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We can’t just go around saying “what’s the matter with these people?” and expect that to solve America’s problems. Half of us (more than half, thanks) are working to get the bums out of office before the situation is irretrievable; the other half is going around in a voodoo trance like Madge Bellamy in ‘White Zombie’ (1932), capable only of mumbling “Yes, Master” no matter how bizarre the master’s whims become. Those of us who haven’t been guzzling zombie potion need to stop wondering if everybody’s crazy except us and accept the truth: yes. However, if we have a diagnosis we can find a cure. To this end, here’s the diagnosis, sports fans: America has Stockholm Syndrome.
For those of you who weren’t following the Swedish newspapers in 1973, Stockholm Syndrome was first identified after a bank robbery turned into a hostage situation. This was in Stockholm, if you weren’t already picking that up. Stockholm in Sweden. They have banks there. This one was the Sveriges Kreditbank. The point is, a couple of ex-cons held four people hostage for nearly six days, which is a total of 24 days. They could have held two people hostage for 12 days, or one person for 24 days, or three midgets for 16 days, but as it happened they held four people for six days, accidentally launching a perfectly designed behavioral experiment of such far-reaching importance that its lessons have been pretty much forgotten today.
Here’s what happened: three women and one guy, all bank tellers, ended up in this botched robbery and were held as human shields, complete with death threats. But being Swedes, the robbers were also kind to the captives when they weren’t poking guns up their nostrils. When the police staged a rescue, the bank tellers resisted: they wanted to defend their captors. This astonishing turn of events went even further: two of the women got engaged to the robbers later on. They loved these guys. What were they thinking?
Stockholm Syndrome, as it became known, appears in humans under the following conditions:
1. You need to be afraid for your life due to an abuser or captor.
2. You need to feel completely trapped by same, no escape.
3. Your abuser has brief fits of kindness.
4. You are isolated from contact with anybody but your captor.
It’s also worth noting that Stockholm Syndrome is usually precipitated by a trauma of some kind: a beating, a capture, or a terrorist attack, for example.
Ring any bells? Sounds like a description of the average American. How Stockholm Syndrome works, nutshell-wise, is a fellow gets stuck in a dangerous situation with a bully. The bully knocks the fellow around and ruins his life, but offers small consolations along the way. Isolated and desperate, our fellow transfers all of his hopes for survival onto the bully. And this feeling persists long after the threat is gone. You can find everyday examples of Stockholm Syndrome at work in abusive relationships, prison camps, religious cults (such as the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, or the Catholic Church) and in the workplace (which explains Wal-Mart). What’s really weird is that Stockholm Syndrome can effect millions of people at once, hence Communist China or the Bush Administration.
Whoa, there, big guy, you ejaculate. Am I saying our semi-elected government would place its citizens in what amounts to a hostage situation? Duh. Look at the Democrats in Congress. I know it’s awful, but look. They can’t all be such pussies, can they? It takes guts to win high office like that. So why is it, the harder the Republicans beat them, the more the Dems beg for it? Stockholm Syndrome. The Democretins have transferred their allegiance to the very persons who threaten them most. Yessss, Master. And look at the average citizen. I was listening to NPR recently to see what the Liberal Media had to say and heard a woman with her soldier-husband stationed in Iraq saying with quaking voice, [paraphrased]”I support the president a hundred percent. I have to. I can’t live with the idea he sent our loved ones over there for nothing.” She sounded as if afflicted with a peanut allergy, her throat tight, voice shrill. Now maybe she’s just allergic to peanuts, but maybe she’s also deeply confused and afraid. She has turned her fear and rage inwards and now accepts the people who put her in danger as the source of her salvation. And why not? If she watches nothing but Fox News or CNN or MSNBC, she doesn’t get any other points of view. She starts believing there is no answer but the answer her captor provides. It hasn’t occurred to this woman that by not supporting Bush and his war, she might get her husband back sooner, and more alive. Why not? Because this viewpoint is not provided to her.
Here we see condition number 4 in action. The average American is isolated from other viewpoints, and so perceives no option but the option advanced by the bullies at the top. And since the world is swarming with terrorists (AKA ‘darkies’) hemming America in on all sides, held back only by such trifling obstacles as the North Pole, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and to the south a chicken wire fence, same America feels completely trapped; and politically speaking, the country is held in an iron and unilateral grip from which there is little hope of escape: what are you going to do, vote for somebody else? They own the voting machines! In all kinds of fun ways, we meet condition 2. Then you have the grotesque litter of small kindnesses that bullies offer up in lieu of actual sympathy: we sent your job overseas, but here’s an extra couple week’s worth of unemployment benefits. We’re cutting the taxes of rich people for your sake, not theirs; here’s a hundred bucks of your own money to prove we mean it. On the one hand, we’re assaulting the American family on every front from healthcare to education, but on the other hand, we’ll keep the fags from getting married. This hurts us more than it hurts you (stifled giggling). That’s condition 3 met in spades ( a type of shovel). Condition 1, ‘afraid for your life’: I think we’re there. These people have put us all in danger, the world over, and the gun is in their hands. One bark from the roscoe and we’re drilled.
So what can we do about it? Understand this isn’t an isolated case or two; we’re talking about an overwhelmingly pervasive condition, a pandemic like spastic flatulence. Sociologists say that all women suffer from at least a mild degree of Stockholm Syndrome (except my wife, the She-Wolf of Long Island). All Red Sox fans have the look about them. But most of all it’s the millions of Americans who support everything that goes on in this country, no matter what, as long as it comes from the top. Not just any top — president Clinton got pimp-slapped in public and these same Americans wouldn’t give him the time of day. It has to be a brute running the show. A bully. Clearly the citizens of Iraq have not got Stockholm Syndrome yet, and the French and Germans are probably immune due to certain unpleasantnesses of the last century; Tony Blair, however, will be proposing marriage to George Bush any day now. So what can we do?
The most common safeguard against Stockholm Syndrome is well known and simple. You must expose people to other points of view and help them to develop strong relationships with people who are comfortable with resistance. Thus abused women are greatly helped when befriended by feminists (Dykes! Kill em all!) In this same way conservatives must be befriended by normal people. The victim of Stockholm Syndrome is afraid of retaliation, so it also helps to train the victim in self-defense, whether that’s how to knee somebody in the cubes or how to participate in democracy. Finally, concerned people outside such relationships need to create safe opportunities for the abused person or persons to participate in their own outcomes — that is, the whackjob needs to feel in control again. Down with that Big Bad Daddy. From a national standpoint, this would best be achieved by restoring America’s freedoms, its democratic checks and balances, and the mechanisms of governance to their pre-9/11 state — which wasn’t great, but it was better than nothing. And while we’re at it we could decommission all the nuclear power plants and chemical factories near our cities and implement measures to improve our international relationships in places that breed terrorism, such as Michigan or Saudi Arabia. People would feel safer then. They might someday become emotionally and psychologically balanced again, the difference between a sheep and a sheep with a black belt in Karate.
He’s coming! I have to stop writing now.
BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at: email@example.com