Trump is the Mythical Trickster, activating Action and Hope

Sitting in front of my computer tonight, the night before Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States, I am resigned to do battle. I am Merry riding double with Eowyn, heading straight into a battle from which there is likely no return.


LOTR, Return of The King, Directed by Peter Jackson for New Line Cinema, adapted from the books by J.R.R.Tolkien

Or am I Eowyn, taking my destiny out of the hands of others and riding into battle with another more innocent than I in my care? I am both.

Donald Trump’s victory took me and many others by surprise. It is a hard lesson and an important one for the Democratic Party, realizing that there were so many people feeling voiceless, exhausted, desperate, defeated, and angry after a long, unwinnable war and a Great Recession which ripped jobs, homes and hope from so many. It has been a tough eight years; my family was on the verge of losing our home more than once during the recession.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Faced with political candidates that represented the same policies that had not produced results, millions of voters put their hope in Trump. He offered a new, everyman appeal that resonated with disenfranchised Americans. A multimillionaire, whose home is gold-plated, who has divorced and bankrupted more times than I care to count, tells us he is going to fix everything and he is the only one who can do it, and many people believe him. Desperation makes people believe and do almost anything.

Donald Trump is what archetypal psychology calls a Trickster. It is not something you try to be, it is an energy that is created by and acts on the culture you live in. We conjured him with our desperation. The father of archetypal psychology, C G Jung writes regarding the Trickster archetype; “. . . he is a faithful reflection of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness, corresponding to a psyche that has hardly left the animal level” (Jung, 1969, p.260 [CW, 9i, para 465]).

and  penned a wonderful description of the Trickster in their essay “Decoding Donald Trump: The Triumph of Trickster Politics:”

“The trickster is a universal figure, appearing in myths across cultures. The trickster is a figure of excess, especially of eating and drinking, and of sexual exploits, often depicted with an enormous phallus — the very grotesqueness of his figure denoting an inversion of order. The trickster is a breaker of taboos, a joker and prankster, the best of companions, but also a thief, a liar and an impostor; the mediator between the gods and the humans, a figure of shadow and night, the one who accompanies the soul of the dead into the underworld, snatching himself a soul now and again. In many storylines, the trickster is a vagrant who happens to stumble into a village, appearing as if out of the blue, just as a crisis has erupted. He tries to gain the confidence of villagers by telling tales and cracking jokes. He is an outsider without existential commitments. He is also a mime, telling people whatever they would like to hear — all according to the occasion. The trickster holds no real knowledge but practices a cunning intelligence. The trickster manages to impose himself, not because of his real qualities, nor by enabling the people around him, but by blurring distinctions. Rather than making clear the difference between truth and lie, the trickster thrives in ambivalence. While presenting himself as a solution to the crisis, he actually perpetuates insecurity by blurring boundaries and undermining the very sense of distinction and judgment. In fact, the trickster is not really interested in solving the crisis. His real interest lies in perpetuating conditions of confusion — his own habitat. The trickster is a demonic clown.

The sense of empowerment that tricksters manage to produce feels real enough for a while, but it evaporates as suddenly as the trickster entered the stage, and dissolves in nothingness. Before that happens, however, entire societies can drive themselves to destruction. The trickster is a professional in creating and escalating division up until violence breaks out, at which point he manages to represent himself as a savior. That is why in many cultures the trickster is defined as a ‘second creator’ — a nullity, a nobody, a prankster who yet, under special circumstances, creates the world in his own image.”

As a Trickster, Trump creates his own reality and it doesn’t matter if he changes his positions from day-to-day to him they are all true. A trickster lies, and in his mind, the ends justify any and all means. So here, now, we are left with all of his campaign promises, with which he won the election.

“I will not touch Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

“I will bring manufacturing back to the US and millions of jobs.”

“I will replace Obama Care with something better and everybody will be covered.”

“I will lower taxes on the Middle Class.”

Time will tell if President Elect Trump will even try to deliver on his promises to his supporters, or if like the Trickster, he will do what he wants when he wants, without care, regret or shame. Only a trickster would nominate people to his cabinet who want to destroy, cripple or eliminate the departments they are nominated to lead.

So, Like Eowyn and Merry, I will ride out and do battle to preserve the environment, slow climate change, preserve public education, save our heath care, social security, support massive infrastructure and green energy spending, fight for civil rights, LGBTQ rights, indigenous people’s rights and women’s rights.

The trickster comes at a time when a society needs to wake up and face its shadow, face its failures and do better. We Can Do Better. We must do better for all Americans, the world, and the generations to come.