The Politics of Disarray: The Struggle for Truth, Justice, and Peace [7-22-16]


Trump Wins, the GOP Gulps, Democrats Uneasy about Hillary, and Truth Twists in the Wind!

These are not happy times and they are dangerous times, even though they did not just suddenly appear on the scene in the last few months. All of us—whites, blacks, and browns—are worried that justice and truth have fallen into disarray and demons spew out headlines suffused in lies and fear. While it is supposed to be a common belief that we live in a democracy in which government is presumably accountable to the people, it actually turns out in our history that the people is reduced to some of the people.

In our recent history notice how the people have suffered at the hands of some of the people who have power. Violence and money are the tools of the powerful some.

The war in Vietnam was an unmitigated disaster in which the hubristic politics of both Democrats and Republicans colluded in bringing about a war without peace that left over 58,000 U.S. military dead and over 300,000 wounded, an estimated 42,000 draft evaders living outside the U.S, over 1 million Vietnamese combatants and over 3 million noncombatants dead. The pathos of that war still hovers over we Americans as a war we hardly dare to remember.

As we prepared for war, our President, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and as war rages in Vietnam, racial conflict explodes, two public figures—Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy are assassinated. A drug culture that continues today, provoking the rise of 'Fox News' that blames Democrats for war, draft-deserters, drug addicts and racial hatred and conflict.

Then the scandal of the Nixon crimes and fall from grace and office. Reagan is elected amid racial slurs and assuring whites that the poor are themselves to be blamed for their terrible economic condition and social prospects. But he did make 'peace' with Russia! Then, after years of slurs and witch hunts, Clinton leaves office amidst an astonishing sexual scandal. But he did leave a balanced budget!

Bush slips into the presidency by virtue of the intervention of a Supreme Court gone rogue, and his first goal is to dismantle Clinton's balanced budget and give the rich indefensible tax breaks. But worst of all, in response to the destruction of life and buildings on '9-11', he ignores the obvious fact that nine of the sabatoers were Saudi Arabians, begins a charade of searching for a scapegoat and persuades congress to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq—precipitating a conflict in the Middle East that haunts the world to this day.

Then the first black person is elected President and the GOP began a ruthless campaign to discredit and delegitimize Obama. The claim was advance that Obama was not born in the USA and therefore is ineligible to be president, a conviction that recent polls suggest is still believed by more than 30% of the people, most of whom adore Trump as admirably white, rich, and a hustler. The Republican party is the primary agent of these disgraceful lies about Obama and it is that lie that Trump's campaign has used to vilify Hillary and the Democratic Party.

In short form: I believe, as many others do, that the rise of Donald Trump has depended on the common lies that the Republican Party has repeatedly used to discredit Clinton, Obama, and now Hillary.

Yes, there is more to say about these matters so briefly mentioned. But my concern is Donald Trump who I, and most Democrats and many Republicans, believe would be an instant danger to our country and the rights of many citizens if he were to be elected.

Yes, I assume all of my subscribers read much and are concerned about the fall election and its frightfully angry and divided citizenry. But here is an insightful writing by Thomas Edsall in the NYTimes on July 20, 2016. I have posted his work on this website before.

You might have noticed that many leaders who refer to themselves as "Evangelical Christians" have come out in support of Trump. That should be a confession of heresy and bankruptcy by those folk. There are two books published in recent years that should be helpful in understanding the rise in the 19th century of this tradition and its impact on politics to this day and its support for so-called 'Republican values'.

Matthew Avery Sutton,American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014.

Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Basic Books, 2015.

And for those of us who are truly alarmed at the way religions are playing the roles of justifiers of violence against those others who are evil and death-dealing, take a look at a long but interesting book by Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.

Start with the Edsall article and then take your time and read the books and pray! And I do confess that some of my dear friends are Republicans with generous hearts and Christian virtues, and I suspect Trump is not the political correction for which they had hoped.

Peace, Joe

Responses welcomed.

