This American Experiment

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.

As police order her down, Bree Newsome removes the Confederate battle flag from in front of the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina.

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.”

Pres. Obama delivered a eulogy for the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, one of nine people killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC on June 17.

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.

Plaintiffs Matt Hamby, left, and Chris Shelden speak following oral arguments in the Hamby v. Parnell case concerning same-sex marriage held Oct. 10, 2014, in Anchorage. This case was litigated before the Supreme Court this year. Photo by Eric Hill.

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:

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer described the widespread issue of prisoners being sentenced to death, then exonerated. Breyer noted that this happened six times in 2014 alone, and is especially problematic with serious, high-profile crimes.

“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.

Andy Warhol’s comment on the electric chair, c. 1967.

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 extraordinary western angle of the Sibly Chart, showing houses 6, 7 and 8. These deal with relationships and shared resources. The streak of planets toward the top is the Cancer stellium, being transited by Uranus and Pluto.

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.

The Sibly chart in full. You can see Eris on the lower left, shown as a red circle with an arrow pointing down. This is a new feature in the chart, as Eris was discovered in 2005. The values crisis it describes, and the clash with tradition, is worth an article or a book chapter.

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.

Not your ordinary sheet of paper.

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.


Weekly Horoscope for Thursday, July 2, 2015 #1056 | By Eric Francis
Aries (March 20-April 19) — You’re getting a taste of what it means to be ambitious — to strive for longterm goals that you might have doubted you were capable of reaching. You’re entirely capable — and there’s something much more encompassing calling you. Your life is not about what you achieve but rather who you are becoming. Yes, they are related. This far exceeds any external goal; in truth, what you express in the outer world can only ever be an extension of who and what you are inside. That’s the place to focus, particularly as you discover that your ideas and your experience of self are way ahead of the current state of society. You seem willing to take the chance to cultivate or provoke real change. For that to happen around you, it must happen within you as a matter of habit. Get used to the fact that you’re a different person every day.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You’re getting a chance to re-evaluate a relationship, or an approach to all of your relationships. Think of where you were two years ago, and consider where you are today. If you do, you’ll be surprised at the progress you’ve made. Go deep with this one. See if you can remember your fears and your concerns in all their different forms. Remember all the cleanup work you felt you had to do, perhaps dreading it. Think of how restless and self-searching you felt. Now consider how you feel today, especially if you’re being reminded that you have some other projects ahead. In all likelihood they are a lot less daunting than what you’ve been through. You have any skills you need. But mostly what you’ve acquired is clarity and the ability to speak for yourself, remaining connected to your feelings. Go back and consider how many seemingly intractable problems that one skill has helped you work out. Remember, you’ve still got it to work with.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — What you think is troubling your mind, possibly in the form of a decision you need to make, is rooted in an emotional question. If you’re trying to get a handle on where you’re really coming from, or what you really want, check in with your feelings — their subtler level. Your mind may be racing along, which could distract you. You may be grappling with seeming contradictions that appear and disappear, which is confusing. Indeed, it may turn out that what seemed so pressing yesterday or a few days ago has less urgent tones. So it would be wise to slow down, give yourself some time, and check in about how you feel day by day, even hour by hour. There would seem to be little need for urgency and a greater need to tap into your inner environment and experience the true colors of who you are. That will help you respond to the underlying question: what is motivating you right now? It’s not quite what you think.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Mars in your sign is providing you with extra motivation, energy and self-confidence. Even better news is that you can afford to slow down and allow people and opportunities to come to you. In fact it would help significantly if you would harmonize with your own attractive power. It’s true that Mars is assertive, but in the sign Cancer, you can invert that and be a magnet for others. Even if you’re usually the more retreating type, or don’t like to be noticed, you now have the moxie to meet others on your own terms, or some obviously mutual ones. Be grateful that people are approaching you. Find out what they have to offer and what they want, and get some idea about what it means for them to exist. Some interesting, exciting meetings are in the works over the coming days and weeks and I suggest you be open to them, regardless of any other commitments you may have.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — The current (and ongoing) Venus-Jupiter conjunction in your sign is encouraging you to welcome a new era in your life — one of abundance, of relative freedom and the ability to express yourself. Therefore, live abundantly, and stretch into some options you might not ordinarily take; take some risks expressing yourself. This is the time to ‘live as if’ — to tune into the feeling of how you would exist closer to your full potential. One key to doing this will be setting aside perfectionism. Your true potential does not have one pre-ordained form, nor must it match any exact requirements. Another is setting aside your pride. You’re free to express your needs and your desires without any fear of judgment. You don’t need to be awesome or amazing, which are not actual values. You merely need to be human, which is to say sensitive, aware and boldly expressive.