Imagine this scene in a psychiatrist’s office: The shrink is right out of central casting, grey at the temples, pencil in hand and a perplexed look on his face Nothing strange so far…
The patient, however, is another issue. He is banged-up, bruised, and a bit bedraggled. The psychiatrist asks, “Sooo…what seems to be the problem?” The man says, “Maybe you can’t see it but there’s two of us in here. I’m on the right side, but there’s a real asshole who lives on the left. I can’t take it!” With that, his right arm rears back and wallops his left arm…real hard. There’s a grunt, a short hesitation and then the man’s voice changes fractionally. The new voice says, “Oh yeah? You think you hate my guts? I wish you’d just drop dead…get the f–k out of my life.” And with that the man’s left leg pulls back and begins kicking his right shin.
At this point, the shrink yells, “Stop! Enough of this! While you two are in my office there will be civility. No fighting or you both have to leave. Now… before we go any further, I want you to remove your shirt and roll up your pants legs. I want to see what injury you’ve inflicted so far.” The man does this. He rolls up his pants and both legs are purple and red with deep bruises, swelling, and what looks like a fractured patella on the left side. His arms are equally marred, scarred, and scabbed-over from recent cuts. The psychiatrist asks, “What about the rest of your body?” A voice says, “What the hell do you think?”
The psychiatrist takes a long moment to weigh things out. Finally, he says, “You do know you’re killing yourself, don’t you? In one body, both of you can’t continue beating the crap out of each other and expect to survive. You’re connected. You are part of one single entity. Do you really want to die over this? You could you know.”
You’ve probably already deduced what I’m talking about. The poor sonofabitch in the psychiatrist’s office is us…US…the United States of America. Depending on what generational alphabet soup you belong to, your viewpoint is skewed slightly. If you’re a millennial, you’ll be inclined to believe that it has always been this way. I assure you, it hasn’t been this bad since…oh… the Civil War, or if you’re from the South, the War Between the States.
Back then in the good ole days, one half of our wonderful country launched a war against the other. At the end of that scene, no director called “cut” and the dead didn’t stand up and go home. The bodies that lay there were soaked in blood. They died, often horribly. They bled-out or maybe they got a minute or two to scribble a note to their wives and families before dying. And guess what…… a hundred and fifty years later the scars still remain. At Gettysburg alone, 51,000 very loyal Americans killed or wounded… each other. Now, we are in the midst of another civil war, this one undeclared though in its own way, equally vicious, though more subtly executed.
The “boomers” (and even as one myself, I’m beginning to get disgusted by the name and what it has come to represent) actually had some brief shining moments that were known not as Camelot, but America the Beautiful. It didn’t used to be this way. We, as a people, got snookered and continue to be snookered. We are being screwed, blued and tattooed with hatred and lies both overt and covert to the point where we as individuals say, “Well, it’s gotta be true, because I saw it 50 times and 50 different ways on (fill in which station you’re stuck to). They couldn’t ALL be lies…” …There’s a whole lot of lying going on…on both sides. Too much… Do you remember when news anchors were honored, trusted, and told the truth? Remember Walter Cronkite? One paragraph on one evening report, and Vietnam was finally put into focus. Lyndon Johnson was watching. He stood up and said, “That’s it…” Cronkite’s integrity and truth-telling is what triggered the conclusion of the Vietnam War.
South vs. North, Red vs. Blue, Liberal, pinko, leftist, socialist effete elitists…vs… Tea party, right-wing, NRA-loving, Christian-only, blue collars. Yeah, we ain’t a pretty sight. And like it or not, like that bruised-up guy on the shrink’s couch, we are one body, one country and we used to be pretty damned great.
I remember… The Republicans were a little stuffy and conservative…but as you grew up and wanted to invest prudently, we all got a little more republican. It wasn’t a dirty word. Same with the Democrats. Wifty comes to mind, dreamers… pie-in-the-sky, let’s save…everybody! Not terribly realistic. But everyone, every person, every country needs some sort of dream, if for nothing else, for our children and our grandchildren.
Okay, nice speech, but what can I do? What can anyone do to dig our way out of this mess? Change…big change always takes place at the most fundamental level, the grass roots level, or more important than that, the level that exists between your ears. Way, way, way down deep in our psyches, when we watch a “news” show on TV, consider this: Does this really sound right? Does this really add up…or is it possible that am I being manipulated?…for ratings? Ratings = $$$$ and as far as I can see $$$$ usually trump everything else.
Do we really want to continue pummeling ourselves, right arm bashing left shoulder, left foot kicking right shin until we are so weak, some other country steps up and says, “Uhh,…move over, America. You’re too weak to even bother with.” I’m still a loyal American and as such would…REALLY…prefer that we pull out of this nose dive, this self-hatred of our other half. There’s a whole lot that we really can agree on. Tons of stuff. Time to turn off the demonizing.
Back in the mid-seventies, I had that brief, shining Camelot moment, believe it or not, sitting in a USAF-conducted class at Davis Monthan AFB, in Tucson, AZ. I had 180 guys I was responsible for and…it was a Friday afternoon class called, Race Relations. I took three other officers with me as well as six sergeants. Three of the sergeants were black as well as one of the officers. We sat there, drinking coffee, and were bored out of our minds. I leaned over to TSgt. Willie Brooks, my buddy (black buddy) who had saved my ass a number of times, as I saved his, a couple. I said, “I think we’re just about getting to the point where we won’t need these kinds of classes anymore.” He grinned back and said, “I hope so, sir.”
It’s time for the older heads, the ones who’ve been on the planet a while longer to try to remember what the right thing to do really is. What loyalty to country…really is, what loyalty to humanity really is. What the difference is between telling the truth…even when it hurts vs. just slinging mud…especially for ratings.
A little mind-set that helps me…might help you. When I run into someone whom I might tend to demonize with a pat little label, I think this: This poor sonofabitch also happens to love his wife, his kids…I know that much. He works hard. He mows his grass. He likes to laugh. He even seems to love his country. His father and my father fought together in WWII, or…Korea…or…Vietnam…or….Iran…or Iraq…or Afghanistan against some real enemies. Is this SOB really that bad? Am I really that bad? Or are we getting manipulated?
Let’s take back the reins. Let’s start mending some fences. By the way, the family pictured above is actually one of those nasty ones you can’t trust…whom we all hate. They’re the bad guys. Oh, wait a minute, I got the wrong shot. These are the good guys. Or maybe they’re both…or neither.