Barry’s Blog # 348: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Nine

Let’s look at developments in a half dozen themes that I’ve been emphasizing.

The corruption of the Republicans continues unabated. Each day brings new revelations. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced that he would be scaling back election security briefings. Trumpus encouraged North Carolina residents to vote twice. He doubled down on his praise of white supremacist violence while repeating the old fascist strategy of claiming that his opponents will do (cheat in the election) exactly what he will certainly do.

Liberals were shocked. Shocked!

There was some good news. The ACLU, citing investigations by Greg Palast, blocked the wildly inaccurate and deeply racist “Crosscheck” voter purge program in at least one state, Indiana. And Markey defeated Kennedy in Massachusetts, proving that Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement is the kiss of death among young progressives.

But Palast offered some terrifying speculations, which I summarize:

Unless Biden wins in a clear and early landslide, the election may not be determined on November 3rd but during the following week, when far-right gangs disrupt vote count centers. If they are successful in enough places, they will prevent several states from certifying the count, and neither candidate will receive the necessary electoral college votes. Then, according to Amendment 12 of the Constitution, the election will be decided in the House, with each state getting one vote. Since Republicans have majority delegations in 26 states, Trumpus wins. Is this scenario too far-fetched? It can’t happen here? Well it already has, in Florida in 2000, under the direction of Roger Stone.


The corruption of the Democrats: Unfortunately, another progressive, Alex Morse, lost, due in large part to an anti-gay backlash set in motion by the College Democrats of the University of Massachusetts. Yes, you read that correctly. University. Democrats. Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Biden touted Rick Snyder’s endorsement, which one writer called his “most toxic endorsement yet”.

Liberal innocence: More polls and graphs such as these regularly show that Biden’s lead among likely voters remains strong. May it be so. But as usual, they never mention anything about Republican dirty tricks, in other words, whether those votes will actually be counted. Yet another memoir by a former Trumpus insider appeared, from Michael Cohen. And yet again, liberals – and liberal journalists – were shocked. Literally: Alternet’s headline was Shocking details from Michael Cohen tell-all book revealed after Washington Post obtained a copy! (my exclamation point).

We have been here before. Just as we’d like to think that Biden’s earnest call to our better natures would be enough to motivate most people, so we’d like to think that in some mythic America, the prospect of being shamed by the god-fearing citizenry would be enough to restrain the behavior of all but the most sociopathic of criminals. We would really like to think that sociopaths, assassins, fear mongers and organized crime bosses don’t run our government. Cohen’s book will have no effect on Trumpus’ base, since only liberals are likely to read it.  

The continuing revelations (and, sure as the sun rises, they will continue to continue) of Republican corruption are not impacting the election itself because shaming no longer works. Corruption has been normalized. After five years it’s quite clear Trumpus supporters don’t care. Some so desperately believe in him that they accept his regular denials and accusations at face value; others actually seem to boast of his crimes, interpreting them (Q-style) as proof of his actions against the Deep State.

There was a brief time when convincing citizens to act – to do the right thing – by appealing to their sense of shame actually worked. Shaming the public into supporting the civil rights movement was a successful political strategy from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, when the economy was growing, White people still had positive if patronizing attitudes toward Black people and post-assassination cynicism had not yet alienated millions from civic engagement. For more on this issue, read my essays The Civil Rights Movement in American Myth and John F. Kennedy and America’s Obsession With Innocence.

As recently as the last years of the Obama administration, the phrase “Don’t shoot! Hands up!” – a clear acknowledgement of the legal, non-violent, non-threatening nature of anti-racist activism – had no effect on either police behavior or right-wing attitudes toward people of color. Police murders of unarmed POC continued at the same rates, not only because murderous cops were rarely held accountable, but also because they had grown up in a shame-less culture, in which conservative politicians and preachers had laid the groundwork for pride in hatred. When Trumpus arrived to give haters permission he was merely stating directly what his predecessors had been hinting at since the days of Barry Goldwater.

Here is the mythological truth: Every year, America proudly rewards its security forces for sacrificing thousands of scapegoats, as I write here: now, the only people who react negatively to new proof that American democracy no longer works (if it ever did) are the same innocent liberals who have been continually shocked by Trumpus for five years.

In lectures or radio interviews, I often ask a trick question: When did you lose your innocence? After the usual replies (JFK, 9/11, etc), I ask, When did you lose it again? In this context, to be shocked is the painful experience of having one’s cherished beliefs demolished. But when innocence is the foundation of a belief system, when a culture no longer offers its young people the initiatory rituals that affirm their unique gifts and permanently erase their childhood innocence, people live lives of denial and perpetual childishness. When a tear in the fabric of the myth of innocence appears, it quickly closes back up, and each loss of innocence, no matter how old we are or how often it happens, feels like the first time.

The Military-Industrial Complex reaffirmed, even after the news of Trumpus’ insults about American war dead (“losers and suckers”), that the generals and the arms merchants would thrive under either party.

Over 100 former staff members for Senator John McCain endorsed Biden, writes Scott Horton, “Explicitly Because He’s Worse on War”. Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido (who had received a bipartisan standing ovation at the last State of the Union address) said he is counting on U.S. plans to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro no matter who wins the election. Thirty-four Democrats with military-intelligence backgrounds won their primaries for the House, as well as three Senate candidates.

The stunningly incomprehensible decision to ignore Latinx Democrats: No news is bad news. The DNC lurched on after the convention with no apologies or explanations. This is political suicide, plain and simple. In February a poll indicated that 73% of Latinxs said they were “certain” to vote in November. However, after Biden secured the nomination, that number dropped to 60%. It has rebounded somewhat since then, but not up to the earlier figure. Two-thirds of them will support Biden – if they can find places to vote.

Boy psychology: do either of these candidates really want to be President? Political scientists accurately describeTrumpus’s fear mongering as an ugly but rational strategy going back to the Jim Crow years. But his hate mongering and worse, his violence mongering are unique in presidential politics, representing a wild gamble that they will garner him enough support. In conjunction with voter suppression, computer fraud and Biden’s mistakes it could work. But this is no monolithic universe; what may appear to be appropriate (if evil) realpolitik at one level of motivation may at another level be deliberate, adolescent provocation, upping of the ante, and ultimately a cry for help. Stop me!

Meanwhile, a pre-convention poll claimed that 56% of likely Biden supporters are voting for him because “He Is Not Trump,” proof that he still hasn’t offered anything positive, let alone progressive, to the 100 million other people who, once again, probably won’t vote. I doubt if, during the convention, appeals to our better nature – and moderate Republicans – changed much of that reality.

Once again, we have to wonder not simply whether the Democrats are repeating the failed strategy of appealing to suburbanites while shunning progressives, but whether this guy really wants to get elected. If we can agree that four more years of Trumpus would certainly destroy our last chance to prevent global environmental collapse, not to mention a 7-2 Republican majority on the Supreme Court, then we can at least wonder whether the future of humanity depends on Joe Biden’s unconscious desire for failure. Ralph Nader writes:

Biden should be thirty points ahead in the polls against the delusional, falsifying, lawless, selected occupant of the White House…Instead, Biden’s lead is in single digits and he is having a hard time getting the offensive Trump on the defense.

Trumpus goes low, doing everything possible to provoke violence and arouse his base (the predatory imagination manipulating the paranoid imagination), praising the Kenosha killer, while Biden’s strategy of going high would be a fine strategy in a normal world. But idealistic language without actual progressive policies sounds insincere, because it is. People are not stupid if they are apathetic about voting, and treating them as if they are only makes things worse.

Let’s face it: Biden is uninspiring in both style and substance, while Trumpus makes crazy people crazier and more likely to act. Michael Moore, who was so enthusiastic about Kamala Harris only a month ago, is now saying that that “enthusiasm for Trump is off the charts” in the swing states and he’s mentioning polls indicating that the race is tightening. Whom to believe?

I hope he’s wrong, but he was right four years ago.

Do polls (other than exit polls) tell us anything at all? Why haven’t we heard of polls that ask, If you are not planning to vote, would you change your mind and vote Democratic if Biden announced that he is supporting Medicare For All? One reason we haven’t is that polls question likely voters, but this begs the question. To me, it’s the elephant in the national living room, and it’s growing larger by the day.

One hundred million non-voters, the majority of whom are young, have no health insurance and are one paycheck away from being evicted (if they have jobs at all). If one tenth of them voted, the result would be a Democratic landslide. WTF?

Biden’s one chance, and one only, to win: Trumpus’ incendiary language is effective, and Biden’s isn’t. Still, I predict that Biden would succeed – again, if this were a normal election without the certainty of massive fraud. For what it’s worth, here are two predictions:

To win, Biden will need a solid ten-point lead in most of the battleground states on election day. And even if he does, voter fraud will make it quite close, the Dems won’t flip the Senate, and Trumpus, at the very least, will contest the results.

OR: Biden announces his support of MFA, makes it the core of his campaign and enters election day with a lead so huge that no Republican dirty tricks can change it.

One hundred million non-voters. Biden still has time to motivate them. If he doesn’t, well, I guess he’ll get what he really wants, and deserves.

Read Part Ten here.

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Barry’s Blog # 347: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Eight

The Democratic Convention: Virtual liberals. The body language of Chuck Shumer and others seemed to express discomfort and insincerity as they addressed video cameras rather than actual people. But this exemplified the fact that – despite the constant presence of women and people of color – the corporate Democrats clearly see the party’s base as their primary enemy, and the GOP as secondary. The Republicans won’t look so fake in their convention, because (minus the ubiquitous con-men) many of them are committed racists, misogynists and self-perceived victims of those same POC. Their anger is real, if utterly privileged.

The virtual liberals were long on rhetoric, short on specific policy. Most criticism of Trump was about his incompetent mismanagement of the pandemic, not about his foreign, economic, environmental or tax policies. This was a clear and uneasy reminder that if it were not for the pandemic and the resultant economic crisis, Biden and his corporate lobbyists would not be leading in the polls. David Moore writes:

For a political party whose platform calls for “sustainable economic growth, which will create good-paying jobs and raise wages,” the Democratic National Committee has appointed a lot of lobbyists for major corporations that oppose wage growth to its top committees. Over one-third of the DNC’s Executive Committee and nearly two-thirds of the Rules and Bylaws Committee are registered as corporate lobbyists, work as corporate consultants, or have backgrounds in furthering corporate influence in politics.

A parade of pro-Biden Republicans: John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Susan Molinari, Colin Powell, Christine Todd Whitman and others (including the ghost of the warmonger John McCain, who had voted with Trumpus 83% of the time) agreed that Trumpus is no good (shocking!), as if there are any undecided voters out there this year who might be impressed. Indeed, four of the 13 main speakers at the 1996 GOP convention spoke. WTF? William Rivers Pitt reminds us that

…establishment Democrats still believe that if they act more like Republicans, Republicans will stop being mean to them. It is the long tragedy of the age…I don’t need to hear from four Republicans who stood by and let Trump happen to their party and then the world tell me how bad things are right now. The monster got out of their goddamn lab, and people like them want to paper over the hole in the wall. Maybe nobody will notice where he came from? Maybe not. Kasich standing at the white-gravel crossroads as he spoke was every inch the shallow, sophomoric symbolism of the modern conservative who is trying to wash off the blood.

In a letter released hours before Biden’s acceptance speech, over 70 senior officials endorsed him. This illustrious group included former CIA Director Michael Hayden and life-long war criminal John Negroponte.

The mainstream media was just so unanimously happy to praise Biden’s “centrist Coalition” for “steering clear of progressive demands.” 

The astonishing, highly visible decision to make Latinx Democrats nearly invisible: All this was going on while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was allowed one minute to speak (she took a minute and a half), and former candidate Julián Castro, who had given a keynote address during the 2012 convention, whose 2020 platform had called for reform of the police before it was fashionable, was – inexplicably – not asked to speak at all, even though the other major candidates did speak.

Can you guess who is missing?

Indeed, Latinx Democrats (four, and one was the actress Eva Longoria) received the same number of prime-time slots as Republicans, despite the fact that Latinx voters will be second only to white voters as the largest eligible voting bloc in the country. This was so irrational, insulting and utterly amateurish as to fit into a long-term pattern, Biden’s history of self-sabotage (see below). Given his excellent speech, this is troubling.

