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America at a Crossroads

America today stands at a crossroads, in more ways than it can possibly imagine. Transiting Pluto forms its direct station at 11:27 am on Friday, September 11th 2009, the Eighth Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It stations this day at the degree of 0 Capricorn, on the point that astrologers describe as the World Axis at a moment in time that implies extraordinary parallels with the cosmic weather on that fateful day eight years ago. Pluto stations can sometimes be accompanied by either interpersonal or mundane explosions, as was the station of February 26, 1993, the day of the first World Trade Center bombing.

This Pluto station is not the only cosmic dynamic in play during this brief period. Other astrologers have written extensively about the Saturn-Uranus opposition forming in the sky. I refer you to their work rather than expound at length on this meaning of this configuration here. In brief, this would be the third opposition in a series of five, and it becomes exact again in ten days time. This opposition suggests a changing of the guard, a palatable, visceral tension between the need for fundamental change and an understandable fear of losing what one had, and had become comfortable with. The first contact in this series coincided precisely with the election of Barack Obama as President.

In addition to these two potentially soul shaking dynamics, however, there is a third. Any natal astrological chart, including that of a nation state, can be 'progressed'. These progressions tell the astrologer a great deal about the unique pattern of development embedded within every person, corporation or nation state. There are several methods for 'progressing' a chart. I'll not explain the theory behind them here, but again refer you elsewhere - and given the dual audience for this posting, lamentably make extensive use of jargon in laying out my case. I promise that by the end of this exposition, everyone will know exactly what my concerns are.

On September 11, 2009, 'secondarily progressed direct' Venus will be within two minutes of forming an exact opposition with a recently stationary progressed Mars in my strongly preferred United States (9:37 am) chart. The exact aspect will form on Sept 21, 2009. The degree of this Venus-Mars opposition is roughly (30+ minutes or orb) equal to the MC/IC axis in the converse secondary progression for this chart. This represents a powerful synchronicity.

In the direct tertiary progressions for this chart, progressed Sun is conjunct progressed Saturn within one minute of orb, and within 1 degree (or roughly one month) of forming a conjunction with natal Pluto. In the converse Tertiary progressions, the Sun has just formed an opposition with progressed Saturn, across the degrees of 0 Capricorn-Cancer, the exact degree of the transiting Pluto station. For the layman, these Tertiary planetary couplings suggest a period of intense testing and constraint, and tie in the global Plutonian energy that I cited earlier to specific developments in the national life of the United States.

Here is what my historical models for this Venus-Mars aspect illustrate about its potential. The last time that secondarily progressed Venus and Mars formed an exact challenging aspect in the US chart was six weeks after the Kennedy Assassination, on January 9th, 1964. It was within six minutes of orb from an exact 135 degree aspect on November 22, 1963, the day that John Kennedy was murdered. Given how slowly progressed planets move in a secondarily progressed chart, this qualifies in my opinion as an extraordinary expression of synchronicity, and one whose portents absolutely described inflamed passions, not to mention the potential for bloodshed.

The good news derived from this model is that the most recent 90 degree aspect between these same two planets, which formed on May 26th 1904, did not produce any easily identifiable instances of political violence - but apparently did produced a spirited Presidential campaign, including some rather passionate rhetoric, with the incumbent Progressive Republican President, a patriot named Theodore Roosevelt, aptly describing Robber-Baron opponents within his own party as 'malefactors of great wealth'. Roosevelt was also the very first Presidential candidate (in his 1912 independent attempt to unseat William Howard Taft) to propose the idea of universal health care.

In reviewing the converse series of Venus and Mars Progressions produced using this same US Chart, I note that the conjunction of 1798 falls during the Quasi-War, near the high-point in the party wars of the early republic, within a month of the moment that John Adams revealed to the public the details of the 'XYZ Affair' - an infamous incident in which members of the French 'Directorate' (including Talleyrand, one of Napoleon's future advisers) demand a substantial bribe before they will be willing to negotiate with three American ambassadors. Adams' revelation of this affair leads to symmetrical waves of nationalistic, pro-Federalist fervor and Jeffersonian Republican disrepute, alongside the famous cry, "millions for defense but not one cent for tribute". The historians and writers that I've studied suggest that Adams' re-election would have been all but assured had he been willing to exploit this dynamic during the election year of 1800. Instead, Adams chose to make peace with France - and keep his young nation out of an unnecessary war. He did so knowing that it would likely cost him the support of the oh so jingoistic Alexander Hamilton, whose pamphlet attacking Adams ultimately leads to a significant loss of support in New York, and the election of a brilliant but perpetually debt-laden polemicist and slave owner, given to fits of largely hypocritical, often intemperate rhetoric that today's 'tea party' attendees cite as justification for their threatened rebellion. I am speaking, of course, of Thomas Jefferson.

Given this admittedly limited model, it certainly appears possible that blood will continue to boil in America over the next days and weeks - and more likely, years to come. Given the parallel between the Pluto station, the First World Trade Center bombing, and the chart for 9/11, it certainly appears possible that external enemies might also seek to strike at us in the days ahead. I sincerely hope that I am wrong - and would never claim infallibility for either the cosmological perspective or the ability of any given practitioner to consistently identify the level on which planetary symbolism is likely to manifest - but I would be lying if I told you that I had no worries.

That said, I trust that the Department of Homeland Security is alert to the significance of this anniversary, coming in the first year of a President who has been able, for literally the first time since 9/11, to make a rational case why America is not the 'Great Satan' that Bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, and other Islamic extremist portray us as.

[Postscript - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Najibullah_Zazi ]

Unfortunately, these men and women face daunting odds, given the previous Administration's decision to allow the Taliban and al Qaeda infection in Afghanistan to metastasize, so it could instead stage a six-year terrorist recruitment infomercial in Iraq. And our chances of being hit again can only grow exponentially with a former Vice-President out there making the case for an America unafraid of getting down in the gutter with thugs who torture, maim, and murder Muslims as part of the ordinary business of State. Honestly, with defenders like Dick Cheney, America has no need of enemies. So, you see, I don't worry about the Department of Homeland Security under an Obama Administration dropping the ball. What I worry more about this week is whether 'we the people' - yes Glenn Beck, 'we the people', I'm taking that phrase back from psychos like you - have any clue what will be required if America hopes to remain an advanced industrial society in the decades to come.

Everywhere I turn today, I hear phrases ripped from the American Revolution - as is entirely appropriate given Pluto's return to Capricorn. Unfortunately, seen from my perspective, the perspective of an astrologer who loves American history and who has spent much of the last six years immersing himself in the American Enlightenment, these 'tea bag' rally protestors and health care town hall demonstrators have zero clue what the American Revolution was really about, especially as seen from an evolutionary perspective. Their sense of history has been utterly manipulated by either erroneous folk traditions or the most cynical, dishonest propaganda imaginable.

As I've written repeatedly for Human Potential Left, the Founders and Framers were among the brightest lights on the planet in their time. You can argue it was a miracle of biblical proportions that a group this brilliant managed to come together at any moment in human history - and accomplish what they did. But they were OF THEIR TIME, NOT OUR TIME - and far from infallible. When framing the Constitution, they were unable to anticipate, for instance, the emergence of political parties in America, even though the Whigs and Tories had been going at each other in England for at least one hundred years by that point. What could they have been thinking?

They made the process of amendments to the Constitution so utterly unworkable under extreme scenarios that the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments could only be ratified at the point of a musket, at the conclusion of a calamitous Civil War - a war that perhaps a quarter of America today continues to view through a fantasy-laced perspective best embodied by Tennessee Williams' character, Blanche DuBois. What's with the pretty colored doilies around the light bulbs, folks? Still can't deal with the truth about your despicable cause? This is apparently the same group who, according to pollsters, remain largely unconvinced that that Obama was born in America. Why? Because he has dark skin? Because you can't stomach the idea that a black man could be as naturally gifted as Jefferson? How pathetic - and how utterly un-American, in every way that matters to me.

