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The American Pathology

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”

— Chris Hedges: War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

In 1935, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with its principles to overcome the denial that characterizes the disease of alcoholism. Since its inception, AA has proven to be salvation for countless individuals and families. Its 12-step program has translated to many areas of pathology in reaching those with other dependencies.

I can think of a huge area of pathology—this landmass in which we reside—the USA. Our drug-addicted nation has been brought to its knees by a consumption-based lifestyle and a power grab to underwrite the excesses. If this intemperance continues, we will be lost. We may be already. With this in mind, I propose a step program. However, in the interest of separation of church and state, I’m going for a non-theistic approach, one abridged, and which I slightly amended, by the American Psychological Association:

Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion
Recognizing a greater power that can give strength
Examining past errors
Making amends for these errors
Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior
Helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions

Obviously, recognition of the problem is necessary—owning our powerlessness over power and greed.

Next, we must understand that something greater than ourselves can restore us to reason. This could be our collective humanity and the conviction that recovery will be defined by a pledge to value all men, women, and children, that we will champion equal rights in concert with a commitment to end war, poverty, and the degradation of our environment.

The practice of examining past mistakes is critical. To contend that we are spreading democracy is bullshit. We must stare into the truth of our invasions and occupations and see the depravity of our actions, the killing and maiming, the displacement of millions, and the misery inflicted by the Military Industrial Complex. We have to acknowledge that our gluttony and lust for resources fuel the nationalism that furthers a warmongering ideology for troop recruitment, sending our own flesh and blood to fight in conquest-oriented and craven campaigns like Shock and Awe to kill someone else’s flesh and blood. This is the record for which we must be accountable.

How do we make amends to those we’ve harmed? We’d have to start with Native Americans and African Americans, the citizens of the many countries where we’ve launched attacks with our own troop presence and by proxy. The victims of torture, the victims of a corrupt Department of Justice, of Katrina, Wall Street, of trade agreements, of poverty, homelessness, of Big Insurance and Big Pharma. Again, this step is daunting. There are so many victims, too many to list. How do we atone for our atrocities? How do we compensate the casualties of injustice? How can we address effectively the issue of global warming—a problem so potentially devastating it supersedes the others?

By following a new code of behavior, one of compassion and cooperation, we can avoid repeating our mistakes. But our path can’t exclude those who live only within the US country code, a certain social strata, or race.

With an empathetic and sober domestic and foreign policy, we could restore all that is represented by the Statue of Liberty: freedom from slavery, oppression, and tyranny. Just as the statue’s torch symbolizes enlightenment, our commitment to real change, not just a campaign slogan, might inspire hope throughout the world.

MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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