"It's a Wrap" Transcript

Guest: Dr. Thomas Singer

(Listen to the audio on the episode page.)

Betty Teng: Welcome to Mind of State, a podcast for both political junkies and armchair shrinks. I’m psychoanalyst and trauma therapist Betty Teng.

Jonathan Kopp: And I’m political communications strategist Jonathan Kopp. Join us as we welcome experts in politics and psychology to consider this, the state of our nation through the state of our minds and the mind of our state. Hi, Betty.

Betty: Hey, Jonathan. So here we are.

Jonathan: We’ve made it.

Betty: We have. 15 episodes, Jonathan, that’s no small thing in the middle of a pandemic, election season, you know, transition of presidents.

Jonathan: I’ll tell you what. It wasn’t what we planned. It wasn’t what we planned–

Betty: No, it was not.

Jonathan: –but, you know, as Mike Tyson famously said once, everyone’s got a strategy until they’re hit in the face. And I think we got hit in the face, right. We got punched right in the face.

Betty: Well, and this is in our plan, to bring our beloved Tom Singer back, co-founder and first episode guest, both season one and season two. Welcome back, Tom.

Jonathan: Welcome back, Tom Singer.

Tom Singer: I’ve been with you all the time and I’m glad to be back.

Betty: You really have been, you really have been. Now, Jonathan, tell us why we bring Tom back.

Jonathan: Well, look, I mean, it’s fitting and appropriate, right? Tom is the ever present silent partner on the podcast, but he is very much not silent in the planning and the thought about every episode. And so Tom kicked us off. We, for our most avid listeners, they might recall that episode one of season two featured Tom Singer, where we laid out the framework and the structure for really the whole season. And so it seems appropriate that Tom is back as we reflect on the season and we think about, you know, what did we learn?

Betty: Now, cultural complex as well, you know, was sort of a thing that we thought of in the beginning of the season to give us a spine, even though it may not have come back explicitly in each episode. But it was a way in which we thought about how to think about politics and psychology together. And this is a difficult conversation to have, as we’ve discovered.

Jonathan: It sure is.

Betty: Not the most syntonic, to use a really technical word.

Jonathan: Syntonic.

Betty: Syntonic, is that on your bingo card?

Jonathan: Tell me about syntonic.

Betty: Syntonic is confluent, is matching, is, you know, comfortable bedfellows, not to get very Freudian or suggestive there, Jonathan. I mean, Tom, you’ve talked about this a lot, how psychology and politics are not easy conversational partners.

Tom: I think a lot about it because I think the most natural assumption is that psychology and politics are all mixed up with one another in a way that’s sort of self-evident, that so much of politics is about collective psychology and so much of current psychology is about politics. And that’s all true, except when you try to tease them out. And then it becomes very difficult because the languages and the ways of looking at the world different between a psychological point of view and a political point of view are actually quite substantial. So what seems like a very natural marriage of psychology and politics turns out to be a very difficult marriage.

Betty: Yeah. So we’re here to bring forth a wrap, a summary, and the ways in which we wanted to do this was just we decided to pick three quotes, each of us, from the season, from the 15 episodes that we thought were, spoke to us. And so I think without further ado, we should go to that. Jonathan, we thought you had the most appropriate story to tell, so why don’t you kick it off for us?

Jonathan: I’ll be glad to do that. So, look, I mean, I was thinking about our show and it’s an episodic show. And that is to say, it’s not a serial. And by that, I mean you can listen to any single episode as a standalone thing, right. The story doesn’t carry from one episode to the next. But in hindsight, as I was looking back over the season, I couldn’t help notice a strong thematic set of through lines and even a story arc to the season. And so, you know, the first thing that occurred to me was, without question, this was the season of COVID. I mean, yes, it was Mind of State season two, but this was the season of COVID. COVID hung over and permeated everything that we did, every guest, every topic we talked about. And I thought there was perhaps no guest that summed up what we are experiencing in this moment of COVID better than Pauline Boss. Her remarks still haunt me, truly, about the notion of grief that we are experiencing, individual and collective grief, and her concept of ambiguous loss. And so I’d love to play a quote from Pauline Boss that gets at that concept and we can talk about it.


