Cindy McCain, from an interview with Marie Claire:
MC: You met your husband after his POW days. To what extent is that still with you — or is it a part of history?If what Mrs. McCain says is true, she has inadvertently raised the question of what responsibility the United States government bears for the damage to those draftees who weren't "trained" and thus immunized against post-traumatic stress disorder. But her breezy theorizing about PTSD is of course contradicted by reality. As psychiatrist Jonathan Shay suggests in Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1994), anyone can incur the bad moral luck (as Shay calls it) that culminates in PTSD. To say, as Mrs. McCain does, that PTSD comes only to those who don't know what they're doing, is callous (or feigned?) ignorance. Shay knows better:
CMcC: My husband will be the first one to tell you that that's in the past. Certainly it's a part of who he is, but he doesn't dwell on it. It's not part of a daily experience that we experience or anything like that. But it has shaped him. It has made him the leader that he is.
MC: But no cold sweats in the middle of the night?
CMcC: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. My husband, he'd be the first one to tell you that he was trained to do what he was doing. The guys who had the trouble were the 18-year-olds who were drafted. He was trained, he went to the Naval Academy, he was a trained United States naval officer, and so he knew what he was doing.
The most ancient traditions of Western culture instruct us to base our self-respect on firmness of character. Many popular melodramas of moral courage provide satisfaction through the comforting fantasy that our own character would hold steady under the most extreme pressure of dreadful events. A permanent challenge of working with those injured by combat trauma is facing the painful awareness that in all likelihood one's own character would not have stood firm. . . . We have powerful motives not to listen to the veteran's story, or to deny its truth.As Achilles in Vietnam shows us, in Homer's Iliad and in the narratives of the veterans with whom Shay works, good character can be undone by the traumas of war.
Gilgamesh travesty (the DoVA, Gilgamesh, and PTSD)
Jonathan Shay wins MacArthur grant