This Spring marks an explosive milestone for Uncle Sam. Its backdrop is the Uranus-Pluto square (2012-2015), which will reach exactitude for the fifth out of seven times on April 22, 2014, forming a perfect grand cross with other transits as it does. This cross will fit the natal chart of the USA like a hand in a glove (1).
The key aspect of America’s chart is a Sun-Saturn square, which suggests a problem incorporating the lessons of maturity and aging. Early in the year, this square will align with Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto overhead. What this means is that the most vulnerable and problematic corner of the USA chart will be boxed in by the most critical aspect in astrology (2).
Readers who have Sun square Saturn in their own charts have learned that it is the key to their life story. At first blush, it’s the chart’s weak spot: its job is to point out the native’s insufficiencies. But because it will not leave us alone, it can become the engine of hard-earned, rock-solid mastery. How it shows up depends on the maturity of the native—not just their chronological maturity, but their spiritual maturity.
The natal placements of the Sun and Saturn reveal what issues tend to trigger these insecurities. In the case of the USA, these include the hottest-button issues in the national conversation. Chalk up to the Sun-Saturn square the bizarre violence of opinion over health care, which at this polarized point in our cultural history has cranked itself up to near-civil-war level.
If we want to understand the symbolism of a cultural controversy, we need to first make note of the distinction between its media-generated meaning and the meaning future historians will probably give it. For example, conventional wisdom may someday declare Barack Obama less the progenitor of the law that bears his name than its salesman.
It is nonetheless telling that the president has come to personify this law in the popular mind; and perhaps in his own, in the sense that he seems to have chosen this as his “legacy initiatives”. (I have written elsewhere about the politics behind the Affordable Care Act, which started out as the brainchild of insurance executives who “care about health care about as much as Big Oil cares about the environment” (3).
Then there is the psychosocial meaning of Obamacare: what it represents in the American psyche. The law itself is a con, but the reactions it is provoking are worth a closer look by astrologers. They are full of clues that can lead us to a deeper understanding of that national weak spot.
At first blush, all the hysteria around Obamacare must be pretty baffling to people watching from abroad. Imagine what somebody from a country with a social safety net like Sweden’s, for example, must think of the virulent reactivity that surrounds what would seem to be the ultimate no-brainer of a public policy: the attempt to give everybody access to doctors and medicine.
Warnings as dire as they are utterly unsubstantiated have been issued nonstop, since before the program was a twinkle in Obama’s eye (4). Right-wing pundits have been warning us that if Obamacare were instituted, the country will turn from democracy to communism, and that economic Armageddon would rain down upon the land.
But it is not these arguments that have aroused such disproportionate reactivity. The astrology here reveals that neither ideology nor finances are what this fight is really about (5).
The USA has no less than four planets in Cancer, the sign of caretaking; one of these is the Sun. This is the archetype that makes the country tick. To the extent that Americans are out of touch with the Cancerian archetype—that of sheltering, feeding and protecting those in need—we are out of touch with ourselves.
Governed by Cancer are those groups that depend upon others for basic care, such as babies, the infirm and the elderly. When it is well integrated, the sign Cancer embraces needy populations as an area of specialty. But un-integrated Cancer dis-identifies with these groups, rejects them, disdains them. I have argued that the USA’s natal Saturn square Cancer Sun is behind our culture-wide fear-and-loathing of aging (see America’s Crisis of Maturity). Moreover, since Pluto hit the US Ascendant (2001) and then started its pummeling of the US Cancer cluster in the years since 2008, this phobia has escalated. Behind the repudiation of aging (Saturn) is the terror of death (Pluto).
The over-the-top reactions we are hearing to the health care bill get their depth of feeling from these archetypes’ shadow expressions. These primal feelings get cloaked in apposite ideology, and people like Ted Cruz fashion them into a platform.
To call the dust-up over health care a “debate” is a misnomer, as it has little to do with reasoned discourse. This is an outer-planet melodrama, deriving its force from a primal place in the mind, a place well beneath rational thought. Uranus, the god of disruption, is infusing the opinions of Obama’s enemies with the fear of destabilization. Pluto is infusing their opinions with the belief that mixed-race presidents, immigrants, and “terrorists” are a mortal threat to their way of life.
In the minds of a certain slice of the electorate—a minority of the minority whose candidates lost the last two presidential elections—healthcare has become conflated with a timeworn collective fantasy: that of the destruction of the familiar and the takeover of the known (Pluto) by terrifyingly radical (Uranus) forces. This fear comes from the same scrapbook of national horror stories as the “better dead than red” imagery from a couple of generations ago, which was explosively repudiated at the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the ‘60s.
The audience to which networks like Fox News preach is predominantly composed of white, non-urban males who model themselves as “Don’t tread on me” individualists. They are feeling isolated right now from the way the demographics in their country are shaping up; some of them are even expressing as the desire to secede.
In one key regard, however, these rural, gun-toting libertarians are brothers under the skin with the botox’d liberals in LA: they resent being reminded that they age, sicken and die.
In a mood of defiance, the anti-Obamacare forces seem to be saying to their president: “Don’t tell me I’m going to get old and need healthcare!“ It’s an acute case of arrested development, expressed by the shadow of the US Saturn-Sun square.
The antidote to this crisis of immaturity is maturity—which, whether we like it or not, it comes to us all, at least physically. Although there’s no guarantee we will get wiser, we’ll definitely get older. The graying of the US demographic is a physically irrefutable example of Saturn forcing its imprint upon the national Sun. For a country in Saturn denial, the aging of the baby boomers en masse, nearly 80 million of them, looms ahead like a ticking clock.
(1) In the current Mountain Astrologer Magazine (December/ Jan) there are two articles on this transit, by Bill Herbst and Tem Tarriktar. Tarriktar pinpoints April 22, 2014 at 11:50:16 a.m. EDT in Washington, D.C. as the moment when the four transiting planets are closest to exact: all at 13 degrees, making four squares and two oppositions within a few minutes of arc.
(2) In the Pythagorean system, aspects of the four (tetrad) series are associated with breakdown, crisis, and important decisions. The grand cross, formed when planets make four 90˚ and two 180˚angles, has the meaning of maximally critical (Greek krisis, from krinein: to decide) and crucial (a pivot point, Latin crux [cross]).
(3) See Truthdig, Nov 3, 2013, “Truthdiggers of the Week.”
(4) Before that, of course, it was a twinkle in the GOP’s eye. Mitt Romney has said he got the idea for Massachusetts’ version of the program from Newt Gingrich, who got it from the Heritage Foundation, the ultra-right-wing think tank. The irony of an originally Republican program ending up as the party’s bête noir seems to be due to its current connection with this particular president.
(5) The arguments used by the anti-Obamacare forces seem passionately ideological on the surface: they self-declare as idealistically libertarian. But true libertarianism springs from a genuinely Uranian urge—an independent stance that would reject, for example, anything to do with government subsidies—whereas statistically the Tea Partiers tend to hail from the very states that contribute the least in taxes yet get the most federal funding.