TRUMP AND OUR COLLECTIVE SHADOW
TRUMP AND OUR NATIONAL SHADOW
I have not written from the perspective of the engaged mystic since late November of 2018. This is the place where I reflect on our political atmosphere through a spiritual lens. Primarily I have not written in this voice because I have found the pain that is around us to be incredibly overwhelming and horrific. This involved me in withdrawing to numb the pain. However, it is time to reengage.
The shadow energies of hate, racism, ethnic cleansing, homophobia and misogyny have risen to new heights. These national tendencies have lurked in the shadows and back allies of America’s psyche for generations. They compose our collective, national shadow. The current president knows exactly how to fan the flames of these unresolved issues and it is clear that he intends to continue to do exactly that. In this sense he is brilliant at understanding the psyche of a large percentage of Americans. While he is the most ignorant public figure I have ever witnessed, he is not a fool and it is a mistake to underestimate his ability to call forth the worst impulses in us. It is not just about him as an individual but the combination of his leadership and the collective national shadow. On the one hand, he is merely the instrument of a much larger phenomena; our national shadow. And on the other hand, he is the masterful conductor of those dark energies. Neither the orchestra nor the conductor can exist without the other.
These energies have always existed in the United States and especially began to percolate up in the 1930s but the depression and then WWII became the focus for the country. Then a wave of well-meaning and deeply needed human rights legislation suppressed them back into the underground. But we, as a country, never faced the reality of their presence. We were naïve enough to think that legal repression meant solution. Meanwhile, right wing conservative media through personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Fox News and a horde of others have been stoking the furnace of hate for decades to point that it boiled over with this administration. Then along comes this president promising aggrieved Americans rescue from their problems which were projected upon any and all groups that are other than white, American and male. He promises them a return to the mythic glory days of the 1950s which had its own form of apartheid. They adore and worship him as a savior cloaking all of this with a religious veneer. He then becomes their redeemer leading them into the promised land of hate and white supremacy.
In an interview in 1933, the Swiss Psychologist, Carl Jung spoke of the character of Adolph Hitler. Outside of Germany before the war, Hitler was seen as a sort of unremarkable fool. Just as Trump is currently derided as an incompetent buffoon by many world leaders. But Hitler perfectly understood the German psyche and orchestrated a national march into hell. Jung also commented on Hitler’s lack of empathy and moral sense. This is clearly equally true of Trump. He has no moral compass other than that which is provided by the national shadow expressed in white supremacy and hate. He cares only for those who reflect his senses or who are willing to submit themselves to his vision. The president who is without a conscience wants to create a country that is without a conscience.
The situation is dangerous. The very future of the planet is at stake as is any form of constitutional democracy. There is no guarantee of success for the progressive energies expressed in compassion and love. And yet we must continue. For resistance is a matter of principle. Winning is preferable but not the deciding factor.
This is further complicated by how very powerless many of us feel in the face of such darkness. We bang our heads on the wall with mostly useless rational arguments about what constitutes racism, hatred and harassment. We present commonsense perspectives to people who are not listening at that level. The collective shadow has drowned reason with allegiance to this secular messiah.
It is hard to know how to respond to all of this. But I have some suggestions:
1. There is an election in 2020 which promises to be a brutal experience of division, hate and vulgarity. The recent attacks on the four congress women, known as ‘The Squad,’ was an announcement of this. Chants of ‘Lock her up’ have morphed into ‘Send her back.’ The hate worked in 2016 and these four years have only served to embolden him. We need a Democratic candidate who can call forth the better parts of our nature. Unfortunately, I don’t see that person as having emerged yet with the possible exception of Elizabeth Warren.
2. We need to put a literal and energetic ring of protection around those four congress women. The chants are dangerous and counter energy is important.
3. The election will revolve around turnout. Every single spiritual person needs to vote. We cannot leave the political field to the darkness. Between now and the election we need to be engaged in whatever ways make sense for us as individuals. On the day of the election I will be driving people to the polls.
4. I would gladly vote for Maryanne Williamson for national interfaith chaplain but as a presidential candidate she is utterly unqualified and a distraction. I know that is harsh, but we don’t need an amateur.
5. The sacred task of resistance is to discern and undermine the malignancy of political oppression. It is our responsibility to call out oppression and protect the vulnerable. We need to stand, speak and light candles in the darkness every chance we get.
6. It is important to connect as much as possible. Events, protests, vigils and other actions are not going to change this administration. But they are a way to keep the community alive and reinforce our connections to it. They are a place to express our intention and values.
7. It is also important to monitor our involvement. The cultural shadow is like a black hole very willing to suck us in and drain us of every resource. In this time spiritual practice is more important than ever so that we stay closely connected to what fuels us and gives us energy. We have to take care of ourselves through our practice so that our soulful energy is not sucked dry.
These are times that burden the soul of compassionate people. They are dangerous times in the long run. But is crucial that we the continue to shine light into the darkness.