September 27, 19933801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Suzanne M. Pitts, MD
Dept. of Psychiatry
GW Univ. Medical Center
2150 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Dear Dr. Pitts:
I would like to draw your attention to an instance of “retrospective paranoia” that has recently arisen with respect to events that I experienced approximately five and one-half years ago, in mid-February 1988. Retrospective paranoia may be defined as a situation in which events (or circumstances, if you will) are experienced in a non-paranoid, non self-referential manner at the time the events transpire, but at some later time are ascribed a paranoid, self-referential meaning. The term and the concept to which it refers are self-created; I do not know whether the concept “retrospective paranoia” is a recognized phenomenon.
On about Thursday February 11, 1988 [in fact, it appears the correct date was Friday February 12, 1988], while I was employed at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson (with Craig Dye and others), my supervisor, Miriam T. Chilton held a staff meeting. During the meeting, I sensed a vague and indefinable hostility emanating from co-workers and Miriam Chilton. The feeling was unlike any I could recall. Although the sense of hostility that I experienced might be termed paranoid, I did not attribute any special, self-referential meaning to the topics discussed at the meeting.
At the meeting, Miriam Chilton distributed an article that had recently even published in The Wall Street Journal reporting that the Chrysler Corporation had decided to offer airbags in certain lines of its vehicles. Up until that time Chrysler had refused to install airbags in any of its vehicles and, indeed, had maintained that these safety devices were unsafe and of unproven effectiveness. The article had been called to Miriam’s attention by one of my co-workers in the department, Michael Wilson.
At that time, in February 1988, the Computer Applications Department, in which I was employed, had been engaged since 1986 on a long-term project for the Chrysler Corporation. Hogan & Hartson had been retained to serve as a repository of Chrysler’s airbag litigation documents, and the firm’s Computer Applications Department had been assigned the task of creating a computerized data base for approximately 200,000 pages of the client’s documents relating to airbags.
Upon distributing a copy of The Wall Street Journal article to employees, Miriam Chilton and the employees present at the meeting discussed the installation of airbags. The question arose at the meeting as to why Chrysler, which had strongly opposed airbags, now had decided to install the devices, thereby implicitly admitting that its prior opposition was either wrong or, perhaps, even that Chrysler’s prior position opposing airbags was not taken in good faith.
I did not see or attempt to see any symbolic meaning in the question regarding Chrysler’s “admission” of wrongdoing at the time of the meeting in February 1988. Indeed, until very recently, I did not recall the specific content of what was discussed at the meeting; my recollection of the meeting had receded to a pre-conscious level.
At the time of the meeting I felt that there was a belief among co-workers that I was homosexual and that I had a romantic attachment to a male co-worker, Craig Dye. My beliefs might be termed paranoid.
Approximately two weeks after the subject meeting my assignment at Hogan & Hartson was terminated, effective Friday February 26, 1988.
In the last few days I have come to attribute a paranoid meaning to the discussion at the Hogan & Hartson staff meeting on February 11, 1988 [sic]. Specifically, I have come to ascribe a sexual/anti-Semitic symbolism to the issue of Chrysler’s decision to reverse its position on airbags. I have translated the question of Chrysler’s reversing its vigorously maintained opposition to airbags into the accusation: “Freedman maintained all along that he wasn’t homosexual and in love with Craig, but that position was a lie.”
A signal event in my recent re-interpretation of events of mid-February 1988 was a piece of comedy material presented by Jerry Seinfeld on his television program on the evening of Thursday September 16, 1993. Jerry Seinfeld compared a car crash to sexual relations, and specifically related a car crash with the female orgasm.
There are two types of female orgasm the real and the fake. And, I’ll tell you right now, as a man, we don’t know. We do not know, because to a man, sex is like a car accident, and determining the female orgasm is like being asked “What did you see after the car went out of control?” “I heard a lot of screeching sounds, I remember I was facing the wrong way at one point, and in the end my body was thrown clear.”Note also that the airbag itself has a phallic quality: an unobtrusive, flaccid device that expands during a car crash (which, in Jerry Seinfeld’s metaphor, is equated with orgasm).
My paranoid re-interpretation of the airbag discussion on February 11, 1988 [sic] apparently resulted from a supervening event: my having seen, on September 16, 1992, the Jerry Seinfeld material equating a car crash with sex. Thus, events that were registered in a non-self-referential manner at the time of their occurrence in February 1988 were re-interpreted five years later as an idea of reference--an instance of retrospective paranoia.
My notion that the airbag discussion in February 1988 had anti-Semitic undertones arose simultaneously, in the days following September 16, 1993, with my perception that the issue of airbags related to sex. I specifically related the question of Chrysler’s “admission” of wrongdoing--Chrysler’s reversal of a previously staunchly defended, bad faith position--to a symbolic long-delayed admission of Oedipal guilt (latent homosexuality) and, by implication, to the issue of Jews’ long-maintained denial of purported deicide (murder of the “Father”).
A signal factor in my anti-Semitic gloss of the airbag discussion in February 1988 is a comedy skit written by Lenny Bruce that presents a sardonically comedic transformation of the issue of an admission of a long-denied crime (“All this time they denied it, now they admit it.”)
" . . . you and I know what a Jew is -- One Who Killed Our Lord. I don't know if we got much press on that in Illinois--we did this about two thousand years ago--two thousand years of Polack kids whacking the shit out of us coming home from school. Dear, dear. And although there should be a statute of limitations for that crime, it seems that those who neither have the actions nor the gait of Christians, pagans or not, will bust us out, unrelenting dues, for another deuce.In conclusion, the foregoing material highlights the occurrence of an instance of retrospective paranoia in which events, perceived in a non self-referential manner at the time of their occurrence and relegated to the pre-conscious, were later recalled and ascribed a paranoid meaning following a supervening event.
And I really searched out, why we pay the dues. Why do you keep breaking our balls for this crime?
"Why, Jew, because you skirt the issue. You blame the Roman soldiers."
Alright. I'll clear the air once and for all, and confess. Yes, we did it. I did it, my family. I found a note in my basement. It said:
'We killed him,
And a lot of people say to me,
"Why did you kill Christ?"
"I dunno . . . it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know."
We killed him because he didn't want to become a doctor, that's why we killed him.
[From: Howe, I. World of Our Fathers, at 572-3 (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich: 1976)].