Friday, September 12, 2008

The Shadow is Real

There have been a number of insightful commentaries published in the past week or so concerning the choice of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

I particularly recommend Gloria Steinem’s Palin: Wrong Woman, Wrong Message, George Lakoff’s The Palin Choice, and Camille Paglia’s Fresh Blood for the Vampire.

Another commentary that I appreciate and recommend is Deepak Chopra’s “Obama and the Palin Effect,” published September 4 on The Huffington Post. It’s reprinted in its entirety below.


Obama and the Palin Effect
By Deepak Chopra
The Huffington Post
September 4, 2008

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. [Actually, the convention was hosted in St. Paul!] On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin’s pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of “the other.” For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don’t want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin’s message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision.

Look at what she stands for:

– Small town values – a denial of America’s global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.

– Ignorance of world affairs – a repudiation of the need to repair America’s image abroad.

– Family values – a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don’t need to be heeded.

– Rigid stands on guns and abortion – a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.

– Patriotism – the usual fallback in a failed war.

– “Reform” – an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn’t fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from “us” pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of “I’m all right, Jack,” and “Why change? Everything’s OK as it is.” The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

Obama’s call for higher ideals in politics can’t be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow – we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.

Deepak Chopra

Recommended Off-site Link:
Poll Position: Be Very Afraid - Peter Feld (, September 9, 2008).
Palin’s Dangerous Saber Rattling on Russia - Ilan Goldenberg (The Huffington Post, September 11, 2008).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sarah Palin’s “Theocratic Fascist” Affiliations
All Those Community Organizers? Who Needs Them!
It Won’t Last
Progressives and Obama (Part 1)
Progressives and Obama (Part 2)
An American Prayer

Image: A crowd gathered inside an airport hanger listens as Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin speaks during her welcome home rally in Fairbanks, Alaska, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)


crystal said...

That's an interesting way of looking at Palin's strange popularity. Sometimes I read Deepak Chopra's comments at On Faith. He has something there about her now - link.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks for your comment and the link, Crystal.



Anonymous said...

Deepak Chopra, the last Esaleneque of PBS acid heads, selling his latest new wave, is now the Hindi Prophet telling the Americans how to connect with the Shadow that is Real -- like Linda Evans' Ramtha? For a Dynasty Soap Queen, perhaps those inflated shoulder pads were only half the deceit and fraud.

With so many shadowy figures who claim to see reality when stone sober, I wonder why Jesus, Hari Krishna, David Koresh, Malcolm X, and Padre Pio all bear a family resemblance? Because, as freaks they lack the intense honesty of one Lonnie Frisbee, who really thought he was Jesus, as did the hundreds of Christians who followed him -- because HE LOOKED it. Not because HE ACTED it.

-- until the 1992 hospital room, where the hugely successful Frisbee lie ALONE, dying of AIDS, because the god he promoted did not approve of Frisbee's way of getting laid. Deepak is not so narrow minded -- money, after all, brings Vishnu to the castes. But his counterpart Frisbee got laid up the a**, and when AIDS wrecked his body, NO ONE was by his bedside -- except a cameraman incredulous of such a force left to die alone.

Frisbee's sin is to have loved other men, but not in god's approved ways. So, even the hippies of the Sixties, who took his seed, could plant his grave as holy or wholly queer; they could not bid their homo-prophet goodbye -- however handsome, however charismatic, however successful his message, because HE disobeyed the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (not to mention Jesus and Mohammed).

The gods and their devotees punished him, not so much with AIDS, but with dying ALONE. As Christians have long demonstrated, visitation of the sick ends when the sick are gay. Mother Teresa did it; Pope John Paul II did it; Patrick Buchanan, Cardinal Ratzinger, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and now Sarah Palin know the SAVED from the unsaved, even if one of THEM raped her daughter, his cock was of god.

But no one in THAT family will die miserably as a sinner in god's poverty. No glory, only DEATH and DISMAL death. It's the Christian Way. But, Take it up the butt, as did Lonnie Frisbee (and countless others) and their flocks scatter, that such loving and joyous men must die abandoned like Jesus, because self-righteous "hippies" could not countenance a fudge-packer. Visit the Sick? Hell no. Let the sick die in anonymity, less our salvation be contaminated by androphiles who would not obey Abba, Allah, Yahweh, and the Tyrant.

So, when do those who ENABLE these hypocrites who blame others, who stand and deflect responsibility, for their own dark soul of the night? Methinks, that requires a reality no shadow can stand up to the light. Methinks it requires men and women of honest integrity, who do not need the "shadow of the real" to pretend their possibilities. But being that NAKED before oneself, not to mention others, must be so painful, not even Lonnie could do it. And so, he died alone.

Anonymous said...

I think a simpler explanation for Palin's popularity is Populism, rather than the "shadow" or latent facism.

An aside: Deepak Chopra, physician become new age prophet, might look in the mirror sometime for that shadow he thinks he sees in Sarah Palin.