the face of our Constitution. (Readers may recall his bizarre argument that a Muslim could not be President because a Muslim’s faith would be “inconsistent” with the Constitution. For a man who wants to be President of the United States, he is profoundly ignorant of the actual requirements for that office, which nowhere include a religious test.)

12088470_10205524445452481_505040553412995589_nNot surprisingly, Carson’s emotionally impaired assertion infuriated the not inconsiderable number of survivors: parents, children, brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends, co-workers, and classmates who have actually seen their loved ones’ shattered and mutilated bodies–victims of our pandemic of gun violence.

To be consistent, Carson would have to endorse this motto: “Okay, Maybe Black Lives Matter, But They Damned Sure Don’t Matter as Much as George Zimmerman’s Right to Own a Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm Semi-automatic Pistol. So, Suck it Up, My Brothers.”


His Life Might Have Mattered, But…


…In Any Case, It Was Subordinate to This Guy’s Right to Own a Semiautomatic Pistol.

In another notorious release of Dr. Ben’s Patent Verbal Flatulence, Carson made the ignorant, condescending argument that German Jews could have prevented that whole untidy Hitler Holocaust thing if they only had guns. Stuff happens, but guns prevent stuff from happening, and, you know, all like that.

This specious line of argument is a favorite of the gun-sucking right wing. It deserves its own rebuttal. I recommend Jay Michaelson’s masterful retort and…well, surgical…dissection of Carson’s particular foolishness in The Forward newspaper:

Those familiar with Carson’s long history of bizarre, ignorant and just plain weird pronouncements were likely less surprised, but have probably chalked it up to just another Weird Carson Moment. The only mystery, they probably mused, is why 20% of Republicans think this guy should be president.

Michaelson goes on to answer in crushing detail Carson’s erroneous assertion, and explain why it is so dangerous.

The jury is still out among many on whether Carson is (1) really that dumb, or (2) cynically pandering to the so-called “base,” the knuckle-draggers who rammed their collective fist up the cloaca of the Entity-Formerly-Known-As-The-Republican-Party and ripped it inside out, producing a hideously deformed political sow, the sole function of which has been to spawn a parade of grotesque clowns.

I think there is a third, more subtle, and more serious explanation.

Carson is manifesting plain signs of PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I came to this conclusion thinking about a book I wrote on Latino street gangs a few years back, No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2009). In No Boundaries, I wrote about the ground-breaking work of two psychiatrists, Drs. Spencer Eth and William Arroyo. In the early 1980s, these two then-young doctors–based on their clinical observations among children in East Los Angeles–upended the age-old belief that children exposed to the violence of wars and inner city streets simply shrugged it off and moved on.

In fact, we now know, children suffer at least as much as adults. They suffer not only in war, but in violent homes and in violent neighborhoods. By his own account, Ben Carson was at risk. According to “Meet Ben,” his official hagiography, “… growing up poor in a single-parent household in Detroit with bad grades and a horrible temper, the statistics were certainly not in his favor.” In fact, Ben’s Detroit is one of the epicenters of PTSD among Black communities in America.

Research on military veterans has found that the symptom of “chronic hyperarousal” – the distorted sense of always being under extreme threat – can lead to increased aggression and violent behavior.

In plain fact, Ben grew up on mean streets and in a broken family. He acted out violently (“increased aggression”) as a youth. That acting out is one of the symptoms of PTSD. Ben also always seems to see himself, and America as it is perceived through his odd lens, as under existential threat (“the distorted sense of always being under extreme threat”).

Another issue, wrote researchers at Drexel University, is that people with symptoms of PTSD may be more likely to carry a weapon in order to “restore feelings of safety.”

Finally, and perhaps most cogently in this context, another symptom of PTSD is emotional numbing, or detachment, the kind of bizarre lack of sympathetic affection that allows damaged children and adults to insulate themselves from the overpowering horror of the reality that hurt them so deeply.

All of this adds up perfectly.

Dr. Ben, let’s face it. You need psychiatric help.

Please get it before you hurt more innocent people.

Carson thumb-400


In bad manners, Concealed Carry, Expendable Youth, Guns, marriage equality on June 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Bill Clinton–The Uncertain Trumpet Who Lead the Retreat from Gun Control.

The marriage equality movement won an historic victory in the United States Supreme Court today.

That landmark ruling should cause the gun control movement to hang its collective head in shame.

Twenty years ago, the idea that the marriage of two people of the same sex should be recognized–not just as a legal bond, but as a fundamental human right–was enormously less popular than gun control. Today, the gun control movement has clearly cratered. In the wake of the latest mass murder (at this writing, in Charleston South Carolina) the best this pathetic “movement” can emit is a few plaintive whimpers and the sound of frightened politicians scurrying back into the gun violence closet.

What went wrong? Why did these two movements realize such profoundly different fates.


Call it what you will–“gay rights,” “gay marriage,” “human dignity”–one movement never gave up its core, fundamental, existential believe. Gay people in America never stopped believing that they were human beings and entitled to precisely the full package of rights as every other human being in the world. The leaders of this movement suffered slings, arrows, wounds, and tactical defeat, but they never lost sight of what they wanted.

