LLAD: The Fiweworks is Skaewing Me

Just like combat. Exactly.

Bill Briggs of US News /MSNBC is all alarmed (or, to put a finer point on it, concern-trolling) that 4th of July fireworks is twaumatizing the ickle veterans with PTSD, which in most cases we’ve seen stands for Phony Traumatic Stress Disorder. The examples he cites don’t entirely make his case.

To Chinnici, 26, who served two tours in Iraq and has since dealt with a mild case of post-traumatic stress disorder, the loud, staccato pops can sound much like a machine gun.

“I instantly want to know,” he said, “where the sound is coming from so I can understand what I’m up against.”

Throughout that brief, chilling moment, Chinnici knows intellectually that he’s prowling his own yard in Phoenix. Emotionally and instinctively, however, he’s been momentarily yanked backward in time to an unfriendly, unpredictable, violent land. The trigger: kids playing with firecrackers.

We’d love to see Chinnici’s 214.

How alarmed (or concern-troll’d-up) is Briggs? His next sentence:

As the nation’s birthday looms – and, most definitely, on July 4 – an unknown number of combat veterans, including active and retired soldiers diagnosed PTSD or not, will cringe, flinch and feel anxious as the crackle of fireworks sporadically fills their American neighborhoods, towns and cities. The annual celebration of freedom has, for many warriors, become one of the worst days of the year.

Dude, grow up. Independence day does not loom. An “unknown number,” indeed.

PTSD can carry an array of chronic, otherwise-invisible symptoms that flare momentarily or take root for a time: nervousness, hyper-emotionality, an inability to sleep, and an overreaction to seemingly humdrum, daily moments.

One characteristic of quack diagnoses is that they can apply to just about everything. PTSD, which was invented by anti-military pshrink Thomas Lifson during the Vietnam War as a way to stigmatize the war by stigmatizing the veterans, is a catch-all for any odd and many normal behaviors. PTSD is chronic, except when it’s acute. It comes from exposure to trauma, except when the vet turns out not to have been traumatized, in which case it’s from the exposure to the threat of trauma, unless the vet turns out not to actually have been a vet, in which case it’s the threat of the trauma of exposure. No matter how many turtles you turn over, it’s PTSD all the way down.

If a vet is wound up tight? PTSD! If he or she is calm? Hypercontrolling due to PTSD! Lose weight, gain weight, maintain weight, those are all PTSD markers. Get in fights? PTSD, natch. And avoid fights? Well, clearly it’s…. are you starting to get the idea?

“Fireworks hit right in the heart of these causes. Here’s an explosive-looking thing and a loud noise,” said [some paycheck pshrink named] Hart, who researches the neurological components of the disorder and works with veterans whose PTSD “arousal triggers” include abrupt noises.

“What they’ll feel when they hear or see fireworks is mostly fear, a sense of threat as they did during combat when the IED went off or when the Humvee blew up,” Hart said.

So Briggs searches far and wide to find a traumatize veteran who has been involved in the bloody ambushes and bayonet charges trauma of the FOB Baskin-Robbins running out of Black Raspberry and finds someone in a field whose frequency of “closing with and destroying the enemy” can be easily deduced by the job title: “Air Force combat correspondent.” Oh, the horror. Oh, the humanity!

“Firework agitation is a common reaction for those of us who’ve survived mortar attacks, bombings, and explosions,” said Julie Weckerlein, 31, who five years ago served as a military combat correspondent for the U.S. Air Force in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She has not been diagnosed with PTSD.

Lord Love a Duck, psychological casualties among our battle-hardened writer-photographers. One thought: if you can’t tell the sound of commercial fireworks from the sound of enemy fire, maybe you’re not quite as combat as all that. Just putting it out there.