JK ROWLING, VOLDEMORT AND DONALD TRUMP: An Invitation to Dig Deeper

JK ROWLING, VOLDEMORT AND DONALD TRUMP: An Invitation to Dig Deeper

Like many of us, J.K. Rowling’s past was filled with trauma and betrayal, including an unhappy childhood, her mother suffering and dying from Multiple Sclerosis, a relationship with her father that has left them estranged from each other, a failed four-month marriage and poverty-stricken single motherhood that left her clinically depressed and suicidal. From the time she was young, she wrote fantasy stories, metaphorically playing out the good, bad and the ugly from her life. She knows Voldemort well, as do many humans – and she’s incredibly talented. Hence, the phenomenal success of Harry Potter.

As always though, material prosperity does not necessarily, or usually, coincide with emotional maturity. As most of us are wont to do when presented with ‘bad’ guys (ie) Donald Trump, we feel justified in judging them in the harshest terms – assuming that nothing we say or do against the villain can compare with their treachery. In our hyper-rational and unfeeling world, poor Voldemort, conceived as he was via trickery, coercion and a loveless union, was destined for darkness; a worthless baby, a misbegotten child who, once his mother died, was a lost cause; so devoid of love as to be barely human.

Within her writing, Ms. Rowling cannot muster an iota of compassion for this poor soul, and the unfathomable suffering he undoubtedly endured in his childhood that turned him into a monster. Or was he a monster to begin with? Are those of us who are borne of the union of two terrible people trapped within that destiny? Should we be written off just like Voldemort was by Ms. Rowling? We do the same thing in the real world, turning traumatized and unconscious people, like Donald Trump, into inhuman caricatures in order to distance ourselves from their anger and shame that has a home in all of us; that is a by-product of the destructive emotional landscape we are all a part of; that we avoid and deny to varying degrees. All art represents who we are and where we come from. Harry Potter isn’t just a story that has been conjured from nowhere. It represents the inner workings of JK Rowling’s mind and life.

That is where Ms. Rowling’s combativeness and judgment comes from when engaging on social media with people who are deemed worthy of her scorn, such as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). In response to the WBC threatening to picket a gay union between Dumbledore and Gandalf, Ms. Rowling tweeted, “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.” Needless to say, it is really easy to poke fun at the WBC; but then how many of us harbour our own prejudices, some that we’re unaware of, and some that we assiduously hide from the world?

Recently, Ms. Rowling once again engaged the ‘enemy’, with the Huffington Post gleefully pointing out how she ‘destroys’ her Trump-supporting twitter trolls. In one breath Ms. Rowling tweets, “We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalised. We hold the line.” In the next breath she responds to a Trump troll who says they will be burning her books and movies with, “Well, the fumes from the DVDs might be toxic and I’ve still got your money, so by all means borrow my lighter.”

The inference is that Voldemort, WBC and her twitter trolls are beneath contempt; beyond salvation; beyond love – and even deserving of a brutal death. Cleverness, sarcasm and ridicule employed to inflict maximum harm. But what if the only way to possibly get through to extremely traumatized beings, who are overtly and unconsciously taking out their ugly frustrations on others, is via compassionate engagement? Was this attempted with Voldemort? With the WBC? With Mr. Trump? No, because to do so would be to dabble in the darkness, which we’re deathly afraid of. We would be required to believe in love; to believe that life is more than about vengeful counter-attacks and ridiculing retorts that itch an ego scratch that actually taps into the worst in us – a mirror we dare not look into because we might see that we are an energetic match for what we reject most in others.

But, it’s just so damn satisfying to ‘destroy’ those who are lesser-than, isn’t it? After all, it’s the Westboro Baptist Church! It’s Voldemort! It’s Trump for God’s sake!!

I mean, these memes are hilarious, right?

The truth is, we scapegoat those who most clearly reveal to us our obscured shame – because, steeped in avoidance and denial, we are unable to own it and heal it.

Besides, does it make sense to egg on such a damaged and now powerful man, as well as millions of his supporters, who naturally take these memes personally? In mocking them, don’t we only further alienate them? Don’t they become even more entrenched in their positions, further exacerbating the already precarious divisions in the culture?

Blessings for Ms. Rowling, who is doing nothing more than representing most of us in our hyper-masculine world. I understand and empathize with her judgment. Judgment holds a seemingly unassailable position in our world; though the operative word here is ‘seemingly’. Because, all any of us want is acknowledgment. How much acknowledgment and acceptance is occurring in our society? On the contrary, how much bashing, undermining and rejection is taking place? And, most importantly, what does this harsh judgment say about those of us who engage in it, especially if we manage to dig deeper and recognize that Mr. Trump is less an aberration and more of a culmination of an abjectly corrupt social, economic and political system that has simply arrived at its logical destination?  It says that if we continue to respond in the same unconscious fashion, the outcome will be predictably, and unpredictably, problematic.

