I am grateful for the rise of Donald Trump because it has forced us Americans into a reckoning of sorts—a reckoning with our dark side.
It has revealed the shadow side of our country, and now we are face-to-face with it. And because we now see it, we have the opportunity to heal it.
The United States has an ugly history. It is a nation that was built upon the genocide of one group whose land, history, and religion was stolen, and the forced, unpaid labor of another. Yet most of us remember being taught that the Native Americans greeted the pilgrims with food and celebration, and that slavery, while evil, was a faraway institution that only lasted for a blip of time.
Our national history is deeply whitewashed.
The truth is that we haven’t often been forced to face our national shadow—but we are surely seeing it come out in full force right now.
Carl Jung described our shadow as the side of us that isn’t known. It’s the part of us that is capable of great evil, immorality, hedonism, selfishness, and destructiveness. Most people don’t want to admit those characteristics are within each of us, which is why many avoid engaging with their dark side altogether.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t just go away because we pretend it no longer exists.
In the United States, the cultural narrative has disowned and suppressed those aspects of our history that are at odds with a more positive, patriotic view. “The land of the free and the home of the brave” sounds wonderful, until you hold it up to the truth of slavery. The notion of a benevolent country that is the “land of opportunity” is amazing until you realize that the opportunities are often traps. The idea of the American Dream, where anyone can achieve happiness and freedom and riches, is exquisite until you realize that the dream is not universally attainable because of systematic oppression.
Whenever there is a healing process taking place, one of the first things that must happen is that the old secrets must be revealed. It’s why the statement “our secrets keep us sick” has become so popular. In order to truly heal, the dark side must be made light. The dark side holds all of the things we don’t like or the things we don’t want to know—about ourselves, our families, our lives, and in this case, our nation.
Our national “secrets,” the things we don’t talk about in polite company, are keeping us sick. The secrets we have kept buried, or whitewashed, through the retelling of a more palatable history has slowly poisoned our national lifeblood. This country has done the equivalent of a kid hiding a pile of trash under the rug: it might be hidden for a while, but eventually, the stench will betray him.
Donald Trump is the embodiment of our national shadow. His narcissism, grandiosity, and inability to acknowledge his own weakness, failure, and harmfulness is a reflection of our country. He is the physical representation of all of the ugliness this country has buried since its inception and now, that ugliness is out here for everyone to see. There is no more hiding the smell or pretending everything that comes up is rosy. The shadow of the United States is looking at us right now and demanding an answer to the question, “What are you going to do about it?”
It is time to fully name the ills of the past and present. It’s time to let go of the idea of this country and look at the reality. Only when we face our cultural shadow will we be able to heal it. It’s time to call those historical atrocities what they are and see how they’ve carried over into today. It’s time to realize that the American Dream we have been sold is a lemon, and until massive reform takes place, it won’t be within reach for most people.
When a shadow remains unchecked, it can rage and become destructive. When it is harnessed and owned, it can become a source of incredible power, productivity, and creativity.
The choice is ours, so the question remains: What are we going to do about it, U.S.A?
Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron