The USA’s natal Chiron is in the process of being conjoined by minor planet Eris, a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO) from the outer solar system’s Kuiper Belt, a region of small ice dwarves near Pluto. And when I say “in the process,” I mean process! Eris’ orbit is so slow, taking 556 years to circle the sun, that the exact phase of this conjunction began in June of 2001 and won’t complete until January of 2010, with Eris within orb for many more years both before and after this period. But during the peak of the transit, while Eris, named for the Greek Goddess of Discord and Strife, has been crossing and re-crossing our 20 Aries Chiron, the national political dialogue has declined apace in civility and decorum, to the point where conservative radio and TV hosts openly accuse the sitting president of being a racist who hates white people, and duly elected representatives call him out as a liar on the House floor in the midst of a state-of-the-union-like joint congressional address.
Chiron represents wounding, often the old, deeply felt wounds which are scabbed over but not truly healed. Thus it is perhaps not unexpected that we as a country would be forced to deal with the issue of race as this conjunction winds down. Race is a very old wound from the country’s founding, and one which seemingly will not be healed. It seemed in November of 2008, as the nation by a sizeable margin elected its first black president, that these wounds might be behind us. Eris was then retrograde and exactly conjoined the nation’s Chiron, affording the opportunity to revisit these issues and heal, but in the months since inauguration succeeded election and the Obama campaign became the Obama administration, it became obvious that those wounds were still festering, and not truly healed at all.
Chiron also represents the maverick, who is not so much a rebel, as one who refuses to identify completely with any party or faction, whose actions are apparently random and unpredictable. The maverick is a powerful catalyst for change; as a bridge between factions, the Chirotic leader evokes a third option, a union of opposites, an end to conflict. Barack Obama’s biography as a mixed race individual and the tenor of his campaign seemed to promise this third way, this sense of being post-racial, post-partisan and above the infighting and faction of politics as usual. But if anything, the country has become more factionalized in recent months, with extremist elements seemingly gaining an even greater ascendancy in the popular mind set.
Part of this is due to Eris’ very nature, which is to provoke conflict, irritation, and disagreement. For Eris, it is not possible to disagree without being disagreeable—it is that which she craves, the dissent, the bickering, the strife and strain. She does not disagree on principle; she disagrees as principle—it is her raison d’etre. So while Chiron’s intent may be to open old wounds, releasing trapped toxins so they may heal, it is Eris’ intent to reopen them to prevent healing, to worry and irritate the wound so that it remains red, raw and tender, and never truly mends.
And the fact is that, while conjoining Chiron, Eris is not working in a vacuum. The USA Mars is in sextile at 21 Gemini, its Neptune is inconjunct at 22 Virgo. It is no coincidence that Obama’s “honeymoon” period, from the election until the passing of the Stimulus Bill in mid-February 2009, saw Eris at 20 Aries, in exact conjunction with Chiron, promising a healing of the racial wounds that have scarred the country for centuries. But as she moved on to 21 Aries and the exact sextile to Mars in early March, Obama’s approval rating began the plunge from the mid-sixties percentiles to the barely 50% he holds now. Hope and optimism was replaced by discontent and disaffection, as “business as usual” seemed to dominate Washington. Mars is Eris’ natural companion; mythically, Eris was known as “the nurse of war,” accompanying Mars to the battlefield solely to delight in the agonized groans of the dying. The anger and resentment Mars evokes stimulates Eris’ lust for strife and discord, and opposition to the president personally and to his policies generally has grown while the Mars sextile from Eris has been in full force.
The mythic Chiron’s reputation as a skilled healer ties into the healthcare debate generally, and Eris’ fractious, quarrelsome effect on public discourse regarding this matter has been in evidence throughout. So it is also not surprising that the increase in misrepresentation and outright deception about proposed reforms and the rise of fear of them in the electorate, fostered by lies promulgated by entrenched supporters of the status quo, should have occurred in late July and early August, just as Eris came to station retrograde at 22 Aries, exactly inconjunct the USA’s natal Neptune at 22 Virgo. Neptune rules both lies and fear, and although Eris spent only a few weeks at this degree, the power of her station reverberates for a full five months, until Eris once more turns direct, exactly on the USA Chiron for the last time, in late December 2009.
The Obama administration will witness the end of Eris’ conjunction with the nation’s Chiron, but it was the Bush administration which saw its inception. Although Eris did not make its first exact conjunction with Chiron until June of 2001, she was well within orb at 19 Aries for the disputed election of November 2000, which set the stage for a failed presidency which fully half of the electorate saw as illegitimate from its outset.
The total breakdown in comity between the parties had begun a few years earlier, when Republicans in control of the House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton, an act which evoked hyper-partisan response on both sides. When the House passed its bill of impeachment in December 1998, Eris at 18 Aries was already stirring the pot with Chiron, enlivening old enmities while creating stark divisions and fresh wounds which would reverberate between the parties for years to come. As the Bush administration came to power, this lack of cooperation became endemic, and deepened after 2002 when Republicans also gained control of the Senate, and could ride roughshod over their Democratic opponents.
In September 2001, just months after Eris’ first exact conjunction with the nation’s Chiron, the 9/11 attacks created both the deepest national scar in more than a century, and a unique opportunity for the Bush administration to pursue its goals, as they callously and calculatedly used the tragedy to manipulate a frightened and shell-shocked electorate into granting carte blanche to whatever changes they proposed. The bickering and division that has ensued from the policies enacted in the aftermath of 9/11, from the draconian provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, to the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war and the Iraq War itself, the sanctioned torture and abuse of prisoners, and unconstitutional domestic surveillance, has completely corrupted the tone of the national dialogue, an effect in which Eris surely delights.
As Eris continued its assault on Chiron, congeniality and cooperation between opposed sides in Congress became a thing of the past, and rhetoric became heated to a fever pitch. At this juncture, the transit seems to have found its natural focus in the Chiron-related debate on healthcare, with GOP leadership openly opining that defeating the administration’s reform proposals would prove to be Obama’s Waterloo, a crushing reversal from which he would not be able to recover. That comment was made in July 2009 by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, perhaps not coincidentally representing the same state as congressman Joe Wilson, who brazenly shouted “You lie!” as the President addressed Congress on healthcare in September.
That there may be an underlying racial motivation for this extreme opposition is underscored by the unique position South Carolina holds as the cradle of the Confederacy, and the last US state to fly the Confederate Battle Flag over its statehouse (when that flag was finally removed in 2000, it was not retired, but merely transferred to the lawn). When former president Jimmy Carter asserted shortly after Wilson’s outburst that much of the “intensely demonstrated animosity” toward Obama was based in “racist inclinations,” he was stating no more than the simple truth, and a fact of life with which we Americans still need to cope.
Obama is a natural focus for both the nation’s animus and its healing. His natal Eris at 10 Aries exactly conjoins a Quasar, evoking high profile demonstrations of discontent and discord which attract much public attention. Obama’s Eris simultaneously squares the nation’s own Eris at 8 Capricorn retrograde, stimulating our capacity for incivility and strife and redirecting our inchoate, uncoalesced energies of division specifically towards him. But his natal Chiron at 5 Pisces retrograde is also exactly conjoined a Quasar, dramatically enhancing his potential as a healer, and lies in exact semisquare to the US Chiron at 20 Aries. This is a balsamic, waning semisquare, implying the need to release the pain and wounding of a prior cycle in order to open to a fresh beginning.
Obama’s Chiron is also strongly placed within his nativity as the apex of a kite pattern formed from a Grand Trine to Venus at 1 Cancer and Neptune at 8 Scorpio, with an opposition to his 6 Virgo Pluto as the kite’s “tail.” This powerful pattern combines Chiron’s focus on healing with relating-oriented Venus’ cooperation, compromise and conciliation, and spiritualizing Neptune’s capacity for empathy, compassion, merger and unity, the whole of the pattern directed and driven by transformational, catalytic Pluto. Obama has the potential to act as a uniter and healer, but Eris’ ongoing pressure on the US Chiron may be more than he can handle.
Before the conjunction passes out of exactitude in January, there is a Lunar Eclipse on December 31 at 10 Cancer, exactly squaring Obama’s natal Eris/Quasar at 10 Aries and highlighting the nation’s Eris at 8 Capricorn, intensifying the urge toward division and potentially energizing the anti-Obama animus. This is followed by a Solar Eclipse at 25 Capricorn on January 15, exactly conjoined Obama’s natal Saturn, within orb of the nation’s natal Pluto at 27 Capricorn and broadly squared the final hurrah of the transit Eris conjunction to the USA’s natal Chiron. If healthcare reform goes down to defeat, providing that Waterloo the GOP so desperately craves, will this eclipse on Obama’s Saturn spell the effective end of his presidency, swamped in a tide of recrimination and divisiveness, with the chance for healing lost for another generation?