Deplorable Words


BEFORE NARNIA THERE was Charn. Mighty Charn, which fell at last because Jadis, its final Queen, was willing to utter the “Deplorable Word”. C.S. Lewis describes the scene in his “prequel” to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Magician’s Nephew.

“The last great battle”, said the Queen, “raged for three days here in Charn itself. For three days I looked down upon it from this very spot. I did not use my power till the last of my soldiers had fallen, and the accursed woman, my sister, at the head of her rebels was halfway up those great stairs that lead up from the city to the terrace. Then I waited till we were so close that we could see one another’s faces. She flashed her horrible, wicked eyes upon me and said, ‘Victory.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘Victory, but not yours.’ Then I spoke the Deplorable Word. A moment later I was the only living thing beneath the sun.”

Written in 1955, as the Cold War was fast freezing the world into a seemingly permanent balance of terror, Lewis’ Deplorable Word did not require too much in the way of effort to decode. What else could he be thinking of but the growing global stockpile of nuclear weapons? Clearly, Lewis was convinced that even if a war between the superpowers began with conventional weapons, it would inevitably be ended by their doomsday devices. Whichever side found itself facing inevitable defeat would, like Queen Jadis, insist on having the last word – even at the cost of all life on Earth.

Now, in 2019, with the Cold War a distant memory, it is possible to read another meaning into Lewis’ Deplorable Word. Before making the attempt, however, let’s hear some more about it from the mouth of the evil Queen:

“That was the secret of secrets,” said the Queen Jadis. “It had long been known that there was a word which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it. But the ancient kings were weak and soft-hearted and bound themselves and all who should come after them with great oaths never even to seek after the knowledge of that word. But I learned it in a secret place and paid a terrible price to learn it.

Those weak and soft-hearted kings of Charn did not want to die, but, being wise, they knew that, in the end, Death comes to us all. Of much more importance to them was their posterity. Charn was a mighty empire: the crowning achievement of their world. Keep it alive, and with it all the many and mighty accomplishments of its living people. That was all that mattered. That was why they did all they could to prevent the Deplorable Word from ever being spoken.

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Though he is very far from resembling the beautiful and terrible Queen of Charn, the present President of the United States, Donald Trump, shares her pathological hunger for recognition and power – even at the cost of the American republic’s utter destruction.

The difference between the President and the Queen, however, is that he is not content with just one deplorable word. Trump has made himself the master of many, many deplorable words. Hundreds of them. Thousands. As many as it takes to kill all the living institutions out of which the democratic spirit of America was fashioned. As many as it takes to destroy decency and dignity and public decorum. As many as it takes to overwhelm all the traditions and values that made America truly great. Words so deplorable that they snuff-out the living light of American liberty and justice – even as they kindle the roaring bonfires of American rage and hate.

Trump uses these words in exactly the same way as Jadis used her single word. To win – no matter what the cost. He knows the power of words. He understands the damage they can do. The bitter divisions they can open up. The fear they can inspire. The lust to inflict harm which they can trigger. But, like Queen Jadis, he doesn’t care. America must he his – even if he’s the only person left standing who doesn’t feel duped and sullied and robbed of everything they held dear.

The terrible magic he has unleashed on the four congresswomen of colour is proof of just what a powerful political wizard he has become. First he singles out the women as enemies of America, and then, when their Democratic Party comrades hasten to their defence, he turns their gestures of solidarity into evidence of treason. See how far the stain of “radical socialism” has spread, he tells his baying supporters. “Throw them out!” they chant. “Throw them out!”

The American presidents who came before Trump knew the power of these deplorable words, which is why they foreswore them. Such fastidiousness strikes Trump, just as it struck Queen Jadis, as “weak and soft-hearted”. If the only object of the game of power is to rule, then what does it matter if everything of value in the republic you have made your own has been destroyed?



  1. Whew. How right you are, and how extraordinarily bad Trump is.

    Back to Lewis: “I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till the word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces? ” ‘Till We Have Faces’ , his last novel, which I occasionally reread.

    But is there any great difference between what Trump has done to America, and our last National government in particular, doing so much which was not in the interests of this little country or of NZ’ers ? Albeit with less clearly defined motives ?

  2. We are witnessing the rise and rise of the Amerikan Reich

    Make no mistake, fascism is on the march again

    We are living in perilous times

    • Rubbish Mjolnir.
      Trump will win 2020 not because he is a great person, but because the economy is going great and lowest unemployment for blacks and Hispanics in almost 60 years.
      PLUS: Democrat nominees publically agreeing with open borders and Medicare for all (including all illegal immigrants)….just these 2 alone will guarantee Trump the win.
      Silent majority will give him a landslide, Democrats moving further and further left is just playing into his hands and frightening the middle/moderate voters.

      • I remember Key and the Rockstar economy. But like Trump, Key left many homeless and only the wealthy to prosper.

        • And significant publicly owned infrastructure had been privatised in spite of a public referendum heavily against that happening.

          The untrustworthy bastards do as the like once they have your vote. The lies, obfuscate to leave behind more wealth and assets for the wealthy class and international investors who finance them personally.

