Forgiveness and a nation’s soul…

I guess the Bush administration was worse than we thought (which — in my estimation, takes some real work). Apparently, the administration was REALLY involved in domestic spying and rights violations for US and other citizens.

Mr. Obama seems to want to avoid the whole subject of the Bush white house and not get into it, lest he continue the partisan fighting that has stalled Washington for so long. OK, I get that. And I commend him for it.

But here’s the rub: I suspect that, at some point, people are going to want the truth and call for hearings of some sort or another if enough people (or the “right” people) have been hurt.  Instead of hearings or hangings, another option is a “Truth Commission” in which people agree to tell the truth without any real punishment, to “clear the air” so to speak. We’re going to need a truth commission of some sort, to see just how messed up things had become post-9/11.  South Africa did such a thing (the process of having a truth commission) after apartheid fell as a way of knowing the truth and healing their nation’s soul, as well as its history.

I bet Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Bush did even more incredibly bad things than anyone can imagine. And I bet when we find out, there’s going to be cries for their heads — maybe literally.  Remember that Cheney was charged in France for lying about the war in Iraq or something.

From a systems theory point of view, if America were a client, he or she would be pretty traumatized, then angry, over the loss of innocence, our economy, rights, etc.  There would be shame at “letting” this happen, etc. Ultimately, healing would take place, but it would be a long, ugly process.

When people in my office, begin to deal with their own traumas (most frequently sexual abuse), I ask them “Are you sure you want to go there?” because the process is sooo painful.  My supervisor at work says you can say to the client, “Yes that happened, but we’re not going to deal with it right now” and that it works to help the person keep it together until they’re ready. I can’t imagine saying that to someone once their demons start crawling out in various symptoms.

I suspect that somewhere in the bowels of DC, somebody knows how bad things actually were  and the country is now showing the symptoms.  Mr. Obama probably knows how bad that is by now.  Is it bad enough to warrant some sort of truth commission or some sort of hearings? In the long run, I suspect that it is, and that we would be wise to start doing some of that work sooner rather than later.

But, like that other process, the question becomes “Do we really want to go there?” Is this the time to do that work — when the economy is so broken and people have other needs like healthcare to figure out? Probably not. But can we put the genie back in the bottle? I suspect we’re going to find out.

What’s the answer — long-term solid healing or making due for now and avoiding re-traumatization?  I don’t know.  I just think that our president will have to make that decision and I wouldn’t know what to tell him — at least not yet.

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2 thoughts on “Forgiveness and a nation’s soul…

  1. I am generally in agreement with the “wait until you’re really ready” kind of process- but there are many that want it all out there. I am not sure I really care about what hapened before- what are they going to do about ti now to fix it. I work in Performance Improvement in health care- always seeing the “mistakes” I firmly believe that we need to learn and leverage every single one of them. Some things are truly not fair- but can we change it? Not generally- can we learn from it and do better next time- bet we can!

    • Julie:
      Thanks for the input. Two questions: How do we fix a mistake if we don’t know what it was? I know in hospitals they have “learning teams” that aren’t subject to liability. (I saw one on TV once and was fascinated). The second one is linguistic. What does it mean to “leverage” a mistake, and how does one go about it? What’s the process?

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