Just this past Thursday, a friend of mine had a powerful set of moments during the day when she felt deeply connected to her Divine Feminine self. It had been in the works for awhile–from the book she was reading, from the spiritual work she was doing, from her growing appreciation for her gifts, her intellect and ability to shape the growing number of options surfacing her life. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, actually. As night approached, I thought about the planet VENUS rising in the sky. As the evening star, in Venus, we had the perfect symbolic manifestation of some of what my friend had been feeling: the rising of feminine power, of knowing our power to attract and shape what we desire to behold in our lives, of creating connection. Then I remembered something else. On that day, there was an exact opposition between Venus and the planet NEPTUNE.
Neptune is the planet that symbolizes a level of devotion, with a strong dash for the need to merge, to dissolve. There’s also confusion, illusion and delusion that seems to follow in Neptune’s wake because we can’t tell who’s who and what’s what. So on a positive end, with Venus in opposition or a face-off stance with Neptune, we can see strong feelings of love and devotion or what my friend experienced as a merge with the Divine Feminine. But there’s a downside too: disappointment. The real truth about disappointment isn’t that there isn’t always someone to blame when things go wrong or don’t happen. That’s not the lesson that this Venus-Neptune opposition shows. It’s that dissolution or inclusion can only go so far. We lose sight of how far things really can go when we feel really the bliss of feeling in love or the goodness of a feeling. We believe our great expectations are reality and not just expectations. We think what is will always be. WE WANT IT TO LAST FOREVER! AND EVER! (Cue Handl’s Messiah Chorus here, please) But nothing does. My Goddess friend actually has really good sense, so she knew that the next day would likely be less spectacular, perhaps with some of the insights and ideas lingering into a short-term or long-term future. She took the day for as special as it was, but no more. Many others don’t realize or forget this. Enter LeBron James’ hyped up media announcement on Thursday night to go to the Miami Heat.
First, a disclaimer: I don’t like basketball, so I have no vested interest in where LeBron James goes or doesn’t go. I was just fascinated by how much people seemed to care–talking about it online, at the store, in locker rooms, at water coolers, etc. I also felt he was being kind of a dick about the whole thing. Then again, New Yorkers weren’t acting any better. Before LeBron announced he was going to Miami Heat, it was weird to read headlines of picturing the city as some aging Dame seeking to court “King James” after having fallen on waning fortunes. It all sounded like a Victorian novel. Of course, the Grand Dame sounded hysterical and desperate with “King James” realizing all too well his power. That’s usually a very good formula for disappointment. In fact, the headline for today (Saturday) on the online edition of the New York Daily News is “Curtain Call for the Big Apple,” because LeBron’s decision makes some New Yorkers question whether NYC is still the ultimate stage for athletes to prove themselves. So now the city is at the brink of an identity crisis because ONE basketball player didn’t choose to come here. (SMH) That’s feeling some serious disappointment. But it gets wilder when you head to Cleveland, LeBron’s “hometown” and where he’s played for seven years. That night, people were burning LeBron’s jerseys in the streets! Dan Gilbert, the majority owner of the Cavaliers issued a public letter to the fans. This letter sounds like another jilted lover. You would think that LeBron was Dan’s baby daddy and had left him and the baby to go off with some hussy in Miami. HE WAS A BASKETBALL PLAYER! Now, LeBron could have done without all the hype of his decision, regardless of whether it went to charity or not. I don’t follow basketball, but I’ve not heard him badmouth or disrespect his team or its host city before his free-agency. He played with devotion (Neptune) and affection (Venus) for seven years. That counts for a lot. So what’s the disappointment about? It’s a stubborn refusal to let go, to realize that life (and love) changes.
But that wasn’t the only layer of disappointment that night. The other one was of a more serious tenor from the west coast: the trial of former police officer Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant, a young Black man killed on New Year’s day in 2009 by Mehserle, Grant’s arresting officer. Mehserle claimed that the murder was accidental. He had meant to Taser the reportedly agitated (yet already handcuffed) Grant, but instead pulled out his gun and shot him in the back. WTF????!!!! Now, that sounds like one of the greatest Neptune stories of my life thus far, but I digress. Anyway, the jury, with no Blacks on the panel, found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter and he was sentenced to 2-4 years in prison. There was rioting in Oakland as anticipated, but online social sites like Twitter seethed with people’s vitriol, bitterness and disappointment with “the system.” Considering the numerous killings of Black men, women and children by police officers, the short sentence did not appear to be justice to many. This does tap into another symbolic dimension of Venus as a planet of justice, since she’s the “point-person” for the sign of Libra, the scales of justice.
