The President Without a Soul

Today, White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly spoke before cameras. He assured reporters that he was not going to quit his job and also that, as far as he knew, he was not about to be fired.

 

Donald Trump

            He said that what the president said about FEMA and the military  not being in Puerto Rico forever was precise – but he said that only after he assured the people of Puerto Rico that FEMA would be there for as long as it needed to get the ravaged island back on its feet.

He was clear; when there is a disaster, he said, organizations like FEMA and the military “work very hard to get themselves out of a job.” That is true. Organizations like those mentioned do have a specific job and those jobs are temporary. Everyone understands that.

But the difference in what Gen. Kelly did and said, and what this president has done  and said, represents the difference between having a soul with the capacity to emit and share compassion, and not having a soul.

The president, in my opinion, has shown far too many times that he has no soul, or at least has a soul that is full of holes. He has a personality and a demeanor which is mean and heartless. He is unabashed in showing his favoritism of some people, or groups of people, over others, and his lack of sensitivity, caring and compassion is heartbreaking.

This president may not consider himself to be a racist, but his actions and lack of actions at times say something different. He took two weeks to visit Puerto Rico. He “joked” that their dire situation was affecting the American economy – apparently forgetting or choosing to forget that Puerto Ricans are Americans. He gave no heartfelt promise that the mainland would do all it could to make sure the Puerto Ricans got the food, water and help in rebuilding that they need. Instead, he made crude statements. He attacked the mayor of San Juan because she criticized America for not doing more, sooner, and he ignored her when she approached him in San Juan.

And then he threw paper towels to a crowd of Puerto Ricans – claiming later that “they loved it.” The optic was horrible. He looked like a spectator in a zoo, throwing peanuts to animals in cages, and he sounded like slave masters and white supremacists in general who claimed that the “nigras loved” slavery.

He has no soul, not when it comes to black people specifically, and people of color in general.

He called white supremacists who stormed Charlottesville, Virginia carrying weapons and torched “very fine people,” and completely ignored what their presence and their methods said to a people who have been fighting for dignity and rights in this country for generations. He has turned the “take a knee” silent protest being engaged in by players in the National Football League (NFL) and now, other organizations, into a phony campaign which he says represents a lack of patriotism, forgetting, or probably never knowing that African Americans have fought in every war this country has fought, only to be treated like second-class citizens once they returned home.

He is playing the American media and the American people like a fiddle. Running this country is a joke to him. He is putting the lives of people in this country and around the world by playing little boy macho games with North Korean President Kim Jung Un. He seems unaware of what he is doing and what his words have the capacity to cause. A nuclear war – the possibility of which is what he is dancing with – would destroy the world.

But he doesn’t care. He has no soul.

His attacks, his name-calling, his sanction of  and often dog-whistle use  of white supremacist rhetoric shows that he only cares about his “base.” He didn’t get the memo that says that, once elected president, that individual is to be the president of all of the people.

Not him.

His heartless policies are dismantling the work not only of President Obama, but also of women, black and brown people, environmentalists and those in the federal government who have worked to keep the world intact. In his quest for a victory as concerns the “repeal and replace’ saga of the Affordable Care Act, he has shown that he doesn’t care at all about the millions of people who, under the ACA could get health care, and who will lose that care if what he wants finally gets passed into law.

He is intentionally working to sabotage the ACA. The only thing that counts is himself and his relationship with his “base.”

Many, many American people are supporting this man. Neither do they care about the masses, but they were not elected to care about them. The president was. The job of the president is to see and hear everyone, but this president does not, will not, and doesn’t care who criticizes him about the way he governs.

Some say he is mentally ill; others say he is unfit to be president. The GOP has shown its cowardice and says little overall. The legislative branch of this American government is letting this spoiled brat, this rich bully, have his way, without much resistance at all.

America was great, I am told, because of its democracy which insured freedoms, which this president seems not to care about except for the Second Amendment. The man who vowed to “protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States” has had the gall to suggest that freedom of the press should be curtailed. He forgets, or perhaps he just doesn’t care, that it has been our democracy which has made us the most admired nation in the world –a democracy with flaws, to be sure, but a democracy nonetheless.

He doesn’t care about democracy. He wants to be a dictator and he wants us to take whatever he dishes out.

He has no soul and this country of cowardly lawmakers and “angry white people” are working very hard to make sure this country as we have known it becomes a speck, a memory. If they have their way, this country will be no better than the dictatorships it has criticized over the decades.

He has no soul. He does not care.

A candid observation …

Trump is a Voice for the Frightened

 

When I was invited to preach at a white Episcopal church in Charles Town, West Virginia, the lead priest of that congregation called me to kind of coach me on how to approach the congregation.

