A friend of a friend led me to Listening to Trump by Kern Beare, writing, “Best thing yet written about DJT–and very brief to boot.”
Part of me agrees, as Beare’s short piece resonates with the work I have done for most of my professional life.
And yet I don’t know what to do with what Beare’s asks.
After listening, what’s next?
Let me and others know what you think.
Listening to Trump by Kern Beare, March 5, 2016
No more histrionics over Donald Trump. We need to listen to his words, not gag on them. Why? Because he’s the relief valve for our nation’s shadow side. His words—unfiltered and unrestrained—puncture the high-pressure container of our collective psyche, releasing into the atmosphere years of suppressed hostility and meanness of spirit. Now the nation’s ears are ringing. If we listen, we can avert catastrophe. If we don’t…well then, we can’t.
Jungian psychology tells us that we all have a shadow side: those qualities, traits, beliefs and feelings we hold but, out of fear or guilt, deny. Nations, too, have a very powerful shadow side, typically claiming for themselves all the qualities perceived as “good” and rejecting—and projecting onto others—all the qualities perceived as “bad.” (When under the spell of one of the shadow’s more extreme manifestations—jingoism—even suggesting your country may have faults is tantamount to treason.)
For both individuals and nations, it takes energy to repress one’s shadow. Over time that energy builds, creating an internal pressure that at some point demands release. When release comes, it’s often in an explosive and exaggerated form: violence, addiction, extreme prejudice, or some other aberration so powerful it obliterates the agreements and norms that once held together a person’s life, or a nation’s culture.
The Donald Trumps of the world are nature’s warning signs. They symbolize what’s being ignored in the human psyche, and what can’t be ignored any longer. They tell us when that explosive release point is near. Had Germany and the rest of the world been paying attention, the first signs of Hitler would have been a catalyst for deep, collective introspection, rather than the annihilation of millions. Trump offers us a similar opportunity.
For millennia humankind has battled the manifestations of the shadow—most notably the inhumanization and devaluation of “the other”—but ignored the shadow itself. And so the pressure simply rebuilds, and the cycle of hate and violence continues. But now we’ve reached a point where the cycle is nearing its end. All that’s left to decide is what the end looks like: The emergence of a new world full of hope, or a destitute world full of suffering.
Trump is helping to clarify that choice. Let’s listen, shine light on our individual and collective shadows, and then choose the future we want.
Emily Nichols Grossi said:
Wow, this is powerful. It rings very true for me too, that sense of the nasty power of suppression and the deleterious ways that will eat away at a person or people if not released. On a personal note, this is why I write: for release, a better understanding of self, healing.
As a country, I can’t see how we shine light on the shadow represented and expressed by Trump (and Cruz and many others in the Republican right) unless we vote. In droves.
Recently, my children’s school dramatically hiked tuition for the second year in a row. People were floored, outraged, and scared. I wrote a letter. I later found out I was one of only four -FOUR! Out of a whole school population- to have done so. The message to school: no one really cares, even though they may bitch and gnash. That’s not the truth, but it’s the message the school gets.
The same is true in American politics today. If we only bitch and gnash about Trump’s histrionics but don’t “write letters”, he gets a pass, and we as a populace are further divided. This is all complicated by gerrymandering and the electoral college, but if people keep rebutting lies and hate and vote, I think the light can shine.
Elizabeth Goodman said:
Last night at our Salon, we were bemoaning how much Trump sounded/felt like Hitler or Mussolini. Yes, we should listen — and then act.
Emily, Elizabeth, and others who emailed:
Several other similar articles this morning:
Boston Globe: bit.ly/1X4fTRB
Land Wayland said:
Our country, any country, goes through introspection from time to time. Sometimes the catalyst is international, sometimes domestic, sometimes economic, sometimes military. The challenge is how we respond to it.
I recall the very disturbed, often violent rhetoric of the Civil Rights days when few had any idea how to respond to those who were afraid of what the new racially integrated world was going to look like. Many hateful angry voices were heard and there were very real fears of race war. Our leaders, political and otherwise, certainly did not have the answers, but they knew that and they had faith in the ability of the American people to talk together and act together to create a way to start working on the problem. And they led the often strained discussions and we started forward.
A similar crisis arose regarding our involvement in Southeast Asia and there are other examples. And each time, many spoke up and others listened and responded. There was often little agreement when these topics first come to the forefront of public consciousness but ideas were examined from 360 degrees, much of the dross was isolated and discarded, roads were identified (at least the first mile or so) and we moved forward.
Each time a polarizing issue arises, there are strident voices that rouse the public awareness that there is an illness festering at the roots that must be dealt with. And once the unpleasantness of being warned that America is still not perfect is absorbed, the discussions can start. But, and this is the key, a civil discussion must start. If the house is on fire, you don’t ignore the barking dog or the smoke alarm.
If what is being said by politicians today reflects the hard unhappy way that many American’s look at their world, then that is a problem that cannot be ignored. Maybe my house isn’t on fire but a fire that is ignored can burn down the entire neighborhood or, if there is a strong wind, the entire city.
And it is not just Donald Trump who is barking the warning. Bernie Sanders is addressing many issues that are also bothering a lot of people. I think that what has shocked so many people about both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is that they have so many topics to work with. They can be ignored but what they are is saying can’t. If these are major problems, they must be addressed and work must be started to resolve them. If they aren’t major problem but only the normal frictions of society, they must still be discussed so that some kind of social lubricant can be applied to them.
