Time Magazine and Terrorism: What's Nursing Got to Do With it?
by NANCY HARTEVELT KOBRIN, PHD
May 24, 2012
By now the May 17th cover of Time Magazine with Jamie Lynne Grumet nursing her son has been seen around the world more than once with a lot of discussion but little concerning why the image has struck such a deep chord.
In 2010 I published The Banality of Suicide Terrorism: The Naked Truth About Islamic Suicide Bombing, Potomac Press. In my book, I coined a new psychological term called the maternal cameo.
"A new concept for suicide terrorism that gives shape to the psychological concept of the maternal fusion by using the image of a mother holding her infant, reminiscent of the Madonna with baby Jesus. Few of us like to consider the time when we were helpless infants and completely delete dependent on our mothers. The maternal cameo gives concrete form to the experience of the maternal symbiosis. It also replicates the terrorists' habit of engaging in concrete and transparent imitative behavior because of their inability both to separate psychologically from the maternal fusion and to mourn the loss of the Early Mother.
The terrorists then are obsessed with re-creating the dyadic experience with objects, both animate and inanimate. This behavior concretely expresses their helplessness, which is experienced as terror. Those feelings then yield to murderous rage against the mother, which is displaced on to innocent victims. On a spectrum beginning with the first maternal fusion, this maternal cameo would be the prenatal mother or mother + fetus and then the mother + infants as life fusions and the murder-suicide [as in suicide terrorism] as the death fusion." p. 132-133
I am not diagnosing the relationship between Jamie and her son concerning extreme parenting and attachment. Yet, I do want to underscore why her fusional image with her son grounded in the erotic act of nursing, struck such a deep chord in the public. The flagrant voyeurism of viewers added to the sadomasochistic Eros of the picture. Narcissism is rampant in all societies. None of us knows how this son really feels, views and comprehends his own nursing experience. Time will tell and it is for him to judge. We do not know if this is the misuse of a son as a narcissistic object by a mother to allay her own anxieties about separating and being vulnerable. Perhaps there is even a nonverbal somatic memory of a trauma that is being communicated through this picture? I do not know. There are many unanswered questions.
However, one mother put it really well:
"Bobbi Miller, a mother of six who lives in Arkansas, expressed disapproval in a tweet and said in a phone interview, "Even a cow knows when to wean their child." Of the cover, she said: "Why would this even be out there? It's ludicrous. It's almost on the verge of voyeurism." http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20120521,00.html
We do know one thing -- that this life giving image of breast feeding has a long history against which Jamie and her son posed. As I have argued in my book the terrorists' death fusion of mass murder-suicide is 180 degrees in the opposite direction of this life giving image of the mother nursing, as it seeks to destroy this image of life, the mother with child, at an unconscious level. The suicide attack taps into all of our fears and terrors concerning security, being nurtured and loved.
Terrorist behavior is predatory. The bad behavior of Islamic suicide bombing has merely become normalized as if it were good by calling it martyrdom. Preying on the innocent is animal behavior. Bobbi Miller got it right.
A picture speaks a thousand words and more than ninety per cent of what we communicate, we do so nonverbally. See another "maternal cameo" below. As it has been said -- "money is the mother's milk of politics."
The image of a death fusion communicated by the terrorists through the suicide attack attempts to destroy the near sacred image of a mother nursing her child.
The more we can lay bare (and I do not pardon the pun) the concrete level of destruction of the Islamic suicide terrorists by linking it back to this universal referent of mother and infant, perhaps then a serious discussion about the mind of the terrorist can take place with policy makers, neuroscientists and the public. If only the childhood development of the terrorist could receive such intensive worldwide discussion as Jamie and her son did, there just might be a chance to promote change and contain the violence.