Donald Trump

I was/am an educated African American woman. Her congregation was highly educated as well, but there is an issue of which I needed to be aware.

“They’re very sensitive about being talked down to,” she said, going on to explain that many white Southerners feel marginalized and put down by the “elites.” The elites were those with a lot of education, white people, she said, who they felt were always thinking that Southern white people were inferior, uneducated and, frankly, beneath them.

They were thus sensitive to being talked to in a way by an educated person which spewed that sentiment, and they were equally as sensitive about being called racist. Most of them hotly denied that they were racist, and would react badly if anything in my sermon got to that space of emotional pain that many white people, Southerners and Northerners as well, have carried for decades.

I was grateful for the priest’s “warning,” and worked very hard to make sure what I preached about – even though it was about racism – was not in any way an attack or a put down. Racism, I preached, was an aberration of spirit, something which Americans carry without even thinking about it. I worked very hard to illustrate the connectedness of all human beings, the ways in which we are the same regardless of color, before I got into the meat of the message, describing the damage racism does and has always done. It is America’s disease, I preached – not a new sentiment at all – but one which America has yet to acknowledge. And I tied all of what I was preaching about with the story of little Ruby Bridges, the little black girl who for a year sat in a classroom in New Orleans all by herself because racist people would not let their children be near her. I have a gift as a storyteller and worked the story so that the people could find the commonality of experience, the commonality of pain, the commonality of what it is to be a parent.

I think of that Sunday often. Charles Town is the city where John Brown was hanged for inciting an insurrection. It is rich in Southern history, a history which is rich with the stories and experiences of a culture which is racist but which ignores it in the hope of the reality of racism going away. America wants to keep its dirty little secret – which is not so little at all  and which is definitely not a secret- hidden away in a closet, and believes that if the secret stays in the closet, all will be well.

That belief, however, has always been wrong, and the proof that not talking about racism makes it go away is pushing up in the midst of this presidential election cycle. Donald Trump is feeding those who, like the Episcopal priest told me, are sensitive to being called racist and uneducated. A memo circulated by the Trump campaign vowed to concentrate on that group of people. (http://dailycaller.com/2016/08/06/trump-campaign-memo-primary-strategy-was-to-provide-safe-space-for-voters-called-bigots/) They are the ones who are screaming loudest about the “elite” people, those, they believe, who have been in power for too long. Their voices, beliefs and needs have been marginalized, ignored and cast aside for too long, in the quest of being politically correct, and being politically correct has meant “not talking about” racism and how the government, they believe, has done too much for black, brown and poor people, at the expense of white people.

The belief in white supremacy has driven American culture from its inception. After Reconstruction, whites who believed in their supremacy and resented the perception of blacks that they were equal with whites and therefore were owed the same rights, put Jim Crow into effect, effectively thrashing the gains made by black people, especially their right to vote. They believed then and many still do that America is a “white man’s country.” That doesn’t make them racist, they believe. That just makes them American.

No matter what, they have always been able to rely on their skin color to keep them in the running for the American dream, but globalization, making it possible for more people of color to invade what is supposed to be a white space, has weakened their status. They not only see more people of color coming into their land, they read or have heard the reports that by 2043, white people will be the minority in the United States. (https://mic.com/articles/106252/the-year-white-people-will-become-a-minority-in-america-has-been-declared#.TCKjBGUh9)

Donald Trump is speaking to a group of people who are angry, who have been marginalized by a government they think has been too big and too willing to embrace people of different races and religions, and who are seeing their version of white supremacy get more and more watered down. What they want “back” is the America where their status was secure.

That’s not going to happen.

But their fear is something Donald Trump knows. The group to whom he is speaking is vulnerable to his rhetoric, but the truth of the matter is that whites who are educated and who have gained pieces of the American dream are worried as well. “The marginalized” is not so small a group as many would like to believe. America is changing, and not many white people like it at all. Trump knows that, too – that whites of all classes are worried.

And so he is plowing through this campaign saying whatever he wants, challenging what has “always been,” promising that he alone will change the trajectory of a world which has not stood still, white supremacy notwithstanding.

And in his quest to speak to the hearts and concerns of those who feel abandoned and ignored, he is winning.

A candid observation …

 

 

The Arrogance of White Supremacy

Today, presumptive GOP nominee for president Donald Trump released a list of potential people he would nominate to the United States Supreme Court.

And I seethed.

I seethed because he released the list in the face of President Obama, whose nominee for the High Court, Judge Merrick Garland, is being completely ignored by the Republican-led Senate.

Trump’s list is full of people who are, by media accounts, “extremely Conservative.” They are primarily white men. They are young. They will work to keep white supremacy alive.

