From The UK: Trump And The Queen

This post is from dear friend and blog follower, The Reverend Roger Wikely, partially-retired Anglican priest and a Faux News stringer, living in his native England.

No reporter from Faux News was seen in London this week to record the historic meeting of Her Gracious Majesty (the Queen) with President Tramp (spelling intentional).
It is reported that the President was determined to ignore courtiers’ advice and to greet Her Majesty with a kiss, but this proved to be beyond him since, he, being oversized and she, being petite, he couldn’t stoop low enough to fulfil that particular ambition.  Asked if she preferred him to address her as Liz or as Queenie, her response was such that no reporters could hear it.

It is hoped our reporter will come immediately to the UK to cover what is left of this visit.

Faux News: The Trump/Putin Summit

The big summit will not happen until next week, but Faux News has inside information regarding how the historic event will unfold as described below:

The two men enter the room alone with no one else present. They shake hands, embrace and then shake hands again, then embrace and shake hands a third time.

Trump: Vladdy!

Putin: Donny-Boy!

Trump: At last alone. Nobody but us.

Putin: Mr. President, I have to tell you how much I admire—and yes, love you. You are  a great leader of a great nation, and it is my distinct honor to be alone in the same room with a man who will go down in history as the greatest leader of all time.

Trump: Except for you, Mr. President.

Putin: Of course, but let’s get down to the basics since we have so little time. First, Donny-Boy, the sanctions. I want them removed and removed now.

Trump: I know, Vladdy. I am working on it, but you see I have this pesky congress.

Putin: You have got them where you want them.  McConnell and Ryan will do anything you want as will everyone else who is a Republican and not retiring. I am beginning to lose patience. You must not forget that you have made America great again. You have pulled your country out of the Obama sewer, and the whole world respects and fears you. You can do whatever you want.

Trump: I know, but I also have these pesky mid term elections coming up.

Putin: No worry, Donny-Boy. We have already taken care of that. You will  gain four Senate seats and grow your majority in the House. You will be the most powerful president in U.S. history.

Trump: No kidding? You are going to do it again? Thank you so much, Vladdy. You know how grateful I am for what you did in 2016. And to help me again? How can I ever thank you enough?

Putin: You know how, Donny-Boy. Sanctions first, then abandon NATO, and do not pester me when I am acting in our combined national interests. Remember, we have 50 times more nukes between the U.S. and Russia than the entire rest of the world combined. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want and wherever we want. But we must work together.

Trump:  You are right, Vladdy. But there are some, even in the Republican Party, who do not like you or trust you.

Putin: Deal with it Donny-Boy.

Trump: I  will try but…

Putin: Donny-Boy, I still have the Kompromat photos of the Moscow whores.

Trump: But you said…

Putin: And I still have the all the info on the business deals, the casino, the golf courses and the bribes that went with them.

Trump: I understand, Mr. President.

Putin: But also understand that I would not have done what I have done for you for anyone else. You are the smartest, the bravest, the best looking, and the strongest of anyone on this planet…

Trump: Except for you, Mr. President.

Putin: Of course.  I think we fully understand each other. And, oh yes, one other thing. My informants tell me Mueller has the goods. Kill the investigation and destroy the evidence. Do it now! Do you think for one moment that we would allow anything like this to happen in Russia? If you can’t take care of it, we surely can.

Trump: Understood. Will get back to you on this. But rest assured, we have a deal.

 

Meeting concludes with two embraces and three handshakes.

 

 

 

The Fourth of July, 2018

Today we celebrate the independence of the United States from Great Britain. This is my 77th  of being alive on this day, when we Americans gather for picnics, watch fireworks, see parades, and celebrate what it is to be an American. There is indeed so much to be thankful for on this day. This is a special country. We Americans are blessed. I would not want to live anywhere else.

Yet this Fourth of July seems eerily different from most of the ones that have come before over the past 77 years that I have been alive. A battle is raging as to what kind of country we are becoming and want to become. The nation has never been more divided except during the Civil War.

On the one side there is the Party of Trump, no longer recognizable as the proud  Republican Party it once was. Trump rode the populist wave of “throw the bums out”  with a little help from a weak campaign by his opponent, her email saga, and perhaps the Russians. He won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by over three million votes.  Since becoming President he has waged war on the press, alienated our allies, tacitly and not-so-tacitly supported racists and hate groups, and pursued trade policies that many economists think will trigger a recession. He has not supported  gun regulations. He has seen his tax cut pass the Republican-controlled Congress resulting in huge windfalls for the rich and a soaring deficit that is unsustainable. He is  anti-environment, anti-immigrant, anti-poor people,  and anti-people of color, promising to make America great again just like the good old days—as in Jim Crow.  His foreign policies are inconsistent and unpredictable. If any of his current list of Supreme Court nominees get confirmed, it is likely to be the end of Roe v. Wade, possibly gay marriage, and most of the remaining civil rights laws. 

