[Milton-L] Memorization and Naomi Wolf

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Wed Feb 25 10:31:48 EST 2004

James Rovira wrote:
> I'd also like to add that a person who is "destroyed" (was Ms.
> Woolf really "destroyed"?) by someone putting a hand on her thigh is a
> pretty fragile human being.   

I'm no great admirer of Naomi Wolf, but this point needs to be sharply
separated from any judgment of her personally or of her personal
experience at Yale.

An essential element in almost all cases of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder is a sense of betrayal by someone in a position of trust and
responsibility -- by one's leader(s). A classic on this is Jonathan
Shay, _Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character_.
(Shay is both a Ph.D. in classical studies and an M.D.) One of his case
histories is particularly illuminating here. This man had just arrived
in Viet Nam when his unit was placed in ambush above a beach where a
hostile landing was expected that night. Two boats did come ashore --
and they opened up with all the firepower they had. When morning came,
they discovered they had destroyed two fishing parties (and their
families) who had put ashore. A horrible accident. But that is _not_ how
the Colonel handled it. The Colonel said, "We've got body count" and
authorized the combat infantry badge for all those who had taken part in
the massacre. This man went on to earn the Infantry Combat Badge many
times over, but he never recovered from the sense of betrayal at the
false honor represented by his superior's treatment of the incident, and
that betrayal lay at the heart of the difficulties which led him to
Shay's clinic for the treatment of ptsd.

One need not give credence to Wolf's _particular_ account of her own
experience to know that such an act by a trusted superior is indeed
capable of a destructive result even for the _least_ "fragile" of human

My own clinical depression does not stem from ptsd, but over the years I
have known many others whose troubles were so caused (or at least
initiated) by just such events as Wolf describes -- and were I to
discover that the whole of her article was a lie, it would have the
effect not of discrediting her general points but rather of generating
considerable respect for her imaginative power.


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