          Key left nothing that has helped the poor or lower “classes”

          Kiwi build from Labour is a public / private partnership not a govt scheme.

          We need State Housing.

      • No.
        Trump will not win for those reasons.
        Trump will win because
        1) the “silent majority” as you call them, aka the non-thinking masses, will believe what he tells them and he tells them what they want to believe.
        2) The Democrats will chose an opponent that will be a pale imitation of Trump instead of a real opponent.
        By the way – “great people” do not lead by causing division, they lead by creating unity.

      • He will win the election because he is an entertainer. A villainous one rather than a heroic one, but that doesn’t matter. The media cover every stupid thing he says or does; that’s what matters. It doesn’t matter a fig how contradictory his outbursts are and the more offensive the better. It’s all about entertainment. But helped by the democrats competing with each other for ridicule and farce .
        D J S

        • David Stone: “He will win the election because he is an entertainer. A villainous one rather than a heroic one, but that doesn’t matter.”

          Yup. Most of what he says is showboatery. Though anent that villainy, he’s actually no worse than his predecessors; possibly better than some. Certainly better than the odious Obama, whose smooth language and ability to make a good speech diverted attention from the awful things he did or oversaw while in power.

          “The media cover every stupid thing he says or does; that’s what matters.’

          Precisely. The media, being liberal, hates Republican presidents and gives them a hard time (even though it wheeled in behind GW Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the WMD fiction).

          We know what this president thinks and says because of Twitter; we’ve had to wait for declassification to find out the worst about his predecessors.

          It’s worth reminding people that Trump came to power with a platform of wanting to get along with Russia, and to withdraw the US from foreign wars. It seems that, in that regard, he’s been comprehensively hornswoggled by the Washington Establishment. What? No war, neo-cold or hot? Egad, sir, are you crazy?

          He’ll likely win another term, firstly because the economic indicators are generally improving (and, as Clinton famously said, it’s the economy, stupid!), and secondly because voters as a rule give a president two terms: one-termers are the exception. That’s certainly been the pattern throughout my life.

          • Yes D’ESTERRE it is quite possible that he was truthful in what he claimed were his priorities and is being completely controlled . And that he will take the rap for actions he feels fervently against. How we ever find that out I don’t know. But it is a question that is limited in it’s relevance to his person.
            On the other hand it must be acknowledged that he has not yet actually started a war. After the Iranians downed the spy-drone a few weeks ago he announced a last minute cancelation of an attack with planes already in the air. Because he found out 150 people might die. No one could possibly have been expected to believe that this had only just occurred to him. What the situation might have been was that he was not informed of the attack until the planes were in the air, and given a few minutes to decide if he was determined enough to stop it and take the rap for the stupidity of reversing the move at such a late stage and then having to come up with some justification.
            Remember in the first hours of his presidency he had suddenly to decide if he would OK a drone hit on a US citizen and some of his family that was all ready to go after weeks of preparation. I bet that was a setup to start the “management” process.
            D J S
            D J S

  3. I know a cabbage tree which is completely rotten but it stands 4 metres high. Feeble aggression would destroy it. The American Republic and Donald Trump.

  4. Interesting analogy Chris, but I think you’ve missed a very large point that I think Trump is effectively making.

    What it appears he is trying to do is antagonise the hell out of the far left of the democrats, to make them appear to be unhinged and easy to goad. So that any candidate they put up against him, he will able to paint them with the same brush. By goading them on and offending those (he knows) will react with outrage, he is pushing the whole democratic party further left, all while job creation and an improving economy takes more centralist voters away for them.

    The outraged are never going to vote for him anyway, but the bigger their outrage and higher their shrills, the more people who are going to look at them and think they’re the crazy ones.

    It’s a risky, but calculated brilliant strategy.

    • Correct, and don’t all politicians do the same? Us lefties are nutty and therefore easy pickins.

    • Too clever by half. Why the place is rotten to the core. Always edging away from legitimacy by the clever strokes of the powerful for themselves. The politics of America has already eliminated the influence of the atomised and lower 50% — the powerful congratulate themselves as they head toward the iceberg.

      The thousand thousand opinions push people to some safe harbour that’ tells’ them the truth. And by their nature these unrational refuges support power over truth. Not surprising most of us go that way because of our simple hunter-gatherer background. We bring the temple down on our heads.

      The fly in this web is that it no longer goes on forever with more or less proper reliance on human ingenuity. Over-optimistically, like all climate change forecasts, 12 years to do something about it, and a decade or two on to be depressed by a comfortable view of the upcoming end.

      The personal politics of approaching our own ends, without the comforting hormonal changes and death of brain cells, transferred to general politics. In that light the American powerful eating the weak is the appropriate action in the law of the jungle of save as save can. No worries about undermining your foundations when there is no future.

      Something central to the bloom of wealth originating from the industrial revolution about that.

  5. Even if Trump declares the 4th Reich. Medicare destroyed the Republicans in 2018 and will do so again in 2020. Unstoppable double-tap.

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