Other Shenanigans in the virtual smoke-filled rooms: On Tuesday, the day after Bernie Sanders spoke in favor of Biden, the DNC finalized the party platform, quietly removing an amendment calling for an end to federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It was a longstanding demand of climate activists that both Biden and Kamala Harris had claimed to support. (Two weeks before, the platform committee had blocked Medicare for All, as well as a proposal calling for the legalization of marijuana.)

That same day, the Biden campaign disavowed Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour, attacking her over her support for the BDS movement, after she appeared at the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly side event to the Convention. Taking yet another position well to the right of many young party activists, the platform strongly condemned BDS without criticizing Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine. Insiders claimed that Biden, after heavy pressure from pro-Israel groups, had personally intervened to make sure the word “occupation” was omitted from the platform,  even as the Israelis bombed Gaza for the eleventh straight night.

On the final day of the convention, Nancy Pelosi further alienated progressives. She ignored her policy of backing incumbent House Democrats against primary challengers and endorsed Joe Kennedy III over the more progressive incumbent, Ed Markey. Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said, “This move reeks of hypocrisy. The party is setting one standard for progressives and one entirely different standard for the establishment.” But this is the age (may it be so) of unexpected consequences. According to one report, Pelosi’s endorsement of Kennedy resulted in $100,000 in donations for Kennedy, and $300,000 for Markey, from 9,000 separate contributors.

Boy Psychology: Does either candidate really want to win? Now we move from political commentary to psychology, from “Trump vs. Biden” to “Trumpus vs. Hide’n Biden.”

As I wrote in Part Six of this series, our 400-year mythology of American Innocence has conjured up one man who embodies the very worst of our possibilities but who is, literally, us; and the other who models for us all the futile attempt to hide the truth from ourselves; each of them so invested in his persona and so unwilling to consider introspection that he can barely censor himself. One is crying, Stop me before I drive this red sports car into my wall! The other is driving another sports car, with his foot on the emergency brake, wondering why he can’t get where he wants to go.

Trumpus: In 2016 his greatest support came from veterans and retired white people (see my essay on the “greatest generation”), who had defeated Fascism (how ironic), taken advantage of the G.I. Bill, built post-war America and eventually voted for a series of Republican presidents who proceeded to withhold those same benefits from their own grandchildren. This is a prime example of how we literalize the old myths of the killing of the children.

Earlier this month, he horrified these folks by admitting that if he is re-elected, he will permanently de-fund Social Security and Medicare. The news was so shocking that even Forbes, that bastion of free-market capitalism (it literally calls itself a “capitalist tool”), lamented “Trump’s dangerous attack on America’s safety net.”

This news was quickly followed by testimonies that his sabotage of the postal service was already slowing down delivery of vital medicines. Veterans Affairs uses USPS to fill about 80% of veteran prescriptions. The Independent reported:

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans said they received medications through the mail last week…Of those, a quarter said they experienced some delay or lack of delivery. Although only 5 per cent of the nation’s retail prescriptions were delivered to consumers by mail last year, the Postal Service handled perhaps half of the volume, some 100 million prescriptions…But use of mail order for prescriptions rose by 20 per cent when the US outbreaks spread in March, compared with the previous year, as people stockpiled medications during lockdown.

We can certainly assume that a large percentage of the people impacted by this insane decision are seniors who had previously supported Trumpus and every Republican before him. Why alienate them? WTF is going on? Trumpus, more than anyone, is certainly aware of the investigations and prosecutions that will begin if he loses the election – and his treasured presidential immunity. I can see only three possibilities. One is that he is so confident of cheating his way to victory in November that he thinks he can continue to pursue the Koch brothers’ crusade to privatize the Post Office. The second is that he could leverage an electoral loss through his well-known accusations that it could only happen as a result of Democratic mail fraud. Speculations abound. The third is that he is quite deliberately (if unconsciously) sabotaging his own future.

They need that money in order to have the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions of ballots. If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting. – Trumpus

For years, the mainstream media had made little of his scandals (see my essay, Normalizing Trump) But now, writes Amanda Marcotte, his cheating is finally news:

Even the fact that Trump confessed on live TV to the conspiracy was no guarantee that the story wouldn’t sink beneath the waves. On the contrary, Trump often uses confessions to make scandals disappear, relying on people’s assumption that his criminality and corruption can’t be that big a deal if he’s so open about it…. (but this time) when Trump confessed on Fox Business to slow-walking post office funding so that he could steal the election, there wasn’t the usual parsing over whether or not he actually said the thing he clearly said…Now that his corruption is threatening their ability not just to vote but to receive all the things ordinary people get by mail, there’s good reason to believe it will finally come back to bite him.

May it be so. May he get exactly what he is asking for. All this was amplified when agents of the Postal Service (more irony!) arrested Steve Bannon for mail fraud…And what about Biden?

Hide’n Biden: Would he, or wouldn’t he was the question on everyone’s mind, wondering if Joe would stumble in his delivery, ending his presidential bid before it even started,” wrote Scott Ritter. Given that Biden was reading from a teleprompter, many supporters were certainly gratified that he didn’t vomit up any of his characteristic gaffes. (What an astonishing low bar!) But he – that is, his brand – performed well. He actually seemed to want to be President, and for all the right reasons. But, asks Ritter,

For every policy that Biden claims he will improve on, the question must be asked why had he not acted on it in his previous life as a senior senator or as vice president of the United States?

Non-gaffes aside, my question of whether he might be subverting his stated intentions hinges on basic political questions. Is he willing to represent the needs and aspirations of his constituents? Beyond their disgust with Trumpus, can he motivate enough people to stand in long, socially-distanced lines for hours, with Republican thugs harassing them at polling stations far from their homes, in potentially bad weather, on a work day (if they have work) to actually vote, knowing that their votes may well not be counted? Or venture into the stinking morass of mail-in voting?

Is he willing to say what they want to hear? More practically: are his handlers willing to gamble that he can win, despite the massive voter suppression and computer fraud that are certain to occur, without offering anything substantive to the young, the POC and the progressives who make up his actual base? I have my doubts.

As I mentioned above, his (or the DNC’s) exclusion of Julián Castro from the speakers list and their insulting limit of one minute’s time AOC – the two best-known and respected non-entertainer Latinx figures in the country – is absolutely inexplicable.

These decisions will most certainly come back to haunt him.

Biden’s fanatical devotion to Israel has alienated hundreds of actual activists, the kind of people who might have been counted upon to motivate thousands of others to get out into the streets and work for him, and to stand in voting lines to counter the right-wing bullies.

Ralph Nader summarizes what the convention did not address:

The gross distortion of the federal budget with over 50% of operating expenditures going to the Pentagon, the bloated military contractors, and the pursuit of a boomeranging, draining Empire. Speakers could have felt secure by quoting President Eisenhower’s farewell warnings regarding the military-industrial complex…

There was much talk of expanding social safety net programs, but little or no discussion about how to pay for these vital programs…no demand, other than a passing reference in Biden’s speech, to repeal the $2 trillion Trump tax cut for the super-wealthy…no demand to cut enormous corporate welfare payouts…no push for a financial sales tax on Wall Street trading…It would have been easy and popular to call for more law and order and adequate enforcement budgets to catch corporate crooks…

One would think that the unconstitutional, illegal, mass surveillance by federal agencies, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, would be worth a shout out…What about telling people about changes the Democrats want to make in the country’s foreign policy? What about the role of monopolistic corporations escaping taxes by using overseas tax havens, fomenting trouble, and exploiting indigenous people in foreign lands? Wouldn’t you think Convention speakers would report the crimes, misdeeds, and corporate takeovers of our government’s agencies and departments by Trump’s big-business henchmen? Look at EPA, OSHA, the CFPB, and the Departments of Interior, Labor, Agriculture, and other health/safety regulatory agencies and the life-saving and economic protections Trump and his cronies have shut down…

But even Nader misses the elephant in this particular living room. In this time of pandemic, with twenty-seven million people having lost their employer-provided medical insurance, with expensive Covid tests, long hospital stays and permanent heart damage to many of the survivors, his refusal to endorse Medicare for All – and his well-publicized statement that he’d veto it if Congress passed it – is the clear winner, or, we might say, loser.

Look, eighty-freaking-seven percent of Democrats want Medicare for All. That’s as close as you can get to unanimous in politics (topped only by the 91% of the public who support the USPS). Sixty-nine percent of all voters! Biden brags about working across the aisle with Republicans. Well, forty-six percent of them want it! Do I have to put this in all-caps?

Of course Biden is utterly beholden to the insurance companies and Big Pharma. But to not jump on the MFA bandwagon, to not acknowledge which way the wind is blowing, is pure idiocy – or pure sabotage. What’s shocking is that he refuses to do the obvious political move: endorse MFA, campaign on it, distinguish himself from Trumpus on it, get a massive boost in the polls from it, get elected on it, and then quietly bury it in some committee for years.

Every president has done this with certain issues. Johnson ran on peace and gave us Viet Nam. Nixon had a “secret plan to end the war” and invaded Cambodia. Reagan promised small government and left the largest deficits in history. George W. Bush promised to be a fiscal conservative and left massive deficits. Trump promised to drain the swamp, etc, etc.

There are very few instances in American history when the prevailing winds are so clear. To not at least pretend to favor MFA is pissing in the wind. Pure self-sabotage. But at this point, we have no choice but to reframe this. Psychological speculations aside, Biden has a political history of knowing those winds, and would be willing, we hope, to be pushed. Back in March, Charles Pierce wrote that Biden has always been a loyal party man who went along with its turn to the right in the 1990s. And…

…how sincere do you believe Joe Biden is in his newfound adoption of positions that would have been unthinkable 20 years — or 20 months — before[?]…If he thinks that’s where the party’s headed, he will go along. His history proves that he will, and that he likely will do it with gusto.

Biden reads the winds. If it continues to blow leftward, he may decide to blow with them. May it be so.

But he cannot wait until after the election. Otherwise, as I wrote earlier, we have to acknowledge that not giving a hundred million people reason to think that their votes might matter represents a profound contempt for democracy, a barely disguised wish for self-destruction, and a stolen election.

From this perspective, it’s a race to the bottom, with neither man really wanting the prize. The problem for us, for the environment, for the future, is that Trumpus doesn’t need to do anything proactive to win. The Republican Party already has an army of con-men and thugs, and its plans are already in place. Even if, in some alternate universe, Trumpus were to come to awareness of his own psychological dynamics, there’s little he could do to prevent being re-elected short of abdicating, and prospects of jailtime certainly mitigate against that.

Biden, on the other hand, must act. He must stop hide’n and face the fact that even his double-digit lead in the polls is nowhere large enough to overcome the massive disenfranchisement, bullying and computer fraud that is already in place. It’s in place because it was used four years ago and several times before that. Greg Palast argues that mail-in voting has already been a disaster in America:

Twenty-two percent of all mail-in votes never get counted. And that was under Barack Obama, when they were promoting mail-in voting. What is going to happen with Trump and the Republicans?

One in 10 people who ask for absentee ballots do not get them. One in 10 people who do get their ballots and send them back have their ballots rejected, thrown out and not counted… (But) very little of this has to do with the post office. The biggest reason why people don’t get their ballots is that they are not registered voters…Seventeen million people have been purged during the last few years…The real theft of the 2020 presidential election is not the lack of mailboxes that will stop people from mailing in their ballots or getting them. It’s not the lack of sorting machines. It is a lack of commitment to counting ballots by both parties.

Biden has to act, and he’s not used to acting. The polls are meaningless. I’m sorry to say this, but I think his only chance to win is to embrace Medicare For All whole-heartedly. Without that, literally tens of millions of liberal-leaning people will not bother voting, and he is going to need every one of them.

We really are in one of the most bizarre moments in the history of democracy. In such times, as Michael Meade says, anything worth saying is worth exaggerating. We are holding our noses to vote for a candidate who has nothing but contempt for our values, and we may well be wanting him to succeed more than he does.

Read Part Nine here.

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Barry’s Blog # 346: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Seven

In previous posts I offered several main points to consider about this election:

1 – The corruption of the Republicans / the Elephant in the Living Room

2 – The corruption of the Democratic National Committee

3 – The naïve innocence of liberals and intellectuals

4 – The surprisingly neutral position of the Military-Industrial Complex

5 – Boy psychology: do either of these candidates really want to be President?

This month we have two more issues to ponder: the choice of Kamala Harris for Vice President, and the Democratic convention.

