“Manifest Destiny,” National Hubris, and Trumpism

Axios reported this morning that the Trump administration is now arguing that the President cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice because the constitution declares he is the chief law enforcement officer of the land.  Early in the Trumpian onslaught against our country last year, I began to liken him unto a god of sorts, a “dark” god who had a chthonic grip on a significant portion of the American population.  This was best illustrated in his brazen declaration that he could shoot someone in the streets of Manhattan and not lose support. Trump and his handlers are very astute in grasping when he pushes the limits and immediately huddle together and discuss, “Now, how do we justify this?”  Simple denial has worked faithfully for him as the base of his party believes everything he says and the rest of the party marches lamely in tow as they too have succumbed to the intoxicating siren song of power.  The Republican Party has created a monster which many of them realize they cannot control but they cannot admit this because, like Trump, they cannot admit having made a mistake.

But this phenomenon is an expression of not just the Republican Party but of the American psyche.  If we find the humility we will have to acknowledge that our nation has been, as the prophet Daniel put it, “weighed in the balances and found wanting.”  Our inherent arrogance and smugness is now egregiously apparent for all to see and many can respond only with a lame, “Oh, that is not true.  That is fake news.”  One historical example is in the Manifest Destiny theme in American history when we were consumed with the belief that God had brought us to this new world, had created us as a nation, and then given us the “manifest” task of carrying our “truth, justice, and the American way” westward to the Pacific Ocean.  This “divine” mandate meant that the Native Americans were merely an obstacle and could be slaughtered in the interest of our goal being accomplished.  “God is leading us,” we said, and how can one argue with God?

The attitude that was present then, and did bring these United States to the world stage, is now having the dark, daemonic dimension of that Manifest Destiny impulse exposed.  Our task now is having the humility to let “self-awareness” dawn upon us, “self-awareness” being merely the light of day which any tribe always resists experiencing.  This cultural blindness is not exclusive to our tribe by any means.  It is present with all individuals and all cultures but now we are in the position where we could humbly acknowledge this human frailty and grow from the experience.  But, as Auden told us, “When truth met him, and held out her hand, we clung in panic to our tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.” And it is very interesting to note that significant numbers of Christians in our country…especially evangelicals…adamantly remain ensconced in their arrogance as they too, just like Trump, cannot admit that they made a mistake.

(The following is a link to the Axios article— https://www.axios.com/exclusive-trump-lawyer-claims-the-president-cannot-obstruct-justice-2514742663.html)

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Posted in Collective Unconsciousness, conservatism, extremism, Fundamentalist Christianity, group psychology, religion and politics, Republican Party | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Senator Franken, “I Crossed a Line.”

This confession of Senator Al Franken needs to be heard more often from a lot of men, those of note and even the rest of us.  Yes, I too have crossed “that” line in my life and am fortunate that I am not a famous person!

The line on the table here is sexual decorum and behavior…but more importantly attitudes.  I have spent six plus decades as an American male and I am very happy with that.  But I am also happy that currently the voracious and goatish appetite of the American male is now being put on the table as it has led to the “crossing of a line” becoming de rigeueur.  This attitude teaches young boys and men to adopt a proprietary attitude toward the opposite sex and teaches many young girls and women to accept this male attitude as the norm and to seek to accommodate it.  This leads to an environment in which “No” does not really mean “No” in many circumstances but is by many females…especially the young ones…as only one step in the mating dance.

Many think Senator Franken should resign from the Senate.  Perhaps, but I don’t think so.  There are many more men of note who will be exposed in the weeks and months to come…you can bet they are shaking in their booties right now…and at some point simple contrition and apology needs to take place.  In many circumstances it will not suffice, and for all I know it might prove to be so with Senator Franken.  But the “crossing of lines” is common in human culture and includes so many other dimensions of power than sexuality.  Power is the real issue here and it is no accident that the abuse of power in our political system particularly is now so flagrant.  Men who are politically, and often financially powerful, tend to wield that power in the whole of their life.  Same is true for those who have chosen religion to fulfill their ego’s power needs.

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William Blake, “The Center Will not Hold”

My country appears to be unraveling.  The “flow” of life is becoming a tornado and the structures and conventions of day-to-day life are straining under the pressure.  Just one example is the area of sexuality as the sexual mores are being drastically challenged and the male prerogatives in relationship to females is threatened with dramatic revision. I sometimes facetious suggest to my liberal friends that “it all started when we let the women off the reservation” and it certainly looks that way to uneducated men who are still encrusted in patriarchy.  The current sex scandals in our political and entertainment worlds are these liberated women informing men, “Hey, your prerogatives with us can no longer be taken for granted.”

But this is but one part of what I see to be a more fundamental problem inherent in social change.  If the dynamic of change gets out of control, then suddenly the tribe is threatened with chaos and will inspire a counter movement in the direction of conventional standards of morality and decorum.  This is the “conservative” impulse in the social body and we are certainly seeing that in play currently with the demagogic stance of Trump and hyper-conservative Republicans.

William Blake conveyed the human fear that in an historic moment like this, “the center will not hold.”  This “center” is a core principle in a tribe that will put the welfare of the tribe over individual concerns.  This same “center” is present in an individual that will put the welfare of one’s life as a whole over the temptation of immediate gratification.  When this “center” does not whole, the result is dissolution which in an individual is a psychic catastrophe such as psychosis.  But a similar catastrophe is a threat to a social body, its “psychosis” usually resulting in violence such as war.  Speaking anthropologically, what our country needs now is a good war and of course we have as president an unstable man who could certainly deliver on this point.

