APOCALYPSE AMERICAN STYLE:
An Open Letter to the One Nation under God in a Wake of Sandy Hook School Shooting
By Yulia Perch, MD
Busy mom of two, I used to love Fridays. I loved to luxuriate in the anticipation of weekend’s unhurried mornings and long, lazy afternoons with my kids. Such was not the case on December 14, 2012.
When all was done, the night story told, and the kisses properly placed on rosy little cheeks, I went online to read the news. Two minutes later I was on my knees, sobbing. 20 small children and 8 adults lay dead as a result of a mass school shooting in a picturesque New England town. Having served as a medical examiner in earlier days, I had a vivid image of what the scene must have looked like. Little 6-year-old bodies torn apart by bullets, big holes in their chests and bellies, eviscerated intestines, blown out brains, and standstill little hearts. What has been a miracle of manifestation this morning - shining, laughing, loving dear little beings - now was a lifeless mess of blood and meat emanating the sweet nauseating odor of a just-dead flesh. Being a psychiatrist in my current occupation I could imagine what survivors of this horror - mostly children - are going through and the years of immense struggle ahead of them. I could imagine unimaginable - utter, irreversible, devastating, excruciating pain that parents of deceased children must endure for the rest of their lives. I could have been one of them, standing at the firehouse and waiting for my child to walk out - and not seeing one. I could have been a mother lying in a bed, my head blown away by my favorite toy which turned into a deadly weapon in the hands of my beloved son. With a stretch of imagination - significant stretch for sure - I could envision myself as a gunman himself. I as Adam was gone to the land of no return, completely wiped out by forces far beyond my control, sucked and dissolved into the vortex of primordial rage with no sense or reason. I could have been all of them. And I am. Taking a glimpse into the depth of their grief smashed my heart to pieces and almost suffocated me in paroxysmal sobs:
"Oh God, oh God..." Silence. All I heard was a lonely siren miles away accompanied by my cat's scratching on a bottom of a litter box.
"Apocalypse" from ancient Greek translates as revelation. What does the murder of children in the sanctuary of a school reveal to us? Why does it happen, and who is to blame? Any one? Can we pause and reflect in silence? Can we grieve fully, and be informed by the immensity of this loss? As a nation, are we strong enough to accept the collective responsibility for this shooting, and for all the suffering we are causing to ourselves and in the world? What kind of mass disclosure do we have to make? What kind of darkness lies hidden at the bottom of our hearts? There are no easy answers, but it is imperative that we start asking the questions. We may not be able to explain it all out and march in the golden age unharmed, but we must make an effort. This essay is precisely such an effort. I welcome your agreement – or disagreement, your comments, curses, or complaints. Anything but ignorance or smoothing over.
Every culture on Earth since time immemorial had their adams and their sandy hooks, their villains, victims and heroes. The trauma has shaped the history of our civilization, and we keep reenacting it in one generation after another. We cannot break the cycle of violence unless we abandon the fear-based drive for power and adopt a reflection-based symbolic attitude which will allow an inquiry into a deeper truth. Mass murder at Sandy Hook thus can and will become a revelation. This essay thus is an attempt to expose the three ills that lay ground for immense day-to-day suffering of modern men and women of which mass school shooting is but the tip of an iceberg, namely – alienation, objectification, and the profound imbalance of masculine/feminine forces in our collective psyche.
Carl Jung and his followers pointed out time and again that everything in the human psyche that is not dealt with consciousness comes to us as fate. The tragedy at Sandy Hook has crossed the threshold of our human comprehension. It is ineffable, unthinkable, unimaginable, and as such it is the working of the archetypal forces from the deepest stratum of our collective psyche. Collective, not individual - not of Adam, not of Nancy, not even of NRA, as tempting as it might be to assume. It’s not "them". It's me, and you, and us. We all are responsible. Each and every one of us have contributed to the slaughter of 20 children and 8 adults on December 14, 2012. If you feel repulsed or offended by such a statement, you have contributed more than those who do not. Yes, I mean harm - to our ignorance and petty sentimentalism. Those little hearts that stopped beating on December 14 call for the rise of consciousness - mine and yours. And rising to consciousness is a brutal affair. It requires the death of an illusion. America has got to stop dreaming its sweet American Dream.
