America's Shadow


With one of the most important presidential elections teetering on its result, it felt like a prescient time to take a look at the collective shadow of our country since it's demanding our attention.


I dipped a toe in the waters of individual shadow work here, but there is much more to this type of depth psychology fathered by Carl Jung. In the simplest of ideas, a shadow is when our present echoes our past. The shameful, unloveable, uncivilized parts of our Self that we shoved away into the unconscious where we don't have to look at them make up our shadow. The ferocity of the unconscious is not to be discounted in its ability to impact and its potential to explode and expose our hidden underbelly.


The country is watching itself visibly divided by red or blue as tallied ballots trickle in. Each side views the other as the downfall of America. Life, as we know it, dangles on these hanging chads. In blue, red sees violence, the destruction of law and order, the eradication of personal freedom, annihilation of life and family, the degradation of all that has made this country great, and a general massacre of basic humanity and decency. In red, blue sees an acceptance and upholding of racism, sexism, violence against innocence, the annihilation of life and family, valuing profits over people, and a general massacre of basic humanity and decency.


This is our shadow.

There is no more hiding it. It has been exposed.


The pains and injuries we have inflicted on each other must be dealt with. This is our reckoning. The inequities and division that has always been present in this country is being laid out before us on our screens. Red and Blue. For centuries we've ignored the deep gashes of our historic misdeeds, scabbed over but never healed.


This cannot be stopped -- as a volcano's eruption cannot be corked.


This is the hard work. Shadow work is painful and embarrassing. It requires seeing our undesirable parts and owning that they belong to us.


The country was built on the backs of stolen Africans made slaves. This country was founded on the marginalization of people as a means for white men to hold and retain their power, their wealth, their feelings of superiority (which white women took vicariously and weaponized for their own gains (1) and (2)). This country was built through centuries of outright violence, rape, and murder by uPsTaNdInG wHiTe CiTiZeNs. Those in power now are a continuation of what was and they are upheld in their positions by the frameworks they put in place to protect themselves. We see it in the killing of innocent black people by the police who are just doing their job -- and they are doing the job they were trained to do as our current system of policing evolved from those who patrolled and policed slaves. We see it in the separation of children and parents who came to us for asylum and were instead put in cages or sent home, sometimes sans children. This land we live on, itself, was stolen and then claimed to be the rightful property of the thieves. This land we now rape and steal from as we drain its blood to fuel our cars, poison its waters with plastics, and kill its life slowly, methodically, in the name of progress and profit. We ignore the history of those from whom we stole this land, those whose ancestors cared for it and worked with it. We refuse to see value in those deemed less than while we uphold values to support our fragile white power structure.


It is an ugly history. It is shameful. It is embarrassing. And, it is ours. It is ours as a whole. There is no more repression of these truths. They are in our face with every caught on tape killing and act of domestic terrorism reframed as valor. To deny this is to continue to deny our collective shadow.

Still, there is hope. There is the potential of integration. By definition, a shadow requires light for its creation. For each ugly truth, there is beauty unexpressed. By suppressing one, the other is shrouded.

What if we confront our atrocities? What if we move forward placing equal value on all people -- despite their gender or color? How many brilliant minds have been discounted or killed in the name of superiority? How great could we be as a unified nation, if we could just be unified? There is enough for everyone. There is enough that financial hoarders can persist in their gluttony and still allow others to rise and thrive.


We have the capacity to be great. We have the ability to unify. It starts with one. It is not through continued suppression and repression that we fix this. Four years ago the personification of America's historic values was elected to our highest office and through his deeds gave permission to those who share his views to raise their voices and their torches. They are emblematic of our shadow and in making themselves known, they have given the gift of awareness to a contingent of our nation who lived in ignorance.


We can no longer claim ignorance. We can no longer claim slavery ended with the Civil War. We must face our collective shadow upon which the light of this election shines so brightly.


From there we can begin to heal and work our way to wholeness. We are better together, we are better when we are whole. Let's face ourselves and get to work. We can do hard things.

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