The American democracy is dysfunctional; its nominal leader, George W. Bush, is dysfunctional; and we, the people, are dysfunctional.
All organizations and families are influenced by internal dynamics that are as faithful and predictable as the laws of gravity. Each one of us treats other people as we were treated in childhood. And the least healthy, most dysfunctional member becomes dominant unless the other members confront and intervene effectively.
Typical of dysfunction, the American “family” is wasting its substance in blaming, complaining, fear mongering, vindicating, feeling helpless and passively waiting to be rescued.
Abuse by one or both parents to themselves and their children, appearing as violence, abandonment, seduction, bribery, blackmail, favoritism, scapegoating and intrusion, is also typical of dysfunction. Substance abuse is a common companion, providing some relief from the pain and then adding more.
The childhood biography of George W. Bush … depicts a critical, punitive mother (known as “The Enforcer”) and a father who was geographically and emotionally absent. His mother frequently criticized; his father intervened to bail him out.
A pernicious residue of an abused childhood is a sense of entitlement—developed from the opposite coins of injury and privilege—[reflected in the adult as] a disdain for rules and a special status above the law.
Whether related to emotional injury [and/or] dyslexic neurologic defects, young George had documented learning difficulties. As a defense, he became scornful of scholarship, relying proudly on the claim of intuition and gut feeling. Rather than developing mutually mature relationships, he built an image of an affable, sociable clown … shrewdly surrounding himself with bright ideologues who could ride his affability to power. [And] feeling empirically inferior, Mr. Bush not only dismisses science, but he acts out his hostility towards it.
President Bush is a profile in damage—more to be understood with compassion than demonized. Detractors accuse him of greed, callousness, grandiosity, stubbornness, tunnel vision and a pattern of falsehoods—charges that might apply to all the rest of us, in some measure. These are the flaws of the human condition. Our president has been acting out the consequences of his childhood family drama. The fact that his stage is the White House is quite incidental.
In the national family, some of us replicate the critical and demeaning pattern, railing against Bush’s stubbornness and rigidity. We forget [that] maintaining control is a constant struggle for recovering substance abusers. Our president cannot afford to change his program: “Stay the course” has [less] to do with current geopolitics [than] Mr. Bush’s admirable resolve to “stay on the wagon.”
The destiny of George W. Bush incubated in his family and hatched in an American society of greed, self-interest and indifference—a society in which all of us have been complicit.
An effective family intervention awaits the developing of true compassion by the American citizenry—for George, for ourselves and for all human suffering. Only a compassionate brain can think clearly and creatively in the task of rebuilding.
— Robert D. Phillips, M.D.