The Branching of the Road

Dear Friend and Reader:

FINALLY ON WEDNESDAY night, I got it: Barack Obama won the presidency, and I felt my first wave of euphoria. I have learned to shun that particular feeling when involving myself with politics, perhaps wanting to avoid disappointment or maybe, as a kind of warrior, refusing to let my guard down even for a moment. But we stand in the midst of an unusual, indeed, a special time. Those of us who put our energy into this know that we have guided our country down a different branch of the road.

“Group of Slaves with Arab men,” Zanzibar, 1850-1890. See the image in its original context at this link.

Barack Obama means many things to many people, and I want to first give a voice to the anger and suspicion. This includes the longtime reader who wrote to me and said, “I can see you not liking McCain. But how can you be so blinded by Obama?” To which I say, yes, I’ve heard of (and studied) the Trilateral Commission. And I trust my senses, my intuition and my knowledge of history. I may be wrong. But on the single issue most important to me — the composition of the Supreme Court — he was the obvious choice.

There are those who are outraged or incredulous that a black man is going to be president; for a significant number of people, that one fact marks the end of their particular United States of America. This is our nation’s racial shadow rising to greet us. Anyone claiming Obama is a Muslim terrorist is having this particular issue but may not know it.

We all know what was done to the Africans when they came to this country. We all know that there has been no recompense, no apology, little authentic acknowledgement, and that in some places, life is no better than it was 100 or 150 years ago. Those who believe that white people should be perpetually in power are afraid that if and when the anger they suppose African-Americans feel is released and the tables are turned, they will be the ones getting lynched. This may seem like an overstatement; I contend that if anything, I’m understating the situation because of how insidious the problem is.

To my father, Obama represents someone who is going to bankrupt the country with his healthcare plan. He seems completely unwilling to view the larger issues in context of the Bush administration. The professor gets excellent state health insurance; he says he wishes everyone could have that, but he doesn’t want any part in paying the bill. We spoke about this a few times, and he was unreflective about this apparent hypocrisy. I had such conversations with others, alleged Christians unwilling to commit to taking care of the least of His brethren.

My mother is one of those people who doesn’t trust Obama. A member of MoveOn and a longtime contributor to Planned Parenthood, she’s someone who has developed a social conscience over the years; but she seems to be in the “pretty cover, blank pages” camp. I am inclined to think through her opinions on any issue she feels strongly about several times, and I decided to dismiss this particular assessment. Once I had enough information to make up my mind, I had precisely the opposite response.

Two staffers passed this site and did two pull-ups. Not to be outdone, Obama did three with ease, dropped and walked out to make a speech. Photo by Callie Shell.

To African-Americans, I think the message here is too profound and subtle, and to some, too stunning to even summarize. We live in a country where there are more than two million black men in prison.

As of 2003, about 10.4% of the entire African-American male population in the United States aged 25 to 29 was incarcerated. We live in a country where being black means you might get executed for something for which a white person gets paroled or acquitted. Obama winning the presidency on a groundswell not just of public support but of authentic love of the people is proof that anything is possible, and maybe we’re not all a bunch of seething racists.

To those who have poured their resources, time, energy and creativity into social justice movements the past twenty or thirty years, Barack Obama represents a social and political miracle of the highest order. He represents the potential for national healing after a seemingly endless — I personally thought it would never end, because I could not see how, or where — train of abuses of conscience.

It is true, as my friend Tracy pointed out and as everyone who has worked in politics knows, that your candidate sometimes disappoints you. She noted that for the UK, Tony Blair represented the end of the Margaret Thatcher/John Major era of history, and people were elated that the left finally got a voice.

Then Mr. Blair turned out to be more interested in playing Little Big Man than leader of a nation, selling out wholesale to Cheney/Bush and the Neocon movement. He supported the Iraq war, knowing it was a fraud; knowing that the alleged British intelligence about that yellowcake uranium was forged; knowing he was playing along. France, which did not support the war (remember “freedom fries?”) and spent years ridiculing Bush and the stupidity of Americans for allowing him to be their leader, elected Nicolas Sarkozy, Bush’s clone and Dick Cheney’s disciple, to be its president.

Politics is often a disappointing game, run by the greedy, inflicted on the ignorant and too often born of lies and unstated agendas. Few people on our level are willing to do more than vote, if that. Times are changing. There are now millions of people obsessed with following alternative news websites, and who know there are many viewpoints; there are millions who blog, which means writing about something expecting an audience; there are tens of millions who forward articles and videos to their friends.