About 40 percent of the voting population strongly support Trump. Many adore him. He represents change from the status quo; and no matter how  how outrageous  his behavior or tweets are, his popularity does not  seem to budge. He has said that he could kill someone on Fifth Avenue, and it would not make one bit of difference.

There are reasons for his popularity. Most I believe have to do with the fact that a lot of Americans are struggling financially, feel abandoned and dissed by the liberal elite, and are fearful of the changing complexion of America. Some of his popularity, but certainly by no means a majority, has to do with old-fashioned racism. The irony is that many in his base are hard working, white working class people, some former Democrats, who  could not be any more different from a man like Trump, who was born into great wealth and has been anti union and anti worker throughout his real estate career.  

One the other side, there are the rest of us. About 40 percent  of the voting population are people like me who despise the man and what he is doing to our country. We embrace the idea of growing diversity in our country, gay marriage, civil rights, environmental protection, affordable health care, a strong social safety net, heavy investment in infrastructure, affordable higher education, and higher taxes on the rich. We are the hard-core opposition. We are mostly Democrats, but some independents  fall into this category.

The other twenty percent –mainly Independents but some traditional Republicans—are not happy with Trump and the way the country is going but are not a sure thing to vote against him when election day comes around. Some have tended to turn a blind eye to Trump’s  outrageous behavior in exchange for tax cuts  that in the short run make them wealthier. Others  see him as the lesser of two evils. A good number of these people, however, will vote anti-Trump. How many  vote for a Democrat in 2018 will determine the future of our country.

 I am hopeful that the midterm Congressional elections will at least put the Democrats back in control of the House. The Senate is a long shot, but  having at least one House of Congress to balance Trump could make a huge difference. The biggest hope appears to be white, suburban, married women who have tended to vote  traditional Republican in the past. But given Trump’s misogyny and the #Me Too Movement, they will vote for Democrats to counterbalance the Trump Administration.

But what if this does not happen? What if the Trump opposition does not turn out to vote in great numbers? What if the enthusiasm  among Trump’s  base results in a much stronger turnout—a Red Wave as Trump is calling it?

This is what causes me to stay awake at night. This is why July 4, 2018, is different. Trump is unique. There has been no President like him in all of U.S. history. Our democracy is fragile. We see countries like Turkey, Poland, and Hungary inch closer to totalarian  governments. Neo fascism is starting to brew in Germany and other European countries. Could this happen here?

So on this Fourth of July we should rejoice and celebrate our proud history but at the same time keep in mind just how fragile and how serious the current situation is. Yes, we have had great failures in the past—slavery and Jim Crow topping the list—but have managed to come through them, at least somewhat. We have been though a  revolution, a civil war and two world wars. We have faced hard challenges in the past. We  are facing hard challenges now. I pray on this Fourth of July, 2018, that we will come through our dark night of the soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close Calls and Guardian Angels

Have you ever had a close call, barely averting disaster? I think one reason we old codgers tend to more conservative when it come to personal risk taking is that we have lived long enough to have experienced a number of close calls.  We know that life at times can be a matter of inches. We also, as the saying goes, “thank our lucky stars” that we have managed to survive these close calls and to have lived as long as we have.

One close call for me occurred this week on Tuesday when Embry and I were tubing on the Shenandoah River with our granddaughter, Josie,  age 10. I have done a lot of canoeing, but this was the first time I had ever floated down the Shenandoah River in an inner tube. In a lot of ways it is easier than a canoe. You just sit there in the inner tube and let the current take you where it wants to. But that also turns out to be the challenge. It is very hard to steer an inner tube. You go where the current takes you.

 The outfitters warned us that due to heavy rains the water was two to three feet above normal and very swift. So when we approached the take out spot “just below the mile 11 marker,“ we should maneuver the tubes to be very close to the shore to avoid being carried down a long rapid. Since the takeout spot was “below” mile 11, as in “down stream,” I assumed that after seeing the 11-mile marker, we would have a little room to maneuver before we reached the spot where we needed to get out. The takeout spot was below the marker alright, directly below the sign, which we did not see in time to splash our way as close to the shore as we needed to be. Embry jumped out first, landed on the bottom with barely the necessary depth to allow her to pull her tube and Josie’s to shore. I waited another 10 seconds, which was just long enough to send me swiftly floating toward the first “V,” marking the beginning of the long rapid. I bailed out, lost my footing and desperately grabbed for a rock to try to hold my position, still hanging on to the tube. I could make no progress up stream. I quickly realized that there was no way that Embry could get to me without being washed down the rapids herself. No one was visible on shore.

This is  exactly the kind of spot you do not want to find yourself in. I did not fear for my life, however. The water was fairly shallow, and I had on a life jacket. But at the same time I realized that if I did go down the rapid, it would be quite a challenge to make my way back to the outfitters. There was no way I could stumble up stream, fighting a ferocious current, and the shoreline quickly turned into a steep bluff. I was stuck with no obvious solution.

