There’s this story that Jacques Lacan used to tell about Freud coming to America for the first time. Freud and his erstwhile protégé Karl Jung sailed from Europe together. As the ship passed under the Statue of Liberty at the mouth of New York Harbor. Freud turned to Jung and said, “They don’t realize we’re bringing them the plague.”
Get it? Here’s neo-Freudian, neo-Lacanian Jacques-Alain Miller’s interpretation:
Normally we welcome the analyst as a therapist provided he/she brings along a method to cure-the psychoanalyst as a new curing method. Contrariwise, Freud's Witz (joke) posits the analyst as the one who hands over the disease, not the cure... as if Jung and Freud were two fundamentalist terrorists sneaking into the United States.
Freud said that jokes, like dreams, express subconsciously repressed instincts for sex and aggression – Freud the terrorist infecting America with a sexually-transmitted disease. Lacan sees in the joke evidence of Freud’s hubris:
To catch their author in its trap, Nemesis had only to take him at his word. We could be justified in fearing that Nemesis has added a first-class return ticket.
Lacan interprets the United States as Freud’s Nemesis. According to the Encyclopedia Mythica:
In Greek mythology, Nemesis is the goddess of divine justice and vengeance. Her anger is directed toward human transgression of the natural, right order of things and of the arrogance causing it. Nemesis pursues the insolent and the wicked with inflexible vengeance. She is portrayed as a serious looking woman with in her left hand a whip, a rein, a sword, or a pair of scales. In the Hellenistic period she was portrayed with a steering wheel.
So here’s the mythic hero Freud sailing into the West, taunting the immense statue of Nemesis standing guard over the New World. But, says Miller, tragedy awaits:
The hubris and Nemesis strike back: the real victim of the challenge thrown at the Statue of Liberty and to all that it represents in the modern world is psychoanalysis itself, Freud's creature.
In the glare of Liberty’s torch no subconscious desire or fear can hide in the shadows. But it’s not denial that characterizes America; it’s unhindered expression. We mean what we say and say what we mean, and what we mean is sex and violence, and we never stop talking about it. The subconscious has been evacuated; only the inhibitions are inhibited. We spill our guts; we give birth to our inner child; the inner child screams out what it wants. And what does the voice of the Father have to say to the inner child? “Go fer it, dude. Pursue happiness. Squeeze every drop of enjoyment you can out of life.”
America didn’t just catch Freud’s disease: it altered the metabolism of the disease and assimilated it into the organism. America infected the disease.