Category Archives: Republican Party

Marginality, Boundaries, & Racism

Marginality is a commonly used term in modern culture, referring to pushing certain people into the “margins” of our social body because of reasons that often amount to the simple fact they are “different.”  And I’m glad this term is on the table as it has produced such abysmal ugliness in our culture as racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia.

But here I want to emphasize the importance of margins even in the face of their common gross misuse.  These margins I’m speaking of are merely boundaries and without boundaries an individual, or a group of individuals, cannot cohere.  Boundaries, in the social terms I’m speaking of here, are at root the ability to draw the distinction between self and not-self, between “me and thee.”  The ability to draw this distinction is one of the most important phases of our development and only to the degree we have done this will we be able to function in society with some degree of success.

However, when this distinction-drawing has gone awry and is overly valued, the emphasis of boundaries will be excessive and the result will be an excessive push to marginalize people who are different.  This problem stems from existential insecurity as those whose grounding in reality, in the inner-most depths of their being, will find themselves overly emphasizing who is “them” and who is “us.”  Let me illustrate with the simple illustration of the immigration issue in my country.  Immigration policy is a legitimate and even moral need for the welfare of a tribe.  But when social tension is pronounced, often by socio-economic pressures, a matter like immigration policy will become a political football and rather than be resolved will be endlessly quarreled about. In present day, it gives rise to cries like “Build that wall” and “Keep those Mexicans out” which often amounts to nothing more than overt racism rather than the simple and legal right to set a boundary and control who can enter our country.  The foolishness of this “Build that Wall” cry was demonstrated with another Republican Presidential candidate, Scott Walker, responded immediately to Trump’s suggestion with notion of building a wall between the U.S. and Canada also!  “Trump got a lot of applause, so I’ll say the same thing,” Walker must have thought!

We are not rational human beings.  Never have been and never will be.  We are human beings driven primarily by emotion and our reason is subservient to these emotions.  That does not mean we deserve the label “irrational”…necessarily…it just means that our reasoning must be taken with a grain of salt, thus allowing for other perspectives.  Cooperation and dedication toward a common good would then be possible.  But it is easier to just go along with unexamined prejudices, biases and premises about life, giving to them by drawing distinctions rigidly when they could be drawn more graciously.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

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Language is Nuanced and Contextual

Ben Carson is now on stage with Trump, playing his part in the daily clown show.  He almost immediately made a splash when in his first speech after taking office as Housing and Urban Development Secretary described slaves on slave ships as “immigrants.”   When he was immediately criticized over this statement, he responded with, “Look up the definition of immigrants.”

Carson is another demonstration of the Trump administration’s lack of appreciation of nuance in language, reminding me of the former Supreme Court jurist, Antonin Scalia who argued, “The constitution means just what it says.”  Conservative politicians, and theologians, are literalists and do not consider the contextual dimension of words.  Though these very same persons will readily argue that one who cries “Fire” in a theater does not have the right to do so, that venue being one one “context” which is relevant to the use of words.

Carson replied in response to critics of his observation, “Look it up in the dictionary!.”  He is right, “immigrant” means someone moving to another country.  However, the notion that a black person in the bowels of an 18th century slave ship was an “immigrant” is just absolutely ridiculous.  And, though this is only obliquely related, let me show you a photo of Ben Carson and Jesus in his household, the nuances of which are highly comical.

If only I was skilled with photo-shop, you would soon see a picture of myself with Jesus and Buddha on either side of me, arms around me and myself with a beatific smile.  This photo is such a stunning example of how Ben Carson, and so many of the Republican Party, have no idea of how they are coming across to the onlooker.

ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are: 

https://wordpress.com/stats/day/literarylew.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

GOP Self-destruction and Its War on Truth

Several times during the Obama administration I listened to Republicans passionately declare, “President Obama is out to destroy the Republican Party.”  It was apparent that their collective unconscious was speaking as the seeds of self-destruction were obviously ravaging their party.  During the Tea Party hey-day, many GOP stalwarts from earlier Republican Presidential administrations would say such things as, “We’ve been hijacked” in recognition of the incipient catastrophe that was unfolding.  And as the Trump madness gained strength during the 2016 campaign, most of his party’s leadership actively opposed him until it became apparent he was going to win then they sheepishly came on board.

Donald Trump is the embodiment of the poison that has been seeking expression in the GOP for decades as the party’s leadership pointedly followed a pathway of dishonesty and fraud, featuring a conspicuous disdain for truth.  Their “war on reality” is now on the surface and finds expression almost daily with Trump’s overt and flagrant dishonesty.  Stephen Colbert introduced the term “truthiness” several years ago in reference to how media often was very manipulative and dishonest with the news.  But now the Trump administration has followed this practice that was so conspicuous in his campaign with an even more overt disavowal of basic standards of truth.  Trump and his staff now openly declared that he has the right to say whatever is on his mind regardless of whether or not it is valid according to prevailing standards of truth and non-truth.

The failure to respect truth in this self-destructive tendency of the GOP  puts on the table the over whelming support of evangelical Christians.  These purported champions of Jesus Christ, who claimed to be, “The Way, the Truth, and Life” are openly supporting this man who is the blatant antithesis to the fundamental tenets of the teachings of Jesus.  I suspect that many of them now see they’ve been duped but, suffering from the same spiritual malady of Trump, they cannot utter the simple words, “I made a mistake” even though their very valid faith permits them to do so if they have the humility to admit human flaw.

The irony is that challenges to Trump’s moral and spiritual integrity have come, not from these evangelicals, but from those who do not wear their faith on their sleeve or who are not even Christian.  For example, Kazir Khan was the first to openly question the moral character of Trump.  And more recently, Congressman Mark Sanford (see yesterday’s blog) and Senator John McCain have boldly stated the obvious that Trump has trouble separating “truth from lies.” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/18/john-mccain-savages-donald-trump-administration-inability-separate-truth-from-lies

Though no longer an evangelical, I still have a passionate conviction that life is a spiritual enterprise.  As someone said, and I paraphrase, “Mankind is a spirit having an earthly moment.”  In the words of Teilhard de Chardin, the “Cosmic Christ’ is seeking expression in the whole of this cosmic enterprise that we are inextricably caught up in.  It is important that men and women of spiritual sensitivity be present to speak “truth to power” on occasion and that can’t be done when one’s “spirituality” consists primarily of sterile dogma and rhetoric.  I am very impressed with people such as Mark Sanford and John McCain who have faith of an “uncanned” variety and who aren’t wearing their “faith” on their sleeve.  Those who do carry only this simplistic faith Shakespeare described with the following keen wisdom:

When love (i.e. “faith”) begins to sicken and decay,/It useth an enforced ceremony./There are no tricks in plain and simple faith./But hollowmen, like horses hot at hand,/Make gallant show and promise of their mettle.

When “Truth” is not given reverence and allowed to permeate the whole of our being, individually and collectively, self-destruction is encouraged as illustrated by the Republicans.  Again, as Shakespeare put it, we then begin to “feed even on the pith of life.”

 

Trump and the’Awful Grace of God’

“The Lord has raised him up!” Some conservatives made this argument for Trump and I’m beginning to believe they were right, but not in the way they had in mind. Conservatives have the very important responsibility for emphasizing boundaries and restraint in any tribe but when that emphasis becomes extreme, “balance” will be forthcoming from “the gods.”  Now they have Donald Trump who is the poster child for poor boundarys and he is putting fundamental “proprieties” of our country in jeopardy, best illustrated with this egregious connection with Russia.  Conservatives are being “hoisted on their own petard.”   Lord help us.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/flynn-held-multiple-calls-with-russian-envoy_us_58792072e4b09281d0eaaaf1?y4gb5h6z14c7rjm7vi)

Conservatives in America are facing a “come to Jesus moment” as is our entire country.  A “Come to Jesus meeting” is a popular expression of a moment when truth is becoming impossible to hide from, when truth is even about to “bitch slap” somebody.  And like all humans, Conservatives are averse to this invasion of reality and are doing everything in their power to undermine Truth’s insidious, persistent effort to “out” them.  “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.” (T. S. Eliot)

But a “Come to Jesus” moment is also relevant to Christians as it is to all spiritual traditions from time to time.  But for evangelical Christians in particular, who have hitched their wagon to Trump, this poses a real problem as in their mind set they have no need to “come to Jesus” because He is already leading them and in fact has led them to back Trump to “Make America Great Again.”  In their mind, there is no need to “come to Jesus” for they already have Him and under his leadership one can make no mistakes.

