||April 23, 2011
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The Most Revolutionary Act
Intense government harassment leads a 54 year old psychiatrist, single mother and social activist to close her 25-year Seattle practice to begin a new life in New Zealand.
Fifteen years of intense government harassment leads a psychiatrist, single mother and social activist to close her 25-year Seattle practice to begin a new, safe life in New Zealand. What starts as phone harassment, stalking and illegal break-ins quickly progresses to six attempts on her life and an affair with an undercover agent who railroads her into a psychiatric hospital. The Most Revolutionary Act gives readers a crash course in the mind-blowing criminal activities US intelligence is notorious for - illegal narcotics trafficking, arms dealing, money laundering and covert assassinations of both foreign and domestic leaders and activists. The US government has been taken over, and it's time to out these shadowy power brokers and hold them accountable.
“The most revolutionary act is a clear view of the world as it really is.”
—Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)
Part I - My Long Harrowing Journey to Ward 6
What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
from The Low Road by Marge Piercy
“Excuse me, madam. Could you come this way, please? We must ask you to undergo a full body search. You have the right to refuse, but you will not be allowed to board the aircraft unless you consent to a search.”
The Air New Zealand security guard who detained me at the boarding gate was a tall, pretty woman in her early twenties. She wore tiny pearl earrings with pale blue uniform trousers, a plain white short-sleeved blouse, and a matching blue ribbon attached under her collar. Her accent sounded English to my untrained ear, but this was unlikely. The New Zealand dialect is closer to Australian than to British English.
I listened to a number of alternative news broadcasts and was aware the FBI had a no-fly list. Its alleged purpose was to prevent potential terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft. Yet to the best of my knowledge, as of October 2002, only anti-war and environmental activists had been barred from flights they had reserved and paid for. In any case, I assumed the airlines informed passengers they were potential terrorists when they checked in at the ticket counter. After months of nerve-wracking preparations—the legal and financial complications of closing my practice and selling my home—the last thing I expected was to be pulled out of line once boarding started.
Thanks to the Patriot Act enacted shortly after 9-11, I had no legal recourse if the government banned me from flying. For a split second I identified with the helplessness and shame young Palestinians must feel when they exhaust all other alternatives and strap explosives to their chest.
Too frightened to object, I followed the security guard to a dimly lit alcove at the back of the waiting area. It was furnished with an office desk and two plain wooden chairs. “You need to take your coat off, love.” The woman’s tone was apologetic as she helped me out of my gray velveteen jacket. I have white hair now, and my boarding pass designated clearly the fact that I was a doctor. She folded the jacket in half over the back of one of the chairs. “And your belt and shoes.”
She placed my belt and black oxfords on the desk while she passed an electronic wand over my entire body and patted down my breasts, buttocks, and groin. When she finished, she helped me into my jacket and sat me down on one of the chairs. She put my shoes on for me and would have tied them if I let her. Then she handed back my boarding pass and hurried me down the ramp to the waiting plane.
As a fifty four-year-old board-certified psychiatrist, I was fortunate to have options other than blowing myself up. In October 2002 I made the agonizing decision to leave my home, family, and twenty-five-year psychiatric practice to begin a new life in a small Pacific nation at the bottom of the world. Despite being named on the FBI’s no-fly list, I am not and have never been a terrorist. I am not a criminal, either, and have broken no laws. Yet in 1986, for some unknown reason, some faceless higher-up in one of the eleven federal agencies that spy on American citizens decided I posed a threat to national security. Prior to the enactment of the Patriot Act, it was illegal to target US citizens for their political beliefs or activities. Nevertheless, any leftist over fifty can tell you it was a common occurrence as far back as the 1920s for the FBI to target political dissidents for phone harassment and wire-taps, mail intercepts, break-ins, malicious rumor campaigns, false arrest and imprisonment, summary deportation and even extrajudicial murder.
