PTSD and the pyramid of crime

Harris, Maurice



PTSD and the Pyramid of Crime 
 "The Onset" The sun is setting on a hot midsummer L.A. afternoon, while a group of preteens linger around a friend's apartment building. With their adrenaline still on high from the recently played basketball games, the jokes & the ball are both flying around freely. Suddenly the jovial atmosphere is pierced by two deafening 'pops!' Being accustomed to this, they all hit the ground instantaneously, as if in a military drill. Now the only sound is that of the ball rolling aimlessly down the driveway. After a moment passes, one of them stands up and laughs, 'Ah, it's only a car backfiring!' Not skipping a beat the jokes and ball are back into play, but with two noticeable differences. Due to an anewed adrenaline peak, the mood is oddly more jokey, and the butt of the jokes has now become the one individual that was the slowest to react. This moment I will never forget, for on this day my friends taught me two valuable lessons: being slow on the uptake can not only get you killed, but make you the joke of the day, or of the week, in this instance. Growing up in this environment, with its continued police occupation, we would commonly refer to L.A. as Baby Beirut, or Lil Vietnam. There were always a consciousness of our similarities with others in wartorn areas. Today, when I see the youth of Iraq and Afghanistan, I can still recognize that human spirit to snap back to jubilance after a perceived threat. Presently it is coming to light that those monikers we had for L.A. may hold more significance than anyone realized. A deeper analysis into this may reveal why our inner-cities continue to self-destruct, and possible solutions to this problem. Gradually I kept noticing the same behavior tendencies of a portion of our inner-city residents in some of our returning troops. Even their viewpoints sounded the same! These tendencies transcended race, culture, and backgrounds. However, they shared related ordeals. An eye-opening article, "Casualties of War: The hell of war comes home," in the Colorado Springs Gazette, went into depth about the toll PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder) took on an infantry division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, [n.1] This particular division had multiple deployments into the most dangerous sections of Iraq and Afghanistan, not surprisingly they may have also suffered the most casualties. In fact on one day, in October 2009, they lost a total of 8 members inside of Afghanistan. The following are two excerpts on their behavior upon returning to the U.S.: 
 "The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically have the highest murder rate in the U.S., but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole." "The [recent] killings are only the headline grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crimes, since 2005, the brigades returning soldiers have been in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnappings and suicides." 
 This is the exact same 'pyramid of crimes' that has been established throughout our cities for decades, so we must look into the sources of PTSD. PTSD is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma, such as encountering or witnessing events that are perceived as life-threatening. Some examples are: being a victim of kidnapping, torture, drug addictions, bullying, physical and/or sexual assaults, muggings, or robberies. Symptoms may include: reexperiencing the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares; avoidance of things (or places) associated with the trauma; increased arousal [n.2]; sleep disorders; anger; hypervigilance [n.3]; depression; substance abuse; and suicide [n.4]. PTSD can also lead to other disorders like: bipolar, eating, obsessive, and panic disorders. Young adults can suffer from regressive development, engage in risky behavior, have trouble focusing or managing their impulses. The latter is sometimes mistaken for ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). [n.5] Despite how it is portrayed in the media, PTSD has been around for ages under different names: 'Soldier's heat' - Civil War; 'Combat fatigue; - WWII; 'Post-Vietnam Syndrome,' 'Battle Fatigue,' and 'Shell shock' - Vietnam War. Hollywood has shown it on film from various points of view. The Veterans': 'Coming Home,' 'Born on the 4th of July,' 'Deer Hunter,' etc. The inner-city's: 'Boys in the Hood,' 'Menace to Society,' 'South Central,' and most poignantly in the documentary, 'Crips and Bloods: Made in America.' There's even the police's: 'Colors,' 'Deep Cover,' and especially Denzel Washington's character in 'Training Day.' However, of utmost relevance here is the more extreme form of PTSD known as C-PTSD (Complex Posttraumatic stress disorder). C-PTSD arises from prolonged exposure to traumatic events, especially those that are combat related. This can explain why the Fort Carson unit, mentioned in The Gazette, has had 10 of its infantrymen arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006, along with the said 'pyramid of crimes.' [n.1] A slight look at the statistics show that our inner-city youth also have been living within protracted combat zones. After 3-4 years of combat, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, troop casualties reached 1000. [n.6] Nevertheless, in 2003, then Governor George Ryan announced, "In Illinois last year we had about 1000 murders." [n.7] In 2008, 1494 people under 18 were slayed nationwide. [n.8] In each of the latter instances you had 3 years of overseas casualties within one year at home. This trend continued into 2009, by August, a small section of South Central Los Angeles recorded 74 murders, with 30 coming between the months of July and August. The LAPD stated that this inner-city war was so overwhelming they called for an injunction in the area. (This is not unlike the curfew imposed during the most violent sections in Iraq.) By October, Chicago reported 307 homicides with people under 25 accounting for 152 of those. The same month, even a small town like Salinas, CA reported that 10 of its 22 homicide victims were 19 or younger. [n.8] Any rational person would clearly classify these areas as warzones. 
