Shadow Boxing: A Political Confession
I have come to realize that I’ve really gotten too heated over the years due to political rhetoric. I have been ever since the 80’s campaigns, when they began praising capitalism over communism (didn’t know anything about communism, but was rapidly learning about this system and its problems, which these pundits seemed to completely deny), and often blaming social programs and minorities; then the Religious Right became very vocal as well.
A lot of inflammatory rhetoric has been stepped up in recent years, particularly due to the two Obama campaigns, and the recession, with talk of “makers and takers”, “1%” and “47%”; and all the rabid hostility toward Obama.
Here’s where I believe it starts; with my own “power” issues:
It was from being pampered a bit when really young, but then my parents couldn’t understand why I became fixated on having my way. So while they kept trying to break me out of this, it seemed I was expected to give others what they want.
I’m chastised for offending others in different ways, but then it seemed others got away with offending me. (“that’s just the way the world is”)
I developed a keen sense of guilt and shame
I then feel incredibly jealous toward those who do the same or worse things as I was chastised for, but are apparently not made to feel the shame and guilt I felt.
I move to be the one who makes them face their “shadow” [Jungian concept; the negative stuff we refuse to “own” in ourselves].
But this is said to be wrong, and seems fruitless.
The determinant of all of this is “power”. Whether physical, social, political or economic.
Since this is in keeping with the natural pattern of the universe, I come to resent power in general.
Then, trying to turn to God, but He does nothing to mitigate or remediate it, and Christians just pacify you with teachings about a “right attitude”, while many of them uphold the system of power, in their organizations and handling of money and prestige, and in defending systems like capitalism.
It makes it impossible to “accept life as it is”, because then it seems like others are apart of “life”, and I’m on the outside. (My father even framed things like this in many lectures).
What I think happened was that AS lowered my tolerance of things not going my way
I then think I’m worthy of always getting my way. I think so much that the way I think things should be is right.
So I feel so wronged for things not going my way, and for being chastised for my shortcomings on top of it.
So I see religious and political conservatives who think they are absolutely, 100% right on everything and feel worthy of dominance, and that they were so wronged because their old values (which included various forms of bigotry) were chastised and discarded, and they complain, and have some influence, though they’re still losing it.
It’s like they’ve usurped my legitimate claims. (And then have the gall to rebuff me for voicing them!) How dare they! At least they once had power! (And lost it from abuses, which they never acknowledge). And they still have a much louder voice. They at least have a large group of other people who think like they do, can still influence elections and get candidates more to their liking in, and can claim historical seniority, where I’m all by myself in my issues. So I’m extremely jealous of them.
I see multiple daily Facebook meme posts from one person I’m hooked up with alternating between “trusting God”, “thankfulness” and “God loves you”, “I want everyone to know I love Jesus” and then post after post of hatred toward Obama (and Muslims), and “they’re coming to take our guns (and freedoms) away”.
The message this gives me is only their rights are valid. It’s the same old double-standard from generations ago, where you deny others’ rights, and use God to pacify them, while your own rights even at others expense are elevated to God’s divine mandate. This reduces God essentially to a tribal deity.
But it seems the vocal caliber of their rhetoric makes it look like the truth, and they even will use this against liberals. (One guy once told me “liberals have no answer to conservatives, and that’s why they try to censor free speech”). So I figure it must feel good to be able to say all of this stuff, and I want to say it all back at them.
Since I’m apart of the demographics whom their values run counter to [working class minority Democrat], then I feel threatened by them, so it feels like co-opting my complaints about life, against me; and I feel they still have power, while I’m the one who really doesn’t (but they would attribute this to my own lack of ambition, where the power they’ve lost is portrayed as a great crime against them).
So they look like they’re getting away with their wrong, and allowed to feel totally smug and self-contented in their sense of “rightness”, where mine was always torn down. They obviously have a HUGE “shadow”, but while mine was forced on me (because of my social problems), it seems that they aren’t made to ever really look at theirs.
(I guess I’m assuming they feel unchallenged. The liberals may not have been as pointed and in-your-face in criticizing conservatives as the authorities in my life were on me, or using hard external authoritative sources such as scripture or the Constitution, but there’s also conscience, which they may try to act like theirs are perfectly clear, or that all that matters are “facts” such as scripture or statistical data on race, but their reactions betray sorely troubled consciences. I just tend not to trust such internal concepts; whether within myself or others; I want external validation).
