Friday, May 31, 2013

How To Make a Terrorist

Tamerlan and Dzkohar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bombers
It seems that when someone plans or executes a multiple murder, I have mentioned schizophrenia. Some say I see it in my sleep, but there is reason to the madness.
James J. Lee Discovery Channel

James J. Lee didn't like the Discovery Channel's programming. He thought Planet Green should encourage mandatory sterilization of the human race. His website is replete with paranoid ideation.
He didn't kill anyone, but was prepared, carried weapons. James J. Lee went down when police raided the building where he held his hostages.

James Egan Holmes, the Joker who pumped 33 bullets into twelve people in a Colorado movie theater, had been treated for mental illness. Unable to communicate verbally, he drew the doctors pictures of what went on in his head. He didn't just go postal.
James Egan Holmes-Batman Joker

Cho Seung-Hoi, a student at Virginia Tech, murdered 32 and wounded 17 others before killing himself. With a diagnosis of either Schizoid Personality Disorder, prodromal to Schizophrenia, or both, he likely had the angst of a psychotic.

What are we to think about the Boston Bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar?  Is there something sick about them? Is being pro-terror a sickness?

Most think that the older brother influenced the younger, that Dzhokhar looked up to Tamerlan, did what many younger brothers do, tagged along. Families are powerful.

Tamerlan, taken down by the police, has been implicated in other murders, back in 2011.  A drug deal gone bad, three dead. Tamerlan's alter-profile, a religious Muslim who used or sold drugs, doesn't sync. The religious tend to be aesthetics, not drug users. They have conscience. This is clearly a complicated person. He had friends, too, people who were with him at the time of the murders, partners in crime.

Ibragim Todashev, who died during the interview with authorities, not only confessed to his direct role in slashing the throats of three people in Waltham, Massachusetts, but also fingered Tsarnaev.

Seems the victims were Jewish, at least one, Brendan Mess, who boxed with Tamerlan. The gloves came off, apparently, over something more than drugs and money. Perhaps hatred.

Investigators of the crime reported at the time that the heads of the three victims were pulled back and their throats slit ear to ear with great force. Marijuana was spread over the bodies in a "symbolic gesture," and several thousand dollars in cash was found at the scene.

When parents talk about their kids smoking pot, stealing, acting out, they want to believe that other kids have brainwashed theirs. It would be nice if youthful criminal behavior was a stage, a coming of age thing, having to prove independence. A way to be cool, garner the respect of their peers.

But acting out, scoffing laws, sociopathy, isn't a stage. Family dysfunction and genetics conspire to interact with social influences, shape personality. Tamerlan's mother, for example,  surely a social influence, doesn't respect the law. She's been arrested for stealing expensive designer dresses from high end retail stores. She allegedly ripped off the sensors, stole the dresses, then attempted to return them, cash out.

Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni  speaks of his nephew finding a new friend at Cambridge, a convert to Islam. Misha, from Armenia, a neighboring region of North Caucasus, lured Tamerlan away from the family. He told him that boxing, the youth's passion, isn't the way to God. This friendship, according to Mr. Tsarni, changed the Boston Bomber.

The US government is calling Tamerlan and Dzokhar self-radicalized terrorists, but they apparently had help radicalizing. Others are complicit.

No evidence of Schizophrenia. The 2011 murders point to Antisocial Personality Disorder, however. The features? A callous disregard for exacting pain and suffering, no guilt or remorse. Begins in childhood. No auditory hallucinations. We call it a personality disorder because there is something seriously wrong with hurting others. It is antisocial. The current research buzz is to have compassion for those who have the disorder-- abnormalities in their brains.There is a movement for leniency in the courts.

Except that 
Antisocial Personality Disorder is usually picked up in early childhood. These are the kids who throw cats in the river, who trip little old ladies, who cut up insects. 