Old, grizzled presidential candidate Joad Cressbeckler, from an Onion video, was eating into John McCain’s conservative base. See video here.

I believe that Barack Obama won the presidency based on two factors. The first was the Internet, which functioned as the immune system of the media. Web 2.0 — the blogosphere — is still relatively new. Not everyone reads or trusts the Internet, but the “mainstream” media are paying attention and now cannot ignore what is published here.

It also works the other way. I don’t think anybody missed Katie Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin, but many would have missed it in 2004 or 2000. Dan Quayle, the Palinesque vice presidential candidate under Bush the First, would not have survived YouTube. Nobody missed Tina Fey’s brilliant satires; most of us saw them not on NBC but rather on the Net. The Onion was at its absolute best, which is saying a lot. Their old, grizzled third-party candidate, their “no values” voters and Emily Anderson, the little girl who sold home-baked cookies to buy her very own attack ad, will be in my memory long after John McCain has retired to his rocking chair. (If you’re watching videos in a few minutes, don’t miss this one.)

The second entity we have to thank is Sarah Palin and whoever put her there. What began as one of the most cynical gestures in American politics — baiting the public with a manipulative, ignorant, anti-choice woman who threw her daughter under a bus the first day she was put on the ticket — backfired brilliantly. When a presidential candidate mentions that his running mate is qualified in part because she served on the PTA, that is just ridiculous, and we all saw it with our own eyes. It’s shocking that nearly half the country voted for her, but as Brian Mahoney, my editor at Chronogram said to me on election night, “That’s the country you live in. Welcome home.”

WE DON’T KNOW exactly what an Obama presidency is going to bring, because the world is on the brink of such enormous changes, and in part because you never really know in advance. We also know that we have to participate in those changes, and influence the outcome of events, just as we have the past few months. This is harder without building toward the big orgasm known as an election; I suggest we aim for the inauguration, and observing the transition of government. It’ll be an interesting story. Yet December builds to an astrological hot spot, which in its most positive expression could be described as a moment of reform; of stoking the fire of evolution.

Emily Anderson, from an Onion video, raised money selling cookies and lemonade for her very own attack ad against John McCain. See video here.

We need to remember that many very unfortunate events set in motion when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 still have significant momentum today. (Reagan-Bush began the modern era of manipulating Iran and Iraq by supplying both countries weapons to wage war against one another.) And we know that some of the domestic policies begun in that era are getting extremely tired, and their utter failures are being revealed: for example, abstinence-only sex indoctrination.

We know that we have to become the change we want, and that is much more difficult than electing a president.

I can tell you this. Americans are a traumatized people: traumatized by fear, though many of us are smothered in privilege that insulates us, for most of the day, from our uncertainty, pain and sense of loss. We are traumatized by what we have witnessed and what we have been compelled to participate in and approve, which is injury both karmic and emotional. We are traumatized by being lied to endlessly, and conditioned to believe those lies. We are watching the federal treasury get ripped off, knowing our kids will have to pay the bill.

Let’s look back just 10 years. I believe the Cheney-Bush regime begins with the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which only worked because sex is the one remaining offensive subject to numerous Americans (sex doesn’t sell, guilt does) — and then we ended up with nearly a decade of ongoing war. We are traumatized by what was created by numerous lies and done in our name, including millions killed, injured, displaced and grieving in Iraq. We are traumatized by the loss of our servicemen and women, our spouses and siblings and neighbors, including untold thousands who have returned with brain damage and/or psychologically shattered. We are traumatized by knowing how our vets are treated when they come home.

Lynndie England’s high school yearbook picture. England was one of the primary participants in the Abu Ghraib atrocities.

We were traumatized, and I believe we have not yet recovered, from the Sept. 11 false flag attacks, which Bush was warned were imminent by the CIA on Aug. 6, 2001. In other words, he knew, he could have stopped it. If you believe Richard A. Clarke, the chief of counterterrorism under several administrations ending with Bush, the administration did everything it could to make sure Sept. 11 happened. This national catastrophe was avoidable, it was intentionally inflicted on us and it’s something from which we have not healed. If I am not mistaken, we have yet to hold a national day of mourning.

That was turned into two wars, one of which came with the prisoner torture and sexual abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. American servicemen and women, acting in the name of the American people, paid for with our tax dollars, sodomized and tortured numerous Iraqis, grinning and flashing thumbs up.