The gun control movement did precisely the opposite. Its political and cultural leaders cut and ran from the field. They enthusiastically followed the flag of something called “The Third Way,” a banner as shameful as the Confederate flag, and it led them into defeat.


Sen. Chuck Schumer, anointed as the future leader of Senate Democrats, took gun control off of its antibiotics when he decided to run for the Senate. With his finger ever in the political wind, Schumer has voted both ways on many issues. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in the House, for one example.

Spawn of the Democratic Leadership Council, birthed by Bill Clinton, and nurtured by obscure corporate funding, third way politics boils everything down to the simple calculus of winning elections by finding the “sweet spot,” the tiny patch of middle ground between the conflicting principles of left and right that–devoid of conceptual baggage, moral commitment, and ideological conviction–yields not change but mere election and re-election.

When Washington’s politicians began getting bashed in the middle-1990s, they panicked and ran away from the fundamental principle that a civilized society can and should control the kinds of guns available within its bounds, and the kinds of people who should–and should not–have access to them. In the bosom of The Third Way movement, they suckled on easy slogans and half-assed measures, which focus groups and polling told them they should call “common sense gun laws.”

The movement lost sight of guns, guns, and more guns as the issue and fell in love with re-electing its political “leaders,” people like Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel (to name only a few of the worst in leadership positions who could have made a difference but chose not to.) Blaming the NRA became the easiest way off the field, short of admitting political cowardice.

Nancy Pelosi

Many deluded and ordinary people have since flocked to this feel-good but essentially meaningless and demonstrably useless parade of shameful surrender.  God bless them all, the long and the short and the tall. However good their hearts may be, they follow a pied piper. They are like believers in the millennial coming–okay, maybe The Rapture did not happen this year, but just wait until next!

The foundation babies and lemmings occasionally emit as a hopeful sign of progress a fundamentally flawed “fact,” one that I must admit I also have circulated. That is the mantra that “fewer and fewer people are buying more and more guns.” Wrong. This erroneous assertion–intended to demonstrate the increasing lack of popularity of guns in America–is based on a nugget of polling that indicates that the percentage of households in the U.S. reporting gun ownership continues to decline. Whatrahm1 is missing from this optimistic bumper sticker of thought is the fact that the universe, the number of households, has soared. Even if the percentage of gun-owning households has declined, the number of gun-owning households has grown significantly larger. So, in fact, precisely the opposite is true: more and more people are buying more and more guns. Which helps explain the seeming paradox of a gun industry doing so well in the face of the alleged unpopularity of its products.

Since the mass evacuation of the battlefield by the “progressives” and “realists,” the wise people of Washington have correctly told us that “gun control is dead,” “gun control is toxic,” and “gun control is the third rail of politics.” The main reason the concept of gun control still exists as a stubborn but faint ember is the vested interest of the gun industry and the National Rifle Association in scaring the crap out of the kind of people who think their guns protect them and society. This fear-mongering has sold tens of millions of guns since the halcyon days of 1994.

The worse consequence of this sad history is that the pusillanimous politics of the The Third Way have actually caused more guns to be sold and more people to die than would have been the case had the movement’s leaders…well…stuck to their guns instead of cutting and running.

The result has been exactly like that which occurs when one repeatedly stops in mid-course anti-biotic treatments. Eventually, the disease becomes invulnerable. The Third Way and its claque quite clearly have infectious fluid, if not blood, on their hands. One could make the case that the “gun violence prevention” movement today actually promotes death and injury by firearms instead of reducing it.

Yes, there is a grandly swaggering “movement” of foundation babies still swirling around like gnats, largely sustained by the flawed vision of self-righteous people with millions of dollars to piss down a rat hole. Hey, it’s a comfortable living.

But the fight is over.


What remains is the fearful scramble of manufacture, import, and sale of guns, guns, guns. Because, just like Confederate flags, boys, if you don’t get them today, the gun-grabbers will get them tomorrow.

If marriage-equality champions had followed the path of the once-much-stronger gun control “movement,” they would also be shriveling weeds on the side of the path, pariahs skulking around the margins of society.

They did not, and today they won. Meanwhile about 87 people died in the United States from gunshot injury today.

So, what is to be done about guns, mass murder, and our daily bread of random death and injury?


Well, any informed and rational discussion should turn now to the practicalities of life in an excessively-well-armed society: questions like hardening likely targets (churches and synagogues) and–take a deep breath–whether the paradigm of gun availability and self-defense has now shifted so far that the concealed carry advocates may have a case to make.

I could make that case.  But I choose not to.

For now.

Last Gun Cover

Ignore the part about “fewer and fewer people buying more and more guns.”

Our Queen in Waiting, Hillary I, Ascends to Her Rightful Throne Midst Appropriate Pomp and Circumstance from Her Adoring Court

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2015 at 4:17 pm


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 437 other followers

%d bloggers like this: