Wednesday, July 24, 2024 #67

 There is a Judaic concept, tzimtzum, God’s ‘self-contraction’ to vacate space for the world’s creation, as applied to clinical psychology, that serves as a model promoting a community-centric approach. In Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, a cargo ship Tsimtsum sinks at a pivotal point of the plot. Tzimtzum results in the empty space in which spiritual and physical worlds and ultimately free will can exist.

 On,in a piece entitled, ‘What you do is Who you Are,’ The Theology of Culture, by Zohar Atkins (no relation), we find:

‘Culture is what you do when the boss is not there,’ is a great tagline for thinking about God’s culture in the Nietzschean age, in which it is claimed that ‘God is Dead,’ or if you prefer (Martin) Buber’s terminology, ‘eclipsed.’ In fact the medieval idea of tzimtzum takes Nietsche’s claim of divine absence and elevates it; God intentionally withdraws to stress test the culture. God wants to know how people will behave when they aren’t trying to curry favour.

And from Kol, (The Jewish Thought Magazine of the Yeshiva University Student Body in a piece entitled: Tzimtzum, Divine and Human Constriction: A Meeting-Place Between the Divine and Human, by Leah Klahr, January 26, 2017 we read:

According to the allegorical interpretation of tzimtzum, rather than describing a literal process of change within God, the concept of tzimtzum establishes a construct through which one can understand the relationships between the world and God. Concealment of an aspect of God’s omnipresence empowers creation with an illusory sense of independence, enabling it to exist in the face of infinity. As contemporary scholar Tamar Ross writes, ‘The act of divine tzimtzum was likened by some to the situation of a teacher who conceals the full scope of his knowledge so that some limited portion of it may be revealed to his student. Just as the wisdom of the teacher is unaffected by this concealment, so too all forms of existence gain a sense of their selfhood as a result of the hiding of God’s all- pervasive presence, yet God’s all-embracing monolithic unity remains the same.

In a positivistic, empirical, literal, culture in which ‘function’ and accomplishment are considered one’s identity, and presence, the primary, if not exclusive, qualification of a person’s ethic, value, commitment, performance and relevance, the very notion of ‘absence,’ ‘withdrawal,’ detachment,’ ‘withholding,’ ‘concealment,’ is predictably regarded as ‘specious,’ unethical,’ ‘immoral,’ ‘disengagement,’ ‘irresponsibility,’ ‘evil,’ ‘derelict,’ ‘worthless,’ is viewed with contempt.

In the contemporary, North American ethos, the binary, without exceptions, moderations, middle-terrain, nuance, and mutual inter-relations between the either-or, not merely dominate: they suffocate! That applies to the cognitive, the rhetorical, the public discourse, the ethical and moral domains, and the reductionistic,  simplistic, literalistic, empirical, cardboard assessments and decisions that pervade the public square.

At the moment, there are insidious and spurious attempts by various  Republican members of the House of Representatives to investigate the complicity of Vice-president Kamala Harris in the alleged cover-up of President Biden’s ageing, as another of the many specious charges to accuse her of deception, lying and thereby untrustworthiness.

Unable to confront their own drowning in the lies perpetrated by their own leader and his sycophants, in fact, so embedded in the methodology of projecting onto their opponents the very worst of their own character, they are unable (unwilling? refusing? denying? or falling into the myth of being hoisted on (with, by) their own petard) to acknowledge their own chicanery. ‘Hoist with his own petard’ from Hamlet, means that a bomb-maker is blown (hoist) off he ground by his own bomb (petard), indicating a reversal or poetic justice.

Framed by the concept of tzimtzum, conventionally interpreted as a ‘self-less’, ‘sacrificial,’ and ‘heroic’ act, in contemporary North American culture, Biden’s decision to withdraw from the presidential race to and for which his life, biography, intentions, commitments and political identity seemed to exist, offers a poetic interpretation. So too, does the ‘hoisted on their own petard’ framing of the aspirations of Democratic campaigners, leaders and a considerable portion of the American electorate.

In an overt, (and unconscious) attempt to elevate what has been a battle of ad hominum barbs on character, personality and morality, there is now another overt (and also somewhat unconscious) effort to elevate the presidential campaign to epic, heroic, mythic proportions. The guttural ‘sewer’ language and perspective of one side is being countered by the ‘highly righteous’ and highly moral, ethical, and heroic language, perspective and attitudes of the other. Sadly, the penchant for extremes, if not couched in personal attacks, continues.

Reducing the issues facing the United States to language that not merely resorts to, but actually demonizes the opposition, whether within his own party or beyond, is the signature of the Republican former president, that insults its multiple targets, and reduces the perpetrator to a caricature of both the presidency and the nation.

A clearly articulated description, with logic, supporting information, clear and comprehensible language fit for the public square, the classroom, the court room and the local bar and restaurant by the presumptive Democratic candidate, Kamala Harris, and presumably her choice of running mate, sounds somewhat strange in the echo chamber of vacuous slander, defamation, retribution, revenge and contempt to which the American public has been subject since 2015 when ‘he’ slid down the escalator.

And the act of full acknowledgement of the verities, the limits, the inevitability and the incorrigibility of old age, through no ‘fault’, avoidance, denial, repression or self-deception of his own (even though the public outcry prompted a three-week reflection), only enhances the chasm of differences between Biden and Trump, and more importantly, between those competing leaders from the two political parties.

Timely, considered, sacrificial and indeed self-effacing withdrawal, far from being a defeat, a surrender, and certainly even farther from demonstrating ‘weakness,’ in this context has at least Greek-tragedy overtones, and even hints at tzimtzum. The continent, including every town, hamlet, city and county is replete with generations of men and women who, through no negligence, or irresponsibility or self-indulgence, face the daily indications of wrinkles, arthritis, memory loss, slower and more awkward steps, often blurred vision, fewer teeth, hearing loss, and a mind with both insight and creativity that yearns and longs for a place to deploy what talents and skills, memories and wisdom remain accessible.

Indeed, the very erosion of those traits that provided the energy, the direction, the appetite, the ambition and the determination to exercise those traits in some honourable service modality actually exaggerates, inflates and deepens the difficulty to face the mirror and declare, “It’s time!”….for me to consider hiring someone to cut the lawn, to shovel the snow, to rake and gather leaves, to have the groceries and medications delivered. And for those, like President Biden, to relinquish the office, the opportunity, the dream, the honour, the applause, the recognition and the hope of the office and the potential to accomplish the many envisioned laws and to uplift the millions of men, women and children still looking to him for hope, promise and opportunity for themselves.

Sunsets, on the geographic, and planetary ‘horizon,’ while inspiringly beautiful, restful, reflective, and comforting in a poetic and aesthetic way, nevertheless, bring a consciousness of the ‘end of the day’….however that image comes and remains on each of our retinas as well as in our memory and imagination.

Just as the tzimtzum offers, at least allegorically, a link between the finite and the infinite, so too does the sunset remind us that time, for this day is winding down, with the comforting promise of a new sunrise, on the calendar and in our lives.

‘In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets.’ (Jonas Mekas). Critics will argue that the personal lives of many poets were bereft of honour, dignity, public acclaim, and public respect. It is, however, their words, their thoughts, their emotions and their wisdom that remains, untainted by whatever slights and slings and arrows their reputations endured.

In a single ‘act’ of withdrawal, President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. etched his name and face into the granite of American memory, American history, and American poetry. Shocking, somewhat surreal and indisputable, at both the literal and the metaphoric/poetic levels, Biden incarnated the bridge between the here-and-now and the ‘beyond,’ as it can be imagined in the image of ‘our better angels’.

