The United States of Tommy
If you consider yourself strictly patriotic or if you thoughtlessly mouth the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, I don’t know what to say to you except you are part of the problem with this nation. Please allow me to illustrate.
Tommy was a gifted young man. He had the looks of a model, the athletic ability of a professional athlete and the intellect of a Rhodes Scholar. He was engaging and had a tremendous sense of humor. Not insignificantly, his parents, who were as gifted as Tommy, were wealthy beyond imagination. Since Tommy was an only child, he would inherit their wealth. So, he was also rich. But more than anything, Tommy had that “it” quality. When he walked into a room you could hear a noticeable drop in conversation for a few seconds as people stopped and wondered what force had just appeared.
But that was a while back.
Tommy is middle aged now. He’s still handsome, still wealthy. But his handsomeness is now described as “for his age” and his estate has taken a hit. Some have noticed that he has begun to rely on a few of the same old jokes and he’s not as quick with a comeback as he once was. He has struggled with addiction to alcohol. It shows on his skin and on his nose, which was broken during one of his many altercations.
Tommy has two types of friends: those who knew him early and those who are his friends now. The ones that knew the “old Tommy”, the engaging, generous, happy, healthy version of his older self, are very few in number. The change has been nothing short of traumatic for them. This small group of Tommy’s oldest and most loyal friends are divided unevenly into two camps. The smaller of the two stays in contact in case he ever intimates that he is giving thought to his life. If he ever needs real help, they will be there with no judgement and no questions asked. They will just be happy to have him back. They remember with fondness his tremendous potential and still hold out hope that he will achieve it. But they will not participate in is debauched life. They are critical of him for his benefit but since they know he is not in a position to understand their observations, they retain a respectful distance and talk among themselves, sometimes just loud enough for him to hear in case their comments spark interest. In general it’s too painful for them to be too close to him, so they watch and wait and hope and pray. The second, larger part of this group hope only that he will give them something in return for their loyalty and thin laughter at his tired antics. They are weak on their own, without ethics that extend beyond immediate needs.
His newer friends are rather like this second group of old ones that still hang around him. They also tell him how great he is and remind him that he is rich and very smart, and that he won many awards for his athletic prowess and intellect and humor. They are also the ones that are apt to gift him an expensive bottle of wine; especially if he might drink it with them. In an ostentatious show of loyalty, a bunch of these types of friends established the “Tommy Fan Club”. They made a website where parties are scheduled and people can write comments about how great he is. It is heavily edited by the President of the Club in order to be gratifying to Tommy. His new friends love this site and visit it often.
If the truth were known, if we could get a God’s eye view of Tommy, we would see that while he bears tremendous responsibility for underperforming in his life, it’s the facilitators that surround him that do him the most continued damage. They help to keep him from seeing where he is, from feeling certain pain that might allow him moments of introspection. If they were honest, these facilitators, they would also look within – most with some chagrin. But that is painful, so most make an excuse for the day and continue their own paths to their own destruction. And, as Tommy also is a facilitator to them with similar shortcomings, they will all fall together.
All the while, in the background, the two people that love him the most are planning some changes. Tommy’s parents are still alive and are still coherent. They are not fooled by the man their son portrays himself to be and they alone hold the power to truly affect Tommy. Right now they are meeting with an attorney who is drawing up plans that will take Tommy’s wealth away from him until he makes the changes he needs to make. It will be tremendously painful if it is even possible, but the ones that love Tommy the most will do it to save him. When Tommy loses everything – and that day is upon him – only his true friends will remain.
Who will be among them? The patriotic? Or those that were so hurt by the train wreck of Tommy’s life that they had to turn away?
If I were a betting man, I would say the critics are his best friends and the only ones beside his parents that can help him. Where do you stand on Tommy?
Those who consider themselves strictly “patriotic” are fixated upon the wondrous potential of this country and are enamored of the things the government has done, or at least its stated mission of “liberty and justice for all”. Recently, some of these have become upset by anyone who doesn’t stand in public for the singing of the national anthem, simply because it’s the anthem. This in spite of the the fact that, while watching it performed alone at home, it would be considered absurd to stand. So it would appear that the accepted rule of behavior has to do with what the crowd is doing, much like Tommy’s nearest friends. In religious circles, this is called hypocrisy. To the strictly patriotic however, this is never called into question. To me, these are Tommy’s oldest yet corrupted friends.
His new friends are much in the same league. They want something from Tommy and refuse to give him the feedback he needs. After all he is still very powerful and they have their own agendas. These need something from Tommy in order to be fulfilled so they stay in league with him, compliment him, suck up to him. These are also grievous facilitators of Tommy’s fall, and they will fall with him. Many nations fall into this category. The fact that they will fall with Tommy should be of concern to us all. A microcosm of this is what is happening in Europe to the EU, with much more to come.
His old friends that have not abandoned him, that value Tommy for who he could become, that love him in spite of his fall and hope that he can one day live up to his potential are the smaller group of older friends. They are critical of Tommy – very much so – but in love with the values he once espoused and see him as a key to a very bright future for many, many people, if only he will come around. If he ever does show intimations of greatness again, these will facilitate that Tommy back into being. They are selfless. They are true to their own values and see the differences between these and Tommy’s current ones. I place many of this nation’s harshest critics in this category, from Noam Chomsky to Derrick Jensen to countless others that sense we have gone astray and will not tolerate what the US has become.
Finally, there are Tommy’s parents. In this metaphor, I am talking about God and Mother Earth. What we are experiencing now in this nation with a charade of an election process, rampant environmental disregard and destruction and blatant kowtowing to financial mega-interests is only the attorney drawing up Tommy’s future. When these bear fruit… suffice it to say that Tommy will be alone and vulnerable. He will suffer in ways he would not have thought possible.
And that day is coming.
My prayer for Tommy, the United States of America, is that we critics will stay close by and that we will not be fooled by the media’s propaganda kool-aid or the voices of his noisy new friends; that we will be vocal – terribly so – and that we will not suffer our allegiance to our God to be overshadowed for the wavering drunk that this nation has become. Instead, may we stand true to our personal ethics. May we act with selfless integrity.
And may the United States of America one day become worthy of a pledge of allegiance. May she wake up before it is too late.