I am part of a family who loves politics and who loves this country. I’m not sure why. I always think that intense love of the United States is more associated with immigrants who battled their way into a country that holds so much promise.
That isn’t true in my family. I have one great-grandfather who was born in Alsace-Lorraine, a small state that was either German or French depending on who won the war. The other ancestors were here for many generations, serving this country in the military and fighting when called to do so.
Our dad was almost too old to make the cut for WWII and decried the fact that he spent the war training Army recruits in Washington and Utah. He always told Mother that he’d make up stories about his service during the war when they had children. He never did. He spoke with pride about his part and the parts his brother who flew planes in No. Africa and his brother-in-law who ran field hospitals in Europe played to win the war.
As a history and government teacher he made sure that we knew about politics and the issues of the day. We usually watched the national and local news and talked about what was going on at the dinner table. I grew up in the 60’s so there was plenty to discuss. Politics could be an emotional issue in our family. My aunt, a Catholic sister for 15 years at the time, and my dad got into a “discussion” about politics that required my 75-year-old grandma to intervene before there was bloodshed.
It is with interest and concern that I watch today’s politics. There is so much animosity generated by the political commentators. Misinformation is rife and there isn’t much interest in doing any fact-checking. Just hysterical rhetoric based on the message.
That’s true on both sides of the political spectrum. I listened to one politician say that his side was open to compromise and Obama needed to come to Congress so he and his compadres could tell the president why he was 100% wrong. Hard to find middle ground there.
I often see bumper stickers that say “O-Sh…/Obama.” The “Not my president” stickers from the Clinton years have returned. And a friend of mine said she told her husband she didn’t want him to enlist in the military because he’d have to fight under this president.
I know my dad intensely disliked FDR but I can’t imagine that stopping him from joining the Army and serving his country. Because that’s what it is. It is our country. And I love it no matter who is elected to serve as president.
AA has taught me that.
Some AA-ers like to say that the world would benefit from living the 12 steps of AA. I agree. That isn’t with any degree of smugness; it’s just that the steps work for me and help me stay usually happy and peaceful and relatively free of resentments and fears.
I also think we USA-ers would benefit from living the 12 traditions of AA, too. AA is composed of people from all walks of life, races, gender preferences, religions (or lack thereof), backgrounds. A friend used to say that it didn’t matter if you came from Yale or jail, you are welcome in these rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
We use the traditions to govern our groups. The traditions keep things fair, permitting the diversity of membership to operate and fulfill our common purpose of helping the alcoholic who still suffers. In fact, the 1st tradition states “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.” Doesn’t our nation’s common welfare depend on unity. the ability to compromise?
When I re-read the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, I was struck by the common purpose which framed our nation:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
What if our nation operated with that as a common purpose?
Tradition 2 states that “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” The Declaration goes on to say, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
What if we could permit God to just be God and not the god of any sect or denomination? What if our leaders recognized that their power is only from the consent of the governed? What if we governed acted like we knew that fact?
The percentage of people who vote has been abysmally low for as long as I remember but the percentage of people who loudly complain is high. Two of my favorite friends say that they don’t vote because their vote doesn’t matter. Others have said they don’t understand the issues and that just seems lame. But I often hear those excuses.
The 7th Tradition of AA states that “Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.” It isn’t just folks on welfare who are dependent on outside contributions; big corporations and subsidized industries act like tax breaks and entitlements are their God-given right. Self supporting has taught me that if I don’t have the money, I better have the time to contribute or pare down my wants. We are having a national argument about whether or not we should default on our loans. That shouldn’t even come into question.
The truth is that AA’ers are just like most USA’ers in that we don’t always participate in the process of government but often have vocal opinions about politics and what happens. But for the most part, AA works in a way that I don’t see our USA government working.
A willingness to insure that AA stays the way it was when we got sober so that those who come after us have the same chance permeates AA and inspires members to compromise on the little and hold firm on the big.
What if our country had the same willingness to permit our children and grandchildren to have those unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? Wouldn’t we be willing to pay our share of the cost?
I know that the last few words of the 12th tradition could be a mantra for all of us: “place principles before personalities.”
A novel concept in this age of extreme politics and extreme politicians.