I’m also pricked when they rebuff the other side for blaming or shirking responsibility, and for “envy” and “coveting” what others (the rich) have. Even though they are doing the exact same thing in the very act of saying that (as if they never have ANY share of the blame, and expressing envy toward those they think are getting a “free ride”), I, in looking to find someone or something to blame for all my problems, had also chosen the nation (and its racism, in addition to pop culture, capitalism, etc.) to project a lot of this blame onto.
This probably started from seeing Roots, right around the time I was beginning to enter adolescence, which gave me a fuller sense of the depth of evil in this country’s history. And then my parents were beginning to put a lot of pressure on me as far as “growing up”, and then you had the Reagan campaign and Christian Right with their Cold War and “culture war” rhetoric erupting then, demonizing the Left, and praising capitalism as prices went up and quality went down; all of this right as the high school years were leaving me totally disillusioned and frustrated with the general culture, which I blamed for my social problems, in reaction to my parents saying I wasn’t tough or self-confident enough. (I didn’t make a distinction between the young black “street” culture I was having problems fitting into, and the older white culture, which was full of racism. And even younger white culture, which also seemed aggressive and decadent. They were all lumped together; all of them versus me —as much as my father hated me thinking this way, he is the one who gave it credence by setting the discussion up that way by frequently saying the whole world was “functioning” and would “pass me by”).
So the white American power structure, embodied by capitalism, the business world in general (whether private or government) and pop culture came to represent everything in life that prevented me from getting my way. As a black person, as middle class, and as a more reserved, shy, less ambitious or socially commanding type.
So the conservative rhetoric defending both history and capitalism is justifying what made life rough for the race I am in in the past, and the class that I’m in in the present. (Others that I’ve expressed envy towards, such as the aggressive rap pioneers, or other celebrity fame and fortune, are the reaction to that other area beside race and class; my personality and talents. But this is not as big of an issue right now as politics, and by extension, race have become in recent times).
But it’s been hard on me because I have not been able to focus on anything seriously enough to have any real ambition. So I get caught in these economic crunches unable to move up, (causing a lot of depression now) but then feel “moving up” should not be mandatory just to make ends meet. But this is not granted as any “excuse”, just as slavery and racism in the past isn’t for the whole people.
So in conjunction with that, I identify with a people who have taken on a bad reputation; perhaps the worse in the world (crime, laziness, etc.) and I do feel many of us can do better for ourselves, and are making too many excuses after awhile (or at least, not articulating the legitimate ‘excuses’ well enough).
The image of the street thug, the loose ghetto mother, and the crime and prison stats are very embarrassing, (in addition to myself feeling threatened by such people. This is something others such as Jesse Jackson have been quoted as testifying to as well cited, Rowan, The Coming Race War In America, p.188). And our explanations of why these things are so are very complex, and not bought by conservatives, who like to focus on black and white “facts”. So these explanations don’t even sound convincing; sort of like someone caught in an embarrassing position claiming “it’s not what it looks like”, and then offering this complicated explanation.
(And, liberals are not quick at articulating these things to begin with).
Hence, inasmuch as I feel the need to downplay (and wish to disown) those images, in arguing “equality”, they enter my shadow, which I “box” in the conservatives constantly pointing to this stuff. (And inasmuch as I’ve been accused of “black and white thinking” in my response to some Christian teachings, that’s just me throwing their black and white thinking back at them, or perhaps boxing it in myself, when it’s presented to me in a way that makes me feel threatened).
It’s also true (as some of the more hardnose arguers will tell us) that almost everything you see around you was built up by whites, and even those relatively few things credited to blacks were done under white control.
And life just doesn’t seem to grant anyone excuses such as the limitations we faced. The universal law of nature seems to say you either have the power or you become prey. Even if you once had more power (ancient African civilization argument), if someone else stronger comes and is able to take it from you, your previous strength means nothing.
So this is a natural observation that looms in the back of consciousness, even though we try to fight against it. (On the other hand, the flipside of this is that while whites may have created a lot, they have also been the most dominating in a negative sense, which is a big point in their shadow most conservatives cannot own).
So, by being defensive about blacks’ bad reputation, I’ve bought into the “works-righteousness” of political debate; that the lower the crime stats, the more your group has “created”, the “better” or more “good” your group is, and by extension, the more worthy and deserving you as an individual are. This self-righteousness, disowned in myself, is then what I fight in the “other side”.
So the conservatives’ uncritical defense of the nation, and criticism of the people I identify with, who feel oppressed as I do, and who are accused of denying responsibility as I am, hits me doubly hard.
