It’s been a long time coming. Since Europeans came to the New World (new to them) and started killing the indigenous people, our collective shadow has loomed large, often obscuring the idealism that created our republic. During and after the decimation of Native tribes, European Amerikans captured and enslaved Africans, who were then used, abused, bought and sold. Women were also subject to the rule of white men, the only persons deemed worthy of owning property, voting and governing. So, it’s not surprising that another white male will soon be installed as “the leader of the free world.”
Despite her qualifications, Hillary Clinton and untried Donald Trump polled as two of the most deeply disliked candidates in history. They were ripe for shadow projections from people angry about many different things. The voters picked the candidate who best reflected their anger, fear and aggression, one who capitalized on a willingness to ignore important precedents like releasing tax returns or refusing to disavow the Ku Klux Klan. PEOTUS did insist that these acts stop only after he was elected by pandering to white supremacists. And he still hasn’t released his taxes.
When we try to explain “wha happened,” it defies reason. Truth took a back seat to propaganda and there is no apparent end in sight. Propaganda targets the emotions, those racist dog whistles and fake news stories that were so successful in driving fearful, angry voters to the polls. They speak directly to the unconscious. We chose to repress guilt, shame, truth and let territoriality and greed light the way back to Amerika’s greatness again. Rather than facing our ourselves in the twisting labyrinth of our collective unconscious, we project our fear, anger and hatred onto each other, manifesting the collective shadow.
‘‘The shadow,’’ wrote Jung (1963), is a primordial part of our human inheritance, which, try as we might, can never be eluded. The pervasive Freudian defense mechanism known as projection is how most people deny their shadow, unconsciously casting it onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself. Such projection of the shadow is engaged in not only by individuals but groups, cults, religions, and entire countries, and commonly occurs during wars and other contentious conflicts in which the outsider, enemy or adversary is made a scapegoat, dehumanized, and demonized. Two World Wars and the current escalation of violence testify to the terrible truth of this collective phenomenon. Since the turn of the twenty-first century we are witnessing a menacing resurgence of epidemic demonization or collective psychosis in the seemingly inevitable violent global collision between radical Islam and Judeo-Christian or secular western culture, each side projecting its collective shadow and perceiving the other as evil incarnate. As it becomes harder to tamp down the strong emotions that remain unexpressed, autonomous complexes are created. These complexes can act independent of reason, morality and even self-preservation.”
This election was bought and sold by every trick of our collective shadow. Half of eligible voters stayed home and half of the remaining voters succumbed to our collective bias toward bipolar rule. Unconscious sheeple are easy pickings for the big bad wolves of Wall Street. Didn’t we just learn that lesson? Wake up already. The shadow demands our attention so we can become whole.
About that ray of hope. Thanks to the leadership of the water protectors at Standing Rock, American Indians confronted corporate Amerika and won. The world was watching, and many came to help. Then hundreds, thousands of war veterans marched to serve as human shields for those who stood up for the river. They were willing to shield the water protectors from the water cannons, the dog bites and the rubber bullets of the storm troopers, to protect the right of the people to resist incursion. These veterans then publicly acknowledged the genocide, the broken treaties, the brutality.
They apologized and were shown forgiveness. Our soldiers fought the shadow: the guilt, shame and horror and were forgiven by its victims. This is an act of consciousness, a light shining in the shadows that threaten to control us. Tears streamed from my eyes as I watched Wesley Clark Jr. name the violence we wrought on the Lakota Nation. As he kneeled before Chief Leonard Crow Dog, everyone was moved to tears. His radical act of bravery, of truth began a healing, “World Peace” as Leonard Crow Dog announced with his blessing. We are indebted to the indigenous people who should receive reparations from the government instead of more betrayals.
Owning the truth begins withdrawing the shadow projections, the blame and the shame and offers hope for beginning anew. The shadow is in and all around us. It thrives on ignorance, fear and rage, in violence and despair. Calling it out, naming it and beginning to make amends goes a long way in repairing the damage our denial perpetuates. These warriors and community activists will go to Flint, MI next, where poor people (largely African American) do not have potable water and the mayor is talking about not providing drinking water for his citizens who have suffered from lead pipe contamination for years. White Amerika must also acknowledge the horror perpetuated by slavery. It is time to make amends to our people who continue to suffer the sins of white entitlement, of privileging the few over the many. Only when we confront our ongoing immoral, opportunistic policies will the shadow begin to lose it’s power and be integrated into a mature, responsible society. It’s up to us, this battle is worth waging.