Post-traumatic Casualties of a Neglected War

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary They suffer from the effects of war. They are the children who have seen loved ones butchered in front of their eyes, and fear being shot and killed. They are businessmen who escaped their country and to an extent live in fear that they might still be targeted. They are families who have lost family members as well as friends and neighbors. The people I am talking about are those Mexicans who have fled their country because of the mass murder by the drug cartels in the Drug War. The Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that 115,000 Mexicans have fled to the United States to escape the Drug War. Civil and human rights organizations believe the number is much higher. Many Mexicans have fled to the border area, but many have gone throughout the United States in an effort to escape the drug cartels. It is true that tens of thousands of Mexicans have fled to other parts of Mexico to escape, but the drug cartels eventually find them and can eliminate them.

What many Americans do not understand is that those Mexicans who escaped—legally (seeking asylum) or as undocumented—are suffering all of the post-traumatic stress that American soldiers endure after frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Drug War in Mexico is a very real war with gun battles between rival cartels and the Mexican military against the cartels, mass murder of innocent civilians, whole towns emptied of their inhabitants because of cartel threats, and thousands of graves being discovered throughout the country. The effects on those who have survived all of this and been able to get into the United States has not been fully studied in this country, but are no different than how post-traumatic stress disorder affects American soldiers. Among the symptoms are extreme paranoia or fear of imminent danger, nightmares and flashbacks, low morale and lack of motivation, anger management problems, and psychosomatic ailments that have no physical cause.

Adult survivors of the Drug War are barely able to cope with life in America considering what they have been put through. For the children it is worse. We have no American equivalent to how this war has affected Mexico’s children. Yet these children bear the same scars as the adult refugees. This has led to many Mexican children who have been through this war suffering not only the same effects as the adults but also to school problems such as poor academic performance, antagonizing teachers and having discipline problems, and getting involved with crime. So the effects of the Drug War are having an impact in one way or another upon those who have survived it and are in this country. The Drug War is indeed a war—being fought with guns and street battles and mass slaughter of innocent civilians by both sides. The drug cartels are indeed operating in many pats of Central America and in U.S. border states to secure money and weaponry to carry out their war in Mexico. And doubtless we will be seeing many more refugees from Mexico with post-traumatic stress disorder as their numbers grow in America.

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