I am so happy that I was part of the protests on August 1 in downtown Cincinnati while President Trump was in town for a rally at U.S. Bank Arena.
I parked at my office and walked down to meet friends on Fountain Square. As I walked through Mt. Auburn and into Over The Rhine I carried a sign that said “Trump Is A Racist And A Fascist.” Many people responded positively to my statement and a few took some pictures. Young African-Americans definitely resonated with the sign and I got some hugs. The whole time I was observing myself. The meetup on Fountain Square had a positive and uplifting vibration. It was a good mix of people and ages. One sign read “Love Is the Law of The Universe.” I believe that. People talked with each other, photos were taken, and many hugs were given to everyone and anyone.
After the meetup on Fountain Square we walked to the Freedom Center where there was a program featuring a variety of speakers and some clergy. I was really impressed with the young African -Americans there as well as the young women in their 20’s who helped lead the program. They seemed very empowered. The message was about inclusiveness and love as well as speaking truth to power. Speaking truth to power is important at this particular time in our history. The collective American shadow is presently in full view. As Marianne Williamson recently stated there is a dark psychic underpinning at play.
After the Freedom Center program, we walked to the arena plaza led by a contingent of African-Americans. As we walked to the arena, I thought about what we might encounter. Monitors were set up on the plaza broadcasting the event in the arena. Mike Pence was talking and using the language of fear ranting on about the second amendment, left wing extremism and socialism. The Trump supporters did not pay too much attention to us and after a short while we dispersed.
I am grateful for the friends that accompanied me and the cold beer we shared afterwards. Early Bob Dylan songs played in my head as I drove home.
In the days since Trump’s visit I have been thinking about what is transpiring in our country and attempting to view it from a larger perspective. It is obvious that the seeds sown by the Tea Party, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin a number of years ago have grown into the nativism, nationalism and populism that has entered into today’s political and cultural rhetoric. According to authors William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book, “The Fourth Turning,” we are in the midst of the last stage of a cycle in American history that occurs about every eighty years called a Fourth Turning. The current cycle began around 2008 and will last through 2028 when a new eighty-year cycle begins in twenty year increments. Think of Spring (a High), Summer (an Awakening), Fall (an Unravelling) and Winter (a Crisis). It is now Winter in America.
At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation and the future. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly 80 to 100 years, or a unit of time the ancients called the saeculum.
The First Turning is called a High.
This is an era when institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectively, even if those outside the majoritarian center feel stifled by the conformity.
America’s most recent First Turning was the post-World War II American High, beginning in 1946 and ending with the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963, a key life cycle marker for today’s older Americans.
The Second Turning is an Awakening.
This is an era when institutions are attacked in the name of personal and spiritual autonomy. Just when society is reaching its high tide of public progress, people suddenly tire of social discipline and want to recapture a sense of personal authenticity. Young activists and consciousness seekers look back at the previous High as an era of cultural poverty.
America’s most recent Awakening was the “Consciousness Revolution,” which spanned from the campus and inner-city revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early ‘80s.
The Third Turning is an Unravelling.
The mood of this era is in many ways the opposite of a High. Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Highs follow Crises, which teach the lesson that society must coalesce and build. Unravelings follow Awakenings, which teach the lesson that society must atomize and enjoy.
America’s most recent Unraveling was the Long Boom and Culture Wars, beginning in the early 1980s and probably ending in 2008. The era opened with triumphant “Morning in America” individualism and drifted toward a pervasive distrust of institutions and leaders, an edgy popular culture, and the splitting of national consensus into competing “values” camps.
And finally we enter the Fourth Turning, which is a Crisis.
This is an era in which America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up—always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression finds a community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group.
In every instance, Fourth Turnings have eventually become new “founding moments” in America’s history, refreshing and redefining the national identity. Currently, this period began in 2008, with the Global Financial Crisis and the deepening of the War on Terror, and will extend to around 2028. If the past is any prelude to what is to come consider the prior Fourth Turning which was kicked off by the stock market crash of 1929 and climaxed with World War II.
Just as a Second Turning reshapes our inner world (of values, culture and religion), a Fourth Turning reshapes our outer world (of politics, economy and empire).
To be clear, the road ahead for America will be rough. I take comfort in the idea that history cycles back and that the past offers us a guide to what we can expect in the future. Like nature’s four seasons, the cycles of history follow a natural rhythm or pattern.
Ron Esposito is a certified Life Coach, Spiritual Mentor and Enneagram Teacher at the Conscious Living Center. Contact: [email protected]