By Carol S. Pearson
I did not want to face the truth about the archetypal story of the Republican convention, as I was hoping for better. However, it is clear to me that, overall, the convention was embodying an Innocent trance. The Innocent as an archetype has the virtues of a spontaneous, happy child, and when in positive and conscious form is optimistic and idealistic. We could see a bit of this latter aspect in the evocation of the image of America as “a shining city on a hill” that beckons others to us. And, the more consistently we live out positive American values, the truer this is. Every archetype, however, has a downside, which rears its ugly head when people are stressed or when they are in resistance against positive growth. When an archetype possesses a person or a society, it is like they are in a trance and no longer see reality clearly, but instead see it only through that archetype’s lens.
The immature Innocent, then, is often wrapped in denial—in this case, about climate change, the complexity of living in a global, interdependent world, and one’s own culpability for the problems we face. In trance, adults remain children and do not demonstrate the ego structure necessary to learn from their mistakes. When Tommy blames his brother for snatching a cookie, while Tommy has crumbs on his lips, we may inwardly smile because it is a childish thing to do. However, for a party in a presidential campaign to do this is not cute. For example, there was no sign at the convention of Republicans recognizing which party’s policies were responsible for the 2008 recession or for invading Iraq and destabilizing the region, or, more recently, that congressional Republicans had publically declared that their primary goal was to keep the duly elected president from accomplishing anything, including adequately regulating Wall Street, stopping companies from sending jobs overseas, or funding programs to help people escape poverty.
The Innocent in trance also feels special and entitled, and has difficulty balancing self-interest with concern for others. This, combined with the desire for simple answers and scapegoats to blame problems on, can lead Innocents to yearn for a “great man” to restore the primacy of their group (in this case, Americans of European extraction), to wish to demonstrate our nation’s power by throwing our weight around, and to regard certain groups as the evil among us, or potentially among us, in which case they have to subdued, exiled, or excluded. Most notably, in the minds of Donald Trump and those cheering him on, these enemies include undocumented workers, Syrian refugees, Obama and Clinton—and peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors, implicitly holding them responsible for the murder of police officers.
With regard to all these factors, for Trump at least, there is a tendency to assume that “the truth is what I say it is.” The links below are to initial and incomplete fact checks of his acceptance speech; they reinforce the pattern he displayed in his primary campaign of fabricating statistics or taking them out of context, and reveal a disregard for reality and truth. No one can say for sure whether he can deliver on his many promises—to almost immediately stop crime, bring back manufacturing jobs, and give everyone in the country an equal education, just for starters. However, on the face of it, the lack of actual policy prescriptions, other than to “build a wall,” tear up our trade agreements, slash taxes, and get better prosecutors, do not inspire great optimism about his potential for success.
Of course, many in his party, some of whom refused to attend the convention, understand that such simple answers often have side effects that are not pretty and that carry forward shadow aspects of the GOP that are not new but now can be seen in the glaring light of the sun. Conservative columnist David Brooks characterized the content and style of Trump’s speech as characteristic of demagogues in all times and places, recognizing that we can anticipate the possible outcome of a Trump presidency by examining the results of rule by demagogues in other times in history and in the world today.
What can we do in response? One thing would be to send out a vision, a prayer, or just good energy for the Republican Party to move out of trance and grow into the potential for its expression of the strengths of the Innocent archetype. The beginning of this would be: recognizing their own complicity in the problems that face our great nation; removing their projections onto Democratic leaders and scapegoat groups; sharing a realistic vision of the future given what is currently known; and committing to working with Democrats to put together the pieces of the puzzle they each see and find solutions both can live with.
As we move into next week, with the Democratic National Convention coming up, let us equally hope that Democrats take the high road and do not respond in kind by demonizing Republicans. This may be difficult, since being vilified to the degree they were at the Republican convention is wounding and stress inducing. Let’s hope that the Democratic leadership is mature and conscious enough to stay out of trance and provide a more balanced and realistic sense of how our country can go forward than was evidenced this week.