What if America Found its Soul?
By Jason Miller
Waking up to Discover Your Soul is Missing....the Ultimate Nightmare
“You're spiritually empty, you know. Your life is out of spinning out of control. I see a bleak future if you don’t….”
"What the hell are you talking about? As powerful and successful as I am? I believe in Jesus, I read the Bible, I go to church on Sunday....."
"Hey, hey, hey! Save the defensive diatribe. You came to me for help, remember? If you really want me to sponsor you, I need for you to be honest, with me and with you. Remember, awareness is the first step and "da-Nile" ain’t just a river in Egypt!"
"I don't even know why I came here. This is a waste of my valuable time. I have more pressing engagements, and I am leaving!"
"Go ahead. Perhaps you just aren't ready. But remember, by denying you have a problem and walking out that door, you are proving you have a problem. Denial and the "self will run-riot" are two obvious signs of an addict."
"All right, all right! It is true. I have problems that I can't fix on my own."
"It's good to hear you admit that. Awareness is the first step. I think you may be ready to join our group."
"All right, maybe I am. So now what do I do?"
"We'll join the discussion and you can introduce yourself like the others do. Then you can tell your story. Trust me. You will feel a rush of tremendous relief once you open up to the group and start a real spiritual journey."
"Who will be there?"
"The world community. Not one of us is above reproach Each of us has suffered from spiritual maladies like you By coming here today, you are taking the crucial first step that many of us did. You will be joining the world community and moving toward spiritual healing. Now let's sit down. You will be surprised at how readily the group will embrace and support you."
Mustering the Courage to Take that First Step
(The two seat themselves in the crowded room filled with the pungent odors of cigarette smoke and coffee).
"Is it my turn to talk?"
"Yes, America. Go ahead."
"My name is America, and I am an addict."
(In a chorus of replies in varying languages, the group welcomes America)
"I am addicted to power, over-consumption, imperialism, deceit, avarice, hubris, and war. Like a spoiled child with a self-will run amuck, I have tried to force each of you to bend to my will. My life has become unmanageable, I am powerless over my additions. I am prepared to turn my will over to a Power greater than myself and allow that Power to restore me to sanity. The fact that I am speaking to you in English and expecting all of you to understand me shows how deep my arrogance runs. I come before you today with a broken spirit. I have grossly abused my immense power, and for that I am sorry. That is all I wish to say today. Thank you."
(The other members of the group thank America for speaking)
By the Sweat of my Brow
Nine months pass, and America, supported by its sponsor, works the Twelve Steps with a powerful determination. It is a long and arduous path, but America adheres to its deep conviction to follow a course of spiritual redemption and fulfillment. Surprisingly, many of the numerous nations and people America has harmed over the years respond in a forgiving and supportive manner. Let's listen in at the Twelve Step meeting in which America gives a detailed accounting of its spiritual awakening.
"My name is America, and I am an addict."
(America is met by a chorus of welcome from the other nations comprising the Twelve Step group)
"I stand before you with nine months of sobriety and mental clarity under my belt, and I thank my Higher Power for granting me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I thank those of you who have offered me guidance and support along the way.
"As I embarked on my spiritual transformation, I realized what a cancer I had become to humanity. To remedy this, I have shed my obsession with being number one, and I have embraced a belief in a Power greater than myself. My Higher Power is a composite of Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, and many others. In fact, my Higher Power is amorphous, and those amongst my people who remain atheist embrace science or reason as their Higher Powers. Regardless of its form, the Higher Power I have chose to embrace espouses the values of non-violence, thrift, honesty, responsible use of power, equality, compassion, critical thinking, careful scrutiny and evaluation of evidence, preservation of our environment, a distribution of resources that provides for the well-being of virtually all human beings, respect for human rights and dignity, and participation in the global community. Wow! When I look at the values of my Higher Power, I see how obscenely misguided I was! Before my spiritual transformation, adherence to these principles would have been utterly laughable, as all of you know.
"Having fulfilled Steps One, Two and Three by admitting my powerlessness, finding faith in a Higher Power to restore me to sanity, and turning my will over to the care of my Higher Power, I fulfilled the harrowing task of Step Four; I made my searching and fearless moral inventory. Afterwards, the visage peering back at me in the mirror was more foul than the picture of Dorian Gray. My corruption and moral turpitude had wrought an odious image, and at that point, I knew the meaning of the notion that the "truth hurts".
"Today I am going to engage in Step Five as I admit to the God of my understanding, myself and to others the exact nature of my wrongs. I need to take a deep breath before I get started, and I need some water."
(America sighs deeply and with a trembling hand takes a long sip of ice water to help regain composure).
"Here I go. I wrote my transgressions out and numbered them. I am going to read them to you. Please bear with me as my voice cracks and I shed an occasional tear:
(In a tone of uncertainty, America begins reading the carefully prepared self-idictment)
1. I nearly exterminated the indigenous people of North America, as I committed acts of genocide and stole their land. To this day I continue to treat Native Americans in a shameful manner.
2. I imported and enslaved human beings from the continent of Africa, and I built a thriving economy with their blood, sweat, and tears. It is with deep humiliation that I admit the vile depths to which I sank in perpetuating the evil institution of slavery. Black Americans struggle to this day with gross economic inequality, inferior public education, bigotry, lack of access to quality health care, persecution by the criminal justice system, and inadequate representation in the government.
(America pauses briefly for a few more deep breaths and another drink).
"Ok, I am ready to continue," America says with a growing resolve behind the tremulous voice.
3. Hispanics became my largest minority as immigrants streamed across my borders seeking economic opportunities and shelter from oppressive regimes I had created in Latin America. Without stopping to realize that integrating into a culture and learning a foreign language do not happen overnight, and that many of these new Americans were willing to do the work that many indigenous Americans were unwilling to do, I was indifferent to their needs and met them with bigotry. I even allowed armed vigilantes (who defiled the name of Revolutionary War heroes by calling themselves Minutemen) to patrol my borders to "curb illegal immigration".
4. I allowed and even openly endorsed an ongoing repression of gay rights. I banned gay marriage in many states and refused to pass hate crime laws to protect gays from savage attacks and murder. I also chose not to protect gays from discrimination in the work place. Simply put, I left 5% of my population unprotected by the rights guaranteed to my citizens under my Constitution.
5. It took me, the bastion of freedom, until 1920 to amend my Constitution to give women the right to vote. To this day I continue to reject an amendment which would guarantee women equal rights. While women enjoy many more rights today than they have throughout my history, they still face many barriers in access to equal education and employment. Women are still grossly under-represented in my government.
6. After a respite of about fifty years during the Twentieth Century, I resumed a laissez faire business environment. Union membership fell to 9% of the work force. Avaricious titans like Wal-Mart abused their employees and paid them sub-standard wages. Energy leviathans like Exxon reaped obscene profits at the expense of the American consumer by keeping oil refinery capacity low, and by pouring large sums of cash into think tanks which created propaganda to further their agendas. The restrictions on the securities and banking industries innovated after the stock market crash in 1929 were removed. I made it more difficult for consumers to sue corporations and businesses. I kept the minimum wage at sub poverty level for years. In short, I favored profit-making and money over human beings. I stand before you in ignominy.
(America again pauses to regain composure, still surprised at the audience's empathy).
7. My foreign policy was based on pursuit of hegemony and global domination, at any cost. Perhaps more nauseating than the policy itself was the way in which I peddled its virtues to my own people (and to the rest of the world) like an uscrupulous used car salesman. As I committed war crimes, repeatedly violated international law, ignored the UN, killed millions of innocents in many countries on multiple continents, and tortured prisoners of war, I worked vigorously to persuade the world that I was "spreading freedom" and "planting the flag of liberty". In Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in an unnecessary show of force against a nation on the verge of surrender. I have supported corrupt and ruthless dictators (many of whom tortured and killed thousands of their own people) like Saddam Hussein, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, Halie Salassie, General Augusto Pinochet, and both Somozas in Nicaragua (to name but a few). With an unparalleled zeal, I pursued the Bush Doctrine, which called for me to strike pre-emptively and unilaterally, and to do whatever it took to maintain my military dominance. I invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq (in defiance of the UN) to topple Hussein, a former ally whom I had supported while he was committing acts of genocide against the Kurds in the 1980's. My pretexts for the invasion were later exposed as lies. My dishonesty, war crimes, and gross miscalculations related to Iraq resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, thereby creating an untold number of new terrorists ready to retaliate by gutting my own citizens like fish. My perverse actions in Iraq also led to the death of two thousand of my own soldiers, who had agreed to lay their lives on the line to defend a nation, not to expand an empire.
8. I created a complicated network of corporations and business entities like Bechtel, Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, and Lockheed Martin, whose bottom-line profits were significantly fattened by the existence of a perpetual state of war. Many of their executives retired to become members of government and vice versa. Huge campaign donations and powerful lobbying efforts ensured the continuation of lucrative government defense contracts to feed this entity called the military industrial complex. When the "Communists" ceased to be a viable threat in the minds of my citizens (with the collapse of the Soviet Union), I needed a new enemy to justify the continued escalation of military spending. Opportunistically, I seized 9/11 as the advent of a "War on Terror". By 2005, military spending had reached $600 billion (including expenditures for military-related endeavors by non-military government entities like the DOE). While I represented only 5% of the world's population, the money I spent on defense equaled 50% of what the entire world spent to defend themselves. It was staggering to realize how distorted this situation really was.
9. I even had a proxy state to help me carry out my war crimes. Ignoring the fact that there was room for co-existence in the Middle East, I threw the full weight of my financial and military support behind Israel, my co-conspirator in engaging in state terrorism. Ignoring the plight of the Palestinians, it was easy to look the other way when the Israeli government committed atrocities against them. In fact, I even endorsed these acts of state terrorism against the Palestinians as justified acts of self defense. However, when the Palestinians retaliated, I cried foul and labeled them as terrorists. My hypocrisy was practically without bounds.
10. As I slopped the corporate hogs dipping their snouts into the trough of the military industrial complex, I used the "War on Terror" I had created to justify siphoning funds from the "socialistic welfare state" to stuff the pockets of my corporate cronies. Along the way, I bankrupted myself by accruing a debt of $8 trillion, which gave me further justification to seriously curtail or end the "handouts" to the "lazy masses". The wealth gap widened to a chasm as the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few grew to a level unseen since the "Roaring 20's", the precursor to the Great Depression. I raised regressive taxes and lowered progressive taxes. I was addicted to wealth, power and war. I just couldn't get enough, and I didn't care who got hurt or died along the way.
11. Through my corporate-dominated media, I deluded my people into believing that I was Gary Cooper in High Noon, and that I could do no wrong as the sheriff who would make the world safe for democracy. I used the media as a means of propaganda to glorify over-consumption, violence, and immediate gratification. I became a debtor nation of people who felt compelled to have more, bigger, better and faster. Right now. I desensitized my people to the plight of human suffering here and abroad. I promoted religious fanatics like Pat Robertson who were as inflammatory and dangerous as the Islamic mullahs I cursed. I glorified unrealistic ideals of financial success, fame, and physical attractiveness to the point that those who did not "fit the mold" often experienced depression and eating disorders. Fast food, easy bucks, quick weight loss, and instant salvation (for a free ticket to heaven, accept Christ as one's savior) became "spiritual" staples of my people.
12. I acted with a growing disregard for the state of the environment. I refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty and denied the reality of Global Warming as I produced 25% of the greenhouse gasses. I relaxed clean air and water laws. I allowed my friends in the oil industry to portray Global Warming as a myth and to impede development of energy sources as an alternative to fossil fuels. The concession I finally made to the need to lessen dependence on fossil fuels was to increase the production of nuclear energy, despite its inherent dangers to humanity and the environment.
"Looking over this moral inventory, I now realize the depth of my iniquity, and I feel deeply sorry to those I have harmed along the way. Words cannot express the anguish I feel for the damage I have wrought upon the world."
(America pauses and sobs fitfully for several minutes. His peers watch and wait with patience and respect, knowing that regardless of America's crimes in the past, a spiritually enlightened America has the capacity to make the world a much better place. They also recognize that they are not without sin either, and are still on the life-long road to redemption themselves).
(Having regained a semblance of composure, America speaks again)
"I am ready to continue now. Having fulfilled the Fifth Step by admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to you, I am now ready to have the Higher Power of my understanding remove these defects of character, which means I have also accomplished Step Six. As I stand before you, I will take Step Seven and humbly ask Him to remove my shortcomings. Higher Power, I humbly ask you to remove my shortcomings."
How Will America Repay its Debt to the World?
"As you know, Steps Eight and Nine involve listing those I have harmed and making amends to them. The list of those I have harmed over my 229 year life span would be too long to enumerate here, but I will tell you how I plan to make amends:
"I will start by disbanding the military industrial complex. I need to end the incestuous relationship between my government and its defense contractors. I will stop the obscene over-spending on defense in order to start paying down my atrociously high debt, and to infuse more money into humanitarian efforts within my borders and abroad. I will bolster my public education system, find ways for all of my people to access health care, work toward ending homelessness, increase funding to assist the disabled and those with emotional disorders, and significantly increase humanitarian aid to other nations, while seeing to it that the money is channeled toward teaching them to fish rather than simply giving them fish for the day. I also pledge to take up the cause of the formation of a sovereign Palestinian state, and to utilize my power in the United Nations to better the world rather than abusing it to further my self interests.
"I will end my colonial occupation of sovereign nations like Iraq and abandon my imperialistic designs spelled out in the Bush Doctrine and Project for the New American Century. I will begin a systematic closing of my military bases around the world. If other nations do not have the right to maintain military bases on my soil, I have no right to maintain bases on their soil. I will scrap my plans for the militarization of space. I will work toward multi-lateral nuclear disarmament across the globe. While my defense spending will diminish dramatically, I still recognize the need for a reasonable military force to defend my people, and will provide one.
(America is forced to pause as listeners drown out America's discourse with their enthusiastic applause).
I will make reparations to black Americans a reality by channeling significant amounts of money previously spent on defense toward improving education in the inner city schools which have predominantly black enrollment, offering educational assistance and job training to black adults, and finding ways to deliver adequate health care and employment opportunities to black Americans. Descendents of former slaves, black Americans still face many obstacles resulting from years of bondage, abuse, and dehumanization of their race.
I will end the corrupt stranglehold of the Duopoly of the Democratic and Republican Parties and legitimately open the playing fields to candidates from other parties. I will employ Clean Money, Clean Elections reform, which will distribute equal amounts of public money to qualified candidates, and will end the corruption resulting from lobbyists and corporate interests gaining undue influence over elected officials. Fraudulent elections like those in 2000 and 2004 will be banished to the dustbin of history as I implement election laws to prevent the Katherine Harris's and the Diebolds of my nation from determining presidential election outcomes. These will be important steps toward creating a healthy republic based on my Constitution, an ingenious blueprint for government without equal.
I will finally admit that the War on Drugs has been a sham, used to justify military intervention in countries like Colombia and to stock the prison industrial complex (another of my corrupt, incestuous government/corporate relationships) with slave labor from amongst the poor and minorities. Prohibition failed, and so has the War on Drugs. I am calling a cease fire in this war, and will divert funds from law enforcement and use them to educate children about the inherent dangers of using tobacco, alcohol, and other recreational drugs, and for programs to treat addicts. Draconian laws which send non-violent drug users to prison for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs will be abolished. Harsh laws and consequences for driving under the influence will remain on the books.
I am going to re-strengthen laws to regulate businesses so that I can strike a balance between raw capitalism and socialism. History has taught me that unregulated businesses will seek to maximize profit, regardless of the human cost. Organized labor plays a valuable role in protecting the rights of my working people, and its members will again enjoy many of the legal protections which I have stripped from them over the last thirty years. Alternatively, I have also learned the folly of over-regulating corporations to the point that they are unable to make a reasonable profit. My new paradigm will involve finding a middle ground so that business and humanity can thrive harmoniously.
The passage of the ERA and a constitutional amendment ensuring gay rights will become realities. The Voting Rights Act will become a permanent federal law to ensure that minorities are not denied their fundamental Constitutional right to vote in my elections. I will aggressively work to help the growing Hispanic population integrate into my society without discriminating against them, or demanding that they know English on the day of their arrival. I will disband the Minutemen.
Finally, I will work to become a cooperative member of the world community rather than the belligerent bully I have been. Working through the public education system (teaching my children), I am going to infuse my people with a respect and understanding of other cultures and nations. Unilateral foreign policy decision-making will be history, except in matters of self-defense. Under my new system of values, the dominance of the white patriarchy will end. I am a homogenous melting pot of immigrants from around the globe. This is one of my strengths, and I will maximize it by opening doors to wider participation by members of varying races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and nationalities. Being white, male and Christian will no longer be a prerequisite to rise to the top of hierarchies amongst my people, government and organizations. In this way, my ties with the world community will strengthen, and much of the global hatred for me will subside. With a renewed spirit of cooperation, I will be able to tenaciously pursue the truly noble causes of peace and social justice. Cindy Sheehan will feel proud of her nation once again.
(America sits down to a round of thunderous applause and humbly thanks the group for its support).
Roll up Your Sleeves and Get Busy
Several days pass, and America's Twelve Step sponsor again initiates a conversation with the spiritually renewed nation:
"So America, you set some lofty goals for yourself. Do you think you can reach them?”
"I have prayed and mediated for the will and the power to carry out my amends to those I have harmed. That was my Eleventh Step. It is now up to me to do the work, but the outcome rests in the hands of my Higher Power."
"I do believe you have reached the Twelfth Step. America, you have truly had a spiritual awakening and are ready to practice these principles in all your affairs. I wish you the best. Remember, humanity is counting on you!"
Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He works in the transportation industry, and is a husband and a father to three boys. His affiliations include Amnesty International, the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He welcomes responses at [email protected] or comments on his blog at http://civillibertarian
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