I should be past being shocked by Donald Trump’s boorish, ignorant and outlandish utterances. But his seemingly off the cuff comment that he was the “Chosen One”, whilst glancing to the sky, coming so closely on the heels of his quite frankly blasphemous and antisemitic claim that Israeli Jews see him as “the King of Israel and the Second Coming of God” was one of the weirdest moments in a long run of weird, cruel, ghastly, violent moments that this man has cursed the office of the American President with.
Because as a student of Story, of myth and folklore, of fantastic realms and metaphorical wonders, the phrase “The Chosen One” carries a great deal of weight – and it’s a weight that Donald J Trump is not equipped to carry.
The Chosen One is one of the Core Archetypal stories that comes to us through every genre and medium of storytelling. It’s a trope that drives countless franchises. It’s used to subvert expectations, used to inspire, used to encourage and used to unite us behind the people with ideas and ideals (because it’s easier to follow a [chosen] person with an idea than to follow an abstract idea on its own. And the thing is, this last way that the chosen one is used does shed some light on how and why Trump is where he is.)
Because in a way, he is a chosen one. But a chosen one without his own power or influence, a figurehead chosen by the powers – whether that be Putin (perhaps), the NRA, the Misogynist and white supremacist dragons in their death throes, the Fossil Fuel purveyors and the fundamentalist evangelicals desperate to overthrow Roe and Obergefell and usher in their Real World version of “Left Behind”. Yes, maybe I’m a tad “conspiracy theorist” here, but it’s clear (to me at least) that Donald is the tip of the iceberg, the face of something that’s been rotting at the core – and not just in America. He’s a symptom of the rot, but their movement having been given a face and a voice and a narcissistic ego (and oh BOY what an ego!) is somehow given a power beyond himself; and that’s why he now feels comfortable calling himself The Chosen One.
Because what separates Donald Trump (and those like him here in the UK – Johnson, Farage, Rees-Mogg) from the Chosen Ones of Myth is his incapacity to imagine benefit for anyone but himself. It’s his incapacity to empathise, his incapacity to consider laying down on the wire, his incapacity to choose to be vulnerable himself not because of any power or influence he might have, but in spite of it. It’s his utter lack of being able to choose the good of another person even in his own vulnerability and lack of power. It’s his utter inability to share that power, to share being chosen, to choose the sacrificial way of stepping down and letting someone else be chosen.
When I think of Chosen Ones, I think of Buffy, of Harry, of Neo, of Anakin. I think of Steve Rogers and King Arthur. I think of Thor and Katniss. And I think of the Man Jesus of Nazareth whom Christians believe is the Son of God and the Anointed One promised.
The Chosen One is often chosen at random, a quirk of birth, simply being in the right place at the right time; the Powers that Be bestowing the “luck of the Gods” on one person. They have power, sometimes influence, often opposition. They often prickle against the responsibility and their “separateness” can often lead to isolation and a dangerous dark path of arrogance. They face disappointments and defeats. But they always get up. And there almost always undoubtedly comes a moment where they can embrace “godhood” and use their power to dominate and conquer. If they choose to do so. The greatest of the Chosen Ones turn away from such domination. An even more pivotal choice comes when they are powerless, at the bottom of themselves, empty – but still choose their destiny anyway. And given the choice between running and saving themselves, or embracing the core of who they are and stepping between a vulnerable person and harm, they take that step to defend another. They do not hesitate to stand up to the bully, to take the bullet, to save a life, to give their own.
That’s a Chosen One. Buffy died twice to save the world. Harry’s protection was rooted in the self sacrifice of his mother. Arthur chooses a round table where no man lords it over another. Neo accepts he is the one. A powerless Thor offers himself to protect a town. Anakin fails his tests for most of his life, chooses domination, chooses power – but in the end he fulfills his destiny as a Chosen One by putting himself in harms way to destroy the Emperor and protect Luke (I’m not entirely convinced this last act entirely redeems Anakin … maybe that’s another post down the line somewhere…). Diana (Wonder Woman) and Carol (Captain Marvel) choose to reject the lies that they are not special or powerful ans step into their destinies to protect and help others. And back to Buffy – her ultimate act was to share her power so that every girl who had the potential to be Chosen would be Chosen.
But all these Mythical Chosen Ones draw their true power from the Archetype of all Chosen Ones. The Anointed One. The Prince Of Peace. The Alpha and Omega. The Way, The Vine, The Bread, The Gate, The Good Shepherd, The Resurrection. He who shares His glory with us (good luck getting Trump sharing anything); He who set aside his privilege (yep, Trump holds onto his privilege so tightly he strangles it); He who is Tender and Comforting and Merciful; He who above all Chose not to blast his enemies but to defeat them by turning them to friends, to family; He who showed the lie of Redemptive Violence by dying at the hand of a brutal, bullying oppressor and then reversing the power of death – appearing not just as “someone who was revived after death” but whose appearance convinced the heartbroken cowards who had abandoned Him that He had Conquered Death.
The Chosen One is Christus Victor, the brown man from Galilee. Not a grifting, lying, abusive, misogynistic, White Supremacist from Queens New York.