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Archive for October 6th, 2020

Our times are a study in the eruption of the “shadow” into prime time culture: a fitting occasion, if ever there was one, for a psychoanalytic look at what our Nation is at risk of becoming. It is worth recalling that denial of the shadow gives it immense power.

I apply a reflection of Slovakian philosopher and psychoanalyst, Slavoj Zizek, in a separate context, that what is emerging today is the mirror image of what’s being said. It is good practice to take what we hear and flip it around to reveal the intended coded message.

An historical example offered by Zizek is instructive. Many of the German people said of Hitler (as he solidified his power and exercised his violent narcissistic intent) that while he did some bad things, like sending the Jews to concentration camps to be brutally murdered, he nevertheless did some good things for Germany.

The unconscious perverse is often revealed by posing the inverse:

‘Hitler did a few good things (like eliminating the Jews and making German culture great again) while he did some bad things for German strength and prestige in the world.’

Consider what we are hearing from Trump supporters today:

‘Trump is strong and doing some real good for America despite his ugly comments and distasteful rhetoric at times and his denial of the threat of Covid 19 in the face of his own illness, that of many others around him, and the daily death toll across the country. ‘

Flipping it around reveals unconscious sentiment:

‘Trump is making America great again (by defending the white majority against immigrants and their children, black people and the blight of the poor and indigent, and putting our so-called allies in their place),while doing some bad things that make me uncomfortable at times. ‘

It is a perversion of Christianity that so many members of the established Christian community support Trump’s strongman persona and an agenda that threatens the poor and the powerless. After all, Jesus was a subversive preacher who defended the poor and the outcasts of his society, the marginalized ( e.g., prostitutes and tax collectors) against the power brokers of church and state. He turned the value system on its head in fact emphasizing the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.

As a Franciscan, I follow the way of Jesus as understood by Francis: an anti-materialist who lived the beatitudes as compared with giving them lip – service as rhetorical cover for perversion. Trump commits crime in broad daylight so often that nothing sticks. He has elevated the lie to high art. He loudly proclaims “America the Beautiful” while dismantling its Spirit and the best intent of the Founders.

Donald Trump and his sycophantic minions are peddling perversion in the guise of truth-telling, declaring everything else as “fake” and “ hoax”. He has inverted morality and undermined the notion of fact ( the work of a true anti-Christ).

By proclaiming that the shadow is light and the light is the shadow, Trump has normalized the perverse. He speaks to an unconscious cultural love-affair with harshness and crude strength and monarchic rule as a cover for the deep-seated personal terrors that drive his supporters.

Consider the American preoccupation with the life of the royals in the UK: a symptom of a desire to be guided by the strong arms of a ruling Father/ Mother. This way, we are no longer accountable. Accountability and self-rule are sister qualities and the very ground of any authentic democracy.

We are on a precipice that proves the point that the human condition renders the psyche of enlightened democracy extraordinarily fragile. Its preservation lies in doing the work of excavating our own shadows and voting with eyes and ears reset for truth. We must resist the oft-repeated lies that come to feel more real than the real that demands reflection, examination and debate.

Primitive instinct is overcome only by reason. Absent reason, inquiry, and authentic faith in the subversive Gospel (that turns the usual defense of power and hierarchy upside down), the primitive becomes resurgent, the perverse becomes the acceptable.

We are at a crucial inflection point. The test is a month away. Which way will we choose I wonder?

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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