Planet Waves | March 2018 | Monthly Forecast | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Planet Waves | March 2018 

The Mother of All Freedoms

click to enlarge Flowers of the Republic, a watercolor mixed media collage by Christine Yates.
  • Flowers of the Republic, a watercolor mixed media collage by Christine Yates.

On Valentine's Day, I was eagerly waiting for the White House press briefing to begin. It was delayed several times, hour by hour, and finally the 4pm scheduled event was canceled.

That day's press briefing would have focused on a newly revealed debacle in the White House, which started as the revelation that Rob Porter, a top staff member accused of beating two of his wives, had been denied security clearance, but was still handling the president's most highly classified documents.

The White House was claiming that the security clearance process was still in motion, though the FBI director, a Trump appointee, said in a congressional hearing earlier that week that the security clearance report had been turned over last July.

Security clearance is an elaborate, detailed (but routine) character check, going back to one's teenage years, to make sure that people who work at the top levels of governments are qualified to be handling the nation's most sensitive secrets—such as the names of American spies working in the Kremlin, pending military plans, and anti-terrorist strategies.

This has been turned into a scandal over the White House hiring a wife-beater (who according to press reports was also involved romantically with Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest advisors), and the president's position on domestic violence (he's opposed to it, thank goodness).

Yet the actual theme of this incident is how many top White House officials don't have security clearance or, said another way, have "interim clearance," which as I understand it means they were denied, but are still doing their jobs. According to current press reports, there are 47 who report to the president on "interim" clearance (meaning no clearance but we'll let it slide), more than one year into his administration.

Why exactly is that? Is this about many people around the president having dodgy, potentially criminal elements in their past? That would fit the picture, wouldn't it? One focus here is Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who is one of those "interim" clearance people. Could this involve his father, Charles Kushner, who was convicted of 18 federal counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering? (Tampering is putting it mildly—it was more like vicious intimidation.)

The wider context is that the president, his campaign, and his administration are being investigated by federal prosecutors in many matters related to involvement with Russia in the tipping of the 2016 election. As of late 2016, there was no doubt, according to US intelligence agencies, that this actually occurred.

Campaign and administration officials have denied, again and again, contact with Russians, and were found, again and again, to have had repeated meetings and communications. What's known as the "Russia probe" is piecing together exactly what happened. Was there any cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin?

While this is happening, many people at the top echelon of the Trump administration are not properly qualified to be handling top-secret documents, yet they may have ties to the Russians. This matters for every reason, but especially because, once again, all US intelligence agencies say they believe that Russia is currently messing with the 2018 congressional election. Under better conditions, that election might tip the balance of Congress and make it possible for there to be an impeachment of an obscenely corrupt and incompetent president.

And hey, loads of people think he's doing a great job, and lots of others are rooting for him because he's not part of the crooked Clinton clan or the Democratic National Committee.

The Mother of All Freedoms

As it turned out, the press briefing was canceled due to the Valentine's Day Massacre, the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, where a former student has been charged with killing 17 students with an AR-15 rifle.

This one seems like the same old story: mentally disturbed, gun-obsessed teenager, posting all kinds of disturbing messages to Instagram, who wanted to be a professional school shooter, does just that. Everybody dropped the ball: Rhe school expelled him instead of referring him for a psychological evaluation; the FBI couldn't figure out who he was (for real?)—and the other students were expecting it to happen.

So, all at once, the media mind—the collective mind described by the content of TV and social media—transforms from a serious national security issue to a mass shooting. This was the first widely reported school shooting of 2018, though it was the 18th in the first six weeks of the year.

And with that, the gun debate begins again. The debate that, according to the NRA, is never appropriate right after a mass killing, but which never happens any other time.

"We have collectively decided this is the way we wish to live. This perverse form of American carnage is not our scourge but our brand," the Daily News wrote in its editorial the day after the shooting (published online February 14).

"In this, our country, we force our children to learn how to shelter in place, to endure active shooter drills, to practice lockdowns, engaging in a horrifying modern version of Cold War duck-and-cover exercises. In this, our country, the enemies are the killers in our midst. But the enemy, in a larger sense, is us. This is the world we created."

It's always interesting to listen to gun rights advocates make the case for weapons being generally available.

Under the prevailing twisted, paranoid, and politically naive concept of the 2nd Amendment, it's the mother of all freedoms, without which there would be no others.

In true "conservative" logic, freedom is used against the people who would be free, whether in the form of what amounts to a civil war waged by amateurs/freelancers acting under government policy, or a twisted interpretation of the First Amendment: Money is speech, religion is a weapon, and people have a right to lie to us.

This translates to: The 1st Amendment is the freedom to be lied to, and the 2nd Amendment is the freedom to be shot. They go together.

