The New New World (Part 2)
Probably the most common joke we make about ourselves as we get along through life is: "Oh, my God! I've become my parents!" You may be horrified to stumble across this insight about yourself, or you may be amused. I imagine it depends on how gawd-awful the particular echo of your parents you've suddenly seen in yourself turns out to be.
As adults, we always have a choice. You can either accept or struggle against these embedded parental units. Sometimes the struggle matters; sometimes it doesn't. If it's just a matter of being driven nuts by your child's refusal to try various vegetables, well, maybe (or maybe not) you can find a way to be a little bit more creative about it than your parents were. It's not that important. If, however, you were violently abused as a child, I'd say it's pretty much incumbent upon you as an adult to struggle against whatever like urges you might have toward your own occasionally cranky kids. The problem comes when people refuse to acknowledge the parental echoes and so never get to the point of realizing they actually do have a choice.
Take, for example, America in 2005. In Part 1 I said: "...we are making ourselves into that which our ancestors once fled." I believe this is true. I also believe I could prove it, but at the moment I don't really see the point. Those who agree with the contention -- that is, those who have seen what I have seen about our country -- do not need me to prove it. And those who don't agree with the contention will not be convinced by anything I could say in here about it. The evidence is out there, in my view, and my detailing it here, or other people detailing it elsewhere, doesn't seem to have much effect. Now, I realize saying all of that is a bit like accusing people of being In Denial over [whatever] whenever they do something I find annoying and I want to attribute their behavior to some flaw in their characters. I hate that, and that's another reason why I'm not going to set about proving the contention here. It's what I believe, and if you don't believe it, then fine. For the moment, anyway.
Those who have had the bad luck to have a drunk in their lives (that should really be, I suppose, those who have had the bad luck to have had people in their lives who have had the worse luck of being drunks) know that you can't save them. The old saw that they can only save themselves happens, in my experience and observation, to be true. Here, I don't think the problem is denial so much. I don't think many drunks are really in denial about their problem. I think they know perfectly well they are drunks, the evidence is all around them after all, but they can't for a number of reasons manage to stop being drunks. I should clarify here: I think professionals can help, but only if a drunk wants to be helped. The rest of us poor slobs can only stand by and continue to suggest the drunks in our lives seek help from those in a position to actually help them.
All of this is by way of trying to get some sort of grasp on the enormity of the problem facing those of us who hate seeing America devolve into the new Old World. God, there are so many things I could tick off, so many manifestations of the phenomenon, it's hard to know what to throw in here to make the point. Just today we read about the government arguing that it should have the right to make secret legal arguments against various defendants. Secret legal arguments? That's a joke, right? Sadly, no. And that's problem enough, but the kicker is this: way too many Americans, judging by their apparent indifference, seem to agree with this government's appalling behavior.
That, to me, is refusing to see our parents in ourselves. That's old world peasant mentality, and a lot of us whose ancestors came to this New World to get away from that sort of thing should be appalled by it, but we are not. Not enough of us anyway. It's the kind of denial that goes: "Oh, it's not that big a deal and anyway I don't have enough energy to deal with it."
But it's the drunk problem, too. Only it isn't booze in this case. If you can broaden the word to mean something beyond an endless series of Terror Alerts, I think the self-medicative substance in this case is security. Our ancestors came here in the face of almost limitless insecurity -- crossing a dangerous ocean in what we would think of today as laughable excuses for ships, facing a wilderness wherein a living was by no means guaranteed, but starvation, hostilities of one sort or another and disease pretty much were. Those were insecurities worthy of the name. What are we insecure about these days?
Now, I was there at the foot of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. My life was turned upside down for months afterward -- the depression and insecurity and feeling of not quite being attached to the Earth anymore was awful. In short, nobody needs to tell me about the insecurities of living in a world where that kind of terrorism goes on. That sort of insecurity is real and needs to be dealt with in realistic and effective ways.
Think of this as being a little bit like the problem of "social drinking" for a recovering drunk. He goes to parties, the booze is there, everybody's having a good time tipping 'em back, and there the poor recovering drunk is surrounded by danger, everywhere he looks. But if he's in a successful (so far) recovery, he sees and recognizes the danger, and deals with it in a responsible and effective way -- a way that works.
But here we are now, in America in 2005, surrounded by countless other insecurities far less worthy of the name. Two people of the same sex wanting to declare a union threatens to bring down civilization as we know it. Keeping the Ten Commandments out of the courthouse threatens everything the Founding Fathers worked for. A glimpse of Janet Jackson's tit threatens... well, I don't even know what it threatens except maybe the nation's cheeseballs. In short, people are being eaten alive by terrors over crap they can't even intelligently describe, let alone document. It's like a stoner's mega-paranoia. The only hope, in their eyes, seems to be one hit after another from the Security Jug. Gotta have it, again and again, to face down their nameless fears. Dutch Courage was what they used to call it. Whenever you didn't have the guts to face your real problems, you just took another hit from the jug then got busy with whatever chaos you felt was necessary to face down whatever the unnamed thing was that was eating you.
This is the problem we face, those of us who want to see America become the New World again. Think of it this way: it isn't just one drunk in your life, all full of denial and incapable of giving up the booze. It's a nation -- or, anyway, a goodly portion of a nation -- of drunks.
That's what we're up against. It's hard not to feel like the best thing to do in the face of such an enormous problem would be to give up. Just, you know, get on with your own life and leave the drunks to themselves. Unfortunately, when the nation you live in is a nation of drunks, they're kind of hard to avoid. And if the drunks are in charge, as they are now, you're not going to get very far by just ignoring them.
Well, I've never been much of one for giving up -- at least not in an arena like this one -- and somewhere along the way I learned that in the face of such an overwhelming problem, you sorta gotta learn how to use your head. You've got to realize that you can't tackle the whole problem all at once, and you certainly can't do it with a whole lot of talk and theories. You've got to figure out how to get down to what works.
And if there's anything we know about drunks, it's that you can't do anything for them until they see the problem for themselves and figure out they have to do something about it. But, I mean, come on... people on the left have been barking for a good long time now. Why in gawd's name don't the drunks get it??? Well, you know the answer to that as well as I do. They're drunks. 'Nuff said.
So what do we do? Sit back and wait for things to get so bad that even the drunks can't take it anymore? Great. There's something to look forward to. Let's all get dragged down onto Skid Row. Dibs on the refrigerator box behind the Safeway! That's my house, you nit-wit! Move it!
Well, just keep in mind that the trick is to get the drunks to feel the problem in their guts. You can't talk them out of or into anything. That doesn't work with drunks. Drunks have to see the problem for themselves, acknowledge it, and get themselves to the point of wanting to do something about saving themselves. As I said, professionals can help in this regard.
And so our problem becomes: if we are to help in some way here, what sort of professionals do we need to become, and how do we go about becoming them?
- The New New World, Part 3.