Conservative Bullying Has Made America Into a Broken, Dysfunctional Family: But There Are Ways to Regain Our Well-Being
Photo Credit: meddygarnet
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A marriage counselor friend once told me that he almost always knows by the end of the very first session whether he's being hired to guide a damaged couple back to health, or to help them work toward a divorce -- even when the couple doesn't know the answer to this question themselves.
It's easy to see, he explained. The relationship's future success or failure all hinges on one simple thing: How much goodwill and trust they have left. Even if they've hurt each other badly, the couples who make it are the ones that still retain a few shreds of faith in each other's basic good intentions. She didn't mean to hurt me. He's not always a bastard. Deep down, she still loves me. Deep down, he really wants things to be better.
These couples are still seeing same future together, and still cling to the tattered memories of why they first fell in love. Just a few frayed threads of trust are all that's needed -- if they've got that, the odds are high that with time and work, they can re-weave the fabric of the marriage into something that's once again strong and good.
On the other hand, the tell-tale sign of a zombie marriage -- one that's already dead, even if the parties involved haven't yet confronted that fact -- is that one or both partners have already given up and checked out. The trust is broken, the dream shattered, the damage just too much to ever repair. Things have been said and done that can't ever be unsaid or undone. There's so much bad history that there's no way a mere human heart can ever forgive it all. It's so far gone that pain and rage are all that remain -- and the longer they stay together, the more brutal it's likely to get.
If, as George Lakoff says, we tend to think of the nation as a family, then my friend's approach for identifying salvageable marriages may apply just as well to salvaging our democracy. Because, like all marriages, all democratic governments are founded -- first and foremost, above all else -- on an essential bedrock of trust and shared vision. We need to trust that our fellow citizens are decent people with good intentions. If we don't have even that much basic confidence in each other, there's no way that we can work together to build a society that works. In fact, there's not really even a reason to try.
Seen this way, "America" is the family name for the 310 million of us bonded together in a covenant that's very much like the commitment that forms a family. We have come together to build our common wealth, create opportunities for each other that will secure our shared future, raise our children, care for our elderly, protect our assets, look after each other in sickness and in health, and wisely tend our national house and manage our gathered resources so we can hand the increase proudly off to the next generation.
And, like a family, this is a commitment that is entirely grounded in mutual trust -- a bone-deep knowledge that we will keep faith and be there for each other; that we will look out for each others' rights, property, and kids; that we will generously give the family our best whenever possible; and that we also rely on it to be there for us when we need help. For better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health, we promise to be there for each other. The true strength and wealth of the country begins with the strength of that commitment.