The Contagion of Evil

             When Donald Trump became a candidate for president of the United States, there was a fairly substantial number of Republicans who pushed back against his rhetoric, his name-calling, and his general disregard for diplomacy and decorum.

His fellow candidates decried his lack of character. This man was no serious contender, they seemed to suggest. He was compared to a used car salesman; candidate Ted Cruz called him a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” and a “narcissist.” The battle was brutal. Nothing, though, that Trump said or did riled his supporters, his almighty “base.” There was no lie, no insult, no racial or sexual slur, no put-down of American heroes – nothing – that could pull them from his side, and he won. (https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/03/politics/donald-trump-rafael-cruz-indiana/index.html)

And now, most of the Republicans who criticized him are glued to his side, seeking his help and support, making excuses for him, with no shame.

It is difficult to watch.

What Cruz said about Trump is true: he is, in fact, a pathological liar, and a shameless one at that. But Cruz sucked up to him in order to win his bid for reelection to the Senate, and he won. Lindsay Graham, who had many crass words for Trump, is now acting like his best friend, basically endorsing anything Trump says he wants to do. Mitch McConnell is a shameless sycophant, leading the Senate to honor the president and his wishes over the well-being of the country whose constitution he swore to honor and protect.

The evil of Trump, simply put, spread. The late theologian Walter Wink said that evil is a contagion and said that many people who fight evil will become evil. Specifically, he said, “…the struggle against evil can make us evil and no amount of good intentions automatically prevents this from happening.” (http://www.lqve.org/blog/2018/11/9/the-real-struggle) It seems that the majority of Republicans, who may have prided themselves on being “good” and on the right side of morality, have slipped into Trump’s moat and have found that deep within, they are not all that different from him. Moreover, they do not seem to care; the contagion has infected their very souls.

The partial government shutdown has illustrated the depth of the evil that is bubbling around us. Few of the Republican senators have voiced outrage or concern for the nearly 1 million people who did not get paid. Few have offered any solution which would indicate that they care about or worry about how people are going to get through this economic catastrophe. Graham is on record as having told Trump to go ahead and declare a “national emergency,” not caring about how doing that will seriously undermine the capacity of such an emergency to be called if really needed. (Reports say that there is no “national emergency” on the Southern border.)

Even as discussion about other ways to get the $5.6 billion Trump is asking for, there has been little outrage at the suggestion that money designated to help cities in America hit by natural disasters be redirected to build “the wall.” The so-called “fiscal conservatives” are showing their willingness to spend money at will, and Trump himself said that he doesn’t worry about the consequences of the tremendous debt he is incurring because when that happens, he won’t be around. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-on-coming-debt-crisis-i-wont-be-here-when-it-blows-up.

To not care about those who suffer is evil. To buy into policies that will adversely affect millions of people is evil. To act like your life is the only one that matters is evil. It is as though Trump sneezed and his infected droplets fell all over the souls of the GOP. The evil is spreading, following the path on which other democracies found themselves before they ultimately fell. And the evil is not just spreading among the lawmakers; it is spreading amongst the general population. Extrajudicial, state-sanctioned shootings are not only continuing but increasing; white civilians are calling the police on black people at will; hate crimes are rising, and there seems to be no “doctor in the house,” no lawmaker or judge who is concerned about the decaying of our social fabric.

Walter Wink was right. Evil is contagious, and like a necrotic bacteria, it is eating this country alive.

A candid observation …

 

The Screeching Silence of GOP Lawmakers

I grew up believing in the American political system and was comforted by my civics lessons which taught me that our governmental structure protected our country from becoming a dictatorship.

The three branches of government, with the system of “checks and balances” built in, were put there by Founding Fathers, who had seen first-hand what tyranny looked like.

But what I see today is a complete breakdown of this government. The man who promised to “make America great again” and to “drain the swamp” is methodically and strategically breaking down the government as we have known it, and is filling the swamp with new sea monsters.

What is most disturbing is the silence of the GOP. There have been precious few who have criticized this president, few who have dared stand up and demand that he and the Congress honor their promise to “preserve and protect” the Constitution of the United States.

