Holocausts, Critical Race Theory and Banning Books: Time for Reality Check !
My focus as a psychologist is in two important areas of study. The first area is clinical psychology. My practice of 45 years involves helping people improve their lives by overcoming emotional and behavioral problems. My primary treatment approach is cognitive behavioral therapy, (CBT). In CBT one examines the basis of their own beliefs. Our actions and feelings are the result of how we interpret information entering our brain. Clients are taught how to question the factual basis for their beliefs. Are my beliefs grounded in reality or are they an exaggeration or even delusional? We are what we think!
There are two phrases I use to help cue in appropriate thinking. Is the event that is occuring actually Horrible, Awful, Terrible (HAT) or is it Frustrating, Annoying, Disappointing (FAD)? Events that are HAT are so bad that people die or are severely injured. They will have a lifetime impact. I direct adults and children to become aware of events in the news or from history that are HAT. Examples of HAT events are wars, dying from a terrible disease, environmental catastrophes such as earthquakes, tornados, and severe storms. Holocausts, slavery and brutal dictatorships are clearly HAT events. One can not easily recover from these traumas.
FAD events are at best only inconveniences and some can result in recoverable injuries. These events will pass quickly. They pass like any fad such as the hottest current fashion trend, song or movie. In time they become less important and we move on. For example, your plans for an outing have to change due to weather, a friend had to cancel a visit at the last moment, you get a flat tire, catch a cold or fall and break an arm. In CBT learning to keep the HAT off and accept FAD improves your life.
My second role as a psychologist is that of a social scientist. We study and learn to apply psychological principles to improve life. For example it can impact how we design transportation systems, understand the origins of attitudes, improve law enforcement and education. The social aspects of society have a profound influence on the beliefs and opinions we use to interpret the events around us.
As social scientists we further defend people from harmful events such as child abuse, rape and exploitation of civil liberties. We study history to learn lessons that we can apply to improve life. What are the root causes of war, hatred, and social injustice?
Now for the reality check. In the last few years there has been a rise in acting out behavior throughout society. Attitudes that hurt the civil liberties of people are gaining traction. Policies and decisions are being made that strive to block learning from our past such as banning books. Currently we are dealing with the real problem of Covid’s impact upon our daily lives. Members of our government who should know better are drawing comparisons of mask wearing or mandating vaccinations to such horrors that occured in the Holocaust. They use fear while striving to gain power and manipulate society to accept their unsubstantiated view points.
Covid has aspects of both HAT and FAD. As a HAT it is a deadly disease that has taken the lives of almost a million citizens in our country. To mitigate the impact we are being asked to accept making adjustments to our daily lives. These adjustments are only FAD. They will pass and we can move on.
I volunteer in a preschool. The children have no problem wearing a mask and staying outdoors. They do not run around with wild political accusations equivacating mask wearing with the holocaust. Although it is frustrating, annoying and disappointing they have happily adjusted. We will at some point return to indoor learning without masks.
The Holocaust as well as the many other holocausts that have occurred across history and geological regions are horrible, awful and terrible. Millions upon millions have died in the name of unsubstantiated irrational beliefs used by others to gain power and wealth. Have we forgotten WWII and Hitler?
I am a child of Holocaust surviving parents. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am the first natural born american in the family. To this day my life has been greatly affected by the Holocaust. My parents, particularly my father, lost almost everyone from their families. My parents suffered greatly from PTSD which impacted their parenting. I have heard stories and seen the pictures of Jews being herded off on trains to death camps. It is lunacy to say that wearing a mask or getting a vaccination to protect others and yourself from Covid is like being in the holocaust.
I urge those misinformed congressmen, governors and politicians to take a tour of a Holocaust museum and try to really understand. My mother's ' story of survival and those of thousands more have been documented by Stephen Spielberg. They are freely available to everyone. Every day she, her siblings and parents lived in absolute terror. Listening to her story, I could not fathom the bravery and shear determination that led to her survival. I was truly frightened to think of how I might have attempted to survive.
To our congressional leaders who make false Holocaust comments such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Kevin McCarthy it's time stop it! As a child of a survivor I am offended. As a rational thinking person I am offended. As a citizen of the United States I am offended.
Regarding Critical Race Theory, it is a fact that in America slavery actually occurred. Even after slavery was abolished racial inequality still exists. Children were and are still being raised to believe that black people are inferior and are not entitled to the same civil rights as white colored people. Hate crimes still occur against black, asian, Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQ americans. The news is full of such examples. Let us not forget Charlottesville as well as the insurrection at the Capital. Remember the groups of people chanting and espousing HAT thoughts. Hat thinking leads to hate.
Banning books, passing voter restriction laws, and embracing fascist white supremacist groups as good people are leading the country toward repeating disastrous events of the past. In my practice I uses CBT to free people from irrational self injurious thinking and behavior. In society openly challenging beliefs to determine their validity is essential for growth. Suppression of the public from learning from its past will doom us to fail again. As it is said, doing the same thing all over again and expecting a different result is commonly considered the definition of insanity.
If you feel as I do find a way to write, discuss and share your feelings. Silence is not ok. Let us consider why so many people distrust each other? That would make for a wonderful discussion. Hear each other and resolve to make useful changes. Ask yourself to question what we are told and search for the validity of the statement. Is it truth or propaganda? Partisan politics divides us. Commonality unites us. Our collective future can be one of cooperative growth. Do not forget history or we will be doomed to repeat history.
Michael Simon, Ph.D.