question can be raised of whether excursions into the deeper history of America
are worthwhile. Why not simply focus on the many problems of the present? Why
are things like the genocide of Native peoples or the esoteric links of our
founding fathers relevant when we’ve got pressing concerns like the Iraq war?
The reason I believe this exploration is now important is that we are called to
another level of consciousness as a country, an evolution of our governing
assumptions, our political structures and our national psychology. We can
envision this as an upgrade to a new operating system -- new software for our
country that builds upon the old code but adds fundamentally new capacities,
abilities, and powers.
Unlike a computer program, however, the previous operating system of our
national consciousness cannot simply be overwritten. It must be outgrown in an
integrated fashion, which means completing the unfinished parts of the last
stage of our growth, as well as understanding what is no longer working and
why. Our maturation as a country requires coming face to face with what is no
longer adaptive about our beliefs, thoughts, and habits as well as what we’ve
hidden in our shadows.
The current administration in Washington causes many who are drawn to this new
operating system great angst. In many ways, the president (and others like him
in both parties) is an exaggeration of the consciousness that many of us feel we
are outgrowing. We can fixate on what we don’t like about him, vilify him and
his allies, and build political support against him, thinking that alone will
generate the progress we need.
However, there is also a subtler process that may be more important, which is to
look at him and his administration as a Rorschach test of where our national
psyche is fixated and then to create a vision of ourselves that is more whole.
Part of this requires embracing what is virtuous, valuable, and beautiful about
the old rather than simply pointing towards the problems and inadequacies.
Personal growth rarely happens through self-hatred or judgment. It usually
begins with the recognition that what we don’t like about ourselves – our
arrogance, weakness, meanness, or fear, for example – is often a mask for
something that is unfinished or incomplete. Undesired qualities are signposts
for something that is developmentally frozen. Shifting the pattern first
requires softening our judgment and resistance and finding a place of love and
respect for the defenses or perceived “problems.”
Collectively, our frustration with current leadership acts as a window on places
where America’s emergent culture and the operating system it is offering are not
yet whole. If they were, there would not be the level of reactivity and its
obverse of hopelessness that we witness. They would simply be honored in a
larger, deeper, more whole context while we simultaneously work to make sure
that the outdated OS is not running the show much longer.
In the case of President Bush, for example, we see an exaggerated version of
strong masculine qualities that many would prefer to jettison from the new
operating system. However, for the new OS to be a true upgrade, we cannot
jettison the old but must build upon it and extend it. If not, we compromise the
efficacy of the new platform. In America’s next operating system, for example,
we need the protective warrior who is willing to fight for what is right. But
that warrior impulse will need to find a more noble, selfless, and clear
expression and be integrated. We thus need to embrace the many virtues that
Bush demonstrates in his warriorship – his singularity of focus, his commitment
to see things through to the end, a willingness to sacrifice for what he
believes is right, an ability to galvanize people to take hard steps.
Simply rejecting the warrior won’t work. It’s tantamount to deleting essential
lines of code from the next operating system. We simply need to upgrade the
functionality and integrate it better with the emerging consciousness. It’s not
the warrior qualities in Bush that are the problem; it’s the use of those
qualities in situations for which they do not constitute skillful means. It’s
also problematic when they lead to deception and manipulation and are not fully
consecrated to the greatest good for all.
Integration is what differentiates an upgrade to a new operating system for
America from a counter-cultural rebellion. Counter-cultural values tend to be
created as polar opposites to the dominant culture. If that remains the case,
we are simply locked in a tug-of-war for dominance; either the old operating
system or its opposite. We cannot upgrade until we integrate both polarities.
At that point, the warring factions can recognize that their most important
virtues and values have been honored and infused into a viewpoint that is wiser,
deeper, and more whole. Such a recognition will eventually lead to a natural
assumption of political power by that emerging operating system.
All of this relates back to why digging into our country’s shadow and our
current distortions with as much open-hearted curiosity and truth-telling rigor
as we can muster is a requirement to activate a new system. We need to build
the best of everything that has been previously created into what is emerging.
And we need to see where we have been unconscious or lying to ourselves so that
those dimensions of our national character can become unfrozen and find their
next higher expression.
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