I believe that this was done to taunt the Muslim world; and it was done as a form of psychological abuse and desensitization of the people seeing the images. The message was: get used to it, which shuts down our hearts; and the subliminal message was, don’t complain, because you could be next.

For a last example, there was the horribly botched response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the summer of 2005. The American government proved, paraphrasing The New York Times, that it is utterly incapable of taking care of its people, and we have lived with that knowledge for years. This includes the disgusting, vicious anti-environmental policies of the Cheney-Bush administration, in a time when everyone knows that we have to take care of the planet and its fragile atmosphere.

Barack Obama sits with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha in a recent but uncredited photo.

We have now elected a president that the majority of voters seem to feel, at the very least, is a decent and capable guy. He appears to be all there; there is actual consciousness visible behind his eyes. He is capable of speaking in sentences, of doing basic arithmetic and teaching constitutional law.

He is young enough to have a vision of the future, and to not be stuck in a militant or war hero mentality. I believe he is qualified for the presidency in part because he was not subjected to having his spirit broken at boot camp and being forced to commit murder. His wife is his intellectual and spiritual equal, presented to us as such. I think for everyone, their young children are an exciting and genuinely welcome presence in the White House. And many of us are chuffed that a black family is moving in.

People accuse his supporters of thinking Obama is a god. You may accuse me of thinking he is a person.

We are people too, and more than we have political work to do, we have personal work to do. We need to be more introspective, and understand why we are so prone to cheering on militancy, greed and ignorance. We need to understand why we’re so eager to be lied to. We need to understand why we are so easily manipulated. And we need to assess the many festering psychic wounds of the Cheney-Bush years, so they don’t run our lives forever.

What we have witnessed in these past few months is that finally it became easier to say ‘I love’ than ‘I hate’. To me, that is encouraging.

Yours & truly,


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, November 7, 2008, #739 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You seem to have broken free from your tether, but what may be surprising is that it wasn’t a physical bond; it was a psychic one. These are the ties that bind, and they are all the more challenging to deal with when we don’t know quite what’s going on. Part involved the influence of one person. Part involved the influence of a group — your friends, colleagues, some version of your tribe. To be an individual, you need to be mindful of how both of these things can steer you off of the course of your chosen existence. If you feel lost now, it’s because you’re free of these influences for a while, but now you have to determine your own path and your own bearing. It may take a while and what you are likely to discover is that ‘it’ finds you. Really, it’s a meeting and you need to be mindful of when that meeting occurs.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
You seem intent on protecting your purity in some way, while you may feel that others are equally intent on corrupting you. Isn’t this fun? Could you see the situation working in the other direction, with you as the naughty influence? If you think in terms of an energy relationship, however, there is something else happening, which is that something in your life is trying to balance itself out. You can’t live with your head under the covers forever, and you can’t pretend you don’t feel actual desire. It’s not all someone else’s doing and feeling; you exist in a relationship to the world, and it has a relationship to you. Instead of resisting, I suggest you listen. You will learn something, and by that I mean something useful.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
What exactly is all this effort for? What is the goal of the game? Are you really going to be included in the rewards? I suggest that rather than looking out for your own interests — which seem taken care of well enough — you check in on a companion who appears to be going through a particularly challenging moment, or is unwittingly headed for one. You have been through this kind of thing a lot of times in recent years, and you may take it for granted that other people have the same kind of experience or wherewithal. The question you may face is, how directly should you intervene? I would start with initiating a conversation where you ask some basic questions about what is up with their life, where they see themselves heading, and figure out if their optimism is at a potentially dangerous level.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
People are slippery and they are mostly informed by their pain and their fear of loss. I marvel every day that people trust one another as much as they do, but I reckon this is because they need to more than they want to. You are in the process of developing something that is ambitious, risky and worthwhile. To do it effectively, you need to become a master of psychology: your own, that of a key individual, and that of a group. You need to do this all at once, and it won’t be easy — but you do have the mastery to work through this at a significant profit. I mean this in the individual sense and the group sense; you will neither gain nor lose alone. So you may as well gain, and get everyone around you on that page — even if one or two are having issues at the moment.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
You seem to be pursuing a goal of some kind. You don’t want to catch up with it too soon, though, so I suggest you be happy about the thrill of the chase. It’s going to lead you someplace different than you currently imagine; the whole nature of the enterprise is due for a change, but you can’t get to one stage of the process without going through this one first. At the moment you seem to be on a quest for some kind of self-understanding, and you may have, in this experience, the support of a true friend. In the next stage, the world opens up; something changes and your view of existence becomes less internally oriented; less emotionally driven and takes on the dimensions of a true quest. What you are doing now is interesting; you love better where it leads you.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
How are your financial plans coming along? It looks like you’re discovering that perfect measure of creativity, drive and discipline, which you can apply to many other aspects of your life. My sense is that you’re working toward something, but you’re not sure quite what it is. I can tell you — it is more freedom. Think of your goals this way. You want money to work for you, rather than you working for it. You want your sense of responsibility to include information about when the basics are fulfilled, and then that is the time you have to yourself. You want to feel secure all the time rather than in just selected moments of clarity. In reality, you would love money to not be an issue at all; and the best way to do that is to become very, very good at handling the stuff.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
I’ve commented before that the current phase of your life may be arriving with a strange sense of isolation. It is not the sign of things to come — please trust that. Yet what you are experiencing now is an entirely necessary phase of your journey wherein you face something essential to the privilege of living in a body with an ego. That is the perspective that to be an individual, there is a necessary moment of renunciation of companionship; indeed, there may be many of them. There is the truth that no matter now deep we may go with someone else, our own experience is unique and cannot, in truth, be shared. Most people run from this dimension of existence. It’s actually easier to dive into the core, taking with you a breath of the knowledge that the closer you are to yourself, the closer you can be to others.

(Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Yours is the original sign of dancing on the edge, flirting with the edge and ultimately, diving over. At the moment, Pluto (the modern ruler of your sign) is fractions of a degree from entering Capricorn till 2023-2024. This is likely to have you feeling like some enormous change is at hand, and that is the truth: it is. Yet Pluto in Capricorn represents such a long phase of history, and one so crucial to the human family, that it’s impossible to separate your own evolutionary process from that of the world. You may indeed be one of the people called upon to participate in significant developments on our planet. If you were, would you respond? What personal goals would you be willing to give up? What changes would you be willing to make? And where would you see yourself fitting in, ideally? Here is a clue: you’ve been thinking about this for years.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
Pluto in Sagittarius has had two distinct sides, at least (please write to me with your ideas). One, as I see it, has been the rise of expansionism, globalism and fundamentalism. The glossy, hard shell of this long transit (since 1995) has been about ideology, often ridiculous. The subtler side has been about many people making contact with this elusive thing known as their soul. This does not make the news, and most people don’t talk about it; usually they lack the language to do so, though they are quite aware of the development. You have clearly been through many trials. Your world has grown and shrunk and grown again. You’ve had to focus your energy, make decisions you would rather have avoided, and you’ve seen the benefits of not avoiding anything at all.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Set aside judgment on whether someone close to you is being honest. They are having their doubts in a time when it’s crucial that you maintain your confidence. The only thing you or they have to be concerned about is self-deception, so in that spirit, start with yourself. You may not recognize it yet, but the entire basis of your reality is shifting. There is an external expression: something unusual, some powerful force, is acting on you and trying to get your attention. And it’s internal: a missing factor of your psyche is in the process of birthing itself, pushing through the ego barrier and taking up residence in your awareness. You may be aware of the first process and not the other, but tune in, listen, feel and allow. You are not the same person you were, and there is no going back now.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Your instincts should be telling you that this is a crucial time in the development of your professional life, but what they are not likely to be saying is how subtle the process is. The world is poised at the cusp of enormous changes, and you may be wondering where you fit into the puzzle. There is no one answer to that, but there is a method, and that mainly involves communication. We live not in a world of ideas, but a universe of relationships. Without them, our ideas are meaningless because all ideas manifest in contact with other people. Therefore, the language you use is vital now: the words and the feeling behind them. You need to express your inner environment as accurately as possible, in an understated way. You are coming across with far greater impact than you may recognize. Listen as you speak: to others, and to yourself.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Tune into how strong you are right now. Observe your sense of balance, and contrast it to what you were going through just three or four months ago. Truly, feel how different this time in your life is, perhaps different than any other. If you are still feeling your limits as things that block you rather than things that offer a sense of potential, reach for your confidence and you will find it. The beauty of the sky right now is not about how easy everything is; rather, the cosmic geometry speaks of both tension and the ability to apply it creatively; that is, to draw strength from the natural movements of the world and allow them to move you like a lever. You may feel like you are the one playing a passive role in this equation, yet what you bring specifically is understanding, awareness and an agenda whose time has arrived.

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