1 – The utter, utter corruption of the Republican Party, from the absolute top to the absolute bottom, is becoming clearer. The media and the public have finally begun to acknowledge that this national crime syndicate / conspiracy cult is capable of doing absolutely anything to retain power. And all but the most radically naïve among us are realizing that racist con men like Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach are the norm, not the exception. 

This astonishingly rapid change in awareness has resulted almost entirely from Trumpus’ brazen attempt to destroy the Post Office in a year when voting by mail is a matter of public health. It all happened in less than two weeks:

8/7: ‘Friday Night Massacre’ at US Postal Service as Postmaster General—a Major Trump Donor—Ousts Top Officials

8/10: Lawmakers Demand Removal of Postmaster General DeJoy 

8/13: Postal Service Confirms It Has Removed Mailboxes in Portland and Eugene

8/14: Postal Service warns states across US about mail voting

8/14: Mail sorting machines across the country being removed 

8/16: At least 21 states plan to sue USPS over mail delays, despite rollback of policy changes  

8/19: Trump campaign sues New Jersey over mail-in voting 

8/17: House Democrats summon Trump Postmaster General to explain sabotages 

8/17: A comprehensive guide to the sabotage of the United States Postal Service 

8/18: Postmaster general DeJoy caves under pressure after outcry about delays and threats to the election 

These revelations come with good and bad news. The Good News is that more and more liberals and progressives are waking up to the massive corruption in the system that Democratic leaders have ignored for the past five Presidential elections (including the Obama victories). To restate what I’ve written before: if not for voter suppression and computer fraud (not to even mention voter apathy) the Democrats would have won all five votes (and both houses of Congress) by massive landslides. We are talking about new openings appearing in the myth of American innocence, and Trumpus doesn’t seem interested in hiding any of it. 

But an honest look at our history also shows that such rents have appeared many times before, and that the oligarchs who control both parties have always responded by putting forth candidates such as Obama whose primary duty is to repair those openings and put the public back to sleep. This brings us to the bad news, the growing presence of (and refusal to acknowledge) the various elephants in the living room. As Greg Palast has been warning for years, even if Congress were to completely repair the Post Office scandal, voter suppression – especially having to do with the vote-by-mail process – and computer fraud can still give Trumpus his win.

And so far, public awareness of Post Office scandal has not resulted in any significant repair of the situation. DeJoy is simply refusing to undo any of the massive damage he’s done to the Post Office’s ability to deliver the mail, and there’s little the House can do, with the Senate on a month-long vacation.

8/19: USPS Workers Told Not to Reinstate Mail Sorting Machines in Internal Email 

8/19: Dismantling Continues After DeJoy Said It Stopped

8/20: USPS Sorting Machines Are Still Being Dismantled Despite DeJoy’s Promise to Stop 

8/21: DeJoy Has “No Intention” to Reinstall Sorting Machines, Mailboxes 

According to California representative Ro Khanna, the mail sorting machines that DeJoy ordered removed were primarily in swing states:

Florida: 59

Texas: 58

Ohio: 34

Pennsylvania: 30

Michigan: 26

N. Carolina: 15

Virginia: 12

Wisconsin: 12

Georgia: 11

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has dealt yet another blow to the right of ex-felons to vote in Florida, and evidence is emerging of Republican plans to send an illegal army of intimidators to polling places in minority neighborhoods.

Beyond that, it would be foolish not to expect the Republicans to dip into an arsenal of dirty tricks and October surprises that they have cultivated and refined ever since the days of Richard Nixon, up to and including threats of war with Russia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela.

We should expect an ‘October surprise’ from Bill Barr 

October Surprise — Will War with Iran Be Trump’s Election Eve Shocker?

How Trump’s Planning to Win

Trump Threatens To Crash Economy If He Loses 2020

Forget the Nasty Insults. Trump Plans to Sabotage the Election 

2 – The only slightly less despicable corruption of the DNC: As I wrote in Part One of this series, I hope that Biden will prevail over Trumpus because the stakes are too high to imagine another four years of this madness. However, we have to awake from our innocent fantasies about the progressive intentions of the Democrats. There is absolutely no doubt that the DNC fixed the results of most of their primaries to steal the nomination from Bernie sanders. I offered abundant evidence in Part Three, but if you need more on-the-ground reportage of the process, read Craig Jardula’s article “I Witnessed the Death of Democracy.” 

Vote or work for Biden. However, as Russell Dobular writes, we must understand the Democratic leadership as  

 …a party primarily concerned with raking in big bucks from wealthy donors, while drawing enough superficial distinctions with their opponents to maintain their identity as a separate party…No modern Democrat has ever won without high youth voter turnout, and there’s no way they didn’t understand that crushing the candidate of young voters was going to suppress their vote. Nor has any modern Democrat ever won without a high share of the Latino vote, and yet they chose to publicly and openly conspire against the candidate who was the clear choice of Latino voters…Without coronavirus, Biden was a sure loser and there’s no way the party’s decision makers and strategists didn’t understand that. No, they aren’t that stupid…the battle they’re fighting is only secondarily against the GOP, and primarily against the left wing of their own party… 

A mythological perspective acknowledges that when a society is in decline, it elevates the very worst of its people to positions of power and grants them permission to engage in acts of cruelty that in earlier times had been restrained by public shaming, and still earlier, through effective ritual. As my book argues, such patterns inevitably include the literalization of the old myths of the sacrifice of the children.

The difference? The GOP is consistently, uncompromisingly evil and for a long time has had no one in leadership with any ethical standards whatsoever. This absolutely includes the “Never Trumpers” who spoke at the Democratic Convention this week, such as the war criminal Collin Powell. Throughout their careers these people have consistently supported the worst of the Republican agenda. They simply think that Trumpus is “bad for the brand.”As for the Democrats, their leadership, for their own nefarious reasons, stilltolerate vestiges of idealism among their activists.

3 – Liberal innocence: This is not the first American election that is likely to be sabotaged. Liberals who may be shocked by the growing evidence of Trump’s willingness to do so are, once again, revealing their innocent belief in an our peculiarly unique form of exceptionalism, that “it can’t happen here,” or at least that it hasn’t happened yet.

I pointed this out last month, and it continues. Academics, at least liberal academics, seem to prefer to live in some kind of neo-Platonic world of ideal archetypes and pure science, especially Political Science and Economics, that give no credence to human imperfection. Every day, articles such as this one appear: “Polls Favor Biden: Is It Different This Time?” Like its predecessors in 2016 and this year, it does not mention voter suppression, computer fraud or even the Post Office scandal. Neither does it make any attempt to explain the critical difference between exit polls and official results.

4 – The Military-Industrial Complex: Here are several more articles that support my argument that the generals and the arms merchants have little concern for who wins in November.

Boeing CEO Confident in Military Spending No Matter Who Wins November Election 

House Democrats unite to pass $733B defense bill 

Biden And His Ventriloquists Keep Out-Hawking Trump 

The 2020 Race Is Down to Center-Right vs. Far Right

US Intelligence: If Trump Wins Russia Did It, If Biden Wins It Was China & Iran

5 – Kamala Harris: There’s plenty of writing (and evidence) of her position as a moderate among Democrats, and there’s no need to repeat any of it here or show a photo of her hugging it up with the war criminal Netanyahu. Instead, I’m going to ignore my normal cynicism and quote Michael Moore:

Biden could’ve swung right (Susan Rice), but he swung left. Kamala is one of the most progressive Senators in the US Senate and will…be the most progressive Vice President in the history of the United States. She is and remains one of the first co-sponsors of Bernie’s Medicare for All bill. In fact, go down the list — she checks nearly every box on Bernie’s platform: Living Wage, Choice, LGBTQ+ equality, peace, child care, etc.

It says a lot about Biden that after she rightly confronted him about race in that first debate that he held no grudge, no animosity. In fact, he might say it gave him pause and a chance to consider how his friendship with segregationist Senators might have been hurtful to people of color and that, even at this age, he can change, he can do better. As progressives, isn’t that at the core of what we stand for? Isn’t that the change we are fighting for? Our belief that America can do better and that our fellow Americans will join us in this movement for a more just and equitable society? Kamala Harris is one more step in that direction.

I’ve met her a few times and I can tell you (and you know I won’t BS you on this because I pretty much despise all politicians), she’s sincere, she has heart, she’s on our side. No, she’s not you or me. But we’re not on the ballot. WE are the movement, which in the long run is what is going to get us what we need. We keep building that movement, we will succeed. And one of our missions in 2020 is to crush Trump, reclaim the Senate and bring down the system of greed, racism, misogyny and white male privilege that gave us Trump — because that, my friends, is what has thrown us into the mad, dark hole we’re in…Black America once again saving us and forcing us to be what we say we are but never were. 

May it be so! Next: The Democratic convention.

Read Part Eight here.

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Barry’s Blog # 345: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Six

In a dark time, the eye begins to see. – Theodore Roethke.

 Boy Psychology

I mentioned the Jungian psychologist Robert Moore in an earlier section. His books King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine and The Archetype of Initiation are essential reading for the understanding of masculine psychology in the late stages of our demythologized world.

The devastating fact is that most men are fixated at an immature level of development. These early developmental levels are governed by the inner blueprints appropriate to boyhood. When they are allowed to rule what should be adulthood, when the archetypes of boyhood are not built upon and transcended by the Ego’s appropriate accessing of the archetypes of mature masculinity, they cause us to act out of our hidden (to us, but seldom to others) boyishness…Boy psychology is everywhere around us, and its marks are easy to see. Among them are abusive and violent acting-out behaviors against others, both men and women; passivity and weakness, the inability to act effectively and creatively in one’s own life and to engender life and creativity in others (both men and women); and, often, an oscillation between the two– abuse/weakness, abuse/weakness.

He was writing and teaching about the base line of normality shared by almost all men in our culture. And he conceived these ideas in the 1980s, decades before the economic meltdowns of 2008 or 2020 that put much greater pressure on the fragile sense of American masculinity. I spent much time in Moore’s presence, and I can tell you that he certainly would have agreed with one of the basic premises of my book: that as the myth of American innocence collapses, the conditions of social reaction are making it even more likely that uninitiated and profoundly immature men will rise to the top of cultural, economic and political influence.

To summarize and to mythologize. Our American Innocence has conjured up these two men: one who embodies the very worst of our possibilities but who is, literally, us; and the other who models for us all the futile attempt to hide the truth from ourselves. We are also dealing with two old men who are so invested in their personae and so unwilling to consider introspection that they can barely censor themselves.

My image for Trumpus is the smirking, entitled but uninitiated boy-king who is so desperate to know himself, for others to know his pain (and perhaps finally be loved for who he is) that he will unconsciously invite his own — and our — destruction by provoking the wrath of Dionysus. What is he really saying? Stop me before I drive this red sports car into my wall!

The image for Biden (when he comes out of hidin’) is of driving that same sports car, but with his foot on the emergency brake, wondering why he isn’t going anywhere. I hope he isn’t senile, and he may not be a psychopath, but he certainly exhibits classic passive aggression by sabotaging his goals. What is he really saying? I really don’t think that I deserve to be President! I don’t even want to be President! Don’t vote for me!

Granted, one is crazier than the other. And we really need to remove him before he ups the ante any further. But we no longer have the luxury of hiding behind our own ignorance and pretending that the other is not a servant of the same oligarchs whose boundless greed will take us all down. Yes, for the Supreme Court. Yes, for abortion rights. Yes, for union rights. Yes (maybe) for mitigating Climate change. Yes, for a more rational Covid policy. Yes, for mild increases on taxes on the mega-wealthy. Yes, for the possibility of making the streets a little safer for immigrants and people of color.

But know that to a Venezuelan farmer, or a Palestinian child, or a Sudanese peasant, or almost anyone in dozens of Third-World dc557d1d3d23f7104c9f11e41c6b2d49countries under the thumb of the American empire, or to a black single mother in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward who used to work cleaning houses, or to her autistic son – or to the military/industrial/financial/petrochemical/health insurance/carceral/high technology complex – it will make absolutely no difference who wins this election.