But this naive belief of evangelicals deserves the scrutiny of meta cognition, alluded to by the Apostle Paul when he told them that the Spirit of God should be allowed to penetrate into the hidden recesses of the heart and is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents the heart.”  Being a Christian does not give one a perfect perspective as it does not eradicate what Paul called the “old man” or “the flesh.”  The Spirit of God, if it is allowed to daunt the tyranny of the ego, can show an individual just how much spiritual impulses are subject to hijacking by this aforementioned “flesh.”  Speaking from experience, it is stunning to suddenly realize just how much one’s spirituality has been “all about me” and in fact has little or nothing to do with spirituality, or in this context, with “God” or “Jesus.”  It is just because we never escape our basic malady of being “human” with an innate tendency to twist everything about life in a self-serving manner.  This always give rise to what Sartre called “bad faith” and then offers the popular press and stand-up comedians plenty of material to ridicule any spiritual enterprise.  The resulting criticism is often over the top  but the tenor of it is well deserved.

Yes, Donald Trump is a god-send but “god-sends” are often painful as they are an assault on the tyranny of this ego and the experience is crushing.  Disillusionment is so painful that we will use any self-deception to avoid this moment described by Aeschylus as “the awful grace of God.”  Or as W. H. Auden worded it, “When Truth met him, and held out her hand, he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”  The evangelical leadership is particularly vulnerable here as if they allow reality to set in, as it must be doing by now, they might have to do the very thing that Donald Trump cannot do, admit that, “I made a mistake.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts about the Election 2016

This election yesterday which will bring Donald Trump to the Presidency of my country in January has taught me so much, not just about my country but about myself.  This is because I now pay attention much better, not only to what happens “out there” in my world but what happens “in here” in my subjective experience.  No longer do I have the luxury of merely coasting by on my convenient set of preconceptions.

The American people have clearly voted for a more conservative direction in our country, politically and culturally.  Their insistence on a return to conservative values was so emphatic that they were even willing to vote for a candidate that most of them did not like, many of whom even found it embarrassing to vote for him.  And I feel passionately that a conservative presence in any culture is needed; but it is sad that the Republican Party could not come up with a candidate who represented their values and didn’t bring Trump’s unsavory qualities to the table.

Furthermore, this election was an affirmation about a certain way of looking at the world, a worldview with very certain and rigid boundaries best illustrated with Trump’s brazen declaration to “build a wall” to keep out the Mexicans and even to make Mexico pay for it.  This “building of walls” is a metaphor for the whole emphasis of the Trumpian message to “Make American Great Again,” meaning to turn back the clock to the time when boundaries were very definite and “everybody” knew their place.  Yes, “Negroes”, women, homosexuals, foreigners of all stripes, and all expressions of diversity were frowned upon or persecuted.

When the basic assumptions that formulate the template through which we view the world are threatened, it is a very human response to want to revert to what has worked in the past to diminish or eliminate this threat.  This is true on an individual and a collective level.  But sometimes this need for the security of the “tried and true” of yesteryear can become too great and we will succumb to the temptation of making,  “for ourselves a life safer than we can bear.”  (W. H. Auden)  Life is inherently dynamic and with the dynamic flow of this spiritual process there is always some risk involved.  Without willingness to take risks, to change, we have retreated to a sterile and moribund world which leaves us bereft of spirit, existing only as the walking dead.

A Caveat Re Trump

I had several interesting and provocative responses to my post about Trump and his shame-based character earlier today. One particular gentleman was definitely conservative, as evidenced by his reporting about something he heard on Rush Limbaugh, but he was very gracious and articulate and completely worthy of my respect.

He brought to the table for me something that I already knew but often is not apparent in what I post here.  There are at least two ways of looking at this current political morass we are experiencing, and probably more than two.  I vehemently oppose Donald Trump and find him an abominable candidate for the Presidency; BUT, there are intelligent, moral, and thoughtful people who support him.  They are driven by concerns that supersede Trump’s obvious character flaws.  I disagree with them.  BUT, they are not stupid nor are they bad people.  There are people I know very well, including family members, who will vote for Trump even though some of them have admitted they will be embarrassed to do so.  I do not understand it but there is no need to.  But there is the need to respect them.

The thing that angers me most is that the leadership of the Republican Party has been so devoid of spiritual and moral integrity that they have taken a passive stance to the ugliness of the radical base of their party, selling their soul because they know their party is not viable without the support of these “deplorables”, some of which the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, several years ago described as “knuckle-draggers.”  The party elders have amongst themselves the capability to bring to the table a viable candidate, someone about whom my friends and family will not be embarrassed to vote for.

Yes, Hillary is a flawed candidate.  But she does not meet the criteria for psychopathology as does Donald Trump.

