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Got a grudge? Invent a syndrome.

Tired of False Memory Syndrome? Bored with the likes of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, the Queen of the False Memory Syndrome? Loftus, (who writes huge erudite tomes in Camille Paglia type rhetoric) it must be admitted, puts on a great show which almost makes up in theatricality what it totally lacks in sensitivity.

The Big L strides from one side of the stage to the other, waves statistics about as though they were flags, and stomps her way through a three-ring circus of innuendo and assumption.

Speaking of ass (we were too, just look at the last word of the last paragraph-don't aggravate me), Loftus covers hers by throwing in a "There are real victims of sexual abuse of course" every three minutes or so. This happy phrase suggests that the Real Victims are gathered in a group somewhere holding a prayer meeting for the misguided souls who insist they have recovered memories of sexual abuse.

It should be noted that the Real Victims of sexual abuse never, never, never accuse white-haired fathers, mothers or grandparents of abusing them. Especially not of sexual abuse that occurred years ago and only after their psychiatrist held a gun to their head in order to draw out, or somehow implant, those repressed memories.

Real Victims are always abused by a stranger, no longer than an hour ago. Real Victims were virgins until the stranger attacked them; they are still blonde, cute and polite.

But never mind. We already agreed you're bored with False Memory Syndrome, FMS for short.

Let's try PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome.

That got your attention, didn't it? Your ears are perked up, your eyes are alight, your body leans forward in anticipation. O.K., so I'm a tease. Let's pause here to find out what a syndrome is exactly. A syndrome, says Patricia Oxford's dictionary, is a group of concurrent symptoms of a disease. Anne Webster is a bit more detailed: a number of symptoms occurring together and characterizing a specific disease, is what she says.

O.K., we ready for PAS now?

It was invented...perhaps I mean discovered... in the late 80s by Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a child psychiatrist and a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University in New York. Parental Alienation Syndrome, according to Gardner, is so common, he sees it in 90 percent of children involved in protracted custody conflicts. So upset was Gardner by this rampant syndrome that in 1992 he published a book entitled The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals.

Gardner defines parental alienation syndrome (like FMS, PAS can be capitalized or not, depending on how pissed off you are) as a situation in which the more powerful party transmits his or her pathology to the more suggestible one. In which one parent systematically programs the child to put down the other parent.

Now here comes the surprise. You ready?

According to Gardner, alienators are usually mothers. You sitting up in your chair again? Took me awhile to get over that surprise too, so don't feel naive.

In short, mothers who alienate their children from their fathers, program the children to excuse mum's behaviour while demonstrating an inexorable hostility towards the father.

Of this epidemic of manic moms, Gardner writes, "These mothers see in their husbands many noxious qualities that actually exist within themselves. By projecting these unacceptable qualities onto their husbands, they can consider themselves innocent victims of their husband's persecutions." He refers to their children as "similarly fanatic."

I, for one, am giving up FMS in favour of PAS. Much more entertaining. Sorry Elizabeth.

Especially since Parental Alienation Syndrome is a fave of the fathers' rights groups which dogged the recent meetings of the Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access which crisscrossed the country. It is a fave of Senator Anne Cools.

In fact, some of the PAS cheerleading team have suggested that mothers who alienate children from their fathers ought to be put in jail. At the very least, they should have their passports and drivers licences taken away.

Gardner goes a trifle further; he wants to remove the children from the alienator and curtail her visitations with them until the children have been debriefed.

Gardner is obviously a visionary, a man for the new millennium, one of the finest minds of the 1100s. I just hope someone tells Margaret Atwood about him, so she can write a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. In the meantime, if I gotta choose a syndrome, I'm taking Chronic Fatigue Syndrome...I got no choice, because it's what happens when you contemplate FMS or PAS.
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Author:Cockburn, Lyn
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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