 "I'm tired of seeing bodies on the streets/deceased/looking through my high school yearbook/reminiscence of the tears as the years took/one homie, 2 homies, 3 homies/poof!/we used to have troops/but now there's no more youths to shoot-" -Tupac's, "Black Cotton," from CD "Loyal To The Game" (2204) 
 Tupac, like most of us, knew that to survive in these areas one had to embody the persona of a troop. (e.g., our reactions to backfirings.) Amazingly, 14 years after Tupac's death this song is as meaningful as ever. I recently experienced these very same sentiments while going through my own yearbooks. This lead to the proposition: 'When circumstances leads one to inherit a troop's persona, will one also inherit a troop's symptoms?' Therefore, an examination of the symptoms of C-PTSD are in order. They include: persistent feelings of helplessness; feelings that the perpetrator is all-powerful, and a preoccupation with either revenge against, or allegiance with the perpetrator [n.10]; and most damaging, the sufferer can go through a change in what gives him or her meaning, i.e., a loss of spiritual faith. This in turn escalates the sense of helplessness and despair. U.S. Atty General, Eric Holder, explains, "We simply cannot stand for an epidemic of violence that robs our youth of their childhood and perpetuates a cycle in which today's victims become tomorrow's criminals." [n.8] The first building block in the 'pyramid of crime' is the robbery of optimism and hope. An often overlooked additive in this first block is the role that those who are paid 'to serve and protect' play in its construction. Delores Jones-Brown, director of John Jay College of Criminal Justice's Center on Race, Crime and Justice, elaborates, "I've been dealing with these issues since 1997, and in 10 years, there has not been progress... People in the community are afraid of criminals and the police who come to investigate the criminals." [n.9] This reaction to the police comes from two main factors; physical and passive violence. First, to understand the psychological effect of the physical violence one needs to just think back to the 9/11 tragedy. Remember how the whole country was paralyzed from witnessing Americans being killed only because they were Americans? Citizens in these inner-cities are constantly in this state of trauma everytime they hear of a minority gunned down by the police reaching for his wallet, being 'mistaken' for a drug dealer, or worst of all, while lying prone on his stomach, only because he or she looks like them. Also, to further traumatize them, they have to watch the perpetrators' actions ruled as 'justified' time and time again. Now this would rob anyone of their optimism. Second, comes the trauma from passive violence. (Racial profiling, constant labelling as fitting description of a suspect, etc.) A colleague at VOV (Victory Over Violence), Daniel Hall, describes passive violence as; "Anything we do that undermines the fundamental dignity of another human being or ourselves. Passive violence is verbal abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, teasing, taunting, putting someone down, making someone feel bad about themselves," basically to dehumanize another. [n.11] The Great Indian Civil Rights Leader, Mahatma Gandhi, emphasized, "Passive violence is the fuel that feeds the fire of physical violence." [n.11] History supports this statement. Hitler's passively violent propaganda campaign that "dehumanized Blacks, Gypsies, Jews, and others" made it easier for the German people to eventually accept their extermination. [n.11] This tactic was actually used centuries before when after Columbus' western "discovery" the Spanish, and Portuguese, campaigned that the natives were "beasts with a human face... had no moral sense... did not belong to the human race..." Thereafter, "the Spanish began to slaughter them like animals..." [n.12] Could the dehumanization of our inner-city citizens in the media, in the hands of the police, and at times amongst themselves contribute to their homicides so often being ruled as 'justified?' It is also just as important to acknowledge that passive violence can as easily come from within our homes, interpersonal relationships, schools, workplaces and communities, [n.11] Passive violence carries tremendous power; we can't forget that the perpetrators of two of the worst mass shootings in American history, Columbine, and Virginia Tech, at one point felt that they were the victims of passive violence. Gandhi's statement holds true for both the perpetrator and the victim. 
