Today's Topic



She's Human,
Like the Rest of Us

Natalia J. Garland

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When I read Deepak Chopra's blog on the Huffington Post, I was shocked. I came across his analysis of Sarah Palin last Saturday, and my thoughts have been reeling ever since. My time is limited, and I have to pick and choose what I write about. There are many topics which I relinquish in order to focus better on the few that I can manage within my weekly or monthly schedules. Chopra's blog was one of those topics that would have been passed by: I do not have the time, and I am working on another essay which has required a lot of research. But, Chopra's views were so disturbing, I figured the only way I could filter through the confusion was to let my fingers do some typing. So, I'm thinking and typing, and typing and thinking.

Chopra contrasts Gov. Sarah Palin to Sen. Barack Obama, referring to her as his shadow. Since Chopra briefly states that the shadow is a psychological term, I assume that he is working from the theory of Carl Jung. Now, I have never practiced Jungian therapy and I do not claim to be an expert in that area. Chopra's descriptions, however, are vivid enough that even someone without direct experience of Jungian therapy can understand the point which Chopra is trying to make. The following is quoted from Chopra's blog as posted on 09/04/08 and which I accessed on 09/13/08.

She [Sarah Palin] is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind.
[End of quote.]

Wow! Where did Palin get such psychological powers? Until a few weeks ago, she was a relatively unknown governor in a far-away state that most of us have never visited. If Palin represents Obama's shadow, then why was her resistance to Obama's higher visions not obvious in Alaska? How was she able to do some good things up there? Why were her unwholesome powers only unleashed upon her acceptance of the vice-presidential nomination? What if Sen. McCain had chosen some other running mate? Would Palin still be regarded as Obama's shadow?

Already, there is a problem with the logic in Chopra's presentation. And, I think it's really this lack of logic that makes my head spin, more than the fact that Chopra's views are different from my own. Chopra might have made his point more clearly if he had approached the differences between Palin and Obama within the context of an American cultural divide, or from an explanation of post-modern thought and whether this influences his opinion of Palin, or from an evaluation of the philosophies of the 2008 Republican and Democratic Parties.

Instead, he has nearly demonized Palin. Or is that, in fact, his point? That Palin is unholy?! Chopra might disagree with Palin or even question her character (and provide supporting evidence), but it is doubtful that she personifies the shadow of Obama's idealism or that she conscientiously wants to lead millions of people to follow any hidden, inhumane impulses. It is also doubtful that millions will succumb to any unintentional negative effects of Palin's views. If we are talking about mob rule or mass hysteria, I think Palin's homespun lifestyle falls short of the necessary megalomania to sway millions.

Here are the specifics on how "Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision."

    Look at what she stands for:

  • Small town values--a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.

  • Ignorance of world affairs--a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad.

  • Family values--a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be heeded.

  • Rigid stands on guns and abortion--a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.

  • Patriotism--the usual fallback in a failed war.

  • "Reform"--an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.

  • [End of quote.]

Oh, where do I start?! Well, Chopra admits that we all have a shadow. "Not just conservatives possess a shadow--we all do." So, he regards Palin as a conservative (not a demon, unless the two words are synonyms), and he seems especially concerned about conservatives as shadow(s). However, if we all have a shadow (individually or collectively), Chopra might have been more convincing if he had also described Obama or liberals as a shadow of someone else. It gets confusing, because the shadow belongs to the interior, psychological realm. But, Chopra has given it personification. So, looking again at what Palin stands for, let's see if we can find a shadow of the shadow.

  • Small town values: Palin is an everyday person, like many of us. She could have come from a small town, a sprawling suburb, or a mobile home park. In other words, she is not part of any American political dynasty or aristocracy: Bush, Clinton, or what might become Kennedy/Obama. And, she is not ivy-league educated. She graduated from a state university which is more within the reach of middle and working class people. She gives hope to everyday people through her example of democracy in action.

  • Ignorance of world affairs: everyone knows that America's image needs repair. America needs allies, and America has always given assistance to other nations. Nonetheless, there will always be people who envy and hate America. There are political shadows expressed in the form of terrorism and religious fanaticism. It is ignorant to believe in utopia or permanent world peace. But we constantly strive toward world peace, and America is one of the global leaders in this process.

  • Family values: Palin is an accomplished woman, a product of civil rights and the original feminist movement. She is intelligent, sexual, maternal, and spiritual. If others want to pursue different lifestyles, that's up to them. Furthermore, family values also include the protection of women and children from abuse--that's social justice.

  • Rigid stands on guns and abortion: guns and abortion are matters of the Constitution and other laws. Apparently, Palin has not broken any laws regarding guns and abortion. Therefore, the word rigid is not applicable. She has a right to her own beliefs, opinions, and disagreements.

  • Patriotism: who determines that a war has failed, or that a war cannot be won with changes in strategy? Chopra? America's enemies? The Democratic Party? The military? The President?

  • "Reform:" this is not necessarily about ideology, but about spending, bribery, incompetence, cronyism, voter fraud, etc.

Perhaps now we can catch a glimpse of another shadow. Obama probably made a mistake when he did not choose a female vice-presidential candidate. Although there may have been understandable reasons for not selecting Sen. Hillary Clinton, there were also substantial reasons for selecting her or some other qualified woman. Whether Obama has a shadow resistance to competent women, or whether he simply made a strategical error, he opened the door for Sarah Palin.

Obama chose an older male for his running mate, as though he needed a father figure. In the politics of a past era, this dynamic might have been workable and have even gone unnoticed or accepted as normal. Democrats will not admit that Obama goofed. Unfortunately, Obama was not true to his own idealism and vision, and that cannot be blamed on Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, he still has to contend with a qualified woman--not as a rival for the presidential nomination, but as a potential president running against a potential vice-president!

Today's essay was not meant to promote or defend Palin as a candidate, but to deconstruct Chopra's version of the shadow and to expose a lack of logic. There are faulty conclusions that could be drawn from what appears to be either/or thinking. It could be concluded that if you do not support Obama (or, if you support Palin), then you are probably racist, prejudiced, ethnocentric, anti-immigrant, and oppressive and persecutory toward all who are different from you or who disagree with your ways.

Some people cannot fathom that an individual can be politically conservative or moderate, can engage in a traditional lifestyle, can practice Christianity; and still care about others, treat them with respect, and affirm their right to self-determination. Before I close today's essay, let me offer one more quotation from Chopra. Then, I'm going to stop thinking and typing (well, maybe just the typing), and tend to the rest of my day.

....there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.
[End of quote.]

Who decides what is for a woman's own good? I could be wrong, but I feel like I'm detecting an element of condescension or intolerance in the above remark. In civilized society, there is always a balance of individual rights, protective laws, and one's own voluntary adherence to religious doctrine. I just feel like the above remark has an anti-Christian tone in its reference to conservatism. But maybe I'm wrong. I'm only an imperfect human. Still thinking, thinking.... (Written 09/15/08: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008 Natalia J. Garland