And, paradoxically, while he can expect only words of praise from his peers and his nation, his single ‘non-act’ has the potential to cut through the iron veil that keeps the poetic and the empirical from being and perceived to be attached. Whether or not the president was apprised of the word tzimtzum in the course of his reflections seems irrelevant. What is significant is the heroic, somewhat epic, and certainly indelible imprint his own ‘withdrawal’ has and will continue to draw out new and previously unimagined exploits, projects, dreams and aspirations from his American friends and countrymen and woman.

And just as the world watches (and filmed) his stumbling gait, his gaps in memory, his slurs in speech, his legislative accomplishments and his political mis-steps, the final chapter of his biography and obituary will include the spiritual, political, poetic and dramatic non-act of American mythology.

Thursday, July 18, 2024 #66

 On (New York Magazine) in a piece entitled ‘Why are Conservative Men So Scared of Cat Ladies?’ by Sarah Jones May 4, 2022, we find this quote from JD Vance to Tucker Carlson in 2021:

‘We are effectively run in the country via the Democrats, via our corporate oligarchs, by a bunch of childless cat ladies who are miserable at their own lives and the choices that they’ve made, and so they want to make the rest of the country miserable too,’ Vance told Tucker Carlson in 2021….(Notable, too, in addition to AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), the name Pete Buttigieg (then childless) is included in Vance’s 2021 list of deplorables!)

(Ms Jones continues:)The cat lady is an old stereotype based on stupid beliefs about spinsters and feminists. Associated with women and ‘the domestic sphere,’ cats appeared in anti-women’s suffrage imagery ‘to portray suffragettes as silly, infantile, incompetent, and ill-suited to political engagement,’ according to the Society Pages. The idea is that if a cat is allowed to vote, something has gone terribly wrong. The same is true if a woman shuns family life to surround herself with cats. The cat lady is a cheap way to own the libs. A playground taunt, it also says something about the bully who uses it. Hatred and fear are often so intertwined they can be difficult to tell apart. The cat lady canonically has no man. Her needs and habits aren’t dictated by a husband and children. She can make up her own mind, and she is free to do what she likes, which means she has the time to be political. Without the ballast of a family, a woman can be hard to control.

The ’divide’ engulfing the American public, as well as the two political parties, has several identifying features. White supremacy, deporting illegal immigrants, catering to the wealthy, blocking and banishing immigrants, suppressing voting, women’s, LGBTQ and all minority rights, abolishing DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion), reinstating the Ten Commandments in all state classrooms in Louisiana, requiring The Bible to be taught in Oklahoma, abolishing The Department of Education, stacking the Supreme Court which has conferred absolute immunity on all official acts of the president and has overturned Roe v Wade….and cutting all aid to Ukraine…these are just some of the more prominent features of the trump-cabal.

And the evangelical, fundamentalist, literalist, ‘real-women’ patriarchy of ‘Christian’ nationalism is central to the desperate clinging to power of frightened and insecure white men. “Taking us back to where we are supposed to be,” is a chant being echoed through the arena in Milwaukee at the Republican National Convention. And one of the central images of that determination is contained in the words, “strength and power”. President Biden is seen and considered as weak, too old and too ineffective in a dangerous world. Retreating from the demands and expectations of international engagement, however, is not, from the Trump-Republican perspective considered ‘weakness’. Rather, it is sees as ‘looking after the homeland’….and the Ukrainians must be permitted to fall to Putin’s invasion. A small federal government (until it can overtly, hubristically and unabashedly overturn Roe v Wade) has allegedly, ostensibly and obviously hypocritically, been at the centre of Republican politics for decades.

Human gender, sexuality, a woman’s right to choose, gender identity and the LGBTQ movement, so enraging to Putin and conservatives in many quarters, is also anathema to the trump cabal. Women, as American history has so often maintained have been officially excluded from the political arena, on the strength of some home-making, domestic ideal model, that carried with it an implicit bias of condescension to the female intellect. Suffragettes marched to secure the vote.

Every day the drum-beat of messages, messengers, polls, fund donors, Hollywood personalities, and even candidates for the Senate and the House urging President Biden to withdraw from the race and defer to his Vice-president, Kamala Harris.

Even Biden himself cannot prosecute the case for restoring access to medical abortion and all other health services to women as well as, or as convincingly as the Vice-president, should she become the democratic candidate for the presidency. Also, any attempt to do an ‘end-run’ around, or to bypass the Vice-president in favour of an open convention where she would compete with others, is a path littered with legitimate obstacles, both legal and political.

And so, now that Biden has been diagnosed with COVID, and has quarantined himself, and the Republican convention ends today, it would seem reasonable that Biden’s decision to withdraw could come this weekend, or certainly prior to the Democratic convention in Chicago on August 19-22.

A multi-racial, woman, former prosecutor in San Francisco, and former Attorney General of California could conceivably take the national stage as the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States, in a moment in which the stakes for many millions could not be higher. Women, people of colour, immigrants, refugees, students and teachers, the medical profession (fearful of engaging in any intervention around troubled pregnancies), recipients of social programs, the homeless, and all of the people living in nations which are members of NATO, the people of Ukraine, and the people of Taiwan.

And while the demographics, by isolating each group, of those who would be profoundly and negatively impacted by a trump-vance electoral victory, are wide and deep, the cultural ethos, the zeitgeist, the anima mundi of the nation would be transformed in ways that would require decades to recover from.

Try for a moment to square this circle of intention: Trump would decrease corporate taxes by some $700 billion while Vance lambasts Wall Street calling them ‘Wall Street barons’ who ‘crashed the economy,’ in an apparent reference to the 2008 financial crisis. That set off a spiral of lost jobs made worse by Democrats who ‘flooded this country with millions of illegal immigrants,’ (Vance) said. (from, in a piece by Nancy Cook, July 17, 2024, entitled, ‘Vance Assails Wall Street in Populist Pitch to Convention’)

Epitomizing the Horatio Alger mystique, Vance, describes his life in ‘rags-to-riches’ terms, while political opponents see the dark hand of silicone valley behind both his campaign for the Senate in Ohio and later, his selection as Vice-presidential candidate on the Trump ticket. From, in a piece by Daniel Klaidman, July 16, 2024, entitled, ‘The billionaire who fueled JD Vance’s rapid rise to the Trump VP spot’:

And big donors, particularly from the tech sector, provided the rocket fuel he needed to advance in electoral politics. Vance’s most prominent benefactor over the years is Peter Thiel, the iconoclastic pioneer and investor. Thiel hired Vance at his global investment firm in 2017, and then nurtured Vance’s political rise, donating $15 million to his 2022 Ohio Senate campaign….Since then, Vance has received entrée to other tech mega-investors and was instrumental in organizing a $12 million fundraiser for Trump in June….Thiel brought Vance to his very first meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in February 2021, according to the New York Times…..Thiel’s philosophy has been described as ‘techno-libertarian,’ but critics say it veers toward authoritarianism, and even fascism (he wrote in an article in a libertarian journal in 2009, ‘I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.’…Thiel helped bail out Trump financially at a time when he most needed it: after the release of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape. He gave $1.25 million, and shortly after Trump’s 2016 victory Thiel was given an office at Trump Tower where he recommended candidates for jobs in the incoming administration, according to The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman.

Not incidentally, it seems relevant to remind ourselves that Elon Musk, another of the Trump sycophants, has committed $45 million each month of the presidential campaign in support of the Trump-Vance ticket.

Tech-giants and their deep and libertarian pockets will certainly want favours for their financial support. And who knows what those will be, should the Trump-Vance ticket win in November.

Pitting the rights of women (and others), championed by a multi-racial female candidate against a male attitude of ‘cat-ladies’ at a time when the ‘alpha-male’ archetype is blazing in headlines about Putin, Trump, Xi, Kim, Benjamin, (and now Vance) will finally bring into stark relief the previously somewhat hidden issues of gender identity and place that relief in the faces of the American voters. Previously, shades of ‘evolved’ or ‘alpha’ masculinity hung silently over presidential elections. Hillary’s attempt to ‘shatter the glass ceiling’ fell short with complicity of men like James Comey, and of course, Trump himself who ‘stalked’ her in debate.