Pauline Boss: Ambiguous loss is a loss that has no possibility of resolution. There are many ambiguous losses right now, it’s overwhelming. First of all, we’re facing an enemy and we can’t see it. We, as yet, don’t know enough about it to control it. So we’ve lost control over our own destiny right now. We’ve lost trust in the world, in a sense, because even sometimes people who are supposed to be advising us, leading us, aren’t. And so we’re in a tailspin right now about what to do and who to trust. So that’s loss of trust in the world, loss of faith in having our everyday connections, loss of gathering with the people we love, loss of going to big events like football or like concerts.

Betty: That’s a great quote.

Jonathan: Yeah, it really, it haunts me. I think about it all of the time because of all of the loss that we have all felt and how are we going to reconcile or just incorporate that loss and carry it forward with us for the rest of our lives?

Betty: And I think it’s also like she speaks to the destabilization of the loss of faith in our structures, in our ways of living, in our routines. We can’t go to common things like football games and concerts, nor do we know that our government is caring for us in the ways that we need it to. And I think this is something we’ve been reckoning with as we go through a presidential transition of administrations. And I think it’s going to be a reckoning that’s going to continue for us societally.

Jonathan: Yeah. And, you know, look, I mean, COVID wasn’t the only thing that hung over everything during this season. Trump did too, right. And the other virus that we had to endure. And as our guest, Michael Cohen, said, no matter whether you voted for Biden or you voted for Trump, the 2020 election wasn’t about policy. It was all about Trump, right. And so that, too. We had COVID and Trump hanging over us. But there were two other concepts, I thought, that really flowed through so much of our season. One, of course, was racial justice, given the George Floyd murder last summer and the interconnectedness of everything. You know, to that end, our guest, Adrienne Hollis, in fact, was so profound when she introduced us to a term that was new to me, which was syndemic. And I’d like us to listen for a moment to her explanation of that concept.


Adrienne Hollis: The syndemic that I always refer to is the intersection of racism, which underlies everything, so structural racism, climate change, and in this instance, COVID-19.

Betty: Yeah, I think that was one of my favorite words to come out of this season, you know, and by favorite I mean, it will always lodge in my mind because this is not just a COVID-19, even though we did just say that this was what hung over everything, it was an intersection of many different crises that came together. And Adrienne linked them all together for us. And that made sense of all of what was going on for us.

Jonathan: Yeah, I thought, in a way, you know, COVID was a virus that affected the body, but it also surfaced all of the preconditions that we are suffering as a society.

Betty: Yeah.

Jonathan: And that’s where syndemic really comes in. And so I thought it was one of those words that I wouldn’t want to lose at the end of this season. And finally, I found us continually returning to the concept of truth. You know, what is truth? What happens when we talk past each other or buy into conspiracism, as Nancy Rosenblum talked about. The dangers of having separate sources for news and information and what happens when we fail to listen to each other and to honest conversation about truth. And so, for example, you know, our guest, Megan Doney, who survived a mass school shooting, she implored us to have more honest conversations about toxic masculinity and what it means to be a man in America. And I think that gets to even a deeper concept than the question of gun policy. It gets to the cultural issue that we’re struggling with. And Anton Hart, your colleague, Betty–

Betty: My supervisor.

Jonathan: Anton shared his wisdom about our need to reengage with what he calls radical openness when hard conversations break down. And I think his words on this topic were so instructive, so let’s listen to those.


Anton Hart: What do we do when the conversation breaks down? How can we find a way to start talking again, even if the conversation that we’re restarting is going to be awkward and bring up bad feelings again? How can we get it going again? Because that, frankly, is our only way of getting through this together.

Betty: Yeah, I mean, that has haunted me, you know, this question of, and I’ll talk about it a little later with one of my quotes, but how do we have these conversations that break down. This partisanship, this divide between right and left, these impossible conversations which alarm me, frankly. And one of the ways in which I so am glad you brought him back, Jonathan, not that all of our guests aren’t relevant here, but this question of how do we have a conversation with somebody we don’t agree with, period. This is the foundation of a democracy. How do we discuss things that seem undiscussable? This is really a difficult question that I think continues to be asked even after Biden has come in. I mean, especially, like as after Biden has come in.

Jonathan: Yeah, look, I mean, we have, you know, now we have Vice President Harris, who has to break the tie every time a vote comes up because the two parties are so divided and we’re wearing masks when we encounter our, you know, our friends and our neighbors, which makes conversation so difficult. And we’re in isolation, which makes them sometimes just easier to avoid. And so I think Anton’s words about reengaging, radically listening, and really coming with an openness is something that I hope we can have more of as we move forward.