After twenty-three years I am still at a total loss why the government selected me as a target. Although I consider myself a leftist, I am at best a lukewarm radical. I am a physical coward and will go to any extreme to avoid conflict or confrontation. I prefer following to leading. Likewise, wherever possible, I go with the flow and take the path of least resistance.
This was my second attempt to emigrate. When I first graduated from medical school in June 1973, I joined the mass migration to Europe by artists and activists disillusioned with the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal—which ultimately forced Nixon to resign the presidency. At the time I was reacting less to large-scale political corruption than to a deep sense of loneliness and alienation. Already at twenty-four, I knew my future life, at least in the US, would be vastly different from that of my parents and grandparents. I saw a rampant consumerism taking over a culture that previously placed great store in human values, such as community and emotional intimacy. The young people around me were totally taken in by the mass marketing of sex and sex appeal in TV programming and advertising. For young men this meant acquiring all the latest status symbols—via bank loans or time payments, as only the department stores offered “charge” cards—that were supposed to make them irresistible to women. This included the latest-model, fastest car on the market, as well as the latest eight track car stereo and other car accessories to go with it, and the latest color TV and stereo hi-fi. While young women felt compelled to diet compulsively, to spend thousands of dollars a year on the newest fashions and hair-dos and hundreds more on make-up, hair, skin, and nail products—or be doomed to spinsterhood.
After eighteen months in England, I decided I was incapable of working the thirty six-hour shifts the National Health Service required of first year house officers. In November 1974, with a profound sense of failure, I returned to the U.S. At twenty-seven, my highest priority was to complete the specialty training I needed to start a practice while I was still young enough to have children. Finding my native country no less alien or devoid of humanistic values than when I left, I fully intended to either return to the U.K. or emigrate to Canada, Australia, or New Zealand once I completed my psychiatric residency. I never dreamed I would wait twenty-eight years.
I was a very late bloomer politically. Despite my early disenchantment with the “establishment,” as we called it in the sixties and seventies, it never occurred to me to blame political factors for my chronic sense of loneliness, alienation, and unmet emotional and social needs. At thirty-five, I fell into Marxism almost by accident when Marti, a fellow doctor and feminist in Chico, California, invited me to join the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. CISPES was a national grassroots organization formed in 1981 to protest Ronald Reagan’s covert war against El Salvador. Marti, who also turned thirty-five that year, was drawn to Marx for exactly the same reason I was—he helped us make sense for the first time of a political system riddled with contradictions. We had just lived through one of the most turbulent decades in U.S. history. Despite living in a so-called democracy, we had watched powerful defense contractors strong-arm Congress into an unpopular, undeclared war in Vietnam. The result was a massive political and military disaster that cost taxpayers billions of dollars and resulted in massive loss of human life.
Despite embracing most Marxist values and principles, I have never accepted the need for violent revolution to overthrow capitalism. In 1983, after moving to Seattle with my two-year-old daughter Naomi, I joined International Socialists Organization. But only after other members assured me workers would bring down capitalism by uniting and refusing to work—that it was only the counter-revolution that was violent. In fact the only virtues I can claim as an activist are single mindedness (my mother called it stubbornness) and my inability to push my knowledge of government crimes and atrocities to the back of my mind.
Although most Americans saw the 2004 photos of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, for the most part the images of naked Iraqi prisoners receiving electric shocks, being attacked by dogs, and having water poured down their throats have slipped from conscious awareness. The American public is worn down by the pressures of putting food on the table, keeping up with mortgage and credit-card debt, and finding some way to pay for medical care for themselves and their children. It’s much easier not to think about a horrific act for which they share responsibility, as U.S. citizens and taxpayers, but over which they have no control. In other words to move on.
I can’t move on. The images linger and fester in my head until there is no room for anything else.
