Like many a good west coast liberal, I woke up Wednesday morning the 9th of November feeling like I had joined the cast of The Walking Dead.
Donald J. Trump, a man who slightly over half of this year's voting population feel is a man of many flaws, had been elected president of the United States. And slightly under half of this year's voting population (so let's just call it 50/50) were relieved that Hillary Clinton, who they feel is a woman of many flaws, had been denied the presidency.
Despite being partisan, I think I can objectively say that Hillary Clinton's are possibly the typical flaws of a seasoned politician, whereas Donald J. Trump's flaws may well be the tragic flaws of an individual of overweening pride. My take on this, though, giving the 50/50 country we live in, obviously is debatable. But this viewpoint rests easily with me as I've have just published a novel, IMP: A Political Fantasia (Crossroad Press), wherein the protagonist is a president of overweening pride, a man who feels it is his destiny to lead, and a man who is intolerant of those who do not think like him.
My president, Thomas P. Powell, is otherwise not much like Donald J. Trump--he is quite a bit younger and, at the beginning of the novel, he is the vice-president anxious to move up to that last rung on the ladder. But it is the broad similarities between Trump and Powell that have suddenly made my novel more relevant than I had ever wanted it to be.
IMP: A Political Fantasia was not written as a response to the last eighteen months or so of political campaigning. It actually started life fifteen years ago as a screenplay. But my decision to turn it into a novel may well have been, for I started it in late June of 2015. At that time, though, people in both parties were completely discounting Trump as a serious candidate. We west coast liberals were more concerned, and had been for a while, about the Ted Cruzes, the Marco Rubios, the Rand Pauls of the Republican Party, people we view as hard and unbending in their self-righteousness, their refusal to compromise, and what we suspect is their shared, possibly secret, yet individual-to-each sense that they are destined for greatness precisely because of their self-righteousness and their refusal to compromise. And though they were all serious candidates, I truly felt none of them would go on to win the presidency, felt it confidently enough to wonder if IMP would have any relevance at all, even if I personally enjoyed telling the story.
But now, given the outcome of last Tuesday's election, my novel has become for me not just an exercise in the practice of my art and its launch into a world wider than my own mind, but a fulcrum of hope. Or if not hope, of solace. Or if not of hope or solace, of a fantasy I can go hide in for at least the next four years.
IMP: A Political Fantasia is of that un-named sub-genre most famously occupied by Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, where a protagonist, through the agency of supernatural intervention--or possibly just a bad dream--learns something about himself and others and the world that brings about a change in the protagonist that we not so much can believe in, but fervently want to believe in. In A Christmas Carol, the supernatural agents are Marley and the Christmas ghosts. In It's a Wonderful Life it is Clarence the wingless angel. And in IMP it is, unsurprisingly, an imp, a small homunculus, who, one night, crawls out of Thomas P. Powell's right ear to take him on strange and surreal journeys both fascinating and frightening. Possibly they are journeys of self-knowledge. Possibly they are journeys of worlds around him. Most likely they are journeys of both. They are journeys that ultimately become, as in the case of Dickens' Scrooge, journeys of redemption.
Now the odd thing is, despite having written IMP, I'm not sure I actually believe in redemption. Maybe people never change. I know I would like to believe in redemption, but I find the whole concept suspect. For it has always seemed to me that most people believe in redemption for others and rarely for themselves. Still, it's a satisfying thought, and it was a fun story to spin (I may or may not mean that in a political way).
But the real point here is, Will there be a redemption for President Trump? Despite having written of a supernatural agent, I don't believe in supernatural agents. So I can't hold out hope for that. Is there any other kind of hope I can offer to myself and my fellow 50% of the voting population? If there is, it may only be in the weight of the office and the weight of history, two totally natural agents of change.
Donald Trump seems to be the sort of man who gets his sense of self from being in the limelight, or--more intensely--the spotlight. As a business man that spotlight came from being tough, uncompromising, bending, if not breaking, the rules when necessary, and willing to not only beat but beat down the competition and those who stand in his way. As a reality TV star that spotlight came simply from weekly exposure as a reality TV star. But as president that spotlight, if it is not to be harsh and condemning, but warm and full of accolades, may well come from rising above the character he has always been, a character that is, my 50% believe, antithetical to good governance and inspirational leadership. Or it may come from Trump drawing out of himself a character he has possibly suppressed or which has been in abeyance because it was never needed, that would be more conducive to good governance and inspirational leadership. This change of character, if not redemption, does not come automatically with the seal of the presidency. But a sudden understanding that history will long remember and minutely note presidential actions does. Is it wrong of me, then, to hold out the hope that in Trump's case change, maybe redemption, might be a possibility?
Should I go back into my own novel, not as its writer but simply as a reader, to see if there is a hook there that I might hang that hope on? Why not? And if it could at all provide that same hook to the fellow members of my 50%, I would consider it to be a job well done, even if it is not the job I had intended to do.