*(Scylla, the six-headed monster that threatens ships by grabbing heads of sailors; Charybdis, the whirlpool that sucks ships to the bottom….both in the Greek Mythology story of Odysseus.)
First, Hillary Clinton tried to position herself as the “righteous” alternative to trump, way back in the presidential campaign of 2016. And now, James Comey, fired Director of the FBI, is taking on the reprehensible, “unfettered to reality,” “morally unfit for office,” winning candidate in that presidential election.
The country, among other things is being “treated” to another morality drama, of the kind that have been surfacing for centuries in theatres all over the world. While there is reason to concur with Comey on his “verdict” that impeachment would be too easy and would let the American electorate off from their catastrophic error in judgement (in electing trump) and that a more transformational turfing from office through the 2020 ballot would serve the long term interests of the nation, many will continue to pursue the impeachment option. The ratings, and the emotional ups and downs of the impeachment highway are simply to delicious to be sacrificed to the Comey ‘principle’.
Principles and laws, rules and regulations, including the armies deployed to secure and sustain their legitimacy, clearly have a significant place in any civilized society. Reprobates, and even anarchists like trump, it is argued, would run amok without legal restraint. Churches of all stripes have based their very existence and their protracted history on the preservation of a kind of moral and ethical foundation, based on some sacred communication from some deity. Adherence to these principles, in many cultures, including church attendance, support and prosletyzing of their “saving” theologies also seems to enhance the personal reputation and social standing of individuals, both clergy and laity. Somehow, it seems, if one has a church affiliation, one is seen to be more trust-worthy, more authentic, more decent and respectable, and more honest. In a parallel manner, libraries are filled with books that argue, also convincingly, that people who do not even believe in or countenance a deity of any kind can and do live highly ethical and moral lives.
Much of public discourse, perhaps naturally, focuses on the basic question of whether leaders, policies, practices, regulations and their implementation are ethical/moral/just/legitimate/authentic. Righteousness, somehow inextricably enmeshed with the “good life,” is seen to be highly valued by a large seam of the cultural rock formations. And if ever there were an embodiment of righteousness, it is James Comey. Finding and uttering the legal justifications for moral positions (torture, interrogation, loyalty) has been his signature even since that burglary his adolescent home incurred, thereby enhancing his perception of the fragility of life. The injection of both reality (the break-in) and the accompanying anxiety has undergirded his biography since that fateful day. Based on the finely tuned, nuanced and highly disciplined arguments, made in the Oval Office under presidents Bush and Obama, prior to trump, and even in the hospital room (by his presence) of John Ashcroft, then Attorney General, along with the successful prosecution of crime bosses in New York, and elsewhere, Comey’s reputation, on both ends of the political ideological spectrum, is quite literally “platinum”.
If there is a higher (more valuable) “metal” to connote his moral, ethical, and legal exemplary reputation, who knows what it is? And, in the contemporary world of the political arena, there is little argument about his personal reputation. Needless to say, also, the nation, including all of the thousands of students, those in law and in other professions, has benefited significantly from the Comey interpretation and application of the “law and the constitution”. Role models serve an important purpose in American society.
Having said all of that, however, it is also important to add that rules, regulations, laws, and their implementation and enforcement depend on the most sound judgement of those engaged in the process. Not all laws are enforced with a measured, reasonable and legitimate force; not all laws even deserve to be enforced with the kind of nuclear energy that others require. Not even all laws are as worthy and legitimate as others; some even are so heinous as to warrant removal from the list of those currently in force. The full comprehension of the complexities of the context, linked to the most sensitive and courageous and sustainable judgement of those in law enforcement, will still not guarantee a “fair” application and implementation of those laws that are legitimate. There is a kind of super-imposed legitimacy to the empirical, the linear, the immediate and the often superficial aspects of the situation in too many instances. Attached to that “halo” of the sacred, is a public figure like James Comey, (and obviously many others). The “rule of law” must have its corroborating, supporting and sustaining heroes.
