Point of View Columns

Love Thy Neighbor?

“If we see one of our brothers or sisters who is in need of clothes or food and do not have enough to live on, and we say, I wish you well……without giving them the necessities to live, what good is that? It is the same with faith, if good deeds do not go with it, it is quite dead.”

This quote from St. James is from a Christian text, but there are similar statements in Jewish and Islamic texts regarding caring for our brothers and sisters – in other words caring for our neighbors, wherever they might be. And these statements regarding empathy are found in so many spiritual and religious guidance documents that it is fair to say that caring for others is a universal religious theme.

This is an important point because in the United States we have seen religious leaders speak out on issues ranging from women’s suffrage to civil rights to the environment, all as part of their spiritual mandate to care for others. In the current era we have seen many of these leaders speak out on issues ranging from abortion to day care to AirBnb to menthol cigarettes.

The evangelical movement, also known as the Religious Right, has been particularly vocal in the modern era when it comes to a so-called conservative agenda. We are told that morality has taken a coach seat on the evangelical bus that is being driven by Donald Trump, as long as that bus is moving in a strictly conservative direction.

As a result, reserved and proper leaders of the Religious Right have accepted the obscenities and the misogyny and the careless, disgusting, egregious and decidedly unchristian behavior of Trump as long as he appoints judges that will reform America that will be coincident with their conservative vision.

But even though these religious leaders have made their deal with the devil, they watch television and read the newspapers.

They see the very real suffering of their brothers and sisters – their neighbors – on the southern border of this nation. They see men and women who are caged and being told to drink out of toilets. They know that hundreds of very young children have been taken from their parents, some instances never to be reunited.

These religious leaders are the first to vocalize their opposition to gay marriages and a woman’s right to choose, but in the instance of the U.S. government-imposed misery on the border these lambs are silent. Indeed, as Trump tries to trash the female members of Congress – who are conveniently non-white – with the worst kind of racist rhetoric, these religious leaders are silent as lambs.

There may be a day when these clerics will look back at their silence with shame. In the present, however, they are content to allow this shameful excuse for a president to demean the office, degrade this country and continue to serve up a witch’s brew of hate, racism, sexism, white supremacy and nationalism to America and to the world.

Clearly these evangelicals, these leaders of the Religious Right, believe in caring for their neighbors. Just as clearly, they don’t believe that everyone is their neighbor.

Point of View Columns

Requiem for America

Any honest appraisal of the history of the United States would conclude that this is a highly imperfect country. Founded on the conquest and slaughter of the indigenous people encountered by the first Europeans on this continent, there is no way to find any aspect of its beginnings that should be celebrated.

Built upon the unholy twin pillars of slavery and white supremacy, the establishment of what became the United States of America cannot possibly be the source of pride for any human being with a sense of decency and an appreciation of universal humanity.

Any student of American history, which Donald Trump is decidedly not, would have to admit that the notion of Making America Great Again is a logical impossibility, since there has been no point at which this country has been great, its aspirations and mythologies notwithstanding. There have too many crimes against humanity and nature, too many inequities and far too many lies that would make any claim to greatness a false one.

Yet, in these days and times, there is a sense of danger and true peril. There is a sense that whatever pretensions or aspirations to greatness there might be, whatever glimmer of hope there might be for the future of this country, whatever possibility that dreams could become reality are in jeopardy. And that danger, that peril, that jeopardy is clearly seen in the presidency and person of Donald Trump.

For decades Trump skulked and slinked across the tabloid headlines of New York City, always pretending to be more than he was when clearly he was a lesser human being and a very unfunny clown. He claims to great fortune were always untrue and his claims to great achievement were always provably false. The bankruptcies, fake universities, unbuilt developments, sunken casinos, multiple avalanches of lawsuits, cheap steaks and even cheaper ties and general turmoil that surrounded this man condemned him to always being a sideshow in the big circus that is New York.

Historians in the future will always wonder how this classic example of the word “charlatan” ever became President of the United States. And those same historians will be very clear that Trump is the most dangerous president that this country has ever had.

While the daily kaleidoscope of his malodorous persona seeps into our consciousness through Twitter, news shows and the very atmosphere that he seeks to pollute, we are distracted from the very real danger that he personifies. We awaken with dread, wondering what terrible lie he will tell, what war he will threaten, what ally he will insult, what enemy he will bait or what part of the black community, the LGBTQI community, the women’s community or anyone who is non-white community he will seek to demean and dehumanize.

Meanwhile his minions and footmen are busily reincarnating the incarceration state and tearing down the scaffolding of regulations that protect our food, our air, our environment, our climate and our future. Trump’s reckless use of executive powers, this time seeking to circumvent the Supreme Court decision that prevents his administration from using a citizenship question in the census because of its racist and partisan intent, is yet another step in his efforts to virtually demolish the concept of balance of power and checks and balances in the federal government.

Trump will abide by no article, section or interpretation of the Constitution that keeps him from getting his way. And history clearly tells that this is how failed democracies devolve into autocracies and finally into dictatorships.

Trump personifies the trouble with modern day America. The pseudo-Christian ethno-nationalism that neatly describes what passes for his political philosophy appeals to the basest fears and meanest prejudices of his so-called base.

And, in the final analysis, Trump may be the one who proves that, despite all of its faults and errors, America could actually be worse.