Thanks to us and to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, great progress is being made in healing two old wounds that have festered for centuries on the American landscape. The two wounds are racism and sexism, and healing them means that America can reclaim its destiny as the world’s leader of enlightened behavior.
There is much to celebrate. The historic nomination battle between Obama and Clinton heralded the coming social revolution that will elevate feminine values and bring more balance to national life. Like Clinton, Obama represents these values—peace, family, health, unity, compassion, and power. We can’t turn our back on our chance for this breakthrough.
We’re not out of the backwoods yet. Many Americans won’t vote for Obama because he’s a black man. And many Americans, the polls are telling us, won’t vote for him either because he’s the man who defeated a woman for the Democratic nomination.
Racism is deadly force. It’s perversely entangled in our militarism and imperialism. We don’t invade European countries or torture Anglo-Saxons at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. Sexism is equally annihilating. It’s entangled in society’s inadequate health insurance, failing schools, and undermined middle class. These structures would be serving us well if the feminine values of support, nurturance, and compassion were respected and embraced.
The problem, however, is more complicated than straight-up racism and sexism. These two deplorable isms are just symptoms of a deeper lack of awareness, which are the human capacity for self-sabotage and our affinity for suffering.
Come November the nation is in danger of electing McCain, the lesser man, because we’re specialists at self-sabotage. It wasn’t just GOP chicanery that got George W. Bush into the White House. His elevation to the presidency was an act of national self-sabotage for which we all would be wise to take responsibility.
Other examples of national self-sabotage include the loss of personal freedoms, the emasculation of the free press, unsustainable debt, and global warming. Replacing self-sabotage with human progress is the change we’re all fighting for.
Self-sabotage emerges from the dark side of human nature, from the negativity that dwells unresolved in the human psyche. Sigmund Freud called it the death instinct, and he was right that it’s a factor we have to acknowledge and understand.
Personal self-sabotage is widespread. People choose to suffer with their emotional afflictions rather than to resolve them. Entangled in self-suffering, they have no compunction or guilt about dragging others down into the pits of their misery. Racists or sexists, for instance, suffer greatly for their negativity, and they desperately try to foist that negativity off on the people around them.
Personal self-sabotage becomes national self-sabotage when, as just one example, the racist or sexist mentality does its dirty work at the polling station, electing inferior politicians (those with whom the contaminated voter identifies) to power.
The Russian mystic George Gurdjieff famously said, “A man will renounce any pleasures you like, but he will not give up his suffering.” Both the racist and the sexist suffer greatly from the negativity they are unable to contain within themselves. They concoct belief systems to convince themselves that their racism and sexism are justified by circumstances beyond themselves. But their belief systems are emotionally based, produced through self-deception so they can hold on to their suffering.
Indeed, sexist actions did hurt Clinton. Remarking on it, novelist Erica Jong pledged to support Obama, yet she observed correctly that sexism was employed, particularly by the media, against Clinton. It’s “clear that the faults we tolerate and even overlook in men, we see as glaring in women,” she writes. “McCain can confuse Sunnis and Shiites and nobody blinks. Bush can admit to his press secretary that he outed a secret agent while claiming that he’d fire any aide who did so—and the press sleeps. Men make mistakes. Women are not allowed to.”
True—that’s sexism for you. Sexists crave an illusion of superiority because, deep within, they’re suffocating in self-doubt. A sexist male demeans women (sacrifices them on the altar of his vainglorious ego) to cover up his sordid secret. It’s crassly ignorant and disgusting. How can we let such vile people bring us all down!
Despite this vileness, it still would be self-sabotage on the part of Democratic women to decline to vote in November or, worse, to vote for McCain. Such women would be just as unenlightened as the sexist men. Piling reverse sexism on top of sexism maintains the cycle of suffering and ignorance.
Many sexists and racists, the old males in particular, are beyond redemption. We’ll be rid of them when they die off. But right now we need those women who, having seen sexism applied cruelly to their champion, still rise above the ugliness of it to do what’s right for us all.
True power and inner freedom come from understanding and resisting the dark side. Resisting it in ourselves is the noblest skill, the greatest art of all.