It is clear that the shooting at Sandy Hook bears a very heavy archetypal imprint. We must examine its unprecedented symbolism with as much honesty and humility as we can muster. If we miss this opportunity today, tomorrow may never happen. More and more of our children will be picking up the rifles, and others will continue bleed to death in our schools, homes, churches, on the streets, in the fields, in the woods, under the sea, up in the skies. White babies, black babies, brown, yellow, green, furry ones, and ones with fins and wings - all of them will die in agony unless the world's superpower faces an unpleasant truth of what it really is.
- Mommy, am I going to school tomorrow?
- Yes, darling.
- Is it safe?
- Yes, darling.
- You are a goddamn liar!
- I am.
While we do not yet fully understand the origin and nature of the forces that propel men like Adam Lanza on their murderous rampage, we can certainly discern a pattern of their appearance. In effect, these forces constellate and gain momentum when the matrix of our collective psyche fails to contain them. Lacking a meaningful container of mature consciousness they brew, intensify, and erupt in senseless violence. Due to the biological and familial factors some of us may be more susceptible but all of us invariably left to our own devices in dealing with our inner demons. The horde in which we live is simply in denial of the shadow and so there is no structure to contain it. “Our attempts to obliterate reality of the dark world is not going to work because unconscious truth will not be mitigated by denial”, as Dr. Michael Conforti stated in recent telegathering of the Depth Psychology Alliance.
We are profoundly alienated from one another. The fragmentation of our psyche leads to the fragmentation of culture and vice versa. We are made of sand which doesn't hold, so Sandy Hook happens. How often do you feel fully met by another human being? How often do you look in somebody’s eyes and really see them? How often do you listen to somebody's words and really hear them? When was the last time you danced with your wife? Had honest open-hearted fight? When did you sit at a dinner table with your neighbors and sing a song? Let alone sing, I don’t even know most of my neighbors’ names. Why would I? I don’t need them. I am perfectly self-sufficient.
We are lost. There is no more tangible, authentic human connection. Adam had to battle his demons alone. Little did he know that we all do. Each one of us lives in his or her little bubble. It's just Adam’s bubble was thicker and perhaps sicker as well. For social animals like us isolation from a horde is one of the most excruciating tortures.
A good therapist or an unrelated elder could have been very helpful. Not because they have a magic cure but because their larger, more mature consciousness could hold the demons at bay. Because their larger, more open heart would provide that one meaningful avenue of connection which most of us have never had. Unfortunately, we segregated our elders away from the mainstream culture, and the therapists got swallowed by the perverted health care system which makes access to their services exceedingly difficult.
Here it goes. In an idyllic little town where “closely knit community” drifts peacefully along the life’s river, going to work on weekdays and gathering in church for Sunday mass, rearing the young and abiding by law, one day the hell breaks loose. A young man unlocks his mother’s gun storage and shoots her in the face with the very weapon she taught him how to use. Then he goes to the nearby school and kills 6 more women and 20 small children. The 8th mass murder of 2012 and the worst in American history was sealed with suicide. Nation laments the loss, and the President drops a tear as he swears to do something about the gun control. Three days later the shooting is off the headlines, and we are told “we must move on”. God forbid we feel the grief and rage fully - things can actually change then, but no - we “must move on”. “Denial ain’t a riv er in Egypt”, Mark Twain once said. Indeed it isn’t.
Out of 28 dead in this tragedy, not a one was a grown up man. Adam wasn’t. Like many of his peers in boot camps around the county, he had learned to pull the trigger way before he could legally buy a beer. He was a boy trying to make a transition into manhood – not an easy task for anyone, but particularly difficult for him. Adam was in triple trouble. First, there was no mature man who was sufficiently involved to assist him in his difficult transitions. Second – he was a “disturbed” boy to begin with. And third – he was a genius. He perhaps was more intelligent than most adults in his Connecticut hometown. And high intelligence is a double-edged sword. If not sufficiently sublimated into the mainstream establishment on the establishment’s often arrogant and downright absurd terms, it is ignored, or looked upon with the suspicion and ridicule. Those boys, more and more of them these days, are doomed. There is only one way out of their – and our - predicament. We have to know the anguish of their unshared burden, and understand the immensity of their gifts.
