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Politicians Need To Act Like Grownups

By Djelloul Marbrook

We should chuck out the antiquated 20th Century model of covering news. It dances around psychology as if it were a black art and treats money matters as if they were esoterica.

Just as we need forensic accountants who can write well to tell us what is really happening with our money instead of what Wall Street analysts and their right-wing interpreters want us to think, we need forensic psychologists to deepen our understanding of events.

As long as the politicians we send to Washington and our state capitals persist in behaving like adolescents, they should be fair game for psychoanalytical coverage in the same way that pundits dissect politics every day. If you read The Iliad or The Odyssey, those forerunners of all modern literature, you will see the poet doing just this. The gods and the heroes are not immune to psychological inquiry. Yet the damn-fool people who conduct our business in our capitals get away with teen-age tantrums and costly sulks simply because their bad behavior provides the press with fodder for its trivia machine.

We have been witnessing a Congress paralyzed by schoolyard strutting and posturing, and because of it our response to a worsening recession is paralyzed. This is not only worrisomely regressive behavior, it is also strongly suggests an alcoholic aspect. We know that the psychological development of alcoholics is arrested, particularly if they take no steps to examine their lives once they pour the whiskey in the sink. We have just witnessed a presidency providing a case study in juvenile alcoholic behavior. And the notorious flip-flop issue perpetuated by the callow media fed this trillion-dollar spectacle.

We have suffered for eight years a president who found introspection odious, and we know this kind of hostility to self-examination is an aspect of that deadly cocktail, alcoholism and adolescence. In a very real sense alcoholics are adolescents. It's not enough for them to see the light and stop drinking, they must also grow up, and if that were an easy task we would have no wars.

Why should a journalist educated in psychology not be as valuable to our society as a journalist educated in government or accounting or business? Is it because as a society we still reject psychological interpretation as hocus-pocus while at the same time we fund mental health clinics and psychiatric hospitals? I think this must be the case or we would take more seriously the emotional state of our homecoming servicemen.

For many years I had a friend who worked in the Senate office building. I often visited him at 10:30 in the morning and waited to have lunch with him. I observed first-hand an alcoholic culture in full bloom. It is one of Washington's dirty little secrets. It remains a secret because it's a taboo subject with a press that is itself part of that culture.

The adolescent behavior of our political leaders is a national disgrace and a crisis, and reporting it from a psychological perspective is the only way to confront it. We wage psychological warfare, do we not? Why then should we spare these high-paid public servants psychological inquiry? In the wake of the presidential election the disconnect between what we all see and what the press reports has become stark. While paper-waving, foot-stomping schoolyard butt-heads and their toadies inveigh against an economic rescue package, which they themselves necessitated by their bad governance, the rest of us in poll after poll plead for the rescue. What is the press drinking when it focuses so narrowly on the obstructionists and their noisemaking, proving itself to be their lackeys?

It's one thing to entertain political differences. It's quite another thing to hamstring an entire nation by a teen-age refusal to accommodate opposing views and seek compromise. We're not talking about the interplay of divergent views. We're talking about regressive childhood behavior: a refusal to grow up. The obstructionists in Congress who claim that the Obama Administration has not been truly bipartisan but has merely offered bipartisan theater sound painfully like children complaining that their parents are only pretending to be reasonable. And the public hears the sound of it. The public gets it, even if the press and the media don't. Ah, but the press and the media do get it but simply look away.

We have just survived-barely-a teen-age presidency. Must we forfeit all we desire from life, all our nation's beloved ideals, to children in their parents' clothes?

Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

Djelloul Marbrook
Djelloul Marbrook

The pioneering Online Originals (U.K.), the only online publisher to receive a Booker nomination, published his novella, Alice Miller's Room, in 1999. Recent fiction appeared in Prima Materia (Woodstock, NY), vols. I and IV, and Breakfast All Day (London, U.K.).In his younger days his poetry was published in literary journals including Solstice (England) and Beyond Baroque and Phantasm (California). Recent poems appear in Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review (www.arabesquespress.org), Perpetua Mobile (Baltimore), and Attic (Baltimore). He is the English language editor of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal (www.arabesquespress.org).

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.

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