As for that last group, it’s getting harder to miss the many subtle hints in the media that the Pentagon and the “intelligence community” are throwing their support behind Biden:

Retired Marine General Latest to Admonish Trump 

Former Army secretary backs Biden, citing ‘moral leadership’

Head of Aerospace Industries Association endorses Biden

Pentagon disarms the Guard in D.C.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he had no idea he would be in Trump’s infamous photo-op and no idea troops would beat back protesters

George Will reveals he is voting for Joe Biden

As Trump Implodes, Democrats Roll Out the Red Carpet for Bush Era Republicans

George W. Freaking Bush? He of the famous smirk? SmirkAlertConfusedW Are these people decent, honest conservatives who have woken up and just cannot support Trumpus because they love their country and don’t want it to deteriorate further? Please…let me remind you that almost every one of them has supported 95% of his agenda for their entire political careers (including the past four years), and further, that “principled conservatives” no longer exist within the Republican Party, that decades ago they were ousted by the current group of racist reactionaries. So their support for Biden is exactly what it looks like: going with the odds and betting on the guy who is currently favored to win.

Still, you have reasons, and I support many of them. Beyond the wish to end the horrors of Trumpus, a “woke” nation should support Hiden’ Biden in the hopes that a Democratic administration may allow the opening of some democratic space for progressives to influence policy. But watch what he does, not what he says. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said of Nicaragua’s murderous dictator Anastasio Somoza, “He’s an SOB, but he’s our SOB.”

In 2009 I concluded Chapter Eight of my book by assessing the state of America’s leaders in mythological terms. And here we are again, except that the ante has been upped considerably:

…only a mythic perspective can make any sense of this. America’s rulers are not ignorant; they are fully aware of our human and environmental tragedies. The fathers no longer send only the young to be sacrificed; now they offer everything to the sky-gods. Whether or not we take their religious rhetoric literally, they are deliberately (if unconsciously) provoking both personal and global apocalypse.

Recall Pentheus, emerging from his collapsed palace, even more determined to confront (or to merge with) Dionysus. Thebes/America is a city of uninitiated men, fanatically devoted to the systematic destruction of their own children. A boy-king, who secretly longed for the symbolic death that might effect his transition to manhood, was leading this city. The entire world could almost feel it as a desperate, visceral prayer when, in June 2003, Bush, the self-appointed embodiment of American heroism, challenged the Iraqi resistance to “bring it on!”

Apocalypse, however, actually means “to lift the veil.” It is, more than anything, a challenge to wake up. Will enough of us accept it?

After heaven and earth have passed away, my word will remain. What was your word, Jesus? Love? Forgiveness? Affection? All your words were one word: Wakeup.  – Antonio Machado

Read Part Seven here.

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Barry’s Blog # 344: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Five

Hidin’ Biden

We cannot let this, we’ve never allowed any crisis from the Civil War straight through to the pandemic of 17, all the way around, 16, we have never, never let our democracy sakes second fiddle, way they, we can both have a democracy and…correct the public health. – Joe Biden, April 2020

In 1966 Joe Biden told his first wife that he aimed to become a senator by the age of 30 and then president. He did become a senator at age 30, 6th youngest in history. Perhaps he felt charmed – and entitled – by his early successes. He’s been running for president for nearly half his adult life. Yet from early on, he has continually subverted his goals with foolish and entirely preventable errors. He was forced to withdraw from the 1988 (yes, that was 32 years ago) presidential race when reporters accused him of plagiarizing speeches and lying about his background.

Later, he was the definition of clueless (“…two kinds of lies: the ones he tells others to scam them, and those he tells himself.”) In 2006 he bragged about his support among Indian Americans: “I’ve had a great relationship. In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

In 2007 he undermined his next presidential campaign on the very first day by describing Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy—I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

He was developing a reputation, and the media took the cues and ran with them. In 2008 the NYT wrote that Biden’s “weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything.” Later, it was reported that as vice president his remarks caused Obama to complain, “How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?”, and that campaign staffers referred to his blunders as “Joe bombs.” In 2012 he told a mixed-race audience that Republican proposals to relax Wall Street regulations would “put y’all back in chains.” That same year, Time Magazine wrote, “…Biden’s brain is wired for more than the usual amount of goofiness.” w5zvzh9yklt41

And, I would add, unnecessary risk. Trumpus’ attempt to link Biden’s son Hunter to corruption in the Ukraine seems to have gone nowhere. But Hunter did serve on the board of Burisma from 2014 to April 2019, receiving compensation of up to $50,000 per month. Hunter is a banker who may or may not know anything about oil drilling, but his father was the American vice president for most of that period. All this, of course, was conventional nepotism and influence peddling. Everyone does it. But from the perspective of someone who was certainly planning to run for president again and couldn’t afford to be perceived as corrupt, this was, at best, asking for trouble.

I only mention Hunter because I’m building a case that Joe trumps-460x307regularly sabotages his intentions, and that it seems to be a family pattern (the Trumps aren’t the only ones to pass their pathologies on to their children).

In May 2013, Hunter was sworn in as a direct commission officer in the Navy (we can only wonder why a 42-year-old banker with a prior drug arrest, son and brother to well-known politicians, would want to join up). A month later, he tested positive for cocaine and was subsequently but quietly discharged. Two months later, he joined Burisma.

In recent years Joe Biden can’t seem to keep himself from making egregious bloopers or spontaneous racial insults, or from inappropriately touching females on camera. No wonder his advisers have counseled him to stay out of sight while Trumpus makes his own case daily for not being re-elected. But this strategy has also earned him the nickname “Hiden’ Biden.

As I wrote above, old guys are likely to make verbal gaffes on camera. No big deal. What interests me, however, is the unconscious psychological strategies that their gaffes reveal. What does Joe Biden really want?

To know that, we need to know that some of his gaffes really seem to be Freudian slippage on a monumental scale:

Biden accidentally tells crowd he’s a candidate for United States Senate

Vote for Biden Or Don’t

Biden tells voters ‘don’t vote for me’ if they’re concerned about his age

Biden: If You Don’t Vote for Me, ‘You Ain’t Black’

I saved the worst (and my sarcasm) for last:

Biden Vows He’s ‘Going to Beat Joe Biden’ 

Oh yeah, here’s a guy who’s clear about his intentions. Yes, if he is our only option to get the Trump organized crime family out of the White House, then we support Biden, and may it be so.

However, as I wrote about Trumpus, the same American myth is manifested in our idealizations of Biden. If in your mind he is either a handsome white knight (what a set of teeth on him!) in shining armor riding forth to slay that dragon, or a humble, “average joe” you could see yourself having a beer with, please remember that your Joe Biden is an image created by media specialists to elicit exactly those responses in you. Support the guy, vote for the guy, but check your innocence at the door.

Read Part Six here.


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Barry’s Blog # 343: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Four

Two Senile, Old White Guys Who Want to be President – Or Do They?

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters. – Trumpus

This essay is not really about politics, except to the extent that politics reflects mythology. Our first responsibility as mythological thinkers is to cultivate discrimination, to take a step back and attempt to perceive the narratives that are being played out in our culture, how they circulate within our psyches, before we can begin to offer new ones. We must understand how we participate in those stories through our own unconscious acceptance of their primary themes. We must acknowledge how they have constrained our view of the world within narrow parameters of the possible.

And before we can engage effectively in the cutthroat world of politics, we must actively grieve how they have diminished our lives, because our constrained view of the world also means a restricted view of ourselves. It means that at some level we believe that we deserve no more than what these old men have to offer. It means that we have traded a moral, visceral, natural response to the world for a fragile sense of innocence. It means that we give our consent to perpetuating a world in which the father gods offer their children for sacrifice.

Within this world, Biden would be smart to refuse to debate Trumpus. If debates happen, consider that

Idealization says more about our own psychological projections than it does about the candidates. When, after one of these debates, you hear yourself say (about either candidate), “He seems like a nice enough guy; I just don’t agree with his positions,” know that the ritual has been successful. The “nice guy” has proven that he can play the role if called upon; he has passed the audition.

Who are these guys? What really drives them? Please, please don’t tell me that either of them is motivated at any level of consciousness by a sense of duty to the nation, by a desire to serve the people. To do so is to reveal your own insistence on American innocence. It is to reveal your addiction to the culture of celebrity, your willingness to project your own inner nobility onto an image of a person, not the person himself.

We absolutely will never know what either of these men actually thinks, except (see below) when they speak spontaneously. Otherwise, as I wrote above, anything spoken for the public by anyone at that level of power has been composed for them by professional speechwriters, carefully vetted in front of multiple focus groups, and edited precisely to fit the perceived needs of a very specific audience so as to manipulate its views.

That’s our baseline here. But we are also talking about two old men. Not too long ago, we would have called them very old, and today we have legitimate concerns about senility (the word is related to senator), just as we had, or should have had, with Ronald Reagan. Reagan, at least, even in his decline, could still read a script.

For four years liberals have been laughing (perhaps to keep from crying) at Trumpus’ gaffes and verbal mistakes. But for the past year, they’ve been cringing as Biden’s gaffes pile up, Fox News insists on his “cognitive decline,” and even Trumpus challenges Biden to take the cognition test that he himself had “aced.” Only in America. If you really need to be reminded, you can see Biden’s gaffes here, here or here.

Actually, it is the state of public discourse that has entered cognitive decline when the two major parties are each selling their candidate as the one who is less demented than the other guy. But I’m not that concerned; if I or you were on camera as often as they are, someone could easily compile similar (highly edited) comic videos about us. And Biden (sigh) is our guy. What interests me is the unconscious psychological strategies that their gaffes reveal.

Trumpus  Trump-smirking-and-smiling-610x360            

Of course Trumpus is mad as a hatter, as countless psychiatrists argue. He is a malignant narcissist (see here and here and here); a sociopath; a psychopath who is a son of a sociopath and/or a sexual sadist who is utterly incapable of human concern and empathy.

So what?

After four, or six, or thirty years of watching this guy on TV, do these diagnoses still surprise you? Do you still react to his latest threat, lie, brag, insult or cruel decision by posting it to Facebook and sharing it – your surprise – with your friends. Well, of course we all do this; but consider that the subject of the sentence, “I can’t believe he said this new thing!” is myself and my own wounded innocence. The shock below the shock is really that Trumpus = Trump / us.

Of course, writes Alex Morris, merely having a mental illness wouldn’t necessarily disqualify Trumpus for the presidency. It doesn’t even make him that unusual:

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease found that 18 of the first 37 presidents met criteria for having a psychiatric disorder, from depression (24 percent) and anxiety (eight percent) to alcoholism (eight percent) and bipolar disorder (eight percent). Ten of them exhibited symptoms while in office, and one of those 10 was arguably our best president, Abraham Lincoln, who suffered from deep depression…

But despite our wounded innocence, we know that we are dealing with a special case. We know that he schemes constantly to feed his narcissism. We know that he gets deep pleasure by deliberately manipulating, insulting, cheating and stealing from and even hurting anyone and everyone he can get into his clutches. And we know that he’s been doing these things his entire life. And the lies: The WAPO claims that he made 19,127 false or misleading claims in 1,226 days. Clearly, he gets pleasure not from money but from what the money represents – cheating, conning, frightening and manipulating people. Psychologist John Gartner writes:

He enjoys ripping people off and humiliating people. He does this manically and gleefully… Trump is also a sexual sadist, who on some basic level enjoys and is aroused by watching people be afraid of him. In his mind, Trump is creating chaos and instability so that he can feel powerful…Professor of psychiatry and psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg called that phenomenon “omnipotent destructiveness.”…Trump is a master at getting negative attention, and the more people he can shock and upset, the better.

Psychoanalyzing public figures usually tells us more about ourselves than it does about them, but this time we need to go there. We may lie for perverse pleasure – or for some deeper reason. Psychoanalyst Lance Dodes suggests that Trumpus tells “two kinds of lies: the ones he tells others to scam them, and those he tells himself.”

That’s an interesting statement that may carry us to Trumpus’ core, and possibly to the core of American myth. I think this is critical: many insiders have leaked accounts of how he gets bored and constantly seeks to increase the level of risk. With each new tweet, press conference, dismissing of a regulatory bureaucrat, betrayal of a supporter or revelation of the latest scandal, he seems to be constantly upping the ante to see how much he can get away with, before – what? I won’t begin a list because it would take too long, and we’ve all been watching this, daily, for years now. We turn to our spouse and say: I can’t believe it! Just when we think we’ve seen it all, when he couldn’t possibly do or say anything worse – there he goes again.

I propose two bookmarks that define his MOA. The first is the infamous boast at the beginning of his campaign on January 23rd, 2016:

They say I have the most loyal people — did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.

