Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Parental psychopathology

When I was 11 or 12, I so much wanted to understand human mind, and with so little success, that I read through an entire textbook of psychiatry. Later I learned that understanding humans comes naturally with experience. Now I'll try the other way round: to speak like an amateur psychiatrist on a subject which fully deserves the attention of professionals but seems neglected by them.
Highlander had quoted Libyan-American blogger Smokey Spice complaining a year ago about relations' attempts to arrange a marriage. I opened the blog to see what the situation is now, has the girl finally found her man, arranged or otherwise. But, as I have mentioned earlier, Arab blogs regarding Palestine and Israel and the current war resemble minefields and you can enjoy them only if you decide not to care when you'll step on a landmine. Eh well, I landed right onto a mine. You can see it at http://smokeyspice.blogspot.com/2006/04/mothers-voice.html. For readers who have a bad Internet connection and don't want to venture another link, I'll tell shortly what it is about. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli woman whose child was killed in 1997 at the age of 13 by a suicide bomber, speaks to the European Parliament on International Women's Day. She says a Palestinian woman must have been invited instead of her. Then she states that "state violence and army violence... are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened Western world is setting its big imperialistic foot... The so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb... This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is a non-devout Jew... Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world and in the name of this freedom and enlightment rob us of our children. Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters... My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals..."
Nurit Peled-Elhanan is not the first parent who, after losing a child at the hand of Islamists, champions their cause and spits on the leaders of the free world (not for failure to achieve victory, but for the very attempt to defend freedom). I know of two other such parents, both Americans. The first is Michael Berg whose son Nicholas (Nick), a humanitarian, was kidnapped and beheaded on video in Iraq. The second is Cindy Sheehan whose son Casey was killed as a soldier in Iraq. Upon reading Michael Berg's interview where he was accusing Pres. Bush more than the terrorists for his son's death, my mother said, "You mustn't blame the poor man for what he says, because a parent cannot be expected to remain sane after losing a child." I think she is right and Sandmonkey was too cruel when he called Cindy Sheehan "walking genetic waste" (though I understand him, too; she said e.g. that Sept. 11 was done by Americans themselves).
The above cited text is clearly also a product of a derailed mind. Reading it, I automatically sought some telltale particle, something fit for diagnosis, no matter how small. It is usually present in our opponents' writings. I think I found it here, too. Did you? The last of the cited sentences, where the mother said how afraid she was for her son. I immediately remembered that both Michael Berg and Cindy Sheehan have at least one surviving child.
Imagine you are a parent and lose your only child, or all of your children. The world ends for you. But it also means that you reach immunity. Because they have done everything to you, your enemies can do nothing more. Of course they can kill you as well, but you don't care. You are free and don't need to reckon with them or to appease them in any way.
Now imagine that you have two or three children and one of them is killed. You are hurt beyond healing, but you still have children to care and fear for. The war continues with no end in sight, the free world is in a difficult position, and to you it seems even bleaker than it actually is. The enemy claims victory at the battlefields and many fools in your own community take its side. I guess you'll be in the worst situation if you are religious. You begin to doubt your God who obviously cannot or doesn't want to help His people. Possibly He is powerless and the evil deity worshipped and offered human sacrifices by the enemy is the real God? If so, let's rush to pay respect to Allah, let's appease and praise His hordes, so that He spares your other children...
This is my explanation for the psychopathology shown by these three parents. Of course the truth may be different. What I am sure is that it is cruel and undignified for journalists and others to push microphones in the faces of these unfortunate parents and to expose to the crowd their minds, burned to red by pain.


programmer craig said...

Hi Maya :)

I didn't comment on that post Smokey Spice put up at the time. I just did now. Not sure why I did, there's really nothing to say. I think it's horrific that people use a grieving parent to serve a political agenda. Cindy Sheehan's son re-enlisted voluntarily during the war in Iraq, so he obviously did not share his mother's views. Unfortunately, we can't hear from him. But Cindy's husband divorced her, and the rest of her family has denounced her statements. She has paid a heavy price for allowing herself to be made a propaganda tool. On the bright side, she probably truly believes she is "fighting the good fight" - so in her mind at least, her son's death has purpose.

It seems to me that when one has a child who is killed violently, especially in a war, they tend to react in one of several ways.

Most often, people are resigned to it and comfort themselves with the idea that their child died for a good cause, or was at the least an innocent victim.

Many people want revenge... they want whoever is responsible for their child's death to suffer as much as they are suffeing. This seems to be the Arab reaction. And mine, to be honest, though I never lost a child. I did lose friends in war. I have tried to explain to family members why their son died.

Then there are the occassional people who blame themselves. And if you really look closely, that's exactly what the woman who gave that speech is doing. She's denouncing her own religion, her own culture, her own nationality, her own government... she's renouncing everything that she is. Destroying her own identity. In order to embrace the culture that murdered her child.

I'm sure there have been studies done on the mentality of crime victims that would apply to situations like this as well. Robbery victims who become thieves themselves, rape victims who become extremely promiscuous... it all ties together somehow, I'm sure, but I don't know enough about psychology to explain how :)

Good post. I'm glad you took that up.

programmer craig said...
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programmer craig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
programmer craig said...

Sorry! Not sure what got into blogger there... it posted the exact same commnet 3 times :o

Maya M said...

About revenge... Well, it is very natural for someone whose loved one is killed. It could be my reaction as well - I cannot really say, the situation is too horrible for me even to imagine. But the society has to put things under control. We are not to judge a Palestinian mother if she says, "I want the death of those who killed my baby", and in fact we needn't, she isn't the problem. The problem are the Palestinian leaders who say, "We'll avenge our dead, but they mustn't avenge theirs, and why do they build a wall to protect themselves?" They regularly file to UN complains that can be resumed as, "When we fire rockets on Israeli villages, the Israelis keep striking back."
Arabs tend to regard other people as inferior and I guess this is why it is so difficult to live in peace with them.
Another such nation are the Russians. After a Russian plane carrying 80 children crashed in Switzerland, a father killed the air traffic controler who was on duty. I would blame not as much the father as the air traffic control service who exposed the innocent controler to use him as a scapegoat, and the Swiss authorities who did nothing for his safety. But what shocked me was the comment of a popular Russian paper: "The father may never again walk as a free man, but he has piece of mind now, because he has fulfilled his duty."

Maya M said...

I read Programmer Craig's comments on the original Smokey Spice's post (http://smokeyspice.blogspot.com/2006/04/mothers-voice.html#comments) - I don't know whether she has enjoyed these comments but I did!

smokey spice said...

Well this is certainly interesting! I was looking something up on my own blog when I stumbled upon this post.

Ummm, not really sure what to say, except that I never thought of my blog as one that specifically had to do with Palestine and Israel nor did I think my romantic life would be of much interest to anyone that's never actually interacted with me.


I don't really care about that.

What I do care about is that you're misrepresenting this woman's words and message and that you relate to her in a strange non-human way as though she's a strange space alien working on behalf of your opposition. She's a mother expressing her own thoughts, her own ideas, her own feelings.

If a Lebanese woman whose child was killed by Israelis came out in support of Israel, I would think it a bit odd, but I wouldn't try to figure out how her mind has been twisted. It's called having a different opinion and I believe in that. Why you and PC seem to want to make this woman a crazy one, I don't understand.

Maya M said...

Smokey Spice, your blog HAS to do specifically with Israel and Palestine! I have just visited it and one of the last posts is about Israel and Palestine (LifeFromPalestine).
The rest is the price of being public. Once you upload your personal life to a site with unrestricted access, it is open for every stranger to copy, paste and comment. Including people whose views and personalities you dislike.
The same is true for that mother and the other parents I wrote about. It was they who came forward with their emotions, made them public and subjucted them to a political agenda (to be precise, the enemy's political agenda).
Of course they have the right to have an opinion. So have I and Programmer Craig.

smokey spice said...

Maya, I would suggest looking over my blog with fresh eyes. Of the entire first page, most entries have to do with Libya and only one is Live from Palestine.

Maya M said...

Smokey, I didn't mean that your blog is entirely or predominantly about the you-know-what conflict, sorry if it has sounded like this. I just meant that you regularly post about it.
About the "romantic" matter - I am just fond of happy endings, so I visited your blog hoping to find one. Indeed you are a complete stranger but I wish to "marry off" even imaginary people (I mean, I like when books and movies end with a wedding). I put a comment to that old your post.