Betty: I totally agree. And so, I mean, like, Jonathan, you have really brought forth three clips that encapsulate things from a perspective on your side of things. And I’ll offer my thoughts.

Jonathan: Yeah. I’d love to hear what you have to say, Betty.

Betty: Yeah, I really thought about themes and takeaways when I thought about which quotes that I would pick. And ironically, I’m picking all three political people.

Jonathan: Right.

Betty: I’m getting my psychology from politics to reference Tom’s maybe the bedfellows are not so uncomfortable. But, you know, I thought about Mind of State and we’ve talked about this amongst us, that our goal was to make psychological sense of political nonsense. And by nonsense, I saw the nonsense as being anxiety about the stress and the emotions that took over thinking, that took over, obscured the facts. So that this refers to Nancy Rosenblum and talking about conspiracy, how we obscured the facts and we went to, well, just because we heard about it, it’s true. It goes to what Nate Persily talked about in terms of the social media being an engine of emotions and an engine of anxiety rather than an engine of reason and factual knowledge and an engine of reactivity, really. And so we click and we like and we respond. We don’t think. And so I think that our goal has been to create space to think and to respond and to really reflect on, which is what we do in psychology, psychoanalysis, in therapy sessions is to reflect on our lives, to take that space with somebody else, a therapist, and to think about our lives and what our choices are rather than do, you know, we’re doing, doing, doing. We’re not thinking, thinking, thinking.

And so the themes of the thinking for me was what brought out, and this could be because I’m a trauma therapist, was the multifaceted ways to consider the impact of trauma on politics and society. And so, interestingly, our last guest, Judith Herman, with whom we talked about collective trauma, echoes what you were talking about with Pauline Boss. She was talking about the impacts of loss, but her quote, which also echoes for me, which is, we are a nation founded on unresolved loss or trauma. And so, I mean, this kind of echoes something that Eric Ward said. It goes to what Adrienne Hollis has talked about. This is the pain and the loss of COVID, of George Floyd, of climate change. We are losing things profoundly all the time. And it’s like 2020 to 2021 has really brought that home.

And so I think the takeaway is I’m deeply, deeply concerned about the danger of authoritarianism. I think that it, the Pandora’s box got opened with Trump and the non-grounding in truth and it continues. And we saw that with the January 6th siege on the capital. And even to this moment, there are questions as to the safety of our legislature even now. The National Guard is being, is on alert right now as to whether or not there are domestic terrorists attempts on our lawmakers, so I turn to political guests for psychological wisdom. And my first chosen quote is from Eric Liu.


Eric Liu: I don’t think that you can change the minds of all of those two thirds of people who voted for Trump. In fact, I don’t know that you can change the minds of most of them, but I think you can change the minds of some of them. And I think the only way you do that is by actually getting to that base layer beneath the current arguments about the election to what it is that forms their worldview, what it is that leads them to react to reality this way and respond to an authoritarian demagogue like Donald Trump the way they do.

Jonathan: First of all, I love that you’ve gone to the political, Betty, because I went to the psychological and so I think we’ve affected each other. Maybe we’ve had some radical listening.

Betty: Yes.

Jonathan: But what Eric speaks to here is, I really think, it’s getting past our notions of truth, getting past our notions of fact and argument, and really trying to connect on a human individual level. And I don’t know that we have had the time or the space to reknit the fabric of society the way we need to, the way Citizen University is advocating that we do. And so I think the work that they’re doing, the message that they’re sending is so important as we knit back together and try to reconcile for the damage that has been done during this period, but so many years since.

