The Problem of Denial

March 16th, 2017

Aeschylus said it best. “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

I’m not feeling too well today because of an incident that never happened.

A 1993 lawsuit over holocaust denial – a popular form of amnesia among fascists and disappointed humanists – was filed in London. Truth won in that suit but remains a flexible rod there in 2017. That trial was memorialized in a book of the same name, a valuable read that. demonstrates just how prevalent denial has become in our everyday life.

Delusions of American indemnity from homefront battles were dented in the plane attacks of September 11, 2001. The fires following the fall of New York City’s twin towers resulted in toxic dusts settling in the homes and offices of New Yorkers. Misinformed about the wisdom of normal cleaning methods, many ailments resulted from amateur efforts to clean the mess requiring hazmat procedures. Like most individuals with multi-system illnesses resulting from unknown causation, the sick were often misdiagnosed and denied recognition until science had literally weighed the components of those particles carrying asbestos, petro-chemicals and numerous other dangers. My own history of toxicant induced injuries from 1999 and 2000 exposures required a great deal of detective work to uncover.

Living part of every year in Israel, I see the strongest delineation made between the norms of peaceful, enlightened life and the predations of terrorism. The latter can only be fought when every resident is aware of the realities of attempted murder with knives, guns or gas canisters. Fearless reporting of suspicious behavior and widespread understanding that pride may be taken in treating reality as desirable divides life and death into their appropriate compartments.

Denial, frequently used as a palliative measure to frightened consumers of preferred half-truths, is extremely dangerous. September eleventh, and more recent events in San Bernadino, California, informed Americans that not only does terror exist but that it may visit or lodge with you in your neighborhoods. Those of us who’ve collided with reality in its many guises have to maintain an unshakeable belief in the strength of truth.

I was in a UK airport this month, having a bite to eat before getting a boarding pass printed out in search of spring warmth. Suddenly, a man approached a nearby trash can with what looked like a canned drink. Pressing the top of that can, he then dropped it into the trash where hissing sounds of escaping fumes were heard and inhaled. My Israeli side immediately challenged him about what he’d thrown out. “A milk-shake.”, he retorted in annoyed tones. My western training of immediately relegating responsibility to authority led to my calling aloud for security. Twenty minutes later with lungs burning, I informed a guard who chanced by in a rather emptied-out section of the terminal and departed for safer environs.

Resting in another area hours later, a familiar airport employee approached. “Thought you’d like to know that nothing was found in the trash at terminal ___ this afternoon.” Growing up in New York and living in the Middle East allows for a wealth of reality-testing skills. I knew a lie when I heard one. Still feeling ill, I now lacked a leg to stand upon should I need a doctor in the absence of facts about what I’d inhaled that day. So would the staff and visitors of that terminal. A baseless need to deny reality would cascade into an ineffectual series of accidents for all present that day.

Perhaps a cleaner will develop migraines. “You really ought to stop working double shifts.”
Perhaps a ticket salesperson will develop joint pains. “Take a month off from the gym.”
Perhaps a security guard will develop a persistent cough. “Careful with this codeine, now.”
Perhaps a doctor will quit. “Too many limits on medical testing. How can I figure out what’s wrong?”

Perhaps the most inaccessible test is that of an accurate patient history.

Categories: commentary

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