Some readers know that I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I have been extraordinarily blessed, having put down the booze in August, 1981 and being clean since April, 1982.
But recovery is a daily matter, and continued sobriety is a function of rigorous honesty about who I am and what I become when I use alcohol and/or drugs. In the first and last analysis -- if I use drugs or drink booze, I will go straight back to where I was when I began my clawing journey into responsible life 28 years ago.
Nothing more, and nothing less.
I was thinking about addiction as I took mass transit home from tonight's Atlanta Tea Party. On the surface, the event was very successful; speakers claimed more than 15,000 people in attendance, and that number made sense based on my ground-level estimates. Several presenters also stated there were more than 800 separate Tea Parties held across America today. While the majority of folks at the Atlanta gig were over forty, there was a significant sprinkling of older children, teens, and college students. Most people were white, although there were a few Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnicities mixed in the crowd.
As I stood listening to the speakers, I kept listening and looking around for any signs (literally and figuratively) that folks actually understood politics in Comrade Barry "We Won" Soetero's America, circa 2009.
The closest I saw?
One woman I spotted on my way to the transit station holding a sign which simply said, "Peaceful Attempt".
But if I gotten up on stage and said, "Do you understand that by demanding the elimination of socialism from this country -- which you claim to want -- you are implicitly and necessarily demanding the end of
- Social Security;
- the new prescription drug benefit for geezers;
- Federal aid to local schools;
- the deductibility of mortgage interest;
- subsidized student loans; and
- a myriad of other government transfer payments?",
I would have been booed off the stage, at best.
And the Second Amendment?
Oh, no. Far too scary that topic, apparently, for the Tea Party organizers. Only two speakers mentioned gun rights, and let's just say that those references were hardly Vanderboeghian.
Riding the MARTA train back to my parking garage, I realized where I had previously experienced the kind of cognitive dissonance I saw demonstrated en masse tonight by both speakers and attendees.
In a countless number of 12-step meetings, I had both attempted to alibi for myself and listened while others did the same about the realities and consequences of drug addiction:
"I wouldn't drink, except for my lousy home life."
"If you had my problems, you'd use drugs, too."
"I don't have a drinking problem. My spouse has the problem. I just drink to calm my nerves."
Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.
Only when I learned that my only real problem was my addictions, and that every other issue was a consequence of those addictions, did I begin to turn around my life. Only by disciplining myself to understand that as long as I thought like a junkie, I would continue to act like a junkie, was I able to put those issues behind me (at least so far today, as we say in the "one day at a time" business).
With all due respect to the organizers, speakers, and attendees of the various Tea Parties, I would offer this observation:
Only by understanding that the overwhelming majority of Americans have become almost hopelessly addicted to government intervention in their lives can we, as a society and as individuals, begin to get free and clean from that vice.
So long as any American's position on the relationship between state and individual can be reduced to "Let's just go back to the amount of socialism (and its necessary correlative theft from my fellow citizens) that I liked", that American is just as deranged and just as pathetic as an alcoholic who, after a bad incident, vows to avoid hard liquor and only drink wine in the future.
Recovery is always possible, even for the most dissipated of addicts.
But recovery simply is impossible until the junkie gets honest with himself about what the real problem is and who is responsible for that problem.
Be honest, America.
The real problem is not the politicians. They're just doing what a majority of your fellow citizens have directed them to do at the ballot box.
The real problem is the junkie's mindset in most Americans -- young, middle-aged, and senior varieities -- that it is both possible and morally acceptable to get other people's money for yourself via state-sponsored theft by taxation.
Until people understand that addiction, we're doomed.