Betty: Yeah, I mean, Eric does speak in his episode to saying this is not new, what we’re going through. And I think that that was an echoing theme, according to a lot of, like, Eric Ward said this, Deva Woodly said this, Pauline said this, Betty Sue Flowers. But here, I think the thing that I particularly thought echoed was getting back to that base layer underneath what is really going on. And that is, I think, a way, a technique of us in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis is like it’s not about what it’s about. So what is really going on here in this anxiety of people who are laying siege to the Capitol wearing Viking horns, you know, the white supremacy, the white nationalism, what is make America great again about? Because there is a loss that is being expressed. And so that goes to something what Eric Ward, who I so enjoyed our conversation with him, he is to me somebody who gets beyond anger even as he grapples with it. And so he I turn to to ask what drives authoritarians to single out people, what mechanisms caused them to tick. And so he says


Eric Ward: There seems to be the driver of scarcity, the fear of loss, whether it’s loss of status, whether it’s loss of understanding how to navigate a changing world, or it’s the sense of perceived loss that’s come from a sense of that trauma. And it doesn’t drive authoritarianism, but it opens up the space for authoritarians in our society to try to organize that anxiety into political power. And that’s what I believe we saw under the four years of Donald Trump, but it predates Donald Trump too, as well.

Jonathan: Yeah, Eric Ward was very moving, and I thought that the quote that you selected is a great one. It reminds me of his other commentary, which was that the authoritarian doesn’t ride into town and bring white nationalism. He rides into town and activates the white nationalism that already exists.

Betty: Right.

Jonathan: And, you know, my fear right now, of course, is that we must be ever vigilant, all the more so because they’re out, right. The genie is out of the bottle. And as you said, guys in Viking horns, you know, were sitting on Nancy Pelosi’s speaker’s chair and how do we–

Betty: Stealing the podium.

Jonathan: Yeah. How do we manage what has been unleashed?

Betty: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And like, I think that there’s an aspect to that, which is do we identify what this white nationalism, white supremacy is and what’s underneath it? What is that? And it goes back to again Megan Doney’s comment of this toxic masculinity because 90 percent of those folks were male and they incited active shooter anxiety in all of the members of Congress. And so this is all incredibly traumatogenic. And again, it might be spinning this question of this unresolved trauma of, as Judith Harman took us, back all the way to the Civil War. So, you know, and I think all of this brings me to, in an interesting way, the person who I will say that I quote the most in sessions, this political scientist, Deva Woodly, and her really striking, striking quote, which was this.


Deva Woodly: We’re living in an age, in a political economy, and in a kind of social logic in which nothing is supposed to be as important to anyone as their waged work, right. Everything else is secondary, both by necessity, but also by the sort of neoliberal logics that we operate under. And that’s inhumane. It’s inhumane and it’s especially inhumane to the poor, but it’s actually also inhumane to a ton of other people who work for very high wages, right, but still don’t have any time for the human interactions in their life and time also to care for themselves, right. So we’re in an age in which people are yearning for a different way of relating to each other and the world. And the movement has come in and said, what if we do politics as though we want to live?

Jonathan: Yeah, you know, this question rings in my ears and it makes me think about, frankly, all of the public servants who I know and who I watch who have dedicated their lives to serving the public good. And I think for most of them, they are earnest and committed to the notion of doing good. They went in where they could have made a lot of money in the public, in the private sector, but they went into public service. And in many ways, not that it’s, not that politics is religion, but it’s a calling, right. That’s the reasons they get in. I believe they want to do politics as though they want to live and they want society to thrive. But something happens along the way. The process is corrosive, the environment is combative, and it’s very easy to lose your mooring, to lose your north star, and to forget why you’re there. And suddenly you’re just, you’re just weighing the various forces on any issue and failing to lead. And that’s what Deva Woodly makes me think about is that so many of our politicians have gotten lost at sea.

Betty: Yeah, I mean, I think she, you know, I hear you, Jonathan. And it’s really interesting standing on the outside of politics, you know, looking in. It made me think of Betty Sue Flowers highlighting the economic myth versus an ecological myth, meaning that there’s something very quantitative about the way we live, like Deva was talking about. We’re chasing waged work. We’re not chasing wellbeing. And I think this pandemic causes us to question what is this? We went to wealth and health, right. Do we go for masked, you know, and keeping us all home to preserve health or do we open everything up? You know, we’re still having this debate, you know, with states that are opening up before we’re really that safe to do so. And so this really gets to the, again, the underlying question of are we here to chase waged work or are we here to live? And what are our politicians going to do and say? And us with them, you know, it’s not just about our politicians serving us. We need to also think about this and how we are going to make agency. And this is why I bring it forth in my individual sessions. What are the ways we care for ourselves and each other? Do we chase the dollar or do we chase other things or create other things, so which, by which we can really enjoy ourselves and live? And this is a big question. It’s a philosophical one, really.