In logic more suited to the satires of J. P. Sears (of the "Ultra Spiritual" YouTube series), the equation is, "My freedom means I am free to have you be dead."

The Discarnate Condition: Death and Immortality

Many times in this column, I've quoted Professor Eric McLuhan, the son of Marshall McLuhan, the pioneer of media studies. McLuhan describes the way that media powered by electricity (from the light bulb to Twitter) pushes people out of their bodies. Under full digital conditions, this is like the experience of living on the astral plane. As he sees it, this is the main factor driving the world into its current state of social, intellectual, and political instability.

He believes mass shooting incidents are increasing in frequency due to what he calls the "discarnate condition," which imitates the condition of death. "You're out of the body. You've left the body behind, so that prepares the ground for all kinds of things. But for the kids, it's particularly disorienting because they're just growing into their bodies."

Many have pointed out the connection between violent video games and violent actions. Professor McLuhan says this is as much about the structure of the game as it is about the content.

"The technology is discarnating, and the video game itself gives them a role instead of an identity. And they play the role. When they play the role, they think they are this person, or this character. The violence is to establish and maintain that identity. It's no surprise that when you pull the plug, they're still in the role."

He added: "Roles are corporate, not private, so it prohibits private awareness and private identity, and that's not very good for teenagers because they're trying to find out who they are. Violence is almost always a response to a loss of identity or a need to forge an identity or recapture an identity, and the violence can be slight, or it could be huge, like this. The kid says, 'I'll show them,' meaning 'I'm going to assert myself.'"

Notably, the condition of being "discarnate" might also lead one to feel like they're immortal, which is how one might have the ambition to be a "professional school shooter."

Then there's the issue of SSRI-type medications. These meds come with a suicide warning for teenagers, and there is a correlation between mass shootings and perps who are on these meds. There's a movement to compel drug companies to package these products with a murder and suicide warning, since they're so often involved with both.

"SSRIs push people inward, and when they get there, there's a vacuum," Professor McLuhan said. "Being pushed inward is not the same as private identity." A private identity has the capability of relating rather than merely being isolated or trapped inside oneself. Teenagers often live with the feeling of being isolated, so this does not offer any help.

Notably, a society full of people who are not really living on the physical plane might find it challenging to do something as tangible, and as challenging, as to restrict access to weapons.

The Mother of the United States

Valentine's Day was the eve of a solar eclipse, so the buildup to the press briefing that never happened, and the Parkland, Florida, massacre were right in the run-up to that event.

The eclipse, which took place at 4:05pm EST on February 15, was in Aquarius. It was the corresponding event to the Great American Eclipse that happened last August, and which unleashed the furies. If you recall, that was the eclipse where the path of totality—of total darkness—spanned the United States from Portland, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, with its peak over the continental US—the first such event in American history.

The February 15 eclipse was conjunct the Moon in the primary chart for the United States, sometimes called the Sibly Chart. The United States has its Moon in Aquarius. In astrology, the Moon represents the mother. In a national chart, it provides a description of the nature of what we call "the public."

The Aquarius Moon is a good Moon, if someone has cultivated their senses and their capacity for feeling and emotion. It has a friendly, affable quality, and a kind of charm that comes from being a little detached.

However, the drawback of this Moon is that it can be a head trip. That is to say, it can possess its own "out-of-body experience"—and it has a susceptibility to fascination with technology. Aquarius Moon people need to squish their toes in moss, walk around in the woods, cook food, and spend time naked. That's currently not what the United States' population is doing.

The US Moon is conjunct Pallas Athene, which is the asteroid related to politics. American people have a fascination with politics, though it's a naive one. Though the same could be said about humans everywhere, Americans seem to love hucksters, con artists, and anyone who evokes the good old days. It often amazes me that just six years after Nixon was toppled in the web of crime known as Watergate, Ronald Reagan became the next great Republican hero—who got into office by making an arms-for-hostages deal with Iranian militants (who today we would call radical Islamic terrorists)

An eclipse conjunct such a sensitive point as the Moon is a wakeup call. The United States is swimming in an ocean of toxic sludge: Whether we're talking about a universe of sex equaling sexual assault, thinking tax cuts for the wealthiest people is a great idea for the poor and working class, spending more than $600 billion each year on the military, or whatever, we are a country with problems

And right now, one of the biggest of those problems is that our electoral system is a sham, and we need congressional representatives who will actually do their job.

The mother of all freedoms is the ability to reason, and the willingness to take on the responsibility of making decisions. At the moment, we are defining the American Dream as being a deer staring into oncoming headlights. Everyone knows this. I guess that's fine, as long as the foam on your latte is just right.

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