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A Crazy Ride to Rivendell on the Way to the Civil Language Project

A while back I introduced the Civil Language Project to the Rabbit Room. Then a couple of weeks ago when I walked through the doors of Church of the Redeemer to participate in the seventh year of Hutchmoot, Pete Peterson greeted me and asked what had become of it? Truth be told, I have been worn down and discouraged. The outcome of this presidential campaign seems hopeless. What’s more, worries about post-November 8 reactions feel oppressive. I was uncomfortable posting about the Civil Language Project with such a negative attitude. So, I didn’t.

But then Hutchmoot happened. Who could go to Hutchmoot and not have his spirits lifted? Who could close out the weekend singing the Doxology with fellow rabbits and not be hopeful? I can’t. And so I am taking up again this topic of civil language. The filth emanating from Trump’s mouth is against us. The rot seeping from Clinton’s emails is against us. Our own addictions to the headlines and tweetstorms and memes is against us. That’s probably why I’ve gone crazy and come up with this:


Father Christmas’s sledge is about to burst forth from Helm’s Deep.

“Now, Shadowfax! Now, Nahar! Now, Fatty Lumpkin and Lightfoot! On, Hasufel! On, Bill! On, Windfola and Firefoot!”

Mrs. Beaver calls after her husband, “You’ve forgotten your supper, dear!”

He doesn’t hear her. He’s climbing onto Treebeard’s shoulder next to Merry and Pippin. Even the mighty ent sways, as Father Christmas floors it. He’s trying to keep up with Landroval, who has spotted Donald Trump’s Boeing 757 and is in hot pursuit.

Orc arrows—which look strikingly similar to Hillary Clinton’s logo—clink off the bottom of the sledge. A shadow crosses over the pursuers and the heart-stopping cry of a Nazgul rends the air. Father Christmas groans. The hobbits and the beaver cover their ears. Rush Limbaugh vomits on his golden microphone. Al Franken’s glasses shatter. But Susan reaches for her horn, raises it to her mouth, and exhales big. And I mean, biiiiggg!

Instantly, a flying coffin rockets past the sledge, directly towards the wraith. Nearer. Nearer. It’s about to ram the winged beast when the top of the coffin flies off and a stark-naked philologist leaps onto the black rider and rips him limb to limb using only his teeth and bare hands.

Now, back to the chase, Father Christmas’s sledge is so close they can see through the windows of the plane. There’s Trump! They can see the whites of his eyes. They can read his lips. He’s talking—as always.

“Oh, would you look at this,” he says. “This is too precious. Here comes the media bus. A bunch of lying, cheating, sons . . .”

His pilot takes evasive measures and the lurch of the plane throws an orange tuft of hair across Trump’s mouth.

“I hope you were going to say, ‘sons and daughters of Aslan,’ you gambling, philandering, demagogue!”

“Lucy!” says Peter, scolding.

A burst of speed only Shadowfax could muster sends the sledge alongside the plane. Treebeard reaches out a limb and palms the fuselage like he’s squeezing the last uncracked stone in Isengard.

“Who’s on the move now?” chortles Mr. Beaver.

Pippin turns to Merry. “I have not labored this hard or for this long on such an empty stomach since Grishnákh dragged us away from Parth Galen.”

The two hobbits empathetically look into each other’s eyes. Without another word they simultaneously reach for their pipes and leaf.

Father Christmas turns to his co-pilot, “Where to? Mordor?”

“Old friend, for this errand we need neither smoke nor flame,” says Gandalf. “Only a deeper magic, all but lost in these our darkened days, can kindle hope now. Take our cargo to Rivendell. There we must place our trust in the ministrations of hospitality.”

Boromir sulks.

In my next post, I will discuss hospitality and the Civil Language Project.

[Editor’s note: I intend to hold him to that promise.]


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