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.