Dear Friend and Reader:
American society has been spinning off its axis the past few weeks. Yet there have also been a few signs of actual progress, and a different kind of conversation. Since this weekend is the 239th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, we’re in a perfect moment to check in with one of the primary charts of the United States, called the Sibly Chart.
First let’s recap the news, which exemplifies the very best and the very worst elements of our American experiment. Then I’ll take a look at how this plays out in the Sibly chart.
The latest round of wrenching change dates back to the Charleston shooting two weeks ago. This wasn’t your ordinary shooting — nine African Americans were murdered during a Bible study group by a young white guy with avowed, published racist views.
This incident, in one of the most historic African American churches in the U.S., took place in a former rebel state. At the time, it had the Confederate battle flag flying in front of the state capitol. That flag is the very symbol of white supremacy.
We did not hear that sales of Glock pistols spontaneously jumped, because gun control would magically be imposed tomorrow. The NRA could say nothing, given something so obviously racially motivated. FOX News tried to spin the shooting as anti-Christian violence, adding a splash of humor to what was otherwise an entirely horrid event.
Charleston culminated with Pres. Obama’s astonishing eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, his interview on racial issues given to the WTF podcast, and the fiery discussion about whether the Confederate battle flag should be used by contemporary southern governments.
Then on June 27 someone named Bree Newsome personally removed the Confederate flag from in front of the South Carolina statehouse, scaling a 30-foot flagpole with climbing equipment. She was arrested for defacing monuments on state capitol grounds. James Ian Tyson, who accompanied her, was also arrested and faces the same charge, a serious misdemeanor.
“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day,” Newsome said in a statement. “It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”
One day earlier, the Supreme Court held, by a five-to-four vote, that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. For the first time this granted equal protection rights to all couples who wish to marry.
Note that this had nothing to do with the freedom to express affection. The view that ‘we don’t need the government to give us permission to love’ is wholly misguided.
Last week’s resolution of this issue, decided by one vote on the Supreme Court, was about the actual grit of the marital contract — adoption rights, hospital visitation, inheritance and taxation.
The love aspect of same-sex marriage being legitimized is symbolic and, like the removal of the confederate flag, it’s a meaningful symbol. But it’s not the point of the decision; that involves the most elemental matters of family structure and law.
There’s also a religious issue, as prohibition of same-sex marriage is entirely rooted in Christian dogma. The Supreme Court was, admittedly by a thin margin, affirming the separation of church and state that the United States is founded on. Of course the modern definition of conservatism involves the merging of religious and government interests, something that the founding fathers knew was so dangerous it’s prohibited not once but twice in the United States constitution.
Last Friday’s ruling came close to the anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots in Greenwich Village, and pride weekend, and put at least some of the country in a good mood.
Monday the court took a different tack and issued two truly reprehensible decisions. One involved allowing coal-fired power plants to deposit mercury and other pollutants into the atmosphere, on the grounds that it’s too expensive to remove.
The justices, again by a vote of five to four, struck down a federal EPA ruling requiring the power plants to scrub their emissions to a modestly poisonous level. Many had already complied or were in the process of doing so when the EPA regulation was struck down.
Also on Monday, the court issued a decision allowing the use of the drug Versed in lethal injection executions.
Several death row inmates had sued their respective state governments to block the use of this drug, which is being used due to a shortage of Sodium Pentothal. That’s a coma-inducing drug that is supposed to be the first step in the three-step execution process (which was designed to be a supposedly humane form of killing a person).
The reason that a coma-inducing drug is necessary is because the second and third drugs — one that induces paralysis and another that stops the prisoner’s heart — are extremely painful, inducing the sensation of internal burning. Four botched executions in 2014 brought this to the public’s attention. Versed, similar to Valium, is not a drug that induces a coma; rather, it’s a short-acting mild relaxant, with many reported contrary effects other than inducing amnesia and a twilight state. For example, in some people it induces anxiety or hallucinations.
In a scathing dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the new approved form of execution “the chemical equivalent of being burned alive. But under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use [Versed], or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake … the State could execute them using whatever means it designated.”
Justice Stephen Breyer, in his own dissent, questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty, in part based on how many people convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to die are exonerated — some of them after the execution.
I’m going to share a few longish quotes from that dissent, as they are truly moving. Breyer wrote:
“Last year, in 2014, six death row inmates were exonerated based on actual innocence. All had been imprisoned for more than 30 years (and one for almost 40 years) at the time of their exonerations.
“Furthermore, exonerations occur far more frequently where capital convictions, rather than ordinary criminal convictions, are at issue. Researchers have calculated that courts (or State Governors) are 130 times more likely to exonerate a defendant where a death sentence is at issue. They are nine times more likely to exonerate where a capital murder, rather than a noncapital murder, is at issue.
“Why is that so? To some degree, it must be because the law that governs capital cases is more complex. To some degree, it must reflect the fact that courts scrutinize capital cases more closely. But, to some degree, it likely also reflects a greater likelihood of an initial wrongful conviction. How could that be so? In the view of researchers who have conducted these studies, it could be so because the crimes at issue in capital cases are typically horrendous murders, and thus accompanied by intense community pressure on police, prosecutors, and jurors to secure a conviction. This pressure creates a greater likelihood of
convicting the wrong person.”
