The Greatest, Gravest Danger, Part 3 of 3

Racism. In principle and practice, a belief in the cultural and social, intellectual and ethical superiority of the dominant group by the dominant group, often involving the employ of power (which includes the denial of opportunity and privilege to perceived inferior groups) to retain dominance. In the American historical context, racism, as a word and an understanding, was in common use by the late 1920s, the dominant group being white Americans and the inferior groups being Native Americans, Jews, and, in the earlier period, Negroes, now, generally referred to as African Americans.

Long have I believed that America – at its very founding, with institutional slavery, predicated on an abusive dignity-robbing, death-dealing dominant-subordinate class structure, being an essential economic and social element of national-development – is marked, tainted by racism as an indelible strain, stain in our country’s DNA. Racism like chaos (racism is chaos) is always with us and, thus, ever-ready to appear when our structures of order and civility break down or are broken down.

This, for me, is one of the principal aspects (and, I dare and fear to project, will be a legacy) of the Trump era. One indicator. The number of white supremacist and white nationalist groups, trafficking in anti-subordinate, anti-immigrant, and racist rhetoric, has increased.(1)

All of this, for me, as sorrowful as this is, is not the greatest, gravest danger to America. Mr. Trump and what I believe he hath wrought is but the animating force.

Our greatest, gravest danger, I think, I believe is that we, Americans, staring into the abyss of our shared chaos and blinking(2), have entered a post-modern period of civil war.

 

Footnotes:
(1) The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) (See https://www.splcenter.org; Hate Map), which began tracking the ebb and flow of what are oft termed hate groups, reports a 30% increase in the number of said groups beginning in 2015; coinciding with Mr. Trump’s launch of his campaign for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Hate groups, according to the statistics of the SPLC, number approximately 1,020; an increase from 784, as recognized in the 2011-2014 period. Moreover, since 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (See https://www.fbi.gov/; Hate Crimes, Civil Rights Program, Hate Crime Statistics) has reported a concomitant 17% spike in hate crimes. Mr. Trump may consider these statistics “fake news.” I do not.
(2) “(A)nd blinking” is my euphemism for our, meaning Americans as a whole, failure to face the chaos, and then labor together to rebuild the structures that, having been pushed aside, allow us to behold it. Rather than do that difficult work, we, as a people, have responded in a variety of ways. As I’ve observed, among the most common (which, on occasion, honesty compels me to confess that I’ve seen in my own behavior), we divide into our über-partisan ideological camps, we engage more in debate to prove the validity of our points of view and less in conversation seeking to understand other points of view, and, in debate or argument, when the proverbial irresistible force (of a given position) meets the immovable object (of the counter-position), we stop speaking to one another and, at times, sever our relationships, even with family members and long-lived friends.

5 thoughts on “The Greatest, Gravest Danger, Part 3 of 3

  1. Your description of God’s and, following, humanity’s efforts to impose order on pre-existing and primordial chaos with God’s ordering of Creation and humans’ ordering of the construction of human systems, practices, institutions, and inventions is a beautiful synthesis of what I understand to be the development of consciousness (closely related to the human ego or management system, if not contiguous with it) out of the chaos of the unconscious. And your observation that chaos, the roiling unconscious, remains not only in existence but active and influential is the key, outing the place where those human darknesses and impulses, like racism, sexism, hubris and greed, jealousy, envy, etc, reside and hide and from which they emerge to attack the order that consciousness seeks to build.

    The needful movement between these two landscapes of the human psyche, it seems to me, mirrors God’s actions in bringing what is in darkness into light and thereby shifting the energies, the passion, the creativity, the curiosity and generative mystery that also resides largely in the unconscious into full consciousness in order to allow positive use of those powerful gifts in human development. To venture into that darkness in order to harvest the positive forces that lie there requires discernment, wisdom, and perhaps most of all, deep humility and real courage in the face of the awful and awesome powers the darkness hides.

    In Trump, as you have pointed out, we are encountering someone who seems to have developed few of those qualities and also no acquaintance with his own darkness. Unlike most of us who are all too familiar with our inner struggles, he seems to remain entirely unaware of his dark shadow, for whatever reason, and he seems eager to project it onto chosen “enemies,” those individuals and groups he perceives as antithetical to his ambitions and desires or simply beneath his notice and concern except for how they can be used for his own ends. The racism he demonstrates is of no concern to him, because he cannot see it in himself; he can only feel its power and be caught up and controlled by it. I believe the same is true with regard to unconscious forces of greed, sexism, ambition, and hubris. He cannot harvest their power for his own conscious, rational, positive use in creating order, because he cannot recognize and name them in himself; he is simply at their mercy, caught up in raging winds he cannot control or mitigate but must ride wherever they choose to take him. The greatest problem, I believe, for the American people and for the world in general is that Trump’s lack of consciousness of his own controlling chaos calls out to the chaos in us, the worst in us, the dark, unconscious demons all of us battle with our sense of order, with our consciousness, in our psyches every day. I believe his very public, non-stop inability/unwillingness to see or fight those forces in himself makes it harder for many of us not to give in to the same impulses ourselves, whether we agree with him and respect him or find him frightening and oppose him.

    Thank you so much for helping me think this through in these terms, Paul. I now begin to understand much more clearly my own reaction to these times and perhaps can now work on responding in more constructive, more loving ways.

    Love,

    Karen

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  2. My Dearest Karen,

    Once again, I say thank you. You read and reflect, and then write beautifully with such depth of perception. To wit:

    “The needful movement between these two landscapes of the human psyche, it seems to me, mirrors God’s actions in bringing what is in darkness into light and thereby shifting the energies, the passion, the creativity, the curiosity and generative mystery that also resides largely in the unconscious into full consciousness in order to allow positive use of those powerful gifts in human development. To venture into that darkness in order to harvest the positive forces that lie there requires discernment, wisdom, and perhaps most of all, deep humility and real courage in the face of the awful and awesome powers the darkness hides.”

