Brownell: Stress in Congress over the color blue


What happens when members of Congress get post traumatic stress syndrome and see blue, blue, blue

By Jess Brownell

(Jess Brownell is our Voice of the Heartland, a freelance writer who lives in Milwaukee.)

I know this was a while ago now in Andy Warhol Time, but good old Joe Wilson keeps popping into my mind. For me, the most interesting aspect of his “You lie” shout during the Obama speech to congress was its timing. To be fair, there are moments in any presidential speech when a shout of “You exaggerate,” or “You embellish,” or maybe even “You prevaricate” would be understandable, if out of order. But in this instance, Rep. Wilson chose a moment when the President was obviously telling the truth. Obama has advocated no health plan that would cover illegal immigrants, and the legislator from South Carolina must have known that.

What’s the explanation? After considerable thought (and some unexpected help), I have put his obvious confusion down to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The guy was hurting, and apparently he’s not the only one. Luckily, congress has a pretty comprehensive health care plan, and free counseling is available to those members who suffer from this disorder. A partial transcript of a recent session has somehow appeared on my computer screen. (Don’t ask me. I’m not the tech guy.) You will understand that due to medical privacy constraints both the counselor and the legislator must remain nameless:

Counselor: I understand, Congressman, that you’ve been having some disturbing dreams lately.

Congressman X: Every night. Every night the same thing. I see those poor boys coming back from the battlefield, scrawny from hunger, tattered and bandaged, despair etched on their faces. All through the hours of darkness they shuffle by me, and as they pass their eyes implore me to set things right.

C: That would be unsettling, yes. Still, the Civil War was over a long time ago.

CX: In the first place, it was the War of Southern Independence, and in the second place that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the goddamn election.

C: The election?

CX: Damn it, man, it was just a year ago.

C: And that’s what you’re dreaming about?

CX: Every night. Every night I see those campaign workers straggling home from defeat, all their hopes and dreams shattered, their native land now a shambles, trampled by an alien horde.

C: I don’t mean to treat this lightly, but it was just an election. Politics. Americans voted. Your party lost. You need to deal with that.

CX: Hah. Just you’re saying that shows you don’t know what I’m going through. When we win it’s politics; when we lose it’s Armageddon. And it’s not just the workers I see in this dream. Oh, no. Looming behind them as they go by I see that terrible map.”

C: A map?

CX: That big one? With the lights? Where the states are colored? They keep turning blue. One after another. It’s agonizing. Blue, blue, blue. Not red, or even grey, which is the color of everything we hold sacred. Blue. In my dream I try to get up there with this little paint brush and paint them red like they’re supposed to be, but I can’t push past these blue people that pop up all around me. I knock one down, and up jumps another one. All blue. Blue, blue, blue. I can’t stand that fucking color.

C: So I gather.

CX: And then, on top of everything else, I miss my big chance.

C: In the dream?

CX: No, you damn fool, at the speech. That little pissant, Joe Wilson, never said a word in his entire career anybody paid any attention to, gets to be the one to yell at the President.

C: You wanted to do that?

CX: Hell, yes. You see how much money he collected? With that kind of money, I could buy those blue sonsofbitches off.

C: But they’re not real. They’re in your dreams.

CX: Not real? They’re everywhere. Those blue bastards are walking the halls of congress. Blue, blue, blue.

C: You seem to be obsessed with colors, Congressman. All this blue and red business. Let’s talk about that a little. How do you feel about black and white, for example?

CX: Black and white? No, sir. Why, down where I come from we don’t see black and white at all.

That’s where the session breaks off, but you can see what I mean about the effects of stress. People that disturbed can be dangerous to themselves and others. I guess we should be grateful that at least they don’t see black and white.