While there is ample evidence to show how this president began this openly virulent political season, his GOP friends refuse to call him on it. They follow him like hungry dogs follow anyone who might have food. They excuse and explain away his lies; they resort to pointing out the shortcomings of Democrats when confronted with the hateful rhetoric spewed by the president. They shuffle along and grin, looking like hapless, toothless sycophants. And it is disturbing to watch.

While in Germany this year, I read how the German people actually gave the government to Adolph Hitler. In 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg named Hitler the chancellor of the Nazi Party, largely because he was intimidated by Hitler’s rise to power. He worked to make Germany a one-party state,  he expanded and increased the powers of the Gestapo, and worked to silence or eliminate any opposition. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/adolf-hitler-is-named-chancellor-of-germany) In 1934, von Hindenburg died, and Hitler declared himself “Fuhrer” as he combined the offices of chancellor and president. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hitler-becomes-fuhrer) Hitler had run for president in 1932 and lost, but he was ushered into the political space when von Hindenburg appointed him chancellor. Once von Hindenburg died, Hitler had the capacity to take over the government, which he did.

Author Tim Snyder, in his book, On Tyrannynoted that as democracies have fallen throughout the world, a key commonality is that they were elected to leadership positions. The people, often distraught by economic hardship, have voted these dictators in with the hope that they will make good on their promises to bring more prosperity to all people. They have seldom done that, but the power of their promise has been a need of people struggle to make ends meet.

A woman I spoke with in Germany asked me about America and its president. “What is going on?” she asked, and she added that what is happening here seems strangely similar to what happened in her own country.

What I am struggling with and am angry about is what I perceive as the failure of our elected leaders to protect this country. The president is talking to and firing up his “base,” because he understands their angst and anger. In spite of his claim that when attacked, he fights back, the truth of the matter is that he started these fights; he began and has perpetuated the name-calling and insults. He has given more respect to America’s known enemies; while attacking our allies, he has made dictators his best friends.

And the Congress has sat idly by.

If people do not vote in the mid-terms, the downward spiral of this democracy may not be able to be stopped. That is scary. Mussolini captured the hearts and spirits of his populace by knocking Italy’s government and promising that only he could fix it. It didn’t take long for his promise to ring hollow, just like Hitler’s government fell after 11 years in spite of his promise that his party would rule Germany forever.  I take that as evidence that the desire for freedom can eventually cause a despotic government to fail.

But this kind of scenario was not supposed to happen here, and I personally blame the GOP for remaining silent, for living in fear, and for putting their political ambitions above their mandate to protect this country.

People talk about impeaching the president, but in reality, maybe it’s the GOP Congress which should be impeached. Our country is in their hands, and they have not only dropped the ball but are watching it gain speed as it rolls down the hill of tyranny.

A candid observation …

When You Make a Bad Promise

The failure of the GOP’s latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  proves something that all of us, especially politicians, should pay attention to.

Sometimes we make bad promises that we cannot keep.

The battle cry of the Republicans has been that they promised “repeal and replace of Obamacare” to our constituents. They have been insisting that the repeal of the ACA and their replacement bill would insure quality health care for “the American people.

But their efforts failed because they were not concerned about “the American people,” a group of citizens who demonstrated and protested every single one of their repeal and replace efforts. “The American people” to whom the GOP were pandering turned out to be a small lump in a big bowl, completely overrun and outnumbered by millions of people who were finally getting the health care they have needed for so long.

It was and is troubling that so many Republicans seemed not to care about the hue and cry coming from the masses. It was and is troubling that the GOP seemed more concerned with this ill-fated promise which was determined to put politics over the people. It was and is troubling that too many Republicans seemed unconcerned with people who would have been thrown to the wind with their health issues and needs, had any of their replacement bills passed, including the Graham-Cassidy bill.

It takes character for any of us to admit when we have made a bad promise. How many times have we as individuals gone through that experience? Politicians are known to make promises and many of them they know when the make them that they cannot keep them.

But the goal of most politicians is to get elected by any means necessary. Although they lift up the phrase “the American people,” few of them mean to include all Americans. They are going after a particular group and they play to them and their needs. That seems to a fact of politics, here and elsewhere in the world.

