Legislating Fear

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200px-First_blood_posterThe state of Georgia recently pushed a piece of legislation through the state that would establish a designation on drivers’ licenses showing the bearer’s status as a sufferer of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How about that for dropping a live grenade in the middle of the punchbowl? According to an article that appeared in Stars and Stripes on May 10, 2010, current and former service members could add a notation to their drivers’ license similar to the way that the need for corrective lenses is shown. The information would be voluntary and require a sworn statement from a doctor. If it gets signed by the Governor, it would go into effect as a law July 1. The interesting thing, according to the article, is that this apparently comes at the prompting of a veteran who suffers from PTSD:
Sen. Ron Ramsey, the bill’s sponsor, told the paper that the bill came at the suggestion of a former servicemember with post-traumatic stress disorder, who told him he feared a violent encounter with police officers. “He said, ‘God forbid anybody put handcuffs on me. I’d go berserk’,” the senator said. Sen. John Douglas, an Army veteran who co-sponsored the bill, said the information on the license would let police know they might deal with a person differently. “The police officer would know that a sudden move [by the motorist] wasn’t necessarily an offensive move,” Douglas told the Journal-Constitution.
Obviously, there are critics of the bill. Unfortunately, the critics aren’t exactly helping the situation either.
“Why would I want to put out there on my license – hey, I’m a nut job,” said Marvin Myers, president of the Georgia Vietnam Veterans Alliance Inc.
} Here’s the crux of the problem as I see it, I believe it’s essentially reinforcing bad stereotypes about PTSD and contributing to the wildly inaccurate public perceptions about the disorder. Really Mr. Meyers? “Nut job”? Way to show your sympathy to fellow veterans. We have enough people out there who think PTSD transforms out service members into ticking time bombs without trying to slap warning labels on them. The vast majority of people who suffer from PTSD can lead relatively normal lives. I can’t tell you the dozens of sufferers I personally know who are in no real danger of flipping out and killing cops because the Army made them into kill-bots. This is exactly the type of negative stereotypes that prevent veterans and active duty service members from seeking treatment. Who wants a label that says-I could go off and kill you at any moment? Okay, important point, getting the label on your license is voluntary…for now. I will cede that point. I can perhaps sympathize with the unnamed veteran’s concern that he doesn’t know how he’d react to the cop in certain situations and wants the cop to have some advance warning. What if a cop addressing a subject does reasonably fear violence from that subject? Should the cop avoid handcuffs because that might upset the subject? Cops have to do their jobs and sometimes it’ll place us in bad situations. At the end of the day, I think this is not only a bad law, but a frightening one to boot. This law continues to beat the drums of fear mongering that have already led us to the faulty Hollywood perception that veterans are dangerous. This is why people don’t trust us. Am I off base here? Is there good reasoning behind a law like this? I’d love if someone could show me how this isn’t damaging veterans in the long run.
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One of the things I should probably clarify, in terms of what's really troubling to me about the legislation. It's voluntary, so unless this is something that progresses down a slippery slope to a mandatory requirement, it doesn't worry me too much in terms of veterans being treated like second class citizens forced to disclose private medical information.

Two things are I think more troubling.

It reinforces the negative stereotype of PTSD sufferers as ticking time bombs. That's just not the case in the overwhelming majority of those who struggle with the disorder. The vast majority of those who suffer from PTSD are capable of compensating to the point of leading a reasonably normal life. It takes work, sure, but it's manageable to a certain extent. Think of it like Diabetes-when you understand it, you can adjust and compensate-it takes attention and work, and there's no cure, but you can get back to something approaching normal, even if it does impact your life on a daily basis.

It puts an additional layer of second guessing on the decision making abilities of police officers, something that's already a difficult job. Police officers, on a daily basis, have to assess individual situations with members of the public that they're interacting with. You have to assess so many possible factors and exercise judgement all in compressed time. They don't need an additional level of factors to second guess their judgement in handling a situation. Just because someone will react poorly to handcuffs doesn't mean handcuffs might not be appropriate in some situations. If you've reached a level of behavior that causes a police officer to believe that he or she should put you in handcuffs-it doesn't really matter if you like it-it's going to happen.

No..... they'll just make you wear a special bracelet. One that EVERYONE can see at all times.

Can you imagine the sh!tstorm that would happen if this nation treated AIDS or HIV sufferers the way they want to treat veterans with PTSD?

It's time to consider that our society be reorganized the way that Heinlein suggested in "Starship Troopers". No one gets to vote, hold a government job, receive government benefits or run for elected office unless they serve in the military and have an honorable discharge.

That is not right too tag a person because thay have Ptsd. Was it there fought it hade to happen like to them. The state needes
too think about what they are doing to a person be for they do it .

Hey I think your post is great!I found it on Bing. Keep up the good work.

Demophilius ,

I hear you, but I always worry about that whole "voluntary" thing. If it works, then the legislature is likely to ask why it shouldn't be mandatory? Heck, there's every reason to believe that this might have been floated in Georgia by the Feds as a trial balloon to see how it would be perceived by the public.

I'll be honest: I don't trust anything anymore when it comes to the Federal Government. They've done nothing to garner trust over the years, and have given people many many reasons to be wary of them.

Veterans in general, and those with PTSD in particular, are an easy bogeyman to throw out as reasons to restrict this or that. It hasn't helped that Oliver Stone and other miscreant Hollywood types have perpetuated and gotten rich of the myth of the drug-addled, PTSD-suffering Vietnam (and other, lately) Veterans who are just time bombs waiting to go off.

When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, we had a birthday party for her and invited all her classmates. One woman called to enquire if I was a veteran, because she didn't feel safe having her children around veterans who could have "flashbacks" and were trained to be violent killers.

That same idea is prevalent throughout the left, and especially in the Federal Government. Witness how the DHS and Congress have floated the idea of having anyone diagnosed with PTSD be placed on a "refuse purchase" list for firearms.

This law is a VERY bad idea, and will be another "scarlet letter" law to be expanded and abused for political purposes well beyond it's original intent.


Next, they'll wanna carve the letters PTSD on our foreheads.

Less we forget; every person who has experienced a traumatic event has the potential for PTSD.

Alot say they do but I think the majority are bullshitters. When I was in the Marines every one and their dad was crying PTSD and all they did was sit on base. They didnt do a damn thing. So for the people who actually do have it, it takes time and money away from them just so the fakers can get it easy.

government jobs are still the best when it comes to job security ','

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.