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Reader Responses

Roger A. Sizemore

responded on 07/23/16

Thanks, Joe, for these poignant resources, and your keen narrative insights. You speak well into the anxiety so many feel, who think about long-history and larger-picture issues, than what is to be found in the usual fare. You raise the level of the whole conversation. The intellectual bankruptcy in the public square exchanges makes it almost impossible to begin what one (still) would hope to be a rational discussion.

Robert Garrett

responded on 07/23/16

You are completely correct.  I think Trump is a danger to all our American values, when they are truly expressed.  And, while I don’t think he compares totally to the Nazis, there are some parallels, among which are:
Nazi- find a common enemy- Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies
Trump- immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, etc.
Nazis- tell a lie often enough and people will believe it is true.  Trump- same

Susan Clark

responded on 07/23/16

As always, well said. . . The last time I felt this letdown about a big election was when George Wallace ran. . .  I thought I might have to leave the country then - I hope I don’t end up leaving it after this election!

thomas spear

responded on 07/24/16

I will not try to cite books and editorials to challenge your thoughts on Mr Trump and Republicans in general but will just suffice it to say there is only one political poll that I follow. That is “Wrong Track - Right Track” and right now it is running about 70-30. As President, HRC would be a 3rd term of Obama and therefore little chance of moving the country out of this terrible malaise. In addition, regardless of the many negatives you can list about Trump, there is no political figure on the national stage today who is more dishonest and openly in it for her own enrichment than Mrs.
Clinton. No, I will roll the dice with Trump because we must reverse the Obama transformation.

Robert Botkin

responded on 07/24/16

Joe, Appreciate receiving your reflections. We truly are in dangerous times. You did not mention the most scary part which trying to imagine Trump’s reckless impulsiveness in foreign policy as revealed in his recent remarks about NATO. He exposed his narcissism once again with his blast of Cruz; any handler would have advised him to let it go and look at least noble and that is trying to unify the party.  I would recommend David Brook’s opinion in Friday’s NYT on “The Death of the Republican Party.”  One thing we need to get our minds around is how rapidly changing demographics in the country are drawing many people to the extreme right and others to the extreme left. Two recent books that seem unrelated at first glance have given me some help on that: J.D. Vance’s A Hillbilly Elegy, and Robert P. Jones’ The End of White Christian America.  Let me also suggest “Why the Democrats Have Turned Left” by Ruy Teixeira in Saturday’s WSJ. This article helped me realize our choices are not between open trade and helping the middle class.  Free trade is our best protection against new wars, even more effective than preaching the Gospel. At the same time the issue of economic inequality must be addressed. The trick is to develop policies that will do both rather than just one or the other.  The Journal article suggests at how a way forward might be found.  Finally, Saturday’s review section in the Wall Street Journal has a brilliant piece on Islamic Politics in Crisis.  If George Bush had that kind of insight several years ago instead of listening too much to Bernard Lewis our recent history might be much different. Enough for now; so good to see you are again up and at’em.

michael enright

responded on 07/26/16

Joe, there are a few times in a person’s life when speaking out forcefully and passionately becomes necessary; I agree this is one of those times.
I shudder to think of comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler, as no human should be. But the campaign style of inducing fear and tactics of scapegoating can be compared to those used by many villainous despots throughout history.
It is the Church’s responsibility to courageously stand up for God’s Shalom in the face of mob-populism risen out of distrust,fear and hate. We are tasked to empower people to turn away from the failed promises of yet another human “savior” who pledges make a nation great and instead live in the promise of God’s Kingdom.
I am continually inspired and encouraged by your faithful witness. Pray for the church’s (and my own) boldness to proclaim the risen Christ with passion and power.

Jane Martin

responded on 08/06/16

Thanks, Joe, for the insightful diagnosis of our coming (possible) downfall.  For instance, I am quite concerned about the rhetoric that promotes everyone having a gun!  I sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan about this and emphasized that I didn’t want to kill anyone!  No response, of course, but I had to get it out of my system.  What kind of people would support Donald Trump?  What does it say about our countrymen?  What does it show about leadership to the rest of the world, looking to us?  Troubling times, indeed.  Then there is the alternative, which is not too appealing.