It is Vance who tells us that transgender is a ‘hatred’ of Putin, and thereby exposes his own prejudice and bias and undoubtedly that of others like DeSantis. Human rights, that detested volcano despised and arrested by authoritarians, with the not-so-silent applause from the trump team, is on the ballot, with democracy, liberty, truth, and the public square.

Can the now-beleaguered Democratic party and their ‘ticket’ for the presidency, as well as the ‘down-ballot’ candidates win just enough votes to hold the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives? The world is watching, while counting the beads of their preferred prayer ‘rosary’.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024 #65

The Monday morning after the attempted Saturday night massacre of the former, twice-impeached, convicted president leaves the U.S., Canada and the world in confusion, anger, ambivalence, fear, anxiety and bewilderment.

Nevertheless, let us first put aside any and all attempts to find false equivalences by conflating the words, actions, attitudes, beliefs and needs of the two presidential candidates. There was an open round of bickering between and trump campaign spokesperson and David Axelrod on CNN yesterday, after Axelrod invoked the January 6 insurrection as an example of the ethos of violence in the United States. Immediately, the trump sycophant jumped on his words: “You can’t tell me that what happened in this event is caused by the events of January,” (or words to that effect). “I didn’t say that…so let’s start to turn down the rhetoric by not putting words in my mouth!” retorted Axelrod. (again, or words to that effect).

And in that moment, the political rhetorical swords were unsheathed….again, and seemingly forever. This battle for the Oval Office, now indisputably elevated to what can justifiably be termed an epic and an existential battle for the future of the country, and to some extent, of the world is scheduled for a vote on November 5, and irrespective of the outcome, will extend protractedly months and years beyond.

All public voices, of political opponents, history scholars, ethicists, security strategists and tacticians, speak glowingly of ‘turning the temperature down’ on the rhetoric of violence. And yet, they and we all know that violent rhetoric, violent images, and apocalyptic images of the ‘end of democracy’ and take-over of oligarchy, the elimination of human rights, especially women’ s rights and the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens, as well as minority rights of blacks, Latinos, Indigenous, Jews, Muslims, have become the ingredients of politics. The ‘identification’ of politics (as if it were a person) is the zero-sum game, that dictates, in order for me/us/our side to win, you/them/the other side must be destroyed.

To weaponize, terrorize, demonize the enemy, however that enemy is perceived, conceived, imagined and pontificated, constitutes the heart-beat of war. And we have examples, in Ukraine, Gaza, and the political ‘killing fields’ of the American political landscape, that point to this demonization.

And in the ‘elevation’ of the rhetoric, and the concomitant emotional and threatening attitudes and the hardness of the convictions that sustain the elevation, one of the more hidden aspects of this flint-upon-flint hardness and coldness of the feelings and the tone of the debate is that the elevated ‘desire to transgress’ carries with it a kind of transcendence… James Hillman writes: Transgression as transcendence; lifted out of your circumstances, filled with the power or the ‘glamour,’ and in touch with the transcendent origin of the calling urge…..Iago (from Shakespeare’s Othello) made tragedy out of nothing—as if a sport, a game. (Hillman, The Soul’s Code, p. 235)

Of course, the national campaign for the Oval Office comprises much more than a sport or a game. One of the dynamics in all such political campaigns is the inevitable ‘vision’ and the adherence to it of the candidates. If the candidate identifies with the ‘vision’ and becomes so ‘invested’ in its reality and the need for its full execution, there is a danger of what psychopathology calls concretism. That is taking psychological events such as delusions, hallucinations, fantasies, projections, feelings, and wished as actually, literally, concretely real…..Megalomanic emperors, from Nebuchadnezzar and the Egyptian pharohs through the Roman rulers to Napolean and Hitler, construct in concrete what the daimon envisions. For this reason, megalomania haunts the actual architect—as the Bible warms with the Tower of Babel, which is not only about the origin of language but also about the megalomania inherent in all attempts to make concrete the grandeurs of fantasy, especially in architecture. Tribal peoples are usually careful to keep their sacred altars movable, their architecture vernacular, but their visions otherworldly. (Hillman, THE Soul’s Code, p. 240 and 242)

For this kind of concretism to exist and prevail, there is a kind of prevailing innocence that ‘permits’ and perhaps even extolls the vision. Hillman’s insight here seems cogent:

Innocence is America’s mystical cloud of unknowing. We are forgiven simply by virtue of not knowing what we do. To wrap ourselves round in the Good—that is the American dream, leaving place for the evil nightmare only in the ‘other,’ where it can be diagnosed, treated, prevented and sermonized about. A history of this habit of the heart has been exposed by Elaine Pagels (in her important study The Origin of Satan) as a disastrous, perhaps ‘evil’ essential, an inherent bad seed, in Western religious denominations, making obligatory as countermeasure their relentless insistence on ‘love’. A society that willfully insists upon innocence as the noblest of virtues and worships innocence at its altars in Orlando and Anaheim and on Sesame Street, will be unable to see any seed of any kind unless it be sugar-coated. Like Forest Gump eating chocolates and offering sweets to strangers before he ever looks into their eyes, stupid is indeed as stupid does. (Hillman, The Soul’s Code, p. 247-8)

The hardness, and the coldness and the deep and unrelenting conviction of a ‘vision’ renders both the vision and those whom the ‘vision’ holds tightly, in a place where rational evidence and argument will not penetrate. The critical parent of a ‘super-ego’ as self-righteous, absolutely-correct judge of such conviction only emboldens that conviction. Similarly, a co-dependent, pseudo-empathic dismissal of the ‘secret documents case’ against Trump is only going to fan the flames of the conviction of the ostensible ‘super-ego’ of the Democrats. The argument of ‘transparency’ put forward by Trump lawyers, to expose the presence of a Department of  (federal) lawyer present in the New York (state) fraud trial, is so demonstrably thin and specious as to be dismissible. Even a non-lawyer layman can see that the implications, evidence, and ethos of the New York trial would have implications for any other potential trial against the former president. And real-time knowledge, perceptions, and insights available inside the New York courtroom would be legitimate and necessary for any federal prosecution. Indeed, it would have been unprofessional NOT to have an observer in the New York coutroom.

Historian Tim Naftali, on CNN with Fareed Zakaria on Sunday morning, termed Trump ‘now a juggernaut’! Such a monumental image, while authentic and coherent only hours after the attempted suicide, only underlines the fantasy of invincibility, invulnerability and ultimately foreshadowed victory of Trump on November 5.

And any scenario in which such invincibility is moderated and reduced to a less transcendent and ‘unapocalyptic’ dimension, at this moment, may seem unpatriotic. Is it reall?

To have spent years painting the nation as a tragedy of violence, crime and victimizing of the American people, and telling them, “I alone can fix it!” while also repeatedly declaring, ‘They’re coming after you and I am standing in their way!” and “I am your retribution!” belies and defies any expression calling for national unity from the podium of the Republican National Convention.

E.G. From The Texas Tribune, March 25, 2023, in a piece by Robert Downen and William Melhado, entitled, “Trump vows retribution at Waco rally: ‘I am your warrior, I am your justice’…we read:

I am your warrior, I am your justice, ‘Trump said in a nearly 90-minute speech, most of it focused on perceived enemies and slights. ‘For those who have been wronged and betrayed…I am your retribution.

There is doubtless no person, especially one attending a Trump rally, who does not consider him/herself to have been wronged and betrayed. The agency of those betrayals, and those wrongs is different and unique for each person. Retribution, vengeance, in the form of ‘justice’ is a contamination of the whole concept of justice and a very veiled obscuring of the notion of the saviour.

