A 12-Step Program for Congress

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Today is “The Day of Epiphany”, literally.  Perhaps this can also be a day of epiphany for Congress. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines epiphany as:  “A sudden striking of understanding of something.”

In honor of that, we offer an opportunity for the positive transformation of Congress. We borrow from the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and have created: “A 12-Step Program for Congress.”

We will encourage them in every step along the way, as long as they prove that they are diligent. We will pledge to be their “Sponsors,” just as we have been driven to find “Sponsors” in our own Al Anon program, which we have had to join – because after all, in this era of chaos – we have become highly co-dependent – and need to work on our own steps as well.

Here is the custom-made 12-Step Program we designed specifically for Congress:

1.“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol our own behavior—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

In an article published in the Los Angeles Times on November 23, 2011, Kathleen Hennessey of the Washington Bureau reported that Congress seems to have arrived at the 1st step:

“Less than 10% of the public says it approves of the job Congress is doing, a statistic that hangs over all that happens in the Capitol these days. A chart, put together by Sen. Michael Bennet, identifying things more popular than Congress: the list includes President Nixon during Watergate (24%), BP during the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (24%) and the U.S. adopting communism (11%).”

Hennessey goes on to add:

“Following yet another failure to come up with a plan to reduce deficits, the mood on Capitol Hill has switched from frustration and disillusionment to open self-loathing.”

Great news. It sounds like Congress has taken the 1st Step.

2. “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

“Lawmakers announced the bipartisan committee’s stalemate by news release, then some hopped on airplanes and headed home for Thanksgiving, where at least their families appreciate them. But if polling is any indication, those family members are among their few remaining fans,” she opines.

This sounds like a good start on the 2nd Step. Family first, God next?

3. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Perhaps Members of Congress should seriously consider, and act on Step 3 – the decision to turn will and lives over to their God – i.e. their constituents – all of them – not just the well-moneyed lobbyists, PACS, and other “special interest groups.”

After all, many Member of Congress, invoke “God” frequently, maybe it’s time for them to be sincere in their invocations, and honor the God that serves us with “justice, and liberty, for all.”

4. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Hennessey goes on to report the condition of Congress:

“Dysfunction, occasionally impaired judgment, an inability to get things done — Congress can add one more: Low self-esteem. In the self-flagellation is a mix of frustration and empathy — an attempt to show voters that lawmakers understand why people don’t like them. They feel your pain. You think watching them flail and flounder to accomplish once-routine tasks is hard? Try being a part of it.”

Congratulations Congress. That definitely does sound like you’ve made a “searching and fearless moral inventory.”

5. “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

How about starting with an apology. One that is sincere. A huge and authentic apology.

As Beverly Engel (LMFT), points out in her column in EorC Mind-Body Connection: Why Congress Should Apologize: “If our two major political parties cannot lead by example and begin to listen to one another and compromise with one another, how can we hope for Democracy to flourish?”

Congress owes the American people and the International Community an apology.

6. “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Engel notes: “Congress has the opportunity to be a powerful role model for change in the United States by admitting their mistakes, apologizing, and then being willing to open their hearts and minds to one another.”

Does Congress have enough humility to take the 6th Step?

7. “Humbly asked Him to remove our short-comings.”

Congress’ intransigence is an illness of the intellect – a manifestation of soul-destroying behavior that has had profound and disastrous consequences for the United States and the International Community. Humility appears to be critical at this juncture. Without it, no amount of “triage” can save their reputations, or for that matter instill a respect for their ability to cure the ills they have created.

In AA it is known that this type of addictive behavior is a disease. If the NIH had jurisdiction over Congress, perhaps we would have had a “cure” by now. Is Congress ready for a cure?

8. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

That’s a long list. But there is no time like the present. Perhaps Congress can call for a “special session,” as they so often do when they cannot get their work done during normal work hours. A little “overtime” might be well-invested, if they can begin their 12-Step Program in time for the 2012 State of the Union, and show a genuine commitment to start the new year – and hopefully new era – on the right path.

9. “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

It’s unfathomable to think that Congress can do even more harm, than it has to date. But sadly, history does tend to repeat itself – and mightier societies have fallen. The consequences for not making amends, and continuing on the same course are potentially dire when we look at the course of history.

As Deborah Price points out in her column in EorC Currency Money Matters: “The History of Money”

“The Romans created the first global marketplace and the first consumer-oriented society. Quick to discover how money could buy them almost anything, the Romans went on a spending binge that would ultimately destroy them. (The phrase “shop till you drop” was probably first used during this era!)

Rather than becoming producers themselves, the Romans relied heavily on the outside world for goods of all kinds. When they ran short of money, they simply financed large armies to plunder riches from other lands. Between their ever-rising military costs and insatiable and extravagant lifestyle, the Romans finally hit bottom by the end of the fourth century C.E. when their empire fell.

This great money-centered society managed to survive for nearly a century, only to fall beneath the weight of its own greed. Instead of facing their own responsibility (as is true of all addicts), the Romans blamed money for their demise. The fall of the Roman Empire was followed by the period known as the Dark Ages, and money, the convenient scapegoat, all but disappeared from Western Europe for nearly one thousand years. “

10. “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

I think we’ve covered that.

11. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we say they understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Congress says “The Pledge of Allegiance” when they start their sessions. Maybe it’s time for prayers. After all, even our currency, our $1 bills say: “In God We Trust.”

12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics other Members of Congress, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

As Beverly Engel reminds:

“An apology has more than the power to soothe wounds or mend relationships. In some instances, it even has the ability to rehabilitate an individual, resolve conflicts, and restore social harmony. While an apology cannot literally undo harmful effects of past actions, if done sincerely and effectively, an apology can be remarkably healing.”

It is often said, that sometimes a person, or society, must reach rock bottom before even beginning to consider fundamental change. If now is not that time, than when will it be? Can Congress really afford to engage in this dance with the death of our country any longer?

Thank you to Kathleen Hennessey for her brilliant article – which may very well become an integral part of propelling Members of Congress to embrace their own 12-Step Program to restore themselves to sanity.

By the way, the program is free. No budget bills, or cash funding is required. The only currency required is the willingness to engage in fundamental, positive, and permanent change.

In the words of the AA Program, it is an ongoing practice: “It works, if you work it.”

The 12-Step Program always celebrates milestones in sobriety with “Birthday” celebrations. They mark and reward the incremental markers of your progress and growth. So, in anticipation of Congress’ commitment to their 12-Step Program, we offer this song of encouragement and inspiration:

To read related stories at EorC, click to:
Currency Money Matters: “The History of Money”
Mind-Body Connection: “Why Congress Should Apologize”

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