The first time President Obama was elected, I was at a small gathering of nervous Republicans in one of the most racist areas in America. I called my family back in New York City. They told me that people ran outside and danced in the streets. They said that all of the city celebrated. Strangers. Families. Across races and social standing. Their excited voices stood in contrast to the absolute silence where I lived.
After the call, I noticed, even more so, the stoic faces and fear of the people around me. They were not affiliated with the local university as I was. They would live their whole lives in the small town where I would only spend a decade. We had different worldviews, and their devastation was palpable in the wake of the 2008 presidential election.
It was as if my conservative compatriots could hear the end of days as clearly as I could hear New York’s jubilation at the first black president. Regardless of political leanings, Obama’s election was a wake-up call. And to some, it was the cataclysmic last judgment, complete with angels, horseman, walking dead, and trumpets.
So it is with the next President-elect. A wake-up call. Except, this time the stakes seem much higher. So, as I see my newsfeeds filled with panic, hate crimes, and fear, I am saddened, but I am not surprised. I’ve witnessed a dark reaction to a presidential election before.
This is the Judgement card come to life.
A trumpet sounds signaling the end of days.
We resist, feel fear, or grief and prepare to respond.
We answer the call, awakening or settling back into our illusory sleep once more.
In the Rider Waite depiction of the Judgement card, we see three central figures with their attention cast toward a blasting trumpet. They answer its revelatory call by waking from the sleep of the dead. All reality turns on its head, and the boundary between all things begins to blur. Judgment is one of the most confusing cards and with good reason. How do we relate to the depiction of an event grander in scale, scope, and implication than represented even in the Tower card? How do we parse an image that represents events so reality-altering as to inspire horror and denial?
On whether our worlds have shattered before and what privileges we have. It depends on our labels and status and whether we’ve danced with death, disease, and trauma. It depends on whether we notice our beliefs and our attachments to those beliefs or not. It depends whether we’ve ever had to see the world in gray; or if no matter what, we insist on black and white. We insist that that ex is coming back. We insist on jobs that leave us miserable and hollow, and on prejudices that shroud our hearts in fear.
The Judgement card heralds a cycle of sleeping consciousness, its awakening, and resistance to the revelation. Nothing is static. No one arrives and stays woke forever to all things. No one sleeps forever. At least not without a ton of grief. We regularly face opportunities to awaken or resist reality again and again. The direction we move in the cycle depends on our willingness to wake up or our commitment to bury our heads in the sand.
When Obama was elected in 2008, I was in one of the most vulnerable positions in my life. I was a broke college dropout surviving in a small town with a depressed economy. I had to ween myself off of pharmaceutical drugs I could no longer afford. Post-election racial tension threatened what little livelihood and security I had. Ultimately, I would end up moving far away to a safer place with a better economy.
When we have access to a way out, it’s easier to stay asleep.
During our more recent election season, I enjoyed substantially more privilege. I experienced no fear of violence or deportation. I no longer relied on pharmaceuticals so no longer worried about my pre-existing conditions. On election day, I felt that it didn’t matter who would win. Neither candidate advocated for the average person so there would be no way to know which of them was for the worst.
With our safety and livelihood seemingly intact, it’s easier to stay asleep.
It took five minutes at my side job to change my mind. I work part time with children from at-risk communities. Children of color, some disabled, unregistered, and some poor. They are from families that don’t have the access or education of their peers. When adults don’t have the resources to deal with stressful situations and emotions, their children have no shelter. Witnessing the fear in these children, it was clear as day that It mattered who won. It matters if our leaders inspire nationwide despair.
This was my wake up call. For me, the children were the trumpets. For others, maybe it’s a riot, a churning stomach, a fearful thought that grips and won’t let go, the desecration of the earth. It’s different for everyone and for some, there are no trumpets.
Waking up is a choice, and to an extent, it isn’t.
We can be mindful. We can notice our thoughts. We can extend kindness and compassion to one another, but these things, in and of themselves, won’t change the fact that we live in a society that builds its wealth on the backs of the vulnerable. Even if spiritual evolution requires the dissolution of categories, it doesn’t change the fact that for many, it feels like a hyper-awareness of labels and hierarchy are what keeps them safe. And this feeling goes both ways. It crosses party lines and every other kind of label. This feeling is human.
Judgment asks us to fly in the face of this very human condition of separateness. It asks us to make of ourselves instruments of higher power and be shaken with the vibrations of revelation. It asks that we hear our higher calling and wake up and wake up again. It asks us, that can, to be mindful, to notice our thoughts, to extend kindness and compassion to one another. It asks us to leave room for the sleepers, especially in a society designed to keep us in a state of distraction, fear, and sleep.
We like to believe that we are never the unconscious ones. Who would choose to stay sleeping?
All of us.
Perpetually sleeping and waking. We can only be as woke as we are. The cycle exists with or without judgment. Accept where you are, grieving, frightened, in denial, confused, unfazed, guilty, but remember, to keep moving through.
How are you?
Tell me in the comments.
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Featured Decks: Centennial Smith – Waite US Games 2013. Margarete Petersen Tarot AGM Urania 2014. Thoth Tarot by Crowley & Harris US Games 1978