He got away with that because, as Selena Zito wrote, “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

The second occurred 3½ years later. On July 24th, 2019 Robert Mueller told Congress that the Justice Department has long argued that a sitting president can’t be indicted, and therefore he was declining to indict Trumpus for either obstruction of justice or campaign finance violations. James Risen writes:

…Most people who survive that kind of legal threat would lie low, at least for a while, and try to get back to some level of normalcy. But Trump is a habitual criminal, and his reaction to escaping Mueller’s investigation was to go on yet another crime spree…

From that frying pan, Trumpus leaped into the fire, calling the president of Ukraine, asking him to work with Rudy Giuliani and William Barr to help them manufacture lies about Joe Biden and his son Hunter (more on Hunter later), and clearly offering financial incentives. When the news came out, Adam Schiff, a broken clock who is right twice a day, tweeted, “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown.”

No surprises here. The only reason I mention this particular outrage is that it occurred the very next day after Mueller’s testimony.

Trumpus knew perfectly well that intelligence spooks listen in to all his calls. I suggest that – at some level – he knew that this conversation would soon be made public, he was quite deliberately pushing the envelope of provocation and self-incrimination. I imagine his internal logic like this: Well, they refused to catch me last time; maybe this will get their attention. He was – and is – asking to get caught, and he still has the re-election campaign (Goddess protect us) to up the ante further.

What is he really doing? Yes, he’s America’s premier con man.  But look inside every huckster or shyster and you’ll find a low-level trickster, a rebellious adolescent provoking his parents, older brother or teachers by repeatedly transgressing some rule or agreement of social decorum, just, so he thinks, to get a rise out of them.

Or consider a slightly older male “leaving rubber” in his flashy, red sports car, daring the cops. You know the color – I call it “bust me red.” 78749081-man-behaving-badly-could-be-dementia Isn’t he hoping to get caught and have clear limits set on his behavior? Here are some more troubling examples, two from life, one from art and one from mythology:

In 1946 at the scene of one of his crimes, the serial killer William Heirens scrawled these words on a mirror: For heaven’s sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself. 

In 1993 a young girl named Polly Klaas was kidnapped and murdered in a case that would lead to California’s “Three Strikes” law. The culprit was a multiple offender named Richard Allen Davis.  th I mention him because a study of his life reveals a pattern. Each time he was released from prison he quickly went on to commit worse behavior, until he enacted the ultimate crime of child murder. It was almost as if each of his actions had been a cry for attention: For heaven’s sake catch me. Until you pay attention, I will continue to up the ante.

saturn_devouring_his_children Francisco Goya’s great painting Saturn Devouring his Son depicts the primordial murder of the children which I have argued is the mythic narrative at the core of western civilization (for background, I write about it here). Jay Scott Morgan describes it:

The image is ineffaceable: the cannibal god on bended knees, engulfed in darkness; the mad haunted eyes and black-blooded mouth; the rending fingers, threaded with blood, and the ravaged figure in their grasp…Cover the right side of the face, and we see a Titan caught in the act, defying anyone to stop him, the bulging left eye staring wildly at some unseen witness to his savagery, his piratical coarseness heightened by the sharp vertical lines of the eyebrow, crossed like the stitches of a scar. Cover his left eye, and we are confronted by a being in pain, the dark pupil gazing down in horror at his own uncontrolled murderousness, the eyebrow curved upwards like an inverted question mark, as if he were asking, “Why am I compelled to do this?”

Who is this Saturn (Chronos, in Greek myth) addressing? Why us, of course. Why won’t we intervene? Why do we collude and normalize the crime? / Morgan continues:

…the painting still evokes in me an interior terror, a sense of isolation, loneliness, grief–this god on his knees, tearing apart his own child, enshrouded in a blackness that is like a psychic tar, clinging to me, clinging me to him, to a drama of primal murderousness, so that now I seem to be participant as well as viewer. I look upon him, and I am implicated in the crime.

A final example comes from Euripides’ play The Bacchae. The boy-king Pentheus reveals (to us, not to himself) his unconscious motivation when he orders his henchmen to find Dionysus and arrest him:

Go, someone, this instant,
to the place where this prophet prophesies.

Pry it up with crowbars, heave it over, upside down;

demolish everything you see…

That will provoke him more than anything.

As I write in Chapter Five of my book,

“Provoke” (from vocare, to call) is marvelously appropriate. At some level Pentheus can choose. He can invoke or evoke his own Dionysian nature, or he can innocently project it outwards, provoking its expression somewhere else.

Yes, on one level Trumpus certainly gets temporary satisfaction from cheating, stealing, hurting and antagonizing his social and intellectual betters. It’s temporary because, like all addictive strategies, it gives no nourishment for the soul and must be repeated continuously. I have no doubt that consciously he says and does these things for these amoral reasons.

But on another level (a moral level), with all the upping of the ante, isn’t he actually proclaiming, I can’t stand myself! Someone please catch me, stop me, punish me before I do something really awful! I don’t want to do this any longer! Get me out of here!

Perhaps, as Alex Henderson remarks of Trumpus’ deluge of ‘incredibly self-damaging actions’ “People are starting to question if he’s ‘actively trying to win anymore.”

Is it possible that – for his entire life – he’s just been asking for help? Conventional psychology might see his behavior patterns as indicating self-hatred. But, as depth psychologist Robert Moore argued, if we look closely at grandiosity, we often discover that just below it lies depression, and that the path toward healing involves puncturing the grandiosity so as to allow the deeper wounds to emerge into the light and be cleansed. From this perspective, everything he does is actually part of an unconscious teleological drive toward self-knowledge. Like Pentheus, he is asking, with increasing desperation (in ritual terms) for initiation. In that sense, he really does speak for all of us.

Read Part Five here.

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Barry’s Blog # 342: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Three

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes. Everybody knows.  – Leonard Cohen

We can disagree in the margins, but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change. – Joe Biden

The Democratic Primaries

This is not going to be pretty. The election is more than a case of politics making strange bedfellows; it’s two branches of the ruling class in a food-fight. It’s Republican shills for the mega-rich driving white rage down the same old roads of fear and white supremacism they’ve been riding since the 1670s. And it’s octogenarian Democrat dinosaurs using the Russiagate narrative – and now the “Bountygate” narrative – to distract you from the fact that their corporate, neoliberal policies serve the same financial interests as do those of the Republicans.

And the same militarism. Even as I write this, both the full Senate (including 16 Democrats)  and the House Armed Services Committee (with a Democratic majority) have just voted to make it much more difficult to withdraw U.S. troops from the “forever war” in Afghanistan.

Yes, yes, support Biden, for all the appropriate reasons. This time the lesser of two evils is less evil enough for it to matter. But don’t be naïve, and don’t kid yourself about the inappropriate reasons. Biden’s campaign has stressed a fantasy of a “return to normalcy” after an “abnormal” president. However, as Caitlin Johnstone writes, this is a silly idea for two reasons:

Firstly, wanting America to go back to how it was before Trump is wanting the conditions which gave rise to Trump…the same status quo austerity, exploitation, oppression and warmongering …Secondly, this fabled “return to normality” that Biden is supposedly offering is literally impossible, since normality never actually left. Normality never left, because Donald Trump is a very normal US president.

…the media just yell about this president a lot more than usual because he puts an ugly face on the horrific normal that was already there. Sure he makes rude tweets and says dumb things and has made a mess of the pandemic response, but by and large when you strip away the narrative overlay Trump has been a reliable establishment lapdog advancing more or less all the same status quo imperialist and oligarchic agendas as the presidents who came before him. There are just a lot of establishment loyalists with a vested interest in spinning the ugliness his oafishness is exposing as caused by and unique to him.

Again: as mythologists, our first responsibility is to strip away the narratives that keep us from acknowledging reality. The only meaningful way to oppose Trumpus is from the position of a new story that reveals how the myth of innocence – even, perhaps especially in its liberal varieties – has led us all up Shit Creek.

It means giving the one hundred million adult Americans who don’t vote something to get excited about, as Bernie Sanders would have done, rather than fighting over the scraps of the tiny numbers of undecided “swing” voters. We can’t ignore the fact that instead of articulating a progressive (and extremely popular) critique of the military machine, almost all the leading Democrats continue to attack Trumpus’ foreign policies, but from the right.

To get past our denial and really understand what the DNC does, we have to take an unblinkered view of the cesspool known as the Democratic primaries. It will be enlightening if not encouraging. Mysteries abound. In the best conventional analysis I’ve seen so far, Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic (I’m quoting him because he’s a legitimate leftist) lists some of them:

Sanders’s leftward stances on issues like immigration supposedly lost him rural counties, but he had the best standing with rural voters, out of all Democrats. He supposedly alienated rank-and-file Democrats with his rhetoric, yet held sky-high favorability ratings among them throughout 2020…(he) won nearly every demographic in Nevada, even moderates and conservatives, and led nationally among black voters on the eve of South Carolina…He annihilated his rivals in donor numbers from Obama-to-Trump counties, had historic electoral strength in such areas, and had the largest lead among independents in head-to-head polling with Trump among all his rivals.

In searching for answers for Biden’s triumph, Marcetic does acknowledge the role of the media:

…these themes were relentlessly advanced by the network(s): beating Trump was all that mattered, Biden was the safest bet to do so, and running Sanders — when the network deigned to mention him at all — would be a risk…these developments prompted a barrage of attacks and apocalyptic warnings from Democratic officials and pundits about Sanders’s threat to Democrats’ chances in November. A group of party centrists spent millions blanketing South Carolina with ads making these charges. Party leaders and rival candidates openly vowed to deprive him of the nomination if he won the most votes…CNN covered Sanders three times as negatively after his blowout Nevada win as they did Biden after his romp through South Carolina, assailing Sanders’s electability above all…

We should also note Elizabeth Warren’s egregious, opportunistic, unforgivable betrayal of Sanders.

But ultimately, Marcetic falls back on the conventional – that is naively innocent – perspective: “…voters saw Biden as the candidate by far most likely to win against Trump.” He simply refuses to consider the observable facts on the ground, and in doing so he reveals his trust in the system. Worse, the implication is that he (like all the mainstream media he would criticize) wants you to trust it.

Here is the fundamental reality of politics in America: both Republicans and Democrats tamper with election results whenever they can get away with it, but they do so at differing points in the election cycle. That this happens this way is no mystery. Why it happens is the mystery. Corrupt-Voting-Machine

Greg Palast, Harvey Wasserman  and others have demonstrated that in the 2016 primaries the DNC was able to manipulate the vote, in every case to the detriment of the Sanders campaign. In State after state, claims Jonathan Simon, author of Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century, “The vote counts were more in favor of Clinton than the exit polls, which were more in favor of Bernie Sanders. We saw a very consistent pattern of that.”

In liberal Massachusetts, Sanders beat Clinton in all the precincts with hand-counted paper ballots but lost every single precinct that used electronic voting machines.

Palast tells us that exit polls are the State Department’s own “gold standard” used to measure the honesty of – and in several cases – decertify elections in other countries such as Nicaragua and Uganda. Our own Agency for International Development (a well-known front for the CIA) has stated:

Detecting fraud: Exit polls provide data that is generally indicative of how people voted. A discrepancy between the aggregated choices reported by voters and the official results may suggest, but not prove, that results have been tampered with.

The discrepancies between the exit polls’ projections of each candidate’s vote share and the vote shares derived from unobservable computer counts have a considerable impact on the apportionment of delegates to each candidate, which is, after all, the main reason for these state primaries. Palast continues:

Exit polling is, historically, deadly accurate. The bane of pre-election polling is that pollsters must adjust for the likelihood of a person voting. Exit polls solve the problem…In 2000, exit polls gave Al Gore the win in Florida; in 2004, exit polls gave Kerry the win in Ohio…So how could these multi-million-dollar Ph.d-directed statisticians with decades of experience get exit polls so wrong? Answer: they didn’t. The polls in Florida in 2000 were accurate. That’s because exit pollsters can only ask, “How did you vote?” What they don’t ask, and can’t, is, “Was your vote counted?” electronic-voting

So why don’t we hear more about this? Mainstream media outlets contract with a company called Edison Research to conduct exit polling. Joe Lenski, its executive vice president, has candidly admitted that Edison massages its exit poll data once official vote counts have been released to align the exit poll numbers with the electronic vote totals. Indeed, the whole argument about vote flipping is possible only because researchers have been able to post those exit polls before Edison can change them.

