“Where do these
Innate assumptions come from? Not from what   
We think truest, or most want to do:
Those warp tight-shut, like doors. They’re more a style 
Our lives bring with them: habit for a while,
Suddenly they harden into all we’ve got” 

Philip Larkin 

An addict who scores more drugs after a withdrawal scare might believe he has won a victory. In the moment, he may laugh that he has once again put off the pain by scratching his peculiar itch. 

But the pain is never truly gone, just held at bay to be felt another day he hopes never arrives. Thus, even the briefest of reliefs is reason enough for the addict to celebrate.  

Yet, over time, the addict’s celebrations become smaller and smaller. His moments of relief start to feel as thin as paper cuts, as his itch begins to burn like an open wound. Any momentary satisfaction he felt is now tainted by the fear and anxiety of finding the next satisfaction that won’t quite satisfy.  

The addict’s tragedy only grows when he becomes all too aware of his self-destruction, realizing his habits have hardened into all he’s got. So he continues trading pain for pain, having gone insane with the false consolation that more of the same is the only way to hold off the final day of reckoning.  

Indeed, a life gripped by addiction is a series of short farcical victories that spell long tragic defeat, where even the so-called daily winners end up losers in the long run. 

This is true for individuals as well as entire nations. Just look at the recurring government shutdown story arc. It could be considered a farce in the short term. Yet, in the long run, the brief jokes are adding up to the makings of an addict's tragedy. A truly painful disaster is on the horizon. Yet, the American people and their government remain addicted. 

What is our national addiction? You could say government power and privilege mainlined through debt.

But that’s not quite it. Those are merely the chosen mechanisms to keep the lies alive and make the nightmare seem like a dream.

A better question is, what’s the underlying cause here? The answer is the innate assumption that political power can save the people from themselves and hold off the inevitable pain and suffering baked into our actions.

Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, progressives, independents, moderates, and even anarchic malcontents like me who wish the government would just leave us alone – we are all addicts now. We have become much too accustomed to stretching the soup, managing our national problems without any intention of ever solving them. Some cynics might even say most of our politicians are just drug dealers who have learned to milk our problems to their benefit while leaving the customers dependent on their service without fully killing them.

At this point, I suspect only a great calamity will change this national addiction to political power. I also suspect, as usual, that our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., will only blame others, taking no responsibility whatsoever when their patronage systems of dependency and legalized graft go belly up, leaving people on the margins truly desperate.

We didn’t get to this point because of what we Americans “think truest or most want to do,” nor was it our ideals that got us here; instead, it was those “innate assumptions” that went unexamined, “those warp tight-shut” habits that became “all we’ve got.”

Enjoy the high for now, America. Rock bottom awaits us all. Hopefully, the eventual withdrawal won’t kill too many people in the process. 

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected]

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