This brings up a similar set of questions as we asked with LeBron James: what are we refusing to let go? What have we loved with devotion and now see from a lens of disillusionment or delusion? I think with the Mehserle case, we can approach this from several different levels. First, 2-4 years for a former cop in prison is no cake walk. Mehserle didn’t exactly get off. People might be upset that he didn’t get life, but there’s still a good chance that he may not come out of prison alive. There’s a feral aspect to prison life that exists in every dimension of the public’s imagination EXCEPT IN THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM. It can’t, by definition entertain that! So the judge is not being sensitive or necessarily lenient by giving Mehserle only 2-4 years. Involuntary manslaughter is not a life-sentencing crime, so there’s only so much the judge could sentence him for. But I’m sure the judge could realize that the former officer might not make it out. It would be one thing if Mehserle were exonerated, but the man is going to prison and his life, as he knew it, is over.
Secondly, our justice system works by a set of arguments based on an accusation. In this case, the accusation was murder. Somebody didn’t prove that Mehserle fulfilled the legal requirements for the definition of murder. Pure and simple. Now, there can be all sorts of conspiracies (true or false) about why that proof didn’t happen, like saying the prosecution could be on the take, the jury was racist, etc. But we can only deal ostensibly with what happened and it would be hard to prove that a cop intended to kill (murder) when he says he meant to use a taser instead of a gun on a handcuffed suspect. I’m not a lawyer, and I would imagine that would be a tough case. So people’s expectations (Neptune) may have been too high from the jump.
Next, we have to talk about cops. I think the key reason why the Black community has so many problems with cops, Black, White, or Asian, stems from a simple fallacy: that it is okay to have armed government personnel who have more authority to police within a community than the people who know, live and operate within it. I can’t imagine having anything but conflict if that’s the case. This has to be resolved by several changes within the community first and then in tandem with police forces around the country. I’m not writing a manifesto, so I’ll share a few ideas that I’ve mulled over for awhile. First, actively destroying the campaign that makes “snitching” a crime. Somehow over the last two decades, reporting criminals to the authorities in many Black communities has become a crime itself. Too many good folks don’t want to call out obvious and glaring crimes for fear of being a snitch. There’s some ground for this fear though, but it shouldn’t be about the label. There’s a risk in reporting crimes to the police, especially if the police are “in bed” with the criminals so to speak. I’ve lived through it as has my family. So that’s a two step process: cleaning up the police stations AND encouraging people to come forward, as anonymously as possible, when they witness a crime. It also means talking directly to people you know who are involved in crime, no matter how small. Notice I didn’t say confront. You could get killed for that. But in predominantly Black communities we must learn to use our personal knowledge of our neighbors as leverage to encourage positive behavior, not turn a blind eye to negative behavior (Neptune). Another idea is to bring more community watches into effect. This is done in many communities and they work when they’re done in coordination with a functioning police district. And there has to be a greater effort between Black communities and police departments to literally get to know each other. Cops know that they fare better in communities where they know the people in them. Ideally, I wish we had more cops who lived in the communities that they serve, but I’d be just as happy to see more beat cops who knew the community they served. I live in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and there are a number of cops who live here; but there are a lot of beat cops who don’t know this neighborhood and have never lived in a neighborhood like this. So this leads to problems and that has to slow down. Venus is really about how we create community and connection. Justice is what surfaces when that community and connection has been broken. When Justice doesn’t emerge, it’s a testimony of the strength of the community and connection. People have focused too much on “justice” meted out and not what Justice requires before it’s meted or given. It’s not just about sentences or the lengths of them. It’s about how the bonds of community are made or broken. The truth is that the cops look out for their own. As a community, are we looking out for our own on the regular? And here’s a deeper idea: is there any way that both the Black community and police forces can re-define a sense of who is one’s own? Of course, this Venus-Neptune challenge highlights our disillusion with community and connection on both sides as I’m sure some cops think 2-4 years is too much. But nothing is sure to happen if we keep rigid definitions or antagonisms between ourselves, with cops and cops with the Black community.
There is something beyond the pale of disappointment. It is accepting that what we hold dear does change and we’re faced with choice once it does. We can either lament, protest, mourn or rage about what’s changed. Or we can change with it, deepen our affections and attentions. We can all take some notes from my Goddess embracing friend. We can love and be loved, realizing that what the next day may hold will require a different kind of work, including holding too tightly to what happened before. We can let LeBron go without cursing him. We can trust that justice isn’t always what’s apparent or beholden to our sense of time. We can strengthen the ties within, rather than casting aspersions and trash cans through windows when our affections and expectations are not met. Love and justice can come with many rewards; but this Venus-Neptune opposition reminds us that when a goddess soars in the heavens, there is no guarantee that we all will take flight or soar forever. We must remember to honor the ties that have bonded us, let loose the ones the ones that are broken and strengthen the bonds we hold dear, knowing tomorrow may require us to do any of those three things…again.