This may be old news from February 2017, but it bears mentioning: Tom Perez, soon to be named Chair of the DNC, bragged that they had rigged the primaries in favor of Clinton. His remark appeared online before he could retract it.

What does this mendacity accomplish? As I predicted in my analysis of the 2016 election, the Clinton forces ensured her nomination by sweeping the primaries in the Southern states. This effectively eliminated Sanders, but these were all states that were certain to go to Trumpus in the general election, and the DNC was perfectly aware of this.

So, that was 2016. What about the 2020 Democratic primaries (compiled by TDMS Research) Surely, the power brokers have learned that they can’t afford to alienate the young, the black, the brown and the progressive – in other words, the base of the party. Right? Hold your nose.

New Hampshire (2/17):

The New Hampshire Democratic Party Primary computerized vote count results differ significantly from the results projected by the exit poll conducted by Edison Research and published by CNN at poll’s closing. The disparities exceed the exit poll’s margin of error.Buttigieg’s vote count exhibited the largest disparity from his exit poll projection. His unverified computer-generated vote totals represented a 12% increase of his projected exit poll share.

South Carolina (2/29): This was the state where Biden began his (alleged) big comeback, where the media unanimously trumpeted the narrative of his “electability.”

Election results from the computerized vote counts differed significantly from the results projected by the exit poll. The disparities exceed the exit poll’s margin of error. Biden’s vote count exhibited the largest disparity from his exit poll projection. His unverified computer-generated vote totals represented an 8.3% increase of his projected exit poll share. Given the 528,776 voters in this election, he gained approximately 19,700 more votes than projected by the exit poll.

Massachusetts (3/3):

As in the 2016 Massachusetts primary between candidates Sanders and Clinton, disparities greatly exceed the exit poll’s margin of error. Sanders won Massachusetts in the exit poll and lost it in the computer count. The discrepancies between the exit poll and the vote count for Sanders and Biden totaled 8.4%— double the 4.0% margin of error…Warren’s and Biden’s discrepancies also totaled 8.4%, again double the margin of error. Noteworthy is the fact that the 2016 Massachusetts Republican Party exit poll taken at the same time and at the same precincts as the Democratic Party primary, and also with a crowded field of five candidates, was matched almost perfectly by the computer count—varying by less than one percent for each candidate.

Vermont (3/3):

In Sanders’ home state, the combined disparities between the exit poll and the vote count for candidates Sanders and Biden at 10.8% exhibited the largest disparity of the 14 primary states that voted to date…Biden with an exit poll share of 17% and in danger of receiving 0 delegates (if his vote count fell below 15%) outperformed his exit poll share by 4.5% in the vote counts—a 26.1% increase of his exit poll share.

Texas (3/7):

Sanders was tied with Biden in the exit polls but lost in the unobservable computer counts by 4.5%. 

California (3/9):

According to the exit poll Sanders won by 15%. Computer counts cut his lead by half (once again more than double the margin of error). To date, California computers totaled 250,600 fewer votes for Sanders and Warren than projected by the exit polls and 236,700 more votes for Biden and Bloomberg. The current (3/9/2020) apportionment of California delegates  stands at 185 for Sanders and 143 for Biden. The estimate derived from the exit polls calculates to 207 delegates for Sanders and 122 for Biden.

In Texas, computer counts resulted in 90 delegates for Sanders and 102 for Biden. Substituting California and Texas exit polls’ estimated delegate count for the computer derived counts results in Sanders leading the current delegate count by 543 to 501 for Biden.

Michigan (3/14):

The large discrepancies greatly exceeded the margin of error …Sanders underperformed his exit poll projected proportions by 15.4% (and) received 105,000 less votes than projected while others (mainly Biden and Bloomberg) received 111,000 more than projected by the exit poll. Of concern is Michigan’s destruction of the ballot images, that could have been used to greatly facilitate a recount, that were created by their scanners for their counts. This destruction appears to violate both federal and state laws.

Missouri (3/25):

As in 11 of the 17 state primaries elections prior to March 17, the discrepancies between exit polls projections and the results of the unobservable computer vote counts in Missouri is large and beyond the margin of error associated with the exit poll…all but one of these large discrepancies favors Biden and disfavors Sanders.

Here are some other commentaries on the primaries:

We Believe This “Dark Money” Group Illegally Spent Nearly $5 Million to Destroy Sanders 2020 Campaign 

Is The Election Being Rigged Against Bernie Sanders? Why Are The Exit Polls So Far Off?

Bernie Is Being Cheated Again. Will He Fight? 

Is the DNC cheating? Again? 

Elite Media Dismiss Voter Suppression on Grounds That It’s “Complicated”

So let’s not kid ourselves. Part of waking up from the myth of American innocence is realizing that politics is not and never has been about morality; it’s about power, how to wield it, but primarily about how to get some of it. It’s the real world. Once we understand that, we can theoretically accept the premises of the centrist-liberal willingness to achieve small bits of incremental progress through compromise and limited demands. That describes the eight years of the Obama administration, which gave the bankers, the generals and the Israelis absolutely everything they wanted in exchange for some limited progress in health care.

This helps us understand another premise of the centrist-liberals: the marginalizing of dissident voices such as Bernie Sanders. From the perspective of the center (and coincidentally those already in power), it’s necessary to create false equivalencies between “populists” of both left and right.

The real threat of course is from the left. So in this world of real politics, Democratic centrists can and must do everything possible to eliminate any threat from the left so as to avoid scaring off “middle of the road” voters. If you prefer to imagine the DNC’s and Joe Biden’s motives as essentially moral and idealistic, here is a logical road to back up that kind of thinking. You have to play hardball to get anything worthwhile done, they would shrug and say. And it might even help you justify their manipulation of the primary votes.

The demonstrable fact, by the way, that this strategy has almost never worked seems to be irrelevant to those who consume this version of the myth. But you may ask, “What about Bill Clinton? Didn’t he do exactly that in 1992?” Well, quite apart from what he actually did in office (bombing Serbia and Iraq; eviscerating welfare), if Ross Perot had not siphoned off 19% of the vote, it’s possible that George H.W. Bush would have been re-elected.

The only context in which the DNC’s obsession with middle-of-the-road voters makes any practical sense is the above-mentioned Republican control of the voting process in half the states. If we assume – and we should – that they will continue the swindle in those states, then Democratic focus on the swing states matters.

But it makes no sense at all when we return to these facts: the U.S. has the lowest voter turnout in the industrialized world; half of eligible voters simply don’t bother; the vast majority of them are poor and have no health insurance (or jobs); and they won’t vote this time, even to get rid of Trumpus, unless the Democrats give them reasons to. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that not giving a hundred million people reason to think that their votes might matter represents a profound contempt for democracy.

There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos. – Jim Hightower

Read Part Four here.

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Barry’s Blog # 341: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Two

For a long time now, only half of American adults have considered it worth their time to vote. They are not stupid. Stop calling them stupid. We make up the lowest turnout rate in the world because so few of us see any significant differences between the two major parties. And the twin curses of massive voter suppression and computer fraud have ensured that millions of votes that are cast are not counted. That is reality. But the mystery is why the Democrats have done so little about it through the last five election cycles.

Here’s another mystery. What does it say about the public’s appreciation of the Democratic Party that, with the most profoundly unpopular and deeply reviled president in U.S. history, it took a pandemic with 140,000 dead and an economic depression with forty million unemployed to finally push Biden’s poll numbers past those of Trumpus? Here’s another one: Michael Bloomberg spent nearly a billion dollars convincing you that Bernie Sanders was unelectable. Can you imagine the good that money would have done had he spent it fighting voter suppression? Have you heard a word about him since he dropped out?

Here’s another one: Do the Democrats really think they can win with a candidate who has no constituency, no charisma and few platform positions that would attract more voters other than not being Trumpus? Do they really care about winning?  Does Joe Biden really care about being President (see below)?

I hope I’m wrong. May the future bring us something better than this. We deserve better, or so we’d like to think. But here I want to present some mythological and psychological speculations.

What exactly are these two old white guys contending for? Liberals lament that the system is dysfunctional or broken, while radicals will argue that it has been doing quite well in terms of its actual functions of maintaining the military empire abroad and redistributing wealth upwards at home. As a mythologist, I see both points of view, and I suggest that the myth of American innocence holds it all together.

One aspect of what Joseph Campbell called our demythologized world, especially in America, is that the distinctions between religion, politics and entertainment have collapsed (this week Trumpus sat at the Oval Office desk and endorsed a brand of beans. You can’t make this stuff up). trump-beans This is perhaps because all three of these areas of public life are the realm of the con man’s main interests: making money and aggrandizing the self. For more on this American archetype, read my essay The Con-Man.

Please understand that anything spoken (well, nearly anything; see below) for the public by anyone at that level of power has been carefully vetted in front of multiple focus groups and edited precisely to fit the perceived needs of a very specific audience so as to manipulate its views of the politician. If in the Age of Trumpus (or for the past several election cycles) you haven’t noticed this, you haven’t been paying attention. But it began long before this particular con man entered the White House. I have written much more on these issues in these essays:

Let’s Talk About Me

Obama and the Myth of Innocence

Obama’s Tears

The Ritual of the Presidential Debates 

Stories We Tell Ourselves About Barack Obama 

The Presidential Dilemma

Trumpus and Biden (and everyone around them, including the entire press corps) know very well that every American president since Harry Truman, and arguably for much longer, has been  essentially a spokesperson for interests far more powerful than he; a “master of ceremonies” in the lesser sense; a salesman for the myth and the empire. He certainly is not its ruler, not even the primary “decider,” as G.W. Bush described himself.

I also want to suggest that all contenders for the Presidency in the United States, far more than in any other country, are well aware of a particularly complex role they will be called upon to play,  which they have been practicing for their entire adult lives (quite literally, in the case of Joe Biden). They will face a unique political dilemma created by two conditions.

The first is the capitalist domination of politics, which require a spokesperson to direct the national narratives toward the grand aims of the military-industrial-petrochemical-pharmaceutical-carceral complex. The second is his symbolic role. As head of state, he must embody the mythic figure of the King for his people. And these two conditions require that he play two opposite aspects of the myth of innocence against each other.

As spokesman for the Empire, he must continue at all times to amplify the national mood of paranoia and fear of “the Other” so as to justify a continuing national military state and repression of people of color at home. In other words, he must manipulate the traditional white American sense of being the innocent victim, or at least the potential victim, of some dark (and dark-skinned), irrational, violent, predatory outsider.

This of course would be nothing new to him, since anyone even aspiring to his office, not to mention those actually vetted, would be perfectly aware of it. And to be sufficiently convincing, he must, in a sense, play the victim himself, so that his followers can identify with him.

As King-figure, however, his job is to absorb the idealistic projections of millions of people. I write “absorb” because in myth this is a two-way process. The Sacred King takes in our projections and hopes and then radiates them back out as fertility, as abundance, as blessing. (Not to do that is simply to suck those dreams in like a black hole of narcissism and give nothing back. This has been Trumpus’ game for decades, and perhaps the consequences are finally catching up to him.)

Any person who assumes the presidency automatically takes on this public projection. At the level of image, metaphor and deep narrative, these men are the nation because they embody it, and the nation must endure. Why must the nation endure? In this demythologized world authentic myth and ritual have disappeared, and they have been replaced by consumerism, fundamentalism, substance abuse – and nationalism, in which the individual identifies completely with the state, and is willing to sacrifice its young to its aims.

Here we have to take a detour through what I consider to be one of the most important books ever written, Blood Sacrifice and the Nation, by Carolyn Marvin and David W. Ingle.  It is summarized in a short article here. And I wrote of it here:

…“nationalism”…for the past 150 years has supplanted mass religion in most advanced countries. But it retains much religious symbolism. The familiar Christian God has long been replaced by the group, which is symbolized in the totem fetish – the flag. A fundamental aspect of America’s civil religion is our unique cult of the flag. Curiously, we display it in our churches as well as in many places of business, as if to reinforce the notion that in America there is little difference between them. We worship it by pledging allegiance, and occasionally by kneeling and kissing it. And we are horrified at the thought of its desecration, because, they write, it is “the ritual instrument of group cohesion…the god of nationalism.” Such rituals nearly equate God with America, writes Robert Bellah. Often “…the most jingoistic identity of nation and church has come not from our political leaders but from the churches themselves.” And the flag is embodied in the totem leader, the President.