Nevertheless, what comprises objectivity is often little more than the subjectivity of those in power, skewed in the direction of their own unconscious leanings. Whether Comey injected his personal subjective judgement on the potential outcome of the 2016 election into his decision to “investigate” (again) the Clinton emails or not, is just another example of the dangers of such an infusion, especially an infusion that is unconscious.
Underlying all of the many complex processes and perceptions that go into the writing of laws, as well as their interpretation, implementation and enforcement, are the anxieties of those writing the words, debating their relative importance, voting on their passage, and interpreting and enforcing those words. And anxieties, as we all know so well, both from our personal lives and from the abounding evidence in the public theatre, flow like a raging underground river through all of our perceptions, expressions, relationships, and activities, both domestic and professional. Politicians write only those laws they deem to be the sine qua non of their potential electoral victory in the next election. Those climbing the career ladders of the law enforcement hierarchy, too, have a peculiar tendency to interpret and to enforce those laws that have the greatest potential of attracting the stamp of approval of their political masters.
And then there is Comey, seemingly a man unalloyed with the normal human vulnerabilities, especially that of subjectivity, in the “prosecution” of his law enforcement roles, in New York, in Virginia, and latterly in the F.B.I. To confront presidents, on their own turf, in the Oval Office, depends on a strength of both conviction and will that cannot be denied. In fact, such “character” is legitimately considered exemplary, especially in a political context in which adherence to law, truth, decency, integrity and honour is nearly totally missing.
However, as has become quite evident in the vindictive and scathing accounts of his conversations with trump, Comey is not without a reservoir of rancour, bitterness, and contempt.
And while such emotions are legitimately shared with millions who agree that trump is unsuited for the presidency, Comey’s personal attacks undermine not only his own “objectivity” and detachment, both qualities demanded of all law enforcement agents, at all levels. His venture into the rejection of any medical “unsuitability” of trump for office, preferring his own “morally unfit”, demonstrates a kind of self-righteousness that is more an indication of his own personal anxiety and fear, than it is an objective and empirical evaluation of the president.
Make no mistake, this space is replete with negative judgements of trump, and open and loud expressions of hope that he will be removed as soon as possible. However, Comey’s highly personal and subjective judgements, while easily and readily concurred with, by this scribe and millions of others, (of all political ideologies) seriously bruise, if they don’t actually render the nuanced, sophisticated, highly structured arguments he presents against trump, considerably less convincing.
Of course, we can easily see and accept Comey’s committing to note-making after every encounter, in person and by phone, with this president. And we can walk comfortably in his shoes of utter distrust of trump. And we can also identify with his personal contempt for the highly amoral chief executive.
Nevertheless, there is a quality of absolute “perfection,” an air of “how could you even doubt my judgement, never mind dismiss it?” about the Comey diatribe. Many of the talking head-pundits are applying the assessment of “ego” getting in the way of Comey’s professionalism, and his objectivity. A preferable analysis would look to his own perfectly crafted mask, the Persona, that “face” we all put on to meet the faces that we meet. There is a “perfect” public performance, both in this iteration of Comey, and in the years of practice that have molded, shaped, polished and crafted that mask. And while it resembles a super-sized ego, perhaps, just perhaps, paradoxically and ironically, it’s depth and granite proportions exhibit a profoundly insecure person, not unlike the president, although having taken a completely different approach to the potter’s crafting of his own MASK.
Carl Jung writes about the need for mature humans to differentiate their ego from their “persona” (Mask) and if and when we don’t, then Jung dubs such a fusion “enantiadromia”…In such a case, missing the separation of the public “mask” from the interior ego, a person is much more vulnerable to the incursions of the unconscious, and the Shadow. And if and when the Shadow exerts an inordinate force and power, there is a kind of imbalance in the psyche.