So, we are used to hearing promises made and seeing that they cannot or will not be kept, but this promise was particularly troubling and onerous because it seemed to be steeped in hatred, racism and a determination to kill anything former President Barack Obama tried to pass. Healthcare reform had been an issue at least since the time of President Truman. That a black man would do what no white man/administration had been able to do was just not palatable. (https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/news-analysis/a-brief-history-on-the-road-to-healthcare-reform-from-truman-to-obama.html)

Remember that the stated and publicized goal of the GOP was to make Obama a “one term president.”

The fight to kill the ACA is not over; it is as much a thorn in the sides of some as is Roe v. Wade. The backlash against the Obama administration is breathtaking in its fury and is not likely to end any time soon.

That being said, however, what this most recent defeat of the effort to kill the ACA indicates that the GOP,  so angry that they impulsively and publicly declared that they would “repeal and replace” Obamacare, seems to have been a promise misplaced, a bad promise which never should have been made.

A candid observation …

Why the Hatred?

Bible
Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

What I have been trying to figure out for the longest is why there is so much hatred directed at gays and lesbians.

By now, everyone has seen the absolutely horrid “sermon” of Charles Worley, a North Carolina pastor, who preached that if he had his way, he would put gays and lesbians in fenced in electrified pens, and drop food down to them. Sooner or later, he  preached, they’d die off.

He said, “The Bible’s agin (sic) it, God‘s agin it, I’m agin it and if you have any sense you’d be agin it, too!”

He said he’d keep the lesbians, homosexuals and queers in these pens, and sooner or later they’d be gone because they wouldn’t be able to reproduce themselves.

He said that the thought of same-gender loving people (that’s now how he said it) made him puke.

His words made me want to puke.

The hatred directed toward the LGBT community cannot simply be because religious people think that same-gender relationships are a sin. There are a lot of sins and a lot of sinning people, and there is not this hatred, spewed from pulpits, and claiming God’s will is being done in the words of hatred being spoken.

If it’s not because they deem homosexuality to be a sin, then what is it?

Is it ignorance? Arrogance? There’s not so much venomous religious speech when women are abused, sexually and/or physically, by their husbands.  We don’t see it when children are molested, too often by fathers, uncles, brothers or close friends.

There’s not such venomous religious speech when people commit adultery…and that should arouse some passion, shouldn’t it, since opponents of anything LGBT will say that marriage is supposed to be between “one man and one woman.”

There are no such hate-filled outbursts when women are raped, or when innocent people are put to death for crimes they didn’t commit.

There used to be such vitriol when it came to Christians supporting racism. The Rev. Worley said he wouldn’t vote for Mr. Obama because he was a baby-killer and a homosexual-lover. Used to be if one stuck up for the civil rights of African-Americans, he or she would be called a nigger-lover.

So, race and sex, not any sex that is truly immoral, but only homosexual sex – are the only things that arouse this kind of hatred. Why?

Supposedly the hatred against the LGBT community is worse in African-American communities. I’ve been trying to figure that one out, too. I have read the historical context of the opposition of religious African-Americans to homosexuality. I understand how, since African-American males have been historically emasculated by this American society, that anything that further feels like a continuation of that would be objectionable.

But I do not understand how what one man may do with another man can affect the masculinity of a heterosexual man or woman.

It can’t be just that “the Bible says” it’s a sin, that “the word of God” says it’s so…because the Bible and the word of God say that lots of things are wrong, and we just don’t get that uptight about it.

The hatred spewed by Christians against anyone is antithetical to Christian theology, a theology that says that God is love. The “Great Commandment,” found in the Hebrew scriptures and then repeated by Jesus himself, says that we are to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our souls…and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

I especially do not understand the capacity of African-Americans to hate or discriminate against another group of people, as we have been so discriminated against ourselves.

I do not believe the hatred is supported by “the word of God,” or by “the scriptures.” I think the hatred is a uniquely human reaction to a fear and ignorance about sexuality in general. I think the hatred directed outward is a reflection of the self-hatred many feel as they struggle with their own sexuality. While sex is beautiful as an expression of love between two committed adults, the fact of the matter is that too many people, especially religious people, have treated it as dirty and bad. I have heard some Christian women express remorse when they’ve had good sexual relationships with their husbands, because they’ve been taught that sex is bad.

