America’s like that couple at the dinner party. You know the ones — you’ve connected with the wife immediately, she’s gregarious, pretty, intelligent, and charismatic — but, the husband you’re not so sure about. He seems nice, sure he’s quiet, but most are when they meet new people. You’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, accepting his introversion.
As the night progresses, you begin to notice that the husband has dropped a few questionable comments, he’s smirked and shifted at some inappropriate times, like when racism or immigration is being discussed. You’ve given him a few sideways glances, truly not sure where he’s coming from, because he simply will not voice his opinion thoroughly. But, there’s an air, you know? Something’s off…
The husband in this analogy represents the underbelly or unrecognized aspects of the country: covert, uncultured, emotionally inarticulate — truly the shadow of the nation. The wife represents the status quo; the collective, appropriate, and accepted persona of the country, domestically and to a superficial degree (what we see when we meet a fellow like-minded individual). She also represents the face we would wish to show the world on an international scale. If we can — no matter the situation at home — put on a confident face and smile, the world believes everything’s okay.
As the party progresses, you’re finishing up the second course, sitting back satisfied, full, a bit euphoric and content. And as soon as the clock strikes 2016, the husband drops a horrible, gut-wrenching racial slur! You freeze, feeling the collective swell of the room, petrified in silence. He smiles awkwardly, laughing a bit at his slip, trying to reconcile the parting of paradigms as the room instantly splits in two.
At this point, even the wife turns to him and sneers. His loose lips let slip the truth about his character, much like certain segments of the nation let slip last year their true feelings about politics, religion, and race. Diametrical opposition to the very notion of bigotry is the instant cringe response in a well-adjusted individual who supports unity among mankind. So naturally, the room (or in this analogy, the majority of the nation and world) responds with disgust, indifference, and reproach.
Why did this opinion spring forth? Why did this man feel the need to interject his hateful ideals into the peaceful revelry? And, why now is the nation doing the same? Well, to understand this phenomenon, we must first examine the archetypal notions of the trickster and the shadow.
Cunning, covert, belligerent when cornered, self-interested, and a gifted speaker of lies, the trickster archetype in myth is vilified and immortalized as the secret doer of destruction in civilized culture. And, interestingly enough, we now have one running our country.
A trickster archetype can run rampant when given power, as its interest in self-preservation and reverence is palpably present. But let’s pause for a moment and recognize that, when dealing with a trickster, nothing is as it seems. Is it possible that this aspect of Trump is really so unfortunate? What if this blundering fool is somehow (rather unintentionally) the agent of change our country needs in this particular era of growth and self-discovery? Sure, his appointments are bigots and anti-intellectuals, and his executive orders could only be described as ‘detrimental to humankind at large’. But, let’s look at the broader scope of what’s occurring: Trump has successfully teased out of the country its own shadow; an ugly but very present part of itself that lingered just beneath the surface which, to a certain degree, has gone unseen while affecting control over the direction of our culture.
Our favorite psychologist and mystic Carl Jung writes, “The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge