Uncle Sam is asking himself some hard questions about violence right now. Against the backdrop of the cardinal grand cross (2014-15) (1), Mars is revving his engines. During the final months of this year, Americans will be tweaking our relationship with the god of war.
Starting in mid-October, Mars begins a series of provocative transits to the USA chart. Beginning with Mars’s opposition to natal Mars (October 15), the warrior planet will hit the US Venus-Jupiter-Sun (10/31-11/15), its Mercury (11/28) and end up, over the first week of December, in a conjunction with natal Pluto.
This is a dramatic send-off. Mars and Pluto together symbolize raw power made manifest.
It is hard to look at violence. Real violence, that is. Millions of Americans have no trouble at all looking at the bloodshed depicted in video games, action movies and high-concept torture porn (e.g. Luther, True Detective) (2). The plethora of killing and maiming in American entertainment suggests that something within our mass psyche is trying to work itself out.
We might ask ourselves what a concerned kindergarten teacher might say about a child who repeatedly made pictures of people stabbing and shooting each other. She would probably advise his parents that Little Jacob has a lot of aggressive energy he is trying to work out.
It is not the just the USA, of course, that is thus fixated. Humanity as a whole is in the third year of the Uranus-Pluto square’s peak period. In the frenzy (Uranus) of destruction (Pluto) reflected in global headlines we are seeing the paroxysms of an old world order in collapse (3).
The astrological way of looking at breakdown is as a precursor to new life; the more dramatic the death throes, the more significant the rebirth to come. Our job as human participants in these cuspal years is to try to maintain this perspective while staying engaged.
Summer 2014 saw war in Ukraine, schoolgirls kidnapped en masse in Nigeria, jihadists beheading journalists on the Internet and the pummeling into rubble of the Gaza strip. Despite the fact that this violence is occurring far from American shores, Uncle Sam’s fingerprints cover the crime scenes.
The state-of-the-art weaponry used for the asymmetrical slaughter in Gaza (4) is, of course, American-made; US tax dollars paid for that fancy iron dome. Moreover, Americans were dismayed to learn that some of the missiles used by the ISIS fighters—Washington’s sworn enemies—were also forged in the USA. It appears that these arms, shipped by the Pentagon to the Iraqi army, are often captured by the jihadists and moved into Syria. A deft exercise in re-gifting.
Bitterly ironic it may be, to keep finding one’s country playing arms dealer everywhere we look; but not really surprising. The American arms industry is far and away the world leader (Lockheed Martin et al accounted for over 60% of global arms sales in 2010 http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/mar/02/arms-sales-top-100-producers). For some time now, Uncle Sam has been the most successful sales rep Mars ever had.
The Sibly chart provides clues to this indiscriminate gun-fest. The USA has Mars (armaments) in Gemini (multiplicity) square to Neptune (aimless confusion). But the mania for manufacturing, selling and shipping arms is only one example of a society that, like the kindergartener in the example above, seems to be bursting at the seams with aggression it does not know how to handle.
The specter of a militarized police force reared its head this past August, after the latest cop killing of an unarmed black teenager spurred riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Local police forces have been acquiring leftover equipment from the US army for quite a while, but the issue had not burst through the threshold of collective consciousness until the Uranus-Pluto square lined up with that natal Sun-Saturn square (conflict with authority) in the USA chart.
What people saw on the news blew their minds. Those visuals of cops in combat gear rent asunder the comforting national stereotype (Sun in Cancer) of the friendly neighborhood cop. Footage of paramilitary police brutalizing demonstrators in Missouri featured the kind of imagery Americans had heretofore associated only with fascist takeovers (Pluto square Saturn) in other countries. Now, the picture was suddenly (Uranus) and irrevocably etched in the mass mind, of police—officially protectors of the peace (Saturn in Libra)—decked out to wage war.
This escalation of state violence appeared just as the phenomenon of citizen-on-citizen violence reached crazy new heights. America’s current wave of mass killings began in earnest with the movie theatre murders in Aurora, Colorado, when transiting Mars triggered the US chart at the first hit of the Uranus-Pluto square (see The Darkest Knight).