He then brought up an issue that I have never seen raised before but have long thought was a serious problem: something called “death qualification.”
If someone is going to sit on a jury where there is the possibility of the court imposing a death sentence, each juror must be willing to vote to kill the prisoner. In other words, to be on a jury trying a person who faces capital punishment for their crime, that juror must favor the death penalty and be willing to impose it.
Here is how Justice Breyer put it: “Other factors may also play a role. One is the practice of death-qualification; no one can serve on a capital jury who is not willing to impose the death penalty.”
He quoted one long-term study that found, “[F]or over fifty years, empirical investigation has demonstrated that death qualification skews juries toward guilt and death.”
So, in one week, the court ruled on some of the most important facets of human existence. One involved intimate matters of family structure. Another involved whether corporations can use the atmosphere as a chemical waste dump. Another involved the state’s presumed right to torture and kill people.
At the same time, the racial problem in the United States came to the forefront. It took nine human sacrifices to get this to happen, but it happened. A real discussion ensued. It was not about gun control. It was about one of the underlying motives for murder, indeed the murder of many people through the course of American history.
Uranus-Pluto and the Aries Point in the Sibly Chart
The Sibly Chart is the most widely used chart for the United States. There are several options for July 4 but the consensus of astrologers seems to be a chart for 5:10 pm on that day, with Sagittarius rising.
I am aware that the Sibly Chart is a kind of hypothetical chart. It’s true that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, but nobody knows when. The thing about this chart is that it works. It’s sensitive to transits, and it describes something with an almost artistic vividness.
The defining feature of this chart is a group of planets in the 8th house — the one that deals with matters of money, marriage and death. Yes, those are all included in the same house, with the common theme being the transfer of wealth through inheritance or dowry.
In modern astrology the 8th has also been assigned the themes of sex and surrender. I’ve written a lot about this — here is an article in case you’re curious.
Astrologically, here’s how that house looks up-close. Those planets — Venus, Jupiter, the Sun and Mercury — are all in the sign Cancer. Mars and Uranus are in Gemini, in a very loose conjunction.
This is the chart of a vast inheritance. The sign Cancer describes a collective, a family of humanity. You might say it’s the Manifest Destiny, expressed in astrology: the bold statement that “this land is our land.”
It’s true that Mars and Uranus in Gemini describe some conflict, contention and a kind of split personality, particularly on matters of war and peace, and of technology. Gemini under the influence of hot planets like these can have a polarized feeling. Yet there’s so much wealth to go around that we have a good reason to get along. Though as Bob Dylan wrote, “It sure was a good idea, till greed got in the way.”
Over the past two weeks the Sun and then Mars have aspected nearly all these planets by conjunction. The Full Moon has passed through the territory. Because these planets are early in the cardinal sign Cancer, we get the Aries Point effect of personal equals political. The Aries Point itself is prominent in the Sibly chart, so it has extra presence; this kind of transit will stir things up — but something much more significant is going on.
All of these Sibly planets in Cancer are aligned with the Uranus-Pluto square that’s been developing going back to 2007, with the first big peak being in 2011. This is what we’ve been experiencing through all the years of the Obama administration.
Transiting Pluto has spent years opposite Venus, Jupiter and the Sun in the Sibly Chart. It will soon oppose Mercury. For years, Uranus has squared all these planets, and is about to square Mercury. Said another way, the Uranus-Pluto conjunction has come through the Sibly Chart with about as much energy and impact as you can have in astrology.
The Uranus-Pluto square began to separate back in March. That came with a release of energy and a massive sea-change. I reviewed the history of the square in a recent article.
Eris, an energetic little planet similar to Pluto (discovered in 2005), is involved as well. Named for the goddess of chaos and discord, Eris is about to square the Sibly Chart’s Mercury, as will Uranus, simultaneously. This pairing is a result of the Uranus-Eris conjunction of 2015 through 2018, which is in Aries. Expect this to stir up another extended round of manic psychological chaos on a national scale.
The Sibly Chart’s position of Eris has also been involved; in early Capricorn, it’s taken a series of conjunctions from Pluto and squares from Uranus. This has represented a real upheaval of values. We get to be the people living through this group of transits. We get to take the ride.
Any astrologer familiar with the transits of Pluto or Uranus would say that the theme of this whole arrangement — natal and transits — is change or die. This is what the United States has been faced with.
It seems that in any society, change is messy. It’s also slow and costly, and it may lead one to wonder whether it’s worth it. Worth is not the issue; change is inevitable, and the mess seems to involve the unwillingness of people to voluntarily adapt. Under the current scenario, that adaptation would involve the willingness to live and let live.
Events of the past few weeks provide a test of whether that’s even possible. A mass murder has focused attention on the issue of white supremacy.
A decision about same-sex marriage challenges people’s apparent religious dogma, down to the biological level. Another decision opens the way to the needless poisoning of current and future generations, when many alternatives are available.
Another will cost the lives of some prisoners, in a way so painful that a society claiming to be civilized, or based on spiritual values, needs to do some deep soul searching. That may yet focus opposition to the death penalty as reports of torture dominate the news each time a person is executed.
All of this is part of our American experiment — one that’s never been done before, with an uncertain outcome, in which we are direct participants.