I was going to write this snarky column on the allegations that Rush Limbaugh is a pill-popper (as well as just being dinged from ESPN for racism). Wasn't it just delicious that this malicious conservative firebrand, this master of condemnation, was living in a house of glass? Wasn't it just the perfect comeuppance that he couldn't hack it without uppers and downers?
I only had one problem. I just couldn't finish that piece.
It strikes me that this sad, angry man says more about the tragedy of America's emotional life than an attack piece could convey. Who is he, this standard-bearer for anger and hate, and why did he allegedly feel it necessary to douse his own flames with illicit painkillers? Like conservative moralist William Bennett, who lost millions of dollars gambling, Rush Limbaugh may become a symbol of the moral hypocrisy of the hard right. These two men helped build the frenzy to impeach President Clinton on charges of lying to the public. But were they themselves living a public lie?
If the ongoing investigation proves that Limbaugh got his housekeeper to buy thousands of addictive OxyContin pills illegally, he will join Bennett as a symbol of right-wing moralists' deadly dual consciousness. Morality is for the little people and for liberals. Talking about welfare queens and poverty pimps, not to mention philandering presidents, excuses your own failings.
In the book The Power of Now, philosopher Eckhart Tolle speaks of a cycle of identification with the negative aspects of life that hurts the thinker as much as anyone around him or her. "To complain is always non-acceptance of what is," Tolle writes. "It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim."
Conservative complaints about the poor, about liberals, about "feminazis" are a veiled form of victimology, the very syndrome they decry. Beset by enemies of his own making, is it any wonder that Limbaugh could feel the need to turn to powerful drugs for relief?
But before we get too comfortable bashing Limbaugh, we should question the negativity in our own lives. Individuals on both sides of the political fence are prone to complaining, to victimology, more than problem-solving or acceptance. Our collective anger also leads to a collective need to numb that anger -- hence, the multibillion-dollar legal alcohol industry as well as the illicit drug trade. This world is dangerous and beautiful, war-torn and peaceful, the site of both negative and positive changes. The more that we can see the world for what it is, the better decisions we'll be able to make.
We must remember that Democrats as well as Republicans voted to endorse the war in Iraq. Our need for revenge blinded us to the fact that our actions there truly had little to do with the hurts we'd suffered on September 11, 2001.
And now, as we seek to deal with the ramifications of the Iraq war, are we seeing the world as it is or looking for scapegoats? Are we willing to look clearly at the situation we face, or do we feel the need to escape? The more we focus on the blame game versus problem-solving, the more likely we are to self-sabotage by seeking false relief. Most of us are a little closer to being Rush Limbaugh than we'd like to admit. If that isn't a scary enough thought to cause us to evolve, I don't know what is.
The opposite of complaining is not silence. As Tolle writes, "When you speak out, you are in power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness." Nor is acceptance the opposite of change. Acceptance of our situation allows us to see clearly and make change. If we can see the world as it is, and speak to the necessary and positive changes we need to implement, we can avoid the trap of victimology and make America the nation we dream.
Farai Chideya is a columnist for AlterNet.