Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Alone And Angry: If Bush Were In AA
Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ---Malachy McCourt
I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.
---George W. Bush
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried...to practice these principles in all our affairs.
---Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous
First a word about these quotations. The statement about resentment has become quite popular and a number of people seem to be credited for it, but chief among them is Mr. McCourt, a colorful figure one might have to sum up as a storyteller of some sort. The actual source for the comment apparently is not known. President Bush was talking about the media to FoxNews's Britt Hume at the end of a 2003 interview found here http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,98006,00.html . The official Internet site of AA is www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/ . And while I'm giving credit, the lithograph by George Bellows was published as an illustration for an article in Good Housekeeping explaining Prohibition in 1924. The original currently is housed in the Library of Congress.
Second, let me say I don't know if the President is alcoholic. We have a history of ambivalence about alcohol in this country. We find drunks comical, as we do not so often people experiencing the effects of other substances that may cause dependence or addiction. We tried to prohibit its manufacture and consumption once, but apparently found enforcement too difficult. Most families include or know of someone with a "drinking problem," but addressing the issue with the person is somehow extremely sensitive. There doesn't seem to be a medical test that proves someone actually has what many describe as a "disease." People are sent to Alcoholics Anonymous by courts and various recovery units, but many folks show up having diagnosed themselves just as they previously "medicated" themselves. You don't have to confess to alcoholism to go to any meeting of AA anywhere, as long as you profess an honest desire to stop drinking.
Third, whether George Bush is alcoholic or not should be none of my business. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of AA, and the main reason for that is not so much secrecy anymore as it is for the purpose of learning humility. It means the member is trying to drop the behaviors of the big shot egomaniac that alcohol obviously encourages and creates. I don't know that the President is NOT in the fellowship of AA, but his biographies say he gave up drinking after a transforming interaction with Billy Graham. Others say Bush's handlers encouraged that story to attract his Evangelical base for his Presidential run. Stories about Bush's drinking in Houston and "disappearance" to Alabama in 1972 http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2004/09/02/allison/index.html and his DWI at the family compound in Maine in 1976 http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/bush/ remained secret or of no interest the whole time he was Governor of Texas. (You may notice at the CBC site a quotation from his autobiography in which Bush says he just woke up one morning with a hangover and stopped drinking; there's no mention of any born again conversion.) It may be a run for the Presidency made Bush come up with something about his substance abuse and try to beat the media to the punch (no boozy pun intended).
I say Bush's decision to give up drinking, how he did it and how he continues to do it SHOULD be none of my business, but he is President---and what our Presidents do in the dark of a closet or the inner recesses of their brains must be available to scrutiny and opinion if we still are a republic. Ambivalent or not, we need to take a look at Bush's behavior from the perspective of an alcoholic, now more than ever. He has maintained isolation and secrecy more than any President in history, the experts say. But now the isolation is not so much of his own choosing, and many of his protective handlers have fallen by the wayside. He is under increasing pressure...and when Congress convenes next month, it will intensify no matter how many ramparts and fortresses he continues to build around himself. He doesn't like it, and there are stories about anger and rage. For the alcoholic there is no more dangerous time than something like this...at least within the consensus of AA.
Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings in practically every town in America, and in many cities around the world. There are open meetings and there are closed meetings. A closed meeting is for people who are saying one day at a time that they are members. They want to talk among themselves and they prefer to insist on that. An open meeting welcomes visitors and students, but often requests notes and recordings not be taken without the specific OK of the people there. So you can go in there and hear what they say. Look in your phone book if you want to find out which meetings are open. When the topics come up about isolation, anger, and resentment, you will hear universal agreement these situations are a red flag. You need to seek help from the fellowship at such a critical time. If one does not go to AA, where do you turn?
For one who has an Evangelical base and faith, where perhaps the foundation of sobriety is rather than AA, you go to your pastor. Through the years we've had a number of Presidents and First Families who went to church frequently. Many of us grew up seeing photos of our Presidents attending church on Sabbath, or coming out into the sunshine after service. I can't say I've ever seen a picture of George, Laura and their children coming out of whatever church it is they go to. I don't know if they go to church. Maybe somebody will send me such a photo, and identify the President's spiritual counselor. Some people go to other kinds of counselors and psychologists and things in times of crisis. And of course George has his father and mother and their contacts. Does he reach out to anyone besides Laura?
Over the past 6 months and particularly this last week, an onslaught of attack has come from historians, journalists and commentators. Perhaps it started with a Rolling Stone cover story last May in which Princeton American studies professor Sean Wilentz posited George Bush as the worst President in United States history. His indictment remains the most completely devastating I've ever read. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/profile/story/9961300/the_worst_president_in_history On Sunday The Washington Post published 5 editorials by other historians to consider the same question---and if it isn't Bush, who was it? I'll give you the link to the Raw Story coverage of the editorials, and the individual Post links are in that article. http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Washington_Post_editorials_debate_if_Bush_1203.html Has any sitting President ever had such a thing done to him? But wait, there's more~~~
Yesterday Paul Krugman described what he considers the increasingly bizarre nature of Bush's failings. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120406B.shtml Also in The New York Times, Frank Rich on Sunday described Bush as quite frankly going, if not gone, insane, mad, bonkers. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120306A.shtml (As you know, The Times charges extra to read Krugman and Rich now, so I've provided the TruthOut links.) On Friday the esteemed nemesis within the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, chronicled the growing isolation of George Bush. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/294288_helen01.html
I will not mind if there are congressional or judicial investigations of this Administration's activities, the sooner the better. There may be tribunals called for in other countries. There surely will be lawsuits when these people are replaced in 2008. But for now if Bush suspects he is cornered, and his cowboy macho mojo abandons him or his personal guidance from God stumbles a bit, there's going to be trouble. If he is alcoholic, his health and stability are in grave danger. I want justice done, but I pray for the man's well-being.