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All of Our Ponds Are Pretty Damn Murky

I have a respondent from one of my blogs who himself blogs, his entitled, “Thoughts from a Murky Pond.”  This gentleman is very intelligent and thoughtful, but “consarned him” he is so damn critical of my discoursing!  But, I deeply appreciate his critical stance and have a hunch his critical view extends far beyond my blog…and for that the Universe is grateful.

But I swim in a murky pond.  How could I do otherwise for I swim with the influence of a very murky pond from my youth, so murky it makes me think of an old bromide, “The mind that lives by itself and for itself will be spoiled by the company it keeps.”  And, this is not unique to me for all of us tend to gravitate toward a world in which people think like we do and when we are ensconced there it will be very murky, though accustomed to the murkiness we will not recognize it.

However, the moment we can get a glimpse of this “murkiness” the light of day, i.e. of consciousness, will shatter the cozy grip of our darkness and begin its work on us.  And, this is such a scary proposition that, in the estimation of Hamlet, “Conscience (i.e. consciousness) doeth make cowards of us all.”  It is much easier if we will remain in the enchantment of reptilian-brain demands for “self” (i.e. “ego”) preservation rather than to have our accustomed satisfaction with “murkiness” exposed to the light of day.

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Is Alabama’s Governor Ivey Stupid? Answer: No.

Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey has demonstrated the mind set of many conservative Republicans in announcing her support of controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore.  Though she “has no reason to doubt” the numerous women who report his inappropriate sexual advances on them, some in their youth, she declares that she will put her Republican Party loyalty first.

I do not think she lacks in intelligence nor moral rectitude.  She is like most of us she is a rational human being and she puts her faith in her rational ability more than any other dimension of her experience.  One could even say that she has no experience that is not over-ridden by rationality and therein lies the problem…in my estimation!  For, we are not rational beings in the depths of our heart, which is to say, in our unconscious depths, which is why we are so susceptible to the prevailing winds in our culture and ripe for manipulation by political and religious leaders. This is because most political and religious leaders have their positions because of their ability to be in tune with the “prevailing winds” of their milieu and to have climbed to a position of influence.

This Alabama morass illustrates the profound political and socio-cultural impasse in my country and each side tends to demonize the other.  Speaking as a Progressive, yes, I think there are “deplorables” amongst the Conservatives as Hillary Clinton alleged last year but they are a real minority and I happen to know there are extremist “nut-jobs” among my ranks.  But there are many Conservatives whose rational thinking is of the Kay Ivey variety and though I passionately disagree, and feel there are moral and spiritual issues that need to be addressed, that does not mean she is stupid or is a bad human being.  And there are “moral and spiritual issues that need to be addressed” by the whole of this country, starting with yours truly!

Posted in conservatism, extremism, group psychology, populism, psychology, rationality, religion and politics, Spirituality and politics | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Religious and Cultural Bondage

Biblical literalism is very much related to what I see as a cultural literalism in my country.  Many conservative people, especially in Alabama at present moment, are seeing their world in such literal terms that they are oblivious to the long-term consequences of what they are doing.  Just as they approach Holy Writ only on the surface level, so they approach their daily life and the life of their community and nation only on a surface level.  They do not grasp the nuances of life and therefore the nuanced dimensions of life, unbeknownst to them, are grasping them firmly.  One might say their individual, as well as the collective unconscious exerts inordinate influence on them.

Our need to conceptualize our experience with God parallels are experience of having been conceptualized ourselves.  We first lived as an awareness, an amorphous Presence ready to soak up this substantial world and thus form an ego identity.  This state of “awareness” was what the Buddhists call the “world of 10,000 things” which is a metaphor for “a world of everything,” of undifferentiated wholeness.  The Biblical fall is the experience of being reduced to the conceptual…a thing among other things…which then reduced our Creator Him/Herself to a concept, a thing.

Spiritual teachings of all stripe are intended to facilitate an escape from bondage to this “letter of the law.”  But gaining this freedom…or even tippy-toeing near its periphery…requires an awareness of the predicament which is a profoundly existential phenomenon.  This awareness is not cognitive, though cognition is involved…somewhat…and is greatly influenced by the experience.  This experience takes place deep in the heart, in the unconscious, that, “foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”

Understanding this phenomenon can be transformative.  One could even say it can be, “being born again.”  Grasping this dimension of life changes our relationship with our self, with others, and with our world.  We begin to see and understand ourselves as related to all “things”, to be part and parcel of this cosmos, even part of what some describe as, “the Cosmic Christ.”  But this experience is inherently threatening to the rugged individualism of our culture which instills within us the notion, “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my soul

Yes, we are individuals but our individuality has value only in the context of our unity with all things.  This experience of the Great Round often comes to us first as the feeling of an impending threat to our sense of being a separate and distinct individual.  This threat is that of impending doom, of fragmentation or dissolution of the ego, which is actually merely the ego having its tyranny loosened and learning to live in harmony with the body and the rest of the world.

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Self-awareness and irony.

The Trump administration almost daily reveals a complete lack of self-awareness, not seeing the irony in such things him attacking Senator Al Franken for sexual improprieties even while he refuses to address the Roy Moore Alabama ugliness as it comes to close to his own life.  But then his daughter Ivanka opined, “there is a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

I guess Ivanka does not recall her father speaking, with a degree of pride, his prerogative of walking in on the dressing room of a teen beauty-pageant where he knew the girls would be in some stage of undress.  And I also do wonder if she is aware of how awkward for her to address this issue when her father has openly spoken of his sexual misbehavior and even demonstrated sexually inappropriate designs on her.  I do know that someone who has been abused, sexually or otherwise, or has been raised in an abusive environment are often missing a feedback-loop which makes them oblivious to contradictions like this.  Ivanka is in a tough spot.  She can resign from her voluntary position in the administration but she can never extricate herself from the death-grip of being Trump’s daughter.

 

 

 

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