Donald Trump and his Shame-Based Psyche

If we don’t know already enough about the character of Donald Trump, we now have another glimpse into the dark recesses of his heart with a new book, “The Truth about Trump” by Michael D’Antonio.  The author uses Trump’s own words from an interview two years ago to show us just how extensive is the shame-base that governs this man who could soon be the next President of the United States.  This shame-base is so deep-seated and pervasive that he cannot acknowledge any wrong or having lost in anything.  It boils down to an inability to admit, “I am wrong” about even the simplest matter.  Often when it would have been politically prudent to have acknowledged that “I misspoke” or “I now regret having said that” or some other euphemistic say of acknowledging he had made a mistake, he will merely double-down on the matter.  At times it has been comical.

 

All of us have a shame base and it serves a purpose, forcing us to “join the human race” and play by its rules…more or less…even when at times these rules seem to be more than we can bear.  But if we cannot play by the rules we will be an “out-lier” and possibly become the bully on the playground who fails to regard common civilities and perfunctory kindnesses necessary to “join in the reindeer games,”  those from which Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was excluded. The playground bully is comfortable with the disruptive influence he has on the play-ground, and even thrives on it in some perverted manner.  Those that carry this impudence to an extreme and cross a certain boundary at some point will end up in the principal’s office and face frequent suspension from school.  For the “play-ground” must have rules as otherwise the “civilization” that it represents will disintegrate into complete chaos.

 

In any ordinary “play-ground” Trump would have already been suspended or institutionalized in one of the facilities at which I used to practice counseling for incorrigible teen-age offenders.  But Trump stumbled onto a “playground” that was amenable to his excesses, allowing him to reach a point at which he could not be stopped.  Oh, sure now his Republican Party is greatly troubled by his presence and by his power but most of them still will not acknowledge that they created an atmosphere in their Party the past few decades that would permit him to climb to power by fostering a culture of dishonesty and hypocrisy which would make someone like Trump viable.  If they’d have maintained some basic sense of moral and spiritual integrity, the resulting structure, i.e “boundaries”, would have made it impossible for demagoguery to gain traction.  To illustrate, for the past eight years of the Obama presidency they have been passive in response to members of its constituency that insinuated and declared that Obama was not an actual citizen of the United States, was actually a Muslim,.  Often I watched the GOP leadership sidestep opportunities to quash this type of non-sense but they would always equivocate on the matter, not wanting to alienate their base who thrives on hysterical non-sense.

But my main concern today is, “Why do intelligent citizens continue to support him when reports such as the D’Antonio book clearly reveal that Trump is mentally unstable?”  And furthermore just yesterday a Conservative firebrand, Glenn Beck, described Trump as a “psychopath” about whom he was frightened.  Trump’s instability is so egregious that it is commonly accepted but many conservatives sheeplishly declare they are standing firm in support of him, lest Hillary Clinton be elected..  So, where is reason in my country today?  Have we lost our mind?  Are we crazy?

Well, no.  The problem is that “reason” is not the guiding force in our lives and never has been.  Our reason is but the surface dimension of life and is always subservient to subterranean dimensions of the heart that we do not wish to acknowledge.  As Woody Allen once said about marrying his step-daughter, “The heart wants what it wants.”  Or as someone else once put it, “Our thinking is the belated rationalization of conclusions to which we have already been led by our desires.”  To put it still another way, our reasoning which purportedly governs our life is always governed by the unconscious.  But for many people the notion of being influenced by unconscious motivations jeopardizes their ego-driven belief that they are totally in control of their lives,  that they “know” what they are doing, and are “right” about what they are doing and believing.  To recognize this hidden dimension of their heart would jeopardize their illusion of being in control.  And control is the core issue in this political campaign.  It is a battle between people who are firmly entrenched in a now-threatened view of the world that we are in control of our lives and those of us that have imbibed of what I think can best be described as post-modern thought.  This modern view of the world recognizes that we only have a perspective on the world and do not see things objectively, making it necessary to lighten-up a bit with our view of the world and allow more diversity that we used to think was necessary or even possible.

And this, my friend, is scary!  What makes it so frightening is that the ego can no longer reign in our hearts and lives, forcing us to humble ourselves a bit and see, understand, and experience that our view of the world is very finite and given to being very self-serving.  By nature we see and believe only what we want to see and believe.  Or, in the famous words of Jesus, we “have eyes to see but see not, ears to hear but hear not.”

NYT book review of D’Antonio book:   (See NYT review of the D’Antonio book–http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/26/us/politics/donald-trump-interviews.html?_r=0)