Page 2
Volume 7, Number 156
12 April 2007

Radio Interview

with Loren Cobb

One week after my essay Speaking Truth to Trauma appeared, I was interviewed by Aisha Mason on the KPFK Pacifica radio show Morning Review. The subject was war, trauma, and society. To hear this 15-minute interview, click the Play button:

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Listeners' Comments on the Interview

Loren, I just listened to your radio interview — yes, yes, yes. You really get me to thinking.

I've often wondered about what perpetuates violence and trauma in a culture. If we could figure that out, maybe we stand a chance at stopping other vicious cycles. I'm thinking that there are three major mechanisms: ignorance / fear (grounded in black and white thinking), injury / grief, and denial.

Taking your example of packing minor drug offenders off to prison: This policy is based in ignorance about the underlying reasons for drug use (self-medication, often for the after-effects of trauma!) and fear that if we do not punish those despicable drug users (us vs. them thinking), they'll keep using those evil drugs. The injury/grief piece comes in here: Heaven forbid that we should offer drug users the medical and psychological treatment they need. That would be catering to their needs ("... and nobody ever tried to meet my needs, so what makes them think they deserve special treatment!). And finally, denial: ("I would never use drugs! By the way, could you stop by the liquor store? Damn, I forgot to buy cigarettes. And I gotta refill my Paxil prescription!").

Another common expression of denial is found in comments like this: "It happened to me and it wasn't so bad, in fact I deserved it; mistreatment was good for my character, and I turned out okay, so why change the system?"

Hazing is a classic example, and medical school is another example of institutionally sanctioned traumatic hardship...

I wonder if we can trace American dysfunction back to the Puritans, who were harsh with themselves and others..., not to mention the terrible trauma visited on African people mistreated and traumatized for generations in this country. Are there any African-American leaders who trace current social problems to this traumatic history?

The solution? I propose we reform the educational system, so that it:

  • nurtures children even if they aren't being nurtured at home (builds resiliance and strong learners),
  • identifies and honors each child's strengths and teaches each child as a unique individual,
  • teaches children how to think, not what to think,
  • treats children holistically — mind and body,
  • trains teachers in relationship-based education, in which student-teacher relationships, not paperwork and lesson plans, are the basis for learning,
  • hires teachers who are chosen for their passion and ability to work well with children,
  • supports teachers, so that they can do their job well,
  • pays teachers top dollar, recognizing the invaluable work they do,
  • builds community so that schools become places where people gather.

I would also challenge the Defense Department to send food and medicine and teachers the next time we invade a country, and see what kind of effect that brings. As in, "It looks like you could use some help, can we offer you what your people need? It will make you very popular and powerful, sir!"

— Debbie Davis, Denver, CO.

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