Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Getting Better, Getting Well

     Yes, Gentle Reader: you get two pieces today.

     Have you ever known someone who wasn’t just seriously ill, but who had taken a long time getting that way? Maybe with lots of contributory behavior that he persisted in even as it became apparent that it was making him ill? Have you ever known such a person to awaken to his lot, shake himself, vow to get better, set out on an ambitiously paced program of self-healing...and fail?

     I have. More than once. It’s a terrible thing to witness at close range. If you have as well, you’ll know what I mean.

     It’s bad enough when it’s a disease of the body. It’s truly tragic when it’s a malady of the mind...perhaps an entire nation’s mind.

     A suicidally miserable young woman I once knew realized rather abruptly one day that her unhappiness was in large measure of her own making. She’d deliberately denied herself most of the ingredients humans required to concoct happiness: parental and filial love, friends, self-acceptance, purpose, and faith in her own future. I can’t tell you what it was that brought about that awakening; it was told to me in confidence. I can tell you that her intellect, which was never in doubt, brought her to a conclusion that few who had suffered as she had could reach on their own.

     “This is going to take years,” she told me. “I took a long time getting this sick. It would be foolish to think I could get well overnight.”

     I was stunned. She was in her early twenties at the time. Her statement bespoke a degree of insight into the healing process that few mature adults would have grasped. She was not saying that she could make no progress, only that it would be gradual, perhaps painfully so.

     Rare indeed is the man who comprehends this aspect of life under the veil of Time. Yes, there are some things he can achieve or attain swiftly, at least if chance is on his side. For one who has spent months or years in the toils of misery, emotional health is not one of them. It takes time, and patience, and more often than not a lot of assistance from those who love him, whether he’s earned it or spurned it.

     Need I say explicitly that the attitudes that prevail among Americans of our day are diametrically opposed to meeting these requirements, much less acknowledging them?

     Recognizing one’s missteps is only the first step on the “road to wellville.” It’s not enough for the diabetic to forgo his long-beloved Sugar-Frosted Chocolate Stix in favor of Vitamin Fortified Health Chex. (On this subject, I speak from experience.) However, the desire for a quick-strike solution – preferably one that requires no great effort from oneself – is present in every sufferer. It’s the flaw that quacks and con men prey on, to their profit and our inevitable disappointment.

     I know, I know: It all sounds like folk wisdom. That’s because it is. “Reasonable expectations.” “Walk, don’t run.” “One step at a time.” But folk wisdom summarizes the experience of tens or hundreds of generations. Just because it’s old and well trodden doesn’t mean the path is wrong, no matter how ardently we might yearn for a shortcut.

     Our problem is, of course, that patience is demanding. It requires us to settle for small steps, to concede that “the best can be the enemy of the good,” that “all things have their price” – and that when the price is high, financing might be unavoidable.

     I wrote about this before the 2012 elections. It was pertinent then; it’s equally pertinent today.

     The United States of America, despite its many material assets and the general competence and ethical quality of its people, is politically very sick. It’s been deeply infected with what I’ve seen called gimme-itis: a social disease far more serious than syphilis, though transmitted somewhat differently.

     Everyone wants something. Not everyone is willing to do what’s required to get it without infringing on the rights of others – and by “the rights of others,” I mostly mean the right to be left the hell alone, unmolested by persons, programs, or politicians with oily hair, oilier manners, and a 0W-100 – synthetic, of course – penchant for promising things they can’t deliver. The gimme-itis has been spreading for so long, and is so widespread today, that a sensible person would accept that it will take many years to purge its microbes from our system. Some of them might require quite a bit of purging: the kind delivered via an injection of lead at high velocity.

     The Trump Administration has not yet delivered on all of candidate Trump’s promises. Is it reasonable to expect that it should have? I certainly don’t think so. The number of deeply diseased and seriously weakened organs in our body politic is too large to treat them all at once, especially given the size of the Administration’s opposition and its no-compromise attitude on essentially everything. Yet conservatives, who mostly regard themselves as sensible, appear dissatisfied with Trump’s progress. Some have openly regretted his election. Given the alternative, that strikes me as suicidally naive.

     I don’t expect a return to responsible, Constitutional governance in my lifetime. But I don’t think such a development is impossible; it’s merely highly unrealistic to expect it. We took a long time drifting this far from our Supreme Law.

     All that having been said, there’s such a thing as too much patience, the acceptance of microscopic steps forward when larger strides are righteous, prudent, and possible. We should expect progress. We should be unsatisfied with Republican flaccidity and inanition, especially in Congress, now that the GOP holds all three branches of the federal government. We should weigh in upon our Congressvermin with what we expect of them:

  • Firm control of the southern border, preferably via a physical barrier;
  • Sharply simplified taxation and decreased tax rates, both individual and corporate;
  • The end – the complete end – of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare;
  • An end to the selective enforcement of federal law;
  • The imposition of severe consequences upon the misfeasant, the malfeasant, and the nonfeasant, whether in elective, appointive, or Civil Service positions.

     That is not too much to demand from a four-year term. And we won’t get it if we aren’t explicit and loud about what will happen to “our” Republican officials if we don’t get it pretty damned quickly. They’ve been given the necessary offices and majorities; they’re expected to use them as they said they would. If they can’t or won’t...why allow them to continue stealing our precious oxygen?

     But to expect everything at once is unwise. Neither is it wise to withhold appropriate recognition and gratitude for those things the Administration and the Republicans in Congress have already achieved.

     Be reasonable, fellow Americans. Demand progress, but have patience. We took a long time getting this sick. Let’s resolve to appreciate that we’re getting better, rather than bemoaning that we aren’t yet completely well.

1 comment:

Amy Bowersox said...

I empathize with that young woman you mention. It's taken me a significant amount of time--four and a half years--from the time I first, hesitantly, came out to my fiancee, to now, at which point I am on the verge of legally transitioning and living full-time as a woman. In that time, I have acquired a fair bit of refinement in "the basics" of being a woman, to such an extent that I have been called a "perfect lady" by others. Yet I strongly suspect I will still be learning additional feminine nuances until the day I die. After all, I've got over four decades of catching up to don't accomplish that in just four or five years.