 'Maintenance/Alleviation' In late 2009, ABC's "Nightline," aired an episode in which they visited a L.A. high school. Basically every student interviewed knew of someone murdered. A shooting even occurred while ABC was there! We have hundreds, possibly thousands, of schools like this across the country. A military study reveals that in the civilian community, the average length of time from 'the onset' of PTSD to receiving treatment is 12 years. This is unacceptable, which is why the military implemented a program to rush PTSD counselors out to servicemembers "shaken by the loss of friends or near-death experiences from attack" within days. [n.13] (In addition, schools may want to look into the Dept. of Defense funded touring play, "Theater of War." A stage show that helps troops cope with PTSD [n.16]) However, most in the civilian community will not have the opportunity to visit with counselors within days "of a loss of friends or near-death experiences." Therefore, to alleviate this epidemic it is imperative for us to take advantage of military studies, and solutions, plus practice self/community improvement. The inner-capabilities of humans to overcome hardships and adversities cannot be overstated. Just recently we witnessed a young girl in Haiti survive under rubble for nearly two weeks. Materials on PTSD/C-PTSD [n.5] lists various therapies one can practice autonomously, or with others. They can be placed into 3 categories: 
 1) Knowledge: Understanding the problem is to be halfway towards solving it. Once conscious of the causes and symptoms, one can determine whether they, or someone they know are sufferers of this epidemic. If there are any doubts, The National Institute of Mental Health offers self-tests. 2) Management/Coping: Anger and anxiety can be managed through relaxation techniques. Exercise has always been an age-old stress-reliever. Yoga and pilates are known to work the body and mind simultaneously, (In the San Francisco area they are using yoga, "Yoga for Recovery," to kick addictions; and "Pilates for Men" is a more strenuous form of pilates that adds more calisthenics, push-ups, and weights.) Hobbies, also, are relaxation tools. Dialogue, however, may be the most valuable coping tool of all. Talking with others of similar experiences can take away the solitary feel of PTSD, and build camaraderie. It is also a way to discover new coping techniques and pass them on to others, especially the youth. As they say, 'each one, teach one.' This is also the principle behind "Theater of War." (See, n.16) 3) Mindfulness (point of view): In Buddhism this is known as: "Becoming the master of your mind, rather than letting your mind master you." [n.14] Specifically, mastering any negative thoughts that arises from traumatic experiences, and converting them into productive thoughts. In life, as in exercise, resistance builds strength. The saying, "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere," is a perfect example of creating a productive frame of mind. John D. Rockefeller, took a negative experience - losing a girl because of his lowly financial status - as fuel to becoming one of the richest Americans of his time. A great way to train the mind is through meditation. One constant among successful people is the visualization of their success beforehand. 
 Actually, all of the above self-reliant practices have been professed by western and eastern philosophers for ages. This function is known as a "Human Revolution": 
 "Only such a humanism, showing that salvation starts within ourselves, can give us the force to reach higher thresholds, allowing us to scan alternative paths toward the future. This renaissance of the human spirit in a moment of distress is what I mean by the human revolution." 
 "The concept of a revolutionary renewal from within...responds to the primary need to survive, to avoid self-destruction." -Aurelio Peccei, co-founder of the "Club of Rome" [n.15] 
 If the spread of PTSD/C-PTSD is not contained, we will not 'avoid self destruction.' As Tupac said, there will be 'no more youths to shoot!' NO YOUTHS = NO FUTURE! Without a wide-spread Human Revolution, soon, there will be C-PTSD sufferers returning from prisons, and abroad, merging with those already in our communities to create one tumultuous timebomb that none of us want to see detonate! Maurice L. Harris, 10 Feb 2010 
 NOTES 1. "Casualties of War: The hell of war comes home," by Dave Phillips. 2. "When a soldier faces constant threat of attack, studies suggest, the brain is flooded with adrenaline, dopamine other performance enhancing chemicals that the body naturally produces in a fight-or-flight response. Over time, the brain can crave these stimulants, like a junkie for his fix." [n.1] I always described escaping a dangerous situation as the same feeling I got from scoring a touchdown or a winning basket. As infantryman, Kenneth Eastridge, said of this feeling: "It's almost like a religious experience..." 3. Our neverending watchfulness for dangers. 4. Including 'suicide by cop,' where a person takes on the police knowing the outcome will be death. 5. PTSD sources: "Posttraumatic stress disorder" - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,; "What is Posttraumatic stress disorder?" (Combination of various researchers including, American Journal of Psychiatry, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 6. USA Today, 7/20/09, p.2A 7. "In The Company of Giants," by Paul J. Ciolino. 8. USA Today, 10/8/09, 3A. 9. USA Today, 4/28/08, p.3A. 10. Movie, "American Violet," which is based on a true story, shows a perfect example how someone can hate/fear law enforcement, and work with them to abuse others. 11. Essay: "Victory Over Violence: A Personal Peace Movement." 12. "The Consolations of Philosophy," by Alain de Botten. 13. USA Today, 11/9/09, pp 1-2A. 14. "The Way of Youth: Buddhist Common Sense for Handling Life's Questions," by Daisaku Ikeda . 15. "Before It Is Too Late: A Dialogue," by Aurelio Peccei, and Daisaku Ikeda. 16. "Theater of War," a series of plays by Greek playwright, Sophocles (496-406 BC); Afterwards there's discussions on the effects PTSD had on those like the Greek mythology hero Ajax. - PBS' "Newshour," 2/3/10.

Author: Harris, Maurice

Author Location: California

Date: October 21, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 9 pages

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