Uvalde, Texas, May 24, 2022
It takes a tragic loss for America to take inventory. Something so rudimentary as assessing ‘the stock in hand,’ requires a loss.
After the funeral and we put away slowly the dark suits and dresses, put up the veils, the sunglasses, the white hankies and black gloves, and ask ourselves, what are we going to do?
It’s a genuine question. What do we see?
‘What we see’ is what the bromides don’t convince anymore (1) — a divided nation, a filibuster, a political party in an authoritarian trance, an institution out of favor with the American public, a President who yearns to be Senator… Even the past is too difficult to apprehend, holds no sanctuary. So we bury it, objectify it, turn from it.
David Hogg, of the self-appointed “March for Our Lives ,” activist group, (2) offers a glimpse of what’s ahead for America. Leave it to the youth of the nation to graciously remind their elders, their forbears, of the task(s) at hand. Following is a paraphrase of an answer Hogg gave to an interviewer’s question about his thoughts on the aftermath of the Uvalde and Buffalo mass murders:
‘Actually, as weird as this sounds, I am hopeful at what is going on. We are accepting that guns and violence in our country need to be dealt with… really before anything else… we now know, this tragedy will happen again… will not stop happening. This (acknowledgment) is a good sign…I don’t have to agree with you or accept your position, with ‘where you are coming from,’ to say, okay, so we don’t agree on everything, but we can agree to do something.’ That there is space for common sense. (3)
In other words, remember why we speak in concert, remember why we are here, remember why we care.
Perhaps these ‘whys,’ not the rhetoric or the false wisdom surrounding them, hold a key to survival.
Graduates of addiction therapy —one never “graduates” (I am one) — remind us of another key, a key to recovery:
Drop the rock.(4)
Drop the defenses.
Put another way: what hurts most to an addict in recovery is that one is living a kinda’ sorta’ dream, a fantasy that recovery means nothing because one can’t recover what’s lost. That someone has taken something away and one won’t get it back. And yet, it’s this knowledge that provides the promise of change. This knowledge provides the imagination with a world in which the ‘something’ no longer has value.
Exactly what Hogg was offering up.
The socio-political dimension of “enough is enough,” the argument for recovery, is ‘surrender.’ Surrender the defense. Drop the rock. The ‘last addiction’ is the one that convinces us we are healed, that we can heal ourselves. (5)
The socio-political dimension of surrender is not just forgoing nativist ‘exceptionalism,’ but as well, forgoing America’s ‘expectation-alism.’
We ‘don’t move on’ if any path will get us to where we are going. A big part of what we don’t know is what we don’t accept. The claim that ‘the world is flat’ took a century, four generations and countless trials to disprove argues this point:
That is, we can’t heal ourselves, we have lost agency. It wasn’t, hasn’t been taken from us. We have lost it.
Many a political observer identifies the causes of a society’s ills, but refuses to study the defenses against accepting a democratic resolution.
An ‘old timer,’ an addiction survivor, once took me aside to whisper in my ear, “Giving something up is not the same as taking something away.”
1- Michelle Goldberg, “America May Be Broken Beyond Repair,” Opinion, NYTimes, May 28
See also a timely interview with another survivor, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/survivor-of-2018-attack-at-parkland-school-speaks-out-on-spate-of-recent-mass-shootings
3-Thursday, May 26, MSNBC
4-Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects, Step 6 & 7, by Bill P., Todd W., and Sara S., Amazon Books
5-”The truth is, we are not as bad as we think we are — and we are worse than we ever dreamed.” The Last Addiction, Why Self-Help is Not Enough, by Sharon A. Hersh, MA, LPC. Amazon Books