The Drawing Of The Three:
Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3.vii-
The Pusher, Chapter 1.ii
All Things Serve The Election
Unsurprisingly, I had a fair amount of trouble focusing on this blog this week, as I’m sure many of you had trouble focusing on your own work and life. For the past few days, it seems all of our attention has been locked onto the same thing: the election.
It’s an historic event, and events like this, that soak up everyone’s focus, are imbued with a sort of magic. They seem to make everything bend in their direction, like leaves or clouds bending along the path of a beam. And of course this election is magic, for at its heart an election is nothing but a narrative, one with heroes and villains and dramatic conflict. Here at the Church of the Cosmic Turtle, we know how magical a strong narrative can be.
”One of those political fellas. Probably you’d know, Miz Holmes. I loved him, and I cried the night he was elected—“ – Andrew Feeny, The Drawing of the Three, p. 205
So, when I read this week’s pages and reflected on what I wanted to write about, my thoughts were immediately sucked into the election’s beam, like a compass needle distracted by a magnet. I felt as though everything happening to Roland, Eddie, and O/Detta was commenting on what’s happening in this country. Setting aside the outcome of this election (as of this writing there has yet to be a winner declared), I’m talking about the nature of the choice itself.
Blue Plates & Blue States
Seeing the “Jekyll and Hyde” act of O/Detta play out on the beach, it seemed liked the perfect metaphor for how divided our country has become. On one side you have Odetta, who is a hero for doing what she did in Oxford Town, and who conservatives of today would call a liberal elite Social Justice Warrior. She is idealistic in the best and worst ways, fighting the good fight while harboring some dangerous blind spots, just like many on the left often do (myself included).
The phrase was “limousine liberal,” and she was young enough not to want to be seen as one even if she really was one. – The Drawing of the Three, p. 220
On the other side you have Detta, who is hateful, angry, and prejudiced. Of course in the case of America, our Detta doesn’t hate white people, but just the opposite: our Detta is White Supremacy, an angry, ignorant, dangerous force that has been festering and growing while Odetta goes on pretending there isn’t any problem.
This election has forced the country to face these two versions of itself, just as Roland will soon force Odetta and Detta to face one another. In the books the result is Susannah, a gunslinger imbued with all of Odetta’s and Detta’s strengths and almost none of their weaknesses. Will the result of this election be the same? Will our country come out stronger for it? We’ll just have to wait and let Ka speak for itself.
Be On Your Guard
But waiting for Ka is not good enough. Eddie’s failure to heed Roland’s warning reminded me of election night four years ago, when almost half the country suddenly revealed themselves to be supporters of a racist bully. Like Eddie being pistol-whipped by Detta in the middle of the night, it was a real shock to the system. A real wake-up call.
So our jaw swelled up, and we felt the stinging humiliation of a lesson hard-learned, and we promised ourselves we wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. After 2016 we swore we wouldn’t underestimate the Detta side of this country again, just like Eddie promised Roland he would truly be on his guard the next time…
”I’m telling you again: Be on your guard. Every moment. If her other comes back, don’t wait even a second. Brain her.” – The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, p. 315
But what does Eddie do at the end of this week’s chapters? He gives Roland’s gun to Odetta. And here we are four years later: as the numbers started coming in on Tuesday and it became clear this would be a very close race, I suddenly got the feeling like maybe we dropped our guard again, just like good ‘ol Eddie. Did we really leave Detta alone with a gun and possibly-live ammo? Is it possible we underestimated the number of Dettas in this country yet again?
Just like Detta doesn’t fully disappear after Susannah takes over, the problems with this country won’t disappear even if Biden wins. It’s important to remember that Detta lives deep, deep down in Susannah’s heart and mind. No matter who wins the election, and no matter who wins the next one and the one after that, we must always be on our guard against that hateful side of ourselves.
There was one more line in this week’s reading that felt apropos of this week’s events: When Roland and Eddie reach the third door together only to find O/Detta gone, King reiterates how close Roland is to death. Then: “Perhaps, he thought, the time had come to end it; to just cry off. At this, everything in him rose up in protest.” (p. 340).
I read this passage in between distracted bouts of Twitter scrolling and cable news surfing. At the time it was still neck-and-neck, and I suddenly found myself looking down the barrel of four more years of the current administration. The thought nearly gave me a panic attack; I couldn’t conceive of continuing on with things the way they’ve been going, and when I read this I felt like Sai King was writing about this exact moment in time.
He was now very sick and he found himself wondering if perhaps things hadn’t gone too far. His arms and legs ached, his head thudded, his chest was heavy and full of snot. – The Drawing of the Three, p. 340
Just the possibility of losing was enough to tip me over the edge and into a pit of despair and disillusionment. But reading this line of prose helped me gain control of my anxiety, to gather my strength and keep going. Suddenly I was reminded of the millions of activists and organizers who have risen up in protest over the past four years. Even when our future looked its bleakest they refused to accept that “the time had come to end it,” and as the vote counting continues, it seems like their determination to survive has paid off.
But being on our guard, we know we have to stay vigilant. We have to keep fighting if we actually want to truly make change, and that means we can’t ever give up, we can’t ever “cry off”. We must stand true, no matter how close to losing we are.