This is an image that made an enormous impact on me the more I think about it: the President of the United States weeping before the American people upon addressing them in regard to the Newton Connecticut school shooting shortly after it had occurred. It is such a sympathetic and human expression. And above all expresses great selflessness. From my end,it seems that most people around me view selflessness in terms of how much money one has and how willing they are to freely share it. Actually it goes far deeper than that. To be totally honest,most Americans would have to admit that many of us have become selfish thinkers caught unawares. After all so many of us are spoon fed a daily diet of often impossibly hard work,family concerns,news from all ends about global warming and international military tensions and an almost crippling inability to productively coordinate time. The result is too many people looking for a scapegoat. They blame their parents. Blame their children. Blame their bosses. Or as the the rhythm and blues artist Andre' Williams states so perfectly in song,they blame it on Obama.
President Obama for his part is always talking about the need for Americans to take a good look around them and see different ways they can correct problems around them on a purely local level-very much an extension of JFK's saying of "ask what you can do for your country". Unfortunately the majority of Americans are not the idealistic futurists they were in President Kennedy's era. They have become hardened and cynical people for a hardened and cynical age. So the President now has to be both a political leader and a psychologist to an emotionally needy nation who are looking,both on the liberal and conservative end,to be told exactly what to do but at the same time are too bitter to do anything but "criticize the messenger" as it were. Hence all the anger and hatred aimed at the President and often his supporters. In this blog I am going to define this in the persona of a a hypothetical character sketch of a man. He could be your son,your brother,your father or your uncle of any race or creed. But he's an American living in today's world.
Suppose you have a young boy who is born in a big urban area in the late 1960's. He's an early member of what they call Generation X. His mom has started a second family with his father. But this young boy has learning disabilities and said father doesn't know how to deal with it. So he makes a lot of mistakes along the way. The boy also has to deal with abuse and a violation from a half sibling. As this young boy because a young man,he begins to meet up with the wrong crowd. He ends up drunken,thrown into a field by people who aren't really his friend. His room is always a mess. When he reaches 18 he tells his family he's going the military because he is convinced this will make a man out of him. His parents or his siblings don't approve but what can they do? He's grown up and can make his own choices even if they are bad ones. This man goes through boot camp. He ends up in and out of two different relationships,both of which ended after he proposed marriage. Than there is a third. They decided to get married.
What happens is that his sister decides to get married the same summer. Both siblings share one older half sibling in common. They were always a parental figure to the two. And they decided not to go to either wedding due to travel inconvenience so neither will feel slighted. The sister getting married totally understands. The man does not. He was more needy,and still is. He feels slighted. For the next decade or so he maintains this marriage. He has two children of his own,a boy and girl after his mother dies. He can barely make it to her funereal. Furthermore his son turns out to have Aspergers syndrome and presents him with further more challenges. 9/11 comes along. The now proud Marine,having dragged his family all over the world wherever he's stationed,goes to war. Everyday his family might receive notice he was killed or wounded. Than he tells his wife he had an affair overseas. It isn't long,while she's bent over backwards to raise their autistic son and growing daughter,that she discovers receipt slips indicating her husband had had over thirty extra marital indiscretions in many different places.
The man's family face many crisis of their own-from health problems to personal ones. He hardly calls either of his sisters. Or anyone else in his family. He then voluntarily accepts a second tour of duty in overseas,where he experiences a traumatic event-killing a non combatant in the line of fire. He refuses to resolve the fact he has PTSD from this. Afterwards,he and his wife file for divorce. In hardly a years time the man marries again,to a woman who wants to use his military penchant to help her ailing daughter. This too ends in divorce,this time with the man shelling out a great deal of money. His worried older half sibling calls him on the phone at this point,trying to express their thoughts and concerns about him. He bitterly emails them saying they want to be left alone and have their own life. This being said in his early 40's. By the time his full sister is getting remarried after her divorce,he announces he's engaged to a women who came all the way across the country and gave up her own life to be with him.
By this time he is facing the damage done to his first family. His only daughter is in mid adolescence and is highly disappointed in him for his irresponsible behavior. And it would seem his challenged son has found another father figure in the man who replaced him in his ex wife's life. He becomes angry,solitary and bitter. He no longer enjoys his career in the Marines. He's loosing sleep. He is questioning his sexuality. His family have also reached that conclusion all around,but he refuses to hardly admit it to himself let alone them. He then invites his two siblings halfway across the country to attend his wedding. Neither accepts,citing both the distance and (between each other) his thoughtless absenteeism with the rest of his family. His father decides to offer a compromise Easter dinner closer to the rest of the family. After discussing it with his fiancee,the man loses his temper and writes an angry email to his father and siblings accusing them of never being their for him. Now the man faces loosing what little family he has left over his inability to handle the problems he himself mostly helped to created.
Most importantly,this story is not about me. This is a story I've heard,in variations,repeated many many times within many many families across the country. It represents the distrust and misunderstanding that is created when someone like this man feels backed in a corner. When changes in his life have come so thick and fast that he feels that he can no longer place himself in his group. When he feels he can no longer trust his own judgement when it comes to dealing with other human beings. The end result is a reversion to the mentality of adolescence,of seeing oneself as immortal and essentially the only person that really matters in their life. It stems from insecurity and self esteem damaged long ago. It's an individual problem. One that's become so prevalent it's become an American problem. And those afflicted with this are often totally unaware that it's happened. For those like myself who know of situations like this,and dare to question and debate them even to the chagrin of people close to them,it's an issue that really speaks to what kind of people we as Americans really are. And what,we feel,the harshness of the modern world is doing to us.