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  • Writer's pictureNancy Willbern, PhD

Collective Shadow: Part 1

A Black man's final words as he is suffocating from the force of a White man are a cry for his dead mother. That scene and that cry are more than my heart can bear.

We are living in a very tumultuous time and most of us are walking around with broken hearts. Some of us are really scared. Some of us are angry. Some of us are indignant. Most of us are shocked by all that has happened so quickly and so globally. I am right there in the middle of all that chaos and emotion and heart-ache, but I do not feel hopeless in the face of this great unrest.

  I am not alone in seeing the year 2020 as the time of opening to the great American shadow. Our under-belly has been exposed to the world.

The United States of America was founded on a yearning and eventual demand for freedom. Our Founding Fathers felt the suffocating grip of oppression, first-hand. And in response to that oppression, they revolted. We proudly call that The American Revolution.

  Once they claimed their own personal freedom from the tyranny of King George, III of Great Britain, - which happens to be the home of my ancestors - the leaders of the 13 colonies were then galvanized to conceive of a new, radical idea of government – one “of the people, by the people and for the people.” They formed a brand-new nation by claiming the “inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for all persons. That idea, right there is nothing short of a Divine Inspiration, but it was channeled through all-too-human-minds – a light shining through a pin-hole - and was therefore limited in its manifestation. The limitation of those western European, masculine minds is the origin of the deep and dark, American shadow. The shadow was born right alongside the inception of an unequaled, governmental paradigm. The fullness of the shadow’s depth and breadth is just now beginning to be exposed.

  The Founding Fathers were right in as far as they could see. Their western, European White man’s focus was on their particular oppression from another western, European White man who held the reigns of power. They reached a boiling point under his regime and eventually refused to be held under his thumb. Their longing for freedom which expanded into a felt-sense, God-given entitlement to freedom moved them in the direction of truth. It led them to write The Declaration of Independence and subsequently, The Constitution of the United States of America, two documents undeniably written with wisdom and soul. But it is vitally important to remember and to bring into full view that at the end of September 17, 1787, after the freshly penned Constitution was signed, 41 of the 56 signers went home to their slave-powered-plantations. Carolyn Myss aptly labels slavery as America’s original sin. And I have to agree with her.

  So, you might ask why am I not hopeless in the face of this stark, tragic and deeply humiliating-humbling remembrance and its present-day off-spring? It is because I know, just past my broken heart, deeper in my heart-of-hearts, our collective shadow is the doorway back to the Light.

Filling the mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western (thought), but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

                                                    Carl Jung                                                                   

Our Founding Fathers imagined a nation based on equality for all, as endowed by our Creator. It is now our job to wrestle with the shadow cast by their great light, to let it open our eyes and hearts, and drop us to our knees. The gravity and the opportunity of that job is what gives me pause and also what gives me hope.

 More to come…

Photo Credit: cgrape on Pixabay


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