That is when the kayakers appeared as if from nowhere. We had been on the river for over two hours. Except for the family that started at the same time we did (and who were still way up the river), we had hardly seen a soul—maybe two or three tubers, and that was it. Where did these kayakers come from? Four blue boats  paddled by  fit, mostly 20 to 30-something-year-olds. Two paddlers jumped from their kayaks into the water, grabbed me by my arms and pulled me and my inner tube upstream to safe and secure footing. No problem, all in a day’s work.

So what are the odds that four experienced kayakers would show up at exactly the same time I got into trouble? Maybe during a weekend there would be enough boat traffic so it would not have been that unusual, but this day we had seen virtually no one on the river. And yet here they were, guardian angels, showing up, out of the blue, physically fit and smiling, pulling me out of harms way like it was nothing.

“Glad to help out,” one of the young men said, smiling, as the four of them casually pulled their boats out of the water.

Another one of those “lucky star” moments.

How many of those have you had? I must have had at least a dozen, some of which I remember, but most I have forgotten. We tend to take life for granted, not realizing that the difference between business-as-usual and catastrophe can often be measured in centimeters.

Do you believe in guardian angels?

Life is indeed mysterious and the longer we live the more aware we are of its mystery and the wonder of it all.  I naturally thanked my rescuers profusely, still puzzled as to how they could have appeared at the exact moment that they did. Then I remembered a quote from a book I recently read (can’t recall the title) that went something like this: “A coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

 

 

Faux News: Trump To Be Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Faux News has learned that Trump has been nominated for and will receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This was confirmed today in a hastily-called press conference by Sarah Huckabee  Sanders, who spoke to a small group of skeptical and surprised reporters.

Ms. Sanders began her remarks by making the announcement that the President will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his courageous and bold decision to prohibit the inhumane treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers started by  Woodrow Wilson and supported by every   president since that time and was the centerpiece of Hillary Clinton’s emails and tweets. This law, passed by Democrats, requires law enforcement officials to rip children away from the parents seeking asylum  and place them indefinitely in cages. When asked if she could provide any proof or corroboration of this inhumane treatment administered at the hands of public officials during prior administrations, she said that there were so many that it could fill a New York telephone book, when they had telephone books, and that any reporter asking such a stupid question must work for one of the fake news organizations.

The surprise, of course, was that the Nobel Committee had chosen Trump for his humane and courageous acts related to the toddlers and infants of immigrants and asylum seekers rather than his bold and courageous initiatives with Kim Jon Un. When questioned by one reporter as to why Trump had not received the award for his actions in North Korea, Sanders replied that he would surely be awarded a second peace prize for getting Kim Jon Un to denuclearize immediately and to make several sites available for Trump golf resorts, hotels, and casinos.

 She boasted, “It would be the first time in history anyone has won two Nobel Peace Prizes in one year, and for this honor the President will go down in history as the greatest world leader of all time.”

Reporters then quizzed the Press Secretary regarding the recent caging of infants and toddlers ripped from the arms of asylum seekers. Sanders said that the treatment was only a holdover from the evil Obama Administration, and the minute that Trump became aware of it, he stopped it.

She scolded the “fake press” again for spreading lies and falsehoods and said that the White House is working on laws and regulations that will put a stop to this un-American activity and eliminate the fake press for good.

Ms. Sanders concluded her remarks by emphasizing that this courageous action should be viewed as a sign of strength and power, not weakness or giving in to crocodile tears from bleeding heart, namby-pamby, do-gooders or Republican Senators up for reelection in November.

 “Trump is not letting these immigrant murderers, rapists and thieves off the hook,” she said. “In fact his actions will extend the time for detention for immigrants and asylum seekers from 20 days to forever. The only thing that might be considered weak—but isn’t—is allowing the children to remain with their parents in make-shift tents, detention centers and prisons. We do not want these people here, and if they are here they are going to be locked up in prisons where they belong. This is what the American people want, why they elected Trump by the greatest margin of all time, and why the American people support him 100%. The November congressional elections will prove his popularity and power, and he will be reelected by the greatest landslide of all time in 2020. Just wait and see. He has already made America great again just like he promised he would. And have you checked the support he gets from his base? Need I say more?”

 

Faux News: As The Number of Immigrant Children In Detention Camps Rises Above 2,000, Republicans To Cast Themselves as the “Party of the Family”

Disguised as a cocktail waitress, our reporter was on the spot again, this time at a gathering of the Republican brain trust to map out a strategy for increasing their numbers in  the House and Senate. Here is her verbatim account as recorded on her secret iPhone:

Pence: Thank you all for coming. The President sends his regrets and best wishes. He is busy preparing his speech for acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.  The purpose of this meeting, as you know, is to map out  a strategy to destroy the Democrats in the November elections. Also, as  you know, the President is enjoying unsurpassed popularity among Republicans, he’s now buddy-buddy with Kim Jon Un, the economy is booming, the findings of the inspector general’s report show that the Russians worked hand-in-hand with Democrats to defeat Trump,  and that Comey should be jailed. So should Hilary. Mueller too.  It is a great day for us. We in the Party of Trump will dominate the country for decades to come. But we need a unifying theme, and the President and I think it should be, “We are the party of the family.”

