Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence suggested in an interview with British Network Channel 4 last week that she thought that the succession of three devastating hurricanes this season, Harvey, Irma and Jose, was an expression of Mother Nature’s “rage and wrath” at the results of an election she personally admitted to finding confounding. I am sure the well-known actress is not alone in relating her personal emotional horror with respect to the outcome of Presidential Election 2016 to the storms that have recently plagued the U.S.
This is an old trope in ancient folklore–and some would say in ancient wisdom traditions, as well–to understand the health of the land is a mirror and reflection of the health of the king. The two were incontrovertibly connected. In the Hebrew Bible, as one example, misbehavior by the king resulted in illness and plague among the populace of the land of Israel. There are similar notions in Celtic mythology. This trope appears in literature as well, in such masterpieces as Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” “Hamlet” and “King Lear.” For example, soon after Macbeth takes the throne of Scotland by murder, strange and supernatural events begin occurring in the land. Animals no longer follow their true nature and begin to act in debased ways. The land and the animals upon it have become inevitably corrupted by the ascension of a false and evil king. This is a situation that, in literature, can only be righted by the return of the true king to the throne. Then the land will heal, and animal nature will become natural again. In the Bible, a return to health only occurs once the king commits himself to a deep and true penitence.
As I said, Jennifer Lawrence is not alone in her condemnation of large segments of the population. Remember the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which sustained a militant Islamist terrorist attack on its office in 2015 in which 12 of its employees were murdered because it had dared to mock the prophet Mohammed? The same magazine produced a cover two weeks ago mocking the victims of Hurricane Harvey as drowned neo-Nazis. The assumption here seems to be that everyone, indiscriminately, who lives in Texas is a neo-Nazi. Talk about your nuanced political analysis. Even more damaging, little did the editors at Charlie Hebdo realize that Harris County, the section of Houston which was most damaged by Hurricane Harvey, was a deep blue, Hillary-voting enclave in a red city, in a red state.
How is that for paradox?
In any case, it is a bit of an odd statement for Jennifer Lawrence to make publicly. Formerly, there seemed to exist a national consensus that when U.S. evangelical Christian leaders, such as Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, related the corrupt state of society to storm systems and other natural disasters in which many people were devastated or lost their lives, such commentary was understood as ignorant and deserving only of public rebuke and mockery. But now the shoe is on the other foot and a different set of people are looking for ways to make sense of the current cycle of destruction in our natural world.
Indeed, if you have personally been living in an emotional storm of resistance and obstruction since President Trump was elected last year, it is easy to see how you might conflate the state of your raging inner world with catastrophic hurricanes that are currently taking aim at the United States. But this does require a very healthy dose of narcissism and the assumption that your inner state reflects the true state of Mother Nature.
The thing is, though, the advent of democracy and the dethroning of King George III in 1776 irrevocably severed the post-Renaissance, European idea of the divine right of kings and their invisible, inseperable relationship to the health of the land. Modern Americans banished this belief a long time ago when they fought for their independence from monarchy. And replaced it with the cherished notion of individualism.
So it’s no good returning now to this outdated notion.
Not even when you can use it to blame the opposition.
Mara Schiffren, a Campus Watch Fellow, is a Writer and Functional Medicine Health Coach who lives in North Salem. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org