A few months ago, I dreamed that I was on a ship in the middle of the Hudson River, right alongside Manhattan. It was nighttime, but the city wasn’t lit up and glittery like usual. New York was eerily dark, save for one giant spotlight at the 9/11 memorial, shining into the black sky. There was also one bright light from the ship, glaring onto the empty deck upon which I was standing.
I turned around to find Donald Trump walking straight toward me, stony-faced and silent (for once), his beady eyes like lasers pointing in my direction. He walked not swiftly, but with purpose. My breath caught in my throat as he bore toward me, until I realized he wasn’t actually looking at me. He walked right past me to the edge of the deck, where he stood for several long moments, staring at Manhattan before he jumped into the dark waters below.
Before I had time to figure out what to do, I turned back around to find two white, middle-aged men in polos and jeans standing behind me, wearing sinister smirks behind their goatees. In an instant, I realized that they were going to frame me for murder. Amidst my protests, they strong-armed me and took me with them back to New Jersey, where they co-owned a restaurant. Somehow, I learned that someone had paid them each a substantial sum of money to carry out this dirty deed. I could tell that they’re both good guys at heart, guys you’d say “hi” to and exchange cordial small talk with in your neighborhood. I tried reasoning with them, insisting that I was a good person, too, trying to do the best that I can in this world!
Unfortunately, I woke up before finding out whether I was let go or not, but I awoke with a with a knowing that I had essentially been taken hostage by Donald Trump, as had the entirety of America.
When he first began talking about running for President, I resisted giving him any attention, believing that what you pay attention to grows. I wanted the media to stop stroking his ego with more and more screen time, but of course, he just kept rearing his ugly, orange-stained head. That’s what happens when you refuse to acknowledge the parts of your self that you so desperately want to deny. In this case, the “self” is the United States of America.
I grew up with textbooks telling me that racism was something that went away with the Civil War, its leftover crumbs swept up with the Civil Rights Movement. I grew up thinking that the suffragettes had conquered women’s rights once and for all. Every lesson reinforced the idea that the U.S. was the Land of the Free and that we were better than any other country in the world. Then, I really grew up and found out that capitalism wasn’t working for me or most of Americans (more than 99%, in fact), like I’d been told. That no matter how hard I worked or how smart or talented I was, I probably would never make it to millionaire-hood. I really grew up when I saw more and more young black men being brutally killed for the color of their skin. My eyes were opened to legalized wage slavery and income inequality and gender inequality and a host of other imbalances that exist in this not-so-great country of mine.
The more that most of Americans have denied the troubles of our very own citizens and the broken systems we are all implicit in creating, the more that this shadow side has grown. We’ve ignored our sordid history for far too long – probably as long as this country has existed – in our textbooks, politics, business practices, and our conversations. Our shadow is saying, nay screaming, “Hey! Look at me! What are you gonna do about it, huh? Elect me as president?!! Hahaha!!!”
This man (this human being if you can open your heart and believe it) is a racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, privileged white man – and he represents literally almost every part of our collective self that we have chosen to ignore. For any of us that are familiar with shadow work, we know that the more we pretend it doesn’t exist, the greater the issues it will bring up. Like any shadow, it must be acknowledged before it can be dealt with.
There’s one part of the dream that I haven’t mentioned and I truly think that it’s playing a large part in all of this. The World Trade Center. 9/11. This tragic event is like a gaping sore in the American consciousness. We’ve cried about it, fought wars for it, entertained conspiracies about it, and built memorials to it. But, have we truly healed?
How many millions of Americans live in constant fear and anxiety? Could this happen again? Could our soil be invaded again by those people that speak that language and look like that? This is a trauma that we’ve carried for 15 years. And, we’ve acted out on it individually and collectively, through the way we conduct air travel, make immigration policies, invade other countries, murder Muslims, vandalize mosques, or even merely thought twice when we look at someone with brown skin. And, our little paunchy, self-tanned shadow is playing on that fear more explicitly and loudly than anyone in the public eye of America has probably ever done.
This is not a political problem, folks. This is not the fault of them, whomever your “them” is. This is a psychological and spiritual issue that we need to face together, men and women, Republicans and Democrats and Green Partiers, black and white and brown, and everyone in between. No longer is our collective shadow speaking to us in coded undertones. The message is actually loud and clear, “Make America great again.” (Obviously, this should be translated into “make the planet great” (possibly without the qualification of “again,” because was it ever?).)
How do we respond to this problem? We all have to take responsibility in meeting fear with love in our minds and hearts so that we can speak and act with love. This means deeply inquiring into our own lives to find what we can all do to transform racism, xenophobia, climate change, and the like into true justice, equity, and wellbeing for all that lives and breathes on this earth.