The drama of “a disturbed son” began unfolding long time ago, as is recorded in “the Book of Genesis”. By fate or by choice, Adam’s first born son Cain became the cultivator of the ground, while his brother Abel came to be a herder of sheep. Abel’s offering of fat firstlings, for unknown reasons, very much appealed to the whimsical taste of the Divine Father while the vegetarianly inclined Cain and his “fruits of the ground” did not. The legend has it that “Now while Jehovah was looking with favor upon Abel and his offering, he did not look with any favor upon Cain and upon his offering. And Cain grew hot with great anger, and his countenance began to fall.” The only plausible resolution in Cain’s view was to kill his younger brother, and so he did. As a punishment for the deed, he was to become “a wanderer and a fugitive in the earth”, and “take u p residence in the land of Fugitiveness to the east of Eden”, that is – split off and retreat in the shadow outside of the collective, where he remained ever since. Truly, there is no place for “cultivators of the ground” in Jehovah’s Paradise. And what is the American Dream if not a re-invention of such? And what is the system of economic and social relations that objectifies, represses and obliterates in the name of the performance-progress, if not Jehovah God himself, generously smeared all over institutions, corporations, and alike? If this is the god under whom one nation is, then the question “Why do murders in school happen?” is irrelevant. The right question is “Why not?”
The road from “boy” to “man” is through a treacherous terrain. To cross the threshold into the manhood, one must “kill the father” - not a brother. Cain against Abel, Adam against Sandy Hook, brother against brother, nations at war, crusades, invasions, terrorism, mass murders, bloody competition in business world, stock market madness – one generation of men after another keeps making a grave mistake of displacing their primordial revolt against the Father onto a Brother. Father, as the old king, represents an old order which must die for a new one to emerge. “Old King is dead; long live the king!” Strong masculine ego assimilating and integrating the powerful constellation of the instinctual drives called “King archetype” is what signifies the beginning of masculine maturity. “Killing of the Father” thus is a process of becoming conscious of “divine” powers within your human limits. Gaining access to the living, ever-fresh archetypal energy of a king enables man to overturn an internalized old order of violent repression, domination, obliteration, and control. He stops bowing to the Father, and no more offerings of any kind will be delivered to the old. He becomes his own ruler, a living expression of the masculine principle of unperturbed presence, steadfast direction, and the wise ordering for the fertility and the blessing of his realm - his own being, his family, his business, the nation, and the earth. This kind of man is scarce in America today. His wide-spread absence played a crucial role in the mass school shooting in Newton, as it will be in all other shootings that are yet to come. As a culture we are out of touch with the archetypal king, and in Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette’s words - “When we are out of touch with our own inner King and give the power over our lives to others, we may be courting catastrophe on a scale larger than the personal.”
The birthing of any kind requires a woman’s womb. The royal body of a Queen must bear and deliver the new King and with him the new order. Without her body the seed is wasted. Without her devotional embrace, the children will wither. In psychological terms, it is the psychic feminine principle of relatedness, receptivity and reflection that germinates the new consciousness – in individual men and women as well as in entire nations. In biological, psychological, and ontological dimensions the mother archetype is the first to recognize the seed and make it her priority to protect it and let it grow. She is also the first one to suffer when things go wrong, as evidenced by the tragic death of Nancy Lanza.
Matricide is a mystery no one truly understands. Perhaps, because mothers have been the number one objectification target since the time immemorial. And it’s impossible to understand “a thing” when it really is not a thing but a person. Mothers are revered, idealized, analyzed, blamed, demonized, judged, educated, medicated – all in the attempt to make us “good mothers” as opposed to the “bad” ones. Mothers as people don’t matter. Our needs and desires, our disowned bodies, our tortured psyches, our repressed sexuality, our caged instincts, our fears, even our tender love for the ones we birthed – none of it matters to the patriarchal system to which we have succumbed many centuries ago. And the politicians still debate over who our unterus belongs to – us or the State.
