Perception, Prejudice, Ignorance or Bias' ~ A Skunk by Any Other Name
While cruising on Facebook two nights ago, I was privately contacted by a fellow veteran. She was irate over a picture and commentary she found posted on the National Center for PTSD, (Dept. of Veterans Affairs) Facebook page. I went to their page and found the picture below accompanied by this comment from the page administrator and Air Force veteran, Mr. Martin Shapiro:
"Although I certainly understand the need to vent sometimes, excessive negative comments about VA services might discourage another #Veteran from getting needed help when someone here who had a bad experience in the past at one VA overgeneralizes to say the entire VA is bad. There's always two sides to every story. ~ Martin Shapiro"
While some "memes" can be amusing in the right place and page; there is nothing amusing about having or living with someone who has a Post-Tramatic Stress injury. It is a life-altering and debilitating injury that affects every single aspect of the victim's life.
To address Mr. Shapiro's comment specifically, one must be familiar with the VA. As I know of only 3 people that do not have a television (but rely heavily on the internet for information), I say for the sake of argument that nearly everyone has heard how bad the VA has been behaving. My angst with Mr. Shapiro's comment is from the chilling effect he demands of anyone posting on that page. It also comes from having a PTS injury; one that has profoundly changed me as a human. His comment assumes that (as is a standard tactic of the VA propaganda machine) that we veterans cause the trouble and the VA is an innocent victim of a bunch of malcontents. He assumes that when Sgt. Johnny Doe comes home and is searching for help with the nightmares, flashbacks and relationship problems; he will come to their page to find help.
What Mr. Shapiro failed to understand is that his insipid attempt at "…injecting some humor into the topic…" (his words), that he, the administrator for a VA operated social media page, just perpetuated the public perception of veterans with PTS; one that is so skewed, warped and distorted, yet so embraced by law enforcement, legislators and the general public. One which views injured veterans as angry, unmanageable and uncontrollable.
When a member of my organization's team contacted the leadership of the NCFPTSD, she sent them a screen shot of the offensive meme and comment. To their credit, the Associate Director, Dr. Laurie Sloan, immediately posted an apology on their site, but left the picture up. She cited fearing "censoring the comments" as a reason. She offered to revisit that decision based on any input I had about it. She went on to say she did not understand my comments regarding the VA perpetuating the "perception" by the public, of veterans with PTS.
As infuriating as it was, I explained to this "Associate Director – PhD for the VA's National Center for PTSD", exactly what that perception was. My answer to her was as follows:
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"The mindset I referred to is that of the general public. That we are dangerous, frightening individuals and that we need to be regulated, medicated and in most cases, contained.
Most of us are not angry people, but rather frightened people – we are afraid of noise, people, contact or exposures. We are afraid of remaining this way. We are afraid of noises, cramped spaces and our own minds.
There are legislators who would have the public believe that this injury to my brain makes me unsafe to handle a weapon. (Nothing could be further from the truth).
It is THAT perception that we fight…it is that perception that we need the VA to help us overcome."
To her credit, that statement made her see the light. She removed the entire picture and comment by Mr. Shapiro. But not without actually first causing what they claim to be trying to heal…a "stressor" episode; (something which triggers the symptoms of PTS in the victim). For the rest of the day, I was anxious and distracted; and yes…very irritated.
I struggled all day with understanding how this particular division of the VA, whose sole purpose is to help we veterans with PTS, could be so callous, lack understanding and so narrow-minded.
Dr. Sloan really did not understand that we struggle every day to function, to be accepted for who we are not judged by our injuries.
During all of this, a homeless, mentally ill Marine veteran died in custody at Rikers Island, NY. He died because of the perceptions that his injury was not worthy of care, compassion or recognition. My brother in arms died alone in a cell, being there on a "suicide watch" and left alone by ignorant and uncaring civilians who believe the propaganda about this invisible injury.
"One Family, One Fight"
YN1 Lauren Price USN, (Ret.)
Founder and Public Affairs Representative
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