What’s up, Doc? The carrot-smacking, trouble-making, cross-dressing, opera-loving rabbit, the bane of Elmer Fudd’s existence, encapsulates the American psyche. He’s a trickster, a rogue, a mischief-maker — in an earlier incarnation he was Brer Rabbit, and in still earlier forms he was another species entirely — Anansi the spider or Coyote, or any of the many animal avatars of the trickster god.
It was the spirit of Bugs Bunny that had a lot to do with the election of Donald Trump.
Somewhere along the way, we infantilized the stories of the Trickster God, smoothing out all the evil and nastiness and turning them into stories for children. All those stories of Coyote’s adventures where he gets his comeuppance gloss over the parts where Coyote is truly a harmful entity — chaotic neutral at best or chaotic evil. There are plenty of Native American stories about Coyote that are warnings about him, but all everyone remembers are the funny stories.
Same thing happened to Loki. In Norse mythology he causes trouble just for the sake of it, and causes Baldur’s death. But now he’s played by Tom Hiddleston, and he’s gone from chaotic evil to chaotic rowrr! And no, I didn’t bring this up just so I could find a picture of Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Okay. Maybe a little.
I think everyone feels like they have a little bit of Bugs Bunny in them. That’s why the impulse to overturn the applecart was strong enough in overwhelming numbers of people. The same spirit that animated a great many Bernie Sanders supporters could be found in their political opposites, Trump supporters. And everyone thinks the Trickster spirit is mischievous and roguish. You know, Han Solo. (Totally shallow, I admit it straight up.)
Because we equate the Trickster with Bugs Bunny or Coyote with a bandanna, or Tom Hiddleston, we forget the actual, real, true power of shaking things up just for the sake of shaking things up. We think it’s not going to be that bad. We just want to shake the gameboard a bit. And because we’ve stopped telling the real, true dangerous myths about Coyote, we didn’t know what we just wrought.
An entire country turned Trickster on itself.
Now, the destructive spirit is a necessary spirit. The rule of law without the trickster is authoritarianism, fascism. But the rule of the trickster without law is anarchy. With the incoming leadership, we get the worst of both worlds — the authoritarianism we’ve just seen, with the images of racist white nationalists saluting Donald Trump with a Nazi salute, combined with the expedient nature of Trump’s platform. The people in power are a brutal combination of authoritarianism and anarchy — they stand for nothing except their own profit, so everything is fair game. Come January 21, we will actually have a power vacuum.
Don’t take the trickster for granted. The trickster god isn’t Bugs. He’s not adorable Coyote, making mischief and getting his comeuppance. The US played with dangerous forces in this last election. Mythology is not to be taken lightly. Even if we don’t know the true stories, we’re still at their mercy. When the gods come out to play, mortals are the ones who get hurt.
*All images copyright their respective creators.