Monday, December 17, 2012

When is America going to wake up to its own Shadow?

In the introduction to his (1974/1992) book, The Liberated Man, Warren Farrell writes these words:
(Feminism's) impact became so pervasive exactly because it attacked so many fronts simultaneously. It became, by the 1990's, like a bacteria in our water: we drank it unknowingly--both the good bacteria and the bad.
What was feminism's "bad bacteria"--or shadow side? Feminism's shadow side was that it only saw men's shadow side. It was blind to both the shadow side of women and the light side of men. It could identify the "glass ceilings" that excluded women but was blind to the "glass cellars" that trapped man (e.g., the coal mines and construction sites that result in 94% of all workplace deaths occurring to men.) It could label men as "deadbeat dads," but be unconcerned about "manipulative moms"--those mothers who prevent their children from seeing their dads and then tell their children their dads don't want to see them. It could protest men's use of women as sex objects but ignore women's use of men as success objects--even as the Gloria Steinems, Jane Fondas and Mia Farrows have their relationships with the rich and the famous (not the househusbands and the elementary school teachers).
Feminism's deeper shadow was its propensity to sell the theme of women-as-victim and man-as-perpetrator. By 1991 the theme had been sold so well that Newsweek reported that half of the 250 made-for-television movies portrayed women as victims and men as perpetrators (addicts and incest perpetrators, sadists and sociopaths, child molesters and wife abusers, pornographers and rapists.) (From Harry Waters, "Whip Me, Beat Me and Give me Great Ratings"..Newsweek, November 11, 1992.) Rarely were men portrayed as victims of the female versions of violence (contact killings, false charges of sexual abuse during custody battles, false charges of rape during teen years, poisoning of husbands, denial of visitation...) When they were, the viewer was allowed to see how the woman's background made her a victim and therefore made the abusive behavior at least worthy of sympathy. The man's abusive behavior was almost never seen as worthy of sympathy due to his life's traumas. (pp.xxvii)
Once the pattern of sympathy for the plight of women,  and the scorn of men, was deeply embedded in the American (and Canadian and North American) culture, that message became ineradicable, permanent. And its legacy is still with us.
Just as the feminist movement failed to acknowledge its own Shadow, so too the United States culture has failed to recognize its Shadow, especially since the terror attacks of 9/11.
Failing to acknowledge the depth of its fear, its embarrassment, and its paranoia, the U.S. immediately, or too soon, opened military conflict with a dictator and country with no connection to 9/11, as if to prove that, no matter the evidence, it was time for the U.S. to take bold action, if for no other reason than to demonstrate to its people that it could, and if revenge were part of its motive, then so be it. Saddam Hussein and the people of Iraq were as good a target as any. Likewise the people of Afghanistan were another "military target" for the public reason that the terrorists were reported to have incubated their movement, their training and their over-arching strategy in that country. Bombs, drones, hundreds of thousands of personnel were deployed in both theatres of war, albeit in two or three installments, surges and the like, but nevertheless, for the last decade plus, the American people have been at war, longer than any war in American history previously.
Thousands have been killed, or maimed, taken their own lives, suffered divorce and alienation from their homeland, their jobs and any prospects of reasonable employment, not to mention lack of access to reasonable and deserved treatment. All the while the flag has been flying and the drums and brass bands playing and marching, there has been a steady parade of coffins into Delaware, in stealth under the Bush administration and under Obama, more openly.
Back home, there has been another war...against drugs, those illegal and dangerous non-prescription drugs like cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines all of the drug trade based on an insatiable appetite of AMERICANS for painkillers, for consciousness-deadeners, for trips into lah-lah-land in order to escape the reality that confronted them on their city streets, where violence was raging, often against young boys and young men, and often too somehow enmeshed in the drug traffic.
When Americans looked to their lives following high school, if they were not interested in or qualified for college or university, they often chose the military for the opportunity of a "trade," some excitement and also weapons training. While there was a form of discipline inside the military establishment, when these men and women, (and the trend line goes all the way back to Vietnam) returned to civilian life, they brought back experiences of military discipline that was both harsh and completely inappropriate to life on civilian street, but even less appropriate for parenting. Nevertheless, the military experience was the only one many Americans knew, outside of their own family of origin.
Washington lies about the purpose and meaning of the Iraq war especially, nevertheless seriously undermined the needed trust of the people in their elected representatives. Link these lies, and the military initiatives they spawned  to the drug wars, the racial profiling, the proliferation of guns, the newly minted video games imitating, without consequence, the battle scenes of the real soldiers in the war theatres, so that everyone "could be part of the action"....and then in 2008, more American fear and paranoia that spawns more lies in the form of credit defaults, bundled mortgages sold to financial service companies around the world, generated by math PhD's whose bosses did not even know how to explain or understand what they were doing and the instruments they were concocting, and you have an extremely toxic soup, all of it dependent on American hubris, denial of doing anything amiss, and perpetrating its ravages both at home and around the world.
Churches imitated greedy and money-driven corporations, in fear of their own demise, thereby ignoring their responsibility for pastoral care, bent on cheap publicity yet failing even to attend community prayer services, like the one following the massacre at Columbine high school in Colorado. Male leadership, too often, fell victim to the propaganda that was referred to above from Warren Farrell, bowing to the pressure of women who demanded "special status" for themselves, as the price for "levelling the playing field"....and the blind hubris continued, among the male corporate leadership, believing all the while, that America was and is a "christian" nation, blind to the gospel's guidance that "vengeance is mine, says the Lord," and "loving your enemy" which we had all been taught was at the core of the christian faith....
Seems that need for power, especially in the face of embarrassment and attack "on the very soil of America" for the first time in history, trumped mightily any thoughtful, reasoned and balanced approach to the Islamic radical terrorists, the drug gangs, and the financial services sector, not to mention the tragic and dramatic slippage of the American education establishment's achievements, when compared with the rapidly growing accomplishments of the rest of the world.
When will the American society, body politic, Washington establishment, the scandal-driven and scandal-obsessed media, the Hollywood movie, television and video-game producers begin to realize their obsessive, Shadow-driven and Shadow-embedded pursuit of cash and personal power in the face of a growing reality of powerlessness? It continues to wreak havoc on the children   in every movie theatre, recreation room, joy-stick-driven computer screen and hard drive,
and that the models of "success" whether male or female are mere "objects" of envy and pursuit by those unable to discern the real from the virtual.
Thousands have  been murdered in America's blind pursuit of the appearance of power and material wealth (advertising itself as the champion of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) whether on the formal battlefields of Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or on the streets of Chicago, the library and cafeteria of Columbine, the military base at Fort Hood, the campus of Virginia Tech, the shopping mall in Portland, and now, the most innocent and undeserving of the victims, at Sandy Hook School in Newtown Connecticut....
When is America going to wake up to face its own Shadow?

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