Our evolution as mothers stopped when Egyptian Mother Goddess Isis was beheaded by her beloved son Horus, who later on took her throne and has been presiding over nations ever since. Jesus from Nazareth disowned his mother too. The myth is a reflection of the intra-psychic situation, and when it becomes sufficiently intense it shows in the manifest world - on December 14, 2012, for instance. Adam from Newton killed his mother. Why not? He just followed the pattern.
Matricide is a very foundation of our civilization. For western progress to continue, the mother as a subject must be sacrificed, that is – kept unconscious. For Jehovah’s order a conscious mother is a greatest threat. She is not nice. She is brutal. She knows better, and will never bow to the idol of any kind. She is connected to the whole of Nature, of which she knows she is an integral part. She is touch with the wisdom from by beyond. She sits on the lap of a Great Mother who is the revered murderess of illusion and mediocrity. Centuries-long ties of repression loosen with the move of her eyebrow. Her power over life and death is unfathomable. She is the prima materia from which all things emerge and to which all things return. She laughs as she chops off the heads of the falls idols, but her relationship to the genuine masculine principle is that of the most devotional worship. That’s why she is the Queen of Earth and Haven, and as such she is the one to give birth to the new King and with him the new order.
The path to the Great Mother’s lap is likewise through a treacherous terrain. Feminine psychic principle, both maternal and wild, has gone through centuries of a world-wide continuous assassination. Women must venture into the darkest recesses of their psyche where feminine principle abides, where their birth-righted land lays virgin. Awakening to the ultimate reality of our womanhood ensures that we stop being “a good mother” and be real mother instead. What would it be like to be such a woman, to be raised by one, be married to one, be governed by one? We all are yet to discover the answers to these questions. In spite of militant feminism or perhaps because of it, this kind of woman is still rare in our culture, but she is coming, or rather becoming. The Great Mother archetype is breaking through into our collective consciousness, slowly but surely. The Queen is rising. Feminine around the world undergoes a tremendous transformation – quietly, privately, but on a very large scale. The Dalai Lama is often quoted to say that “Western women will save the world”. I haven’t heard him uttering these words, but if he really did, I am thrilled to agree.
Just like any instinctual drive, the archetype of the Great Mother has a dark side. Metis, the personification of it in Olympian pantheon, was known for her cunning. She out-tricked Zeus himself. When repressed and retreated into the shadow of unconscious, the Great Mother becomes as vicious as thousand snakes. She blindfolds and confuses, thus constellating unbelievable coincidences and impossible circumstances we came to call “the irony of fate.” What a terrible, heartbreaking irony that Nancy Lanza was killed by the very hand she put a weapon into.
We glorify objectivity as an undisputable point of reference and we came to negate-- indeed deny--the value of a subjective experience. Yet it is the feeling-in-the-body that comprises our moment-to-moment, day-to-day, birth-to-death living. The feeling-value is a gateway into the unconscious with all its pearls and perils, gods and demons. It connects us to the wise world of instincts that can guide us to the best possible adaptation. If we are to grow beyond our current state of emotional adolescence we have to step on the path of self-deobjectification, or in Jungian terms – individuation. Warning must be given – it is a razor-blade path. “The very conditions of becoming a subject by definition necessitate profound losses,” Amber Jacobs writes. Twenty-six beautiful children and their tender guardians who died in the Sandy Hook shooting is just that kind of loss. It is imperative that we do our best to feel fully the immensity of it. It is crucial that we do not negate the darkness of our collective grief. We must bear witness to it for as long as it takes. We must not move on too soon and remember that premature forgiveness is just another form of denial. Our hearts must break, and the mind must hit the limit of meaning. “The Myth of Sandy Hook” which I constructed here was not meant to explain it all out but rather serve as a vehicle of transformation. When we descend into the meaningless we suddenly come face-to-face with the long-forgotten reality that “the one eye of Godhead is blind, the one ear of Godhead is deaf, and the order of its being is crossed by chaos”. And in the depth of our broken hearts we know - this is the chaos that carries the seeds of a new order.
And here is the night.
The night has begun.
And here is your death
In the heart of your son.
And here is the dawn.
‘Til death do us apart.
And here is the death
In your daughter’s heart.
May everyone live.
And may everyone die.
Hello, my love
And my love good bye.
I love you, America. You are my womb – and my tomb. Good bye for now.