“The low road”, from THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE by
Marge Piercy, copyright ©1980 by Marge Piercy. Used by permission
of Alfred A Knopf.
by Emily Jane Hills Orford
Title: The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee
Author: Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Do you feel safe in your house at night? Have you ever wondered about those annoying, middle-of-the-night phone calls that you thought were just a random wrong number? Have you noticed someone following you? Frightening? Yes! Imagine having this happen relentlessly for years: phone calls at all hours of the day and night; people following you; people pretending to be your friend, your client, your patient; people breaking into your house; people threatening your life; people ending the lives of people you have come to know through your practice and your volunteer activities. These things are frightening enough without the added phone taps and tampering with the television cable so that the programming is altered to implement a direct personal assault on an individual’s mental health. This and more happened to an American psychiatrist, Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall. Not only did these threats affect her safety and that of her daughter, they also affected her psychiatric practice and had her committed to the psychiatric ward, induced with countless drugs and labelled as being psychotically paranoid and manic depressive. Why? It all started when she tried to help transform an abandoned school in Seattle into an African American Museum.
Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall is a captivating storyteller. Her memoir, The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee, chronicles thirty years of her life as she tried to maintain her psychiatric practice in Seattle, Washington, while raising a daughter and being actively involved in several volunteer groups that rigorously sought to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. Her fight to bring research on safe AIDS treatment to the fore in the 1970s struck a raw-nerve in certain government departments. Her fight to defend African Americans abused by the system, abused by the police, resulted in greater harassment. She also lobbied for basic health care insurance for all Americans; helped establish and support, both financially and physically, the African American Museum; and she was frequently sought to financially back those who were wrongly accused in the Seattle justice system. Her views on American politics may have seemed radical to many; but hearing her story, from her point-of-view, one begins to wonder if there isn’t a conspiracy out there to block the so-called ‘freedom of speech’ right and condemn those who dare to question it.
Dr. Bramhall continued her practice in Seattle, despite the continual harassment and death threats, for thirty years. She had no desire to uproot her daughter during her early school years. After her daughter moved away to university, Dr. Bramhall made her decision to immigrate. She accepted a posting in New Zealand, and made the move. She is currently practicing child and adolescent psychiatry in New Plymouth.
The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee is an almost shocking memoir about what lies beneath the world as we want to see it. The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee is highly recommended by Allbooks reviewer, Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.
(Review) Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee, Eloquent Books, New York, 2010
By Nicky Hagar, Author of The Hollow Men
The FBI’s aggressive infiltration and disruption of political groups in the US since the 1960s has been an appalling episode of US political history. All manner of political groups have been wrecked after being manipulated and betrayed by government informers, while their members lived with strain and damaged relationships from never being sure who they could trust or what was really going on.
Stuart Jeanne Bramhall’s The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee is an autobiography revolving around her 15 years as a political campaigner facing these problems of trust and infiltration in dysfunctional social movements in the 1980s and 1990s Seattle. It is a well written, thoughtful and very honest book about twenty years of her life, including these intensely destructive politics, relationships, life as a practising psychiatrist and being a parent.
The book is a ‘memoir of an American refugee’ because in 2002, as the Iraq War inexorably approached, she applied for and was appointed to a psychiatry job in faraway New Zealand. The book ends as she leaves the US, with grateful relief for the better life awaiting her. The other half of the title is from Rosa Luxemburg’s words: “The most revolutionary act is a clear view of the world as it really is.” It is probably impossible to have a clear view of something as murky as the infiltrated progressive politics she lived through, but in the book we see an intelligent person telling the story of these real and hard experiences as clearly as is possible.
A Psychiatrist Searches for Sanity in a Crazy World
For OpEdNews: Michael David Morrissey – Writer
Review of The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee, by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall (Eloquent Books, 2010)
This is a frightening book. Much of it reads like a thriller, but unfortunately it is a true story. Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhill, a woman (despite the unusual first name) and a psychiatrist, describes her 15-year long mental, emotional and physical ordeal resulting from her involvement in leftist activist politics in Seattle, Washington.
