THE BLOG
05/31/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama vs. Hillary: Punishment or Healing?

Last Sunday I wrote a short blog suggesting that Obama should consider Hillary Clinton as his VP.

What has startled me even more than the roughly 30/70 "good idea"/"are you nuts?" emails I've gotten in response is the ten percent or so (on both sides, but mostly the latter) who expressed concern that with Clinton (or any "establishment/machine" candidate) on the ticket (a'la LBJ) that Barack Obama would face a fate identical to that of JFK.

I've often spoken of the great wounds this country has suffered in my lifetime. There was Vietnam and Kent State. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. The unconstitutional and illegal hijacking of a state's electoral process -- in clear violation of the constitution -- by the Supreme Court in 2000, with three of the Justices even having family members or close affiliations working with the Bush campaign. The lies and warmongering that led up to the election of 2002, the illegal bombardments and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the theft of the election of 2004 in Ohio (that is just now really coming to light), and the failure of the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to hold the Bush administration accountable for its crimes or to defund its war. The death of thousands of Americans in New York and New Orleans as the result of the explicit policies and actions of madmen.

And now the wounds of this long and protracted primary campaign, the often-not-so-subtle use of race and gender as a weapon by partisans on both sides, and the never-ending goading by the press of the campaigns and the electorate just to extend the process to wring out another day of higher-than-normal advertising revenue.

Americans have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Carl Jung suggested that we come into the world with certain images, inclinations, temperaments, concepts -- archetypes -- pre-wired into our brains. The result of evolution, they are passed from generation to generation, and subtly molded by each over the millennia.

One of his most famous quotes, in describing this, was when he wrote in 1928:

The whole nature of man presupposes woman, both physically and spiritually. His system is tuned into woman from the start, just as it is prepared for a quite definite world into which he is already inborn in him as a virtual image. Likewise, parents, wife, children, birth and death are inborn in him as virtual images, as psychic aptitudes. These have individual predestinations. We must therefore, think of these images as lacking in solid content, hence as unconscious. They only acquire solidity, influence, and eventual consciousness in the encounter with empirical facts.

The facts are the wounds of our culture.

Modern science has found that the genes that control things like our levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin actually do change as we age, and change with experience. Some theorize that while women are born with all their eggs in their ovaries (and thus their DNA is fixed to pass along to the next generation), men are continuously producing new sperm, whose DNA varies over time and with experience. And possibly even the DNA of a woman's eggs can change over time and with experience, through as-yet-not-understood mechanisms.

Thus, those born after the death of JFK (for example) came into the world with some faint shadow, a memory echo, of that Great Wounding already built into them. And those of us old enough to remember it are still wounded by it (and the others).

In my books that have dealt with culture and psychotherapy, I've pointed out that our culture is based on assumptions of sin and punishment. Older cultures -- those that existed without prisons and police for tens of thousands of years (and many are still with us) -- are based on assumptions of balance and harmony. We see a "criminal" as a person acting out the "original sinful" nature of humans, and see the community as having the obligation of delivering the stern and painful corrective of the penal system or "tough love." Older cultures see a "criminal" as a person who has fallen out of balance, and the community as having the obligation to teach and heal the person to bring him or her back into balance.

So here we are, wounded and in pain, and it's bringing us back into excruciating touch with the shadow of our society's worse moments.

Many of the emails I've received have called for Hillary Clinton to be "punished" for her "sins" on the campaign trail. Others have called for the same for Obama. You can find the arguments for the respective camps laid out in detail at, for example, www.democraticunderground.com and www.makethemaccountable.com.

Not one email I've received has called for the person least favored by the emailer to be healed. My original op-ed was an attempt to bring our national conversation to the topic of healing. Dropping an Older Culture idea into a Younger Culture audience would predictably bring a Younger Culture response. We're all -- myself very much included -- products of this young and immature culture that is so busily chewing up the planet (me, too), churning out poisonous waste, and imperiling the very future of our (and millions of others) species. To torture a cliché, we are having fistfights on the deck of the Titanic.

America, with 3 percent of the world's population, is consuming 25% of the world's oil and producing (directly and indirectly through our surrogates and employees in other nations) between 30 and 40 percent of the world's waste. We are killing ourselves and others. Every other species on earth produces waste that is used as food by some other species. Every single one. Except us. Only we Younger Culture denizens of the industrialized world (north, south, east, and west) fail to realize that ever-continuing annual "growth" in a closed biological system (our planet) is known by every other life form as "cancer."

And so here we are. Crazy by birth into a culture that's been crazy for at least 7,000 years, carrying the shadows and archetypes of wars going back to Gilgamesh and ancient Samaria. Wounded by the sociopaths who stole power by the coup of 2000, crashed the towers in 2001, started the wars in 2002, and on and on.

It's time for us to step back from the talk of punishment and begin embracing the notion of healing. This isn't feel-good New Age gibberish. It's the essential action we must take if the cancer within our society is to be arrested before it exterminates us.