The best example of PTSD ever portrayed in a movie was offered by John Goodman in “The Big Lebowski” when the character, a Vietnam veteran, pulls a gun on a fellow bowler and threatens to shoot him for crossing a line and attempting to enter a score in a book.
The camera shows the bowler slowly approaching the line but pans away before he sets the foot down right before the bowling ball is cast. Walter Sobchak, the so-called “crazed veteran,” immediately pulls out a handgun and points it at “Smokey” before he could write down a score for his effort.
Walter may or may have not have fired if Smokey refused to give himself a potentially “illegal” score. You can’t help but wonder what caused him to react the way he did.
And then the Vietnam veteran utters what many of us who have been in war can easily relate to in our hearts:
“This is not ‘Nam.
This is bowling.
There are rules.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is what mental health experts call what was once labeled as “Shell Shock” and “Battle Fatigue.” It affects about 22 percent of those facing combat in the military. “Crazed Vietnam veteran” is what television had portrayed several of them to be in the 1970s. Many servicemen refused to put their military experience on their resumes in order to avoid any wary looks from potential employers.
I never fired a gun in a bowling alley or outside of one. But I have kicked the door of a van when the driver had parked across the white line separating two parking spaces at a pet-food store. In other words, his one vehicle took up two spots!
The guy refused to come out when I yelled and screamed at him for such an inconsiderate act. I felt like an avenging angel bringing the wrath of God upon his head when I kicked his door and did not give up even when he got out of the truck, stood a head taller than me, and came toward me in the street. He called me a “fat fuck” and I shot back what are considered to be the worst fighting words from my old neighborhood, calling him a “pussy.”
Before any punches were thrown, however, the fight broke up when a bystander edged really close to us and called out for help.
Most of us suffering from PTSD have stories like these. We’re actually harmless but want to battle for the right cause when we believe someone has wronged the world in some way and nobody wants to take action.
The Big Lebowski captured that sense of what some of us call “righteous indignation.” I’m just glad no one’s ever been physically hurt by my actions.