And here is vortex in which the Christian notion of a personal saviour Jesus intersects with the secular, political, state determination to bring about a Christian society as an act of Christian discipleship. As a high-profile leader of the MAGA movement, Speaker Johnson, a devout, conservative ‘Christian’ on a podcast, Truth be Told,’ with his wife, as reported by, October 27, 2023:

Johnson said on the podcast that generations of Americans have falsely been told ‘religion has no place in the conversation.’ ‘People have been convinced wrongly that their religious viewpoint is not welcomes in the public square, not welcomed into the conversation, and not welcomes in even a discussion in class. And that’s not right. That’s not what the law says, ‘he said in the September 2022 episode. ‘It’s had a tragic effect because people are separating what is ‘religious’ with ‘real life.’ And that dichotomy was never intended by the founding fathers-it is a tragedy and it has made now a lot of people assume that religion is almost a bad word…..Some Democrats have signaled that the influence religion has on Johnson’s politics is troubling. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said in a post on X that Johnson’s speakership ‘is what theocracy looks like.’ ‘Speaker Mike Johnson? Anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-democracy. This is what theocracy looks like,’ Raskin wrote.

Whether overt or covert, the Christian right’s attempt to marry politics and their religion imitates Islam’s marriage of the two. ‘The Saudi Arabian constitution, for example, declares that it is the state’s duty to protect Islam and implement Shari’a. The result is a country where a typical year sees roughly 50 public beheadings, many for petty crimes such as marijuana possession, in accordance with strict interpretations of Shari’a.  (From, The Advantages of Mosque-State Separation, by Alexander Benard, January 29, 2008)

And whether the Christian ‘right’ in U.S. is competing amicably with, emulating, imitating or considering itself under threat from the surge in Muslim immigrants seems open to debate. What seems clear, however, is that the separation of church and state, as a foundational cornerstone of American governance, like the principle, ‘no man is above the law,’ is eroding, or disappearing.

Following the attempted assassination of the former president on Saturday, July 13, 2024. There are harrowing words, attitudes, perceptions and adulation being heard and reported from the Republican convention in Milwaukee on Monday, July 15, 2024. They include chants of  ‘king of kings and lord of lords.’ Also ominous is the CBC analysis from Alexander Panetta, July 15, 2024, in a piece entitled, ‘Quasi-religious figure’: Republican faithful celebrate Trump’s return’ from which we read:

In the euphoric early hours of this week’s Republican Convention, one delegate suggested chiselling Donald Trump’s likeness into America’s ultimate secular shrine: Mount Rushmore. Others looked beyond the secular. To some participants in Milwaukee, Wisc., this convention has transcended the realm of earthly political gathering, into something imbued with religious significance…..The convention was abuzz with talk of miracles. From the stage to eh hallways, attendees spoke of Trump’s survival as the produce of a divine plan for America. ‘There is so much energy (here) now,’ said Zina Hackworth, an attendee from the St. Louis area. ‘We actually see the hand of God has protected former president Trump.’….I believe that God wants Trump to bring the United States back to where it’s supposed to be,’ said Craig Basile, a 62-year-old Wisconsin man, after Sunday mass. Trump also described his survival as miraculous.

Are we witnessing the triumph of ‘transgression as transcendence’ in a nation wallowing in innocence, defiant and denying both old age and death, evil and megalomania? And if there is some grain of truth and reality to that potential, then how can such a complex brew of forces undergo its own exposure without the predictable backlash of venom that, again, defies truth and reality, lost in the exuberance of its ‘sanctity? And, even if fully exposed, can those who expose the fragility and the dynamic of its risks and dangers escape the promised ‘retribution’? 

Friday, July 12, 2024

cell913blog,com #64

In the most recent post in this space, I described the comparison of the archetype of the old man with that of a macho male who struts and acts and speaks in exaggerated, hubristic, hollow and highly deceptive and manipulative manner. Perhaps there is something else going on that seems to put air in the political wings of the twice-impeached, convicted felon, the former president.

Whether from the perspective of the Trickster god, Mercury, or the American iteration of the outlaw, there is a psychic ‘burr’ in both the “shoe” and the imagination of the American anima mundi at the core of American theatre and her body politic. This ‘trickster’ is unpredictable, irreverent, implausible, self-absorbed in his need for centre-stage, manic and irrepressible. He is the leader of those adolescent and/or young male gangs, the ‘shit-disturber’ among the ‘suits’ and the ‘parents’ and the self-righteous. He is the antithesis of politically correct, buttoned-down preppy. He is the imaginative energy of the adult outlaws who have served as a magnet in movies from the beginning.

 Robert Bly, in the Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, poems for men, in section One, Approach to Wildness writes:

Boys feel wild; they love their tree houses, the wild spots in the woods, they all want to go down to the river, with Huck, away from the domesticating aunts. Boys love to see some wildness in their fathers, so see their fathers dancing or carrying on. Some boys are so afraid that they will become domestic that they become savage, not wild…..Thoreau says, ‘In literature it is only the wild that tracts us. King Lear attracts us, the dervish, the Zen laugher. The civilized eye of man has become dulled, unable to take in the natural wilderness of the planet. Blake says, ‘The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy seam and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity, too great for the eye of man.’ Each of us wants to get in touch not so much with the harsh rebel, the self-destroying outsider, as with the beauty of what the Sufis call ‘Joseph,’ the round-faced trouble-maker. (op.cit. p.3-4)

Two of the more memorable lines to describe those self-inductees of the trump cult, come first from then-candidate Obama and later from candidate Hillary Clinton.

From The Guardian, April 14, 2008, in a piece entitled, “Obama angers Midwest voters with guns and religion remark,” Ed Pilkington writes:

Obama was caught in an uncharacteristic moment of loose language. Referring to working-class voters in old industrial towns decimated by job losses, the presidential hopeful said: ‘They get bitte, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.’ (His opponent, Hillary Clinton called the comments ‘elitist’.)

Ironically, Hillary fell into the same frustration only a few years later.

From Time, September 10, 2016 in a piece entitled Read Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Remarks about Donald Trump Supporters’ by Katie Reilly, we find these words:

Speaking at a fundraiser in New York on Friday, Hillary Clinton said half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a ‘basket of deplorables; characterized by racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic’ views. ‘You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, Rights?’ Clinton said. ‘The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

Link these remarks to remarks by then-president Obama at the National Press Club Dinner. As reported by Patrice Taddonio,, September 22, 2016 in a piece entitled ‘Inside the Night President Obama Took on Donald Trump:

It was April of 2011. For weeks Donald Trump had been fanning the flames of the ‘birther’ movement and attacking President Barack Obama on television-demanding that Obama produce his birth certificate, implying that he was not born in the United States, and questioning both his religious identity and the legality of his presidency.

And from, Meghan Keneally, in a piece entitled, President Obama’s Long History of insulting Donald Trump, November 10, 2016, reporting on the White House Correspondents Dinner, writes:

Obama noted that Trump was in the room and then went after him. ‘I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is prouder to put this birth certificate issue to rest, and that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell*? And where are Biggie and Tupac#?’ Obama said.

*The Roswell incident is a conspiracy theory which alleges that the 1947 crash of a United States Army Air Force balloon near Roswell, New Mexico was actually caused by an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

#Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were two rappers.

 (from They both were dedicated to exposing the truth of the tribulations of life on the streets, social injustice and the racial divide. But the biggest difference…: They represented different coasts. What exploded into arguable the biggest rivalry in music history, ended up in the death of both artists, just as their careers were skyrocketing. Tupac (also known as 2Pac) was gunned down on September 7, 1996, and died six days later while Biggie (also known as The Notorious B.I.G.) was shot and killed six months later on March 9, 1997.

Sarcasm, revenge, humour, and the social, political, intellectual and social-status divide of these words still hang over the political ethos of America. The disdain for the ‘outlaw’ as perceived and designated by the ‘mature’ adult in the room, (Hillary and Barack), nevertheless, points to a divide wider and deeper than the Red Sea divide in Exodus.

And while the words of both Clinton and Obama merely served as political theatre, the mountainous vesuvian eruption of the outlaw-trickster-megalomaniac continue to pose a threat for the nation and the world. Indeed trump’s own deep-seated revenge archetype may be one of the prime movers of his modus operandi.

The apparent fusion and conflation of the warrior-outlaw-trickster archetype under the orange-dome by a large segment of the American electorate comes as no surprise in a time when nuance is disdained as ‘ephemeral’ and ‘effete’ and ‘unmanly’ (remember George W. Bush’s ‘I don’t do nuance!’ uttered after he had to clean up his own, ‘I don’t think you can win it’ (The Iraq war).

Discerning between a healthy trickster with ‘wild imagination’ of a romantic youthful poetic imagination and the puer-outlaw-trickster-Nemesis (Greek God of Revenge) with devious, nefarious and corrupt motives and visions, however, is a task for critical, nuanced, sensitive and imaginative interpretation. The language, and the current ethos of the political theatre in the U.S. are both not only devoid of critical, nuanced, sensitive, imaginative words perceptions and approaches; they are disdainful of such an approach.

Try to imagine yourself as a self-respecting, thoughtful, sensitive, empathic and serious octogenarian standing a mere 8 feet away from this trickster under klieg lights, even with his microphone muted, while he shout inane crudities as you try to articulate some finely honed response to a serious question from either Jake Tapper or Dana Bash. That is, according to reports, what happened in the “debate” two weeks ago. trump knows and epitomizes the most devious, distracting, dissembling and bullying tactics and strategies of the trickster-bully. He is also shameless in how, when, where or under what pretenses these under-handed motives and methods must be deployed. This untrained, highly unsophisticated and belligerent, spontaneous, shameless cardboard cut-out of a shrill-huckster poses a serious challenge, for the media, for the political opponent, for the academic, and for the public. Presuming that the “Archetype of the deal” transacting a devious, deceptive and narcissistic business deal with innocent, poor and unschooled labourers, on some construction project in Manhattan were even a remote analogy to the complexities and nuances of the geopolitical games currently being played is an act of such blind and ignorant hubris that would put Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to shame. And then ‘selling’ that ‘junk-bond’ of a political caricature to an American voter in Michigan who truly believes that s/he has been screwed, left behind, ignored and dismissed by those effete ‘woke’ Democrats likely seems to evoke another layer of revenge: a vote for trump and his cult. It is not only a fear of old age, and the seduction of a papier-mache ‘puer’ image but also a deep-seated connection to the revenge God, in both trump and the electorate, that may seal the fate of any Democratic candidate for the presidency in this election.

However, just as we all have the capacity and the blindness to succumb to our own worst instincts, and to self-sabotage, so too does the nation have the capacity to sabotage itself, in its wild pursuit of revenge. The deeper the feeling and perception of emotional injury, (and hubris wounds easily and deeply), the more pronounced and profound and relentless is the motive and the pursuit of revenge.

One of the more myopic features of the anima mundi of the U.S. culture is that ‘personalizing’ is a key signature of that ethos. Personality, personalizing, personal ego, personal characteristics, personality awards, accomplishments, personal falls from grace….these are the stuff of both the tabloids and the mass culture. The notion of God is personalized in and through the name of Jesus, as if a ‘personal relationship’ is expected, required and fully embraced especially by many in the trump orbit.

And, as if to underline the primary archetypes that haunt the anima mundi, the ‘puer’ and the ‘trickster’ and the god of Revenge, Nemesis, all seem to have taken up permanent psychic residence in the atmosphere. And, whether consciously or unconsciously, it seems that a large segment of the American population ‘identifies’ with the  archetypal salad of these images, and identifies too with the ‘personalized image’ of the archetypes. Reason, facts, rational arguments, environmental crises, world events, overt undermining of the American institutional democracy by world leaders in their devious attempt to ‘elect trump….all of these highly important issues be damned. And the triumph of the intertwined  will of a vengeful narcissist with an angry vengeful mob has reduced what previously was considered honourable, respectable, reasonable debate of legitimate political opinions to a dialogue of the deaf.

The louder trump shouts inanities, and the judicial system pursues the charges against hi, the more enflamed are his sycophants; the more Biden attempts to ‘attack’ with his record of accomplishments, and his supportive media trumpet is value and worth, the more the trump numbers climb, as if all those supporters have turned off their hearing aids.

Summoning, even by a dream, the voices of Obama, Clinton, and even sports stars or movie stars in support of the Democratic ticket only seems to underscore the defiant rejection of anything resembling truth, facts, reason, and international co-operation.

For the first time in eight decades, this scribe is starting to lose sleep over the state of the relationship of the United States to/with the rest of the world.

Is anyone else experiencing sleep-loss? 

Thursday, July 11, 2024 #63

One of the problems with the Democrats waffling, stewing, fretting, and fussing about the future of President Biden’s candidacy, for the 2024 election is that it graphically pits indecision, waffling, stewing, fretting, and fussing as a way of operating up against a tyrannical, despotic, unthinking, testosterone-infested megalomaniac.

Irrespective of the personalities of both Biden and trump, their age and their policies, attempting to argue that ‘at least we take seriously our obligation as party members, especially in light of the threat to democracy posed by the trump cabal, too many of their numbers, based on their already-embedded enmeshment in the trump-cult, will cast aspersions of ‘weakness, indecision, untrustworthiness, and ‘wimpishness’ on the Democrats. House Republicans who are issuing subpoenas to the White House staff for misleading the country about the health and stability of the president, while on another goose-chase, nevertheless will garner a few seconds of air time, as well as a few headlines for their irascibility, petulance and pretentiousness.

And, the question of how to neutralize, dismiss, negate, and even counter the Republican lies, distortions, perversions, propaganda and the steam-roller of cash that funds their dissemination, haunts anyone and any group needing to accomplish that goal in order to defeat their nefarious, dangerous and contemptible campaign.

The more ‘bashing’ in and through the courts, through the media, through the political rhetorical attacks by Biden surrogates, that is ‘dished out’ to the trump threat, the more buoyant and uplifted and inflated are their polling numbers. It is almost comic if it were not so tragic. Ronald Reagan was dubbed the ‘teflon’ politician simply because ‘nothing negative seemed to stick to him or his reputation’.  This situation is different. All the reasonable evidence, even the promised expectations only partially contained in Project 2025’s Mandate for Leadership, including the absolute immunity promise by the Supreme (trump-sycophant) Court, the ad hominum attacks that spew from trump’s mouth almost hourly, the promised retreat from NATO, and the support for Putin, Xi, Kim, and whatever other dictator seems to catch his fantasy….none of these radioactive threats taken individually and certainly not collectively, seem to penetrate the minds or hearts of those millions promising to re-elect this political monstrosity.

Nor does the obviously indisputable conviction that feathering his own nest, reputation, bank account and legacy at the expense of both the nation and the people of the United States. And these observations, contentions and convictions are held not only in North America but also by world leaders around the world. They are deliberately, decisively and demonstrably taking overt (and covert?) steps to trump-proof their nations as a precaution in the face of his potential re-election.

America is, to the outside world at least, possibly also to many of their own citizens, experiencing what in the psychological realm would be termed an emotional melt-down. It is almost as if the “age” of Biden is the symptom at the core of the American psyche that the nation fears most. What is it about “age” that so arrests, arouses, and incites profound, existential fear, foreboding, angst and trauma among the American anima mundi?

