OUR NATIONAL SHADOW II
OUR NATIONAL SHADOW II
This posting is a follow up to the previous one discussing our national, collective shadow which is so dominant in these tumultuous times. This posting attempts to fill this out more and especially see its connection to us and our individual shadow.
Trump is the mouthpiece for the undercurrents running throughout American culture. He expresses and encourages our barbaric side and then gives it permission to erupt. During the Obama presidency of eight years there were 32 mass shootings. During the Trump presidency of two and a half years there have been 70 mass shootings. The total number has doubled in one third the time. (Obama had 96 months in office. Trump has had 31 months or 31% of the time.) Trump stirs the unconscious which was rumbling before him and then encourages its eruption. Then feigns innocence.
Clearly the obvious response to this presidency is to end it in 2020 at the next election. People who embrace spiritual values and cherish democracy need to be very active and organized. The next election needs to be an uprising of those who do not consciously embrace the values of white nationalism, racism and misogyny.
But there is an equally important action between now and then; taking on the task of lighting a candle to more clearly know our own individual shadow. This national shadow is a reflection of our individual shadow. We are not separate from it. It is the collective expression of primitive impulses present in all humans. The more we recognize the shadow in our selves the more we can recognize it in our culture. The more we shine light into our own shadow there more skilled we will become in shining light into our national shadow. Progressive people often resist this sense for understandable reasons. As modern human beings many of us do not wish to see our primitive side. Spiritual people often resist seeing our shadow as much as Trump supporters resist seeing the racism and hate in this neofascist regime. In that way we are not so very different. One’s shadow need not be dominated by race, gender or exclusion to be present and powerful but in this time those are the energies that are exploding all around us. I want to give three examples from my experience and from what I have seen in my life and work.
- I abhor violence. I am a pacifist and would never take up arms against others. And yet my favorite movie is Braveheart, the story of Scotland’s battle for freedom from England. It is intensely violent with brutal battle scenes. The interest and attraction to violence lives within me as much as I hate to admit it.
- Do you ever get vigilant in a convenience store when several tough looking young people come in. I do. It is a prejudice I don’t like in myself but is very real. It is a shadow. When I see it in me, I breathe deeply into it knowing it is just my fear and caution.
- The shadow even arises on elevators. A friend was telling me that when people get on an elevator and begin talking in a different language, either Spanish or increasingly some Eastern European language. He begins to wonder what is being said or plotted? Or thinks these people should just be speaking English. It is a common flash from the shadow headed toward a sort of prejudice arising from a sense of exclusion.
The individual shadow is reflected in our negative reactions to individuals and groups. Ninety-nine percent of the time they are simply a mirror. What we don’t like in others is at some level what we don’t like in ourselves. Facing our individual shadow is part of the cleansing Americans need. It allows us to take ourselves off the pedestal of self-righteousness concerning our own issues and contributions to current problems. The better I know these things within myself the better I can see them in the culture. These biases are not just ‘out there’ but also ‘in here.’ They are not just in other people they are in me and all of us. The more I deny it the more detached from myself and us I become. Lighting up our own shadow gives us the opportunity to see all of us more clearly and see subtle ways we are connected. My experience is that we progressives are as blind to our connections to Trump and his supporters as they are blind to their connections to Mexican immigrants. Facing the individual shadow empowers us to go from seeing them as “a basket of deplorables” to seeing the extent to which we are all in a deplorable basket together. Cleansing our own shadow helps to avoid the trap of self-righteousness. We can and must wage a huge political battle in the coming months with every ounce of energy we can muster and leave the self-righteousness behind. We are not only one in our light but are also one in our darkness.