Paul Ryan: Great idea! Everyone knows the Democrats hate families.

Mitch McConnell: I’m on board. Anything the President wants.

Rudy Giuliani: Could we pause for a moment to give thanks to the President for all he does and for his love and respect for the family?

Moment of Silence

Pence: Thank you for that. I beg the President’s forgiveness for not suggesting this myself. Before we lay out our family-first strategy, however, we have to address the over capacity problem we have with regard to all the children we have taken away from their no-good, law breaking, illegal immigrant mothers. We have got four or five kids, many of them infants and toddlers, in rooms designed for two. The detention centers are bursting at the seams. There is not enough staff to begin to take care of them all.

Ryan: Detention centers? I am not aware of any detention centers.

McConnell. Me either. Could we get back to the question of how we love families?

Giuliani: Well, we believe in pro life. We are anti abortion, and we believe birth control should be illegal. The Communist-inspired notion that family planning should be covered under Obama Care is outrageous and anti family. That will pick up a lot of votes. Furthermore we believe in slashing benefits to deadbeat moms who don’t work full time and in cutting all federal funding from childcare centers. Our goal is to make families independent and self-reliant. If that is not pro family, I do not know what is.

Pence cell phone rings.

Pence: Excuse me, this is from the President. Yes, Exalted One, I understand. I am going to address the issue of overcrowding right now. In fact I have already started the discussion. How many more prisons, I mean centers? Yes, Exalted One, brilliant.

Pence puts phone back in his pocket.

The President informs me that the number of detained children is now approaching 3,000, and we must expand capacity immediately. He believes we need at least 10,000 beds and suggests that we put this out to bid to the private prison industry. It would be a terrific opportunity for them because we could end up keeping these kids locked up for life. If we put them out on the street, all they would do would rape, murder and steal when they got older. Some could turn out to be terrorists.

Giuliani: Now that is what I call pro family.

Pence: So that settles it. Our big theme will be pro family and how we want to strengthen families by getting rid of all government benefits like Medicaid, TANF, child care subsidies, and minimum wage requirements. We are going to liberate them from the tyranny of government and make them stronger and happier.

Ryan: Fabulous! What I have been working for my entire career. And the savings will enable us to push though real tax reform.

McConnell: Agreed. But do you think that taking toddlers and infants from their mothers might raise a few eyebrows?

Ryan: What toddlers and children? 

Giuliani: Fake news. Democrats spreading lies.

Ryan: As I said, I don’t know anything about detention centers. We are the party of the family. But it is also important to keep the law. We are a nation of laws.

Pence: Good. I will get the ad people on it right now. “The Party of Trump is  the party of the family.” Love it. It will bring us victory in 2018.

Pence phone rings again.

Pence: What is that Mister President? Make it 100,000 beds? Time to go after DACAs and all the other illegals? Got it. RFP for the private prison industry goes out tomorrow.

Great meeting everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faux News: Let’s Talk Religion

On Friday religion–specifically Christianity– was on the front pages of major newspapers, which were covering the latest Jeff Sessions statement that The Apostle Paul’s writings in Romans 13 justify the Trump Administration’s policy of taking away infants and toddlers from their immigrant mothers when they are caught illegally crossing the border and placing them indefinitely in detention centers. Some estimates show more than 1,500 children now in these centers without their parents or guardians. 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders enthusiastically supported sessions during her press conference. And she should know, since her father is a famous Evangelical minister turned politician. It will only be a matter of time, I suppose, before Franklin Graham and other conservative church leaders weigh in supporting Sessions. As of this writing I am not  aware of any Republican who has come out against these remarks.

Of course, this is nothing new. Christian churches were split down the middle during the civil rights movement. I remember attending a church service in Birmingham’s largest, white, Methodist Church in 1963 and hearing the minister preach to a jubilant congregation about how the Bible supported segregation and how slavery was accepted by Jesus and was commonplace throughout the Holy Land.  Other churches, however, certainly the Black church, but also many Catholic churches and mainstream Protestant churches located  outside the South, were very much involved in supporting the “Movement.”

The civil rights movement was a watershed experience for me and for Embry, which I wrote about in Civil Rights Journey. But it also got me in trouble. I was studying at Union Seminary in New York City and had planned to become an ordained Episcopal priest. My bishop was a conservative, old school kind of guy, feisty and outspoken. I actually liked him though we did not agree on what it meant for Christians—especially ordained ministers—to get involved in politics or social reform movements. For me putting your life on the line for a cause like racial equality was the very essence of what it meant to follow the teachings of Jesus. For him it was not necessarily wrong per se but surely was a distraction from the job of being a pastor to  a flock of white people in an Episcopal church in the late 1960s in Tennessee.  And this was the job I was being trained for. It is easy to make the bishop into a foolish, backward old man, but in hindsight I can see that he did have a point. In any event we agreed to part ways, and  after graduating from Union, I headed to urban planning school and eventually pursued a career  building affordable and seniors housing. I have not regretted the decision for a moment.

I think that Christian churches should take a stand on social issues. But I also understand it is not all that easy. The Evangelicals have been doing this for decades. But the stand that they take is totally at odds with the stand I would take or that progressive Protestant  churches would–or at least should– take on many issues. They are also at odds with Catholic churches on issues related to social justice. Who is right?  Well, I am right! But others feel just as strongly on the other side. In short, it is a very delicate situation, which has divided churches and caused grief on both sides from time immemorial. If you are a pastor to a congregation, you have to minister to all of your flock. This means you are obligated to minister to people who may not share your views on social issues. It is a tough job. Developing housing is a lot easier.

The story that I like to tell about my parting ways with my calling to be an Episcopal priest is this: After hearing my bishop admonish me about the pitfalls of letting social and political issues stand in the way of ministering to a congregation, I protested vehemently that this was a true calling and that it should not keep me from being ordained.

Over the course of two years at Union Seminary I had had several sessions with the bishop, some of them dealing with theology and personal faith.

“Hell, son,” he responded one day, red-faced, “You are not even going to an Episcopal Seminary. You are going to a heretical, Protestant one, and from all our talks I am not even sure you believe in God!”

I responded,  ”Since when did that ever keep a self-respecting Episcopalian from being ordained?”

But, alas, that is fake news. We departed on good terms, and the rest is history.

Surely Sessions is dead wrong and is using Biblical text out of context to score political points. Surely there will be push back from Democrats and progressives. Hopefully some of these will be from church leaders. But just as surely life will go on in its muddled, complicated way: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

 

 

 

 

Faux News Editorial: Where Are “The Traditional Republicans”?

Okay, I confess to the obvious: I am a bleeding heart Democrat, an unapologetic progressive/liberal, and a hapless do-gooder. And in case you have missed it, I hate Trump.

That said, I know, like and admire a lot of Republicans. My father was a loyal Republican, who as far as I know never voted for a Democrat. Most of my friends growing up and in high school and college were raised Republican and remain so today. Many of the clients of my consulting firm were real estate developers who were Republicans whose optimism, risk taking and chutzpa I really liked. I would guess that over half of my non-profit, mainly faith-based clients were conservative Republicans as well. I admired and respected them.

The kind of Republicans I used to know, however, are not the same kind of people who are lining up in praise and adoration of our Republican President, Donald Trump.

The kind of Republicans I used to know believed in self-reliance, hard work, personal responsibility for one’s actions, minimum government regulations, lower taxes and robust capitalism. They valued family and community institutions. Many were churchgoers. They believed in charity and outreach to others but did not think it was so much the government’s role to do this as it was the role of private citizens. They believed in a strong military and  distrusted autocrats.  They believed in order, predictability and fairness. While I believed many to be blind to racial and class issues, I would not call them racists per se—certainly not most of the ones I knew.

I did not—and I do not—myself embrace all of the Republican the values, but I think I understand them. I get it. I know where they are coming from. I was brought up this way myself in a pretty fancy neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee.

What has happened to these people? Where are they today and what do they believe? Why are they keeping quiet?

I read today that Trump has the highest approval rating among Republicans ever enjoyed by any Republican president except briefly for George W. Bush following 911—well above 90%. Can these people be the same people that I knew who valued decency, personal integrity, and a healthy distrust of big government, bureaucracy, and foreign adversaries?

If they still believe in these conservative Republican ideals, how can they support Donald Trump?

How can they support someone who brags about groping women, who demeans immigrants and people who are physically handicapped, condones extremist racists groups, divides the nation according to class, race and ethnicity, who is an incorrigible narcissist, a perpetual liar, and who is ripping apart the fragile social safety net? How can they support his tariffs and trade wars and abandonment of free trade, his insults aimed at our most important allies, his war on science and denial of climate change, his embrace of dictators and totalitarians, his abusive and arrogant personality, and his war against the free press and government institutions like the FBI and the CIA? Trump has the personality of a strongman leader, a dictator, a despot. He is the first president to serve who unabashedly is more concerned about his business ventures than the state of the nation. Yet except for a brief moment which occurred for George W., this man is more popular among Republicans than any other president in American history.

How can this be? How can traditional conservative leaders like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, and Lindsay Graham line up behind a man who would appear to be the antithesis of what they supposedly believe in? Why is there no Republican opposition to his policies and outrageous behavior except from retiring senators like Bob Corker or John McCain or Jeff Flake? Why have the primary voters in Republican primaries voted overwhelmingly for Trump candidates over traditional Republicans?

To these questions I invite reader response.

My own take is that many of the people I call “traditional Republicans” have made  a  calculated Faustian bargain. They have agreed to tolerate Trump’s abhorrent, unpredictable and often dangerous behavior in exchange for getting conservative Supreme Court judges and other conservative appointees and large tax breaks for themselves and others of considerable wealth. As for the other stuff that Trump is doing, well, that’s the trade off. We don’t live in a perfect world. And besides, they could argue, “Look, we have already won. We have Gorsuch with more conservative appointees to follow, and we have our tax breaks. The economy is booming. Mission accomplished.”

But have they won? History will ultimately pass judgment on this Faustian bargain, and it will not be kind. By keeping silent, responsible –or rather formerly responsible—traditional Republicans have allowed Trump to create an atmosphere and environment of hatred and division where the basic foundations of our Democracy are at stake—such fundamental institutions like a free press, free speech, an independent Department of Justice, the rule of law, and equality of opportunity for all. Then there is climate change and the environment and alliances with dictators and despots at the expense of our North American and European allies. The huge deficit facilitated by the tax cuts will come back to haunt the economy and the country, and that will happen sooner than most people realize. And of course always the risk of nuclear war is present, albeit less for now, given that Trump and Kim Jon Un are best friends. The list goes on. The world order has changed. History will record Trump as one of the most significant of all who have served our country as president, a true game-changer, as the saying goes.  The traditional Republicans who do not like Trump or share his values will be held responsible for their complicity in what I and many others fear is a looming catastrophe.

But you are over reacting, some may say. We have a constitution, and there is only so much he can actually get away with. And after all the Republicans have gotten themselves elected. If you want things to change, you have to get your Democratic candidates elected, and that has not happened. So the people will decide, and for now the people have chosen Trump.

I am hoping that that argument prevails, that Democrats will retake the House and Senate. But what if it doesn’t? What if Trump, along with a decidedly conservative Supreme Court, limits what news media can write or say? What if Trump and a conservative Congress actually do begin massive deportations of dreamers and undocumented immigrants? What if Trump abetted by a conservative Congress continues to get tougher on crime with more minimum sentences and more private prisons? What if the modest social safety net gets ripped apart? What if our infrastructure continues to decline because there are no government funds to address the crisis? What if  Trump  remains in power for a second term and  others like him  follow? What if in a typical Trump tizzy, he pushes the nuclear button?

Couldn’t happen, you say. The same thing was said about Germany and Central Europe following World War I. Catastrophe couldn’t happen there–the most sophisticated and educated country in the world– but it did. Catastrophe couldn’t happen here either, but it could—if good people who disagree with Trump on many issues and abhor his behavior sit  on the sidelines and keep quiet as long as they see something in it for themselves. If there is anything good to come out of the Trump Presidency, it is a reminder of just how fragile our democracy is. Yes, good readers, it could happen here too.

Some would argue it is happening right now, before our very eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faux News: Evangelicals, Trump, and the End of Time

Many are aware of Trump’s strong support among Evangelicals. Over 80% support him, a majority of whom “strongly support” the President. Despite his controversial behavior, Trump’s approval ratings have held steady and even increased in recent weeks among Evangelical Christians. Our reporter managed to get this exclusive interview with Reverend Robinson J. Duckworth, fictitious Evangelical theologian and head of the heretofore unknown, fake organization, “Evangelicals for Justice”:

FN: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Reverend Duckworth.

RJD: I would do it only for Fox News, my favorite news outlet.

FN: Well this is Faux News, pronounced like Fox but not the same Fox News you are familiar with, but thanks for agreeing for the interview. My first question is why do so many Evangelicals support Trump.

RJD:   Oh, I see. This is not Fox News? OK, I will answer your questions anyway.  Since it is fake, it won’t make a difference.

 We support him for many reasons. The first has to do with his assurance that he is pro life and will stand up for that. He has already shown that he is moving in that direction by his appointment of Gorsuch  to the Supreme Court. You may not agree with us, but the sanctity of life is at the core of our faith and belief.  Some time ago when the Evangelicals realized that if we wanted to effect real change in this country, we had to get involved in politics and take sides, we realized that every person we supported would not be perfect. But if he or she furthers the cause, it is worth it. So that is one reason, but there are a lot more.

FN: Such as?

RJD: Well, it’s also because of who he is and what he stands for. You know, his stand on immigration, jobs for Americans, being able to say “Merry Christmas” again instead of “Happy Holidays,” and bringing Jesus back into our public schools. It is a turn away from the secularization that has taken our country in the wrong direction.

FN: I have heard that some believe that he is the  Second Coming of Christ.

RJD: Well, I believe that would be taking his popularity to the extreme. A few may say this because they believe he is living the holy life spelled out in the Bible. He is bringing the Kingdom of God to the Earth by being tough, strong, and uncompromising. He tells it like it is with no “political correctness,” and he wants to make America great again. He supports the NRA. Plus he hates the liberal elites. And you know the old saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. He is draining the swamp of these people, who many of us believe are arrogant and look down on us Evangelicals.  And there is plenty in the Bible to support his stands on the issues and being tough.

FN: Where in the Bible?

RJD:  There is a lot. For starters, Exodus 21:24. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” And Leviticus 24:19-22. “Broken bone for broken bone.” And Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. “There  is a time to kill.” And in 1 Samuel, 15:3, “The Lord said, Attack the Amalekites and put to death all men, women, children and infants.” God also said in Deuteronomy 19:19-21, “Purge the evil among you and show no pity.” And that is exactly what Trump is trying to do.

FN: But with all due respect, Reverend Duckworth, those quotes are all from the Old Testament. Wasn’t Jesus all about loving your neighbor?

RJD: That is right, but it is the neighbor part that is key. He didn’t say love everyone. He did not say love the Chinese or Indians or Mexicans or even people in another town or place. Scholars have pointed  this out. There was a reason he said neighbor.

FN: But isn’t there a lot of other stuff about love and kindness in the Bible?

RJD: Sure, but you have to put it in perspective. Jesus also said, Matthew 10:34, “Don’t imagine that I have come to bring peace to the Earth but a sword.” Trump is bringing a sword.  Jesus said that in Matthew 10:34. So love is important, yes, but so is the sword, and these are the times we are in. The country is changing, we believe, for the worse. The sex and violence you see on TV and movies is everywhere. Families are fragile. Divorce is rampant. Same sex marriages are now the law. Church attendance in mainline churches is way down—not so much for us and there is good reason for that, thank God. We hold our ground.  But things are just not going in the right direction and haven’t been for some time. Certainly not under Obama. And this may sound racist, but it is not, the complexion of our country is changing. We are becoming something different.

FN: Why do you say that this is not racist?

RJD: Because it isn’t. Many of our churches are integrated. We have lots of African Americans and Latinos. It is just that people feel uncomfortable with being so diverse that we lose our national identity.

FN:  But what about Trump’s personal behavior? The alleged lies he tells, his three marriages and numerous affairs, the way he brags about groping women, the law suits against him filed by women, the alleged collusion with Russia in the elections, his questionable business dealings, and his unrelenting attack on the press?

RJD: We are all human, and everyone makes mistakes every now and then.  We Evangelicals believe in forgiveness and redemption. Plus the fake news media makes too much of his behavior. That is why we try to limit what we watch and read and why Fox News is so important. The real Fox News. They tell the other side of the story that you won’t read about in the Washington Post or New York Times or see on CNN.

 And the liberal Democrats are just as guilty of  condoning personal failures. What about protesting Bill Clinton’s affairs? What about JFK and LBJ? I didn’t hear Democrats protesting their behavior. Humans are sinful. We all are, and for this we ask forgiveness. Look, I don’t like his tweets any more than you do, but this is just Trump being Trump. He can’t help it, and, frankly, we don’t let it bother us all that much.

FN: Are there any other reasons that you are supporting Trump?

JSP: Yes. I would like to return to the idea of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The fact is that many Evangelicals have been hurting personally in this country for some time. Many who attend our churches have blue collar jobs, and most have seen stable or declining paychecks. Some have been unemployed. Most do not belong to country clubs or have Ivy League educations, live in million dollar homes, drive fancy cars, or take expensive vacations. Some do, of course, but we see ourselves mainly as common, God-fearing, ordinary people. The people running the government we believe have not taken us seriously and frankly that is why we have become political and why we are standing up for ordinary people.

The elite  running the country have let us down. They have disrespected us. And it is not just the Democrats. In fact before Trump came into the picture, many of us were not even Republicans. Some of us voted for Obama for president twice and for Bernie in the 2016 primaries. And every Republican running against Trump in the primaries was also part of the elite. Trump was different. He was cut from a different cloth. It is the elite we have had it up to our ears with. Hillary was the essence of the elite. They are the swamp. Trump promised to drain the swamp, and that is what he is doing and that is why he remains so popular. As long as he makes the elite miserable and continues to upset the apple cart, he will continue to be popular among the Evangelicals.

FN: But Trump was born into wealth. He inherited millions from his father, used to ride in fancy cars with chauffeurs, went to an Ivy League school and has mansions in many places.

RJD: I know that it sounds contradictory, and I have trouble figuring this out myself. But really what it is about is this: The election was a choice between two people. One at least spoke the language that many of us understand. The other was Hillary Clinton. Need I say more?

FN: You don’t think you might have made a Faustian bargain—a bargain with the Devil? A bargain that this will come back to bite you? That maybe you have been duped? After all the only major legislation that has been passed is tax breaks geared mainly to the rich and super rich.

RJD: Only time will tell if he was the right choice. But right now we have one more vote on the Supreme Court to make abortion illegal and could wind up with two more pro life votes if Trump has six more years. Then, mission accomplished.

FN: So what is your vision of where the country is headed and how Trump will make America great again?

RJD: Well, I think it would be great if he could be our leader for a long time.  Two terms is just not enough for a game changer like Trump. There is no telling what will happen after Trump, but I do believe he will be at least a two-term president.

But your question is more complicated—maybe even profound– than you realize. Perhaps you read in the news this weekend that according to a Gallop poll, over 40 percent of the U.S. population believe that life as we know it will come to an end before the year 2050. A very high percentage of Evangelicals believe this including me. Just look at the facts. Nuclear weapons are proliferating, and rogue countries like North Korea have them. There is no telling what is to come out of the talks with North Korea and no telling how long it will be before a terrorist group gets nukes. Then there are chemical and biological weapons. Also if the electric grid goes down, everything will come to a halt. And just think about how easy it would be to destroy the grid. And, of course, there is the environment and rising seas.

 I know, you are going to say something like,  ‘I thought you Evangelicals didn’t believe in climate change.’ Well, some don’t, but we aren’t stupid. Most do. Anyway take all of this and what do you think the chances are that something really big is going to go wrong? I believe we are actually approaching the End of Time and the end of the world as we know it. That is why there is something deeply spiritual about Trump. Some on the left might say he is God’s warning that we should wake up. Some on the right would say that God is giving us one last chance. As for me, I do not know what to make of all this, and this is one reason I get down on my knees every day and pray for forgiveness and redemption.

FN: On that chilling comment, Reverend, I will conclude the interview but will say this: perhaps there is not a totally impassible divide between Christians (and others) who see themselves as progressives and the Evangelicals who support Trump. Perhaps we all should get down on our knees and pray everyday the same prayer you are praying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faux News Returns: Republicans Announce Plans To Cut The Federal Deficit and Make America Great Again

March 31. WASHINGTON–In a much anticipated press conference, leaders of the Republican Party introduced a bill today which they maintain will cut the deficit by more than half in ten years and return America to greatness. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, described the bill before a host of reporters and enthusiastic supporters gathered in front of the House of Representatives. “What this bill will do when it becomes law—and we know that it will become law because America needs it—is this. It will assure that every American is working and that no one, and I mean no one, will feast from the government trough ever again. And it is a first step in getting our financial house in order.”

Mr. Ryan then outlined the key provisions:

  • A work requirement will be imposed for all government “handout” programs. This includes, among others, Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, Section 8 low income housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and TANF (“temporary assistance for needy families,” commonly referred to as “welfare”) and disability assistance.
  • The work requirement will be universal with no exceptions and stipulates only full time employment will be permitted under the law and that all workers must be paid the federal minimum wage.
  • The minimum wage for all employment will be permanently set at $8.00/ hour or $16,000/year.
  • Anyone whose income is $16,000 or more will not be eligible to receive any benefits associated with these programs.
  • Further provisions will cut all federal funding for homeless shelters, health clinics  and other “unnecessary government handouts.”

When asked by a reporter if this means that no one will be eligible for these safety net programs, Mr. Ryan responded that that was absolutely not the case. His proposed legislation is not designed to get rid of any government safety net programs.  If anyone meets the criteria of working at a full time job at the federal minimum wage and makes less than $16,000 a year, they will be eligible and will receive all the benefits.

Mr. Ryan  added, “We Republicans are the party of working people and the common man. This is a major change in government policy designed to bring all people up and discourage shiftlessness and laziness. The American people will love us for this just like they love our president.”

  Vice President Pence, who also attended the event, interrupted and talked for over 10 minutes about how President Trump has accomplished more for poor people and working people than all of the presidents before him combined and more than any leader in the history of the world. He was weeping at the end of his impromptu comments.

When pressed by reporters to say how much government spending would be reduced by this bill if it becomes law, Speaker Ryan stated  that OMB estimates  that no funds will be spent by these programs going forward. This would reduce annual federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, Mr. Ryan maintained, adding that OMB projects that the entire federal deficit of more than $19 trillion will be eliminated within a few decades. He went on to say that he plans to introduce similar legislation regarding Social Security and Medicare, which if passed, would get rid of all government debt in only a few years.  “The main problem in our country is that too many people expect something for nothing. They want handouts and they are shiftless deadbeats. This legislation is designed to help them and to motivate them and to make them great Americans.”

 He then described in glowing terms a future country without “slum public housing,” without homeless shelters, and without poor people.

Vice President then read a tweet from the president: ”Good job, Paul. Making America Great Again! Your legacy will live forever.”

Mr. Ryan concluded the press conference by stating once the legislation passes he plans to introduce legislation to reduce taxes “for the over-taxed, job generators in America.”