What I need to get across here, as Pluto nears its final station point on the World Axis, and my blood begins to boil, is that for all this endless, often paranoia-driven, profoundly narcissistic chatter about liberty, nationhood is an inherently collectivist experience. There can be no if, and, or but about it. Once liberty is thought superior to collective membership, the social contract as we know it ceases to exist. We become a loose collection of individuals united by little more than 'mystic chords of memory' and short-term convenience, headed sooner or later towards Hobbes 'state of nature' and the 'war of all against all'.

That's the reality of the modern era, an era - unlike the Founding Era, so dramatically unlike the Founding Era - in which there is a surplus of labor, a chronic shortage of work that pays a living wage, no additional lands to steal from the Indians, Mexicans, or Canadians, and an ethic that celebrates the virtue of American executives sending jobs to China or Vietnam, while simultaneously refusing to pay themselves either smaller salaries or bonuses to keep more jobs in America or sufficient taxes to prevent the victims of their policies from ending up in the gutter due to no fault of their own. And make no mistake: as it was in a previous era, so can it be again. From the ashes in the gutter of this 'state of nature' can rise the utopian ideals of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Otto von Bismark understood this. Teddy Roosevelt understood this. FDR understood this. The clowns running Club for Growth and wing nuts demonstrating at Health Care town halls...not so much. Methinks this group never allows actual history to get in the way of their ideology-induced delusions.

Which brings me to health care. You see, given the vast differential between the wages that corporations must pay an American-based worker vis-a-vis a Chinese, Indian, or Vietnamese worker, the only hope that American-staffed business have to become more competitive across the board is to reduce the cost of health care. If you cut wages, you cut disposable income, which constrains consumer demand - and limits potential economic growth. But if you reduce the cost of health care, by either entirely eliminating the middle-man, or at least tightening the screws on this valueless component in the equation, you increase the competitiveness of every American product and service.

The cost of health care, utterly manipulated by a parasitic industry that adds zero value to the health care equation, unlike physicians and pharmaceutical companies, is literally killing the American economy. And so the idea of a public option was proposed, as a real-world check and balance against an insurance industry run amok. The rest...everyone knows. God forbid Congress do anything to alter these companies apparent God-given right to suck the last vestiges of vitality from an already staggering economy. God forbid we put authentic American interests first, and the good of a parasitic industry that apparently owns half of the Congress, including a sizable number of Democrats, second. It's socialism, they cry. Socialism.

In truth, it's not socialism at all - not any more than the Post Office is an expression of socialism. The Post Office always delivers your mail - well, 99% of the time, but nobody's perfect - and will never seek to drop you if you get too much of it, or you live too far away. They offer far more democratic rates for shipping small packages long distances than either Federal Express or UPS. Of course, I'd argue that institutions like the Post Office are less an expression of socialism as they are another Pluto in Capricorn innovation - the notion of defensible collective institutions, and of UNION.

There's a theme involving Pluto's 16th century passage through Capricorn that can be overlooked unless you know a lot about the Reformation. Briefly outlined, once Martin Luther takes his stand against the hegemony of the Catholic Church in 1517 and beyond, he quickly recognizes that the only way that he can escape execution for heresy is by enlisting the German Princes in his cause. And he does just that, writing a pamphlet extolling the theme of German nationalism. Luther survives. Henry VIII, who shares none of Luther's theological objections to Rome, finds Luther's appeal quite useful once he decides that he's had enough of Rome interfering in his quest for a male heir, not to mention his bed. So Luther sets out to offer a modest critique of Vatican theology and ends up opening the doors of history to both religious liberty and the emergence of modern nationalism. Nationalism remains with us, to this day, and its impact must be acknowledged in every aspect of human affairs - even here, in an individuality-obsessed America.

