Trump | Gollum

Trump | Gollum July 7, 2020

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo descending into one of the darker moments of his soul when he cannot shake Gollum–when, indeed, he imagines (presciently) that Gollum will haunt and harry him to the fiery chasms of Mount Doom–seeks counsel from Gandalf, and Gandalf tells Frodo that paths into the future do not run along straight tracks, they wind indifferently, with a dense air of mystery, into bramble and swamp alike, through darkness and light alike.

We cannot fathom until long after the fact the meaning and significance of our time and place, nor of the roles we assume in the dramas of our lives, nor the meaning of the roles played by others. Good and evil are layered, shifting burdens we share, their identities often concealed.

And so, Gandalf tells Frodo, do not be too quick to judge Gollum, nor to consign him to a terminal fate that prematurely breaks the thread of the story, with consequences none can anticipate. Gollum, Gandalf says, may yet play a role in the drama that none can foresee. Whether for good or for ill, none can say.

Trump is our Gollum, an incoherent, chattering nabob whose human brokenness calls to us and demands of us a brokenness shared and equivalent. Trump will not quit us. And we will not quit Trump. We wish he would go away, that he would die. But we also know with fierce and dreadful clarity that Trump is a cockroach. He is our cockroach. He may outlive us all. And along the way, he will remind us who and what we are.

But as we learn more about who and what we are, consider also where we are in the geography of our minds, and the perspectives we can now choose to adopt about our path forward to address, with candor and hope, the inequality and injustice woven through our histories and into our souls.

Growing up is about accepting and challenging our fallenness in a world with neither a God nor redemption.  Trump has been the eternal dark child who instructs us about who we are and shows us, with the ineluctable logic of opposites, what we must be and what we can be.

In a (cosmologically empty) Hillary Clinton administration, our miasma would have persisted. We would have remained in the Shire. We would have side-stepped our reckoning. We can hate Donald Trump. But one day we might also thank Donald Trump. For precipitating a descent into darkness that may yet summon us into the light.

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