To be sure, there are numerous and varied monumental, even epic threats facing the planet and its people. And yet, there has historically been a kind of resilience in the face of danger, threats and even catastrophes that has characterized the American response to those dangers. What is different about this moment in American history?

Seeing itself as a young, athletic, muscular, competitive, superstar, the very opposite of the ‘old man,’ perhaps has conditioned the nation to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and a defiant will to the point of being almost able to ‘deny’ the prospect its old age. Consciousness, too, in the form of a dominant sensibility to the literal, the empirical and the nominal perhaps has helped to seal the national psyche’s conscious conviction (almost like a religious belief) that it would never have to encounter the spectre of “old age”.

And yet, although there are serious differences between the model of “age” offered by trump (orange-dyed air (horrible hair), a ‘strutting gait, a diet of Big-Macs and Fries, a rotund swing, and a predisposition to party and philander, really the unadulterated puer!) and that offered by Biden, the former archetype is not only tolerated, but seemingly adulated, as if the nation sees it as a ‘rock-star’ unconsciously depicting itself as the adoring adolescent.

It is not only the literal task of neutralizing the lies, the deconstruction of democracy, and the danger posed to the stability of the international order that America has to ‘get passed’. More difficult, and perhaps more transformative, for its, and our, safe and secure future, is the re-framing of the inescapable truth of nature…that we do grow old. And that we can, and preferably will, do it gracefully.

Cliché bumper-stickers that read, “both are old; one is a felon,” unfortunately, do little to address the more complex and nuanced realities that wisdom with integrity, with maturity of judgement, with wells filled with relevant and applicable historic political, geopolitical and world-view memory, with circles of friends, allies, advocates and references, viewed through a lens of the mature adult, who comfortably balances his/her youth and age, easily discerns the comparative wealth of the one over the other.

For America to begin to transform the collective lens through which she witnesses, values, appreciates and honours the well-spring of care, insight, wisdom, judgement and stability that comes from the ‘senex’ archetype will not only change the way age is considered, valued and appreciated. It will also shift the way all persons are viewed. Whether the youth, (much more than athletic winners, scholarship winners, care-givers, and dependents) or the ‘old’….much more than economic and psychological drain on the family and the national budget….the very notion of the subtlety, nuance, complexity, and promise of all men and women can emerge from the shedding of these reductionistic cardboard cut-out depictions, characterizations and dismissals of whatever ‘image’  they find as a target for their presumed superiority.

Muscular, macho, masculine testosterone-infused libido, whether imagined in youth or old age is an archetype whose nefarious impact on American cultures (and others) has had mixed reviews. And its dominance is, thankfully, shifting, evolving, and the revised models of masculinity, while some are still clinging to the old  model. And as an integral component of the global leadership in this tectonic shift in both tolerance and elevation of a new series of masculinities, this election brings with it the potential to have a seismic impact on world developments.

The alpha male, as embodied (if only in fantasy) by Putin, trump, Kim, Xi and Orban, is a receding global archetype. Trouble is, that as it fears extinction, like a caged, rabid and diseased animal, it is thrashing about in the last throes of existence, the “Cheyne-Stokes breathing” pattern. And while those last panting’s of a dying archetype still cling to whatever illicit means of retaining power, we are all subject to their most dangerous fantasies.

To embrace the middle ground in between the ‘puer and the senex’ for America, is a path within reach of both its best angels and its moderate, mature, “middle”. That segment of the population has never been seduced by the rantings of an outlaw, nor the fantasies of its hallucinators. The world stands at a kind of precipice, over which trauma and fear raise their heads.

Stepping back, taking deep breaths, and beginning to chat over the back fences, the coffee-shop tables, and the pub-counters with those to whom we have not spoken in decades, would offer a first step to safety, security and stability.

The psychic archetypes notwithstanding, readjusting the lens through which we ‘see’ ourselves, as we age, without losing either our hope or our energy, is not only a step to our own well-being. It can be an even more significant step to the nation’s healing.

And not in the medical, quick-fix, medication model. This is a process that will take considerable time, patience and self-awareness. And it might involve the lifting of blinders, so that the horse-race is not the only thing that is important. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2024 #62

 After reflecting on the cabal of the current right-wing Republican candidate and party, and posing the question of whether ‘any voice’ can counter its zealotry, it is time to put the Democratic ‘mess’ under our lens.

A tragically fumbled opportunity in a 19-minute mental circuit-breaker performance, by president Biden, ostensibly explained by Biden’s statement, ‘even though his mic was closed, he kept yelling at me and I let him distract me,’ (words to that effect), and a surfeit of backstories that his mental acuity has been questioned for some time, none of his ‘personal’ condition can negate or escape the global reality that the world seems to be facing multiple crises, which, taken together, seem to many to comprise an existential crisis of epic proportions.

The initial furor around the debate debacle, now, 10 days after the event, seems to have subsided, at least so long as the NATO conference is in session in Washington. A few days of reprieve for Biden, or a change of the ‘channel’ remains an unanswered question. Given the zeitgeist of the country, anxious, worried, somewhat fearful and certainly uncertain, and the gargantuan volume and hatred of the trump cult, people like Richard Hass are unlikely to be persuaded that Biden is the best Democrat to lead to a defeat of trump and his evil.

And there is a flag of note in the concept of the trump evil. Odious thug, he is without doubt. And yet, he also gives voice to the deepest, darkest, and most unsettling instincts of, not only America, but also of each of us. On the political, geopolitical, historical, and philosophical lexicons, we speak of ‘oligarchy’ versus democracy, or tyranny versus personal freedom and rights. From the psychological lexicon, we speak of man’s coming face to face with his/our/my/your worst, most despicable and dangerous instincts. Today, it is inconceivable to think only of Putin, or Russians, Xi or the Chinese people, Kim or the people of North Korea, or the ayatollah or the people of Iran as exclusively the loci of evil. And any conflation of evil into those names, as either a conscious or unconscious denial of our own capacity for, harbouring of, imagining of evil within our psyche, not only refuses to dispel its power and threat, but actually heightens the potential for evil to reach up and grab us by our collective throat.

And while Biden and the Democrats are determined to define the presidential race in ‘good versus evil’ terms, we all know, (not merely cognitively but in our ‘gut’) that such a binary depiction, analogous to the clarity of the cartoonist, the satirist, the prophet, serves to simplify the choice for voters, while at the same time, blinds him/her, for the moment of the decision to the multiple and more complex and far less readily reducible to the binary issues we all face.

America, herself, is not without a history of the darkest impulses known to humanity, as are all the other nations in the world. America, however, seems to have developed, nurtured and sustained a ‘rose-coloured eye’ that, as integral to her embrace of idealism, patriotism, exceptionalism, all of this moving toward a ‘more perfect union,’ serves also to diffuse, deflect and deny her darkest instincts. The ‘high road’ of aspirational rhetoric, (Reagan’s beacon on the hill) cannot and will not, however, completely erase the darkest personal, psychic, or national instincts.

Indeed, a thunderous, vacuous, hollow, intractable, irreverent and despotic voice, such as the disconnected larynx of trump, has done, and predictably will continue to do, two things simultaneously: arouse the ire, zealotry and frenzy of his cult, and deepen the anxiety, fear, neurosis and depression of his political opponents. Both sides are giving voice, within their party, to both their highest ideals and their worst fears. And, taken together, while the public consciousness concentrates on the ‘divide’ between what is depicted as ‘good’ (Democratic) versus ‘evil’ (Republican), and both sides depict their opponent as embodiment of evil, each side is trapped in both the language and the perception of fear. And the way ‘fear’ is depicted for each side is identified, embodied in, and circumscribed by the other.


