Our culture is well acquainted with the notion of post-traumatic stress disorder. Originally developed to describe the real psychological after-effects of combat, our culture knew a good excuse when it saw it. We took the term, shortened it to an enticing acronym (PTSD) and substituted drama for trauma. No need for further explanation, we hold these truths in the contempt reserved for the familiar.
In our entrepreneurial culture we now drill and mine for excuses the way we once did for oil or coal. Recently, our professional extenu-ologists have discovered a new vein from which to mine absurd alibis, pre-traumatic stress disorder. This was the evasion of choice for the Islamo-squeamish after Maj. Nadal Hassan decided to shoot up Fort Hood shouting “Allahu Akbar”. Maj. Hasan’s fragile psyche, we were asked to believe, was broken by the stress that he might have developed after his deployment, were he actually to be deployed. What this excuse lacked in plausibility, it more than made up for in laugh-ability.
With an excuse for every kind of failing just a daft diagnosis away, it takes something special for a lame excuse to gain notice these days. For me one excuse, in the form of a song, did just that. Last week, in California on business, I was cruising the I-405 at a leisurely 3 mph. In need of distraction, I turned on the radio where I heard some indy-rocker moaning about how he lost his faith to the iron-fist of Catholic school.
The song, entitled “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is by the band Death Cab for Cutie. Lead singer Ben Gibbard channels Frank McCourt when he whines the following lyrics.
In Catholic school
As vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised
By a lady in black
And I held my tongue
As she told me, “Son
Fear is the heart of love”
So I never went back
Poor soul had his faith beaten out him by those vicious and mostly fictitious nuns of the 1930’s and ‘40s. Frank McCourt, for his part, at least had the cover of having actually being born in 1930 and being raised in Ireland. Gibbard was born in 1976 in Bremerton, Washington.
By the time Gibbard may have attended Catholic school in the 80’s, habited knuckle-cracking nuns were harder to find than orthodoxy in the Georgetown Theology department. Honestly, I find it slightly more plausible to lyrically lament your loss of faith at the hands of your almond-eyed alien kidnappers than brutal fear-mongering nuns. The chances that Mr. Gibbard ever had any such experience approximates a snowball’s chance of survival in that fanciful place of perdition in which nuns of the 30’s still believed.
I suppose we should call this lame excuse—faux dramatic stress disorder (FDSD).
For my part, I actually have traumatic after-effects from my time with Catholic school nuns during my high school years in the early eighties. I can’t look at off-the-rack pantsuits without having my faith weakened. The effect that felt-like materials have on me is too painful to describe.
If Mr. Gibbard or any other member of the “whinerati” had actually been educated by an old-school nun of the knuckle-smacking variety, they would likely make fewer modern excuses for their susceptibility to age-old weakness and just call it by its proper name, sin.