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Focus on the specifics, the details, the fine print. Be bold enough to state what you want or need on your own terms. Then, see how people respond. You have more influence than you think, which will increase as you observe this power. I suggest you try an experiment — don’t justify your desires, just acknowledge them and state them out loud. Justification is another entity, a world removed from honest desire. You have no need to get involved in this kind of psychological complexity. But what your astrology suggests is the need for directness. Go right past your usual tendency to hedge, to couch or to state things in a diplomatic way. Indeed, you would do well to throw diplomacy to the four winds and be what, for you, would feel brash or swashbuckling. This is just your mind playing tricks on you. To others you will seem refreshingly direct.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Your star is rising, and I suggest you take the ride. By this, I mean throw your life open to the possibilities, needing no plan or assurance where you will end up. One thing that would help is to make your presence known. While you’re doing that, look and listen to the world around you — really study what people say, what they do, and how they present themselves. Notice in particular how they feel about their value in the world, and what prevents them from doing the things they want to do. Listen to their desires, their frustrations and their concepts for what to do. Then notice how different a place you’re coming from. This tells you more than you think — because it describes your relatively strong position in life. Part of your strength comes from confidence in what you have to offer and your understanding of the value you have to others. This will encourage you to make the most of every opportunity, and to make opportunities for yourself. Be strong, be generous; though don’t be proud.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You have an unusual opportunity to burn off the influence of your family like the rising Sun evaporates the morning fog. The more heat you feel, the more clarity you will gain. You might not think that attachment to relatives and the patterns of your biological tribe get in the way of much. Yet these affinities and loyalties have a way of costing you your independence. This might come as the fear of what someone might think, the need to conform to a standard you don’t believe in, or following emotional rules that don’t have defined concepts or any real purpose. Your solar chart describes a burning need to think, feel and define your life according to your own values and desires. There’s no room to compromise when it comes to the imposed morals and restrictions of others. Notably, these webs and entanglements are usually invisible, or manifest as ‘loyalty’. If your astrology has one message right now, it’s to be true to yourself.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You’re standing on ground more solid than you may think. It’s true that you can get lost in a world of feelings, which are not subject to control or accounting. Most of what the world counts as dependable is really about the illusion of control. You can afford to let go of that pretense and define ‘real’ your own way. If you can envision something, it’s real. If you have a tangible goal, that is real. If you have a heartfelt desire, that’s real. If you’re able to tap into your own wisdom, that is real. Most of all, your faith in yourself is likely to be the most tangible thing in your life. I would remind you that this isn’t an abundant resource on our particular planet, and that you’re blessed with an unusual gift. It’s yours to use, and I suggest that you strive continuously to make what exists as an idea into something with solid manifestation.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You may be feeling like this is your last chance to become something or accomplish something. Who knows, it might be, or it could be a mental illusion. Either way, it’s worth living as if that’s true for a while. Imagine there’s something you’ve been wanting to create for yourself lifetime after lifetime, and now you’ve got another opportunity to have a go at it. But you’re aware that you have not quite given yourself the chance on a number of past occasions, or taken advantage of the relative easy opportunities you’ve had. Now you have another opening. True, the circumstances are not perfect. There may be a few obstacles in the way. But once again you really do have what you need, by which I mean the personal resources. And you have some cooperation that has, in the past, not been forthcoming. So yes, pretend this is your last chance, and let that motivate you.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Life is holding out many gifts and options right now, as long as you’re open to them. Even as you receive I suggest you remain open and honoring of your own freedom to choose, to give and to receive. People and communities often set a trap when it comes to receiving — once you have someone or something, you’re supposed to fold up, cling to that person or situation, and refuse to want or accept more. I suggest you take another approach: the more that’s offered, the more open you remain. One great invitation can lead to the next. One amorous encounter can open the way to another, with the same person, or someone else. Let one creative or business opportunity establish your viability for another — and be willing to receive them as a form of abundance. To sum up, the more you’re offered, the more I suggest you stay open to receive. Keep your flow going.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Keep diverting your energy into creative and recreational experiences. In other words, chill out a bit. Pretend all your work is done for a while, no matter how much you may have to do, or want to do. Live as if everything is chill and under control and working out just fine. Do what you can to tune into that feeling tone. Consider this a creative experiment in manifestation without working as hard as you usually do. This is a chance to allow your emotional body to lead the way to contact, to experience and to an expansion of your life. In fact, you have less to worry about than you may think, and certainly less than you did a month or two ago. Much of that worry was the result of a mental fog that obscured your real state of affairs. It described a confused state of communication in your relationships that was in many ways outside of your control. Therefore, strive for ease and clarity and you will receive the benefits that they offer.

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