How Americans Learned to Love Trauma
This chapter explores how the American public came to see itself as perpetually imperiled. In a stream of crime, sex, and terror panics, a complex set of cultural values related to forbearance, forgiveness, rehabilitation, and second chances has progressively ceded ground to an equally complicated set of values that revolve around vigilance, accusation, detection, the assertion of guilt, and spectacles of punishment. Fear of crime gradually has been institutionalized, and the open society has given way to the crime-control society. Punishment, which had been gradually deemphasized in favor of rehabilitation, staged a spectacular and unanticipated comeback. Trauma is usually associated with violence. Whereas victims of abuse or violence once were expected to heal, the practices of victims' support groups and new therapies urged victims to perpetually relive their ordeals, to make trauma an essential part of their identity. These traumatized identities turned into political subjects. Americans stopped “getting over it” and learned to love trauma.
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