The lite version, when a child or an adult knows enough not to get caught, when the behavior is sneaky, the crimes less overt, when cheating matures to rising up the corporate ladder at the expense of the reputations of colleagues, we think-- almost a sociopath

It could be that Tamerlan was an almost turned definite. We're sure to find out over time.  

One more story of disaffected youth. William Plotnikov's son Vitaly, shot down by police in Russia last week. Plotnikov had turned on his son, called authorities. He was concerned that Vitaly left his Canadian home to join an Islamic terrorist cell  He did not want his boy responsible for flying arms and legs, mayhem, destruction. Russian authorities found the young man in the woods with known and wanted gang members. Weapons  abound, Kalashnikovs everywhere, ammunition, improvised explosive devices. They took no prisoners. 

Ironically, Vitaly Plotnikov is thought to have known Tamerlan Tsarnaev. 

Vitaly, like Tamerlan, turned to radical Islam as a young adult, bored. His father says he always looked for excitement. Strangely enough, he had boxed, too.

So what is the recipe here, what does it take to become a terrorist, or a jihadist? We're aware that self-proclaimed jihadists believe in personal agency, their own justice. Are terrorists modern day Robin Hoods? Is the creed to rob from the rich, give to the poor? They identify as idealists, for sure, which might be cute, were the goods not human lives.

This is so complicated, it begs a new DSM diagnosis. We'll call it Terrorist Disorder, just to be clear: 

Terrorist Disorder

I. To make a diagnosis, must meet eight of the eleven criterion below.
A. Age 16-29
B. Tends to split beliefs, events, people, into good/bad, black or white, idealization or devaluation.
Splitting between one extreme or another is considered the defense of an immature personality-- reduces stress. In adults It is associated with Borderline Personality Disorder. Splitting is normal in early childhood.
C. Perceives those who do not agree with extreme beliefs as weak, ineffectual, cowardly and inferior. Minimization mirrors the rationalizations of persons affected with Antisocial Personality Disorder. It is not limited to Antisocial Personality Disorder, however.
D.  Describes spiritual attachment to God, having a mission inspired by God to better all of humanity. May feel appointed by a Superior Being to perform mass destruction of human life (in the absence of Schizophrenia).
E. Takes on self-denial, aestheticism associated with mystics, chooses a subsistence lifestyle believing the afterlife will be more rewarding.
F.  Embraces a creed, belief system, or manifesto that is either religious or political that the majority of citizens in peaceful nations would deem dangerous and antisocial. 
G.  Either volunteers for or is recruited by a group or an individual that recognizes psychological vulnerability, a need for approval, and/or inclusion in a group.
H.  Before associating with a jihad group, was disaffected, depressed, and underprivileged, suffered financially. The depressed mood and emotional detachment are relieved upon identification with the creed, sense of community, and purpose. 
I.  Manifests features of a manic episode: inflated self-esteem, grandiosity, a decreased need for sleep, flight of ideas, and goal-directed activity.
J. Identifies with a group that serves as an alternative family, brothers and sisters who advocate criminal acts, destruction and violence, mass homicide and suicide.
K. Cuts off entirely from former family and friends who do not advocate violence.
 II. The patient is not suffering from a Schizophrenia and does not meet the criterion for Antisocial Personality Disorder, but may suffer Bi-polar Disorder or other Axis I and Axis II disorders.

What did I forget? 

Oh, why not see it all in action. 
Michael Lavigne's The Wanting

Read Michael Lavigne's new novel, The Wanting, an engaging, fanciful (in its way) treatment of the development of a Palestinian suicide bomber in Israel. 

Amir, one of the many Jerusalem Bombers that we are all too complacent about today, a fictional anti-hero, wears an expensive suit, carries an expensive brief case. He blows himself up, takes others along.  

Wanting is the essence of a terrorist. Wanting. Dissatisfied. Told in three voices, Lavigne is master of first person. We hear from: (a) a survivor of the bombing, a middle-aged Russian architect, a man who doesn't even identify with religion; (b) his adolescent daughter who changes in its wake, becomes vulnerable to "religious educators" with a political agenda; and (c) Amir, the regretful terrorist, the haunting third voice.

