On the night of Friday, July 28, 2017, J.K. Rowling tweeted up a storm about Trump.
Rowling has an admirable affinity for those less fortunate, weaker and less privileged than herself. She is able to empathise due to her own straitened circumstances earlier in her life.
While this is surely a laudable attitude to have towards the world, it can take a turn for the worse when this outlook of compassion is projected through an overly ideological lens onto the world.
Compassion, by the way, doesn’t make you harmless, especially when something close to you is threatened. Just look at a mother grizzly bear; full of compassion yes, but for her cubs. Try getting between her and her offspring and you’ll be writing letters of regret to your severed leg.
This weaponising of compassion is precisely what happened with Rowling’s tweets about Trump.
What she says about Trump’s characterological defects are grounded in a mountain of evidence. Following another damning week for the Trump presidency, where he decided to tweet abuse at his AG Jeff Sessions, whine about Republicans’ intransigence and flexible spines, and complain about everything else, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal reflected the feelings of an increasing number by describing him thus:
The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.
He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.
None of what Rowling said about TRump’s flaws, manifestly obvious to all but his most devoted adherents, is controversial or new. We know about his flaws, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. We’ve known them for a long time.
Where Rowling is at fault is using an edited version of the clip of Trump meeting those children. This clip shows him ignoring the disabled child’s hand. That’s another fail on Trump’s part.
However, if she hadn’t allowed herself to be blinded by her own politics, which incidentally is something that happens to all of us in this increasingly political age, Rowling would have either posted the whole clip of the event, or she would have corrected her claims about Trump’s attitudes towards disabled people after yet another example of his apparent disdain for them.
This clip clearly shows Trump greeting the wheelchair bound boy.
I can only surmise that facts like this get in the way of Rowling’s feelings about the mistreatment of the weak and vulnerable. Again, while admirable, when this compassion is subordinate to a political worldview diametrically opposed to that of the President of the USA and all those who support him. then it can act as a hindrance to a more clear-sighted view of reality, of course always taking into account one’s own biases and limitations congruent with one’s view of the world.
To reiterate, I am not denying Trump’s many and overwhelmingly manifest faults.
However, if we are to have any chance at an attempt of mending the ever worsening divide between political and cultural camps in the US, Britain and the rest of the western world today, we must refrain from launching into ideologically informed tirades that serve only to reinforce one’s perceptions of those on the opposing side.
This only serves to drive us further apart and destroys any chance of some sort of rapprochement between the factions in what is becoming an increasingly threatening political atmosphere, on both sides.
As an author who has touched millions through the power of her articulated speech in her books, Rowling would do well to remember the responsibility to use her linguistic power wisely, and for the good, for the affirmation of truth as a means of mitigating suffering in the world, not as a means to score points.
Rowling has the platform and the ability to do this. It is to be hoped that she can remember this in the midst of our present turmoil.
As it is to be hoped that we can too.