In this view, the purpose of ritual at the level of the large, national state is to sustain the group by repeating, at various levels of intensity, the act of group creation. Participants in such rituals – especially in our culture of radical individualism – achieve a kind of communion and learn that their God demands human sacrifice. Not the sacrifice of the defeated, which implies the preparedness to kill for one’s country, but willing sacrifice, the willingness to die for it. Or at the very least, the willingness to send one’s children – the best of the best – to die for it.

Body sacrifice lies at the core of nationalism. Warfare is the most powerful enactment of the ritual of blood sacrifice…The creation of sentiments strong enough to hold the group together periodically requires the death of a significant portion of its members. In short, society depends upon the death of sacrificial victims at the hands of the group.

We, dear readers, are the group. Well, not really, since our children won’t be among the sacrificed, those who will die for capitalism. But in the broader sense, who could argue that our generation has not condemned them all to a collapsing ecosystem and polluted bodies?

In a twisted sense, there is some good news here. The fact that so few of us are willing to soil ourselves by voting actually indicates that very large numbers of us (not including conventional liberals) can see through the ritual charade. The bad news, well…not voting gave us Trumpus.

Back to the presidential dilemma. Another consequence of the loss of myth is that we have conflated two archetypes, the King and the Warrior, who is in service to the King. In doing so, we minimize the creative potential of each of them. This Warrior-King must continually re-affirm the fantasy that his intentions (and ours) are noble, protective and altruistic, that America is truly exceptional, that America has a divine mission to save the world and will always prevail.

And to do that, he must play the exact opposite of the victim, the Hero (the immature form of what Jungian writer Robert Moore called the Warrior archetype)  He must reassure us of his – and our – ability to meet all threat and defeat them, while simultaneously bringing the Good Word of our Christian compassion to those evil ones who would – for no apparent reason – harm us. As Bush endlessly repeated after 9/11/2001, it is absolutely certain that America will prevail against the external Other (formerly the Native Americans, then Mexicans, then Communism, now Islamic terrorism, which is shifting before our eyes into “the Russians” and “the Chinese”), because the nation, which he embodies, is charged with the divine mission of defeating evil and spreading freedom and opportunity. Not to do so would be to call our most basic national and personal identities into question.

He must simultaneously and repeatedly tell us, be afraid, be very afraid – and – we are absolutely unconquerable! He must prove to be a professional storyteller of the double-bind, conflicting messages that some psychologists consider to be the genesis of schizophrenia. And after many generations of hearing and ingesting these crazy-making narratives, it really is a sad commentary on all of us that we have come to expect nothing better from our leaders.

The media gatekeepers face an even more complicated dilemma. As fascism threatens to descend upon us, liberal America has been attempting to walk a fine line: alternately normalizing and de-legitimizing the Trumpus regime, especially since this spring, while carefully refusing to examine any of the bedrock assumptions of our myth of innocence.

For the sense of “nation,” with all its white privilege, economic disparities and permanent warfare to endure, the media must continually try to shore up each new crack in the veneer of American innocence. So controlling the narratives and manipulating our perception of really terrible people is one of the primary functions of our media gatekeepers. The classic analysis of the media’s gatekeeping role is Noam Chomsky’s article, “A Propaganda Model.” 

Bush_Michelle_Obama_BlissOne of the ways they do this is by re-habilitating the reputations of previous presidents, such as Bush and his father.  In this context, it really shouldn’t be surprising that Bill Clinton eulogized Richard Nixon, that Barack Obama lavishly praised Ronald Reagan, RT_hillary_clinton_and_henry_kissinger_3a_ml_160518_4x3_992 that Hillary Clinton is a close friend of the war criminal Henry Kissinger, or that even Trumpus should be granted an insane sort of normalization. 

War criminals. I don’t want to belabor this point, but it is critical to understand what the people we vote for – all of them – are willing to do in order to prove their loyalty to the power brokers. As Chomsky has said, “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.” hqdefault

It is equally important to understand how those same oligarchs require the same proof of loyalty from the media gatekeepers, who have responded by creating a mainstream consensus that the madness of normal life is normal. This is the “normal” to which Biden promises he will return us.

So it is useless and counter-productive to criticize Trumpus as merely a negative, even terrible exception to the story of American exceptionalism, or even as someone who has corrupted this story. There is nothing to be gained by arguing, for instance, that he is dangerous, incapable, racist, misogynist, stupid or unpatriotic because he won’t listen to the “intelligence community” — as if progressive-minded people have any business aligning themselves with the murderers and regime-changers of the CIA. 

Here is another aspect of our diminished American reality: if the CIA “leaks” any “alleged” information about “events” anywhere in the world, they are doing so because they want you to consume a narrative of their own construction, to serve the long-term aims of the American empire. In 2020, from Russia to China to Syria to Israel / Palestine to Afghanistan to Venezuela, and sometimes even Iran and North Korea, most leading Democratic politicians have been criticizing Trumpus from the right. And this bizarre truth takes us a long way into the mystery of how they shamelessly stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, as we’ll see in Part Three.

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Barry’s Blog # 340: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part One

The war is not meant to be won; it is meant to be continuous. – George Orwell

Watch what we do, not what we say. – John Mitchell, Attorney General under Richard Nixon

Let me be perfectly clear (Nixon said that). I want Biden to win in a landslide, win back the Senate, pick the next few Supreme Court Justices and send Trumpus (Trump = us) out beyond the safety of presidential immunity, where he can get prosecuted for at least some of his crimes. However, for me (in California) and most of you who live in reliably red or blue states, our votes are meaningless. If your passion remains strong, then work for him in the small number of states other than your own that will actually be in play, or work for local progressive candidates.

First, the good news. In many ways this is a time of profound hope. As mythologists, we believe nothing, but we entertain possibilities. White people are reading about privilege and fragility and waking up. Some cities are reducing their police budgets and firing some of their worst racist police officers. Confederate statues are coming down. Sports teams are dropping their racist names. The legal system is recognizing Native American rights and ordering oil pipelines on native land to shut down. The entire oil industry may be collapsing. The next vice president might even be a woman of color! This didn’t happen overnight. As Rebecca Solnit writes, it takes “Decades of Activism That Leads to Historic Change.”

Indeed, when we view these times from a mythological perspective, we see, despite the suffering, much to be excited about.  The combination of the pandemic, the reaction to George Floyd’s murder and cumulative, national disgust with Trumpus have thrown the collective consciousness into such a (welcome) frenzy that, for the first time since late 2001, and perhaps for the first time since the 1960’s, major cracks have begun to appear in the façade of the myth of American innocence.

And the optimism, however, brings its own version of that innocence, as if everything had been fine before Trumpus, as if his removal is assured, as if simply replacing him with Joe Biden would be the answer to all of our problems.

The liberal news media tell us daily how he is falling behind in the battleground states. It’s all good.  One writer goes so far as to predict “a Democratic tsunami.” Another tells us that “Trump is accelerating a political realignment that would have otherwise taken decades.”

Now the bad news: none of them are addressing the elephant in the living room. elephant-living-room1

That’s a phrase that is commonly used in addiction recovery, and it seems particularly relevant to use it when reminding ourselves of our national addictions. Of course, from any rational, political-science perspective, the idea that Trumpus seems to be making the wrong decisions on a daily basis, that he’s doing everything possible to alienate voters seems obvious. He almost seems to want to lose (see below) – unless, like four years ago, his people know something we don’t.

Refusal to address this particular elephant is a mythological issue, because all this optimism, all this denial, all this obsession with blaming Trumpus for all of our ills, all this unwillingness to confront deeper issues is happening within the broader context of the myth of American innocence, just as it did then. Indeed, on Election Day 2016, the Cook Political Report (“Democratic tsunami”) predicted the same thing, as did all the major polls. As I wrote in my analysis of the election,

Damn the conventional wisdom. We may well find the answer in pursuing this question: Why, despite the polls favoring Clinton, did the vast majority of high-rolling, last-minute gamblers bet on Trump?…Yes, this was reported in the mainstream media (MSM), but no one seems to have paid it much attention, except for other gamblers. Before you cast the conspiracy theory hood over me (the conventional means of shutting down discussions), shouldn’t we ask what these pros knew?

This election may not go any differently from the 2016 election, and for most of the same reasons that I wrote about in that essay. It’s very likely that Biden will win a large majority of the popular vote, and probably by even greater numbers than Clinton did.

But this is reality: massive purges of voters (a federal judge recently backed Georgia’s purge of more than 100,000 voters); gerrymandering; challenges to the right to vote; voter ID requirements (36 states now have voter ID laws); early/absentee voting restrictions, including cutting hours or days of voting; restrictions on voting registration drives by third-party organizations (such as those enacted in Tennessee that impose civil penalties on canvassers that submit incomplete or inaccurate registration forms); Covid-related fear of in-person voting and budget cuts; likely restrictions on voting by mail; the hesitancy of most states to use ranked-choice voting; a tsunami of polling site closures; and possible defunding of the Postal Service itself (more on that here). image3-2-700x470

Any combination of these factors could very well give the Republicans another Electoral College victory. For a summary of all this fraud, legal or otherwise, and to read the one person who is most in touch with its reality, follow Greg Palast.

Yes, Biden has a big lead in mid-July. But some polls had Clinton ahead by double digits as late as October 23rd, 2016.  This is not to call polls into question; those polls were probably quite accurate – in that they measured how people expected to vote, and quite likely how they did vote. They did not measure whether those votes were counted accurately. And the fact that the mainstream media has had almost nothing to say about this massive crime can mean only a few things:

1 – In their staunch innocence, they simply don’t believe that American politicians can be so corrupt.

2 – They uniformly chose and continue to choose not to inform the public.

And there’s plenty of speculation about how Trumpus, even if he loses, might try to remain in office.

I don’t have much regard for the Democrats, but there is no doubt whatsoever that the Republican Party is comprised entirely of career criminals, con men and outright sociopaths.

Republican governors and secretaries of state ruthlessly, absolutely control the entire election process, including registration and access to voting, in 26 of the 50 states. These are the people whose operatives actually “count” the votes, and we can assume that they will do everything possible, legal or illegal, to influence the results, exactly as they did four years ago. At least since the 2000 election, the baseline of American democracy has been massive computer fraud. Here is reality, as I wrote (and absolutely nothing has changed):

We can never know how many people went into booths in those states, voted for Clinton on electronic machines, left the building and told a professional poll taker whom they’d voted for, but whose vote, unknown to them, was then flipped…Clinton’s Florida lead in exit polls was 1.3% but she lost by 1.3%, a 2.6% shift. In North Carolina her exit poll margin was 2.1%, but the final vote count showed Trump with a 3.8% lead. She had a 4.4% exit poll lead in Pennsylvania, but she lost by 1.2%, a 5.6% shift. The North Carolina and Pennsylvania shifts – 5.6% – are way outside the margin of error and therefore very unlikely to occur by chance. Altogether, exit polls were conducted in 28 states. In 23 of them the discrepancies between the exit polls and the vote count favored Trump. In 13 of them those discrepancies exceeded the margin of error.  

For those who were willing to peek beyond the veil of denial, almost all of these tactics were on full display during this June’s primaries, which Palast has called “Trump’s Vote-Heist Dress Rehearsal.”

…what the press calls the “meltdown” in Georgia (and in the Wisconsin and Kentucky primaries) was very much a dress rehearsal for the plan for minority voting hell in November, not only in Georgia but in a slew of other GOP-controlled swing states…According to an MIT study, a breathtaking 22% of all mail-in ballots are never counted…some states are simply refusing absentee ballots to hundreds of thousands of registrants—or, not sending cards that allow the voter to ask for the mail-in ballot…Georgia is one of the GOP’s ballot-refusing champs. The state refused to send mail-in ballot requests to over a quarter million voters on their so-called “inactive” voter list…In 2018, Georgia purged, that is, erased the registrations of, over half a million citizens on the grounds they’d left Georgia or moved from their home county…(but) 340,134 Georgia “movers” who lost their vote had, in fact, never moved from their registration address.

Trumpus himself has acknowledged that if the system were to be reformed,

The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.

