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Hiding In Plain Sight

By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

IN PONDERING how we came to the collective turmoil in which we find ourselves, politically if not personally (although many of us have discovered that the political IS personal, determining much of our current circumstance), I've been hunting for the faulty Christmas bulb. My theory of problem solving tells me that whichever bulb we're focused on today is just the latest in a series of flickers; and finding that initial bulb-gone-wrong is the required step to re-lighting the string. Unless we change out that first bulb, all else is a band aid. We didn't just come to this moment, we created it with layers of error; we fix it by finding the original problem.

Volumes have been written about the generational influence of the Baby Boomers (1946-1964), who kept shedding their skin as they morphed from freedom-seeking Hippie to latte-drinking Yuppie to Mercedes-driving corporate raider, all the while running a "me-me-me" tape in their head. Pluto in Leo is often cited as the motivating natal energy, urging a continual recreation and promotion of the essential self along with a Royal sense of entitlement. I missed being formally titled a Boomer by mere days, but my Pluto gives me away, so I suppose, as John put it in I Am The Walrus: "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together." Pluto in Leo people are comfortable with we, Royal or not; and interestingly, that seems to be something of a saving grace, as that is often the voice we hear now, urging us to come together again.

As my generation takes on the mantle of the elders, the ones with experience enough to appear wise and hopefully with humility enough to admit errors, I think it's time to find that original flickering Christmas bulb. The string of our world situation is blinking on and off, and some of the bulbs are blown and blackened. Finding First Cause gives us the platform upon which all else is built and takes us back to the blueprint of the human experiment; the whole Christmas tree, if you will. Our little string is showing the final stresses of our fading root race, plugged in to patriarchy, power and opportunism; it will wink out to reveal a new iteration of humankind, a new intention, after we come to realization of how we damaged our current string and make the necessary internal corrections. It appears to me that one of the major factors we need to be looking at is secrets.

Secrets are toxic. This is one of those hide in plain sight issues that we all know about, we've all struggled with but have seldom actually looked at as a social aberration. You may think that is a strong word to apply to a business-as-usual societal norm, but I don't. I think secret-keeping leads to lying, leads to layers of disinformation and obfuscation and a shame-base that keeps us from being the authentic creatures we were meant to be. We are driven by our secrets and those that we keep for others.

In my twenties, my parents announced, while sitting at a restaurant where we had gathered along with my toddler son, that my Father had been married before. I was shocked, not in the fact but in the cover-up; I'd heard no whispers, not even among the cousins, so the entire generation above us had been complicit conspirators. The family rationale: they didn't want me to think less of him; I didn't.

As is usual in decoding human endeavors, secrets are at the base of a control game; the secret is compounded by necessary lies, and if you tell enough lies you begin to believe them yourself. You create a persona not your own, but one that has its finger on the button of how you are perceived by others. Who we are, or at least who we think ourselves to be, can be damaged by uprooted secrets. I'm sure you can find such a one in your own family, but our national family gives us plenty of examples.

George W. Bush, for instance, is a man created by secrets, rather disturbing ones he hasn't been able to keep from public view (although you have to give him an A for effort.) Bush defines himself, most often, by rare public conversations that tell us more than he suspects. When he talks of his governing process, he tells us what kind of a guy he is. Indeed, he tells us so often; it feels as if he's trying to convince himself. Considering the kinds of secrets, and hence, lies to protect them, you have to wonder what would be left of Dubya if all the secrets suddenly became known. Oliver Stone is making a movie of his life story that, I think, will shake Mr. Bush's carefully constructed self-definition even more, and cause his Cancerian heart pain. What secrets and lies produce eventually shake out, no matter how elaborate our defense.

Bush has done everything he can to make contemporary American history unavailable to the public: from his tight grip on the National Archives to his Department of Justice missives regarding state secrets that have closed public courts and handicapped judges. The tall tale that we've accepted as truth, that much of this was due to 9/11 and concerns over security, turns out not to be true. The closing of historical documents to the public was a Bush priority put in place long before that event, as was the covert plan to spy on American citizens as suggested by the tone of the Patriot Act.

Bush came to the Oval Office with a plan to expand the power of the presidency; a personal objective of his Vice President, Dick Cheney. He has successfully stepped around the rule of law by making new ones in secret, growing the unitary power of his office, often ignoring the Constitution and assuming power that no American in their right mind would allow him. The many tangled secrets of the Bush administration are hidden behind the happy face Bush wears, the optimism that has become a sign of near-delusion (that so many of us scratch our heads over); in the case of this president, that smirk hides much.

