It is a horror to witness women and children abused. The stories of abusive football players on TV; to see the stronger preying on those smaller is painful. The film we have seen of the player punching his wife is ugly. The children are the most vulnerable, being dependent on their abusers and the damage to the kids is frequently never repaired or healed. It affects their life for decades to come. In my work, I regularly saw enough of this to realize I needed to alter my spirituality if I was going to not be damaged by it myself. Which leads me to the current spate of NFL events and the topic of football and abuse.
The first writings of this blog are an attempt to develop a foundation of ideas, to build the base of understanding upon which to build solutions. Once we have a snapshot of our basic concepts then we can build solutions upon such a groundwork. For example, an operating principal I love comes from recovery. Which is; the recognition and acceptance of anything, any problem is half-way to the solution. And; the holographic nature of the universe means that the solution is within the problem. What, you ask, am I talking about?
I suffered from addiction and was, to utilize the parlance of the time, in denial. I was not aware I had a substance use disorder, and then one day I was. And was immediately happy. Knowing feels better. Even if it’s “bad” news, I appreciate the clarity. We are talking about ending denial through the willingness to get an accurate assessment of the problem. Which is fundamentally different from being “negative”. And that is a fundamental belief of mine: what we need desperately in America is to end denial. Have you ever had a dental problem and, for whatever reason, not gone to the dentist as it nagged at you over time and then you finally go. A) It’s usually not as bad as we in our ignorance think it is and B) Even if it is, it still feels better to know. It’s weight off our shoulders. Hence how acceptance is half-way home. With acceptance we grow in knowledge and know what to do, what actions to take. With denial we suffer in ignorance and reap the consequences.
As to the solution being contained within the problem, recovery showed me that I suffered from addiction, and that an answer was to work in service with others who suffered from the disorder! What a concept. The solution is within the problem, who knew?!
To review what I see in all these NFL/abuse stories I need to go to a book from 1973, North Dallas Forty, You may know the movie, this another example of the book being better. Peter Gent wrote a great story, a semi-autobiographical account of a season for an NFL type team. He had played for Dallas in the early ‘60’s. And what he revealed was how much fear and pain is operant in the whole structure. The nature of the system means football players are filled with fear, drugs (including narcotics, amphetamines and steroids) and stress. Bear with me now, this is not to excuse abusive behavior. It’s just odd to think of large, healthy, strong warrior-athlete types being afraid. Which is why I appreciate Gent’s tale because it takes you into the mind of a sub-culture that has grown so strong in America. And it’s an ugly picture.
The reality is; it is an extremely violent game, it tends to leave players crippled in some form later in life and players have always been, and still are, expendable pieces of equipment to be replaced as soon as their utility is gone. They leave pieces of themselves across the fields of America for our entertainment and when injury or age or you-name-it has worn them out a younger version will be brought in and the player will be thrown on the trash heap. And we wonder why they are uptight? Lest you think that is hyperbole, I recommend the ESPN documentary series 30 for 30. Start with Broke. What it walks you through is quite painful. 60 percent of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress. 78%. And that does not begin to cover the physical damage and disease they cope with.
So, as always the fact that the stress is taken out on those closest is a simple fact of a broken system. And our “surprise” at these news stories means we are in denial of the big picture. Which is why I laid down the beginnings of a foundation around the patriarchal/matrilineal discourse. The fact is that war and violence are by-products of the patriarchy. Always. And there are many other symptoms that create dis-ease. Couple that with profits as the dominant priority and we all become commodities to be thrown upon the trash heap. What happens to one, happens to all. All includes working and middle class white males. We are as chewed up by the patriarchy (even if we do have some benefits) as others. It’s a meat-grinder for most of us out there.
It is in our best interest to look at these fuller pictures because that is how broken everything is. We are only talking about bringing some balance back. We do not need to return to some kind of tribal grass-hut existence to not be at war with the Earth, each other and ourselves. But we do have to want that, to want an end to war with life itself.
At that point a game like football begins to look like what the actor Robert Downey (a man very publically in long-term recovery) spoke in the sophomoric yet fun movie Back to School. “Violent ground acquisition games such as football are in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war.”
I have to add, in my work with those who suffer I grew to see that the genealogical/generational aspect of addiction goes back for many generations. The gene can “skip” a generation, but study shows that even without the active addiction, abuse (of all kinds) is there, repeating the disease and keeping the cycle going. Addiction and abuse are woven together like a blanket of guilt, shame and pain. Which moves us back to the beauty of recovery because of the profound significance of breaking that cycle. To break a cycle of abuse/addiction that usually lives unbroken for 1000 years. Imagine that!
I also must add the whole “I was whopped with switches and it’s good for my kid, because I came out ok” is absurd. You didn’t “come out” ok, you have a psychological need to beat a 4 year old. That’s not ok! Whoopings only “work” through the instillation of fear which begins and generates the whole spiral of abuse on-and-on. To quote Frank Herbert, “Fear is the mind-killer”. It’s a separate, huge (future) topic, but kids are not “bad” and they do not need to be hit to “come out” ok. Kids do need boundaries and discipline modeled for them in life, by the adults around them, but they do not need to be struck or hurt ether physically or mentally/emotionally in any way ever. In fact the opposite.