Taking Umbridge


I thought it was a funny photo, so I shared it on my Facebook wall. Apparently, or so several of my friends are anxious to tell me, it isn't funny at all and I should be very careful at this moment in our nation's election season not to make jokes about Secretary Clinton, because as everyone knows, Donald Trump is terribly, terribly dangerous. 

As one of my friends from college posted almost immediately: "Dislike! Rachel, I respect and love you, and consider you one of the most intelligent persons I know, but I believe that you are not seeing Hillary Clinton for the strong candidate that she is. I had issues at first, too, but then I realized that my prejudice was more about Bill Clinton, and I now admire Secretary Clinton without reservation."

Another friend submitted soon thereafter: "Submitting Barty Crouch Jr (lunatic with borderline multiple personalities who impersonated Mad Eye) as a better substitution for Lockhart, if we're in this universe." At which, I asked if she had seen the image of both candidates as Darth Vader, which I shared on my wall some months ago. 


"I'm cackling omg," my second friend replied. But my first friend was still greatly concerned: "At this point in the election, with the race so close, my personal opinion is that it is in the disinterest of our society as a whole to vilify the obviously qualified candidate. To compare her to Dolores Umbridge is not only wrong, but potentially damaging to our nation. Rachel, you influence a lot of minds, as you should. Your posts and your words have power."

Others jumped in over the course of the day. At present the post has four thumbs up and two hahas, but several of my friends are arguing strongly over Clinton's accomplishments, and at least two more have come on board to try to warn me off making jokes about Clinton. One pointed out that even conservatives, particularly those like David French at National Review say that Donald Trump is dangerous. In French's words: "[Trump is] most dangerous where he has the most power, and that should send a chill down everyone's spine." In my friend's words: "I agree with [French] on this, and probably on little else. I think this is a moment in which fear is fully justified given the madman almost half the country will vote for in a few weeks." Another friend explicitly tried to shame me for the joke: "Hot take: it's good to know that educated white women can be just as dismissive of a woman's accomplishments as a conniving trust fund man-child." "Please," my first friend pleaded with me. "Please, if you can't take a stand [I don't think she means that she would like me to stand for Trump, so I assume she means "in favor of Clinton"], then bow out. With what is at stake, your humor is perilous." Plus, my first friend pointed out: "You have, in humor, equated our first potential female president with an evil, sadistic witch. If you cannot see the harm, and the complete UNfunny nature of that comparison, I am at a loss."

In short, my friends wanted to tell me, be afraid, be very very afraid; this is not the time for making jokes.

Excuse me, but why ever the h*ll not?! One way or another we are about to elect one of the least trusted presidential candidates ever. Even Clinton's supporters don't seem interested in giving her that much support, to judge from the numbers reported turning up for her minimal rallies. This doesn't mean they won't still vote for her, but it does suggest they aren't all that interested in hearing her speak. Likewise, as rousing as Trump's rallies are, he is having a very hard time convincing any one else--at least to judge from the shares on my Facebook feed, not to mention the writers at National Review--to trust him. Darth Vader or Darth Vader? To coin a phrase, at this point, what difference does it make if I post a joke on my Facebook wall pointing up the dilemma our country is caught in? Particularly when, contrary to my friend's confidence in my influence, I have not seen one friend in my Facebook salon change his or her mind thanks to the many articles I have shared over the last ten or twelve months trying to make sense at the very least of why Trump has so many supporters, if not in fact defending him as such. (I saw no point in going there, there are only so many hours in the day, even if I did read Ann Coulter's book.) And when, by the by, David French finds Clinton equally scary, if for rather different reasons.

Well, here my friends are right: it makes all the difference in the world, but not, I would argue, for the reasons they were giving me. You know who else doesn't like jokes? Satan. At least, that is, Milton's magnificent and awe-inspiring Satan brooding over the kingdom that could have been his--should have been his--if only God hadn't gotten in the way of his ambition. Likewise, every earthly tyrant who has ever followed in Satan's footsteps in his (or her--are there female tyrants? There must be, women can do anything men can do) efforts to dominate others' wills. Okay, I admit it, I am channeling Tolkien here, but recall what Gandalf says explicitly about Sauron, when Frodo asks why Sauron should want hobbits as slaves: "He does not need you--he has many more useful servants--but he won't forget you again. And hobbits as miserable slaves would please him far more than hobbits happy and free." This, you will likewise recall, was the proper purpose of the One Ring. Not to make its wearer invisible (as with ordinary magic rings), but rather to bring all the free peoples of Middle-earth under the dominion of Sauron's will.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, 
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

And for what? Not, as Gandalf pointed out, because all or indeed any of those bound would be useful as slaves; Sauron was not interested in making things. What he wanted was control over other people's thoughts.

How can you tell when you have control over other people's thoughts? They no longer laugh. When people are free, as another friend of mine likes to put it, they laugh; they make jokes about everything. But those under the control of tyrants do not laugh; they are too afraid to laugh, because under tyrants, laughter means death. I am sure you can think of a few examples here without my having to tell you. And before you ask, no, I do not think either Clinton or Trump is interested in being a tyrant. But my friends still keep telling me that it is dangerous to laugh. Which is far more frightening than anything I have heard either candidate say.

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