- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Ministry mocked

“When an outfit that has successfully disbursed humanitarian aid worldwide for 30 years announces that it intends to expand its efforts to postwar Iraq, you’d think the news would be met with enthusiasm. Yet reaction to just such an announcement by Samaritan’s Purse, headed by the Rev. Franklin Graham, has been anything but positive, revealing much about the cultural divide in America over Christian evangelism.

“Maureen Dowd, the New York Times’ faithful barometer of liberal intolerance, mocked Samaritan’s Purse for ‘waiting to inveigle Iraqi infidels with a blend of kitchen pantry and Elmer Gantry.’ Others simply wrung their hands over the possibility that relief workers might push their religion on resentful Muslims and evoke ugly images of a colonial past or — in all seriousness — the Crusades. …

“What else but such incomprehension would motivate Terry Gross, on National Public Radio … to ask R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, whether he was a closet theocrat because he favors missionary efforts in Iraq? … A few days later on CNN, anchor Fredricka Whitfield wanted to know why Dr. Mohler was suggesting to Muslim people ‘that their religion is not good enough’.”

Vincent Carroll, writing on “Help Unwanted,” Friday in the Wall Street Journal

Colorful comedy

“‘Down With Love’ is an aggressive trifle. Right from its kickoff, an explosively colorful animated credit sequence, the movie begs us to fall in love with it.

“There’s a good chance we might have. But the fatal flaw of ‘Down With Love,’ a note-for-note mimicry of early-‘60s Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies like ‘Pillow Talk’ and ‘Lover Come Back,’ is that in mining what’s kitschily amusing about those movies, it also re-creates far too faithfully everything that’s unbearable about them. …

“‘Down With Love’ … is all done up in the Technicolor brightness of the originals, but, as with those earlier movies, its vivacious look seems to be covering up something — as if color were a kind of Glade air freshener that could be sprayed liberally to mask anything that’s simply old and tired.”

Stephanie Zacharek, writing on “Down With Love,” Friday in Salon at www.salon.com

‘Rambo’ myth

“In the late 1960s, a band of self-described antiwar psychiatrists — spearheaded by Robert Jay Lifton … formulated a new diagnostic concept to describe the psychological wounds that the veteran sustained in the [Vietnam] war.

“In 1972, they proposed ‘Post-Vietnam Syndrome,’ a disorder marked by ‘growing apathy, cynicism, alienation, depression, mistrust, and expectation of betrayal, as well as an inability to concentrate, insomnia, nightmares, restlessness, uprootedness, and impatience with almost any job or course of study.’ Typically, the symptoms did not emerge until months or years after the veterans returned home.

“The efforts of Lifton and his group would shape the dramatic image of the Vietnam veteran as the kind of ‘walking time bomb’ immortalized in films such as ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Rambo.’ In the summer of 1972, The New York Times ran a front-page story on Post-Vietnam Syndrome.

“Titled ‘Postwar Shock Is Found to Beset Veterans Returning From the War in Vietnam,’ the article, by Jon Nordheimer, alleged that 50 percent of all Vietnam veterans — not just combat veterans — needed ‘professional help to readjust.’ The story contained phrases like ‘psychiatric casualty,’ ‘emotionally disturbed,’ ‘mental breakdowns,’ and ‘men with damaged brains.’

“According to the sociologist Jerry Lembcke, a Vietnam veteran, ‘the story provided no data to support the image of dysfunctional veterans that it spun; what it did provide was a mode of discourse within which America’s memory of the war and the veterans’ coming home experience would be constructed.’”

Sally Satel, writing on “The Trauma Society,” in the May 19 issue of the New Republic

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