Essay: Embracing the American Shadow

“Everyone carries a Shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”
~ Carl Jung ~


In this essay, I want to talk about the challenges currently facing America, as it is a country I have very fond memories of. I lived and worked there for thirteen years in the 70s and 80s and got an enormous amount out of the experience and was privileged to have encountered some of the wisest people I have ever met anywhere. Like many of my American friends, I have found it very painful to see what has been going on in their country for the last four years, and in these pages I want to suggest a slightly different approach both to viewing and to dealing with the many challenges which America is currently facing.

As we all know, America is not the only country going through huge difficulties. The world as a whole is in great turmoil; my home country England also has its deep problems, and I am not just talking about the coronavirus. Boris Johnson has at last got his Brexit and now England will have to pay the economic price. (The thing about these populists is that they are geniuses at getting people to vote against their own best interest.) This week’s Economist summed it up with a drawing on its cover of a tiny, isolated little island of a few rocks amid a vast ocean, and Britannia perching precariously upon them looking somewhat embarrassed. As well she might. At a time when what is in our best interest – indeed what is the best interest of all nations – is that we find new ways to cooperate and work together to confront some of the most serious problems in the world, never has Great Britain been more isolated.

But my focus here is on America, and its problems are very different. The most important thing that has happened is that Trump has lost the election and control of the Senate. God help America and the world if he hadn’t. However, we do need to ask (and I’ll be answering this question as we move along) what it is about the system there that it allows a psychopathic, lying, con man not only to pay next to no taxes, but to become President.

Luckily, his ‘decisive blow’, or attempted coup, failed (earning him a second impeachment), not through lack of effort but mainly because he had no ideology other than promoting himself; and most importantly because the country’s democratic structures were just strong enough to survive his onslaughts. Yes, they bent, but they didn’t break. Some good people refused to be corrupted and Trump’s defeat was an enormous triumph for democracy.

I am increasingly starting to believe that Trump is so delusional that perhaps he couldn’t – not wouldn’t – accept that he hadn’t won and that that firm belief played a big part in his choosing to incite his base to go unto the capital and fight for him. This thuggish and violent invasion of the most sacred citadel of the US was for me a symbolic expression of how desacralised it has become over the years. Here we think of the character of certain of the Republican senators inhabiting it. Granted, Trump intentionally tossed the lighted match and ignited the river of gasoline already flowing through this society – but it was his clan who represented the explosion waiting to happen.

There is no doubt that millions genuinely believed and still believe the big lie that the election really had been stolen and that they really were being patriotic in fighting for justice against the ‘criminals’ about to pronounce Biden the next President. Here, responsibility for the continued propagation of this lie should not just lie with its inciter in chief but also to those many Republicans who enabled Trump for all these years and in so doing continued to sell whatever may have been left of their rapidly diminishing soul. As is now plain for all to see, many backed his lies to the bitter end and were quite happy to see democracy crumble if they felt it might further their political aspirations and feather their financial nests – here think of Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr and the rest of Trump’s other laggards who worked with him to try to break the system.


But as well as America, our whole planet is in crisis. As my friend Jim Garrison put it recently: ‘It is no longer a question of sustainability; we’re beyond that. Our challenge now is to try to regenerate.’ The question therefore is: how can you and I become agents for the regeneration of our society? How, especially, can American society be regenerated ? Not only is its death rate from the coronavirus higher than in any other country but millions are unemployed, and the country has never been more politically split. One tiny spark could potentially create a huge conflagration….

… To read the rest of this essay please click here to open or download in PDF format.

Share This Page

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.