Patriotism. What the heck is it? Why do people care?
Is it something weird in my make-up? I don’t like team sports all that much either, but there have been a couple of times in my life when I’ve gotten into the spirit of it, hollering and waving my arms. It seemed harmless and unimportant. Is it?
I was patriotic when I was about ten years old. I remember myself as a little girl in a British school in Bangkok, valiantly defending my country against an Australian girl who claimed that Americans were all a bunch of juvenile delinquents. I really had no idea if it was true or not, but felt I should stick up for the country where I was born, the place that my parents always called home.
At that time in my life, national identities were all just stuck onto us, like our names. They seemed a bit random, although obscurely important. The school furthered a tribal spirit by dividing us all into three teams – the Vikings, Trojans and Spartans – and pitting us against each other in sports and theatre and singing competitions. This was also pretty random.
Now, fifty-five years later, I still don’t think it matters particularly what country you come from. I have to go through a lot of mental somersaults to conjure up a feeling that might be called patriotic. Of course, this is a lot harder during the Trump Years than it was during the Obama Years.
But lately I’ve been reading Margaret MacMillan’s book about the tensions that led up to World War One, and there’s one truth that springs out from its pages: Patriotism kills people. In the last hundred years, hundreds of millions of people have died from an excess of patriotism. It wasn’t always their own patriotism that killed them, either. Often it was somebody else’s – a family member, a community, a voter, a politician.
In the US, patriotism is linked with religion; it’s seen as a sacred duty. It figures that our national birthday is celebrated in July, since this is the month with a Cancer theme. (The sun and Mars are currently in Cancer.) Cancer is the most tribal and emotional of signs. It’s a sign of attachment – mother to child, neighbor to neighbor, human to land. It’s about what belongs to you, and what makes you feel that you belong.
I get plenty attached. Believe me, I am a master at attachment. I can’t throw away a pair of shoes without feeling sad about it. And I hardly ever throw out underwear; it’s way too intimate a relationship. And I’m very attached to my home, without feeling any desire to own the house where we live. When I think of the wider circles of my own life, I find attachment at every level.
Attachment feels good. It’s comfortable, satisfying, and safe. But everything can be done to excess. And excess attachment can cause people to go out and do all kinds of strange, unnatural things – like engaging in a fight to the death with a stranger, so that other people can redraw the borders of the country you live in. How does that even make sense? When some young kid thrusts a bayonet into some other young kid, and leaves him bleeding in some desolate field, why does that lead to a bunch of unsmiling older men in stiff uniforms passing around pieces of paper to sign?
So, no. On a personal level, excess attachment is called stalking. And come to think of it, this country has been exercising surveillance techniques over its citizens for years. Is that become the United States loves us so much that it just has to track our every movement? It’s so attached that it can’t lose sight of us for a moment?
There are other ways in which the US goes too far with its attachments. Its attachment to stuff, for example. There has to be a lot of it, and we have to make more all the time, even though we have no idea what to do with the enormous amount of waste we generate. We even get anxious if the economy is not constantly growing.
There’s an interesting contradiction in the US natal chart. There’s a stellium – 4 planets – in the sign of attachment, Cancer. But the moon is in the most freedom-loving sign, Aquarius. So there’s a constant tension between the tribal instincts of Cancer and the more objective and enlightened ideas of Aquarius.
We see this embodied in the work of the people who wrote those first documents, back in the day when this country was a fledgling enterprise. There were some radical notions there – a division of powers, a separation of church and state, a process by which laws can be changed – and these things are still helpful today.
At the same time, those early citizens were pretty damn possessive. They took possession of all sorts of things that the native people considered part of the public domain – mountains, rivers, forests. Nothing was sacred, everything could be owned, and thus, defiled. Even people could be owned, and so millions of human beings were stolen, shipped across the water, and completely controlled. (Or at least, complete control was attempted.) We can look back and see how sick this was, how unnatural from every viewpoint.
But another word for excessive attachment is addiction. We clutch at whatever makes us feel safe, even if we squeeze it so hard that we kill it. And it happens over and over – until the earth shifts.
This month, the Cancer planets are challenged by Pluto, the planet of power, as it moves through the earth sign Capricorn, the driest and most unemotional sign in the zodiac. This echoes the only opposition in the US natal chart, a Cancer/Capricorn opposition involving Pluto. Pluto gets at the deep stuff, the underlying fears, resentments, desires and angers. It pushes towards transformation.
In the history of the US, this manifests as a repeating cycle of addictions clashing with reality. As an attachment becomes more and more obsessive, and sicker and sicker, there comes a time when it can no longer be supported by the population. There are always some who resisted the hypnosis from the beginning, and these are the ones who rise up first. The combination of an alternate vision and a clearly toxic attachment adds up to change. But often there are those who hold on to the old ways with their fingernails, even as the earth shakes and swallows them.
So yes, July will hold some changes that are in line with this evolutionary process. It definitely won’t be over; there’s still a long road to walk. And let’s see what happens when the U.S. hits its Pluto return, about five years down the road. My sense is that we’re learning something now which we'll need to know then. Perhaps it’s about the Resistance. Perhaps it’s about world diplomacy. Perhaps it’s some technology that will mitigate the effects of climate change. Perhaps we will only be able to implement this technology if we can work together.
Whatever happens then, and wherever we end up, there will be a lot to let go of. Let go of fear first though. There’s very little we’re attached to that we really need. And the sooner patriotism is thrown overboard, the better.