Jonathan: And certainly while we were in the crisis, while we were deep, deep in the crisis of COVID when it was beginning, we saw the pendulum swing towards health, right. The economy shut down and we prioritized health. And then people got uncomfortable with that. They got antsy with that. They got anxious about the economy and they started to make sacrifices to health in the name of wealth. I think it’s an open question as to what’s going to happen after we’ve gotten to a fuller level of vaccination when people are starting to feel safer emerging from isolation. And are we going to remember the lessons or are we going to revert to our old ways?

Betty: And we have 500 thousand deaths on our hands. You know, this is, in terms of looking at the theme of trauma, this is something that families and communities and all of us will not recover from overnight or even in generations. There are people who are not going to have a grandfather, grandmother, mom, dad, sister, aunt, caregiver, breadwinner at their homes. They’re going to be single parents. There’s going to be a lot of ancillary impact as well as direct impact. And we are going to continue to be a nation founded on unresolved loss if we don’t meet this. So this is something that we continue to have to grapple with. And as we say in psychology, if you keep repeating the same behaviors and expecting the same outcome, that’s the definition of insanity. So, you know, we are–

Jonathan: And we say that in politics too so maybe that’s our unifier. Should we bring our partner, shall we bring our co-founder to the microphone? Tom, are you with us?

Tom: Well, I’m totally with you. And I’ve been silent because I’ve been in awe of how well the two of you have handled enormously difficult topics, and if politics and psychology make for a very like oil and water, a very difficult mix, at an impersonal level, I think on a personal level, listening to the two of you go back and forth, I’m just amazingly proud to be part of this podcast with you because you’ve done a fantastic job just listening to you review the season is very moving to me. Over the last month or two, it occurred to me that there were so many important issues that had surfaced over the course of our 10 months or whatever of these 15 episodes or so that I began to think of creating a course based on the episodes, because as I began to listen to them, I started writing down questions and each of the episodes I’d have 15 to 25 questions emerging that are so provocative. Each of our guests raised such important issues and provided so much information that I thought it would, it made sense to make a course out of this, which in fact I’ve been working on and we are working on. And one of the things that’s occurred to me in listening to you today and that I’ve been thinking about is two things. We’ve really been through a national nightmare.

Betty: We have.

Tom: Which is a kind of, it’s been a kind of fever. And in a way, January 6th represented both the peak of the fever and perhaps the lysis of the fever, that is, a fever break. And most of our episodes were recorded in the midst of a fever. And so in this nightmare, all sorts of incredibly important issues emerged in this syndemic with a kind of intensity that it was hard to find room to think, as Betty points out again and again, or space to think. And one of the things that has occurred to me is, one, we have a set of issues which aren’t going away and they’re in each of our episodes, but also that we’ve been living in a time where things are extraordinarily out of proportion. And one of the throughline takeaways for me is how out of proportion these times have been. And I’ve chosen three quotes that I think speak about what happens when things get out of proportion. And that may be the through line for my particular concluding remarks at this moment, which would probably change a week from now or a month from now. First quote is from Jules Cashford, who’s very much on the side of psychology and even mythology.


Jules Cashford: And so it’s really about the relation of the conscious to the unconscious that decides whether a myth is going to be destructive. If the passion of the myth is allowed to go wherever it feels like, we’re into two different levels of the psyche, aren’t we. The mythic level, which is usually mediated to us through poetry or song or dance or it has a containment in it, perhaps because it, as it were, knows how dangerous it can be. Whereas if our own little stories suddenly become larger than ourselves, like say Trump, then that’s very dangerous because we take on the level of the psyche that doesn’t belong to us. So we can do anything like Hitler.

Tom: The last sentence or two of Jules’s quote is the one that really caught me. It’s about when the story of ourselves becomes larger than who we are as a human being or a person. And the out of proportion-ness of these last four years, and perhaps our times, not just to Trump himself, is that we’ve gotten so overblown with who we think we are, either as individuals or as a nation or even as a planet, that we are been totally out of whack and way out of proportion. Now, when an individual gets out of proportion, they can identify with contents of their unconscious that we call archetypal, which means they’re very big. There are gods and devils and demons that actually live in the psyche. And if our ego is damaged in some way, we can end up being caught by these unconscious archetypal forces. And I think that’s what’s happened to Trump. I don’t think Trump ever grew up. And so he had a hugely inflated sense of himself. Make America great again actually grows out of Trump’s extraordinary inflation, but what makes it really dangerous is that myth of himself captured the myth of a lot of people in this country who perhaps also felt in some ways in danger of losing their sense of identity or their sense of privilege. And so they got caught in Trump’s myth of making everything bigger and larger than itself. That’s very dangerous. That’s when myth becomes history.