So, if people have issues with committed heterosexual sex, then it’s not hard to understand that they might struggle with “sexual fantasies” or with any sexual activity they might deem “unnatural,” but which they might really want to try themselves.

Sex is not what makes a loving relationship; it’s the commitment between the people that makes a relationship pleasing to God.  There clearly is a lack of commitment in heterosexual relationships, as evidenced by the ever-increasing rate of divorce in this country.

I would feel less uneasy about the objections to homosexuality spewed by religious people if I felt like it was genuinely rooted in the will and word of God, but God is not hatred, God does not condone hatred, and God does not cause hatred. Rev. Worley, in my opinion, ought to be worried, using the pulpit, a holy space, to spew unholy rhetoric. God would not want anyone to put  “gays, lesbians and queers” in electrified pens, with people, religious people at that, “dropping food” down to them until they died.

That kinds of sounds like something Hitler would advocate. (It is estimated that nearly 200,000 homosexuals were murdered during the Holocaust…)

These words of hatred are, in fact, anti-Biblical, statements of ideology and personal belief which ought to be called such… There is no God and no Jesus in any of what these words convey.

A candid observation …

Wikipedia: queer definition: worthless, counterfeit.

Disrespect of President Obama is Telling

Governor at a book signing in Phoenix, Arizona...
Image via Wikipedia

I keep trying to put into perspective what I feel about seeing the picture of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer shaking her finger in the face of President Obama.

Actually, I don’t know what that perspective is…I guess whatever the president said to her annoyed her.

But I am thinking that other presidents have said things to governors in the past that were not words of comfort or praise for jobs well done, and yet, I have never seen a picture of any other governor shaking his or her finger in the face of the President of the United States.

Gov. Brewer said that she respects the office of president; it was striking but not surprising that she did not say she respected the President.

But her actions belie her proclamation of respect. Shaking one’s finger in someone’s face suggests that one thinks one has the right to do such, and that the one being “scolded” is somehow so much “less than” than the person doing the scolding that the pointed finger is deserved.

What has bothered me from the beginning of this president’s term is the lack of respect for him which has then spilled over into actions which have shown an absolute lack of respect for the office of President.

From Sen. Mitch McConnell‘s proclamation at the beginning of President Obama’s term that his top priority was to make sure that President Obama would be a one term president, to Joe Wilson shouting out “You lie!” during the President’s first State of the Union address to this …the lack of respect has been blatant, scorching, and arrogantly communicated.

So does this mean that some people will not and cannot respect the office of president if someone they truly dislike and/or disagree with is in the White House?

Why is it that I cannot remember anyone showing such disrespect when President George W. Bush was in office, a president who got the country into two wars, ran up our debt by out of control spending, and who, frankly, kind of made a mockery out of Republican/Conservative principles when it comes to spending?

Was it because he at least gave big business and the wealthy what they wanted – tax cuts – which arguably have contributed to the financial mess we are in now?  When one thinks about what President’s actions and policies have done to this country, it would seem that his actions would have stirred the ire of red-blooded Conservatives, and yet, nothing. I never saw anyone openly disrespect him.

Has Gov. Brewer apologized for what she did? I haven’t seen it. I have seen a story where she said that she went to the airport to give President Obama a letter to invite him to an event, but that he ignored that invitation and voiced disapproval over the way she characterized a meeting the two had dealing with immigration.

The story did not quote Gov. Brewer as saying the President had been rude, or disrespectful, in the way he voiced his disappointment; had that been the case, I am more than sure we would have known it. No, the articles I have read have merely said that she took issue that he had taken issue with the way she summarized the way she wrote about their meeting.

And for that, she shakes her finger in the President’s face?

I am appalled by what I have seen overall since the President took office. I am not an “Obama groupie;” I think the President has done well in some areas and not so well in others, but he is the President of the United States, for goodness’ sake! I did not like President George W. Bush, but he was the President of the United States! Had I met him, there would have been no way I would have disrespected him.

That so many people think it is OK to disrespect President Obama in the way that they are is troubling. The President has handled it well, probably better than we who have observed it. But the type and the width and the breadth of the disrespect of this president says a lot about what’s going on, on many levels.

I leave it to you to unpack that last sentence.

It is a candid observation.