This, I argue, is the great lesson that America, a country with four planets in the sign of Cancer, and one that prides itself on its alleged support of 'family values', must come to embody over the final 15 years of Pluto's passage through Capricorn. Every other advanced industrial nation organizes itself so that its people's authentic needs come first, and their potential liberty in this area or that come second. So must we - without throwing up barriers to the world, as was done in the Great Depression, or throwing out the baby of individual rights with the bath water. Really, it's not that hard. To do so, I argue that:

We must reorganize the heath care system so that everyone has access to decent, affordable care - and require that everyone who works help pay for it, not just the affluent. In this way health care reform becomes a true national project that extends American prosperity, helps businesses compete more effectively on a global scale, and knits us together as one people, rather than a utopian fantasy that we hoist on the shoulders of others. Yes, Madame Speaker, if health care is worth doing, then it's worth everyone paying for - not just the rich. This American 'something for nothing' ethos needs to end, and it needs to end here and now.

We must begin to address our budget deficit and national debt, and all learn to live within our means again - letting go of supply-side fantasies and pie-in-the-sky magical thinking, which given our American epidemics of obesity, debt, and drug and alcohol addiction, appear to have done little to make us healthy, wealthy, or wise. If we refuse to do this, and yes, pay a rate of taxation sufficient to support an advanced industrial society - and we have plenty of models of what these look like, and they don't resemble Texas - then we must expect our foreign creditors to eventually pull the rug out from under us, and see America eclipsed as an economic power in the decade or so to come.

We must move as a collective from the immature ideal of ancestor worship, to at least the more mature ideal of ancestor emulation. It's great to have read the Constitution, but not so great to imagine it the only viable form of representative government, inherently better than all others, or fail to appreciate just how far the original document was from the vision of universal human rights that the Founders all signed on to when they ratified Jefferson's Declaration, and then refused to live up to.

This shift requires the cultivation of an ability to think critically about the world - and a willingness to acknowledge honestly the dark side of the American experience. And believe you me, we have one helluva of a dark side - as does every nation. So why is it that I never see these wing nut protestors bring up that dark side, including the dark side of individual founders and framers whose words they mindlessly parrot? Why do they insist on presenting these men as pristine paragons of civic virtue, rather than the complicated, sometimes compromised, human beings that they honestly were? Why the preference for bloody ancestor worship instead of blinding, profoundly liberating intellectual honesty? Might such honesty spoil the illusion? I certainly hope so - since in my experience the process of disillusionment is often the first step on the road to Enlightenment, and yes, the American Revolution was the quintessential expression of the ethos of Enlightenment.

Finally, this shift requires the radical embrace of an old wisdom. If government is an expression of the people, and 'the people' both elect and comprise the government, how can government be the problem, and people somehow the solution? If government is flawed, it can only be so because the people who elect it, and constitute it, are flawed, profoundly flawed, as they have been since the beginning of time, regardless of how ardently any specific people might profess to love Jesus - while conspicuously avoiding every uncomfortable lesson he taught.

Fortunately, there is an antidote for human frailty - and it has been with us since the dawn of our American experiment. That antidote does not involve greater liberty but instead its spiritual polarity. As the lion of American independence once wrote an old, unfaithful friend: "Checks and balances, Jefferson..."

Checks and balances.

When men become angels we will no longer need checks and balances, of either the ethical or institutional variety - or indeed government at all. Until that day, they mark the road to both personal and national salvation.

Matthew Carnicelli, © 2009. All rights reserved.
Originally published September 8, 2009; revised on September 10, 2009; postscript added October 17, 2010.

The original version of this essay incorporated a factual error, describing the 12-14th (rather than the 13-15th) Amendments to the United States Constitution as the Civil War Amendments, this is corrected in the revised version.

Also published on September 10, 2009, at DailyKos - http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/9/10/780186/-America-at-the-Crossroads

For more on Pluto's passage through Sagittarius and Capricorn, see:

Size Matters: Understanding the Size-Related Dynamics of Our Emerging American Crisis?
The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning?
A Brief Look Forward
A Bubble in Time
Winning the War for Hearts and Minds