12 diet cokes a day. It’s enough to make the average person wince with caffeine fatigue. Reports by the New York Times state that Donald Trump, among other somewhat alarming habits, consumes a wealth of junk food to go with 4-8 daily hours of television watching. Last week, Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, went on sale amid avid anticipation of behind the scenes details of the White House. It’s become increasingly clear that the President has bad habits. Between this and early morning tweets, one can deduce that in addition to not eating well, he’s not able to fully rest and is frequently consumed with toxic thoughts that cause him to impulsively lash out on social media. It would be easy to sit in judgement of this man. His vices include everything from escapism, taking most weekends of his first year in office to play golf, to reported gluttony. We know from decades of being in the spotlight that the man has a penchant for flagrant spending and an appetite for women’s bodies and sex. Not to mention that he seems to rarely check in with himself before speaking, making much of what he says incredible, discreditable, and blatantly untrue. At times, his lack of impulse control has been dangerous, as has been proven by last week’s tweet exchange with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.
For the majority of Americans, these habits are easy to look down upon. As we other-ize our unworthy leader we feel disgust and scoff haughtily. He is so different from each of us, we tell ourselves. This racist, misogynist, easily distracted, narcissistic, fragile little man, is so different from each of us who’ve fallen victim to living in HIS version of America. It didn’t used to be like this, we tell ourselves. He’s made it different. He’s changed our country. Except that he hasn’t. And he isn’t different from any of us. That despicable thing we see in him sets off the revelatory repulsion we must accept when we come to terms with the fact that he IS us. Donald Trump is all of us.
The common self-deception that is at the core of our nation’s current plight involves thoughts like “I’m not racist” or “Not all men are Harvey Weinstein”. As liberals decide that racism is a characteristic of one party, they absolve themselves of the responsibility to look within, to come to terms with, and to ask forgiveness for collective wrong doing. It’s systemic, we’ve decided. But I didn’t do it, we conclude. If the “Me Too” movement has proven anything, it’s that if the majority of women feel that they’ve been oppressed by the majority of men, then there isn’t an innocent soul in existence. All who have benefited from a system of oppression, be it involving the degradation of women, people of color, or the environment, have a part in having created the greatest joke in the history of American leadership. But the joke’s on us.
We created a golden calf. We worshiped gains, went to school for business, denied the wrongdoings of generations before because it made us uncomfortable. We ridiculed women and took mothers for granted. We erected monuments and museums to remember the pain caused by our ancestors. But we forgot to be sorry. We instead buried the worst of our feelings under the rug, until the dust bunny became an insatiable and ridiculous monster. We’ve hoarded collective pain and fed ourselves fat on over-stimulation and instant gratification. It tastes like french fries and feels like sex. It’s the answer to the question that is prompted by each day’s surreal headlines- How did we get here?
Jungian psychology teaches us that each person we encounter is a mirror, and that we are apt to project characteristics onto others we see in ourselves. The good news is, we aren’t all bad. We can reminisce about the era of Obama and recall that for a second we were where we wanted to be. But our feelings for him were a projection as well. We saw in Barack Obama the very best in ourselves. We witnessed grace and an articulate, attractive man with plenty of charm to spare. We worshiped the feminist family man, devoted to his daughters and a partner to his bold, intelligent wife. We admired his rise to power, from what are typically considered powerless conditions in a nation like ours. A black boy, without a father in his life, raised by a single mother who taught him the value of hard work went on to the ivy league and taught himself how to play a white man’s game- and make it look easy. He bore the lashes of a party that was hell bent on creating a rhetoric that embraced racism, but not enough to set off alarm bells. Until it was too late. He was a champion for peace who displayed enough war-hawk energy to make us feel safe. He had boundaries, but cried openly after the murder of 20 children by guns. He was our projection of the best in each of us, and at the end of the day, was just a man. And now we find ourselves dealing with what is required for our collective conscious evolution. It’s the other side of the coin that is each of us. And it’s ugly.
Psychologically and spiritually, Donald Trump represents the shadow in each of us. And the more we rant and rave about our anger towards him on social media, the closer we get to being completely enveloped by that shadow. As we judge and refuse to tolerate his lack of tolerance, we are living in the same darkness. Each side believes it’s right. Each person can find a scapegoat. Each of us can name ways we are lacking privilege, and therefore clean of wrongdoing. Each of us can name ways we’ve resisted or participated in the fight, and are therefore on the right side of history. But what if the answer is contained within each of us? The path to a more realized nation begins with each American acknowledging the light and shadow within themselves.
It’s not impossible. But it will take work. It will take each individual questioning their own contributions to upholding systems of oppression and degradation. It will take action and change, and the forgiveness of self for not being able to completely alter the base nature of being human. It will take conversations with our loved ones and with those we perceive to be wrong. It will take stepping away from social media, from being a spectator or a participant in a useless war of words in a comments section. It will take reckoning and apologizing, and yes, it will take learning to forgive.
Forgiveness is how marriages succeed, through years of trauma and turmoil and disagreement. Our nation is on the verge of an impending divorce. The shadow and light within all of us rage. We deny the existence of the darkest parts of ourselves and cast the blame on others. And when others are representing all that is reprehensible to us we find relief in knowing we are “other”. But in truth, we are one collective. We are evolving together. And to refuse to forgive a predator, a racist, a liar, is to deny that those things exist in each one of us. And that denial is the ultimate untruth. It is the blindness that leads us to violently bump into one another, until we are too bloody to do anything but wail in confusion.
A person must embrace their shadow to fully act from their own light. And no one is blameless in the creation of our America. In 2018, the most radical act we can perform is the protest of self-love and self-inquiry. We can no more reject our most deplorable aspects than we can rid ourselves of our history. The time has come for boldness in the support of our fellow humans, but most importantly, in exploring the emotional misgivings of ourselves. As we investigate the self harm we’ve caused and forgive ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made, we can find healing among the tribe. But until that moment, the otherization of Trump, the right, the left, men, women, black, white, and the ignorant need to absolve ourselves of deeds of blindness perpetuates the cycle.
We are not dissimilar to a family, whose lineage of trauma is handed down from generation to generation. We gather at the dinner table and insist that nothing is wrong, all the while sitting on the suffering and turmoil that keeps us from being truly seen and truly loved. It prevents us from forgiving each other, and from finding healing in ourselves. This broken family, our America, is currently being led by our shadow. YOUR shadow. And to find the way back to the light, you’re going to have to see him in yourself. Are you not vile, base, disgusting, rash, overstimulated, self-centered, judgmental and impulsive? Say no. And watch the cycle perpetuate. Say yes and watch the healing begin.