Eucatastrophe is my favorite new word, taught me by The Tolkien Professor. According to the online definition, a eucatastrophe is “a sudden and favorable resolution of events in a story; a happy ending.” The happy ending is signified by the prefix “eu,” meaning good. Which leaves the word “catastrophe” to be reckoned with. “Catastrophe” is unequivocally defined as something disastrous.
My favorite example (I think the Prof references it as well) is the scene in The Lord of the Rings wherein Gollum attacks Frodo on the brink of the Cracks of Doom and bites the ring finger from his hand. It is the catastrophe which enables the happy ending.
Now, I don’t necessarily see Joe Biden as the happy ending for which we have all longed, but I do think it is possible to see the unexpected election of Donald Trump to be the catastrophe which makes a better future possible. It was rumored that Ralph Nader hoped that his entry into the race would ensure the election of George W, and that that outcome would precipitate the “revolution.”
So let me say right here and now, eucatastrophes cannot be brought about by machination. These events are, by their very natures, unforeseen. George W. Bush was duly elected and the revolution did not materialize. Instead, there was an event, 9/11, which no one in the political realm could have predicted and which made any kind of internal reorganization moot. Eucatastrophes by their very nature must rise from the soul of the people who bring them about. The folks who were responsible for Trump’s victory voted for him in good faith – they thought they heard someone speaking their language, which they thought meant that they were understood. They bit off the finger that held the ring. That was the catastrophe.
No Sauron, Donald Trump. Not even a Saruman, for Saruman began as a champion of order, if not good. As a maker, not a destroyer. I think of Trump as more of a Wormtongue, in service to the illusion of strength and power, and slave to his own ego. His Sarumans are Putin and Xi and Kim Jong Un. His Sauron is the capacity for hate and fear that lurks in all humanity, waiting to be called forth to wreak havoc.
The movement toward a eucatastrophe began in earnest the day after the inauguration when the women of America poured into the streets to protest this new incarnation of evil intent. The eucatastrophe continued with March For Our Lives and Black Lives Matter. It continued with the midterm elections of 2018. And it continues today with the nominations of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
The catastrophe of Donald Trump’s election has resulted in cascading catastrophes in civil rights, environmental protections, and foreign relations. The onset of Covid-19, a catastrophe in its own right, has resulted in a further cascade of job losses and actual human life.
No other president has been able to set the stage for so much rebuilding, re-imagining of the American enterprise than Donald Trump, but for that I refuse to thank him. The revolution may be almost here, but the price paid has been almost too high. In what other era can nearly 180,000 Americans die, over a thousand a day now, and not be called a catastrophic loss?
Now it is our job to make the catastrophe of the last four years into a genuine eucatastrophe, rededicating ourselves to building a national community of light and love, healing and harmony, with liberty and justice for all. As my mother used to say, each and every morning, get up, get up, there’s work to be done.