The litany of mayhem that followed, from a campus in Santa Barbara to the Bullets and Burgers shooting range in Arizona, revealed a country whose relationship with Mars (aggression) is fatally skewed.
This is not the fault of planetary geometry. It is what happens when a group entity is living out not the promise of its birthright, but its shadow. With Pluto (death) still hovering in the degree range of the Sibly Sun cluster, we are seeing a massive failure (Saturn) to protect (square Cancer). It was the Newtown shootings that made this point most poignantly, because the victims were so heartbreakingly young. One got the sense of a nation committing filicide.
But the little girl who became an accidental murderess at the shooting range in Arizona in late August made another side of the issue vividly clear: that in a gun-crazed society, the shooters are victims, too. In this group we must include the disaffected, unstable young men (Aaron Alexis, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, et al.) who had better access to automatic weapons than to mental health services.
The USA’s failure to protect its children from harm includes our failure to protect a growing list of young men from the inner demons that make them pull the trigger. To this sorry list of victim-perps we must now add a hapless nine-year-old, whose parents thought it was a good idea to arm her with an Uzi.
Awash in a sea of guns (5), US society is playing out its destructive impulses so outlandishly that we cannot look away. This is essentially the point of the transits upon us. It is terrible that in this purported land of the free and the brave, citizens with a certain skin color regularly get shot, beaten and choked by the police. But it is not a terrible thing for a populace to recognize that this is happening.
It is horrible that the USA is abrogating its Cancerian responsibility and purpose (square to Saturn in the 10th house) by allowing violence to run amok (Mars square Neptune). But it is not horrible to have the veil ripped away from the national pretence that, except for a few aberrant individual cases once in a while, everything’s fine.
Out of the Fog
Astrology is invaluable as a lens through which to watch disturbing cultural phenomena. The distance it gives us allows a larger meaning, and a conceptual clarity, to emerge out of the fog of emotion and chaos.
This does not mean astrologers dismiss the closer-to-home responses to human suffering, such as empathy (Moon, Venus). Nor does it mean that we abdicate our responsibility (Saturn) to stay informed (Mercury) about what’s happening at the level of current events. Earth life is a multi-layered experience, where our ego impulses (Mars) and ideals of justice (Jupiter) are just as real as the lofty esoteric lessons that we draw from epochal transits like the Uranus-Pluto square.
We can legitimately address the issue of American violence through “politics.” On the level of public policy, “Guns make violence happen; gun-control laws make it stop,” as writer Adam Gopnick has put it. But as transit trackers we have a vaster vocabulary, as well, with which to address these things. On the level of cosmic policy, we would look at gun laws not as a cause but as an effect. That is, gun laws are an example of something that might happen if America’s consciousness about violence were to radically shift.
The function of the outer planets (a.k.a. the transpersonals) is to jack up our awareness. They do so by wrenching us into the moment, which is the only place where consciousness lives. Pluto gets us into present time by reminding us that death exists. Uranus slams us into the present by shocking us. Through the grand cross to America’s chart, together they are forcing a consciousness jolt that could not have been affected any other way.
(1) The Uranus-Pluto square, whose outside range is 2008-23, is coming up on its sixth exactitude (out of seven), on December 14, 2014. During 2014 and 2015 it is forming a cross configuration with the Sibly chart (7/4/1776 5:10 pm Philadelphia). For details, see At the Crossroads.
(2) The way American movies are rated speaks volumes. As film critic Mick LaSalle puts it, the MPAA gives an R rating [restricted] to “humane little movies like Before Midnight, and a PG13 to any violent summer film with money behind it.”
(3) The particulars of this collapse are succinctly outlined by ex-military intelligence expert R. D. Steele, who helpfully gives it a timeline. The man pulls no punches.
(5) I knew the USA had the world’s highest civilian gun ownership rate, but I was blown away to read that it amounted to 89 guns per 100 people (Small Arms Survey of Geneva). Residents of the USA are 20 times more likely to die by gun-related death than any other developed nation. Every year, more children die of gunshot wounds than any single serial killer has ever killed. In 2011, 565 people younger than 18 were killed by guns; 119 were under 12. Another 129 died in gun accidents; 749 commit suicide with a gun (FBI statistics).