And that's the next thing we need to understand about secrets -- they are designed to hide things. Secrets create a toxicity that colors everything; in our own lives, our secrets create that false note in the whole of the composition and send us down paths we might never have chosen; in our national life, our governmental constructs are shaking apart and no one seems to have answers for their restoration, lest we stumble over old agreements and prevarications. We cover our failings with excuses that may not be actual, put a righteous twist on our intentions, use words that point away from reality.

I had to shake my head at the recent Congressional hearings on progress in Bush's war featuring General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker; the American public wants to believe that Bush did not go to war partly to achieve political stronghold in the Middle East; proof of that would be a series of permanent bases from which to launch military influence. The Bush administration has been denying such a plan from the get-go, although we've also been building those bases in Iraq for a couple of years. Ambassador Crocker spoke of them, not as permanent, but as merely enduring: apparently using the right combination of words, the administration hopes to hide the truth a bit longer. The game, my dears, is getting a bit thin, isn't it?

Many people I know are battling this issue of truth vs. 'truthiness' within themselves, and many of us in the spiritual community feel estranged from family and neighbors because we no longer agree on so many issues. The first step in spiritual awareness is taking responsibility for self; that often looks like a shedding of old skin, old whines, old excuses. Breaking a family contract that had previously drawn us into complicity with secrets that protect our small tribe, like a moat one dare not cross, not only removes us from the tribe but from the family conversation. We're no longer on the same page and our identity is being shaken.

This is not a comfortable process; we're breaking the habit pattern of an age. If we find ourselves unhappy or confused, lethargic and overwhelmed, it may partly be due to the weight of what we've chosen to believe, as opposed to what is true; it's become too heavy a load, a light-absorbing black hole in our consciousness. It takes a bit of courage to find that early Christmas bulb that obscured honesty, but it's critical to our evolution to identify the family and personal secrets that have steered us far from our own authenticity. Here are some questions to ask yourself: What are my family secrets? Who am I defending and why? What am I refusing to look at? What have I accepted without question? And, of course: who am I, actually?

What you discover may surprise you, distress you or disturb you but it will most assuredly inform and free you. The little white lies of a lifetime along with the whoppers we've come to believe about ourselves are hiding the real person we came to the planet to be; the barriers we are hiding our light behind have made us smaller, not larger: weaker, not more powerful. That whole notion of power is uncomfortable to many, especially those who avoid responsibility, happier in the dance to be tucked away in the chorus line rather than perform something breathtakingly original and personal. But perhaps that's a lie we've told ourselves too, based on a secret we've kept: we're not good enough; we’re not to be trusted.

Secrets come from a shame-base; what cannot be told covers some judgment we've made upon ourselves, or that was made for us, and we've complicated it with happy face falsehoods. We're taught to think that our personal mythology must put on its best face, since our actual face is less than perfect, less than acceptable. But I ask you, if we cannot accept ourselves, make peace with our own journey of necessary errors and faults, how can we rise above them? As long as we are shame-based in our thought process, we will be secret spinners and keepers, and we will make ourselves liars to protect those secrets. What we're hiding about ourselves is the first faulty bulb on our string of Christmas lights, causing the rest to flicker.

In the words of Boomer character Stuart Smalley, created by SNL writer, comedian and politician, Al Franken, and spoken into a mirror as an affirmation, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." I adored silly, co-dependent, neurotic Stuart as emblematic of a society aware of its demons and flailing around for a glimpse of its authentic self, simultaneously dragging its feet at every opportunity. Stuart was the epitome of everything we hide in our humanness, clawing its way to the surface. Often, we are more comfortable telling ourselves the truth through satire and humor -- what if Stuart's self-esteem litany is right on target? What if dropping the old secrets and lies frees up a wealth of remarkable, lovable qualities we've been hiding behind a self-imposed bushel? What if we let go of that old stuff, trust that the new stuff we find is worth the effort and discover in the process all the Christmas bulbs suddenly lit?

Here's another Smalley-ism: "I'm a perfectionist, and if I start making changes I'll never stop." Nice excuse, but no Christmas lights. The changes are here, the secrets are toxic, the mythologies are crumbling and transparency is making the hiding game harder than ever. Reality is no harsher than the tangles that we've created in our quest to be perfect -- perfect was never an option in the first place. Maybe if we strip away all that isn't true, we'll find what is; then we can look in the mirror, like Stuart does as he repeats his affirmation, and see who we really are: good enough, smart enough and honest; at last.

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