The Hall of Mirrors

“There is always in the adventure great danger of what is known to psychology as ‘inflation,’ which is what overtakes the psychotic. He identifies himself either with the visionary object or with its witness, the visionary subject. The trick must be to become aware of it without becoming lost in it: to understand that we may all be saviors when functioning in relation to our friends or enemies: savior figures, but never The Savior. We may all be mothers and fathers, but are never The Mother, The Father.”

-Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

I was just struck by an obvious parallel between the Clinton and Trump campaigns: Both regarded tens of millions of people on the other side as contemptible. There were a lot of really bad people out there, they agreed. They were Deplorable. They were Rapists. (And some, I assume, were good people.) The argument was over just who exactly these assholes were.

Were they immigrants, or were they bigoted white men? Whatever the case, both campaigns and most all of their supporters, were and are dead sure that these cretins were to blame. Since the election, these conceptions have only been verified, at least in the opinions of each side.

Here’s a funny detail: each side thinks the demonic image of it held by the other side is pure fantasy; while yet being convinced that the demonic image they hold of the other is perfectly true.

Whether it’s Nazis everywhere or immigrants run amok, each side imagines itself under siege by the very worst sort of people. They’re barely people at all. In fact, that the other side is composed of people has become one of the most broadly heretical ideas.

The current climate is like a big FUCK YOU to Depeche Mode. People are not people. Therefore, getting along awfully is exactly what should be.

Let us hope that there is no Second American Civil war (which, if we were counting accurately, we’d count as the Fourth American Civil War, as both the Revolution and the War of 1812 involved former neighbors reduced to bloodshed), but the psychological preconditions are already widespread and growing.

The conceptual war has long been brewing. It stretches back into history, prior even to the Revolution, though it sprouted then, and fully flowered in the 1960’s – 1968, to be exact. Since this flowering there have been established ideological societies in a state of perpetual war. Not armed conflict, but rather the precursor to armed conflict, and first act of war: dehumanization. The truth that is usually the first casualty is exactly that there are humans on the other side. Since 1968 there have been established societies committed to ideologies that dehumanize the other along the exact lines made popularly manifest during the Clinton/Trump campaign.

It’s been Nazis versus Commies since then.

This standing conflict between the two ideological societies spreads to the general population during election season. Then, when the election is done, we the people are supposed to break up our camps and leave the plain of battle against the demonic other. Elections, in this sense, have been a cathartic ritual, in which we indulge in a shadow war, fought with words and ballots. Then when it’s done, we head home and those people who had been our mortal enemies become again our neighbors.

Except this year, the ritual war didn’t end, but instead became a fire burning completely out of control.

Those with a will to Justice might well keep in mind Hamlet’s remark:

HAMLET
Good my lord, will you see the players well
bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used…

LORD POLONIUS
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

HAMLET
God’s bodykins, man, much better:
use every man after his desert,
and who should ‘scape whipping?

Hence to the typical motivations that drive reasoning we should add, during such times as these, the hidden drive to be on the right side of Justice. The side, that is, that gives the whippings, rather than receives them.

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