by Christopher Cudworth
The news about concussions is everywhere in pro sports. Retired football players are suing the NFL for failing to protect their noggins, while active players are taking concussions far more seriously. America’s favored game of football may be at risk all the way from youth leagues up to the NFL. And no one seems to know just what to do about it yet.
It is no coincidence that America’s favorite game involves bashing heads to the point where players suffer brain trauma. That’s how Americans live. We smash and bash and crash our way through history without apology. We even have a fancy name for our concussive obsession with being #1. It’s called American Exceptionalism.
Violence has a cost
But the habit of a nation so absorbed with its own violence comes with a cost. America as a nation has a concussion. We can’t seem to stop thrashing about even as our minds grow fuzzy from the slam-bang practice of imperialism.
To put a metaphorical point on the idea that America is concussed, consider this description of the effects of concussion from the Mayo Clinic:
The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer.
The most common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, amnesia and confusion. The amnesia, which may or may not be preceded by a loss of consciousness, almost always involves the loss of memory of the impact that caused the concussion.
The definition goes on to describe concussion as a ‘temporary loss of consciousness, followed by confusion or feeling as if in a fog.”
Welcome to a concussed America.
9/11 a big blow to the head
One could argue that the most recent big blow to our national consciousness was the terrorist strike on 9/11. America didn’t know what to do at first. We wandered our quiet streets trying to figure out exactly what hit us. By the time we figured out it really was just a lucky band of religiopolitical extremists, our President had dragged us into a war in Iraq. That's where the blows to the head of our American self-image started with a display of Shock and Awe that, unbeknownst to most US citizens, would lead to a percussive series of events that would further destroy our credibility worldwide. It started with stark images of unmanaged chaos in the streets of Baghdad, wrought by the lack of an American plan once we knocked Saddam Hussein off his pedestal. That debacle was followed by images of tortured Iraqi civilians that struck us in the head like a force from a blunt instrument. And it was just that. The strike-first ideology of a leadership bent on world domination bounced right back and hit us in the cranium.
There were plenty of people who recognized what was going on, who had the guts to stand out of range of the war-mongering and media blitz that promoted war while giving Bush & Co. a collective pass in questioning the motives of an illegal and unnecessary war. Recall that America was still reeling from 9/11, but some of us cleared our brains quicker than others.
In an editorial written by Walt Williams 2004, the early warnings of political concussion were already being documented, “Sound presidential decision-making structures do not guarantee a successful policy. But the worse the decision process, the greater the danger that the policy devised will fail and wreak havoc on the nation when it is a major initiative."
"President Bush's decision to launch a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq is as good an example as I've seen of a severely flawed decision-making process producing an ill-thought-through decision that quickly became a nightmare as that misbegotten policy was put in place.”
Concussion. That’s what it was. And it kept on going for 8 more years.
Barack Obama has since pulled the majority of troops out of Iraq. Yet the damage wrought be mercenaries hired to run the operations in Iraq all those years is not easily repaired. Mercenaries are like the brain aneurisms brought on by concussion. They bleed us out from within. Just look at the billions spent and lost somewhere in the fog that was Iraq. We don’t even know where all the money went. We never will. Some of it apparently fell into the hands of our enemies. Nice work, fellas. But it was just a precursor of the loose-ended fiscal policy of an era with no accountability. We were punch drunk and stupid. Banks were running America into the ground and the mortgage industry was behaving like a manic-depressive on speed. It all had to hit us somehow. Then came 2008. The economy crashed. Was it really a surprise. Not to those of us who have doubted the apparently mad doctrine of close-fisted politicians from the start.
Concussion of debt
That whole doctrine put America is in fiscal and philosophical debt. Now it keeps pounding on us like a mean-ass middle linebacker with a grudge to keep. We've already wandered around for 10 years or so in a concussive state thanks to the original thumping dealt by Bush and Cheney who kept on hitting America with warnings of fear and terrorism while telling people to "go out and spend money" that no one really had. If Bush and Cheney had been football coaches instead of President and Vice President, they'd have been fired and kicked out of the American stadium for life for abusing the players. Instead we still have listen to Cheney being trotted out to criticize the American team strategy. That's like the last place coach in the NFL pointing at the winning coach of the Super Bowl and saying, "He's not doing it right!"
But it's America. Even the losers get to speak out. The right to free speech is in our Constitution. That doesn't mean we need to listen to our key abusers.
Through all that abuse of the Cheney years we simply couldn’t arouse ourselves from the national nightmare and brain-dead policies of neo-conservatives concocting their world domination schemes under shrouds of darkness. They even depended upon “black sites” to extract information from those they most feared. When darkness and confusion are allowed to rule, only darkness and confusion make sense to those who rule. That is the concussive mentality. We've seen it for years in the practice of sending football players with brain trauma back into the game. But American needs to be smarter.
National brain trauma
It is darkly comic that President Obama is supposed to fix all this national brain trauma with a wave of his hand. The Republicans who so vehemently oppose him started out by saying their only goal was to knock him out of office. More concussive talk. So ugly and stupid.
It's no wonder their nominee in the last election amounted to the last man standing. They beat the hell out of each other for so long, no one on their side could believe what really happened. They still can't. Romney stalked around believing he couldn't lose, blathering on in debates, never worried whether what he or his running mate Paul Ryan said was the truth or not. "Fact checkers come to this (campaign) with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers," said Ashley Connor, one of Romney's aides.
It's because the Republicans don't know how to play nice. They'd rather die than tell the truth if it contradicts their aims. Democrats often fall for the same self-sustaining ruse. Americans can hardly recognize the truth anymore. That's the result of our concussive state of existence.
That brand of hit first politics is beating the hell out of America’s confidence in its government. Of course that’s the way conservatives like it. They hate government because it actually requires the ability to slow down, consider the options and stop running back into the free market game without wearing a helmet.
Neo-conservatives want to privatize everything because they know that a smashmouth culture delivers great advantage to those with the biggest clubs, and we’re speaking both literally and rhetorically here. The clubbishness of America’s oligarchy is like one big fraternity set on hazing the plebes into submission, even if it takes a few strong blows to the head. If a few people die along the way or the economy teeters and falls over in a concussive stupor, so be it.
Leading with the other cheek
Perhaps it really is time to hit back rather than absorb the blows. Despite the admonitions of Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek, it is the current brand of killer Christians we need to fear most in some cases. The recent convergence of concussive smashmouth conservative politicians with an American Taliban determined to stone all those who disagree with their brand faux-Christian crusades... against science and civil rights, to name a few of their targets, is the worst concussive force of all in the American landscape.
The butt of a pistol
The other force of concussive politics is the gun lobby. Despite the recent and revealing documentation that more Americans have been killed within our borders by guns in civilian violence than have been killed in all our wars should serve as a patent illustration that we’ve lost our minds over the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms is a political brickbat in America. The concussions of repeated gun violence in Connecticut, Virginia, Illinois, Arizona, Colorado, what do they all mean? Here’s what they mean: Each slaughter of innocents throws us farther into the fog of violence. We are concussed beyond recovery perhaps. America may soon turn and shoot itself in the chest, to put ourselves out of concussive misery.
Sequestering our minds
Perhaps it is about to happen. The Sequester threatens to gut the economy, sending the nation reeling as if we’ve run into a glass wall of our own making. We’ll be bleeding out the ears and nose, puking our own economic theories of trickle-down economics and unrestricted spending (don’t forget corporate welfare and the military industrial complex, Eisenhower warned us) and the world will have little to say as we drag the rest of them down with our neo-nothing self-absorption.
We need help, people. We need to stand up and say, “Who caused this national concussion in the first place, and why do they keep doing the same things to us over and over again.”
Here’s a hint. It’s not Obama. Although his fondness for drone strikes might speak otherwise, they really reflect the need for America to pull backs its forces and gather our wits rather than throwing soldiers and fortune at the double-vision we’d have in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It’s time for America to get its wits back together again. America’s game of football is teaching us a lesson or two about what it means to recover from concussion. We can either listen or win up on the sidelines for good.