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PTSD, COVID and healing America

It is up to our leaders to focus on curing the disease and bringing America back from the brink.

Joseph Frager
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as “a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock.”

After nearly a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is fair to say that many Americans suffer from PTSD. This is not to make excuses for aberrant behavior, but rather an attempt to get a handle on what is happening in the United States and around the globe. The United States had witnessed more than its share of abnormal behavior in 2020; 2021 has not been any better so far. Cool heads are far and few between. Humility and respect are in short supply.

The polarization of America cannot go on. It has led to a catastrophe and will only lead to more hardship. The country has to depolarize. The pandemic has only exacerbated a dangerous situation.

Passions are running high, and the pandemic has pushed them into the stratosphere.

Everyone has to come down to earth. There is plenty of blame to be spread around, but please can we focus on the pandemic and leave the finger-pointing to another day?

As bad as the mayhem at the U.S. Capitol was on Jan. 6, having an impeachment vote with one week to go before Donald Trump finishes his presidency was just pouring kerosene on the flames. This will not unify the nation. Once again, one might attribute this to some form of nationwide PTSD. The treatment for PTSD is cognitive behavioral therapy. One must change the thought patterns that are disturbing one’s life. This is what is needed to get us back on track.

The Republicans lost the moral high ground with the Capitol building break-in. The Democrats lost credibility with the latest impeachment. Once again, respect for one another is what is needed, not slap downs and body slams. As my colleague Rabbi David Katz of the Igud HaRabbonim wrote me, “Our choice should be respected. Our choice gives us freedom.”

I’m sure that once we conquer the coronavirus pandemic, we will all be able to inhale and exhale better. The PTSD with which America is living will subside. It is up to our leaders to focus on curing the disease and bringing America back from the brink.

Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.

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