I’ve just read “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann, about the systematic murder of probably hundreds of people and the disenfranchisement and terrorizing of many more as greed and prejudice fueled an ugly response to the phenomenal riches of Osage Indians in Oklahoma a century ago.
The Osage happened to find themselves the beneficiaries of an enormous oil discovery on their reservation. Tribal members soon became some of the wealthiest people on earth. Naturally, this stimulated all sorts of schemes to defraud the Osage of their affluence by those, including members of Congress, whose personal values were not equal to resisting the tremendous temptation.
The lesson I find most noteworthy about that brutal chapter of American history is that it is virtually unknown in our culture. And by “unknown” I mean, most devastatingly, “unlearned from.” This is not surprising, since virtually all the chapters of untold viciousness we Americans have visited upon ourselves and others are significantly “unlearned from”—perhaps most notably, or egregiously, the lives of black people, native people, and women. Oh, there are many others, to be sure, but those are undoubtedly among the more conspicuous.
Included in the reasons Alcoholics Anonymous is such a powerful positive force is its program of actually examining the totality of one’s life and taking appropriate action as a consequence of that examination. Among the rewards AA promises is that “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”
The value of AA, in my view, goes way beyond helping alcoholics learn to live sober. It is a seed of wisdom planted by the universe to help humankind grow self-understanding. Only by looking at our life––all of it––and learning from it, can we live without regret and all the psychic and spiritual damage it causes.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced,” offered the insightful James Baldwin.
The distance we Americans are from this kind of learning creates and perpetuates a cancer of ignorance that inhibits compassion for ourselves and others. A healthy recovering alcoholic has come through a door of despair, one that leads to a willingness to go to any lengths to be healthy. America, the nation, has yet to experience that level of despair––but, given our present bout of acute self-abuse easily termed the Trump Era, I like to think we’re getting closer.