The essential ingredients, even the definition of  democracy as the contention of relative merits of opposing ideas, policies, perceptions, approaches and the presentation of arguments, including both rational and emotional ‘pitches’ have been trashed, as the darkest fears, and the language, and personification of those fears (in the ‘other’) now strut into the political, rhetorical, psychological coliseum of the gladiator of the psyche. No longer is the political defeat of the opponent defined by, or restricted to, his political defeat at the polls. Only his ‘political death’ can satisfy this current conflict.


The moderation, rational, professional respect and consideration both for the facts on the ground facing the nation and thee ability, integrity, respect and honour of the opponent have both suffered the ignominy of ‘war’ in which the first casualty is truth. Senator Moynihan’s ‘you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts,’ has atrophied on the battlefield (altar?, funeral pyre? stock exchange?) of what has become scorched earth rhetorical and psychological war to the death.

In such a ‘black-and-white’ dichotomy, not only is the voter demeaned, insulted and dismissed. So too are the basic premises, ideas, structures, institutions and all public trust in those previously ‘revered’ at best, and ‘agreed’ at least, entities, taken together, the sine qua non of democracy and the rule of law. Attempting to replace those foundational entities by and through the imposition of a personality cult is the very definition of despotism.

Whether Biden and his Democratic friends are able to mount a ‘case’ to depict a future that envisions the restoration of respect, honour, dignity and integrity to both the institutions and the people charged with the representation and leadership of their best intentions, or not, seems almost as overwhelming as the vision of a reconstructed Kyiv or a rebuild Gaza.

Indeed, the political landscape of the United States, at this moment, seems appropriately analogous to those devastated geographic and political landscapes. Just this morning, a children’s hospital was demolished by another Putin missile, as if to thumb his nose at the NATO conference convening this morning in Washington. It is that exaggerated and incorrigible and seemingly intractable expression of evil that the world not only cannot comprehend, nor can it tolerate. The very notion that an American presidential candidate proudly identifies with, champions and nurtures such profound and despicable evil, brings the inevitable face-to-face confrontation with ‘evil’ itself, into every American, Canadian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Iranian, and German, French, Italian and all other nations’ living rooms.

Formerly, public rhetoric spoke, wrote and cowered at the thought of nuclear holocaust, as the ‘end of humanity’….and Hiroshima, Nagasaki together provided a physical, historic and sensate encounter with the spectre of nuclear devastation. Today, images of the ‘apocalypse,’ long considered merely a poetic, irrational, surreal and thereby dismissible mist on the consciousness of humanity, surround us hourly. Fires, floods, wars, hurricane, rising record-breaking temperatures are colliding with a withering, overwhelmed, confused, frightened and seemingly despondent political, intellectual, rational, scientific, economic and even a psychological capacity to comprehend, and to begin to address a future so threatening as to be debilitating. And the collision is a threat to all of us.

For Biden, at this moment to abandon his “attack, attack” modus operandi in the face of the personal, political and existential (politically) headwinds he faces, would be unthinkable. However, in his position as president, if he were to recover from this latest threat to his political ‘life,’ he has a significant opportunity to begin the process of public, conscious, even heroic acknowledgement of the presence of, the inevitability of and the inscrutable power of the darkest instincts in each and everyone of us, including also all of the institutions, including especially thleaven e religious entities. Only if and when we begin to countenance our personal, social, political, economic, psychological, and theological and ideological ‘evil’ as a shared yeast to leaven our inflated, exaggerated, and overwhelmed “ego” both on the personal and the national levels, can and will we come to our senses within the United States, and around the world.

This is no panacea, promulgated by some “bo-hunk scribe from podunckville”. This prospect, coming from both personal shame, sorrow and the tragedy of self-sabotage and the perspective of intuition that such shame and sorrow are not exclusive to a single individual. Climbing ‘down’ from the literalist interpretation and dogmatic injection of ‘having dominion over the earth’ not only to a kind of environmental stewardship of creation, but also to a clear acceptance, tolerance and embrace of our personal, conscious and unconscious darkest instincts, as integral and essential components of a universe whose complexity, like our own, has been barely unpacked.

We are all intimately connected to each other, not only through our genetic framework, but also through our hereditary legacies from civilizations long ago left to the historic archives for scholars. Human history, a complex trail of narratives of empirical data and surprisingly mysterious, numinous, and imaginative dreams, fantasies, perceptions, ghosts, and voices, images, none of which come from our ‘will’ or our consciousness, or our cognition tends to suggest that our empirical fixations, and the reductionisms to which our shared political fortunes have succumbed, are insufficient.

We need a new myth, a far more life-giving and sustaining story to hitch our wagon to than the basic heroic myth of conquering, defeating and decimating our enemies….given that our enemies have gained the ascendancy in our own house.

The terror of ISIS, the terror of Hamas, Hezbollah, the invasion of Putin, and the hatred of humanity embodied in the political ideology and rhetoric of trump and his cabal seem as if they are conceived in the same part of the human psyche that accompanies each of us, from a psychological perspective. And if we are going to be strong and determined sufficiently to face ourselves, we have to re-consider our fixation on the empirical, without abandoning its relevance, significance and import. Any new and life-embodying myth has to rise above the vision of a metanoia on the level of morals and ethics. And in order to reach down to that ‘truth’ we will have to sacrifice our invincibility, our vulnerability and our historic, male-dominated, heroism.

And there is no politician currently on the world stage who more integrally and authentically embodies that sacrifice.

Can we hear, see, and embrace the sacrifice?

Saturday, July 6, 2024 #61

 In the previous post, the word theocracy* appeared, as a metaphor for the direction implicit in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity on July 1, 2024. The overturning of Roe v Wade, a central position of the Christian (Roman Catholic) church from the beginning. Waiting, strategizing, planning and elevating composition of the Supreme Court, in and through the nominations available to various Republican presidents, by Republican politicians, has proven to be both an energizing campaign issue, and finally a political/religious/legal victory.

However, it is not only the single issue of a woman’s right to choose, control over her body, as the liberal position puts it, that indicates a sharp turn to the political right over the last half century. Capturing the Republican party, by trump and his acolytes, through multiple messages, images, rhetorical phrases, and the pyramidal hierarchical structure so endeared by Republicans, the military, and especially the church, in which power is centred in bishops, and the pope at the top of the hierarchy has provided a central archetype of power and authority in a political and economic and legal culture that is, in a word, atrophying, eroding, perhaps even dissolving.

 In that same American culture, also, is a deeply embedded archetype of competition, dominance, specialness, superiority, hubris, and its Siamese cousin, personal, organizational, corporate, academic, athletic, scientific and all forms of empirically/extrinsically-driven ambition, motivation, comparison and intense, if self-sabotaging ‘ego-drivenness’. ‘Drive’ has characterized the American cultural landscape from the beginning. Indeed, this drive has also a religious component. Americans have been inculcated into a notion that their nation is ‘founded’ on God, and specifically, the Christian God.

Borrowing from a piece in by Jeff Schweitzer, formerWhite House Senior Policy Analyst, PhD in neurophysiology, February 26, 2015 entitled: ‘Founding Fathers: We are not A Cristian Nation’

 Although John Adams, one of the founders wrote, ‘The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion,’….As we witness yet again the brutal and bloody consequences of religious intolerance in the form of ISIS, we have a majority of Republicans pining for a Christian America. Proponents of converting the United States into a theocracy do not see the terrible parallel between religious excess in the Middle East and here at home, but they would not because blindness to reason is the inevitable consequence of religious zealotry. Conservatives who so proudly tout their fealty to the Constitution want to trash our founding document by violating the First Amendment in hopes of establishing Christianity as the nation’s religion. This is precisely what the Constitution prohibits……How terribly ironic that the louder Christians protest against the excesses of Islam, the more they agitate for Christian excess. If there should be any doubt, let us listen to the founding fathers themselves. This from Thomas Jefferson in an April 11, 1823 letter to John Adams:

‘The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. …But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this scaffolding.’

