An Alternative To Impeachment

After the release of the Mueller report on Trump’s activities, calls for his impeachment have become more fervent. Never mind that an impeachment effort would fail in the current Republican-controlled US Senate.  Never mind

that the public is more interested in hearing about health care, jobs, the environment and such, which have a more direct impact on their lives. Even the alternative of a Congressional censure (floated in the Washington Post 4-19-19 by Karen Tumulty) does not fully address the issue at hand.

The issue is not Trump. The issue is political projection and scapegoating.

We need to stop blaming others – including public figures – for the fears and anger we have suppressed as a society.  While this advice may sound inflammatory, there is actually a psychological basis for it.  The more we deny or put into shadow certain parts of ourselves, the more they become bottled up and finally explode in a destructive rage.

Anthropologists know we are born with a full range of emotional/behavioral expressions. In the process of growing up, however, society prunes this range, judging certain parts “bad” or unacceptable. So we learn to hide or put into shadow characteristics such as fear of the unknown (xenophobia), weakness, unfettered self-expression, strong criticism, etc.

A cursory mental perusal of our heroes makes clear that American culture historically valued individuality, ruggedness, emotional modulation, competitiveness, physical beauty….to name only a few.  With the (much-needed) rise of cultural sensitivity training, politically-correct language and attempted over-homogenization of communities, some groups have felt muzzled or restrained.  Rather than being able to express socially-divisive viewpoints in acceptable ways, we have put them in shadow.

The 1970s TV show All in the Family would be unthinkable today due to its voiced bigotry. The downside is that, as is true of anything suppressed, it’s imperative these shadows are expressed somehow.

The longer we as a society hold back, the more we need a surrogate to express them for us. That person needs to be larger than life, able to carry our cumulative leaden shadows. This is why we needed public figures such as Clinton and Trump duking it out in the 2016 election. Think of what we projected on them, the nicknames attached to them, the inflated character traits ascribed to them.  Even three years later, the dominant figures on the US political stage carry our angst, anger and divisiveness for us.  This is what leaders unconsciously do. Other nations have seen similarly bombastic leaders placed on their stages in the last few years.

The solution for halting Trump’s objectionable actions is not to impeach him.

This merely creates a vacuum — into which another mega-figure must step to hold our unclaimed selves.  Instead, we must take back our projections, however unpleasant. We must reclaim our shadow sides and find a way to express them, albeit in socially-acceptable ways. As individuals and as a nation, we must own those sides of ourselves we’ve put into shadow. How to do so is subject for another discussion.

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