This is not a clinical diagnosis, but rather a quite distant observation, made merely from the public utterances of Comey, and a study of the Jung notions, based on other biographies this scribe has undertaken. Let’s not ignore or deny the highly significant role played by the “persona,” that collection of strategies and tactics that have served us well over decades, in order to present the “best” face to the world. To some degree, we all do this to keep our reputations intact, and even to burnish those reputations as if we become our own script-writers, and then fill the shoes of the actor playing the role we created. Image, that elusive first impression, so sought after, pursued, for which millions of dollars of psychological “make-up” are spent. This is not to say that Comey is/was insincere, inauthentic or even misleading in his heroic, herculean “No’s” to this and other presidents.
It is more an anxiety on the part of this scribe that Comey’s person/presentation are so skillfully crafted and delivered that he will undercut his own objective of securing converts to his view. “Holier-than-thou” personages often run afoul of their own self-righteousness, even if, and perhaps expecially when, their views are precisely on point.
Right now, in the current cultural, political and psychic-spiritual context that is the United States of America, trump represents the exaggerated and extreme voice of the Id, the unstrestrained muscle that says and believes it can and will do whatever it wants. He demonstrates no access to, or respect for his ego or his super-ego. And so in a cultural metaphor, we are watching the drama of a dialogue of the deaf poles in a cultural bi-polarity….with Comey providing the extreme voice, at the opposite end of the spectrum. If trump is exclusively Id, then, in Freud’s terms, Comey is Super-Ego. And in order for the person/family/country to live a healthy, balanced, mature and fulfilling life, it has to find a place for the national Ego.
Having, it says here, sacrificed the Ego to both the Id and the Super-Ego, the country’s more mature, more balanced and more insightful and moderate instincts are not on stage. Some would argue that the polarization of the political parties has demonstrated a bi-polarity for decades. However, Comey, in giving voice to the ultimate public sanctimonious voice, offers to the nation (and the outside world) a voice that could have the potential of driving the national dialogue back to the middle, the messy, unpredictable, paradoxically, “moderation” that avoids both the extremes of trump’s anartchistic Id, and Comey’s unattainable Perfect Persona.
The law, like so many academic institutions, has little regard for the unconscious, since it is unable to be captured, measured, predicted and repeated, and verified….all qualities to which science bows in obeisance. Nevertheless, both the individual and the collective unconscious, including the Shadow (those traumatic and painful moments in a life that defy dealing with at the time of their occurrence) have an energy, a force and a healing power, when finally they are unpacked.
Empirical, verifiable and measureable variables, of the kind that science, the law, medicine and most of the cyber world depend upon offer little to no place or respect for the unconscious. And it says here, quite tentatively as an unprofessional, that a nation or a person who attempts to life fully without permitting the unconscious a place of honour and respect, will find that live significantly restricted, restrained and without the full benefit of full lungs. It will hold in much of its emotional responses, as Comey may well be doing, for a variety of reasons. Among them is a fear of self-disclosure, a fear of rejection, a fear of having to face imperfection, and a fear of being found “not to know”.
It is a collective “need to know” and to appear to know, and to masquerade to one’s self and to others that one knows, far above the actual perfect physical performance of a skill or task that entraps many people.
Comey’s erect stature could be speaking to a psyche so starched, varnished and laminated that if he were to bend, his psyche would break. On the other hand, trump’s dalliances, mysognyn, utter disrespect for others, the law, the constitution and the outcomes of any of his decisions, (except as they impact his personal reputations) is precise counterpoint to Comey, and is Comey to trump.
Question: can and will the United States of America finally see how far it has traversed from the messy-middle, by actually hearing both the trump voice and the Comey voice as being so far removed from the muddled middle as to warrant a psychic, spiritual and cultural transformation, bake to a reality shared with the rest of the world?
*Scylla, the six-headed monster that threatens ships by grabbing heads of sailors, Charybdis, the whirlpool that sucks ships to the bottom….both in the Greek Mythology story of Odysseus.