These are not the words of a man who wishes to establish a Christian theocracy. Jefferson promoted tolerance above all and said earlier that his statute for religious freedom in Virginia was ‘meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.’ He specifically wished to avoid the dominance of a single religion.

Schweitzer continues: Note that the power of government is derived not from an god but from the people. No appeal is made in this document (Declaration of Independence) to a god for authority of any kind. In no case are any powers given to religion in the affairs of man.

 American founding fathers and their ‘documents’ were written to appeal to a European-born audience who were very familiar with the ‘divine right of kings’.

From Divine Right of Kings, in European history, a political doctrine in defense of monarchical absolutism which asserted that kings derived their authority from God and could not therefore be held accountable for their actions by any earthly authority such as parliament. Originating in Europe, the divine-right theory can be traced to the medieval conception of God’s award of temporal power to the political ruler, paralleling the award of spiritual power to the church. By the 16th and 17th centuries, however, national monarchs were asserting their authority in matters of both church and state.

 Here it is relevant to recall the Islamic view of the relationship between church and state. From

Islam is the most common state religion, but many governments give privileges to Christianity. More than 80 countries favor a specific religion, either as an official, government endorsed religion or by affording one religion preferential treatment over other faiths…..Islam is the most common government-endorsed faith, with 27 countries (including most in the Middle East-North Africa region) officially enshrining Islam as their state religion.

 It is neither insignificant nor irrelevant  to remind us here that the turbulence of the 21st century, historically marked by the 9/11 attack by ISIS on the United States, corresponds with the cataract of digital technology, social media and the ascendance of the binary, literal, empirical, data-driven consciousness. Spreading as fast as keypads are typed, words, ideas, propaganda, recruitment campaigns, ideological, religious, and scientific insights in a fabricated ‘cloud of bytes’ both literally and metaphorically, now envelop the planet. Two mental constructs dominate: a) competition in a binary, zero-sum universe, and b) where all questions are reduced to an either/or moral righteousness. And, in America, where some Republicans have pursued their moral, religious, spiritual, political dream of a Christian nation, competing directly and indirectly with Islam, as a rising tide of Muslim immigrants and refugees pours over national borders on all continents, it seems that Islamic zealotry must be matched by Christian zealotry, in order to ‘protect us from the Muslim hordes’.

 Fear of being ‘over-run’ by the ‘other’ is not unique to the U.S. In decades past, in another life, after enrolling our daughters in French immersion classes, my family was harangued by frightened teachers who predicted that I would lose my job as an English instructor when the ‘French horde’ took over. So great was the neurosis that an organization under the rubric, APEC (Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada) undertook to combat the rise of the teaching of French ‘Immersion’ in formally unilingual English secondary schools in Ontario, Canada. The deep and indelible instinct to ‘preserve’ whatever has been inculcated into the culture, as a sine qua non of all religions, spills over into a ‘conservative mentality’ in the secular culture.

And change, all forms of change, like impending weather forecasts, brings a rise in the personal anxiety meter. Given a human comfort in looking ‘in the rear-view mirror’ historically and an anxiety about an unknown and untested ‘future’ of change, humans often seek refuge from their fear.

 Predictably amid chaos, ordinary people turn their eyes, ears, and hearts and minds to symbols, images, and structures that emanate security, stability, righteousness, dominance, and salvation….and the essential method of the trump cabal has been and continues to be to generate as much chaos as conceivable. Indeed, one trump campaign official is quoted today, July 4, 2024, on CNN as saying “our best friend is chaos!” The chaos generated by the trump cabal continues to be supplemented by a series of environmental disasters, fires, droughts, tornados, none of which Republicans have any interest in ameliorating, especially knowing that the more cells of chaos that the people have to contend the more likely is their political success.

 The ‘insurrection’ of January 6, 2021, and the ensuing turbulence over how and when to prosecute the perpetrators, as well as the former president, continues to hang over the 2024 campaign, offering the picture of ‘hanging all the dirty national laundry out for all to see’….The lies spewing from his mouth have soured, despoiled and toxified the political rhetoric and twisted the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of millions who continue to announce to any available microphone that they are definitely going to vote for trump. Following Steve Bannon’s address to conservative Catholics in the Vatican (see blog #60 in this space), we have watched the party surround the former president by a protective and growing moat of political, financial, and most tragically, a sycophant Supreme Court, three of whose ‘jurists’ he appointed, while maintaining at least a 35-40% hold on Republican voters. The tragic conundrum of the millions of rabid, fanatic, frenzied followers, seized by a religious zealotry poses a serious problem for both institutions of government and especially the media.

 Government bureaucrats, lawyers, accountants, and scholarly experts have all been trained in rational thought, the search for evidence, data, and the critical process of interpretation of that data. Similarly, trained journalists, historians, social critics, professorial pundits have all been steeped in what the French call ‘formation professionelle’…the disciplines of their academic field.

 The trump cabal disdains all academic disciplines as ‘woke’ and/or dangerous (example, deploring Critical Race Theory and thereby erasing the racial history of the nation from school curricula), the gutter vernacular, the contempt for veterans, the dismissal of COVID 19, the disregard of governmental regulations, norms and conventions. Nevertheless, they are co-dependent on the religious battalion that provides the emotional, rhetorical and outlandish headlines for the movement. It is their zealotry and how to ‘cover it’ that challenges the experience of professional messengers’ to interpret its profound venom.

 Religious passion, within the church, (certainly at least the Christian church) knows no bounds. Those infected by religious fanaticism are so overtaken by the righteousness and the absolutism and the fire of their convictions, that they become hateful monsters. They are convicted of the notion that  they are ironically and existentially doing “God’s work” in the deepest recesses of their hearts, minds and bodies. Whatever it takes to ‘win for God’ is whatever they are committed to enact, irrespective of the repercussions.

 It is not only ‘hot-button’ issues like ‘abortion’ and its abolition to which they are committed. The cauldron of right-wing politicos with deeply conservative Christian nationalists, many of whom have been secretly campaigning for decades for a total rejection of liberal values, policies, practices, attitudes, and the political actors who espouse such views. The very structure, size, ‘alleged incompetence’ and culture that believes and embodies the notion that government exists to support and uplift the weakest among the population is viewed as contemptible and must be overthrown and replaced with a salad of white supremacy, oligarchic unified executive, and a bureaucracy that easily and compliantly bends to and accedes to the will of the ‘saviour’….another of the borrowed ‘religious’ symbols from Christianity.

 The fervour, intensity, indeed the venomous passion of these ‘crusaders’ for their cause to bring the kingdom of God to the United States as they conceive it, from all evidence, appears to have no limits. And the long-standing ironic notion that “God has chosen, not a perfect but a highly imperfect man to lead this crusade, comports with a legendary concept within the church that the morality and spirituality of one who conducts the mass does not tarnish, or diminish the sacredness, holiness and purity of the ritual.

 There is a ‘fire’ in their belly that not only defies reason, truth, character, policy and institutional integrity. The current ‘puppet’ of this cabal, the former president, is obviously so personally needy and weak that he ‘rides’ two converging waves of emotional intensity: his own psychic hollowness and the right-wing anger, hatred, contempt, vengeance and victimhood.

The ’christian’ (fanaticism) of the politically conservative far-right has compromised, defamed and decimated all of the many legitimate, authentic and integrous theological legacies of the ecclesial tradition, as they hide behind its religiosity, while also allying themselves with the political archetype of saviour/tyrant. The two-headed archetypal monster, the bully-victim, has reared its head and its voice….Can any other voice compete?

 *theocracy: Greek word meaning government by God. ‘A theocracy is a state that is governed that derives its authority directly from a religion, usually invoking the authority of a religious deity and basing their laws on religious texts.’