Beginning in 1986, says Bramhall, “for some unknown reason, some faceless higher-up in one of the eleven federal agencies that spy on American citizens decided I posed a threat to national security,” and from then on she was subjected to phone harassment, wiretaps, break-ins, and even attempts on her life. Since she was never able to prove any of this (and how does one prove it?), she was also confronted with the disbelief of her own professional colleagues, who were quick to diagnose her as “psychotic” and gave her the choice of losing her medical license or spending a week in a locked ward at a mental hospital for observation. She chose the latter, though she continued to be misdiagnosed and over-medicated, which exacerbated her mental torment and had serious physical side-effects that lasted for years afterward.
Bramhall learned the hard way that her fellow medical professionals were the last people in the world she could be honest with about her feelings of persecution:
The moment I mentioned the CIA, my psychiatrist decided I was psychotic and refused to listen anything else I said… Nelson’s erroneous diagnosis stemmed from pure political naiveté. He had no reason to come in contact with political or union activists, unemployed whistleblowers or the low-income street people that the police, and, I believed, U.S. intelligence, recruited as informants. Nevertheless, I had no confidence in any of my colleagues to objectively assess my mental state. I practiced in a totally different world from other Seattle psychiatrists, who automatically turned away patients who couldn’t afford their one hundred dollar fee.
Bramhall was never more than a “lukewarm radical”:
I was a very late bloomer politically. Despite my early disenchantment with the “establishment,” as we called it in the sixties and seventies, it never occurred to me to blame political factors for my chronic sense of loneliness, alienation, and unmet emotional and social needs.
At thirty-five, she “fell into Marxism almost by accident” when a medical colleague invited her to join CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, formed in 1981 to protest Reagan’s covert war against El Salvador). Marxism helped her “make sense for the first time of a political system riddled with contradictions,” but she “never accepted the need for violent revolution to overthrow capitalism.”
This would have been enough, I think, to have alienated her from most of her colleagues, since it must be as almost as hard to be a “Marxist” psychiatrist in the U.S. as it was to a “capitalist” one in the former Soviet Union, where political deviance was routinely equated with psychosis.
But Bramhall crossed a number of other tripwires in her efforts to combine political activism with her profession, the most conspicuous one being the color line. As a white woman who actively pursued her profession, as well as social and political associations, in the African American community, she became involved with other activists whose motivations, she came to suspect, were not as innocent or transparent as her own. One of her early acquaintances, a former Black Panther called Jabari Sisulu, put it succinctly: “White professionals who fraternize with black radicals are at much greater risk than I am.” Bramhall’s story is testimony to the truth of this statement.
Over the years, as she continued to participate in local activist projects like the effort to turn an abandoned school building in Seattle into an African American museum and cultural center, Bramhall broadened her political consciousness by reading about the assassination of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Cointelpro, AIDS, and more recently, 9/11 — in short, by delving into the immense body of literature dealing with the facts and evidence about such topics that continues to be systematically suppressed by the mainstream press and dismissed as “conspiracy theory” but which is now readily accessible on the internet. At some points, her activities at the “micro” level intersected, perhaps with consequences, with the “macro” level (my terms), such as her association with Edna Laidlow, who claimed to be the lover of the “umbrella man” at Dealey Plaza who supposedly gave the signal to begin the shooting of JFK. She also suspects that her effort to publicize an ulcer drug called “Tagomet” [sic, presumably Tagamet] as a treatment for AIDS may have triggered a covert response.
The reader, like Bramhall herself, waits in vain for any resolution of the question of who was harassing her and why. This is hardly surprising, since none of the issues at the “macro” level have been resolved either. Despite the ever-increasing mountain of evidence of government involvement in multitudinous conspiracies (”plans by more than one person to do bad things”) against “the people,” both domestic and foreign, the steadfast response of both government and mainstream press, which are in this respect identical, remains the same. It is not denial — which would require facts and arguments — but silence.