But before you get on your “blame the GOP for everything” horse, remember to thank the Obama administration for expanding the national security state. We are on a razor’s edge. Russell Dobular writes:

Right now there are still too many functioning vestiges of divided government for Trump to make full use of the terrifying powers we’ve imparted to the state since 9/11, but one major terrorist attack on US soil, or the outbreak of a serious war, and it’s only a short step to indefinite detention for activists and opponents of the regime, many of whom will be the same liberals who cheered the arrest of Julian Assange and want to see Edward Snowden put on trial. And thanks to the Patriot Act, which Congress quietly renewed last week,  as long as the government labels the detainees “terrorists,” it will all be perfectly legal.

So let’s not be naïve. Naiveté, along with overconfidence and deep fear, are the fundamental positions of American myth, and we simply no longer have the luxury of indulging in them.

This culture has vomited Trumpus up to be our symbolic King. But he did not cause any of our problems. He simply embodies them and mirrors them back for all of us. Trumpus is us, and as long as we do not collectively admit that our refusal to confront our racist and violent national character, we deserve him.

Read Part Two here.

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Barry’s Blog # 339: American Exceptionalism, Part Six of Six

America is not exceptional because it has long attempted to be a force for good in the world, it tries to be a force for good because it is exceptional. – Peggy Noonan

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. – Vladimir Putin

…one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. – James Baldwin

Ernest Becker asked,

What are we to make of a creation in which the routine activity is for organisms to be tearing others apart…bones between molars, pushing the pulp greedily down the gullet with delight, incorporating its essence…and then excreting with foul stench and gasses the residue. Everyone reaching out to incorporate others who are edible to him.

The indigenous world imagined the Great Mother as both sustainer and destroyer. But modern people can only respond to Becker’s questions in dualistic terms. Either we feel the terror and are immobilized, or we construct myths of religion, romance and domination to transcend our fear of mortality. He argued that all human behavior is motivated by the unconscious need to deny this most fundamental anxiety.

Becker regretted that “we must shrink from being fully alive,” because seeing the world “as it really is, is devastating and terrifying,” and results in madness. Mystics, however, describe this insight as devastating to the individual ego, and a necessary, initiatory prelude to the unitive vision that transcends duality. Ancient devotees of Dionysus, as well as modern practitioners of Eastern and African-based religions, actually strive to attain this state. But for those who lack the containers of community and ritual, the unconscious fear of death is a primary motivator.

To the uninitiated modern person, the death of the ego and the death of the physical body are one and the same. And in America, the loss of identity (white, patriarchal, masculine, Christian, productive, growing, gainfully-employed, segregated into racially conformist neighborhoods, or simply privileged) seems to be equivalent to death of the ego. Yet the prospect of ecstatic escape from the confines of that ego continually beckons to us, and we respond in all manner of unconscious ways.  Let’s try to understand yet another essential American myth, the denial of death.

Despite seeing great progress since the writings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Jessica Mitford, American culture continues to deny and avoid the reality of death more than any other society. This is particularly curious, given our high degree of (perhaps superficial) religiosity. The myth of innocence represents the attitude of the adolescent who expects to live forever. It provides no space for acknowledging that death is a part of life, rather than its opposite. Some call death the most repressed theme of the twentieth century, comparable to the sex taboo of the 19th century. We still view it as morbid, and commonly exclude children from discussion of it. Many adults have never seen a corpse other than in the stage-managed context of the funeral parlor.

Kubler-Ross argued that since few really believe suffering will be rewarded in Heaven, “then suffering becomes purposeless in itself,” and doctors typically sedate the dying to lessen their pain. They are rushed to hospitals, frequently unconscious and against their will, and most die there or in nursing homes. Then the corpse disappears, not to be seen again until it has been “primped up to appear…asleep.” Euphemisms complete the ritual of denial. The “deceased” has “passed on” or “gone to his maker.” “How peaceful he looks.”

The purpose of the ritual is to repress the anxieties that arise when tending to a terminally ill patient. Relatives collude with medical personnel in an elaborate series of lies, maintaining the fiction of probable recovery until the dying person reaches the point of death. Typically, a doctor, rather than a minister, presides over the deathbed, keeping displays of emotion to a minimum. Adults deprive both children and the dying persons themselves of the opportunity to confront death.

Ironically, write Anthropologists Richard Huntington and Peter Metcalf, “In America, the archetypal land of enterprise, self-made men are reduced to puppets.” Then the body is embalmed, restored, dressed and transformed from a rotting cadaver into “a beautiful memory picture.” Neither law nor religion nor sanitation requires this process, and nowhere else but in North America is it widely done. In the last view the deceased seems asleep in a casket (often made of metal).

The ritual achieves two results. First, it insulates mourners from the process of decomposition, the finality of death and their own fears. Second, it minimizes cathartic expressions of grief. The funeral director, writes Mitford, “has put on a well-oiled performance in which the concept of death has played no part…” Wakes are generally pleasant social events, and mourners soon return to work. The mystery of death invites mourners to enter an initiatory space, but it closes too abruptly and too soon for any authentic transition or resolution. A veil that had been briefly lifted drops again.

We claim to believe that Christianity represents a victory over death, yet estrangement from nature is its central theme. Thus, to Americans, death must be either part of God’s plan or a punishment. Arnold Toynbee joked that death was “un-American,” an infringement on the right to the pursuit of happiness. By contrast, Native American tribal religions almost universally produced people unafraid of death, wrote Vine Deloria: “…the integrity of communal life did not create an artificial sense of personal identity that had to be protected and preserved at all costs.”

West African shaman Malidoma Some´ observes our characteristic refusal to give in to grief: “A non-Westerner arriving in this country for the first time is struck by how…(Americans) pride themselves for not showing how they feel about anything.” To him, we typically carry great loads of unexpressed grief. And this leads to a corresponding inability to experience joy: “People who do not know how to weep together are people who cannot laugh together.” This is a succinct, tribal definition of alienation – exile from the worlds of nature, community and spirit.

If we cannot grieve or tolerate the vision of the dark goddess and her bloody, dismembered son, then we cannot experience ecstasy either. We learn to tolerate pale substitutes: romance novels, horror movies (in which characters often refuse to die), the spectacles of popular music and sports, New Age spirituality, Sunday church and happy endings. We learn early to emphasize the light (including “lite”) to the eventual exclusion of the dark.

So our characteristic American expectation of positive emotions and emotional growth makes feelings of sadness and despair more pathological in this culture than elsewhere. Christina Kotchemidova writes, “Since ‘cheerfulness’ and ‘depression’ are bound by opposition, the more one is normalized, the more negative the other will appear.”

Ronald Laing argued that the modern family functions “… to repress Eros, to induce a false consciousness of security…to promote a respect for ‘respectability.’” To be respectable is to produce, and to look cheerful. American obsession with feeling good (“pursuing happiness”) is enshrined as a fundamental principle of the consumer society. As Kotchemidova explains,

Our personal feelings are constantly encouraged or discouraged by the culture of emotions we have internalized, and any significant deviance from the societal emotional norms is perceived as emotional disorder that necessitates treatment.

The average American feels real pressure to present him/herself as cheerful in order to get a job. Once he/she is employed, putting on a ready- made smile is simply not enough. “Corporations expect their staff to actually feel good about the work they do in order to appear convincing to clients.”

She argues that twentieth century America took on cheerfulness as an identifying characteristic. The new consumer economy of the 1920s called for cheerful salespeople and an American etiquette that obliged “niceness” and excluded strong emotionality. Among the dozens of self-help cheerfulness manuals, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) sold more than fifteen million copies. In the 1950s, the media industry invented numerous ways, including the TV “laugh track,” to induce cheerfulness. In the 1980s, politicians discovered cheerfulness; all Presidents since Reagan smile in their official photos (none had done so before). The “smiley face” button sold over 50 million units at its peak in 1971 but remains one of our most recognizable icons.

It follows that depression has reached epidemic proportions in America – and that violence is so fundamental to our experience. Kubler-Ross wrote that our denial of death “has only increased our anxiety and contributed to our…aggressiveness – to kill in order to avoid the reality and facing of our own death.” Phillip Slater wrote of “our technologically strangled environment” in which impersonal forces impact us from remote, Apollonic distances and provoke us to “find a remote victim on which to wreck our vengeance.” This is one reason why Americans rarely protest the military’s mass killing of distant Third World people. Another reason, of course, is their ignorance of the news.

But America was characterized from the start by extreme violence. It was present in the “idea” of America – not the abstract ideals of the founding fathers, but the projection of darkness, instinct and lust onto the Other in the already demythologized world of the seventeenth century. By the Industrial Revolution of the 1840’s, Americans had been slaughtering Indians and enslaving Africans for over two centuries. Herman Melville took note of this and wrote that Indian hating had become a “metaphysic.” Technology certainly contributed to alienation, loneliness and the breakdown of extended families and father-son relationships. But as a seed of depression and long-distance violence, it fell on fertile soil that had been well prepared.

And history conspired. No one alive can recall the carnage of the Civil War; since then we have fought our wars across great oceanic expanses. With the ready availability of handguns, we slaughter each other in small-scale violence like no other people in history. Except for urban race riots, however, there had been no warfare on American territory for well over a century until the terrorist acts of 2001.

These factors all help to perpetuate the myths of innocence and exceptionalism. The final ingredient is the state of the media, in which news reporting, political spin and entertainment are now almost indistinguishable, when half of us get our news from social media or TV comedy “news” shows.

On the one hand, media colludes with our need to remain sheltered from the world and our impact upon it. “We are so desperate for this,” writes Michael Ventura, that we are willing to accept ignorance as a substitute for innocence.” On the other hand, even as violent programming perpetuates fear of crime and terrorism, television has desensitized three generations of Americans to the actual effects of violence.

We all know the statistics. We can theoretically take two populations of children and predict that, as young adults fifteen years later, those who watch more TV will be more violent than the group that watched less. Thus, there is a direct connection between the national denial of death in the abstract and America’s ferocious expression of literal violence. James Hillman concluded that death is “the ultimate repressed,” who returns “through the body’s shattered disarray,” an incursion “into awareness as ultimate truth.” american-exceptionalism2

We innocently observe, we are shocked, and we quickly forget. In book talks I’ve often posed a trick question – When did you lose your innocence? – followed by another one – When did you lose it again? When an exceptional sense of personal and national innocence is so ingrained as ours is, every time it is punctured by circumstances it feels like the first time. In Chapter Eight of my book, I wrote of this experience after the attacks on the World Trade Towers:

The next day, a second wave of commentators offered more nuanced interpretations. Rabbi Marc Gelman, asked if America would be changed by this event, responded, “Yes, we have lost our innocence. We now know there is radical evil in the world.” It was out there, and Americans, mysteriously, had never heard about it. Psychologist Robert Butterworth’s son had asked him, “Daddy, why do they hate us so?” Staring mutely and miserably at the camera, he really didn’t know. His non-response assumed that viewers didn’t either. Such laments could have followed the Oklahoma City bombing, 1993’s WTC bombing, the TWA airliner bombing, the bombings of the destroyer Cole and Lebanon barracks, or any of the recent college or high school shootings. America, we were told, had lost her innocence.

From the perspective of outsiders, or of older cultures, or of the Other, losing our innocence is an absolutely necessary step for white Americans to step out of our adolescence and join the human community. But from within the myth of exceptionalism, losing our innocence is simply a temporary stage that precedes falling back asleep.

Never having confronted death directly, we must find a way to see it, by condoning violence or personally inflicting it upon others. Preferring vengeance to mourning, we are still the only nation to use atomic weapons. Americans invented napalm, cluster bombs and “anti-personnel” mines. We are stunningly unmoved by news of torture at Guantanamo, rape of prisoners in Iraq or police murders of unarmed African Americans, because innocence always trumps awareness. The nation that watches and exports thousands of hours of electronic mayhem and has more handguns than citizens is shocked – shocked! – every time a teenager massacres his schoolmates or a cop drives his car into a crowd of peaceful protestors.

Octavio Paz contrasted his own Mexican culture, which has an intimate relationship to the dark side of existence, with ours: “A culture that begins by denying death will end by denying life.” Such a nation desperately needs someone to save it – distract it – from the black hole of death, and to vanquish, rather than to accommodate those forces of darkness. Such a nation needs heroes. And it will get the heroes that it deserves. On the other hand, writes Caitlin Johnstone,

The principles of individual healing apply to collective healing as well. I have learned that an individual can experience a sudden, drastic shift in consciousness. I see no reason the collective can’t also. Of course humanity is capable of a transformative leap into health and maturity…The only people who doubt this are those who haven’t yet made such a leap in their own lives.


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