I finally understand Donald Trump. We decided to watch the first part of The Lord of the Rings again last week, and at the very end—do you remember?—when Frodo has brought the One Ring safely to the elf-home in Rivendell and everyone has gathered to decide what to do about it, there’s that scene where the ring is sitting on a pedestal and they all begin to argue about what to do next: Use it to fight Mordor! Destroy it! Lose it in the ocean! These are all good people from the different races of Middle Earth, and they all want to do the right thing, but the power of the ring is so great and so sinister that the argument becomes super-heated. Suddenly we see a close up of the ring itself and reflected in it are the angry faces of the elves, dwarves, hobbits and men, shouting at each other, growing red in the face, about to come to blows—a perfect image of the ring’s power to bend them to its will.
That’s what Trump does. He is the ring, making everybody crazy around him. Every time he opens his mouth or hits twitter there’s another round of media attention and everyone goes berserk. At rallies, on talk-radio, on NPR, on TV good people get mad and start yelling at other good people. No one listens to anyone else, they just holler and scream and mock and tweet and sometimes even lash out, punching whoever is closest. We’re all in its thrall, and by “its” I mean the power of anger.
Where does this analogy take us? Where is our Mt. Doom, that place where we can un-make this power? Is it in a protest march? A prayer for a speedy impeachment? Or what?
Protests are fine –we need them too to send messages to our leaders–but what we also need is to recognize how reactive we’ve become and do something about it. Limiting the time we spend with the media would help. This 24-hour news cycle is making us all nutty. Of course we have to keep up with events, but so many of us have become news junkies, that’s all we think about. It’s eating away at us, devouring our very beings. Before you know it we’ll all be like Tolkien’s Nazgul, those black riders, the ring-wraiths, who were once men but are now the mere shadows of human beings, their bodies and spirits destroyed by the power of the Dark.
Let’s stop providing the fertile soil for the chaos the ring sows. Let’s turn off the radio and the screens and go play with our kids or go to a community supper. Perhaps instead of reacting to tweets, we could turn directly to our fellow citizens and try to understand what they’re telling us. Let’s get better at listening, and go into conversations willing to learn something we didn’t know before, and let’s hope our interlocutors are willing to do the same thing. Let’s be the change we want to see, as the old saying goes, and model the kinds of behaviors we wish to see take root.