Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
September 2007 - Volume 07, No. 6
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To Fight Crazy - A Reflection on 9/11

It was more than 25 years ago, when I was still new in this counseling business - a sixteen-year-old young man was brought by his parents to see me one evening. Seeing him privately, I asked him why he was here. In typical adolescent fashion he uttered “I dunno.”

I continued on the same track: “Well, your parents made this appointment, and they’re spending some good money for me to see you. Why do you think they brought you here?”

“I dunno - maybe for fighting in school.”

Finally I figured I’m getting somewhere! So I next asked what I thought was a good therapist question: “So what’s the problem with fighting in school?”

“No problem.”

“How come it isn’t a problem?”

“Because I always win.”

At this point, my standard interview protocol had come to a screeching halt. So, quickly shifting some internal gears, I decided to ask, “How do you do that - always win?”

“No problem. I always get the other guy to fight crazy.”

I immediately realized two things. First, that was a brilliant insight! And second, I’m not sure what I could or should do to “fix” such a situation. I think I saw him one more time, but don’t recall that I had much to offer him - back then when I was still so young at this business. In subsequent years thinking of him, I consider that his life path could take him anywhere from a successful serial killer to a United States Senator.

He came immediately to my mind six years ago with the terrorist actions of September 11. How Bin Laden, or whatever minds were running the show from over there, must have enjoyed our response! In our own personal confusions, governmental minds were impelling us to feel ‘cornered’ by our new “terrorist enemies” - so that we came out “fighting crazy.” For example, remember the crazy logic of “shock and awe?”

Now, six years later, the fog is finally beginning to clear at a national level, and we are beginning to see that our “enemy” has successfully used this “natural response” to destroy us. The resurfacing of the term “quagmire” says it well. We have gotten ourselves into a situation where because we “fought crazy” now we can only lose. Characteristically there are those who cannot face the reality of this “loss” - to our economy, the heritage of our national wisdom and compassion, the esteem of our higher honor even on the battlefield, and in a sense our “soul” as a nation. At the same time we have so demonized that elusive “terrorist enemy” that they have no more choice but to want to destroy us utterly. As they cornered us to “fight crazy,” and we bought into it, we have in turn cornered them to know only the desire for our destruction.

My father, an ardent pacifist all his days - which was especially difficult during World War II - was also a man, who as a father, never ‘cornered’ his children. He also, I now see in retrospect, understood the seductive foolishness of "fighting crazy" - and ordered his entire life around that wisdom. I wish he were still around, and that there were ears to hear him.

But maybe my young client of a quarter century ago is still around, and is using the wisdom he taught me in his adolescence, to bring a clarity of wisdom to those ‘running the show’ these days. We need his insight desperately.

Pay Attention!

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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