Mr. Lavigne researched the book for three or four years. He granted permission to the following excerpts.  The terrorist, narrates. 

(1) In the days leading to my shahadah, I was immersed in prayer. I bathed my feet and hands in the waters of el-Kas, the well of al-Aqsa, which they told us rises up from the rivers of Eden, and I entered the great mosque and stayed there for hours on end, meditating. Then I would take the bus back to Jabal, to Walid's place, where we would talk and study late into the night. Only then would I sleep a few hours, lying between Walid and Fayez on the hard floor. In the morning we would wash, pray, and prepare a little hummus and tea. He always had dates and figs, sliced apples, and sweets of various kinds, and at night there was usually maqluba. We were never hungry, even though we fasted on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

(2) The slave may rebel from his master, the son from his father. Your father does not have the power to stop you, for your power comes from Allah, praise be to the All Merciful.

(3) And Yusuf al-Faruk trained me day and night and I, like a falcon on the path of All-Knowing Allah, swooped up his leavings. These were my happiest days. These were my days of light. "For the call!" I repeated after him. "For the Muslim Brotherhood!"

He writes poetry. But what have we here?  Religious asceticism, a call to a mission, the cut-off from family, the mentor. Religion, many of us are aware, feels good. We are called, follow a creed because we believe it is right, and that others are probably wrong, not as right. Some of us believe that nonbelievers will ultimately learn the error of their ways. One day. Rarely do believers take matters into their own hands.

When it is a matter of personal agency, when the methods are violent, when even parents and friends are disavowed, cut off, when human lives are dispensable, clearly something is wrong, something is sick about the creed. It is a cult, not a religion.

Deprogramming is the answer, if there is an answer at all. 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Mother's Day

It is like a Memorial Day, but in reverse. Rather than look down, we look up.

Many are not happy with what they see, is the problem, making a celebratory day more of a day of reflection.  It's not so easy, showing gratitude to mom, sometimes.

Much of a therapist's ordinary week is about the mothers that are difficult to see, to understand. There are the ones who are selfish (narcissistic), who think every day is supposed to be Mother's Day, and that every day their children should be gazing back at them with love, appreciation, and attention.

We speak in therapy of those mothers who are confused, too, who feel too strongly, whose emotions spill over on us, far too often, for whom life is black and white, or mostly black, and their children are supposed to change that, at least understand them. Their children are to think of them, consider them, respond to them right, as if there is a right way, right for everyone. It is very hard to understand these moms and their needs when our own need for a mother that cares goes wanting.

And we speak in therapy about alcoholic and drug addicted moms, too, many of whom have left us in the care of others, often an older sibling or to foster care; moms who are passed out somewhere, not necessarily in their own beds.

And we speak of mothers who are far away, who we left to live their lives without us, without sons and daughters because these special mothers (and fathers) launched us properly. We took off, married, found work, or merely . . .left, because it seemed the right thing to do at the time.  Far away. Dinner with Mom by Skype on her birthday, on Mother's Day. Sure.

And then, there are those of us who have lost children. For moms with this issue, what can anyone say?

Such an easy, happy holiday, let me tell you, to discuss in the week before the dawn, in the weeks before the holiday that many people actually dread. And we're not even talking about the brunches, which for many are insufferable. What are the odds that a brunch or a dinner is sufferable? Fifty percent or less? Yes, probably, depends how much champagne is poured, and that could make it worse, not better!

Nothing left to do, so why not celebrate Mommy Bloggers?  Because these kids, women, grandmoms, are getting it together, have found an outlet, a way to find sales and coupons, and share. They love their children and often their parents to the degree that they tell their tales to all of us.

Some are bringing up children they adopted, or have taken on foster children. Some are single and broke, or single and working, but have figured it out, how to manage a family, yes, and do it without the help of a significant other.