Thus Bramhall leaves us, at the end of the book in 2002, having emigrated to New Zealand in hope of starting a new life at a healthy distance from the “insidious pseudo-culture” of the U.S. public relations industry and “stranglehold of the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence.” I wish her luck, and as an longtime ex-pat myself I can say that she made a rational decision. I too am a kind of “American Refugee,” as Bramhall subtitles her memoir. Fortunately, I never experienced the kind of personal harassment she did, but reading her book gives me a strong sense of “there but for fortune.” I could have easily gone the way of Stuart Bramhall, just as I could have ended up in Vietnam or (more likely) in Canada fleeing the draft. But I got lucky. First of all, I was lucky enough to realize early on that the Vietnam war was insane, and secondly, I found a psychiatrist who shared my view. (He called it a “mass neurosis,” which I thought a gross understatement, but it served my purpose of escaping the draft.)
I did not leave the U.S. for political reasons, however. I left, in 1977, because even armed with a Ph.D. (in linguistics), I couldn’t get a decent job. So I guess I was an economic “refugee.” (Part of Bramhall’s motive for emigrating was also economic, her medical practice having suffered under cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations.) I was, obviously, opposed to the Vietnam war, but I did not become “radicalized” until much later, in 1988, when I was older than Bramhall was when she turned to Marxism, so I too was a late bloomer, politically. The catalyst for me was, I am almost ashamed to say, a TV program: Nigel Turner’s documentary about the assassination of President Kennedy (The Men Who Killed Kennedy). I saw this in Germany, after I had been living here for almost 11 years. This was the major turning point for me, but it all happened in my head. In Bramhall’s case, despite the opinion of her bourgeois colleagues, I don’t think it was in her head. Maybe some of it was, but her story is much too detailed to be dismissed as paranoia.
So the irony of our two stories is complete. On the one hand, we have a psychiatrist who is persecuted for political reasons and falsely judged by her colleagues to be insane. On the other hand we have a linguist who opposes an insane war and is correctly judged by a “renegade” psychiatrist (as I’m sure his colleagues would have described him in those days) to be sane and therefore unfit to “serve.” Both of us end up leaving the country.
But not everyone can leave. Vietnam did not end. It’s here again under a different name: Afghanistan/Iraq. In fact, things are much worse now, much more insane, than they were in the sixties. There was at least some attempt to lie convincingly about the reasons for the Vietnam war. The “communist threat” was more convincing than the the blatant lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction, retaliation for 9/11, and bringing “freedom and democracy” to those unfortunate countries. A very large portion of the population, probably close to one half, disbelieves the government’s story of 9/11, and a clear majority does not support the ongoing war (read “military engagement”). There is a huge disjuncture between what people think and what the government and the mainstream media tell them.
If societies were people, the U.S. would have to be locked up with the criminally insane. No person could remain sane harboring so many violently conflicting ideas. Societies are not people, but people do have to live in this insane society. How do they do it? I think there are three alternatives: 1) denial, 2) acceptance, and 3) fighting back. 1) and 2) are themselves psychotic states. How can you deny or accept insanity without becoming part of it?
3) is the only sane, reasonable and honorable alternative. This is what Bramhall did, and what many of us try to do, each in our own way. It is wrong to see her story as negative or her struggle as futile. It is part of the ongoing struggle.
Note: AIDS and Jakob Segal
Dr. Bramhall mentions me as the “translator” of AIDS researcher Jakob Segal, but in fact I only proofread the English edition of his book AIDS Can Be Conquered (Verlag Neuer Weg, 2001; AIDS Ist Besiegbar, 1995). I did translate a couple of shorter pieces, which are accessible on my homepage and in my book Looking for the Enemy. The latter and my more recent book The Transparent Conspiracy (on 9/11) are available on Amazon.com
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