Much Adieu About Yepsen: Notes from the Political Waste Land
Having finally succumbed to the day-to-day pressures of writing a political column for the “Des Moines Register,” David Yepsen has taken his first step out of the delusional closet by admitting he suffers from “Post-Traumatic Columnist Stress Disorder.” What pushed him over the edge, you ask? Answer: the War in Iraq. More specifically, it was a combination of the Iraq War and Yepsen trying to enjoy himself on Christmas without having to think about the former, but for those of you avid readers of Yepsen’s column, who needs specifics, eh?
Post-Traumatic Columnist Stress Disorder (PTCSD) is a term for certain psychological consequences of vicarious exposure to, or confrontation with, stressful experiences that a columnist contemplates and/or writes about. The experience does not necessarily involve actually writing about the stressful experiences -- for part of the writing is the brainstorming process -- therefore deep contemplation, Internet surfing, and/or skimming the AP wire about a particular subject may lead to a manifestation of PTCSD.
Symptoms of PTCSD can include the following: incessant ramblings with no clear focus, a detached point-of-view, memory loss, occasional breakdowns and/or lapses in logic, irritability, illusions of grandeur, agoraphobia (wherein columnist is afraid to leave office to research primary sources), inability to decipher fact from fiction, and starting a political blog.
Retrospectively, Yepsen first realized he was suffering from PTCSD when he saw his experiences with the Iraq War as if he were actually in the war, more specifically a prisoner of war being subjected to a contemporary version of an ancient Chinese water torture:
It's like a water torture. The daily drip, drip, drip of it is numbing. For a while, I thought it was just me. After all, I am in the news business, especially the political end of it, and the biggest issue facing the country is what to do about this conflict. So, naturally, I'm surrounded by the debates and discussions all day in the course of my work.
David’s realization was exacerbated when he abandoned Jesus Christ on his Savior’s celebrated day of birth:
I try not to let it get to me. I go through the motions of Christmas, hoping the rituals of the holidays will jump-start the spirit. No luck. My Christmas battery is dead.
Clouded by a state of denial, these initial signs went unnoticed by Yepsen, who in turn projected a barrage of mental “tsk tsks” on unsuspecting Sleepwalkers:
It's not a humbug deal. There's just no "Merry" in front of the word. Instead, I find myself getting irritated with people who act like nothing is out of the ordinary this holiday season.
Next, a state of paralysis ensued, triggering a series of coping mechanisms:
Until you talk to them and discover that, oh, yes, they're aware of the war, are sick of it, but don't know what to do. So they've moved on. Frustrated and at a loss, they look for escapes or distractions. If they are able to find refuge in a shopping trip or a school play, good for them.
Fortunately for David, he has his column to help cope with his paralysis. Good for him. But what about the children?
None of us wants to let the grim news of war cloud a holiday for the children. We take refuge in our own memories of Christmases past and work hard to make good memories for the little ones today.
It’s clear David’s PTCSD has slipped into remission as denial rears its ugly head while he brainstorms for his next column:
They are with a bunch of lonely soldiers far away. They must ache for their loved ones and worry if today will be their day to be dribbled into the grinder of this conflict. I also think of their families at home. How ever do they cope? To hear GIs and families tell it, the folks back home sometimes have more anxiety than the troops in the field. The soldiers at the front are on edge, but they've got their comrades, their brains and pride in what they do to comfort them. (Even when the armor plates are too thin.)
David’s mental wanderings exacerbate a state of seeming paralysis:
Their people back in the States are in the dark, sweating it out, worried sick that the empty spot at the holiday table may become permanent. For a couple of thousand families, it already has. I can do nothing for either, except say my prayers, donate a few bucks to a unit family fund or say a kind word.
Or use your column to analyze and critique politicians and their policies responsible for triggering the PTCSD? Maybe then, the “Merry” will return to Yepsen next Christmas, so he can enjoy the holidays without having to worry about soldiers dying on Jesus’ birthday…
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