What is making this all seem so alarming is to see how many of our leaders, in both parties, have no will or ability or courage to talk about anything. They respond in carefully rehearsed “sound bites” that are meaningless and belittle both the question and the person who asked it. In fact, by their lack of action, these “leaders” make it clear that they recognize that there is an issue, that they have nothing new to say and that they have no leadership to offer. They appear to be overwhelmed by the number of issues that are flying through the air, have few coherent thoughts about few of them, have no plausible solutions to offer, and have chosen to ignore everything. When even the Justices of the Supreme Court argue and bicker in personal ways in open court or in their written opinions, that is a sign of great stress.
Since none of the current group of political hopefuls can lead this effort, what is to be done?
Well, I think that the first thing that has to be done is to recognize, as the author of this article has done, that we have do have problems that are real and they are not going to disappear if they are ignored. We should thank Trump and Sanders for their courage to make a can/bucket of worms their political platform but we should also tell they have now done their duty and can now relax and go fishing.
We can start insisting that our serious mature leaders in all areas (not just politicians and newspapers and political writers) recognize that there are fundamental issues in this country that must be addressed and that they must recognize that and start working seriously on that process. One of the reasons that FDR was so widely respected, even by those who disagreed with him, was that he was willing to recognize that America had changed and that people were afraid of the uncertainty this was leading to and that the causes, extent and limits of this fear had to be recognized before the healing process could begin. And he did it. My grandmother said many times that when Roosevelt scheduled a Fireside Chat, everyone listened and were greatly relieved and encouraged as he reminded them that they were Americans and they could do anything and they needed to get busy ding it, and they believed him and they responded by doing it.
Today Mr. Obama is better than most in public office at trying to do this but people are very angry at him because he has not been able or willing to recognize the root causes of many issues. He does not seem to be interested in trying to understand why so many people in this country insist on owning guns. He does not seem to recognize that many people are upset about the issue of whether there should be limits on the right to perform abortion. He has not been willing to recognize the fear that many have that their children are not going to be able to get the education they will need to earn a satisfactory income. He has not discussed the very real possibility that the robot/computer complex is going to eliminate so many jobs that there will be no work for many people to do. He has not been willing to recognize that many people are afraid of being submerged in a overwhelming influx of aliens who are going to cling to their cultures and languages and very slowly assimilate.
It does not matter that these have already been issues in America for many genera-tions….These issues are still here and the fears are still here and they must be addressed again and again and people see that our political leaders have been reluctant, or even unable, to this at a fundamental level or to even start the discussion and they are very worried that this is because they cannot see any way to lead us out of the swamp and have nothing to offer. They why they are called leaders.
One thing that could be done to start this discussion would be for both political parties, in their upcoming convention, to issue a platform that lists not their solutions but to lists issues that they see as being of great importance to the United States without making any attempt to offer their solutions. Instead, they should say that they understand that these are the issues that voters expect to have their leaders address and that they understand that there is clearly no consensus about how the majority wants to move or act and that the Party’s platform for action for the next four years will be to insure that these topics are all addressed in thoughtful, creative ways at all levels with the confidence that once these matters are fully considered (without personal insults or political rhetoric), a tolerable consensus will start to develop and steps, mayhap small steps, but steps can then be taken along the path.
That is what we have always done. It is time to do it again.
Other than this, affiant sayeth naught
I guess it should not surprise me that Democrats again call Republicans
(especially Trump) evil, angry hateful etc. It is easier then believing that others feel very differently then they think. Has anyone looked at how Trump has been honest and flexible when he is wrong? Unlike Obama and Clinton, he is open about his thoughts but able to accept feedback from his advisers. He is also willing to take more sensible positions than very conservative or very liberal politicians. No country or people want to feel weak or unappreciated. I believe the last 7 years have been filled with events that our citizens have not felt heard.
I agree. I am a conservative, and therefore no fan of big government statist Trump. However, I do find all the pearl clutching on the left over Trump rather amusing. Where are all the pieces on our “shadow side” when we have half the country thinking nothing of sticking a fork in a baby’s skull and calling it “women’s health” instead of infanticide?
Where is all the talk of our “shadow side” when the President accidentally admits that he wants to “spread the wealth around” (which, translated, means “I am going to take something you earned, that you worked for, that you sacrificed time away from your family doing something you didn’t necessarily want to do….and give it to someone so they vote for me, and that I can continue to get picked up in a Town Car every night and dine at Mortons”…..and then calling someone a racist if they point this out….
I don’t buy the argument that Trump is filling a useful role as a valve releasing pressure attributable to the American people having “a very powerful shadow side”. Trump is not releasing pressure. He is fanning flames of ignorance and bigotry and urging Americans act on these feelings by voting for him. The anger and frustration he is exploiting is due in large part to right wing extremists creating a political climate in Washington and a number of states in which almost nothing constructive can be accomplished. Social media and Fox News play a big role in this by amplifying the voices of a relatively small number of people on the fringe who raise expectations that cannot be realized under our Constitutional form of government. The solution is for the angry and frustrated voters to recognize they have been conned by these extremists and to stop electing them to federal, state and local offices.