Jonathan: Tom, since you’re our myth master, to me, when I hear Jules talk about the myth being bigger than the individual, it makes me think of the myth of flying too close to the sun and of course–

Betty: Icarus.

Jonathan: Icarus and his wings made of wax. And so he falls from grace. Is there some of that here or is this a separate line of mythology?

Tom: It’s a, it’s very much in line of the mythological or mythopoetic way that one can think in psychology. Icarus, that’s an inflation. He wanted to fly to the sun and he was able to fly, but he got so close to the sun that his wings burned up and he crashed. Well, that’s about as inflated as you could get.

Jonathan: Right.

Tom: And the outcome, of course, is destructive. What if you bring a whole population along with you in a myth like that, that your personal myth becomes a collective myth? And I think that’s so out of proportion and so dangerous that that’s one of the fevers that we’ve been suffering from, is that inflation as a country and that Trump really led us on that disastrous course. That leads to the second quote by Robert Lifton, because Robert Lifton really nailed it when he said


Robert Lifton: It is the pandemic that is breaking down Trump’s claim to the truth of unreality in a way that no prior claim could do, and that recognition of many deaths may also be deadly to Trump’s ambitions to sustain his presidency.

Tom: You see, I think what’s being said here is that Trump’s myth of himself and all of the lies that went along with it were enormously distorted and inflated, and it was able to go along until it ran into a force bigger than itself. The disproportionate inflation of Trump ran into the reality of Mother Nature.

Jonathan: You know, it’s interesting because I think Trump would agree, right, that it was COVID, Trump would agree that it was COVID that was his undoing. And if it hadn’t–

Betty: Well, he doesn’t have an undoing, right. He didn’t lose the election.

Jonathan: But he’s not in the White House right now. And I think he would say Biden didn’t beat him. There was nothing that could beat him. The only thing that beat him was COVID. And he’ll be back, right. So he would agree.

Tom: Yeah, well, he didn’t, he, unlike Icarus, or whoever, he hasn’t learned the meaning of his extraordinary inflation. So he remains inflated. But the fact is that COVID did beat him. Mother Nature had a more powerful story to tell than Trump did. Mother Nature had a more powerful story to tell than Trump did, just as Icarus ran into the sun. There are more powerful forces than human forces, and if we don’t learn this lesson as a species, we’re in, we already are in, grave danger. One of the biggest lessons to learn from all of this is to get things back in proportion about ourselves as a species and the limitations of our power and the limitations of our greed.

Jonathan: Boy, it really brings us right back to climate as well, right?

Betty: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s like the Icarus myth is about the sun melting the man made wings, right. So, but I think, Tom, what you’re saying is really clarifying because Jules’s myth becomes history was always something that I was a little bit confused by, to be frank. And I think you encapsulated or reframe it well by saying everything is out of proportion. But what is really interesting is we still are flying at the sun. To your point, Jonathan, about climate change, there are still a significant amount of forces in this country that deny climate change and don’t want to do anything to address it. Climate change, climate justice and the same thing with the pandemic as well. That is not as monumental as it is. Mother Nature isn’t as big as she is. So the reality and the unreality is still in dispute, which is really significant to your point where Lifton is making that claim to reality, like, again, our friend Nancy Rosenblum.

Tom: So this leads to the third quote, which is also about things being out of proportion, but in a different way. Some things get out of proportion because they’ve been pushed to be out of proportion, but again, the human scale gets lost. And for this, I, like both of you, I’ve turned to Eric Ward and his quote.


Eric Ward: I’ve grown up Black in America. I understand the rage, I have that rage, I feel it. It’s always there below the surface. But that rage is never going to be fed. It has to be replaced with something. And at the end of the day, I just realized for Mandela and de Klerk, the truth was this. You don’t negotiate peace with your friends. You negotiate peace with your enemies. And negotiating the peace with your enemies is about ensuring that all people have a better life. And, yes, that takes a lot of courageous risk. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable.

