Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why I Salute Donald Trump as a Prophet

If you actually look at the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament, prophecy is not really about telling the future. It’s about telling the present. A prophet is someone who tells it like it is, who says the things others won’t say and gives no thought to whom they might offend.

Trump actually says nothing that other Republican candidates haven’t already implicitly said. He might say it more outrageously, in a manner that grabs the attention of the media more forcibly, but there’s essentially nothing in his rhetoric that wasn’t there already.

In other words Trump’s dogma, with all its bigotry and selfishness and cruelty, is all already there, latent, in the kind of right wing ideology many in the GOP espouse. But it’s Trump who puts the writing on the wall (that’s imagery borrowed from the Old Testament too – see Daniel 5) for everyone to see. Trump’s rants are simply what extreme right-wing principles look like when they’re not dressed up all pretty with euphemisms and clever speech writing.

So let us give thanks for Trump. He’s the prophet who is making explicit what we’re really dealing with here. It’s ugly, but it’s not hidden any more, and if it’s not hidden then it will hopefully be easier to fight.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Parting Gifts from Extraordinary Humans

Earlier this week I read The Shepherd’s Crown, the last novel Terry Pratchett wrote before he died. And then this morning I am listening to David Bowie’s new album Blackstar. Two artists making art out of their own deaths.

In the video of Lazarus, Bowie lets us see him looking wasted and frail, lying on a bed, his veined hands clutching at the covers. He must have known it was only a matter of time before he’d be playing out that scene for real. Pratchett’s work is in some ways even more poignant, because while Bowie gives us permission to see the degeneration of his body, Pratchett gives us permission to see the degeneration of his mind. Every word of Shepherd’s Crown is a painful reminder that an extraordinary intellect was fading fast, and I’d be prepared to bet that Sir Terry knew that, and just bloody well wrote it anyway. The humility of both artists is astonishing. They are showing us what it is like to die.

I don’t have any comforting answers to the questions raised by death. Mostly I deal with the idea of dying by trying to ignore it. It’s painful and grotesquely lacking in dignity, and it never ends well. But one way of dealing with things that scare us is to try and understand them better, and Bowie and Pratchett have helped us a little with that. Godspeed, gentlemen.