Democrats are powerless to do anything against the obstruction put in place and supported by Sen. Mitch McConnell and the others. In a Politico article, Seung Min Kim wrote that there were nine Senate Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee listening to witnesses “shower praise” on Judge Garland …but the GOP side of the dais …was completely empty.

The GOP has been touting that it is aghast at the violation of the Constitution; they have professed that they believe in law and order, except, it seems, when following the law and maintaining order applies to this president.

“Let the people decide who the next Supreme Court justice will be,” they say, calling Mr. Obama a “lame duck president,” when, in fact, that is not true. Their actions are clear and simply obstructionism based on racial politics. And it is sickening.

This latest action by Mr. Trump, the “chief bully” of this nation, underscores the fact that the core of this nation seems to be filled with rot. Mr. Trump is sickening, with his name-calling and bullying of anyone who disagrees with him, but it is the support of the white American electorate which is more disturbing. Filled with resentment and reeling from an economic downturn that has blown them out of lives that have been at least comfortable, the American electorate wants things to be the way they used to be when there were enough jobs in this nation to allow a fair number of people to live decent lives. They were a part of the middle class. Never mind that many of the privileges they had were denied to black and brown people. What they know is that their lives were comfortable and now they are not.

They believe Donald Trump when he says he will bring jobs back to America. They rejoice at the thought that a wall will be built to keep Mexicans out of the nation, people, they will say disingenuously, who are taking their jobs.

They are doing no such thing. They are doing the work that few if any American would be willing to do, at wages that are inhumanely low. There are stories circulating where immigrants, some legal and some not, are hired out, who do the work, and then are sent away or threatened with being deported without being paid.

Business people want profits, and they want it with as little outlay of their own money as possible. Donald Trump is not going to be able to change things so that the way things “were” will be “again.” Yesterday’s economy is not coming back.

But the American electorate is so desperate for jobs, and so subliminally racist, that they cannot see the forest for the trees. Mr. Trump is acting like an arrogant, spoiled rich fraternity kid and the public is loving it. They are all trying to “be his friend,” like kids tried to cosy up to bullies when I was in school. They must know that Mr. Trump does not care about them and their lives, that Mr. Trump only wants to satisfy Mr. Trump. And what will satisfy Mr. Trump is to win the presidency and be the most powerful man in the world.

They don’t care that he doesn’t have a foreign policy or an economic plan for this nation that will bring “liberty and justice for all.”

Oh, wait. They don’t want liberty and justice for all. They want liberty and justice …and white privilege…as they have always had it. And Mr. Trump knows that and is feeding their souls.

Sad. But true.

A candid observation…

 

 

Black Lives Don’t Matter to GOP

I watched the much-touted GOP presidential debate last evening with bated breath. Would these candidates indicate that they knew about and cared about the war around the value of black lives that is tearing this nation apart? Would they indicate that they care about African-Americans who are literally fighting for dignity and fairness in this land?

They did not. Not one question about the Black Lives Matter movement was asked; not one candidate admitted that what is going on in America is a serious problem.

Kim Davis and her quest for religious freedom was mentioned, and passionately so. Planned Parenthood was mentioned, with everyone seeming absolutely horrified that, according to a video that has surfaced, body parts of fetuses have been sold by Planned Parenthood. Of course, there was much discussion about the hated Iran deal, about what Russia is doing, about the nation’s security in general. That was expected and necessary.

But there was not a word, not a mention about the crisis going on in the streets of America, with innocent and unarmed black people being arrested, harassed, shot, injured, jailed and killed, by police officers. Not a word.

White America (and Dr. Carson) seems not to care about what is going on. White America is caught in its insistence that whatever happens to black people at the hands of police officers is warranted – that, in spite of plenty of videos to date that have indicated otherwise.

How come Rev. Mike Huckabee can be so concerned about what he calls “judicial tyranny” and not care about the domestic tyranny called police brutality? How can he, a Christian minister, ignore the fact that young black people are being treated like chattel, still, suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them? Why is the plight of one Kim Davis more heart-wrenching to him than is the plight of all these African-Americans who are being profiled and attacked by police …with little chance that the offending officers will be held to accountability for their actions?

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that “the universe is so structured that things do not quite work out rightly if men are not diligent in their concern for others.” (“The Ethical Demands for Integration”) In 1962, he wrote that “it is sad that the moral dimension of integration has not been sounded by the leaders of government and the nation.” White people are adamant about there being “law and order,” and will insist, most of the time, that “the law” be obeyed. In the case of black lives, that means being quiet and acquiescing to the commands of police officers, be they in the right or not. Dr King wrote, in that same essay, “they sounded the note that has become the verse, chorus and refrain of the so-called calm and reasonable moderates: we must obey the law!  He said that the issue of national morality was before the leaders of that time. That same issue of national morality is before us now, but the GOP candidates are ignoring it.