Tom: So if you think about this quote, which is really quite beautiful, because I think it, I think Eric Ward is really speaking about himself and Black people, but maybe any group of people that get enraged. Rage itself can be envisioned as an archetypal force, a dangerous archetypal force. It may be provoked by centuries of discrimination, slavery, and bad treatment. It’s not just the rage is illegitimate, but if you stay at the level of rage as a human being, you’re also going to become inflated because the energy of that rage doesn’t allow you to do anything other than speak out of that rage. And Eric Ward is telling us he had to do something with his rage if he was going to be a human being and if he was going to be able to talk to other human beings with whom he was in disagreement. And so rage, all of the emotions that go along with these kind of archetypal forces, they’re way out of proportion. And the only way we’re going to get things back in proportion is if we can somehow set aside our rage, white rage for whoever, Black rage for whoever, whosever enraged at whoever. As long as we stay at the level of rage, we’re being caught in these archetypal emotional forces, which will not permit a conversation.

Jonathan: Boy, you know, the syndemic that we have been dealing with, the forces that have been buffeting us from climate to COVID to racial injustice to economic decline. I mean, it is enough for any of us individually or collectively to be overwhelmed.

Betty: Absolutely. And with regard to rage, Tom, it is easy to, you know, shake your fist at whomever, be it Mother Nature, be it the government, be it one’s enemies, be it people who subjugate you. As you know, I work with survivors of sexual assault and perpetrators are hated. And yet the hatred does eat you up and it doesn’t do much to answer the perpetrator. And now it’s, as you put it, not illegitimate. However, I think what Eric is speaking to, Eric Ward here, is a way out, which is a difficult way. You negotiate a peace with your enemies, not with your friends. And so it relates to the radical openness. It relates to what Eric Liu was saying, that we have to get underneath what this is really about, not about the you’re wrong and I’m right. And it goes back to some other guests who have talked about this binarism and how do we open ourselves up to a way to think beyond just this flattened I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m this, you’re that. I’m right, you’re left. So it’s really a challenge. I mean, I think we end on a challenge to ourselves.

Jonathan: You know, as dark a period as we’ve been coming through, and I realize we’re not out of it yet, but perhaps it’s fitting that the end of our season is coinciding with a time when we now have a vaccine. We have millions of people who have been vaccinated. We’re starting to see what could be the light at the end of the tunnel. And so while there’s a lot of repair and there’s a lot of rebuilding, while we came in dark, I’m hoping that we can end on a bright note. And to borrow a political metaphor, I would say that I would hope that we could choose hope over fear and that we could choose change over more of the same. And I think it brings us back to, once again, our friend Eric Ward. And if it’s appropriate, I think that we should end on a very positive and forward looking quote from Eric Ward.

Betty: Absolutely.


Eric Ward: What I worry about is we’re missing the long arc in this moment. I know 2020 is fundamentally better in this country than 1920, and I absolutely know 2020 is better than 1820 in this country.

Betty: I think it’s a great quote, Jonathan, a good point to end on, to say that the arc of history is long and we move in the direction of progress.

Jonathan: And the arc of Mind of State is long and we’re not done, even though we’re done with season two, we’re not done with Mind of State. Tom, where are we going next?

Tom: Well, where we’re going next, Jonathan, is the course maybe called Mind of State: Room to Think or something like that. But we’re in the midst of creating a course based on season two’s episodes, which will be appearing on our website within the next couple of months. And I think it’ll give everybody a chance to kind of digest the kind of feverish nightmare that we’ve been living through and the very important issues that surfaced during that time. We don’t digest these things overnight. It takes time and I think our course is going to help with that.

Jonathan: Terrific. So, for our listeners, you’ll be able to find our course curriculum at MindofState.com. And you can continue to follow us at Mind of State Pod on both Twitter and Facebook.

Betty: And thank you so much to all of our listeners for joining us for these conversations that we’ve had. It’s been such an opportunity and an offering.

Jonathan: A wonderful privilege. Thank you very much.

Betty: If you like this episode, you’ll find plenty more on Apple podcasts or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Jonathan: Our website is MindofState.com.

Betty: Mind of State is produced by Alletta Cooper and Jenny Woodward. I’m Betty Teng.

Jonathan: And I’m Jonathan Kopp.

Betty: Special thanks to our co-founder, Thomas Singer.