The squeeze is on. The Saturn-Pluto square, which has been building for several months, has now hit the 90-degree point. With Saturn freshly arrived in Libra and clicking into formation with Pluto at the second degree of Capricorn, the defining aspect of the Cardinal Cross is now in place.
We are going to need Saturn in the years ahead. If used with clarity, Saturn will build new infrastructures when our planetary karma hits the fan. But right now there’s a lot of low-level Saturn buzzing around, intensified by Pluto to the point of social insanity. When distorted, Saturn manifests as reactionary ideas. When Pluto is distorted, too, and added to the mix, reactionaries are empowered.
In the USA the Old Guard has hit the panic button. This segment of the population is reacting to the rumble of social transformation as if it were a life-or-death matter. Which of course it is.
To negotiate the forces of reaction we must understand them. Astrology tells us that Saturn governs tradition; but, like any term that has become a buzzword, this one is often used as a smokescreen. In the current cultural climate, “tradition” is often invoked by those who fear change. How can we tell when the concept is being exploited in this way? When the folks who call themselves “traditional” neglect to articulate what their traditions are.
Remember the woman who stood up at the town hall meeting last summer and said, eyes wet with feeling, that she wanted “her” America back? This was code, of course. Those who applauded her, fueled with the angry enthusiasm of the righteous, knew exactly what she meant. I’m pretty sure she was saying she did not want people with skin darker than hers, and accents different from hers, to move into the neighborhood, the schools, the Oval Office.
If asked what she did want, she would perhaps have answered, “A traditional America”. But to which America does this refer? Was she thinking of the America extolled in the famous lines on the Statue of Liberty, inviting to our shores the world’s “tired and poor?” Who knows but that those luminous words, with their compassionate embrace of immigrants, welcomed this very woman ‘s ancestors to New York harbor.
I think it would help the national conversation a great deal if people were asked to define what traditions they are defending. When they talk about “traditional marriage,” for example, which model do they have in mind? The hard-scrabble partnerships of 17th Century Massachusetts, perhaps? The polygamous arrangements in not-so-long-ago Utah? Or shall we go back further still (after all, the implication behind most “traditionalist” arguments is that those rituals that have been around the longest are the most valid), to the child-brides bartered off in real estate deals throughout most of recorded history?
And what are we to make of the evangelicals’ implicit claim that theirs constitutes “traditional” religion? In the longevity department, Hinduism and Mother Goddess worship , to name just two, are incomparably older than every sort of Christianity — especially the sort practiced in the American Bible Belt.
Then there is the “traditional family.” What exactly does this phrase mean to its champions? One suspects it means families like the ones Norman Rockwell painted fifty years ago. Even if we allow for a certain amount of nostalgic idealization (when I was a kid in the 50s, no family I knew looked like that), there is no sociological foundation for the widespread presumption among Americans that this kind of domestic unit is universal and eternal. The middle-class nuclear family is only a tiny blip on the time line of human living arrangements.
But the Family Values folks don’t seem to be interested in facts or historical perspective. So what are they interested in? In order to understand this we need to look at the psychology involved.
Consider this conundrum: “social conservatives” know all too well that their theories diverge from their behaviors.They are already deluged with proof of how messy, sexually profligate and prone to breakdown actual families are. Though they have made a campaign of laying these sins at the feet of the liberals, it is their own leaders who win the prize for the kind of behavior this group condemns as immoral.
This whopping inconsistency is perfectly exemplified by the phenomenon of Evangelical Preacher Crime. America’s rogues’ gallery of fallen clergy (Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, ad nauseum) presents so glaring a counter-example to the traditionalists’ self-image as to argue for re-categorization as the rule rather than the exception.
And then there are the family-dishonoring politicians. Again the list is endless. It includes divorcé Ronald Reagan, estranged from his own offspring; Sarah Palin, with the pregnant teen daughter and almost-son-in-law-turned-Playgirl-model; Marc Sanford with the mistress in Argentina; Newt Gingrich, who cheated on his dying wife.
There seems to be an unspoken agreement between these guys and their fan base that when the hero falls from his pedestal he must wax obsequiously repentant, portraying himself loudly and fulsomely as a violator of the revered standard. Then, if his self-condemnation is maudlin enough, he will be instantly forgiven.
These exercises in shame and redemption function as collective catharses. They also seem, counter-intuitively, to strengthen the sense of moral superiority of these leaders and their fans. The result is a sort of Teflon syndrome that shrouds the transgressors (consider Sarah Palin’s statement to her admirers after word leaked out about her daughter’s pregnancy: “Hey, life happens,” she said; and her base was just fine with that). Fortified by celebrity sinners who fess up, the Saturn crowd gets to circle the wagons.
But this faction is holding up a system of crumbling social fantasies. The shenanigans that these moralists fall prey to — and then condemn themselves for, and then congratulate themselves for admitting to — are, now and always, part of being a human being.
Hypocrisy, too, is normal. We’re all hypocrites about something; inconsistency runs rampant all along the political spectrum. But Pluto’s job is to expose such vagaries of the social animal, warts and all; and Saturn’s job is to lend definition to that which is fuzzy and vague.
The practice of tolerance can be a pragmatic as well as a moral benefit during these times. It can help us avoid ending up with egg on our faces when our own foibles are exposed.