Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Critical Mass

I just watched one of those “Karen” videos from a suburban neighborhood in NJ. This white lady came out to harass the Black family across the street, who were adding a small stone patio to their house. She walked onto their property several times, accused them of building without a permit, and then called the cops.

So – typical, right?  She gets to use her white privilege to give them a hard time, and even to jeopardize their lives. What made this different was that a bunch of other neighbors came out of their houses to object. They had clearly been reading the newspapers, and now they were seeing an example of something they’d read about.  They weren’t happy that she wasn’t wearing a mask, either, and one person had to dodge away from her when she approached.

Later on, a few dozen neighbors, mostly white and all masked, marched in front of her house, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, your racist self has got to go!”

I think in the past, the neighbors would’ve ignored her antics, even if they disapproved. They would have seen her as the interfering neighborhood crackpot, basically harmless. But now they’re aware that she’s part of a pattern, and they also see that calling the police on Black people is not a neutral act. It’s active hostility, just like waving a loaded gun around.

So I do think that there’s been a change in awareness for the white people in this country, and it’s happened because of massive protesting, and because some people have been brave enough to shoot video. Police didn’t do themselves any favors when they attacked bystanders and journalists as well as protestors, when they beat up people who weren’t resisting in any way.

Of course, not everything is fixed.  In fact, nothing is fixed, not yet. The role of the police needs to be changed, to start with, and the Defund the Police movement is clarifying how this could happen. But the first step in any social justice movement is when the general public looks at something, and sees how horrible it is. Something has to happen to remove white people from their ignorance and inertia.

In the last century, this was the role occupied by writers like Harriet Jacobs, who described her torturous escape from slavery, and speakers like Sojourner Truth.  It was the role of the TV news people who filmed the war in Vietnam, and the vets who came home to protest. Now it’s those who whip out their camera phones at tense moments, and those who vividly describe the realities of their lives in essays that are passed from one computer to the next.   

Astrologically, June was a key month, with the Jupiter/Pluto conjunction exact once more. And so the wheel is turning, and power dynamics are shifting.

As a new consciousness moves through the land, people tear down the statues of long-dead slaveholders and traitors, and sometimes local governments follow suit. Just yesterday, a big crane came and hauled away Richmond’s statue of Stonewall Jackson, on Monument Avenue. A couple of days ago, Mississippi finally removed the Confederate symbol from their state flag, after a century of resisting pressure to do this.  

Meanwhile, the president looks weak and unsure. He rails against the vandalism of statues, and ignores the thousands of dead from Covid-19. Rumors are circulating that he will resign, and I could see this happening. The Jupiter/Pluto conjunction opposes his Saturn, while Neptune stations at the square of his sun and moon, so he is definitely beleaguered, hunkering down in the bunker of his own mind. He might prefer to make some kind of secret deal in which he gets immunity and a boatload of cash, rather than lose face on Election Day.

The Covid-19 pandemic emphasizes the pressures and stresses of this moment in history, as the number of cases peaks again. With Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn all so close to each other in stern, realistic Capricorn, lessons must be learned, or they will be re-taught – again and again, if necessary. People who didn’t take the virus seriously are now being schooled, but unfortunately, there are many others who had no choice but to risk their health. And there are more still who deal with food shortages or eviction, as the economy keeps slipping and sliding.

Through all of this, the fissures in our society get clearer and clearer. Autocratic leaders like the Chinese can point to our system as one that’s messy to the point of cruelty. While they err by trying to keep everyone organized and controlled, we err by providing no leadership at all, or even a cohesive program, and letting a lethal virus run wild. If a death toll is a report card, we are at the bottom of the grade, globally speaking.    

All through July, four outer planets are retrograde, and until July 12, Mercury is retrograde too. This gives us all a chance to examine ourselves: what we swore by, what we avoided, what terrified us, what empowered us, what we knew, what we ignored.  This takes a certain amount of humility, especially for flag-wavers, but we can only heal our fractured society if we face what we’ve been, and who we are now.  

Meanwhile, Mars, the planet of war, is moving through its own sign, Aries, and so everyone is a little angrier, impulsive and hot-headed than usual. This points to the danger of more international skirmishes, maybe as a distraction technique on the Trump level. Mars gets even more aggressive after mid-August, as it starts making hard aspects to the Jupiter/Saturn/Pluto grouping in Capricorn.

In July, there is a little light though, as Jupiter slowly retrogrades away from Pluto and makes the sextile to Neptune. Neptune is the planet of illusion, imagination, dreams, fantasies, and cosmic revelations. So people may take a little break, and get lost in their favorite escapist pastimes, whether that means soap operas, comic books or jigsaw puzzles.

But for some people, dreaming of a better world is their favorite escape from reality.  And often, those are the people who give the future its shape.