Dr. King further wrote, in “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” that “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come.” That urge is upon us now, GOP candidates. Whether you like the movement and action of the Black Lives Matter activists or not, the move is on to end the oppression which is and has always been wrought by the “justice system” in this land.  Dr. King wrote in that same letter, “The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to get them out.”  That is what you are seeing, yet ignoring. The souls that are marching in the streets and lying down on highways are souls that are sick and tired of the anguish they carry around daily. They are tired of believing that there will be justice when law enforcement acts in criminal ways. Dr. King wrote that it is “immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.”

Whomever becomes president of the United States will need to look squarely in the face of Justice and know that she will require the soul of America to answer for its injustice to so many of her citizens. Just as society dared, really, President Obama to speak up too much for the case and causes of black people,  the Black Lives Matter movement will dare the new president ti ignore the cries of people who are tired of justice …being unjust.

It was insulting, last evening, to hear those candidates completely ignore the cries of people who are alive and fighting for freedom while they spoke for the lives of babies not yet born.

They showed that black lives don’t matter to the GOP.

A candid observation …

GOP Struggling for Understanding

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Is it my imagination, or are we hearing about the GOP wrestling with why they lost the 2012 presidential election a little longer than they did in 2008? It’s four months past Election Day, but still, the conversation on all the news outlets seems to always include just one more story about why the Republicans lost.

The angst the Republicans feel is certainly palpable. They cannot believe they lost; they cannot believe that the Hispanic community went in such large numbers for President Obama; they cannot believe that 21st conservatism …lost.

So deep is their misery about their loss that they’ve been talking ad nauseum on how they must change. It’s a new day, they’re saying. “We get it now,” they say, and they’re looking at themselves and their policies …and the way they relate to the masses of Americans. Some of them are realizing, as Jeb Bush said, that people think they are against everything – gay marriage, abortion, Medicare, Medicaid, the poor …They realize that now.

But what they are saying they want to do is change their image, not their policies.

Donald Trump, one of the speakers at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), voiced concern that 11 million immigrants, if allowed to become American citizens, will vote Democratic. Trump said to allow that is suicide. It’s okay to let them vote, he said, but think of what we are doing! He wants America to remain “the way it was,” dominated by white men; “why don’t we let people from Europe in?” he asked.

“Tremendous people, hard-working people,” he said. “They can’t come in. I know people whose sons went to Harvard, top of their class, went to the Wharton School of finance, great, great students. They happen to be a citizen of a foreign country. They learn, they take all of our knowledge, and they can’t work in this country. We throw them out. We educate them, we make them really good, they go home — they can’t stay here — so they work from their country and they work very effectively against this. how stupid is that?” (http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/03/trump-white-immigrants-cpac.php).

Very little of what I’ve heard GOP leaders say indicates that the vast numbers of them understand the way the world is changing and how the GOP needs to be sensitive to those needs in order to build their base.  Most of them seem to want to find a way to stay the way they are, while doing what they most to get more brown voters. They still don’t seem to care about increasing the number of black people.

It’s not just the GOP leaders, either. Conservative followers are helping to remind people of why the GOP is suffering a bit now. Footage of CPAC showed a clip where a black guy was conducting a workshop on racism and how people are tired of being called racists. He mentioned Frederick Douglass, who hated slavery…and a white guy gets up and said that blacks, under slavery, had free room and board. Why, he wondered, would anyone want not to be in such a cushy situation?

No doubt, that man would violently disagree with anyone who called him a racist …but he and so many GOP leaders do not seem to understand that the smug attitudes of racism will not be tolerated much more. Discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and lesbians…is going to be tolerated less and less.

It would be refreshing if the GOP really understood that it has had a snooty attitude toward way too much of the American electorate. Some of its leaders are understanding, but it seems far too many still cannot.

The GOP lost because people need to know they matter, and the GOP simply did not reach out to and respond to the cries and needs of a growing number of non-white Americans and would-be Americans. People do not trust a political party which seems intent on letting the poor and the elderly, for all intents and purposes, fend for themselves. And nothing of what I’ve heard thus far indicates that they understand …or care …that it is their policies which have turned so many people off.

President Obama, in spite of his flaws and shortcomings, was and is effective of letting a wider swath of Americans know that they matter. The GOP did not do that, and they are now seeing the consequences of their actions.

That’s why they lost. So, can we note that and stop talking, every day, about why the Republicans lost in 2012? If the GOP cannot move itself into a different mold after seeing what happened in 2012, they deserve to lose…

A candid observation