    For me, your grasp and elucidation of this, again, I say, for me, necessary engagement and movement is extraordinary! Thank you again.

    Now, regarding Mr. Trump, on most days and times, I believe that I agree and would agree with your analysis that he knows not, as an olden Persian proverb has it, what he knows not. At other times, as I seek, for my own purposes of non-judgment, to understand him – as, I feel, I must, given his uber-important role as president – I have a sense that he knows his own darkness, which, finding it self-threatening, he willfully, freely projects it on to others. Now, I confess, that a part of the reason – at least, of which I am conscious – that I say/write this is because I have seen this terrible tendency in myself. There have been moments – too many to count – when I have said the most (in my mother’s terminology) horrid things to and about others and nearly precisely because I either saw in them what I behold in myself or I yearned (ever in vain) to project onto them my inner anguish in hopes of ridding myself (aye, my self) of it.

    In this self-recognition, which your words bring freshly to the fore of my conscious awareness (and, as painful as this is, I am grateful; not that I enjoy wallowing in the worst of my self, but rather I appreciate the resurgent zephyr of humility that buffets my soul), I say to myself: A luta continua… (a Portuguese phrase harkening back to Mozambique’s quest for independence) The struggle continues…

    Always, my love and respect are yours,
    Paul

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    1. I’m smiling, as I often am when reading your wisdom, Paul, for the phenomenon of seeing my own worst in the people I find myself disliking and criticizing is SUCH a familiar thing to me. I have to say it took me a while into my adulthood before the penny dropped that those people I find myself reacting too most negatively are very probably the ones who are exhibiting behaviors and attitudes that I know I myself am most tempted to, engage in, and hopefully am battling. I suppose that means that the impulse to hate or dislike is in some sense based in self-loathing, which is also an intriguing problem that bears thinking about.

      The distinction I see with Trump, if his rhetoric and behavior are to be believed, is that it doesn’t seem that his hatreds and dislikes are based on behaviors, with the ONE large exception that he despises anyone who deigns to criticize or hold him to account. The only way anyone’s behavior seems to bother him is if it isn’t sufficiently fawning over him. Otherwise he seems to base his dislike, dismissal, disrespect or hatred on identity issues – skin color, ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, disability, political affiliation, religion, etc. I don’t think he sees his own true dark side in any of those categories; I suppose the one possibility is that he sees people who he believes are unlike him in obvious physical and categorical ways as being weak or lacking in power, which I think for him without a doubt is his greatest fear. Although I would never say weakness IS the centrality of his dark side, HE may think it is and therefore projects it onto people he regards as powerless or unwilling to fight as he is willing to do. But that I see as part of the pathology, that he is completely blinded to his own actual demons. He can only see the one he has manufactured in his own mind, that suits his own account of himself.

      So, “a luta continua” indeed, dear Paul. I am so cheered to know that people like you are in the fray with cautioning the wisdom to be aware of ourselves and our own dark impulses, particularly in this situation that I believe is so apt to call out what is worst in us for the excellent reason of battling something we see as dangerous and damning to our society. It would be easy to throw over all the wisdom, humility, and self-awareness we possess, to give in to the wild unconscious forces and fight tooth and nail with the same weapons we see being used to attack our cherished societal norms and institutions. But then we become the enemy ourselves, and hard-won human consciousness God and we have heretofore brought forth (i.e., love, compassion, justice, mercy, human progress) lose ground. We can’t allow that to happen. Bless you for being in the good fight, my dear Paul, and for bringing encouragement to those of us who so desperately need it.

      Much love,

      Karen

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  3. Always, thank you, my dearest Karen, for your illuminating thinking and feeling and writing. Your reflection on the nature of Mr. Trump’s affections and disaffections rings – in my heart – as true.

    Yet, here’s the thing for me. Long ago, in these past two years of the Trump presidency, I recognized within me an innate sense of compassion for him. I knew that I felt it welling up within me, but I didn’t know and couldn’t have been sure why. It’s taken me quite the while to understand that I find Mr. Trump to be a wounded soul…

    We all are wounded, of course, in one way or another, in manifold ways or others. True. Yet, he, for me, perhaps it is because of his high profile that I have had and do have opportunity to wonder about him more than others (save, of course, myself), is especially broken: inwardly frazzled and frayed, unhinged, and otherwise un-put-together in mind and heart, soul and spirit…

    This leads me to assess him in accordance with something I came to believe long ago and that I maintain: No one in this world arrives at a place for good or for ill without the help or hurt of countless hands and hearts, most unknown and unseen. I came to this via my pastoral experience of listening (aye, more than talking, though God knows I can talk!) to others leaf, at times, tear through the chapters and verses of their lives and histories. In other words, Mr. Trump did not arrive where he is (and, indeed, none of us arrives where we are) without help and hurt. Others have been involved in his making. Now, where his unraveling becomes more greatly, I believe, ultimately, his undoing is that he does not seem to me to have come to that sacred place of claiming responsibility and being accountable – to others, to kith and kin, to humankind, and, now, in his presidential role, to the country and to the world – his thoughts and feelings, his intentions and actions, which, especially in his role, makes him both pitiable and dangerous.

    In this, too, a luta continua…

    Love

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  4. And to those observations, dear Paul, I can only say “Amen and again amen.” Wounded and wounded is he, and he came to be so by the work, as you say, of countless hands. I cherish the depth of your compassion. I am working on it, but still have a long way to go, I’m afraid.

    Thank you and much love, dear friend.

    Karen

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