Conversely, there is the opportunity for an evolutionary response. This begins, first and foremost, with us as individuals. Because we are all beautiful at heart, so many of us look around at the world and feel badly for humanity – and ourselves. There is an enshrined resignation, totally understandable given past and present traumas. This uncertainty can paralyse us, making the inner journey even more daunting than it already is. And yet, if we are hoping for different results, we’re challenged to seek peace and healing in the only place it resides, within, and then, to the extent that we can, to share that with the world.

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2 thoughts on “JK ROWLING, VOLDEMORT AND DONALD TRUMP: An Invitation to Dig Deeper

  1. Hi Bard,
    Really enjoyed this post and conversation. There’s a whole world of stories here and yet a piece of the story seems missing. At a campsite in Nova Scotia the next site was taken by a guy with a truck full of firewood and a trailer with a Harley in it. I had come to lands-end for peace and quiet and he’d come to party. Still, we managed to communicate, find common ground and take care of each other and get our needs met. But he wasn’t bent on “destroying” me. We just had different perspectives. I agree, J.K Rowling has the choice to take the high road. But what if a perspective and person are bent on destroying us. That comes across to us as evil, does it not require another course of action – rather than turning the other cheek? Is there a middle way? Or is the desire to destroy another’s way of life that is so threatening? I agree we are certainly not doing everything we can to find common ground, the common aspects of our humanity.

    1. Hi Mark. Thank you for your usual thoughtful response. There is a misconception that non-violent resistance means allowing ourselves to be mistreated without any response (ie) resignation, submission. This could not be further from the truth and is the reason why humanity has not yet grasped the immense potential of non-violent resistance in fostering change. Similarly, there is a misconception about Jesus’s dictum to ‘turn the other cheek’. Here is an explanation of its deeper meaning: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evil-doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-41) This quote from the Sermon on the Mount is often shortened to the cliché “turn the other cheek.” It is a convenient excuse for inaction; a rationalization for being passive and accepting whatever injustices or unfair treatment we witness or experience. It’s the equivalent of saying “just ignore them” with the naïve hope that whatever or whoever it is will just go away. I used to wonder how Jesus, lover of truth and doer of justice, could tell us to sit back and accept lies and injustice in this manner. But then I was introduced to Dr. Walter Wink’s exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount in Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way, and my life has never been the same. We March For Hope Not Hate Wink starts his exegesis by looking at the phrase, “do not resist an evildoer.” He explains that a more accurate translation of this sentence is “do not retaliate against violence with violence” or “don’t react violently against the one who is evil.” This subtle yet powerful shift in language sets a whole new tone for what follows: rather than being told not to resist, the people gathered to hear Jesus are told not to resist violently. Wink goes on to examine the phrase “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Why, Wink asks, does Jesus reference the right cheek specifically? The answer is both challenging and enlightening. Jesus lived in a right-handed world where left hands were reserved only for unclean tasks. Therefore, we can assume that the person doing the hitting would have used their right hand. The only way to strike someone on the right cheek with your right hand is a backhanded slap. Such a blow connotes an insult, not a fistfight, and was a normal way to reprimand someone over whom you had power (e.g. masters to slaves, husbands to wives, Romans to Jews). To strike your equal in such a manner was socially and legally unacceptable, carrying with it a huge fine. With this new understanding of the context Jesus was speaking in, picture the scenario with yourself as the oppressor. You are a wealthy, powerful person whose slave has displeased you in some way. You reprimand your slave with a backhanded slap. The response you expect is the response you have always received from your slaves – the response you yourself would give if someone higher than you treated you the same way. You expect your slave to cower, submit, and slink away. Instead, your slave defiantly turns their other cheek and challenges you to hit them again. What can you do? You would like to give your slave another backhanded slap to show them their place, but to do that you would have to use your left hand which would admit that your action is unclean. You could hit them on their left cheek, instead, but it would be embarrassing to hit your slave the way you should hit your equal. You’re confused. You don’t know what to do. Flustered, you could order the slave be flogged, but the slave has already made their point. They have shown you that they are a human person with dignity and worth. You don’t own them, you cannot control them, and they do not submit to your rule. And so, in light of Wink’s insights, Jesus’ instruction not to resist evil and to turn the other cheek transforms from an instruction to accept injustice into a challenge to resist systems of domination and oppression without the use of violence. Rather than ignoring an evil situation and hoping it will go away, Jesus is telling his followers to find creative, active, and nonviolent ways to assert their humanity and God’s love in the world.”

      To me, this is the middle way 🙂

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