So I’m part of the group the conservatives criticize for playing a victim role, and then I’m like the conservatives inasmuch as they complain and play a victim role themselves.
What I feel like I’m fighting against, is that since the “fact” is, “the world is not the way I want it” (as my father and others constantly reminded me), then the “truth” is perfectly embodied in the conservative ideology.
Since their country’s founding was so “right”, and “ordained by God”, then I really should be in chains, and I guess by “the benevolence of the nation” have I been given my freedom (even though their forefathers, up to recent generations, fought it all the way. But I guess it’s supposed to have been a matter of, as some more moderate Civil Rights opposers put it, of giving “good people” time to “work out” the race issue, and that the resentment that lingered afterward was from being rushed by the liberals and progressives with forced equality).
So I basically “want too much” if I’m not happy with the way things are today.
What I feel I’m arguing against on the opposite end, is that after this life, the summary of my existence will be someone who was just at odds with life around me, and never “won” in the resulting conflicts. Christianity says the faithful who “endure” stuff like this will be “rewarded”, and even apart from reward, religion and non-dual philosophy alike will agree that the endurer will have become a “bigger” person, with more of a depth of “character”. But this is abstract, and not externally proven or provable. It is purely an internal hope.
If it turns out not to be true, then it seems like I was just a fool of fools. Nature favored the strong and confident (whether they were made “happy” from it or not), and I was too fragile and vulnerable. (What “reward” is there for simply “enduring” life simply running its course?) And while we often say “if that is the case, you won’t be around to perceive it, so it doesn’t matter”; a non-dual view would allow that to be perceived after death!
Issues that are too abstract, and are hard to prove or disprove leave much doubt (including that which we suppress into the subconscious, under a mask of certainty), and thus increase the “shadow” aspect, including strong emotional reactivity/sensitivity, on all sides (as we try to essentially “prove” it to ourselves).
An issue like “superior vs inferior vs equal” cultures is surely such an abstraction. Hence, being so emotionally charged.
(Though it’s more emotionally charged on the Right side, because they basically have a bigger “shadow” from thinking themselves to be the ones who are superior —which will obviously cast a big shadow, and then having to suppress conscience so hard, in favor of more empirical and impersonal data which they’re able to spin to support their views. They’re basically trying to use concrete data to prove an abstract notion.
I used to get so annoyed that the liberals as well as the moderate “New Evangelicals” I associated with seemed so apathetic in responding to the loud criticism of the far Right and old-line fundamentalists. When submitting the manuscript that (after giving up on publication) became my Contemporary Christian Music defense page, an evangelical writers service said it had too much “emotional fervor”, which appeared to “preclude objectivity”. But do you see what I was responding to? (The chief anti-CCM writers was Jeff Godwin of Chick Publications, and then you had even more virulent ones like Terry Watkins of av1611. And ironically, the fundamentalist CCM critics accuse CCM as being based on what else, but “subjective” desires, rather than objectivity, which they demand from manuscript submissions!)
While the new-evangelicals calmly dismiss the criticism in favor of a belief that “music is neutral” (which the critics have answered), and while political liberals also believe less fervency is more “objective”, I think of the statement “A small group of passionate people, no matter how radical or extreme, can be more successful than a reasonable but less passionate majority” (Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence).
But in studying the “shadow’ concept, I’ve had to realize that the more moderate have dissociated more from the past, acknowledging its darkness, and thus the liberals not seeming as patriotic; hence they do not bear the national or ecclesiastical past’s shadow.
Abstract hypotheses are easy to control others with, but the price for this is the “shadow” of doubt—one’s own, or the doubtfulness of the controlling premise, which has to be suppressed in order to maintain the control.
So the problem with me, is the conflict between concrete reality, in which power is favored, and the abstract implications of this, such as personal worth (covering terms and concepts such as “inferior/superior”, “deserving”, etc.)
I have a sense of “what is”, in contrast to what “should be” externally, but no faith in what can be hoped for internally.
This article, while arguing that liberals have been responding to conservatives too much, and thus feeding them, makes one of my own points:
My fixation on conservative demagogues also includes a share of covert envy. The truth is that I feel overrun by moral uncertainty, bewildered by the complexity of our planetary crises. Wouldn’t it be nice, I ask myself, to feel entirely sure of my beliefs? To shout down anyone who disagrees with me? To dismiss peak oil and global warming as fairy tales? To accept capitalism as a catechism?
But what’s really happening when I scoff at Sarah Palin’s latest tweet amounts to a mimetic indulgence: I’m bleeding the world of nuance, surrendering to the seduction of binary thinking.