Let's celebrate everyone, who is a mom or who is not, because honestly, not everyone has a mother, many have lost one, and not everyone is blessed with children. A short list of bloggers who talk about their lives as mothers or almost mothers isn't a bad place to start.

I did a little cruising, searched for happy blogs and here's what I found in my first hour or two. If you think your blog should be on the list, email me or comment and we'll link over. Granted, it isn't as if I read very far, or got to know these bloggers, but I would like to get to know them, like I would like to get to know all of you.

Here we go.

What about What Not to Say, on Then I Laughed. Terrific.
Okay, on adoption,  It’s expensive, adopting, many future parents solicit to defray their costs, but then, boy, can they write!
And about that long road to success, Mom At Last 

Life for mothers is a mixed bag, but when your spouse is arrested, when life changes forever, you have to write about that, too. Life Turned Upside Down

How about single moms? Mom Solo, for one. And Single Parent Adventure.

For a peak at women who think out of the house, yes, do it on the road, try Mommy Adventures.

First time mother? Well, First Time Mom and Dad, obviously.

Lots of babies at once. Quadruplets always thrill me.

Need more of a' tude? Or a banner with heels and those dopey balls kids love to fall into? Cloudy with a Chance of Wine.  Or better, writes about menopause

Then there are honest moms. Refreshing, since most of us lie every ten minutes, according to a Ted lecture I watched. Or some statistic close to that. 

And mom’s who have an occasional special kid, women who know how to love. Dysfunctional Dose

Crafts and recipes? The Photographer's Wife, Mommy Katie
Baby products? No end to these, but lets end it.  Or just products: These Four No More

Kvetchers, but not really: Just a Little Nutty
Taking care of number one, One Classy Motha. on body waxing.  

What we would expect, When Crazy Meets Exhaution
 One thing we have to respect about the entrepreneurial mommy bloggers who review, sell, direct the female blogger traffic-- they are the life of the blogosphere. For an incredible list of mommy bloggers, forget about mine, go to Bloggy Moms

There is such a thing as influential social media mommy-ing. They usually are giving away something.

There are the creative moms that make us feel totally incompetent, like Mom Candy.
And RealHousemoms.

Or those who inspire us to take out our cameras. Mom Photographer, for example.

And Mommy reviewers, who get to wear cool shoes in exchange for a few words on the blog, and post nice pics, like SunnyDayTodayMama.  And shameless product promos, who doesn't like a good ad, as in, I Gotta Try That.

We have to include Childless Mothers Connect, although I would disagree that all women have the heart to be a mother. Not every mom has it in her, is the sad truth. But the bloggers at this website have their hearts is in the right place, and we salute you.

And why not read The Mom's Day Eve, and grocery shopping:
For women who wanted children but never had them, age forces some level of acceptance upon them. Grief and regret transition to “it is what it is.” Seriously, it’s worrisome if you’re 64 and still crying at the sight of a very pregnant woman.
Yes, dear, but some do. The Happy Mother's Day marketing everywhere, begins in early April. It gets obnoxious even for those of us with children.

Crazy thing, I couldn't find a homeless mom's blog. But there are blogs for victims of domestic violence, whose partners beat them or who are hurt and have no place to go. Joyful Heart Foundation is one.  Women Thrive is another.  Violence Unsilenced is another. Warning, this mom is really angry. It isn't a happy blog.

Hardly much of a list, considering that there are thousands of bloggers, but it is Sunday and this mother will still go to work, talk to other mothers who aren't terribly comfortable today.

So many kinds of moms, including older moms like mine who bemoan the losses of their lives, that they did so many things and just can't do a damn thing anymore. Still an inspiration. Every single day.

Happy Mother's Day Mom, and to all of you, no matter how this Hallmark holiday hits you.  It really will be over soon.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Teaching Them Things

(1)  Strike Two!
Spring League