It seems a bit unconventional, if not downright rude, to ask the Hard Questions about someone’s life on their birthday. You don’t usually hear things like “So, you going to do something about that terrible marriage of yours this year?” over the cake and ice cream. Nonetheless, I find myself here in America, on this July 4th, falling into that role: taking it upon myself to play the role of Pluto.
Pluto asks hard questions. Perhaps worse, it stands there and stares at you unblinking until you provide the answer, or until you die (likely from the same malady Pluto was asking about in the first place).
There I was yesterday, getting off of yet another of New York’s many beautifully loud and dirty subway stations and crossing the street when I saw It. The Symbol. The Monolith. The Memorial. The one building in America that can never, ever be just “a building” any more, but must now forever stand as a gigantic steel Question Mark pointed at the clouds, silently awaiting your interpretation and response.
Seeing the World Trade Center in person for the first time is an interesting experience for those of us – that is, everyone – who remembers the attack of September 11th, 2001. We’ve all seen the news footage countless times, on documentaries and in memorials and on badly-shot YouTube videos by people convinced that such a Terrible Thing could only be the result of a vast conspiracy.
(Frankly, people, I don’t want to get into that here. I’m already straying far enough from my appointed subject of “astrology.” But I will say this much: if you think it requires A Vast Conspiracy for humans to do terrible things to each other, you really should get to know your fellow humans a bit. They are generally a good and decent lot, overall, but when there are billions of intelligent creative beings with imaginations and opposable thumbs and technology and a huge bloated bellyful of hatred to draw upon, very big and bad things can happen. Sometimes.)
Seeing the WTC in person really puts the news footage in perspective. Scaling up the crash and the kaboom and the fire in one’s mind, it’s easy to see how utterly Apocalyptically terrifying it must have been for the people there that day to witness it in person. Such a thing couldn’t have helped but be utterly world changing for those who witnessed it. By extension, all of America witnessed what happened that day, and of such a sight mythology is often born. And certainly, that mythology has become a way of life, infiltrating and influencing the daily details invisibly, as our mythologies tend to do.
Pluto was in Sagittarius when the attack happened. Sagittarius is known to be a Sign of Big Ideas and Bold Actions, and certainly both the attack and what followed on would qualify as “big.” An outlandish assault, followed by an enormous invasion, followed by another enormous invasion of questionable relevance to the original incident… that’s Sagittarius, which often has the compulsion to Go Large or Go Home. Sagittarius also has a fondness at times for ritual and symbolism, and the September 11th, 2001 attacks have certainly been ritualized and fetishized, especially here in New York City. One doesn’t have to travel far before encountering a reminder in one form or another of what happened.
Pluto is in Capricorn now, and the death-stare of Pluto is now turned to practical action. The bouncy philosophical outlook of Sagittarius (Freedom and liberty for all! Don’t tread on me! All you can eat!) is now tempered by the cool resolve of Capricorn.
On 9/11 (Look! We’ve abbreviated it and given it a name, so that it’s both easier and harder to think of and discuss! It might as well be the name of a badly-behaved pet. “Dammit, 9/11, get off the kitchen counter! Look at the damned hairball 9/11 coughed up on the new rug! Quit humping my leg, 9/11!”) all those grand and wonderful American Ideals of Freedom and Liberty and Free Expression were slapped in the face by the natural consequences of embracing those very same ideals. So perhaps it’s only natural that Pluto in Capricorn would see a reaction.
And what reaction do we see? Oh, practical, organized Capricorn… you always were the clean-up crew for the mess the Centaur Sign left behind. The almost-predictable over-reaction to 9/11 was an America that still worships freedom… but records your phone calls. You are still free to speak your beliefs and be yourself and let your personal freak flag fly… but it will all be silently watched and recorded by a CCTV camera and NSA software, and it's all be analyzed somewhere, and one day you just might accidentally end up on a no-fly list when you're off to your aunt's funeral in Tulsa. But, hey, freedom, am I right?
But there are still fireworks and hot-dog eating contests, so the party continues. Everyone feels a tiny bit safer for the freedoms they have sacrificed… not really realizing how much they’ve given up, and not realizing that if someone sufficiently clever is out to get you, they will still find a way no matter what fences you put up or how expertly you contort yourself into a useless ball trying to hide from them.
I still love you America, but in the spirit of freedom that your Revolutionary forebears were so filled with, I’d like to point out that your responses to the challenge of being America in the age of Pluto in Capricorn have been kind of, um… un-American.
Happy Birthday, America. Once you’re done the cake, please try to remember the real reasons we love your big, loud, shiny spirit so much… and ask yourself if you’re still acting like that, or just biting your own nails down to the elbows out of fear. You’ve become a little less than your Best Self during Pluto in Capricorn.
And there are many years of Pluto in Capricorn yet to come.
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